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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 18, 2012.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
First the Ahmadi, Then Everybody Else

Andrew McCarthy writes in National Review Online:

Their crime? These Muslims have the temerity to suggest that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, an Indian who died in 1908, was the promised Mahdi — the redeemer of Islam — and not one of the false prophets about whom Mohammed had warned. They compound their offense with condemnations of violent jihad, maintaining that man’s inhumanity to man is ultimately conquered by love and kindness. So, of course, the Ahmadi Muslims have to die.

They are killed in Muslim Pakistan. They are killed in Muslim Bangladesh. They are killed in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Islamic country and, putatively, its most moderate. It was there, in a village in West Java last year, that hundreds of Muslims wielding machetes, sharpened sticks, and stones set upon on an Ahmadi home, brutally murdering three men and maiming several others. True to form, Islamic clerics raced to the fore to rationalize the savagery as being provoked by Ahmadi heresy. The ringleaders were sentenced to less than six months’ imprisonment, with the country’s minister of religious affairs callously explaining that religious freedom was certainly not freedom to “modify” Islamic beliefs — and equating Ahmadi preaching, which is banned, with flag-burning.

The barbaric treatment of religious minorities in Islamic countries, and its roots in Islamic law, is undeniable . . . unless we choose not to see it. So, true to form, we are choosing not to see it.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the intrepid humanitarian and former Muslim, struggles to pull the world’s head from the sand, demanding that we finally bear witness to what she aptly describes as the “rising genocide” Muslim-majority countries are waging against Christians. How tragic that, right at this moment of clarity, American law enforcement has opted to blind itself in craven submission to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Under a barrage of protest by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its media stooges, the New York City Police Department has now apologized for showing hundreds of recruits The Third Jihad, a 72-minute video about radical Islam. Concurrently, after badgering by the likes of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the FBI has just agreed to purge its training materials of information that elucidates the obvious — the direct nexus between mainstream Islamic doctrine, supremacist Muslim attitudes, and jihadist terror.

The Third Jihad ought to be required viewing. Don’t take my word for it. You can watch it yourself, on this website. In addition to the video, the site sheds light on the campaign against the counterterrorism strategy that has kept New Yorkers safe for the last decade despite their city’s continuing status as the jihad’s bull’s-eye in the West.

If you only read the New York Times and listened to its media echo chamber, you would think the video is a hate-dripping smear. It is anything but: Narrated by M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim  [I question this description of Jasser- RB] and indefatigable foe of Brotherhood ideology, and featuring interviews with Ms. Hirsi Ali, Bernard Lewis (the West’s most renowned scholar of Islam), former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, the inimitable commentators Mark Steyn (author of Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech and the Twilight of the West) and Melanie Phillips (author of Londonistan), and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly — who, for some reason (no doubt related to the city’s sniffling mayor) has donned sackcloth and ashes over the great crime of admitting on camera that the city is worried about jihadists with nukes.

The demagogues have to slander the film because the only real objection to The Third Jihad is its minimization of the threat. It opens with a disclaimer: “This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radical.” The last sentence may be true, but only because the real “radicals” in the ummah are sects like the Ahmadi . . . and we see what happens to them.

It is simply a fact that what the video is so careful to call “radical Islam” is entirely mainstream [which is why I quesiton calling Zhudi Jasser a devout Muslim]. It is not al-Qaeda that’s killing the Ahmadi in Indonesia — it is Indonesian Muslims. It is not al-Qaeda that’s mass-murdering Coptic Christians in a transparent effort to drive them out of Egypt, just as Jewish inhabitants have been driven out of Egypt — the culprits are Egyptian Muslims. The cashiering of Mubarak gave them the opportunity for self-governance, and the first things they did were to elect Islamic supremacists and intensify the rule of sharia, guaranteeing the persecution of religious minorities.

Nor is that an Egyptian phenomenon. In 2003, the United States liberated Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, began a campaign that ultimately routed al-Qaeda, and helped draft an Iraqi constitution that elevated sharia as fundamental law. Since then, as Ms. Hirsi Ali recounts, 900 Christians have been slain in Baghdad alone, 70 churches have been torched, and more than 500,000 Christians have fled the country, reducing the number remaining in Iraq to less than half of the Saddam-era population.

To the contrary, though The Third Jihad is forthright about the tenets and practices of “radical” ideology, it shrinks from acknowledging how widely this ideology is endorsed by influential Muslim clerics and accepted by compliant Muslim masses. We learn of the cruel death sentences meted out for apostasy and homosexuality; the legally codified abuse of women and honor killings against those who shame their families by flouting sharia strictures; the inculcation of hatred for Western society through Muslim education systems; the veneration of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the culture of jihadist martyrdom. What goes unmentioned is how readily foreseeable these consequences are as a society becomes more Islamic.

It is obvious enough why CAIR hates the video. The Third Jihad does not merely lay bare Brotherhood ideology, including the internal organizational memoranda that discuss its master plan to destroy the West from within by sabotage, as I recount in The Grand Jihad. The film also exposes CAIR’s Brotherhood roots and its deceptive Brotherhood practices — such as purporting to condemn “acts of terror” but refusing to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. (Allow me to let you in on the code: In Brotherhood ideology, “terrorism” is the unjustified killing of Muslims, while Hamas — the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch — and Hezbollah are deemed heroic resisters against terrorism.)

What is not so obvious is why the NYPD has decided to surrender, and why the FBI is allowing itself to become a marionette whose strings are pulled by such groups as ISNA (like CAIR, cited as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Justice Department’s prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for financing Hamas) and MPAC (an organization with a history of praising the Brotherhood and Hezbollah — and of suggesting that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks).

Spoken truth is an increasingly rare commodity. But truth is plain to see. Radical Islam is not very radical — it is Islamic doctrine strictly applied. Where Muslims are a tiny minority, and where countervailing cultural forces are robust enough and unapologetic enough to hem in Islam’s supremacist ambitions, Islam can be moderate and its adherents solid citizens. Where sharia is permitted to spread its wings, liberty is strangled. And where Muslims are a majority turned loose to enforce sharia, it is, as The Third Jihad puts it, a “human-rights disaster.”

You can call that Islamophobia, if you’re suffering from factophobia.

Posted on 02/18/2012 5:56 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 18 February 2012
NATO Secretary-General Assures Turkey Missile Shield Intelligence Won't Be Shared With Israel

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday ruled out prospects for intelligence sharing with Israel as part of the alliance's nascent missile defense system, saying non-NATO countries do not have access to data collected by the system.

“Data collected within the missile defense system, the intelligence will not be shared with third countries. It will be shared with the allies within our alliance,” Rasmussen, in Ankara to mark the 60th anniversary of Turkey's membership in NATO, said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu. The top NATO official also emphasized once again that the system is a defensive project aimed at protecting NATO members from missile threat. Turkey has agreed to deploy US radar as part of the missile defense system last autumn, after seeking guarantees in preceding talks for months that Israel will not have access to data to be collected by the radar.

DavutoÄŸlu emphasized that the missile defense system will not offer intelligence to Israel, whose ties with Turkey have been in a state of crisis since Israeli commandos killed nine Turks during a May 31, 2010 raid on an aid ship trying to breach an Israeli blockade of Gaza. Certain news reports alleging that the missile defense system in Turkey was recently tested by an Israeli missile were groundless and baseless, DavutoÄŸlu also noted. “NATO facilities and capacities are used only and only by NATO allies as part of NATO solidarity,” he said. “We never allow a NATO facility to be used by a third party. I want to make this very clear. And, if this party was Israel, our attitude would be more clear and visible,” DavutoÄŸlu said.

For more on Rasmussen's dhimmi behavior, see my book Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate.

Posted on 02/18/2012 6:35 AM by Bat Ye'or
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Phoenix Iraqi Family Arrested for “Burning� Daughter in Second Honor Shame Episode

Phoenix Altameemi Family Arrested in Honor Shame case

Iraqi Muslim immigrant mother, Yusra Farhan has become the iconic figure for the excesses of ‘honor shame’ culture inherent in Islamic doctrine. First, as we reported, Farhan had beaten and padlocked her 19 year old daughter, Ayia Altameemi, to her bed after her father spotted her talking with a fellow high school male classmate. Farhan was arrested the first time for struggling with police who came to detain her for the first honor shame episode.  See our earlier post on the first honor shame incident, here.

Interviewed by TV-3, shortly after this event, Ayia Altameemi revealed the Stockholm Syndrome inherent in the Islamic Honor Shame culture.  Note this comment in the AZ report, “Daughter Defends Mother for Alleged beating Over Talking to a man”  :

“In my culture it's a sin. It's a sin,” said Farhan.

The mother said it's a sin to speak with men unless you're married to them.

“You have to respect my culture,” said Farhan.

Farhan said in America mothers aren’t allowed to hit their children and she didn’t know this.

The family moved to the United States 3 years ago.

Ayia said she has no bruises and stands by her mother’s actions.

“She doesn't do nothing wrong. That's our culture,” said Ayia.

Watch the TV-3 interview with Ayia here.

This latest episode of burning her recalcitrant 19 year daughter, Ayia, with a hot spoon while being held down by her sister has resulted in the family’s arrest for aggravated assault. The trigger for this latest event was the older daughter’s refusal back in November to enter an arranged marriage. 

This latest episode of honor shame violence among Iraqi Muslim immigrants in Arizona raises the overarching question of the wisdom of permitting Muslim immigrants to enter the US as Humanitarian refugees when they bring their unacceptable standards of cultural behavior with them.

 Note this MSNBC report, “Phoenix mother accused of assaulting daughter to uphold 'Iraqi culture'”:

A Phoenix mother has been arrested over allegations that she scorched her 19-year-old daughter with a hot spoon to uphold "Iraqi culture" after the younger woman refused an arranged marriage to a man twice her age, police said Thursday.

