Tag Archives: Turkey

Could recent Iran explosions be an inside job?

In my last post I wondered aloud whether Israel might be behind several recent explosions that appear to have been directed at Iran’s weapons programs. It seemed a rather obvious possibility, barring more precise knowledge.

But then a few days ago someone called my attention to an analysis by columnist Caroline Glick which presents detailed information suggesting the attacks could be internal sabotage by the anti-regime “Green” movement. Now wouldn’t that be something!?

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UN_syrianprotest_RS Meanwhile, it’s hard to keep up with all the shifting alignments in that part of the world occasioned by events blithely referred to as “the Arab Spring.” The biggest sore spot right now appears to be Syria, and it’s not looking like dictator Bashar al-Assad is going to be there much longer. Europe is against him, the US is pretty sure it’s against him, and significantly the Arab League has also turned against him. Even the UN has finally decided the situation there is outright civil war. (Think Libya a few months ago.)

But don’t write him off just yet. Russia has recently given indications via diplomatic statements backed up by military moves that they intend to support the present regime, with muscle if necessary, and Iran (weren’t we just speaking of them?) continues to stick by its old buddy. Russia and Iran are major players, whether we like it or not.

But then there’s also Turkey. You’d think Turkey would look at a map & see it’s not in a good position to simultaneously take on most of its neighbors, but it’s just not that simple in this part of the world. Turkey has been jockeying for prime influence among the Arab states for quite a while now (the Turks knowing full well that they themselves are not Arab) and therefore is acting prudently in seizing an opportunity to squeeze out Iran. I don’t know what it thinks it will do with Russia if push comes to shove, but the two were never buddies in the first place.

Nasrallah_Surfaces_RS And don’t forget Hezbollah. Now there’s an interesting situation. Hezbollah owes its existence to Iran, and its continued well being to Syria, so it can neither afford to buck the trend nor relax in place. And for all its bluster, it still knows it’s the little guy. Simply put, it’s in the hot seat, and can’t do much but talk.

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Now south of the border, down Egypt way, we have another major concern. Last week’s elections have made it clearer than ever that what was not long ago one of the few more-or-less pro-Western states in the Middle East is now heading down hill fast into becoming another Islamist enclave. Kind of like Iran, but Sunni.

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western-asia-topographical_CR So let’s step back and look at the major pieces. In one corner, you have a sort of Russia-Syria-Iran axis (or sickle) going it alone against not only Europe and the US but also against the Arab states in general. But if Syria is taken out of the picture, you have just Russia and Iran. (Forget, for the time being, North Korea and China–I’m trying to keep this simple. And sadly, Lebanon just doesn’t have any say in the matter.) What do they want with each other? Plenty, no doubt, but that has to await another chapter.

You have Turkey all by itself, trying to pretend to be friends with whoever suits its purposes for the moment, but not actually knowing who that is.

You still have a reasonably stable region consisting of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, who are also for the moment OK with having Turkey for a friend.

Iraq is too busy sorting itself out to have much influence right now, but don’t expect that to last forever.  Yemen is also presently trying to get its bearings, and once it does, it will likely fade back into the recesses of world consciousness.

Lastly (for the sake of this discussion) you have the emerging Islamist states of North Africa—what we’ve been calling Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and which still go by those names, if only because they themselves don’t yet know who they really are.

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So with all this going on, you’d think that nobody would want to bother with itty-bitty non-Arab, non-Muslim, non-Islamist Israel, wouldn’t you?

You’d think.

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Filed under General MidEast Matters, News snippets

“I’ll say something that everyone knows which is that is that no one knows.”

Ze'ev_Benyamin_Begin It has often been said—and I’ve said it also—that one of the reasons the US should support Israel is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

Israeli MK and Minister Benny Begin asserts in a recent interview with Giyus.org that three other Mideast nations fit at least the functional definition of a democracy, and considering his remarks we get a different perspective of the current “Arab Spring” movements. Are the protests and revolts which have swept the region democratic in nature? Some of them, perhaps, but that may be of small comfort under the circumstances.

