These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 22, 2012.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Aligarh Muslim University's library out of bounds for undergraduate girls
From The Times of India
NEW DELHI: Students of the Women's College in Aligarh Muslim University are waging a bitter struggle for a facility their counterparts in other institutions would take for granted-access to the university's central library.
Now, in a concession to these undergraduate women students, AMU has decided provided them online access to the catalogue of books.The varsity says the girls can choose the books which would then be issued and delivered to them.
The 100-year-old Women's College, a constituent of AMU-a central university which had built a reputation for an enlightened social outlook-is housed in the fortress-like enclosure of Abdullah Hall. Except for professional courses, this is the only college providing undergraduate education to women in the university.
The women boarders of the hall are not allowed out of the college campus except on Sundays, so membership of the university library is ruled out for them. Even day scholars of the college are not allowed into the library, considered one of the best in Asia.
According to university officials, the rule is in place to avoid overcrowding of the library. It refuted charges of gender discrimination, saying postgraduate women students had access to the library.
It is shocking that a place of learning as respected and well-established as Aligarh Muslim University should discriminate against female students in prohibiting them access to the library. The fact that it is a central university only makes it all the more unacceptable. The notion of segregating boys and girls in an institution of higher learning and that too in the place that is supposed to be the repository of knowledge - the library - has no place in a modern society and the government certainly should not be party to the continued existence of such practices. This should not be viewed as an issue of religious sensibilities but one of gender rights. The government should demand immediate access for all girl students to the library.
Posted on 02/22/2012 2:14 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Eytan Gilboa: All That Talk About Iran
Stopping Iran: Still Too Much Noise
and Too Little Action
by Prof. Eytan Gilboa
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 166, February 21, 2012
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: There seems to be a lot of psychological warfare at play in the approach of international leaders to the Iranian nuclear conundrum. Public statements of various tones and intensity have of late been made by Israeli, American, European, and even Iranian policymakers. Yet, mixed messages are continuously being broadcast and international powers remain disunited on how to halt Iran’s nuclear program. It is unsurprising then that all of this “talk” has led to no action.
Senior policymakers in the US, Israel, Iran and Europe are frequently making public statements on the struggle to stop Iran’s nuclear program. But few of the leaders actually mean or believe their own declarations and each pronouncement is contradicted by the next, resulting in increased confusion and inconsistency. The only party not confused by all of this, apparently, is Iran. It doesn't believe that anybody is serious about really stopping its nuclear program.
Consider these contradictory assertions: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently estimated that Israel will attack Iran sometime between April and June this year. But US President Barack Obama said almost immediately afterwards that Israel has not yet made the decision to strike. US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey, who visited Israel recently, insinuated that there are no understandings or coordination between Israel and the US and that he doesn't know if Israel would inform the US ahead of a possible attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Obama, however, says that coordination between Israel and the US has never been better.
It looks like a tug of war is occurring. When one policymaker pulls too hard, like Panetta and Dempsey, another one tugs back from the other end, as did Obama when he tried to moderate the statements.
Obama says that no option may be ruled out, including military action, but that this measure should only be used as a last resort. His administration believes that diplomacy and severe sanctions against Iran’s oil exports should be given a chance. Obama fears that an Israeli strike this summer would be premature and disruptive to sanctions, and would entangle the US in a new war too close to the upcoming presidential elections.
On the other hand, the threat of military action is needed to convince reluctant powers, such as Russia and China, that heavier sanctions are the only way to prevent a strike against Iran – a strike they agree would be a terrible disaster.
In Israel, there is disagreement regarding a possible strike on Iran and its timing. It is unclear whether the recent, more militant statements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon are intended to increase pressure on the international community to undertake more extreme measures against Iran, or if they reflect a determination to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power by all means.
Israel is much more skeptical than the US and the EU about the ability of sanctions – even the heaviest sanctions – to stop the Iranian nuclear race. It believes that covert operations targeting scientists and facilities may delay Iran’s aspirations. However, recent leaks by US officials that point to Israel as the perpetrator of various assassinations and explosions reveal little coordination between the two allies. Seemingly, the US is concerned with possible Iranian terrorist retaliations against American targets, and is saying: "It isn't us, it is them."