Yusra Farhan, 50, was taken into custody on aggravated assault charges at her Phoenix home on Wednesday over accusations stemming from a November incident, Phoenix police spokesman James Holmes told Reuters.

The girl’s father and 18-year-old sister were also arrested and face aggravated assault charges, police said.

It was the family’s second round of arrests over the daughter’s treatment.

The November incident came to light after Farhan was first arrested Feb. 8 at a Phoenix hospital emergency room the day after allegedly padlocking the 19-year-old to a bed and beating her for talking to a man her same age at her school, the Phoenix New Times reported, citing court documents. Her father, Mohammed Altameemi, 45, earlier saw the daughter talking to the younger man and took her home and beat her before Farhan arrived, according to police reports.

Court records showed that Farhan admitted hitting the daughter with her hand and shoe and tying her to a bed with a rope.

The victim's sister, Tabarak Altameemi, 18, held her down, police said.

Honor shame incidents appear to be of near epidemic proportions among Iraqi Muslim immigrants in Phoenix.  As we noted in our earlier post, an Iraqi Muslim immigrant father had run down and killed his daughter and was convicted in a Maricopa County Court Case last year in another honor killing.  CAIR spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, for this Muslim Brotherhood front, engages in taqiyya when he told the media that the Arizona honor shame violence and presumably the horrific conviction of the Canadian Afghan Shafia family convictions  for a quadruple honor murder were “isolated incidents”. His bald-faced comment was: “"We condemn any false justification for domestic violence or abuse based on religious beliefs,"

Watch this latest TV-3 video report on this latest incident involving this Muslim immigrant family.

Posted on 02/18/2012 8:49 AM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Mirza Ghalib Tells Of Leaving Islam, And Its Consequences


Feb. 17, 2012

Enlightening My Father about the Real Islam and the Fatal Consequence

Enlightening My Father about the Real Islam and the Fatal Consequence

Mirza Ghalib

This article is to make those Muslims, who wish to discover the truth about their religion, aware of the fact that the truth about real Islam can be hard to come to terms with; it may even turn fatal as happened with my father. (Read in Bahasha Indonesia)

I am a non-Arab Indian Muslim. I went for a job to Saudi Arabia as a pious Muslim and returned to my beloved country as an Atheist after ten long years of service there. I was trained by my parents to pray five times a day from childhood and read the Quran daily in “Arabic”. In a simple term, I was the perfect Muslim according to the Indian standard of Islam.

There were several factors behind my conversion to Atheism from Islam in Saudi Arabia. Out of them, the very important factor was: I was teased by my Arab colleagues for not being a perfect Muslim. I found it an insult to my religious pride, because I was thinking that I was the perfect Muslim.

The mental torture, which I had received from them, forced me to study and analyze Islam. They laughed at me for not knowing the meaning of the Quran. So, I read the translation of the “Holy Quran” in my mother tongue URDU, which I hadn’t done before. In India, we never read the Quran in our own mother tongue. Instead, we were made to read it in the holy language of Allah and the Prophet — “the language of afterlife” — which is Arabic. Though we don’t understand the meaning of a single Arabic word, it is thought to bring more virtue (swaab).

When my Arab colleagues teased me of not understanding the Quran, I took to reading it in Urdu so that I could understand its meaning and could become a more pious, a better, Muslim.

As started reading it in Urdu, I had a shock and was confused after few pages. Many of the verses seemed barbaric. And what I did: Instead of suspecting the teaching of the supposedly perfect divine Quran, I suspected my proficiency in Urdu. Then, I read it in other languages I knew, including English. All the translations were consistent: Whether in Urdu or English, those verses gave the same meaning. Then only was I sure that my knowledge in Urdu was not the problem; the Quran itself is problematic.

After coming back from Saudi Arabia to my motherland as an Atheist, I felt pity on my aging parents, who are wasting their precious time in praying five times a day, plus in additional midnight prayers. Apart from that, they were always in fear about their death and the tortures they may receive in their graves as per the teachings of Islam. As a filial, loving son, and a responsible human being, I vowed to liberate my beloved parents from the shackles and tyranny of the Islamic dogma.

But it was a very difficult tusk to explain the faults of religion to people in their 70s so as to change their belief. I explained to my religious parents the complete scenario of my experience in Saudi Arabia: the disrespectful behavior of most of the Saudis and their “(in)hospitality” toward non-Muslims and non-Arab Muslims.

They simply rejected my words and were not prepared to hear anything odd about their Arab brothers. It’s because the non-Arab Muslims hold great reverence for the Saudis, since they belongs to Islam’s holy land, the land of their beloved prophet. Let me, here, make it clear that I do not hate the Saudis, who have been fooled by Prophet Muhammad and his Islam. Instead, I feel pity for them, as they are the first and worst victims of Islam.

Determined to enlighten my parents about the true face of Islam, I persisted and my parents eventually accepted my words about the Saudis. But to absolve Islam of the Saudi’s bad behaviour and attitude, they now switched argument: Maybe you are correct, because the bad Saudis had given so much trouble to our beloved prophet during his lifetime.

Here, my parents now tried to shield Prophet Muhammad, the only one Saudi man, thanks to tremendous reverence they hold toward him. Then, I revealed the true character of Muhammad to them from his hadiths, which also make the Saudis behave in such manners. Then they said, they don’t trust the hadiths, as most of them were written by the enemies of Islam.

Since they said they don’t trust the hadiths, I told them, in frustration, to stop praying five times a day, because the Quran never mentions anything about praying five times a day; it is only mentioned in the hadiths.

While Muslims overwhelmingly believe hadiths as the holy tradition of the Prophet, it has now become a new tactic amongst non-Arab Muslims of our age that if a hadith preaches something about Islam and Muhammad, which is contrary to local ethics and morality, then it is a weak hadith. They are taught by the mullahs that most of the hadiths, which reveals the true character of Muhammad, but does not suit the culture of the locals, were written by the enemies of Islam.

The culture of Saudi Arabia, which fits well with teachings of the Islamic scriptures, can’t fit with cultures of the rest of the World. I like to share with the readers one such “cultural difference”, which I witnessed in Saudi Arabia. I witnessed an old man, aged over 75 years, with his two wives alive, took a third time — a 17 year old Jordanian girl (Because the “cost” of the girl is comparatively cheaper in Jordon. Readers please excuse my language. But this is the reality). As he returned with the young bride, he was given a very warm welcome by his well-educated sons, aged between 40 and 50. They took him on their shoulders, clapping and singing. They don’t even bother about the fate of their own mothers. They shared the joyful moments by praising their father’s “manliness” with their neighbors and friends. The language they used to glorify their father’s “manliness” can’t be explained here, as it is too crude, pornographic. Given the sons were well-educated, we can’t blame their lack of education for such behavior. It is impossible for the civilized societies to adopt such culture, not even by the cultured non-Arab Muslim societies.

The blame lies on the culture, created and encouraged by Muhammad, which can be seen in many hadiths. After all, it’s a central doctrine in Islam that Muslims must emulate the Prophet as best as possible.

So, the mullahs do their best to reject such hadiths, which contradicts the local culture, as non-authentic and weak, although they are from Sahih Al-Bukhari, which Muslims accept as the authentic collection — a book, regarded next to the Quran in the Muslim world.

I explained to my parents about the six authentic collections of hadiths, out of numerous collections. Their faith towards the dogma of Islam was so deep that I failed to convince them in this effort. But I am not of the sort, who would give up easily. So, this time, I showed them the Quranic verses, in which Allah asks Muslims to follow Muhammad’s sunnah and also the other important, but unacceptable, verses of the Quran.

Then my father, in his 70s, also started reading the Quran, like me, in his mother tongue Urdu for the first time. For the past 70 years of his life, he had been reading the Arabic Quran daily, which he didn’t understand. As for my mom, she is an illiterate, like most of the Muslim women of her age in India, and never read the Quran even in Arabic.

After reading a few pages of the Quran in Urdu, in a language that helped him understood the meaning of verses, my father, too, become disturbed because of many unacceptable verses. Having gotten a shock, he started doubting the reliability of the author, the translator and the publisher, and stopped reading it. He now scolded me for purchasing the Quran, which has been printed by the enemies of Islam — either Hindus or Christians.

I was able to convince him with facts that the translation was done by the scholars of Islam, and that it was published for the benefit of Muslims. He now asked me: why Muslims are printing such wrong translations of the Quran?

I told him that those scholars and publishers were not to blame; the problem was his lifelong misunderstood perception of Islam as a divine and perfect creed. My father was not ready to accept my explanations, neither was he ready to read the Quran further — even if it was published by a reliable Muslim publisher — because he was now afraid of losing his faith.

At this point, I tried to encourage him to continue reading it, saying that it was not a good sign that he is afraid of losing his faith. But he totally refused to read it, and I, kind of, failed again in my mission at this point. Here, the readers can sense the level of ignorance amongst moderate Muslims, who know nothing about the real Islam, and their obdurate refusal to enlighten themselves about it.

I continued nurturing hopes that my father would eventually discover the truth about Islam and free himself from its shackles. And It took me almost 10 years for my father to, eventually, read the whole Quran in Urdu. To my joy, he, at the age of 80, showed courage to read it completely. The atrocities perpetrated by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda over recent years were vital in my convincing him to read and understand the Quran’s messages. Initially, whenever he would hear a news of Al-Qaeda’s heartless terrorist atrocities, he would start abusing Osama. But I used to argue with him so as to defend Osama as the best amongst Muslims as per the teaching of the Quran and hadiths. The atrocities committed by Osama’s Jihadi followers in the name of Islam, coupled with my arguments with him, induced my father to read the Urdu Quran, hoping to understand its real message. All thanks to Osama.

Then my father requested me to brief him about some hadiths, which I had previously tried to explain to him to show Islam in a negative light. But I felt embarrassed to explain the semi-pornographic hadiths about Muhammad to my father, as a major portion of the hadiths glorifies sex and violence. So, I told him to read them by himself, instead of hearing it from someone else to be more credible. He read only a few hadiths and stopped, because he couldn’t go beyond. He had lost his faith already and declared it scrap.