My thanks again to GIYUS for supplying these in depth reports from experts and leaders in the area. With their kind permission, here is the interview with Minister Begin:

Minister Begin to Giyus: Arab revolutions may lead to democracy but not peace


A few days ago I met Minister Benny Begin and interviewed him for Giyus.org. In light of the swift turn of events in the Middle East, Minister Begin was able to crystallize the main issues with cutting clarity.  From the history of Hamas’ road to power in Gaza, through a thought provoking analysis on the connection between democracy and peace in the Middle East, Minister Begin offered factual observations.   Our interview was held in English to avoid alterations during the translation. I’m sure you’ll find it as fascinating as I did.

Giyus.org: We are just coming out of another round of fighting with Hamas – where does this lead Israel? Are we heading for another large scale offensive with Hamas?

Minister Begin: I wouldn’t like to enter into details that have military or operational aspects, but I’d like to go into the roots of the issue. The root problem is that for the last 4 years we live next to a "Little Iran". How did this happen? To understand that we have to unfold the events backwards: Little Iran is there because Hamas is there, controlling Gaza. In June 2007, Hamas kicked out the PLO out of Gaza. When they did it, Hamas acted as the legitimate government within the Arab Palestinian camp, having won the elections in January 2006. So Mr. Haniyeh was at the time the legitimate prime minister. How come Hamas won the elections on January 2006? The reason is that Hamas participated in the elections. How come Hamas, a terrorist organization openly bent on the destruction of Israel, was allowed to participate in those elections? The simple reason, quite painful, is the following – the Israeli government at that time, at the first week of January 2006, agreed to allow Hamas to participate in those elections. How come the Israeli government agreed? The Israeli government agreed to the participation of Hamas in the elections, despite its basic will, to satisfy our friends in America. Under the banner of democratization, the Americans under the previous administration were pushing for the inclusion of Hamas in the so called democratic process within the Arab Palestinian camp in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. All that of course, has to do with another sad fact, which is that in 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, dismantled villages and forcefully evicted about 10,000 Jews from Gaza. Israel did that under the assumption that these actions will bring about improved security for citizens of Israel. I asked a group of Europeans and Americans in the last few weeks, if they remembered how many Americans or European installations were hurt by rockets launched from Little Iran? Well the simple answer is zero, none. The lesson of the story is that it’s easier to give Israel an advice from the safety of Paris, London, Rome or Washington, and leave us in Israel to deal with the consequences. Israel is left alone to deal with the rockets coming from Little Iran, from that Hamastan. It’s our citizens sitting in bomb shelters and the Israeli government is responsible and obliged to the protection of its citizens.

Giyus.org: Hamas tries to create a separation between its military arm and political arm – how do you view Hamas as an organization? Is this a real distinction in your eyes?

Minister Begin: Hamas is a terrorist group. Every organization has certain departments that are responsible for activities at different times, but the activities cannot be separated one from the other. Hamas has an integral structure. Part of it is stationed constantly in Damascus, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad find safe haven. While Syria is considered a legitimate part of the international community it protects terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I don’t think there is any distinction between the military wing and political wing of Hamas. An attempt to make such a distinction is dangerous since it paves the way for international recognition of the organization through that separation – e.g. we’ll talk to the political wing and not the military wing. That applies to Hezbollah as there is no difference between the two organizations. Those who operate the mortars, who physically launch the rockets, cannot be separated from the political leadership. That’s the way it should be viewed and I do hope that European countries and of course the USA view it that way and keep up the restrictions on Hamas recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization openly bent on the destruction of Israel.  With the new developments in Egypt, Hamas feels its posture is bolstered by the legitimacy given to their sister movement, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Also noteworthy is the fact that a Hamas delegation was received by the new Foreign Minister in Egypt, before Abu Mazen was allowed to arrive in Cairo. It’s symbolic and important politically.

