Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Leveretts at the
RFI/ here

"It is hard to do serious political analysis of a contested political environment when one is, in effect, “rooting” for one of the contestants. In 1979, much of the public commentary in the United States about the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah was characterized by disbelief that a stalwart American ally could be swept away so quickly and unexpectedly. Today, much American commentary on Iranian domestic politics is characterized by varying degrees of eagerness to see the Islamic Republic go the way of the Pahlavi dynasty—or, in a formulation that some neoconservatives prefer, the way of the Soviet Union.

Although this blog is focused on Iran and its geopolitics, not on the Islamic Republic’s internal politics, analytic views of Iranian politics since the June 12 presidential election have important implications for the debate about U.S. and Western policy toward Tehran. A growing number of analysts are arguing that there is now, in effect, a domestic “race for Iran”, pitting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration against an increasingly emboldened “opposition” and a deeply disenchanted public. Under these circumstances, it is argued, the United States and its partners should not now engage with the Iranian government, lest they “legitimate” a regime that is falling apart. Some go even further, arguing that active encouragement of “regime change” in Iran should now take precedence over diplomatic efforts to deal with the nuclear issue.

At this point, we would note that much of the current discussion of Iranian affairs in the United States is disturbingly reminiscent of the shift in America’s Iraq policy, starting during President Bill Clinton’s tenure, to embrace regime change in Baghdad as Washington’s explicit and overriding goal. The futile pursuit of regime change in Iraq—which did not occur until a full-scale U.S. invasion in 2003—inflicted substantial damage on America’s strategic position in the Middle East. That damage was compounded by the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the myriad strategic consequences of those events for the regional strategic environment. The damage that would be done to U.S. interests in the Middle East and globally by failing to pursue serious, strategically-grounded engagement with the Islamic Republic, carrying out military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets, and enshrining regime change as the primary goal of America’s Iran policy would be even worse.

In an op-ed published in today’s Washington Post, Ray Takeyh offers a paradigmatic example of what is becoming conventional wisdom about Iranian politics among American foreign policy elites. Ray compares the Islamic Republic today to both the Shah’s regime and the Soviet Union in their final days. Strikingly, he argues that “the regime’s most momentous and disastrous decision was its refusal to offer any compromises to an angered nation” after the June 12 presidential election. In Ray’s view, relatively modest steps at that time would have assuaged popular resentment, but now “such concessions would be seen as a sign of weakness and would embolden the opposition. The regime no longer has a political path out of its predicament.”

This is factually incorrect. A week after the June 12 election, protests diminished to a small fraction of what they had been. The Iranian leadership took several important steps in the wake of the election, including replacing the unpopular Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the judiciary with Sadeq Larijani (brother of the Parliament Speaker) and the closing of Kahrizak prison, where abuse of detainees was clearly documented (earlier this month, 12 officers at Kahrizak were criminally charged over their involvement in the deaths of prisoners). These and other actions in fact worked to mitigate the political controversy generated by the June 12 election and, by October, Iran had the United States and the rest of the P-5+1 at the negotiating table.

Over the past weekend, protests flared again—largely because of the coincidence of the seven-day mourning observance for the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri with the Shi’a holy day of Ashura. But, the protests have not been sustained and, yesterday, crowds at least as large as those on Ashura mobilized in Tehran to show support for the Islamic Republic.

Protests may flare again in Iran in coming months. But, drawing analogies between the Islamic Republic today and the Shah’s regime in 1978 or the Soviet Union in 1990 is profoundly misplaced. As we will argue next week, if one wants to draw an analogy between the Islamic Republic and another important country whose political order is grounded in a particular ideology and experiences periodic political conflict, a better analogue—and one much more useful as a guide for American policy—would be the People’s Republic of China. Tiananmen Square—where far more protestors were killed than have died in Iran since June 12—did not portend the collapse of the People’s Republic. It would have been foolhardy in the extreme for U.S. policymakers to act as if that were the case. Why are so many who should know better arguing that this weekend’s protests in Iran portend the demise of the Islamic Republic?

The inability of American diplomats, intelligence officers, and policymakers to understand what was happening in Iran in the late 1970s was one of the most colossal analytic failures in U.S. foreign policy since World War II, and did real damage to U.S. interests in the Middle East. It would be equally tragic if wishful thinking and a rush to judgment about Iranian politics diverted President Obama and his national security and foreign policy advisers from advancing U.S. interests in the region at a critical time through the pursuit of serious, strategically-grounded engagement with the Islamic Republic."