The reading of the Quran, biography of Muhammad and few Hadiths in a language he understood led my father into depression and may have effected his health. He was not able to come out of this shock. He repeatedly asked me, like an innocent child, about the outcome of his 80 years of worship of Islam, and the valuable time he had spent in five-time daily prayers, mid-night prayers and other Islamic deeds. I consoled him by saying not to worry about the past; instead, I encouraged him to feel happier, as he has been freed of the fear of all alleged punishments and tortures during death, in the grave and in the hereafter. He was convinced, but still, he couldn’t tolerate the way he had been cheated by the mullahs all his life. He thanked me for rescuing him from the fear of the horror of the Islamic grave and the Hell.

Sadly, I have lost my beloved father within a few months of his enlightenment about Islam, as he was unable to come to terms with the shock, which not only perished his faith but also deteriorated his health.

He was very dedicated Muslim and spent all his life (except the last few months) praying and reading the Quran in Arabic — “the language of Paradise” — without understanding its meaning. During his last days, he felt heavily not only about his wasted precious years, more so about the way he — an educated and intelligent person — was deceived by the mullahs for 80 years, which accelerated the worsening his health and eventually his death.

At the first instance, I felt a sense of guilt for his early death, which was caused, to a good extent, by my being able to convince him to study and understand Islam. But when I recall his last days, I also feel satisfied that he faced his bodily end on earth with confidence, without the fear of tortures and hellfire as taught in Islam. Indeed, I feel proud of myself for being able to liberate him from the barbaric beliefs of Islam. I believe he would have accepted my effort at his enlightenment about Islam as the best return for the fatherly love and affection he had bestowed upon me.

For a Muslim, getting to the truth about Islam is the toughest battle in life. And the shock they get when they find out the truth can be tough to come to terms with, as was with my father, for whom it, to some extent, turned fatal. Muslims, who seek to discover the truth about Islam, should be mentally prepared before doing so.

Posted on 02/18/2012 10:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Big Deal In Basilicata, Or, La Sacra Corona Unita Comes Into Its Own

You hear a lot about the Sicilian Mafia. You hear about the Neapolitan Camorra (as in the movie "Gomorrah"). You hear about the Calabrian 'Ngrangheta. But rarely, almost never outside of Italy, do you hear about the Pugliese (of Puglia) Sacra Corona Unita. Now it appears to have outdone, or was caught trying to outdo, all the others:

From The New York Times:

Feb. 18, 2012:

Brother, Can You Spare $6 Trillion?

ROME — The Italian police on Friday arrested eight people on charges related to the seizure of $6 trillion in fake United States Treasury bonds, in a mysterious scheme that stretched from Hong Kong to Switzerland to the southern Italian region of Basilicata.

The value of the seized bonds is in the neighborhood of half of the United States’ entire public debt of $15.36 trillion, but only the uninitiated would have accepted them as real securities. Rather than counterfeit, they were what officials call fictitious, printed in 6,000 units of $1 billion each, a denomination that does not exist and the equivalent of $3 bills, American officials said.

In a statement on Friday, the United States Embassy in Rome said its experts had examined the bonds, which bore the date 1934, and determined that they were fictitious and apparently part of a scheme intended to defraud Swiss banks. It was unclear whether the bonds were ever used for that purpose.

The arrests on Friday, on fraud and related charges, were part of a broader investigation of organized crime in the Basilicata region, the instep of Italy’s boot, prosecutors in Potenza said in an e-mailed statement.

The prosecutors said they had found the bonds — along with a fake copy of the Treaty of Versailles, signed by European powers at the end of World War I — in special compartments in metal crates in a Swiss vault, which the Swiss authorities had sent them last fall following a request for cooperation.

“We had heard that they weighed a lot, but frankly we didn’t expect to find that kind of material,” Giovanni Colangelo, the chief prosecutor in Potenza, said in a telephone interview on Friday.

He said that prosecutors had heard about the fake bonds through wiretapped phone conversations. In 2010, the authorities in the Lazio region seized four fake bonds, each printed with the value of $500 million, but he said the mother lode was found in the vaults moved from Switzerland last fall.

One of the eight men arrested had moved the $6 trillion in fictitious bonds from Hong Kong to a Swiss deposit in 2006, Mr. Colangelo said. He said the origins of the bonds were unknown, but added that authorities had also seized a fake will, which was said to be part of a scheme in which a suspect would claim to have inherited the bonds and try to use them to open credit lines at a bank.

Prosecutors said they had also picked up wiretapped phone conversations in which the suspects talked about buying plutonium from Nigerian sources. They did not provide further details, but Mr. Colangelo said their efforts did not come to fruition.

In the statement, prosecutors said that the false bonds “posed concrete and grave dangers for the stability of the international credit system.”

But American officials said the phony bonds were fairly routine. “This is just a scam, very frequent, very common,” said Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service. “Our agents provided Italian authorities with expertise that these notes are fictitious instruments, as we refer to them, which are commonly used as collateral, say for a loan.”

According to the Federal Reserve, such “fictitious instrument fraud” is increasingly common, and unwitting investors have been cheated of nearly $10 billion in recent years.

In a common ploy, “criminals present fictitious financial instruments such as Federal Reserve notes, standby letters of credit, prime bank guarantees or prime bank notes in order to fraudulently collateralize loans,” the Federal Reserve says on its Web site.

In 2009, Italian police seized phony United States Treasury bonds with a face value of $250 billion.
Posted on 02/18/2012 10:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Non Dimenticar Le Mie Parole (Emilio Livio, Trio Lescano)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/18/2012 11:13 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Cruising For A Bruising

Iranian warships enter Mediterranean Sea

Fox News -
TEHRAN - Iranian ships moved through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, the IRNA news agency reported, citing the country's navy commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayari.
Posted on 02/18/2012 11:15 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
What If Israeli Doves Are Wrong?

What if the Israeli doves are wrong?

February 16, 2012

By John Lloyd

[1]Those who know Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, say he likes to test his opinions against robust argument, often at length. This column is an account of one such — imagined — conversation.

Netanyahu tends to see issues through the prism of the Holocaust, and the deep well of anti-Semitism it plumbed. On the part of the Nazis, of course, but also elsewhere in Europe — in Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Hungary, Romania and France. After the war was over and the facts of the Holocaust became known, returning Jews were attacked and killed in the Polish countryside, and Stalin embarked on a murderous anti-Semitic program which — had it not been for his death in 1953 — seemed set to result in at least some major pogroms, if not another mass killing on the scale of the Nazis’. This realization, for anyone Decent, is at least sobering. For a Jew, it raises the specter of an eternal horror that can rarely be wholly dismissed.

Just as Anthony Eden, the British prime minister, viewed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser as an Arab Hitler when Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, so Netanyahu tends to see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the same reincarnation. That means that the Iranian president is, in the Israeli’s mind, not just a fanatical anti-Semite, but one who will pursue his fanaticism at all costs – including causing great damage to his own people.

Fanaticism trumps rationality. Rational people wish to stay alive; fanatics commit suicidal murder for a cause. Rational leaders weigh the costs and benefits of aggression; fanatical leaders pursue their aims to the point of killing their state. Netanyahu believes that Ahmadinejad is the latter sort of leader. And thus he is inclined to think that Israel has no choice but to launch a pre-emptive strike while Iranian nuclear facilities are still vulnerable and before Iran moves them deep underground to complete the final stages of producing nuclear weapons.

However, he knows that the Israeli political and military establishment, and society, is deeply torn on the issue. There is, as yet, no decision, no one line. The complexities of making such a decision are formidable, even by Middle Eastern standards. Thus, as one who likes to test his views, earlier this week he invited a distinguished political scientist, well versed in the threats and opportunities of Israeli security but known to be opposed to a pre-emptive strike, to argue with him one evening in his office.

The distinguished scholar begins by making a mistake. He mentions that Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, believed that the Iranians were some years away from producing a serviceable weapon, that the Iranian leadership was consumed with anxiety about its own society and the internal opposition it faced, and that the declaration by Ahmadinejad this week that scientists had built faster uranium enrichment centrifuges and had loaded homemade fuel plates into a reactor was bluff to cover serious problems in the nuclear program.

That is a mistake because Netanyahu sees Dagan not just as one who disagrees with him, but as a serious political threat. Dagan’s rhetoric on the issue [2] was scornful: An attack on Iran, he said, “was the stupidest idea I had ever heard,” one that would spark regional war and unite the disparate allies against Israel. There have been hints that he was part of a group seeking the prime minister’s resignation [3]. No advantage in that route.

The scholar thus begins to play what he believes is his best hand. Ahmadinejad, he says, may well wish for the destruction of Israel — but he is no absolute dictator on the Hitler-Stalin model. He is embedded in a regime that, whatever the rhetoric of its leaders, has a history of military caution. Not only is it not Nazi Germany, it is not Saddam’s Iraq, which was prepared to launch disastrous attacks on its neighbors — on Iran itself, in 1980, a war that lasted eight years and resulted in an estimated 1.5 million casualties, and on Kuwait a decade later, sparking Western retaliation and the rapid defeat of Iraq’s armed forces. Iran talks big, says the scholar, but acts cautiously.

This means, he continues, encouraged by the prime minister’s thoughtful silences, that even if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, it will not use it. It will be enough to possess it and to have a balance of terror. See, he says, warming to his theme, the example of India and Pakistan. Much has been said about the fact that these two hostile neighbors are nuclear powers, much rhetoric about Pakistan being the most dangerous place on earth. And…nothing.