Giyus.org: The Iron Dome system successfully intercepted its first rockets last week? How will that impact Hamas’ strategy?

Minister Begin: The Iron Dome system is a great success and a great technological achievement which has first to do with the bold vision of the developers. It must not be considered total coincidence that no one tried it. People thought for many years that such an endeavor must fail because of the short time span between the launch of the rocket and its landing, we’re talking about seconds. But the engineers and the scientists in Rafael and the Defense Ministry were bold enough to stretch their imagination. You first have to resort to such imagination before getting to the drawing board. However, you must understand that the system has its limit and we cannot build our strategy on that umbrella that is not hermetic anyhow. How will that impact Hamas’ strategy? I would hesitate to guess. In the last round I didn’t see an immediate effect; maybe we’ll see it in the future. Iron Dome is very helpful but I would not totally count on it. One cannot win a conflict solely by defense. Even if Iron Dome would have been a device that allowed us hermetic closure, it will be fool hardy to sit with our hands on our hand and wait for the technologically system to intercept the rockets. The early warning alarm is still needed, Red Color alert is still needed, and people still need to run to shelters to its sound. There is a limit to the technological ability and a limit to our readiness to accept such situation, where women and children will have to rush to shelters under a barrage of Hamas Rockets even if they assume many of these rockets will be intercepted by Iron Dome. So this great achievement must also be viewed in perspective.

Giyus.org: 2011 has been a stormy year across the Middle East – How do these revolutions and changes impact Israel?

Minister Begin: I’ll say something that everyone knows which is that is that no one knows. No one knows where things are headed, people guess and estimate, research institutions guestimate, intelligence services have their own assessments, but no one really knows. The Egyptian leadership didn’t know a week before the revolution happened, and the same goes for the Tunisia leadership. It’s all in an embryonic stage and I, according to my scientific background, am trying to guess as little as I can. So what I usually do in situation like this is put some constraints on my imagination. The way I proposed to do that is through observation of 3 democracies in the Middle East, since Democracy is what we’re told these events lead to.

I start with Turkey, a long term democracy, even an improved version of democracy compared to Israel since they have a constitution.  So Turkey has a constitution, an independent judicial system, elections that take place on time and are to a large degree orderly and transparent, a parliament, coalition and opposition, coalition crises from time to time,.  So, it’s a fine democracy. Turkey is also a member of NATO. But now we have to take into account that in the year 2002, a new government was elected. The AKP party ascended to the throne and this Islamist government voluntarily elected to turn their ambitions east wards towards Iran under Ahmadinejad instead of Europe and the European democracies, despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO member. They have aligned themselves publicly with the new bloc comprising Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. They have been supportive of all these bodies. Let’s remember that AKP have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon in the 20s of the last Century. These are the same roots; they are off shoots of the same plant. This will explain to you why the current Turkish government so readily supports Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which could not hold their conventions openly in Egypt under Mubarak, held them freely in Turkey for years. Finally, Turkey’s alignment with Ahmadinejad, whose ambitions to eradicate Israel are well known, is repulsive. That’s Turkey, a democracy – how far does it contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East today?

The second democracy is Lebanon – a long term democracy, constitution, elections, parliament, and a coalition crisis for the last 2 months. For some Europeans it would seem natural to have a coalition crisis and they assume it’s the same as in a European Parliamentarian democracy such as Holland or Belgium. But we know better than that – we know that Lebanon is not an independent democracy. It’s a Syrian protectorate which deploys two armies – the official Lebanese army, supplied at least partly by western democracies and Hezbollah army which has 50,000 rockets supplied by Iran and Syria, aimed solely southwards towards Israel. It is well know that Hezbollah’s army is much stronger than the official Lebanese army – they will have the upper hand in any clash. What kind of a democracy is this? Of course the recent coalition crisis was engineered by Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran. Just a few days ago it became known that even if a government will be formed under Najib Mikati, the Sunite, it will comprise of 2/3 of the March 8 coalition which is the Shiite Hezbollah camp that lost the elections only 2 years ago. So now the same Hezbollah camp might form a new government. That shows us again that the question is very important – to what extent does this Lebanese democracy contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East.