Fuad Ajami: Rollback Syria & Iran ...

"... The man who demolished the Iraqi tyranny, George. W. Bush, is no longer in power..."

Ajami, who finds much to be said about the agonies of Kurds, Darfur & Saad Hariri ... is dumbstruck about Israel & the Palestinians! ... Ajami, still shedding, in the WSJ, here

" .... In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration "cheats." It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn't fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid's last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)

In retrospect, that patina of cosmopolitanism in President Obama's background concealed the isolationism of the liberal coalition that brought him to power. The tide had turned in the congressional elections of 2006. American liberalism was done with its own antecedents—the outlook of Woodrow Wilson and FDR and Harry Truman and John Kennedy. It wasn't quite "Come home, America," but close to it. This was now the foreign policy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. There was in the land a "liberal orientalism," if you will, a dismissive attitude about the ability of other nations to partake of liberty. It had started with belittling the Iraqis' aptitude for freedom. But there was implicit in it a broader assault on the very idea of freedom's possibilities in distant places. East was East, and West was West, and never the twain shall meet.As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, "engagement" with Iran's theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.

We're weary, the disillusioned liberalism maintains, and we're broke, and there are those millions of Americans aching for health care and an economic lifeline. We can't care for both Ohio and the Anbar, Peoria and Peshawar. It is either those embattled people in Iran or a rescue package for Chrysler.

The joke is on the enthralled crowds in Cairo, Ankara, Berlin and Oslo. The new American president they had fallen for had no genuine calling or attachments abroad. In their enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, and their eagerness to proclaim themselves at one with the postracial meaning of his election, they had missed his aloofness from the genuine struggles in the foreign world.

It was easy, that delirium with Mr. Obama: It made no moral demands on those eager to partake of it. It was also false, in many lands.

Thus Turks who loathed the Kurds in their midst, who denied them the right to their own memory and language, could identify themselves, or so they said, with the triumph of Mr. Obama and his personal history. No one questioned the sincerity with which Egyptians and other Arabs hailed Mr. Obama as they refused to be stirred by the slaughter in Darfur, and as they gave a carte blanche to Khartoum's blatant racism and cruelty....

Everywhere there is on display evidence of the rogues taking the Obama administration's measure, and of America's vulnerable allies scurrying for cover. A fortnight ago, Lebanon's young prime minister made his way from Beirut to Damascus: Saad Hariri had come to pay tribute to the Syrian ruler..... The Pax Americana that had laid waste to the despotism of Saddam Hussein frightened the Syrian rulers, and held out the prospect that a similar fate could yet befall them.

We're now worlds away from that moment in history. The man who demolished the Iraqi tyranny, George. W. Bush, is no longer in power, and a different sentiment drives America's conduct abroad. Saad Hariri had no choice but to make peace with his father's sworn enemies—that short voyage he made to Damascus was his adjustment to the retreat of American power.

In headier moments, Mr. Hariri and the leaders of the Cedar Revolution had been emboldened by American protection. It was not only U.S. military power that had given them heart....."

Israel & U.S. "not discussing" Iran strike ...

Reuters/ Here

" ... "I'm very confident in America's commitment to dissuading Iran from enriching uranium on its soil, which is our common goal," Oren told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Our positions on Iran completely dovetail and we have very close cooperation and communication."

The diplomatic stalemate has set off speculation that the Israelis, perhaps fearing a shift by Washington to a Cold War-style policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, would make good on veiled threats to hit their arch-foe preemptively.

Asked whether Israel is facing any U.S. pressure over the issue of possible military action, Oren said: "It's not a subject that comes up. It's not a subject of discussion. It's not a subject of conversation between us because we're not there yet. We're far away from that....

Under Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, the United States last year turned down an Israeli purchase request for refueling planes and specialized "bunker-buster" bombs, in what was widely perceived as a warning not to try to take on Iran alone.

Asked if there had been similar refusals of strategic ordnance since he took office in June, Oren said: "Nothing, nothing. It is not a subject of discussion between the government of Israel and the Obama administration."

Israel is widely assumed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, designed for last-ditch self-defense. But some independent experts believe its conventional air force is too small to deliver lasting damage to Iran's nuclear facilities, which are distant, dispersed and fortified."

The Palestinians are a bunch of lying usurpers!