Sanctions, he says, are biting hard, and they will bite harder. The U.S. is leaning toward seeking the expulsion of Iran from the SWIFT system [4] — the network for processing financial transactions — a move that would greatly limit, or even render impossible, the country’s sales of oil and purchase of foreign goods, and cause instant damage to the economy. That move would come at a cost: SWIFT is an independent institution, and would have to be leaned on hard, and the disruption would be bad for fragile Western economies. But if the threat is thought to be large enough, it could be done.

The costs of aggression, says the political scientist, are inherently unknowable. The Arab Spring seems to favor Islamist parties, which may seek to bolster their new positions in government in Tunisia and in the future in Egypt with inflamed rhetoric against Israel and perhaps something more substantial. But they are divided: The civil war in Syria has weakened the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and divided the Arab world. Now is not the time to give it a unifying cause.

It is 2 o’clock in the morning. The prime minister calls a halt. Thank you, he says, for your opinion, it was well put, and may be right. You are an acute reader of our neighborhood. I have benefited from this talk.

But, he says, as the weary scholar rises to go – what if you are wrong?

It’s a question with which any Israeli prime minister — including those less hawkish than the present incumbent –must be tormented. The slender strip of land that the Israelis occupy depends for its security on the technological and military prowess of the country’s armed forces, and on the continued support of the U.S. The latter has been wary of pre-emption. But close observers, like the distinguished political scientist, detect a growing mood in Washington that reluctantly concedes it may be the only option — though an option the U.S., not Israel, should exercise.

That’s in part because of the existential dimension to this — Iran might acquire the capacity to threaten Israel’s very existence — but it’s also because of the problems that would likely emerge even if Iran proves to be a rational actor. As Professor Shai Feldman of the Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University wrote this month [5], Iran’s possession of a nuclear threat would both embolden its allies — Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas — and prompt “countries like Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia … to acquire nuclear weapons of their own, thus triggering a proliferation cascade.”

Ahmadinejad’s boast this week — that he will continue to develop the nuclear program, still claiming it to be peaceful, and that “the era of bullying nations has passed” — ramps up the tension, as it was bound, and designed, to do.

The posture of the Western nations, seeking to halt Iran by sanctions and pressure, is that their soft-power approach will work.

But what if they are wrong?

Posted on 02/18/2012 11:22 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
The Baleful Effect Of Innocence Abroad


How Iran sees America and what America does not want to see

By Michael Rubin

President Obama entered the White House determined to renew diplomacy with Iran. During his campaign, he said he would meet the leaders of Iran "without preconditions.” 

In his inaugural address he said, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." 

Obama was sincere, but his outreach was doomed before it began. The problem was never American goodwill but rather how Iran’s leaders understand diplomacy.

American diplomacy is based on the assumption that international counterparts operate by common rules. 

The Western notion of diplomacy, however, is a relatively recent concept, one that evolved during the Enlightenment and coalesced into a common understanding only in the nineteenth century. 

To assume that twenty-first century adversaries, be they in Tehran, Pyongyang, or Beijing, accept a value system rooted in Western culture is naive. 

The match-up between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Obama is not a battle between equals, but rather a historical grudge match between Nizam al-Mulk, the eleventh century Persian Machiavelli, and Neville Chamberlain or Jimmy Carter

In that game, the White House will always lose, especially when if it refuses to recognize the rules by which Iran plays.

The cultural chasm between American and Iranian diplomats predates the 1979 hostage crisis. 

Less than three months before radical students seized the U.S. embassy, Bruce Laingen, the American chargé d’affaires in Tehran, described the Iranian approach to negotiations to the State Department. “Perhaps the single dominant aspect of the Persian psyche is an overriding egoism,” he wrote in a cable, adding, “The practical effect of it is an almost total Persian preoccupation with self and leaves little room for understanding points of view other than one’s own.” “One should never assume that his side of the issue will be recognized,” he concluded.

That, after 32 years, no Iranian official has apologized for seizing the U.S. embassy underscores Laingen’s insight and shows the Iranian regime’s complete rejection of the rules of diplomacy. Iranians have grievances too—the 1953 coup against Iran’s Soviet-leaning premier, for example—but for this successive administrations have apologized.

The Islamic Republic’s embrace of terrorism also underscores the cultural gap. Tehran refuses the terrorist label, only because it believes wanton murder of civilians acceptable. Export of revolution is enshrined in the Islamic Republic’s constitution and the Iranian government has been so bold as to include a line-item for “resistance” in its budget.

During the last administration, critics chastised the President Bush for eschewing realism, the idea that immediate national interest should trump morality in decision making. Obama may believe he embraced realism, but he fails to recognize it in his adversaries: Iranian authorities make no secret that their primary national interest lays in becoming a nuclear power.

Here, again, American strategy is naïve: Obama may, like Bill Clinton before him, believe that he can exploit Iranian factional disputes to his advantage but he ignores that reformists and hardliners both seek a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the biggest dispute between the two poles on the Iranian political spectrum is not whether or not to go nuclear, but rather who should get credit for the achievement.

When Ahmadinejad announces nuclear breakthroughs, as he did on Wednesday, he seeks glory for himself, but reformists say they deserve credit. 

In June 2008, for example, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the spokesman for former president Mohammad Khatami, suggested Khatami’s much-lauded “Dialogue of Civilizations” was merely a tactic to distract the West from Iran’s nuclear progress. Former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani seconded the notion in October 2011, crediting his own insincere diplomacy for enabling Iran to create a nuclear fait accompli

While many American officials still cling to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate’s controversial assertion that Iran ceased working on a nuclear weapon in 2003, they ignore the fact that it was during the reformist era that Iran laid the backbone of its program. 

Absent sincerity, diplomacy is less a system for problem solving than it is an asymmetric warfare strategy.

Only twice has the Islamic Republic reversed course on its revolutionary goals: First, Ayatollah Khomeini released American hostages, not because of Carter’s diplomacy but rather because Iraq’s 1980 invasion made the price of Iran’s isolation too great to bear. 

Then, only after a half million Iranians died, did Khomeini agreed to abandon the Iran-Iraq war short of his goal of ousting Saddam Hussein, likening the decision to drinking a chalice of poison.

Iranians often quip that they play chess while the Americans play checkers. They are wrong. By ignoring the Iranian game, Obama might as well be playing solitaire. 

Tehran will feign pragmatism only when the cost of its goals—nuclear acquisition and revolutionary expansion—grow too costly. Only by raising exponentially["sky-high" would be better than gnawing at Napier in this way]] the cost to Iran of its nuclear defiance can Obama hope to rein in Iranian ambitions.

Posted on 02/18/2012 12:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Muslim Conspiracy Theorists: American Government Planning To Re-Draw And Quarter Egypt

Aegyptus divisa in quattuor partes? With one part, from Alexandria down to Assyut, for the persecuted and murdered Christians, and one part in the south (Upper Egypt) for the ignored and humiliated darker Egyptians -- Nubians, and one part, that which Israel will have to recapture and hold onto forever, should the Egyptian military ever again be foolish enough to again make war on Israel,  and finally, a part that the highly imaginative author calls the "barbarian state," the one with Cairo as its capital. This is all conspiratorial fustat-fustian stuff-and- nonsense. But telling.

If the Americans, or if anyone else, including Egyptians, wanted to rescue Egypt from its Muslim-dominated and Islam-influenced self, as a permanently comical miserable Misr, they would advocate -- I've done it here, waiting for someone else to pick up on it -- Pharaonism, the Egypt-First and Egypt-Only doctrine that the Egyptian scholar and thinker of the 1920s,  Taha Hossein, concocted as the only way out of the swamp of Islam.

Conspiracy theories are to be found everywhere, but the habit of credulity is encouraged, and the habit of skepticism punished, in Muslim states and societies. And that explains why conspiracy theories of all kinds are so widely propagated, so easily believed, no matter how absurd, among Muslim populations.

Here's an example, from the Egyptian government daily, the main paper in the country, Al-Ahram -- and not some minor flysheet distributed on the streets -- just published, and then posted by that knowledge-spreading and therefore samaritan organization, MEMRI.

February 17, 2012
Special Dispatch No.4506
Egyptian Government Daily: U.S. Striving to Divide Egypt into Four Countries

As part of Egypt's crackdown on civil society organizations receiving funding from foreign countries, chiefly from the U.S. – a move that has sparked a crisis in Egypt-U.S. relations – a judicial investigation of these organizations' activities is currently underway. In February 2012, Egyptian authorities announced that a raid on premises of these organizations had yielded maps attesting to a plot to partition Egypt.[1]

Subsequently, the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram published an article by journalist Muhammad Duniya claiming that 30 years ago, on orders from the U.S. administration, renowned scholar Bernard Lewis, FBA and professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, had concocted a plan to divide Egypt into four smaller countries and to partition all the Arab and Islamic countries in the region.

It should be mentioned that similar claims regarding an alleged plan by Prof. Lewis to divide Egypt were mentioned approximately two years ago in a sermon by Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi',[2] and a year ago on the Muslim Brotherhood's official website. Duniya's description of the plot, which he attributes to retired general Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, an Egyptian strategic expert, is strikingly similar to the one posted on the Muslim Brotherhood website; in fact, some portions are identical.[3]

Following are excerpts from the article:[4]

"External and Internal Hands are Currently Stirring the Pot in Egypt"

"Recently, several foreign media outlets attempted to revive the old notion of the dubious plan to divide Egypt. This Zionist-American plan aims to divide Egypt into four small countries: the first, in Sinai and the eastern Delta, will be under Jewish influence; the second, a Christian country with Alexandria as its capital, will extend all the way to southern Asyut; the third will be in Al-Nuba; and the fourth, called the barbarian state, will have Cairo as its capital. In the past, some thought that the warnings regarding this dubious plan... were meant to promote [certain] positions. However, the investigation [currently] underway by the Egyptian judiciary regarding illegal funding of civil society organizations has uncovered division maps at the headquarters of an American organization...