The third democracy is Iraq – it’s a new democracy installed by western democracies. Several months ago they had a second round of elections on time. They enjoy a constitution, parties, free elections and have experienced a coalition crisis in the last few months. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will continue to act as prime minister in Iraq’s almost national unity government. That government includes ministers that belonged to the Sadrist Shiite terrorist group whose leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, resides in Iran most of the time. This very extreme organization perpetrated terrorism in Iraq a few years ago. The Sadrist party now threatens that if American soldiers will still be present in Iraq after the end of 2011, they will create a new coalition crisis. How come that after months of negotiations Iraq was finally able to establish a government?  The secret is simple – Iran and Syria agreed tacitly on a split of power in Iraq between them two. To use an American expression, the Iraqi government "drives under the influence" of Iran and Syria.

Now we sum it up – look at the map, it’s a new Muslim crescent. Five countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, comprise an Islamic radical block, with terrorism and instability emanating from two of them to the whole Middle East. That’s even before Iran has acquired nuclear weapons ability.

Middle east muslim cresent

The irony is that out of these 5 countries the majority are democracies. 3 out of 5 are democracies. Of course, the numbers are small so it’s not a great sample, but to me these observations, that are factual, there is no assessment there, afford constraints on the possible positive outcome of the revolutions in the Middle East.

Add to this the fact that in the last two months, all news that pertain to Israel having their source in Egypt, are negative ones. The New Egyptian Foreign Minister announced that Egypt would now seek friendship with Iran and Syria. Amr Moussa, the leading candidate for presidency in Egypt, made several negative statements in the last few days, alluding to the need to recheck and scrutinize the international commitment of Egypt, referring obliquely to the peace agreement with Israel. We understand that and Egyptians understand that. All that is combined with the Egyptian overture towards Hamas, and it doesn’t herald a new spring arriving from the Tahrir square in Cairo. If reality refutes the constraints I’ve put on my imagination I would be happy, but this is the reality as I see it today.

Giyus.org: The Palestinians are making moves towards recognition of a Palestinian state by international community as a way to force a Palestinian State on Israel. What’s the best course of action Israel should follow here?

Minister Begin: First let’s observe that this attempt and others like it, on part of the PLO leadership, are actually an expression of their policy of refraining from taking the only path that could lead to stability and peace between the two communities west of the Jordan River, the Arab and the Jewish communities. The only path is direct negotiations without pre-conditions set on the very beginning of the negotiations. Mr. Abbas has been piling pre-conditions that change with time but amount to the same – the PLO wouldn’t like to enter into these negotiations because they realize that if they really want to achieve peace west of the Jordan River, they would have to give in on something, which they haven’t done for decades.  Actually Abu-Mazen bragged about this a few months ago in one of the PLO meetings. In reaction to Al-Jazeera leaks he asserted that the PLO never changed an iota in their platform since the declaration of independence in Tunisia 30 years ago. Well he is correct; the PLO hasn’t changed an iota. So this unilateral track would not have any hope for a positive outcome. I do hope that the Europeans and Americans do impress it upon the PLO that such declaration by the UN’s General Assembly will be futile. You do not establish a new state by such declarations. I think that the PLO leadership knows it but they are still being encouraged by some countries and some political leaders. If they’ll resort to this it will be a very negative development which will lead nowhere. But I’m not sure it will happen anyhow. In the coming months the PLO may have a second thought which will be very healthy, even from their point of view. There is an important role in this respect for European, American leaders that should serve the purpose of bringing the PLO leaders down to earth, if I may use this expressions being a geologist.