Thank You Deputy PM Danny Ayalon for pointing this out in the WSJ, for the sake of Peace ...Here
"The recent statements by the European Union's new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel's rights to what are generally called the "occupied territories" but what really are "disputed territories."
That's because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered "occupied" in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel's conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.........
After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said "the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors." There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.
And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton's are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away."

Egypt has a 'Wall of Shame' & a 'pyramid of honor' ...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"... farewell to a perfectly awful decade ..."

(KRT8) KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: ATTACKS-WTC KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY RED HUBER/ORLANDO SENTINEL (September 13) NEW YORK, NY-- Rescue workers climb a mountain of debris on Thursday, September 13, 2001 in New York City. The rubble is all that remains of the twin

The crater left after Israeli forces bombed a cemetery in Gaza today, sending body parts flying onto neighbouring houses

سيسون و14 آذار... مواقف متقاطعة ضد حزب الله (أرشيف ــ أ ف ب)

Voluntary Foreclosure

EU Parliementary delegation' Tehran visit, draws US Congressional rebuke

In the WSJ, here
"An 11-person European Parliament delegation is scheduled to visit Tehran next week in a move that has drawn a rebuke from U.S. lawmakers concerned that the visit could serve to legitimize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government.......
The trip, which is set to occur a week after the expiration of U.S. President Barack Obama's deadline for Iran to respond to international calls for negotiations, is feeding a growing debate among the U.S. and its European allies over how long to keep open the widow for diplomacy with Tehran.
"We believe that a visit from the EP would send the wrong message to the Iranian government and undermine the international efforts to end their nuclear program," 15 U.S. House of Representatives members wrote European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek last week. "We urge you not to authorize the visit at this time."
Both Democrats and Republicans signed the congressional letter, including Robert Wexler (D., Fla.), Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), and Shelley Berkley (D., Nev.). Ms. Berkeley heads the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue within the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
A spokesman for the White House's National Security Council declined to comment on the pending European Parliament trip to Iran. But senior U.S. officials have stressed in recent days that the Obama administration intends to maintain an open diplomatic channel to Tehran, even as the U.S. and its allies move to enact new economic and financial sanctions on Iran..."

"Egypt acquires more F-16s ... and is a valued customer..."

Once someone must have said: "You build it, they'll let you fly"...
In the Fort-Worth Star/ here

"Operation of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production line in Fort Worth could be extended "perhaps another year" as a result of an agreement, announced Tuesday, under which Egypt would buy up to 24 of the jet fighters, company spokesman Joe Stout said.

"Right now, production in Fort Worth extends through the first quarter of 2012," he said. "It extends it perhaps another year.  . . . It’s very good news.".....

This is the second piece of good news for Fort Worth’s F-16 operations in a week.

On Dec. 22, Lockheed was awarded an $841.9 million contract to complete production of 24 F-16 fighters for Morocco, as well as for electronic warfare gear and support equipment.

Lockheed Martin said Tuesday that it is "pleased that the U.S. and Egyptian governments have reached agreement" on a program to deliver F-16s to the Egyptian air force. "Egypt has acquired more than 200 F-16s in the past, in six previous orders, and is a valued customer," the Bethesda, Md.-based company said..."

Preparing 'targeted sanctions': White House shows NO interest in Congress's versions

In the WaPo/ here

"The Obama administration is readying sanctions against discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters, marking a shift to a more aggressive U.S. posture toward the Islamic republic, U.S. officials what may be a difficult balancing act, officials say the administration wants to carefully target sanctions to avoid alienating the Iranian public -- while keeping the door ajar to a resolution of the struggle over Iran's nuclear program. The aim of any sanctions is to force the Tehran government to the negotiating table, rather than to punish it for either its apparent push to develop a nuclear weapon or its treatment of its people.

"We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation -- whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame."

As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. "Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement," another senior official said. "Our intention is to keep the door open."....

Sanctions would probably be imposed in three ways -- at the U.N. Security Council, with like-minded countries and unilaterally -- and U.S. officials would pursue them more or less simultaneously ....

The precise contours of the administration's sanctions policy are still being decided, but high on the list of targets is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, ...... The increasingly central role of the Revolutionary Guard in both the economy and the protests, officials said, makes it a target of possible resentment among the Iranian public -- and for tough U.S. sanctions. But officials insist that sanctions would not be linked to the protests. "It is only coincidental that at the same time we reached the deadline, the Iranian government has a bloody crackdown," said a third U.S. official. "It has only served to highlight the nature of the regime.".....