In response to planned harsher sanctions, Iran declared it would seal off the Strait of Hormuz, though it backed down after the US said that it would reopen the strait by force. A senior Iranian official said that in light of Israel’s planned attack Iran should undertake a preemptive counterstrike and run terrorist attacks throughout the world. Yet, another Iranian official said that Iran was willing to return to the negotiating table with the US and Europe. If harsher sanctions were imposed and Iran closed the strait, the US would most likely use force not only to reopen the strait but also to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. If the Iranian leadership is rational, it is bluffing on this issue and wouldn't close the Strait of Hormuz.
Most states agree that Iran shouldn't be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. They disagree, however, on how to achieve this outcome. Russia and China have ruled out completely any military strike, claiming that its consequences would be far worse than any possible outcome of a nuclear Iran. Russia and China have also opposed severe sanctions and called only for negotiations. European leaders have also opposed a military strike, but declared that only severe sanctions may prevent it. At the same time they have decided to apply these new, harsher sanctions only in July. If Iran is really close to the production of a nuclear weapon, such sanctions will be futile. Furthermore, severe sanctions can be effective only if all the major powers, including Russia and China, impose them.
The US and EU have offered to negotiate with Iran but, in return, demanded the freezing of uranium enrichment. Iran has rejected this condition, which means they are only interested in negotiations that would give them more time to complete the building of nuclear bombs.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Dennis Ross, the former Obama staffer who continues to consult with the administration, indeed argued that the time is ripe to resume talks with Iran. Iran likely will interpret this as a sign of American weakness and use this opening to avoid more sanctions while edging closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Ross and other senior American and European officials have argued that the existing sanctions are already working by imposing hardships on the Iranian government and people, thus opening a path for diplomacy. However, their mistake is this: To be really effective it is not enough just to create hardships. To be effective, the government of Iran must conclude that the cost inflicted by the sanctions threatens its survival and is greater than the benefits of becoming a nuclear power. This hasn't yet happened.
The only thing that might influence the Ayatollahs to alter their nuclear plans is a combination of credible military threats and severe sanctions. But, when the military threat is made to appear very vague – due to mixed and contradictory statements by world leaders – and when the decision to impose tough sanctions on Iran is delayed by months and doesn't include some of the superpowers, Iran can be expected to continue to develop its nuclear weaponry without too much worry or disruption.
Unfortunately, the West is not yet truly determined to halt the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Posted on 02/22/2012 7:27 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
In Tunisia, The Wording In The Constitution Matters
Tunisia: Constituent Assembly Debates Arab-Muslim Identity in Constitution
By Wafa Ben Hassine, 21 February 2012
The drafting of Tunisia’s new constitution began today with discussion of what will be perhaps one of the most divisive issues in Tunisian politics: the constitutional definition of the country’s national identity.
The first article of Tunisia’s current constitution currently names the language of the country as Arabic and its religion as Islam. With an Islamist party, Ennahda, in power, the question is whether this will be enough to define the religious orientation of Tunisia’s juridical future.
Sadok Bel Aid, Former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Free University of Tunis, and a specialist in constitutional law, believes that Ennahda has moderated its position with regards to the religious content of the preamble. While previously, according to Bel Aid, members had wished for a reference to an Islamic source for Tunisian law, the party seems to have reached a consensus now that some version of the current first article would be sufficient.
However, from the onset of the meeting it was clear that reaching agreement concerning Tunisia’s national identity would be no small task. Hajer Azaiez, the commission’s vice-rapporteur and a member from Ennahda, casually mentioned, “We are already all in agreement with Islam being the official religion, and Arabic the official language. Why don’t we discuss the rest of preamble?”
This statement received a quick response from Taher Hmila, a representative from the centrist Congress for the Republic (CPR) party, who replied, “No – we are not. We cannot do that. We, as a republic and state, cannot have an official religion. We want to be consistent with the republican form of government.”
Issam Chebbi, a representative from the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), later proposed including references to religion and language in the body of the constitution instead of the preamble or general principles. Maya Jeribi, secretary general of the PDP, agreed with Chebbi’s proposition.