Giyus.org: A recent survey claimed that 1/3 of the Palestinians support the massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, do you think the Palestinians genuinely want peace?

Minister Begin: We should be careful with such polls. It is very difficult for me to attach such intentions to human beings, to our neighbors. I would assume that the greater majority of our Arab neighbours would like to see nothing but their children being well educated and seeking a better future. But I would separate between   ordinary people and their leadership. There should be no doubt in the mind of an objective person, taking into account the development of the last 10 years at least, that the PLO leadership is not interested in, unwilling to and maybe unable to come to terms with any Israeli government. For example, Mr. Olmert put on the table at the end of 2008 a concrete proposal that included very far reaching concessions. The proposal entailed the following – 98% of the total area of Samaria, Judea and Gaza would be handed over to the PLO; the balance of 2% would be swapped with territory inside the midget state of Israel proper; Jerusalem would be split into 2 capitals with a safe passage under PLO control that would connect Gaza to Judea and Samaria and Israel will relinquish its sovereignty over the Temple Mount and surrounding area  to be replaced by an administration of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, USA, PLO and Israel. In addition, in the momentous interview given by Abu Mazen to Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post on May 2009, he expressed his understanding that Mr. Olmert accepted in principle the right of return of Arab refugees into the state of Israel proper (Mr. Olmert denies) and accompanied that by a proposal that Israel would accept several thousands of them. In that interview Jackson Diehl asked Mr. Abbas, so why did you decline such an offer and the short, and I think correct, answer was:  "the gaps were wide".  Where is the gap? With Mr. Olmert’s proposal, how wide could it be? Of course it would always be a wide gap vis-à-vis or the ambitions. Since the ambition is to "eliminate the Zionist entity and liberate Palestine", extending from the Jordan to the sea, we cannot satisfy these ambitions. In case you are wondering why I say this, I’m quoting the Fatah’ platform, the moderate faction within the moderate PLO, the platform that was reaffirmed on August 2009 less than 10 KMs from this office, in Bethlehem. That platform would also explain how come the Palestinians so publicly and openly reject the notion that they would ever agree to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. According to their political philosophy, Judaism is not a nation but only a religion, and religions are not eligible to sovereignty anywhere. That’s their philosophy and it still directs them and ties it all together. This also affords an explanation to those who wonder how come with all the concessions put on the table by former Israeli governments in the year 2000 under PM Barak and in 2008 under PM Olmert, were of no avail and we didn’t reach an agreement. To sum it up,  no, this PLO  leadership is not really interested in peace with the nation state of the Jewish people which is the state of Israel.

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Filed under Perspectives

Who planted the mechanical bull in the Middle East?

797_mechanical_20bull Not that Middle Eastern matters have ever been a smooth ride, but this past couple of weeks have been a tad wilder than usual, in my humble opinion. I’ve been watching from the sidelines since my last post, but I figure by now it should be OK to say something, even if it isn’t something conclusive.

Let’s start with the collapse of the Hariri government in Lebanon a week ago. While Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in Washington, Hezbollah announced that it was pulling out of the Lebanese governing coalition. My initial response was to think, ‘don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out,’ but I knew better than to really take so simplistic view. It’s a shame, though.

nasrallah_ahmedinijad Of course it all has to do with the Shiite terror party’s well founded fears of the results of the Rafiq Hariri assassination investigation, but it is not immediately clear what advantage Hezbollah sees in the move. The best answer I’ve seen so far comes from JCPA: it could very well be that it is not Hezbollah’s idea at all, but Iran’s, and its real purpose is to send Washington (note the timing) a message that Tehran, not Washington or Beirut,  truly calls the shots in Lebanon. That’s not a good thing. A real US president would not tolerate that.