Ironically, the protests may also have doomed efforts to begin negotiations on the nuclear issue. Iranian negotiators, meeting with diplomats from the United States and other powers in Geneva on Oct. 1, had tentatively agreed to a deal to swap much of its enriched uranium for fuel for a medical research reactor used to treat diseases. But then Iranian leaders split over the deal, especially after opposition leaders questioned it..."

Yemen as quagmire"

Col. Lang's warning at
SST/ here

"I was Defense and Army Attache in the US Embassy in Sana, North Yemen in 1981 and 1982. I have been back several times. most recently three or four years ago. The same man, Ali Abdullah Salih, is president of a united north and south Yemen. He was merely president in the north when I lived in Sana. There have been no "breaks" in his service.

The country is an example of tribalism run riot. Except for the coastal plains the terrain is a wilderness of dissected mountain ridges, each of which is topped by a very defensible village.

The tribal structure is very complex and divided into; confederations, tribes, clans, families, etc. In the north of the country live Zeidi (Fiver) Shia. Their type of Shiism is the closest to Sunni Islam. Their jurisprudence is actually based on Mu'tazilism. The rest of the country is largely inhabited by Sunni Shafa'i.

There is constant war in Yemen, war over women's honor, water rights, land, beasts or just for the fun of it. The government does not exercize any substatial control over most places outside the cities. The tribesmen are both in the army and out of it and a favorite political move is for some dissident officer to desert taking many of his men and such odds and ends as; small arms; artillery and tanks to his home district after proclaiming "come and get me." The tribesmen are heavily armed. An AK-47 is a standard accessory in personal fashion, and they DO shoot at each other a lot.

The Yemenis are crafty folk. In the Cold War they were adept at getting free money and weapons from the USSR, USA, Saudi Arabia, and East Germany. They hired the French, Taiwanese and Italians to do odd jobs for them using other peoples' money.

Salih is particularly good at that. He delights in "screwing" the big guys by playing on their fears.

This is the next Afghanistan?"

Tehran 'exploring' Kerry's visit ...

In the CABLE/ in ISNA, here
"Iran's Parliament is exploring the trip of the Head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry, said Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in his weekly press conference, Mehmanparast regarding the trip of John Kerry said, "Mr. John Kerry seems to have called for trip to Iran, the issue was referred to Iran's parliament since it was a parliamentary trip and Iran's Parliament will declare its response after examinations."
He also said Iran's Foreign Ministry is to summon British ambassador to Iran to show opposition against the UK's measures in Iran over post-election events.
Regarding some countries' interference in Iran's post-election events, he said, "Iran is fully observing moves of other countries against the Iranian nation and it is to summon the British ambassador to voice opposition against their interference."
He also rejected reports that Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said the country is set for talks in Turkey on fuel swap and said, "we have right to call for the IAEA to supply fuel required for Tehran reactor which seeks humanitarian purposes, so setting condition for providing the fuel is not an appropriate measure."
He also continued, Iran agreed with fuel swap to build confidence and gave another chance to the other party and if the other party does not lose the opportunity and uses it for building confidence, we can talk over details of the issue."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not so 'Unclenched' skies: "US rejects Airbus jet sale to Syria's national airline"

JPOst/ here

"The US has turned down a request by Airbus SAS to sell aircraft to Syria to modernize the country's aging national airline, Syria's transportation minister said Monday.

The Tishrin newspaper on Monday quoted Yarob Badr as saying that an Airbus delegation recently informed Syrian officials that the US Commerce Department rejected a request to lift an embargo on selling planes to Damascus.

The US imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria in May 2004 because of what Washington says is its support for terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and other activities including undermining US operations in Iraq. Syria denies the allegations.

The sanctions have grounded much of Syrian Air's fleet, leaving less than ten planes in operation."

US agencies believing that Al Qaeda did have something to do with arming & directing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ...

Declassified, here

"U.S. government experts believe that a statement circulated Monday purporting to come from Al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate that claimed credit for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a transatlantic airliner is likely authentic and credible, according to a U.S. national-security official. The official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence analysts believe that the message really did originate with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the U.S. believes is an Al Qaeda "franchise" that operates in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The official added that U.S. agencies are increasingly willing to believe that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula really did have something to do with arming and directing would-be airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose attack failed when he tried to set off his underpants bomb but it burst into flames rather than exploding...."