The Congress for the Republic (CPR) party, which has formed an alliance with Ennahda and the center-left Ettakatol party, seemed to be in agreement that a reference to Islam within the opening clauses of the constitution was not a foregone conclusion.
Rafik Telili, a member of the CPR, argued that the preamble should affirm the state’s civic character. “We need to make it clear that minorities will be protected. We need to say that our relations with Jews, for example, are peaceful,” he said.
Another member from the CPR, Mabrouka Mbarek, suggested that the constitution use a declaration of human rights as the preamble’s point of reference instead of ‘Islamic values,’ since it would hold more collective weight. “The revolution was triggered because of socioeconomic constraints, not religious values. Freedom of religion is only one facet of their demands,” she said.
Bel Aid did not believe that foregoing any reference to religion in the preamble to Tunisia’s constitution was a plausible proposition in a country that is ninety-nine percent Sunni Muslim. However, he felt that the religious character of the definition could indeed be softened.
“I think we could have a reference that mentions religion in light of our history, a ‘light’ version of the formulation that wouldn’t erase it. You know, even in America, on the dollar bill you have ‘In God We Trust,” said Bel Aid.
While the preamble of a constitution has a largely symbolic value, it can set the tone and color of the document to follow. The preamble of France’s constitution, for example, makes reference to the 1789 “Declaration of the Rights of Man” and establishes the states as secular. In light of recent controversies in the country concerning secularism, such as the ban on the niqab (a full-body Islamic veil), that clause would seem significant.
“Preambles can have a certain ideological value, and a certain political value, but also a certain juridical value,” said Bel Aid. He explained that, if worded properly, preambles could be “creative” of principles to follow in the constitution and could act as a guide for future disputes concerning the document’s interpretation.
Comment: See how much more chastened and sober is the tone adopted by the reporter, Wafa Ben Hassine, from what she wrote in January 2011, just after Ben Ali had been forced out of the country, leaving behind much of his loot. She no doubt has come to better understand (she is Tunisian-American, and the full threat to secularism was not something she understood in January 2011, as Tunisian secularists who have to watch like hawks those who wish to slowlly, insidiously, remove the constraints on Islam, and make Tunisia into...well, into Egypt, if not even worse) the battles that are about more than a phrase here and a phrase there.
Posted on 02/22/2012 7:35 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: I've Got Five Dollars (Lee Morse)
Posted on 02/22/2012 2:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Mirabile Dictu: For The Survival Of The Jews, Pray That This German Military Analyst Is Right
US, Germany differ on Israeli ability to hit Iran
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
German military expert says Israel can set Iran nuke program back 10 years.
BERLIN – Competing analysis articles appeared Monday in The New York Times and last week in the German daily Die Welt outlining vastly different conclusions about Israel’s military capability to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
While The New York Times report cast doubt on Israel’s success chances, Hans Rühle, who directed the planning department of the German Defense Ministry between 1982-1988, expressed confidence that Israel’s air force could decimate Iran’s principal nuclear installations.
The core differences surround the number of Israeli jets and bombs required to destroy Iran’s primary nuclear facilities, as well as the challenge of refueling fighter planes to travel a distance of more than 1,000 miles into Iranian airspace and return safely to Israel.
The Times titled its rather pessimistic analysis “Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets,” and wrote that an Israeli mission to annihilate Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would require a minimum of 100 fighter jets.
According to a sample of US defense and military analysts, it would be a Herculean challenge for Israel to penetrate Iran’s air space and launch attacks on the country’s nuclear complexes.
The Times cited Michael V. Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, who explicitly declared that pulverizing Iran’s nuclear facilities is “beyond the capacity” of Israel.
Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula told the Times that, “All the pundits who talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to be that easy.”
Deptula, served as the US Air Force’s top intelligence official until last year, and oversaw the air military strikes conducted in the 2001 Afghanistan War theater in 2001, and during the first Gulf war in 1991 in Iraq.
The Times offered a bleak assessment of Israel’s capability to refuel its fighter planes, saying “Israel would have to use airborne refueling planes, called tankers, but Israel is not thought to have enough.”