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Iran’s jockeying for the lead in Middle Eastern affairs is bound also to be at the expense of Turkey, as this analysis lays out. Never mind that Turkey is trying hard to shoot itself in the foot without Iran’s help, by making such off the wall statements as ‘Hamas is not a terror organization.’ I heard in another place that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was booed out of a soccer stadium over the weekend (thanks Rubinreports). One end goes up, the other end goes down.

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In the meantime, the government of Tunisia has been overthrown in a general revolt. You can read the details in many places, like here, and Iran does not appear to have had anything to do with this one, but the best comment I’ve seen comes from yesterday’s edition of Israel National News. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to have warned:

The current rebellion, mayhem and ensuing violence in Tunisia serves a warning against rushing into establishing the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country without proper security guarantees…

He may have a point there, don’t you think?

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And now the government of Israel itself is feeling some significant tremors. Yesterday’s big news was Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s announcement that he is leaving the Labor Party and forming a new party with four other MKs. This by no means brings down Israel’s government in the sense of what is happening in the Arab countries (in spite of what opposition leader Tzipi Livni might say), but it is a significant development. So far it appears that Barak will stay in the government, but it’s not certain at this point, and the fate of what’s left of Labor is even more unsure. The Labor Party has been steadily decreasing in size and influence over the past several years, and this shakeup may turn out to be more of a Richter 4 or 5 than a 6 or 7, but in the understatement of one the remaining Labor MKs, “The situation is truly not simple.”

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And what would a Lineman post be without another Stuxnet update?

Did they or didn’t they? Israel, I mean. Are they the authors of the Stuxnet super virus which has thrown a monkey wrench into Iran’s nuclear program?

We’re getting closer to finding out for sure, according to the New York Times. I’m not so sure I trust the Times. No, let me rephrase that: I’m quite sure that I do not trust the Times, but that doesn’t mean they never report on anything accurately. Whether the Times article is accurate or not is already under question, but I still like to think Israel really does have something to grin about. At any rate, it’s being generally acknowledged that Iran’s efforts at making nukes have been set back at least a few more years, by which time the regime may very well have self-destructed.

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So you tell me—are we going anywhere with all this, or is it just a mechanical bull ride? Talk to y’all later.

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Filed under News snippets

Talking now with Turkey, but to what end?

After last week’s disastrous fires in northern Israel–and the surprise help from Turkey—reports have emerged of the Netanyahu government making renewed efforts at restoring amicable relations between the two countries.

It is certainly appropriate for PM Netanyahu to issue public and private thanks to Turkey and to PM Erdogan for the assistance.

But what has surprised observers is the way the occasion is being used to get back to the diplomatic table. Yet more surprising is Netanyahu’s apparent willingness to apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident in order to get on Turkey’s good side. That idea is not going over so well. Some members of Israel’s government (including the Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, and various & sundry MKs) have pointed out that if anyone owes anybody an apology, it’s Turkey that ought to apologize to Israel for sponsoring last May’s attack by hired thugs on Israeli naval personnel.

The way this is being handled calls into question the sincerity of Turkey’s help in fighting the fires. Then again, in international politics and relations it should not come as too much of a shock if one country’s aid to another in a time of crisis is really not so much out of humanitarian concerns as it is to gain some sort of public advantage.  We may consider this especially so on the part of a regime with a less than honorable track record.

And then there’s the component of Islamic religious zeal on the part of Erdogan. It’s difficult to get inside his head, but certainly most of his anti-Israel rhetoric of late has been couched more in religious terms than in terms of practical political or diplomatic considerations.

But then again, how much of that is merely in consideration of internal as well as international politics? Quite a lot, surprisingly or not, according to this recent report in the Turkish media. (Thank Wikileaks once again for the insider information.)