"This plan was leaked to the internet a long time ago under the title 'Dividing Egypt'... Several Middle East scholars and researchers decided to revive this idea and posted the division maps online, which indicates that external and internal hands are currently stirring the pot in Egypt...

"The seizure of the partition map of Egypt at the headquarters of an American organization proves the existence of this dubious plan. The basic idea belongs to the British Jewish Orientalist Bernard Lewis, who formulated the most serious plan to fragment the Arab and Islamic world from Pakistan to Morocco, which was published in the journal of the U.S. Department of Defense. But who is this Bernard Lewis?"

Bernard Lewis and the U.S. Department of Defense Conspired to Fragment the Arab and Muslim World

"The strategic expert [retired] general Sameh Seif Al-Yazal says: According to existing information, Lewis was born in London in 1916. He is a Jewish-Zionist Orientalist, and a British national with U.S. citizenship, who graduated from the University of London in 1936. He worked in London as a professor of Middle Eastern and African studies. He extensively researched the history of Islam and the Muslims, and is considered an expert on the topic. His writings insult Islamic history.

"In 1980, with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, [U.S.] National Security Advisor [Zbigniew] Brzezinski said that the dilemma that would face the U.S. from then on was how to spark a second Gulf War, in the wake of the first Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, which would enable the U.S. to consolidate the Sykes-Picot borders. After this statement, the Zionist conspirator historian Bernard Lewis, on orders from the U.S. Department of Defense (the Pentagon), began formulating his famous plan for dissolving the constitutional unity of the Arab and Islamic bloc, one country at a time, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and the North African countries. Each would be fragmented into several small countries according to ethnicity, religion, school of thought, and sect. To this detailed plan he added a set of maps prepared under his supervision, which include all Arab and Islamic countries destined to be fragmented."

One Egyptian Province "Will Be Under Jewish Influence, In Order to Fulfill the Jews' Dream [to Rule] From the Nile to the Euphrates"

"As for the details of Bernard Lewis's Zionist-American plan to fragment the Islamic world, Seif Al-Yazal added that it includes dividing Egypt into four small countries. The first, in the Sinai and eastern Delta, will be under Jewish influence, in order to fulfill the Jews' dream [to rule] from the Nile to the Euphrates. [The second,] a Christian country with Alexandria as its capital, will stretch from the southern part of the Beni Suef [Governorate] to the southern part of Asyut [Governorate], and will also stretch westward... to [the city] of Mersa Matruh. [The third,] a Nubian country, will be integrated with South Sudan, with Aswan as its capital... [This third country] will connect the southern part [of Egypt], which lies between Upper Egypt and North Sudan... to the Berber country, which will stretch from southern Morocco to the Red Sea. [The fourth,] Islamic Egypt, with Cairo as its capital, will include the remaining parts of Egypt. [Those behind the plan] want [this fourth country], too, to be under Israeli influence and become part of Greater Israel, to which the Jews aspire.

"According to the strategic expert [Al-Yazal], all this information clearly indicates that there are those who have been lying in wait for Egypt for years. [These] external elements exploited the violent events that took place after the revolution in an attempt to topple Egypt, realize this plan, and revive the notion of re-dividing Egypt...

"The notion [of partitioning Egypt] has already been discussed in the foreign media, and several conferences were held abroad which explored the possibility of achieving a critical [level of] political fomentation in the Middle East in general, and in Egypt in particular, [favorable] to eventually dividing the largest country in the region into small countries that cannot stand up to the current world blocs.

"Al-Yazal warned against being dragged into the realization of this plan. All groups in the Egyptian public, regardless of trend or stream, should be wary of these ideas, bring them out into the open, and do whatever it takes to stop them."

Posted on 02/18/2012 1:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
A Cinematic Pretty Long Interlude: Whisky Galore

Watch the movie here.

Posted on 02/18/2012 1:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
The Persecution Of Maghreb Christians

The persecution of minorities

| February 18, 2012
The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

Almost a year ago I wrote an article in The Times on the persecution of minority Christians in the Middle East and other regions of the world. This is unfortunately a phenomenon that continues to get worse with the passage of time. For that reason alone, Christians everywhere need to be reminded of the suffering of their brethren and other minorities in these countries as they try to practise their beliefs in a free manner.

… silence and inaction are certainly no options
- Louis Cilia

These troubled minorities need not only our prayers but also tangible support in any form we can give it. Most evident is that we urge governments to do something in the hope that, through coordination with other European and Western countries, some remedy to this dire situation can be found before it gets worse.

In North Africa and the Middle East, the Arab Spring is turning into a nightmarish experience for many Christians.

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamist parties have, as many realists had already predicted, gained the ascendancy. The leaders of these parties, despite being described optimistically by some high-placed western sources as being of moderate inclination, have already declared that Sharia will be the principal law in their countries. In Libya, the Transitional Council, which has succeeded Muammar Gaddafi, has also affirmed that Sharia will be the dominant law.

It is not improbable that, as they further consolidate their power, the Islamic parties will become even more radical and throw the initial caution to the wind.

In Egypt, now that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has overwhelmingly won the recent elections, it is expected that the party will continue to dominate the political landscape in the years to come. This reality has already affected the ancient Christian Copt community in Egypt.

According to recent reports, since the removal of Hosni Mubarak from power, more than 100,000 Christian families have emigrated in fear of the anticipated reprisals on them once the Islamic parties entrench their hold on power.

In Iraq, Christian minorities have existed in the region for two millennia. Yet, the violence gripping the country means that they face a terrible choice of either leaving the country or getting killed. Another stark choice is to convert to Islam.

For many of these Christians, who still proudly speak Aramaic, the language of Christ, the level of threat is much higher because they are being associated with the West and recent unhappy events there, including the invasion and occupation of the country. As a result, the numbers of Christians leaving Iraq is growing to disproportionate levels.

It is estimated that there are a million Christians in Iran who live under constant oppression by the authorities that govern the country under a totalitarian Muslim theocracy. It is greatly feared and widely expected that the plight of Christians there will become even more perilous if, as is being strongly suggested by some influential personages, the western powers or Israel decide to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Syria, home to another estimated million Christians, has recently received the influx of hundreds of thousands more fleeing sectarian persecution in Iraq. A take-over by Islamists after the expected fall of Bashar al-Assad in the not-too-distant future will make the life of Syrian Christians almost intolerable.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often turned a blind eye to persecution against Christians in the country despite his many successes in raising Turkey to new levels of prosperity and, at the same time, establishing a democratic and moderate Islamic party in government. This probably gains him more popularity and also wins him votes.

When, recently, the question of Christian persecution in Islamic countries in North Africa and the Middle East was raised in the House of Lords, it was pointed out that Christians in the Anatolian peninsula were being banned from worshipping in public places. In the debate, there was criticism of the British government for showing lack of interest in the matter, probably in order to preserve good relations between the two countries.

It is very unfortunate that, at present, Western governments are fully absorbed in an unending spiral of problems as they hopelessly try to grapple with the financial and economic crises gripping many markets. This leaves them with little room to assert themselves in the world.

In the meantime, the Arab Spring can turn sour. The hope for a new democratic regeneration in the Arab world is still debatable as we witness daily an emerging scenario of intolerance and oppression of minorities.

In the circumstances, is it too much to expect our own government, given the new influence it has gained in the Arab world and Western countries as a result of its constructive stance during the Libyan revolution, to bring to the forefront in international fora the plight of these persecuted minorities, especially Christians?

In these unfortunate circumstances, silence and inaction are certainly no options. As Martin Luther King famously said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.

Posted on 02/18/2012 6:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Global Warming Has Killed Off Yellow Cedars In Alaska
Image: Yellow cedar
Paul Hennon  /  AP file
In this 2005 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau, yellow cedar trees are shown in the West Chichagof–Yakobi Wilderness, north of Sitka, Alaska. Forest Service researchers say a warming climate is killing off yellow cedar.
updated 2/18/2012 3:09:32 PM ET

U.S. Forest Service researchers have confirmed what has long been suspected about a valuable tree in Alaska's Panhandle: climate warming is killing off yellow cedar.

The mighty trees can live more than 1,000 years, resisting bugs and rot and even defending themselves against injury, but their shallow roots are vulnerable to freezing if soil is not insulated by snow. And for more than a century, with less snow on the ground, frozen roots have killed yellow cedar on nearly a half-million acres in southeast Alaska, plus another 123,000 acres in adjacent British Columbia.

The detective work on the tree deaths will help forest managers decide where yellow cedar is likely to thrive in the future. But the yellow cedar experience also underscores the increasing importance that climate change will play in managing forests, said Paul Schaberg, a USFS plant pathologist from Burlington, Vt., one of five authors of a paper on the tree that appeared this month in the journal Bioscience.

"As time goes on and climates change even more, other species, other locations, are likely to experience similar kinds of progressions, so you might do well to understand this one so you can address those future things," Schaberg said.

Yellow cedar and western red cedar are not the most common trees found in Alaska's coastal rainforest, but they were high-value commodities long before loggers arrived.

Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people used the rot-resistant wood for canoe paddles and totem poles. They could remove a lengthwise strip of bark from a living tree to use for weaving baskets and hats, and as backing in blankets. The remarkable tree could compartmentalize the injury and continue growing.

Yellow cedar is still valued for boat-building, but the bulk of the Alaska commercial harvest is sold in Asian markets, said Paul Hennon, a USFS forest pathologist from Juneau and one of the lead authors of the research paper. In Japan, it's valued for its age, tight grain and light color, Hennon said.

The slow-growing yellow cedar has trouble competing with western hemlock or Sitka spruce on well-drained, nutrient-rich soils. However, it was found a niche in soils with poor or moderate drainage — as long as its shallow, fine roots were covered by snow.