(more, here)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran Agrees In Principle to Uranium Swap in Turkey

Via the RFI, here

"The Associated Press reported on Friday that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the Islamic Republic is willing to exchange uranium on Turkish soil as part of an agreement with the P5+1 countries. Previously, the Islamic Republic had only committed to exchanging the fuel on Iran’s own territory.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu indicated that Turkey would be willing to consider such an arrangement and has reportedly discussed the proposal with Obama’s National Security Advisor General Jim Jones.

The Obama administration and the other P5+1 countries should seize this opportunity to put life back into its negotiations with Iran. At the very least, the announcement should help those elements within the Obama administration who truly want to engage Iran to counter calls emanating from Congress and others to go down the strategically bankrupt road of more sanctions and threats."

The 'lure & lore' of Israel in Saudi sites ...

From Saudi Elaph who has no qualms in paying tribute and singing Israel's praise! Here

"George Mason, in the UAE, closed its Ras al Khaymah campus having never graduated a single student..."

Predictable, sad & true!

" ... Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates that make up the U.A.E. and the one that controls most of its oil, is still flourishing. And it is still generous in its support for the most ambitious American educational effort in the area, New York University’s liberal-arts college, which is scheduled to open there next fall with a highly selective class of 100 young students from around the world......

Because most Dubai residents are expatriates, thousands of them left when their jobs disappeared, and the prospective college-student pool in the area has shrunk substantially. “Nobody could have anticipated the global meltdown, which has certainly had a negative effect on our student marketing,” said Brendan Mullan, executive director of Michigan State Dubai.

Michigan State, with only 85 undergraduates, is seeking to raise that figure with a scholarship offering half-price tuition to the first 100 qualified transfer applicants for the semester that starts next month....

Rochester, which began only with graduate programs, accepted almost 100 students for this academic year. But Mustafa Abushagur, president of the Dubai campus, said it ended up with only about 50, .......“Our plan for next year is 100 to 120 students,” he said, “which we think we can get, because we’ve studied the market very closely (sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh...!) and we believe that as an institution, we can distinguish ourselves in certain programs that are in demand here.”

George Mason, one of the first American universities to open a branch in the United Arab Emirates, closed its Ras al Khaymah temporary campus in May, having never graduated a single student...."

(continue, here)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Onward to Yemen!

In the Huffington Post, here

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn) a renowned hawk and one of the foremost champions of the invasion of Iraq, warned on Sunday that the United States faced "danger" unless it pre-emptively acts to curb the rise of terrorism in Yemen.

"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war," Lieberman said, during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday". "That's the danger we face."

The Connecticut Independent, who heads the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, made his remarks just days after a Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- a Nigerian with apparent ties to terrorist networks in Yemen -- failed in his attempt to blow up a plane above Detroit, Michigan.....

"I know the president made a promise he'd close Guantanamo because of what it represented in world opinion," Lieberman said. "But today it's a first-class facility. It's way above what's required by the Geneva Convention or our constitution. It would be a mistake to send these 90 people back to Yemen because, based on the past of what's happened when we've released people from Guantanamo, a certain number have gone back into the fight against us. Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight."....."

Mossad's Beirut chief remembers the Lebanese Forces & Mughnieh...

Eliezer Tsafrir, an ex-Mossad...
"The 'Chief' with Bashir and memorabilia of a few useful Lebanese & Kurdish assets, at home"

"... Now 74, a grandfather in sneakers and a sweat shirt, Tsafrir retired in 1992 after an intelligence career that included stints heading Mossad operations in Kurdistan and Tehran. His memoirs have been published in Hebrew, Kurdish and Farsi. At his small apartment in a leafy Tel Aviv suburb, decorated with photos and other mementos from his years of service, Tsafrir looked back on Mughniyeh's career and his violent demise.

The string of attacks attributed to Mughniyeh in the past quarter century includes blowing up U.S. and French buildings in Lebanon, airplane hijackings, attacks on Israel's embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina and other attacks in Europe and the Arab world. He had been in hiding for years and reportedly had undergone plastic surgery to avoid being found.

    The Mossad's agents in Beirut became aware of the young Mughniyeh in the early 1980s, after Israel invaded Lebanon to evict Palestinian militants who had taken over swaths of the country, Tsafrir said. The Mossad was active alongside the military, and Tsafrir was in close contact with Lebanese Christian leaders allied with Israel..."

    Saturday, December 26, 2009

    NSC watching closely the "other team" to prevent "overreaching" ....