And while I was composing this I saw an analysis by Professor Barry Rubin of how the Arab media and Arab leaders talk and talk and talk about fighting Israeli “aggression,” but when push comes to shove, they have a tendency to sit back and hope somebody else will do the dirty work. True in 1948, true in 1956, and still true in 2010. True of Jordan, true of Egypt, true of Turkey…

Bibi_Lieberman So what is Bibi trying to accomplish by going hat in hand to Erdogan? And if you can answer that, my next question might be, is it worth the effort? Israel will be, with or without Turkey’s (or Jordan’s or Egypt’s or the US’s or anyone else’s) good will. Other than that, I don’t have the answers, either.

So we wait, and watch, and hope.



Filed under Perspectives, World against Israel

Why did they go in blind? (And a few other belated 140s.)

Regarding the ill-fated interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, I have been wondering since day one why the IDF walked into a trap, when it was public knowledge that the Turkish terrorist organization IHH was behind the blockade running operation. I mean, if anyone who surfs the web to the same extent that I do knew it, surely Israeli intelligence knew.

So I’ve been watching out for anything that might be a clue. Yesterday, Ha’aretz came out with a story quoting Military Intelligence head Amos Gilad as saying, "Turkey has never been included in [our] intelligence coverage." Why do I find that difficult to fathom?

Then today, from Israel National News comes something a bit more credible, though hardly more comforting: that Israel went in practically unarmed in deference to a request from the Obama White House.

Israeli troops avoided the use of non-lethal riot gear against passengers on last week’s Gaza-bound flotilla in order to appease United States President Barack Obama, according to the World Tribune. Quoting “diplomatic sources,” the paper said Obama nixed the use of equipment such as tear gas to stop the flotilla and demanded that Israel “exercise extreme caution and restraint.”

The White House has not commented on the report.

The report claimed that Defense Minister Ehud Barak accepted Obama’s demand, possibly due to his hopes that America will agree to sell advanced weapons to Israel.

It says that the American demand was made despite Israeli intelligence reports indicating possible danger aboard one ship, the Mavi Marmara, which carried primarily Turkish citizens, many of them members of the pro-terrorist IHH organization. Intelligence agents had found that many of the Turkish passengers were trained in weapons use and hand-to-hand combat; their assessments were relayed to the White House…

Is that really what happened, and all that really happened? I somewhat doubt it. As my mother (and probably yours) always said, “we’ll see…”

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20100606ReutersCropSection2_LM One of the more interesting developments – and I wish I could say surprising – is that Reuters news agency was caught red handed (forgive the pun) doctoring photos of the flotilla raid — cropping out weapons in the hands of the mercenaries, little things like that…

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Every once in a while I like to call attention to an excellent piece by a well known commentator. I’ve referred you to Caroline Glick several times; in The plain truth about Israel she pointed out, among other things, that

Israel is the US’s greatest strategic asset in the Middle East.

Indeed, given the strategic importance of the Middle East to US national security, Israel is arguably its greatest strategic asset outside the US military…  “Israel is a democracy that shares virtually all of the same values as the United States.” …As a democracy, unlike every Arab state, the US does not need to worry a change in leadership in Jerusalem will cause it to abandon its alliance with the US. This of course is what happened in Iran, which until 1979 was the US’s most important ally in the Persian Gulf. As Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak ages, the US faces the prospect of a post-Mubarak Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood similarly abandoning its alliance with America…

Glick did not use the word “stupid” in reference to what the U.S. would be if we ditched Israel, as we appear to be doing – but I’ll say it. Please, America – don’t be stupid!

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Speaking of stupid, incredibly enough, the Obama administration announced a couple of days ago that it was going to try to help out with the Gaza situation by sending the terrorists another $400 million.

Or, as one Twitter user put it,

Blair: "I’m 100% on Israel’s side." Biden: "Israel has a right to defend itself." Obama: ‘Let’s send Hamas $400 million’

All kidding aside, even if it were the right thing to do,  read the JINSA Report here to find why it’s not all that easy.

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Oh, and regarding the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza? If you’ve been paying attention, you may realize by now that there is no such thing. Even the Palestinians themselves admit that the only real problem is that Hamas is stealing from them. Come on, world, wake up and smell the oranges!