Those roots turned into an Achilles heel as snow patterns changed. Elevated mortality began around 1880-1890 and peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the USFS study. [Does this mean that the mortality rate has gone down in the last 30 years? If so, that requires further discussion. I suggest that one explanation could be that  in the initial period of warming -- which reflected the first half-century  of the Industrial Revolution, there was steadily less snow, and  therefore less snow cover, and when the soil became frozen, the roots of yellow cedars were killed. Now, however, as global warming has gotten more intense, the greater warming means not merely that there is less snow, but the ground temperature is warmer, an d the soil does not freeze as often or for as long a period, and perhaps that allows the roots of yellow cedars, too, to continue to live. The effects of global climate disruption, including warming, need not be all in one direction. If there is a climate scientist reading this, and thinks my suggestion invalid, I hope he'll let me know]

The yellow cedar's durability allowed dead trees to stand 100 years after they died but the cause of death was perplexing for years. Tree pathologists eliminated organisms or fungi as the primary cause and turned to physical factors such as hydrology and soil temperature, eventually linking yellow cedar decline to snow accumulation and duplicating results with seedlings.

"It's ironic that a species might be dying due to freeze-induced mortality when the climate signal is warming," Schaberg said. "So the world is getting warmer and these things are freezing? What's up with that?"

The conclusions have important implications for forest managers. They can predict where yellow cedar will thrive and the areas with poor drainage where yellow cedar has little chance to survive as snow patterns shift.

"That may seem counterintuitive to some folks, but one response is, you see a tree dying, you say, 'Oh, let's plant more,' without necessarily analyzing, well, why is it dying?" Schaberg said. "And if it really is a site that won't sustain the species, does it make any sense to put it there anymore?"

On the other hand, planting yellow cedar in areas that have good drainage, which would allow for deeper root growth, also would make sense. That would take some traditional forest management by eliminating competitors until yellow cedar had established itself.

"We can plant the tree on those sites, and also thin for it," Hennon said. "This is a place where active management can give yellow cedar a little bit of competitive edge, and then it does very well there."

Researchers also know that yellow cedar may thrive in areas where it has not yet migrated, leading to the possibility of "assisted migration."

"That gets some people pretty nervous, the idea of planting a species outside its range," Hennon said, because the tree could be considered an invasive species. The Forest Service conducted a trial planting near Yakutat, a coastal community northwest of Juneau, and saw a first-year survival rate of more than 90 percent. Since yellow cedar has already been found farther to the northwest in Prince William Sound, he doesn't consider the trial planting to be assisted migration.

In any case, climate change is likely to be more of a consideration for forest managers.

"I'm looking out my window and we have a dusting of snow at best," Schaberg said from his Vermont office. "And the soils are frozen all over the place, which is not the norm at all. So even just this one component of changing climate — reduced snow packs, its influence on soils and the things that are living in soils, like roots — that is not limited to the yellow cedar story and Alaska. That's pertinent to many locations."

Posted on 02/18/2012 6:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Commission OKs program that CAIR and Media called “anti-Muslim�

Rutherford County (TN)  Sheriff Robert Arnold

A tip of the chapeau to Jonna B.

When we posted yesterday on the swirl of controversy surrounding the Rutherford County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department sponsorship of a counter terrorism training program conducted this past week, we noted:

Sheriff Arnold in Rutherford County is to be commended for his courage and independence of mind for putting on the Strategic Engagement Group (SEG) counter-terrorism program for his deputies. The Tennessee Freedom Coalition funded the SEG program and the World Outreach Church that hosted it also did the community a real service by providing a

The  Tennessee Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission (POST) had given its seal of approval to the program put on by the Strategic Engagement Group. That should squelch the criticism blasted from the news and editorial pages of The Tennessean and CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood front group. 

An AP article not run by the The Tennessean, but found in the Houston Chronicle, “Panel OKs training that critics call anti-Muslim,” noted that on Friday, February 17th, POST had issued a letter approving credits for the SEG program:

The commission gave its unanimous approval at its Friday meeting without discussing the objections, although Grisham did mention that there had been a complaint and the letter from CAIR was included in the commission's packet.

Sen. Jim Summerville was attending his first meeting as a new commission member. Asked about his vote, he said, "I support training for anti-terrorism." He added that based on the information he had seen so far about this particular course, he had no objections to it.

Sheriff Robert Arnold, in an interview, said he did not think the training was anti-Muslim.

"We're just trying to get information and knowledge," he said. "Lady Justice is blind and we will always protect the citizens of Rutherford County."

Arnold said he wished "both sides" would put together a training that they could agree on so that the sheriff's office wouldn't have to deal with the controversy.

SEG President EJ Kimball also defended the training in an interview, saying it was "meant to provide the law enforcement community with tools to understand the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood specifically in the United States."

That should be good news to those Rutherford Sheriff deputies who attended. A number of them commented that they found the program presenters informed and cited no anti-Muslim content. That POST endorsement should encourage other state and local law enforcement groups to consider holding the SEG program.

This POST endorsement of the SEG program comes at a time when CAIR and other MB fronts have forced the FBI to disgorge alleged “Islamophobic” training materials from counter terrorism programs. As Andy McCarthy noted in a National Review Online article about the brouhaha CAIR raised over NYPD’s showing to police academy cadets of the Clarion Foundation film, The Third Jihad:

Under a barrage of protest by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its media stooges, the New York City Police Department has now apologized for showing hundreds of recruits The Third Jihad, a 72-minute video about radical Islam. Concurrently, after badgering by the likes of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the FBI has just agreed to purge its training materials of information that elucidates the obvious — the direct nexus between mainstream Islamic doctrine, supremacist Muslim attitudes, and jihadist terror.

One suggestion to Sheriff Arnold, the TFC and POST. They need to consider having the Tennessee legislature adopt a state statute akin to one we drafted and published in the NER in July 2008. The federal legislative proposal was developed to  protect law enforcement and other first responders against lawfare by Muslim advocacy groups over issues not unlike that which befell the NYPD and could have stifled, but thankfully didn’t, the Rutherford County SEG program. We called the federal legislative proposal, An Act to Protect First Responders Fighting Terrorism. Later versions adopted in both the US House and Senate were labeled the “See Something, Say Something” Act, ironically a send up on a New York City subway ad campaign by the NYPD.   

We noted the features of the proposal in a January 2011 NER article, “What Rep. Peter King Could Do About Radicalization of American Muslims”:

The proposal: (1) provides for a shield for first responders against civil liability complaints by MB front groups, identified by the US Department of Justice as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial with ties to and providing financial support to designated foreign terrorist organizations under US CODE: Title 8,1189; (2) defines workplace harassment and identifies applicable federal, state and local first responder agencies.

During the 111th Congress, two important pieces of legislation were introduced to combat the lawfare offensive of the Muslim Brotherhood in America;  the "See Something, Say Something" Act S. 879 and H.R. 1343: First Responders Fighting Terrorism Protection Act of 2009 sponsored by Rep. Sue Myrick (R- NC).

Perhaps, Tennessee’s state legislature might consider adopting a similar measure in the wake of this week’s controversy over the Rutherford County Sheriff’s sponsorship of the SEG program. The Tennessee POST Commission endorsement of the SEG program should not be lost on similar State Peace Officer Standards and Training Commissions across the US.

Posted on 02/18/2012 6:08 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Qatari Daily Shows Its Sense Of Proportion


On February 13, 2012, the Qatari daily Al-Sharq published a column by Dr. Khaled Al-Hindawi titled "To Those Who Seek Ethics of War in the Holocaust of Homs and Syria!" In it, the columnist  claims that "the Holocaust of the steadfast Homs surpasses what the Nazis did to the Jews" and that the Syrian regime violates the shari'a, international law, and all the ethics of war. Saying that the international community is responsible for the ongoing "atrocities" against unarmed Syrians by members of the regime, whom he calls "murderous bloodsuckers and violators of religion and international law," he also attacks Russia, China, Iran, Hizbullah, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki over their support for the Syrian regime.

 Following are translated excerpts from the article:[1]

"Anyone Who Looks Upon the Actions of These Murderous Bloodsuckers... Understands That They Are Not Part of the Human Race, But Rather Wild Animals"

"Every political regime in the world that refuses to coexist with its people by accepting the other's opinion and by truly welcoming oppositionists in a genuine and reasonable manner, [but rather] employs every means to root out and ultimately crush them – as happened with the Communist and Nazi political regimes – is a failed, oppressive regime. No matter how certain it is in its ability to survive, it will [eventually] cease to exist, as happened to those tyrannical regimes, since the peoples' power and struggle are stronger...

"In the violent Syrian arena, we are now seeing oppression and crime unmatched in any other country. [The members of Bashar] Al-Assad's gang think that they are stronger than the great empires, and that they will erase Europe from the map, as [Syrian Foreign Minister] Walid Al-Mu'allem boasted [in June 2011]... and that as long as the Russian Shabiha[2]... is on their side, they will defeat and destroy those whom they call terrorists, while [the truth is that] they themselves are the real terrorists. The patient people will teach them a lesson and throw them into the pits of doom, despite all acts done to [the people] that contravene the law and the shari'a.

"Anyone who looks upon the actions of these murderous, bloodsucking, violators of religion and international law completely understands that they are not part of the human race, but rather wild animals from the forest, led by [Bashar Al-Assad], who succeeded his father [Hafez] Al-Assad in this role...

"Can Assad remain a lion [assad in Arabic] when he turns his back on the Zionists, leaving the Golan to groan [under] their occupation, and advances stern-faced towards his unarmed people who demand freedom?..."

"The Holocaust of the Steadfast Homs Surpasses What the Nazis Did to the Jews"

"The tragedy experienced by Syria today – and especially by the proud Homs, city of Khaled bin Al-Walid[3] – and the brutal acts of massacre carried out against [the Syrian citizens] are unmatched [even by Roman emperor] Nero [and Mongol ruler] Hulagu Khan,[4] [let alone by the leaders of today], in an era in which human rights and international law are touted.