In a sharp contrast to the Times analysis, Hans Rühle, a leading German security expert, asserted last week in a lengthy article in the Die Welt that a comprehensive Israel-based bombing campaign could significantly set back, perhaps a decade or more, Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
In the article titled “How Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear program” Rühle analyzed the number of Israeli fighter jets and bombs necessary to obliterate Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Citing experts, Rühle writes that an extensive bombing campaign is within Israel’s capability to decimate Iran’s ability to continue to make progress on developing nuclear weapons.
According to Rühle, there are 25 to 30 facilities in Iran used for its atomic program, of which six are primary-bombing targets.
He cites the nuclear enrichment plant Natanz, the conversion facility in Isfahan, the heavy water reactor Arak and the weapons and munitions sites in Parchin. In addition, he notes the deep underground enrichment facility Fordow and Iran’s operational nuclear plant Bushehr.
The popular PJ Media news website columnist, David P. Goldman, wrote last week that “Hans Rühle was one of the toughest and most perspicacious analysts in those heady days” during the Cold war period.
Goldman added that “Rühle is highly confident that Israel could knock out Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or more with about 25 of its 87 F-15 fighter-bombers and a smaller number of its F-16s. Each of the F- 15s would carry two of the GBU-28 bunker busters, with the F-16s armed with smaller bombs.
Rühle writes that surveillance “information about Natanz is solid,“ adding that the “project has been observed from satellites and from the location from 'Israeli tourists.'”
He added that Israel strongest bunker buster bombs GBU-28 could destroy the roof of the facility. If the damage is not sufficient, a second GBU-28 could be launched to complete the aim of destruction.
According to Rühle, Israel’s successful obliteration of the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 laid an important precedent. He writes that “many experts believe “ that strikes against Iran’s nuclear operations could set back the program 10 years, or possibly longer, based on present knowledge.
The fighter plane requirement would entail 20 F-15 machines each accompanied with two GBU-28s. He estimates that Israel’s air force has over 87 F-15 planes at its disposal. The conversion Nuclear Technology Center of Isfahan, which is largely vulnerable to attack because its buildings are not underground, could be eliminated with GBU-27 bombs. Isfahan converts the yellow cake process into uranium.
The least difficult challenge for Israel’s air force is the heavy-water reactor Arak, observes Rühle. The above-ground facility could be razed with 10 GBU-10 bombs, wrote Rühle. The strike would require 10 F- 16 fighter jets.
According to Rühe, the most difficult obstacle to destroy is the underground Fordow enrichment plant. He notes that special team forces would have to attack the facility.
The alternative would be to strike the tunnel openings with GBU-28 bombs to plug the entry points for a period of time.
The complex Parchin site remains beyond the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and it is unclear how many bombs it would take to destroy the over 100 buildings, many of which are buried underground. Nuclear warheads are believed to be worked on in the Parchin plant.
Rühle views the nuclear power plant Bushehr as a possible primary military target, largely because the plants plutonium can be used for weapons. In contrast to the United States State Department, which views the Bushehr plant as a civilian-energy program without a military dimension, Rühle writes that “the destruction of Bushehr should not be a problem for Israel’s army – 10 GBU-28 or GBU-27 bombs would be sufficient.”
He quotes a high-level representative of the Israeli nuclear expert class who was in Berlin last year. The Israeli expert said “we cannot live with this reactor” in Bushehr because it is not immune to stopping the spread of proliferation-related material.
Rühle adds that if Israel can wipe out essential pieces of Iran’s nuclear program, then the problem is solved for a generation.
His essay is filled with a kind of supreme confidence about the ability of Israel’s military systems.
“Israel’s Air Force is first class, “ writes Rühle. “Their pilots are conditioned from the history of Israel and the constant dangers faced by the Jewish state.”
Though Rühle identifies the refueling of Israel’s fighter jets to be a thorny problem because Israel only has five tankers of the type KC-130H and four of the category B- 700, he said he believes the number to be higher.
He calls the public refuel tanker number a “rather lean supply, “ but notes that Israel’s government had requested to buy or lease from US President George W. Bush’s Administration additional refueling tanks. He adds that Israel’s Air Force has expertise over the “buddy refueling“ process among F-15 and F-16 planes. There is also the possibility of a temporary landing to refuel in Syria, Turkey, or Iraq, noted Rühle.