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It ain’t over until…

WELL, Y’ALL KNOW WHAT Yogi Berra said. And it definitely ain’t over.

Paintballs_ineffective I assume everyone has been at least trying to keep up with the twists and turns in the unfolding tale of what really happened on board the Mavi Marmara and where it all leads. I’ve been holding off on saying anything here until some of the dust has settled, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening any time soon.

I’m not even going to try to go over the whole story at this point. That’s been done already in enough places that I would be merely duplicating others’ efforts.  You can get the basics from day one here, and Peace Flotilla is a great place where you can find current updates.

There have also been a number of excellent commentaries made by prominent figures in this arena. Caroline Glick points out several vital points in “Ending Israel’s Losing Streak.”

But I’ll try to recap just a little in order to get on to my main points. Over the weekend, a hodgepodge of leftists calling themselves “Free Gaza” attempted to run Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces interdicted the offending vessels as allowed under international law. Five of the six vessels were boarded peacefully, but mercenary combatants on board the sixth ship, the Mavi Marmara, ambushed the IDF boarding party with metal poles and clubs, electric saws and other crude weapons, and with grenades, knives and firearms. The IDF troops sustained serious wounds but successfully completed their mission. When the smoke had cleared, the IDF had sustained several injuries, including two rated as serious or critical, and the enemy combatants (please, folks, let’s stop calling them “activists” – they were hired soldiers) sustained many more casualties, including nine fatalities.

As details began to emerge over the next few days, several things began to stand out (including a couple of things that I really haven’t heard discussed much elsewhere):

1) Although the leftists were assembled under the umbrella organization “Free Gaza,” the expedition was actually led by (and the Mavi Marmara operated  by) a known terrorist organization headquartered in Turkey known by its initials IHH.

2) The attackers who assaulted the IDF commandos were identified as cash-paid mercenaries, primarily Turkish nationals. (Of the nine fatalities, eight were Turkish citizens and one was a naturalized US citizen from Turkey.)

According to one well-placed source, the cash with which the mercenaries were paid was not passed to them until after they were on board. This would mean they were not quite dedicated enough to the ‘cause’ to be counted on to otherwise show up.

3) Turkey’s role in this affair was, and still is, of very serious concern. It would be distracting here to try to get deeply into the complexities of the Turkey – Iran – Syria axis, but it appears possible that Turkey is vying for a stronger position in that company of thieves. I had issued several “tweets” over the past few days calling attention to the extremity of Turkey’s involvement, but now I’m not so sure it’s a whole lot more than a serious attempt to gain a bigger piece of the pie. To be certain, the Turkish government has recently become a major sponsor of terrorism, but they still haven’t toppled Iran, or even Syria, in that respect.

HaniyaAhmadinejad 4) Most importantly, though, the military blockade of Gaza has been in fact very effective against Hamas, and by extension against Iran’s interests in the area, not only in terms of making war materiel less available, but also by way of restricting Hamas’ finances, and even causing serious internal political pressure on the regime.

This brings up a crucial point: the blockade running attempt was a desperation move by Hamas and Iran. I haven’t heard that part of the matter emphasized in the media, but it is very consistent with the hiring of mercenaries in an attempt to repel the IDF naval interdiction. And it is consistent also with the possession by the mercenaries of huge sums of cash, some of which was payment for their services, but the greater part of which was apparently intended for Haniyeh’s grubby little hands. It would also mean that Hamas is not about to give up – because it can’t afford to give up. The next attempt is already underway as of this writing.

Crop_ BHO_27_May_2010 A further serious implication of this is that those who are advocating removal of the blockade (and there are many, including major players in the UN and in Europe, and perhaps even the current US administration) are in effect allying themselves politically and even militarily with Hamas, and again by extension with Iran. If that bothers you, it does me, too.

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