"The holocaust of the steadfast Homs surpasses what the Nazis did to the Jews. The random bombardment of the Bab 'Amru [neighborhood], and especially of the Al-Insha'at neighborhood; the killing and wounding of hundreds of children, women, and elderly; the destruction of property; the interruption electricity and running water; the tainting of food; the attacks on field hospitals; the shredding of body parts; the sectarian attack on Sunni families, like the slaughter of three families of Homs' finest, 19 people in all, and other atrocities by Assad; in addition to the murder and violations taking place in the steadfast Dara; the violations in the fighting [city of] Hama, which are manifest in the arrest of over 300 families and the bombardment of homes; and what is occurring in the fighting [cities of] Idlib and Jabel al-Zawiyya, as well as in the defiant [city of] Al-Qurayya and the rest of Syria's bastions – [all this,] and the continuing oppression and the ongoing flow of the rivers of blood... are decisive proof that the international community's shame has been exposed for all to see, for it is unable to stop this gang, and that the legal and shari'a responsibility is on everyone's shoulders, even if the [guiltiest] are Assad's wild beasts..."

"The Credibility of [Syria], Russia, China, Iran, Hizbullah, Iraq" Is "Hundreds of Degrees Below Zero"

"The credibility of [Syria], Russia, China, Iran, Hizbullah, Iraqi [Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki, and those who stand with them, is hundreds of degrees below zero, like the frosty temperatures in several countries during this time. Assad's men went crazy and began killing and wounding the protestors, and even abducting women and attacking the elderly. They claim to be 'Alawis, but Al-Mawardi [a jurisprudent from the late 'Abbasid period] stated... that 'Ali bin Abi Taleb [the Fourth Caliph, whom the Alawis revere] used to say, even to the Khawarij[5] who harmed him:...We will not deny you the mosques of Allah, and we will not kill you.

"Today the equation is clear: the oppressive regime is the one doing the killing and the one oppressing its disenfranchised people. Even if we assume that this regime considers those who stand against it wrongdoers – which [they] cannot be – even then the jurisprudents said... that fighting them should be done with the intention of forcing them back rather than killing them, taking vengeance [upon them], harming them, or killing their wounded – but this is what [Assad's forces] do to the wounded for the most part... They even killed 19 doctors along with the injured in Douma [near] Damascus in the past four months...

"We know Islam's forgiving nature and its mercy even towards enemies in wars: it forbids killing peaceful, noncombatant residents, or killing women, children, laborers, farmers, merchants, monks, or weary old men. [Islam also] forbids damaging their property or uprooting their trees, burning their farms or killing their livestock, except what is necessary for food. If certain people made mistakes, they must be held accountable. After all this blood, have Bashar and his gang held any of their own accountable?...

"When Will the Shari'a and [International] Law Stop the Violations in Syria?"

"Regarding the law: Humane international law forbids killing, wounding, plundering, raping, and damaging property – especially houses of worship and hospitals. Since 2001, 189 countries [have signed] the famous Geneva Treaties, which were complemented by two additional protocols, and which are aimed at ending violence and protecting civilians and those who help [the civilians] in wartime.

"Islam preceded [international] law and it is even more committed to justice [than the latter]. When will the shari'a and the law stop the violations in Syria?"


[1] Al-Sharq (Qatar), February 13, 2012.

[2] Nickname for a plainclothes militia that is assisting the Syrian army and security forces in suppressing the protests. Here the writer applies the term to the Russians, who are also assisting the Assad regime.

[3] A Muslim general in the early days of Islam. Under his leadership, the Muslims conquered most of Syria. He died in Homs, and a Mosque named after him was erected over his grave.

[4] Conquered most of Southeast Asia in the 13th century, as well as Iraq, and, according to Muslim sources, killed many of their residents.

[5] A group that broke off from 'Ali's camp during the Battle of Siffin in 657, and is considered the first internal oppositionist group in Islam.

Posted on 02/18/2012 5:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Four Or Five Times (Lucky Millinder Orch., voc.Rosetta Tharpe)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/18/2012 6:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
And If They Did, Thank God They Did

NYPD monitored Muslim students in Northeast

CBS News -
NEW YORK - The Associated Press has learned that the New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond city limits, including Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.
Posted on 02/18/2012 7:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Iran Will Not Be Deterred

From The National Post:

Iran unlikely to abandon suspected nuclear weapons program: U.S. intelligence

Feb 17, 2012



Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, right, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrive for a meeting at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on Thursday. Iran proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how Wednesday, including new centrifuges that can enrich uranium much faster.Share1

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies predict Iran will respond if attacked but is unlikely to start a conflict, and they believe Israel has not taken a decision to strike Iranian nuclear sites, a top U.S. intelligence official said Thursday.

With those comments, Lieutenant-General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, answered two key questions surrounding escalating tensions with Iran after the United States increased sanctions over its nuclear program.

Lt.-Gen. Burgess also said despite the ratcheting up of sanctions on Iran, the country’s leaders are unlikely to abandon their suspected nuclear weapons program.

Iran responded to the new sanctions that target its central bank and oil exports by threatening to close a key oil shipping lane. There have also been concerns Israel might strike Iranian nuclear facilities and escalate tensions further.

The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, while Tehran says it is peaceful.

“Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz at least temporarily, and may launch missiles against United States forces and our allies in the region if it is attacked,” Lt.-Gen. Burgess told a Senate armed services committee hearing.

Richard Johnson/National Post Graphics

Click to enlarge

“Iran could also attempt to employ terrorist surrogates worldwide. However, the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict.”

Asked bluntly whether intelligence agencies believed Israel had made a decision to attack Iran, he replied, “To the best of our knowledge Israel has not decided to attack Iran.”

On the sanctions, the defence intelligence chief said Iran was nowhere near giving up its nuclear aspirations.

“Iran today has the technical, scientific and industrial capability to eventually produce nuclear weapons. While international pressure against Iran has increased, including through sanctions, we assess that Tehran is not close to agreeing to abandoning its nuclear program,” he said.

REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

The Sterett Destroyer escorts the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a transit through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday.

Iran proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how on Wednesday, including new centrifuges that can enrich uranium much faster, a move that may hasten a drift toward confrontation with the West over its nuclear program.

U.S. intelligence agencies assess Iran’s leaders have so far not decided to build a nuclear weapon.

“They are keeping themselves in a position to make that decision, but there are certain things they have not yet done and have not done for some time,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said at the same hearing without providing details.

AFP/Getty Images

A handout picture released by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's official website shows him (2nd L) listening to an expert during a tour of Tehran's research reactor on February 15, 2012.

Mr. Clapper said U.S. and Israeli assessments generally are in agreement, and he was visiting Israel next week to discuss intelligence sharing.

The United States wants sanctions to pressure Iran into serious talks to curb its nuclear program.

While vowing no retreat from its atomic path, Tehran has also told world powers it wants to resume stalled talks quickly with “new initiatives” in hand.

Posted on 02/18/2012 9:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
If The Obama Administration Thinks An Attack On Iran Would Be "Destabilizing," What Words Would It Use To Describe Iran's Getting Such Weapons, Or Using Them Against Israel?

Top White House official arrives for talks on Iran


US military head Dempsey: Israeli attack would be "destabilizing," Washington views Tehran as a rational actor; Clinton, Ashton welcome letter from Tehran expressing willingness to return to negotiations.

Ahmadinejad looks on next to nuclear scientists By REUTERS

US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Sunday evening for talks on Iran, a day after the head of the US military said an Israeli attack now would not be “prudent.”

This will be Donilon’s first visit here as US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, having replaced James Jones in October 2010.

Jones was the last national security adviser to visit Israel, doing so in January 2010 for talks that also centered on Iran.

The White House issued a statement saying Donilon will be in Israel from Saturday to Monday for consultations with senior officials about a range of issues, including “Iran, Syria and other regional security issues.” The statement said Donilon’s visit was the “latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership and part of our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”

Israeli government officials did not provide any more details regarding the visit by the national security adviser, which, while not rare, is also not routine.

Donilon is the latest in a parade of high-level visitors to both country’s capitals in recent weeks, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad head Tamir Pardo in Washington, and a visit here last month by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Dempsey, in a CNN interview to be broadcast on Sunday, said an Israeli attack on Iran would be “destabilizing.”

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” he said, according to an emailed transcript. The US government is confident that Israelis “understand our concerns.

“A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey said of the Israeli leadership. “I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.”

He said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and international pressure are beginning to have an effect, without elaborating.

“We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor,” Dempsey said. “We also know, or we believe we know, that the Iranian regime has not decided” to make a nuclear weapon, he said.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Netanyahu, during a visit to Cyprus on Thursday, said that while he hoped the international sanctions work, “so far they have not.” The prime minister said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s high-profile “guided tour” last week of the country’s “centrifuge hall” was evidence that Tehran remained committed to continuing its nuclear program.

Donilon’s visit follows Iran’s indication on Friday that it was willing to return to talks, after the world powers leading the negotiations received a formal letter from Tehran to do so.

“We think this is an important step and we welcome the letter,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said following a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Clinton described the Iranian letter as appearing to accept that its nuclear program would be a subject of talks, whereas it has refused to broach the topic in earlier rounds of negotiations.

Ashton, who appeared alongside Clinton at a US State Department press conference, also described the letter as having “no preconditions and a recognition of what we’ll be talking about,” but said that it must be possible to “sustain” new negotiations. Therefore, she said the world powers – the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – “need to set in train the process whereby we can be clear what it is we mean to achieve and what we’re expecting from the Iranians.”

Both leaders said they were still evaluating the letter and formulating their formal response.

Iran’s letter to Ashton, which was obtained by Reuters on Thursday, proposed resuming the stalled talks and said Tehran would have “new initiatives” to bring to the table.

But the brief letter, which responded to a letter Ashton sent to her Iranian counterpart in October, offered no specific proposals, leaving a question mark over Tehran’s willingness to enter substantive negotiations on its nuclear work.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington and its allies would be on guard against any more “false starts” to the negotiation process.