Posted on 02/22/2012 2:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Sunni Rally In Bahrain To Deplore Any Meeting Of Shi'a Demands
From the Kuwait Times:
Bahrain Sunnis warn govt over dialogue at rally
MANAMA: Shiite cleric Sheik Ali Salman, head of the opposition Al-Wefaq society, participates in a minute of silence yesterday, outside UN offices in Manama, Bahrain, for those who have died in the past year’s pro-democracy uprising in the Gulf island kingdom. —AP
MANAMA: Sunni Muslims warned the Bahraini government at a rally against entering a dialogue with Shiite-led opposition parties, as pressure mounts for the Sunni-led Gulf Arab state to end unrest now entering its second year. The tourism and banking hub, dominated by the Sunni Al Khalifa family, has been in turmoil since a protest movement for democratic reforms erupted on February 14 last year and was put down one month later with a period of martial law.
“How can there be a dialogue at this time? The majority of citizens ask, is this the time for dialogue and a political solution? Security is the priority!” said Khalid Bloashi, reading a statement from a Sunni youth group that organised the rally of about 20,000 people in central Manama late on Tuesday. “The priority is deterring vandalism that aims to blackmail the nation for foreign agendas… We will never accept backroom dialogue, so for how long will the state ignore us?”
The warnings over dialogue come after it emerged last week that royal court minister Khaled bin Ahmed last month met figures from Wefaq, a Shi’ite Islamist party which won almost half of parliament seats in past elections, as well as three secular opposition parties on a separate occasion. The crowd, carrying a sea of Bahraini flags peppered with the green flag of government ally Saudi Arabia and a few others, chanted back: “No dialogue! No dialogue!”
Recent months have seen an escalation in clashes between riot police and Shiite protesters. Shiites are thought to be a majority on the island and complain of political and economic marginalization. The government denies this. Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and iron bars. Activists say that while police have not used live fire, an official death toll of 35 last June has risen to over 60 as a result of heavy-handed use of tear gas, stun grenades and speeding police cars. Two people died in police custody last month.
The government disputes the causes of death and says it is investigating all cases. Many Sunnis and other loyalists, who dominate state media, accuse Wefaq of exploiting the violence to force concessions. Police often license rallies and marches by Wefaq.
Bahrain remains in a rut as protests continue. Some ratings agencies have downgraded banks, many office blocks stand half empty and weekend Saudi tourism is a shadow of what it was.
The British ambassador said this week Bahrain would have difficulty attracting foreign investment if it did not make economic and political reforms to help restore confidence. Bahrain is a key Western ally and host to the US Fifth Fleet. Washington supported the government during last year’s protests, during which some called for setting up a republic, and Saudi Arabia sent troops to boost defences as fear gripped some of an Iranian intervention.
The statement read by Bloashi addressed the US ambassador in Manama. Columnists often attack the United States for urging the government publicly to enter talks with Wefaq. “Let the American ambassador listen: Bahrain is not a tool of America… We will not be a bargaining chip or a testing ground,” he said, also calling for tolerance and coexistence in Bahrain and attacking government corruption. The crowd carried banners such as “USA, will you stop playing with our national security?” and chanted “The people want to bring down Wefaq”, a variation on the Arab Spring slogan “The people want to bring down the regime”.
King Hamad bin Isa thanked the participants in a statement for affirming that the island should remain “an oasis of peace and security for those of all religions living there, without interference in its affairs”, state news agency BNA said. Tuesday’s rally at the Fateh mosque was held to mark the first anniversary of a meeting at the same place where Sunnis had aired their fears that the protest movement, then a week old, had a Shiite sectarian agenda.-Reuters
Posted on 02/22/2012 4:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Final Verdict On Iranian Apostasy Case of Christian Pastor: Death
A trial court in Iran has issued its final verdict, ordering a Christian pastor to be put to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, according to sources close to the pastor and his legal team.
Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.
It is unclear whether Nadarkhani can appeal the execution order.
Posted on 02/22/2012 5:41 PM by Rebecca Bynum