    Via SST, here , Lang's remarks on the piece in the WaPo

    "It appears that the Afghan policy war is not over. Chandrasekaran is a good reporter but not good enough to get this unaided. Sooo, someone(s) at the NSC briefed him so that the message would be delivered to the "other team" that their behavior is being watched closely and that the NSC team is prepared to use the public media as a weapon if need be.

    The reporter then went to the Defense Department where he was told their side of the story. Secretary Gates appears to have become the leader of the pentagon faction

    Petraeus is interestingly absent from this nearly open struggle. He will wait to see what the outcome may be.

    A major confrontation over policy and presidential authority is coming. The policy review scheduled for July 2010 may well precipitate it.

    and the WaPo's piece:

    Two days before announcing the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, President Obama informed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal that he was not granting McChrystal's request to double the size of the Afghan army and police.

    Cost was a factor, as were questions about whether the capacity exists to train 400,000 personnel. The president told McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to focus for now on fielding a little more than half that number by next October.

    ....... McChrystal's goal of 400,000 remained unchanged.

    "It's an open issue," a senior Pentagon official said last week.

    Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president's new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

    Members of Obama's war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.

    The differences are complicating implementation of the new strategy. Some officers have responded to the July 2011 date by seeking to accelerate the pace of operations, instead of narrowing them. At the White House, a senior administration official said, the National Security Council is discussing ways to increase monitoring of military and State Department activities in Afghanistan to prevent "overreaching."

    The NSC's strategic guidance, a classified document that outlines the president's new approach, was described by the senior administration official as limiting military operations "in scale and scope to the minimum required to achieve two goals -- to prevent al-Qaeda safe havens and to prevent the Taliban from toppling the government." The use of resource-intensive counterinsurgency tactics -- employing U.S. forces to protect Afghan civilians from the Taliban -- is supposed to be restricted to key cities and towns in southern and eastern parts of the country, the official said.

    "The strategy has fundamentally changed. This is not a COIN strategy," Vice President Biden said on MSNBC last week, using the military's shorthand for counterinsurgency. "This is not 'go out and occupy the whole country.' "

    Pushing Back on the War Drums

    The Leveretts posting Marc Lynch's response to the NYTimes, at the RFI, here

    ... Marc Lynch, blogging at Foreign Policy, has an excellent and important response. He notes that

    The New York Times [publishing a piece advocating for war] is a serious step towards mainstreaming the idea, akin to how Ken Pollack and Tom Friedman’s support for the invasion of Iraq persuaded a lot of centrists and liberals. It’s as if we as a country have learned nothing from the Iraq war debate.

    Lynch then breaks down the inanity of Kuperman’s piece one step at a time.

    Does he rule out the alternative policy by default? Yes he does! “peaceful carrots and sticks cannot work.”

    Does he reduce the policy options to two extreme positions, one of which is guaranteed to be rejected? Yes he does! “the United States faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.”

    Does he warn that Saddam, um, Ahmedenejad will give WMD to terrorists? Yes, yes he does. “if Iran acquired a nuclear arsenal, the risks would simply be too great that it could become a neighborhood bully or provide terrorists with the ultimate weapon, an atomic bomb.” (the “neighborhood bully” is a nice touch.) Will, pray tell, the smoking gun be in the shape of a mushroom cloud?

    Does he exaggerate the prospects for success? Yes, he does. Well, first he says “As for knocking out its nuclear plants, admittedly, aerial bombing might not work.” But he quickly moves on from that, since that will not do. Oddly, his main example of success comes from Iraq, where he claims that the first Gulf war led to the uncovering of the Iraqi nuclear program — not the Osirak raid — which is accurate, but rather completely contradicts his argument.

    Does he minimize the risks of military action? Yes, he does. “Yes, Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway.” Try telling that to U.S. military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to leaders in the Gulf, who are slightly less cavalier with the lives of their people.

    Does he suggest that if all else fails regime change would be easy and cheap? Yes, dear lord, he does. “If nothing else, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the United States military can oust regimes in weeks if it wants to.” Truly, this was the lesson to be drawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m still marveling over how easily we overthrew Saddam and the Taliban and got out of Iraq and Afghanistan more or less costlessly. That was special. On the other hand, as Matt Duss helpfully points out, “if we don’t have an Iran war, how are we supposed to have an awesome Iran surge?”

    Does he accuse those who oppose military action of appeasement? Yes, yes, of course he does. “in the face of failed diplomacy, eschewing force is tantamount to appeasement.”

    Lynch’s response is important and we will continue to watch for and push back on op-eds like Kuperman’s."