“We’ve had negotiations that started and fizzled, or negotiations that ate up a lot of time and didn’t go where they needed to go,” Nuland said.

“We want to make sure... if we go forward, and a decision has not been made, that it is well-planned, well-coordinated among us and that we’re absolutely clear as a unified group about our expectations.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Thursday that a visit to Iran on Monday and Tuesday by top UN nuclear watchdog officials would help determine whether Tehran was serious about tackling international concerns.

The UN team, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief inspector, will again try to extract Iranian explanations, after three years of stonewalling, for an IAEA investigation driven by intelligence reports that suggest Tehran has researched sophisticated ways to build atomic bombs.

Following an IAEA report in November that cast new doubts over Iran’s nuclear work, the United States and the EU adopted sanctions meant to shut down Iran’s oil export industry, the world’s fifth-largest.

The clampdown on Iranian oil is to take full effect in July, and to join an escalating range of UN and unilateral sanctions that Western officials say are putting unprecedented pressure on the Islamic Republic’s economy.

Ashton said the world powers, known as the P5+1, made no headway in their last talks with Iran on the nuclear issue in Istanbul in January 2011.

“The next question really is to look at, then, where we left off in Istanbul,” Ashton said, noting a series of suggested confidence-building measures such as greater scope for inspections.

“We also said at that time they could come forward with their own ideas about what they wanted to do, so that this was a genuine, open process,” she said.

Clinton, however, stressed that “we must be assured that, if we make a decision to go forward, we see a sustained effort by Iran to come to the table, to work until we have reached an outcome that has Iran coming back into compliance with their international obligations.”
Posted on 02/18/2012 9:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Efraim Halevy's Faillure To Think Things Through Disquiets

Here, at the website of the L.A. Times, is an interview with Efraim Halevy, former head of Mossad. On important questions, he simply is unable to give a coherent answer.

He never explains, for example, why the overturning of the Alawite regime, as Al-Zawahiri and Al-Qaradawi both want, is desirable, other than that it would weaken Iran. But even if Iran's ability to supply weapons to Hezbollah were weakened, and even if Iran keenly felt the loss of a Syrian ally, the end of the Alawites, and of their control over all that weaponry -- including chemical and biological weapons -- to what would surely be a Sunni Arab regime more eager to form a united front with other Sunni Arabs, would not stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It might make Iran even more determined, if it feels itself stripped of its last solid Arab ally (Iraq, and Lebanon, being less solid), to acquire such weapons.

Israel's ex-spy chief sees opportunity in Syria crisis

Israel's Efraim Halevy believes a collapse of the Assad regime in Syria could deal a blow to ally Iran's regional ambitions and nuclear program.

By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times

February 18, 2012

Reporting from Jerusalem


Instability in Syria poses stark security risks for Israel, but it also offers a chance to deliver a stinging blow toIran's regional ambitions and even its nuclear program, Israel's former national security advisor says. [what "stinging blow" -- how, when -- to Iran's nuclear program?]

Israel in recent weeks has been consumed by a debate over the wisdom of launching a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. But Efraim Halevy, who also led the Mossad spy agency from 1998 to 2002, believes Israel should also focus on exploiting the opportunity to strike Iran politically and diplomatically through the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a staunch ally of Iran.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Halevy, now a leading intelligence analyst here, said Israel should start to look at Iran and Syria as two sides of the same problem. [no, that is exactly what should be avoided, because it provides fodder for all those now urging Israel not to attack, by holding out some never-quite-defined promise that "if only Israel waits," and the Syrian regime falls, that will somehow hinder or delay Iran's nuclear program. There is no evidence for this. None. It's whistling in the dark.]

You've called Syria the Achilles' heel of Iran. What do you mean?

Iran has invested enormous efforts in trying to secure Syria as a major partner. The Alawite [Muslim] minority is very close to the Shiites in Iran. The Syrian army is mainly based on Alawite command and has units that are purely Alawite. This makes the Iranian investment all the more important.

Syria is also the conduit for Iran's arming of the Hezbollah Shiite forces in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. If the regime falls in Syria and the Iranians are expelled, this is going to be a horrendous defeat for Iran....[a defeat, but a defeat irrelevant to the nuclear project -- and a defeat for Iran, but not a defeat for Al-Qaeda or other Sunni Arabs who would love to get their hands on Syria's weaponry]

How does Israel ensure that Iran is defeated in Syria? Wouldn't it backfire if Israel were seen to be involved?

Israel shouldn't be directly involved for obvious reasons. Once Israel enters the fray, this becomes an Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Muslim confrontation, which deflects attention from the main issues of Sunni-Shiite, and the Shiite repression of a majority in a foreign country. Israel should promote through its channels with major powers in the world a dialogue between leaders in Western nations and Russia to try to forge a common policy on Syria, which would entail mutual concessions at the American and Russian level.

Recently Israel has been very focused on Iran's nuclear program and the debate over a strike. It is doing enough on Syria?

I don't have any evidence that Israel is working on this, but I hope some work is being done. Israel has certain interests in Syria which have to be taken into account. The ultimate resolution of this crisis should not leave an Iranian presence in Syria with a weakened Assad. I don't want to see Iran having its own finger on the button of Syria's strategic weapons. Israel must make sure this does not happen.

You've said that a defeat in Syria would deal a blow to Iran's nuclear program. Why?

The issue of Syria and of Iran's nuclear capability are interconnected. You cannot divorce them. Iran's effort to achieve nuclear capability and its effort to entrench itself in Syria are part of the same multifaceted regional problem. One of the mistakes we've made up to this point is to deal with these issues separately. [Efraim Halevy does not answer the question. Assertng that "the issue of Syria and of Iran's nuclear capability are interconnected" does not make it so. Nor does repeating the same non-point in different words: "You cannot divorce them" -- as if by this insistence, some logical thought has been introduced. It has not. And then to repeat this rhetorical stratagem a third time: "One of the mistakes we've made up to this point is to deal with these issues separately" makes one alarmed. Was Efraim Halevy really the head of Mossad? Aren't these people all supposed to be so....intelligent, so thoughtful? I'm alarmed -- are you?]

Not that long ago, many in Israel were quietly hoping Assad's regime would survive because he's predictable in his relations with Israel and is the "devil you know." With reports that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists might be seeking a stronghold in Syria, do you worry that Assad might be replaced with an extremist Sunni regime that is even more hostile toward Israel?

I don't think this is in the cards. The way things are at present, any replacement of Assad is better.

Even an extremist Sunni regime?

The Sunnis have been oppressed by the Alawites. They are looking for freedom and dignity and all the things of the "Arab Spring." They won't come to power in order to launch an effort against Israel. Their immediate concerns would be to stabilize the situation inside Syria and move as quickly as possible to alleviate the pressure on the society.

There have been a lot of fears that Assad might try to move Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons and sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Though everyone is talking about a military strike against Iran, what are the chances of such an Israeli strike in Syria to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands?

I don't want to preempt Israeli operations or planning. All I can say is that there are certain things, if carried out in Syria or Lebanon, that would be matters of grave concern to Israel, and Israel would not be able to accept.
Posted on 02/18/2012 10:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
The Village Crank Ron Paul Sees U.S. "Slipping Into A Fascist System"
February 18, 2012

Paul: U.S. "slipping into a fascist system"

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks to supporters at a rally held at Union Station Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)


KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warned the U.S. is "slipping into a fascist system" dominated by government and businesses as he held a fiery rally Saturday night upstaging established Republican Party banquets a short distance away.

Posted on 02/18/2012 10:32 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
More Disquieting Remarks From Efraim Halevy

I looked up Efraim Halevy at Wikipedia. I discovered he was big on peace-making with Jordan.

I also found the following:

"On January 27, 2007 an interview of his was published in Portugal, in which he stated "We are in the midst of a Third World War" with radical Islam, and predicted that it will take at least 25 years for the West to win."

What could this mean? Does Halevy think the Jihad does not go on forever? Does he think it has a sell-by date? Is he aware of the demogrpahic changes in Western Europe, and does he sense them keenly, or only vaguely? How can a former head of Mossad believe that "it will take at least 25 years for the West to win" when there is no "winning" of this war against Jihad, but merely reducing the threat -- a threat that goes on forever -- to manageable proportions, as we also work to demoralize, and divide, and weaken, the Camp of Islam, and to keep it permanently demoralized. 

And here is another remark by Efraim Halevy:

"In November 2011 Halevy said Iran should be prevented from becoming a nuclear power but expressed opposition to an attack which he said "could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years." He added "The growing haredi radicalization poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad."

A stupid and appalling remark.

Posted on 02/18/2012 10:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Let's Do It (Bing Crosby)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/18/2012 11:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 18 February 2012
The Large Muslim Presence Makes Such Measures Necessary

UK anti-terror plan to sweep up email, phone, online records

Data on all phone calls, text messages, email traffic and online visits would be stored for a year in vast databases under a new anti-terrorism plan in Britain, The Telegraph reported Saturday on its website.

The report, which did not cite sources, said that phone companies and broadband providers would be ordered to store the information themselves for a year for security services’ “real-time” inspection under the plan. Contents of phone calls, texts or emails would not be recorded, The Telegraph said, but the databases would retain the phone numbers and email addresses sent from and to.

And the plan would reach into social networking for the first time, The Telegraph reported, allowing security services to get information about direct messages between users of Facebook, Twitter and similar sites, and even between players in online video games.

The Telegraph said the government had been negotiating with Internet companies for two months and the plan could be announced as early as May.

The newspaper noted that there could be concerns over civil liberties issues and over the security of the records themselves.

It wasn’t clear if the plan applied only to domestic communications or whether international calls, texts and tweets would be swept up in the databases. The newspaper described the plan as a reworking of a proposal abandoned in 2009 by the previous Labour government amid a storm of criticism.

Posted on 02/18/2012 11:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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