Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kramer's Lösung: let Palestinian have fewer babies

Martin Kramer, a rightist authority on Islam and Arab politics (he works with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the offcial Aipac think tank, and is also a visiting fellow at Harvard),
“called for ‘the West’ to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.”
That at least is what Ali Abunimah of the Electonic Intifad accused him of.

Kramer on his blog, Sandbox, takes isssue of it. He write that he's accused:
of having “proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would ‘happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status.’
And he adds that 'he did not say such thing, in fact he said' (and here he quotes himself from his speech at the Herzliya conference in February): 
Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why, in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, Gaza’s population grew by an astonishing 40 percent. At that rate, Gaza’s population will double by 2030, to three million. Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but if they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth—and there is some evidence that they have—that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination, and treating it at its root.
 Fo you to decide who was right, Kramer or Abunimah.

PS.  The American professor Stephen M. Walt does not think that what Kramer said was in fact a call for genocide, although he came into close range of the 1948 definition of genocide. But says Walt:
What word you use to describe his comments is actually not that important, because their substance is so offensive to any decent person that you don’t need to worry much about getting the right label for them. To illustrate this point, just imagine how Kramer would react if the Iranian government announced that it was worried its Jewish population (some 25,000 or so) was a potential “fifth column,” and that it was therefore imposing measures intended to discourage Iranian Jews from having more children?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dubai identifies more fraudulent passports in killing

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates has identified four more suspects who carried fraudulent British and Irish passports in the Dubai killing of a Hamas commander, a source familiar with the investigation said on Tuesday.
The use of passports from European Union countries by the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh has drawn censure from the bloc. Dubai has accused Israel of being behind the assassination, but the Israeli foreign minister has said there was no proof his country carried out the killing.
"The UAE has identified two British suspects holding British travel documents and as part of the ongoing investigation has shared the information with the British government," the source in the UAE told Reuters.
Two more suspects in the killing of Mabhouh in a hotel in January were identified as holding Irish passports, the source added.The Dubai authorities last week released the identities of 11 people who traveled on forged British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh, and said that two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in custody.The new information brings the tally of fake British passports used to eight and Irish identities used to five.

Friday, February 19, 2010

El-Baradei, the home coming man

Egypt, or many Egyptians at least, are quite excited these days: Mohammed El-Baradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energie Agencey IAEA yesterday returned to Egypt. Many crowded, in spite of a large police presence, at the aiport in order to see if he would speak (what in the end he did not do) and to welcome him.
Why all this fuss? Baradei has annnounced that he will stand for president in the upcoming 2011 elections. And the prospect that someone credible and (somewhat) popular is going to be a contender for the Mubarak throne (which, as is widely expected is going to be passed on by the older Mubarak to his son Gamal) is really thrilling to many Egyptians who are sick and tired of all those years of Mubarak and his omni present National Democratic Party. El-Baradei already has a real campaign with a website, and a small campain headquarters led by a certain Abdel Rahman Youssef (who, as Iskander Amrani of the blog The  Arabist revealed, interestingly enough is the son of sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a one time Muslim Brother and a famous Sunni moslim scholar). What the real impact of Baradei's campaign will be, now and in the long run, is still unclear, but will probably  transpire in the coming days and weeks.

Egyptian blogger Abbas acquitted

Hadayeq El-Qobba Misdemeanors Court found Egypts best known blogger Wael Abbas innocent on appeal Thursday.A court of lower intance had covicted him earlier to a six-month prison sentence for “tampering with an internet cable”, a charge brought by his neighbors, brothers Ahmed and Ashraf Maher Aglan.  When asked whether the verdict had given him faith back in the Egyptian judiciary Abbas said “of course.”.
 The court heard pleadings from defense lawyer Hamdy El-Assiouty, who told that at the time it is alleged that he tampered with the internet cable, Abbas was actually in Austria at a conference. This, El-Assiouty said, was evidence that the charges against Abbas were “fabricated” by the Aglan brothers and that Ashraf Aglan — a police officer — brought the charges in revenge for the assault charges Abbas filed against him and his brother in April 2009 after a quarrel they had about a shared internet connection.
In a statement issued yesterday morning, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the charges against Abbas. “Filing fabricated charges against bloggers has become a familiar approach of the Interior Ministry,” ANHRI says in its statement. “Filing cases such as this charade case against a well-known blogger sends a message of terror to all other bloggers and is an attempt to intimidate them and force them into silence on interior ministry practices.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nasrallah's warning to Israel

iThe Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 after three days of Israeli bombardments
 This was still due om this blog: the speech that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah held, on Tuesday February 16th, at a meeting to commemorate the Hibollah leaders Sayyed Abbas Musawi and Raghib Harb who in the past have been killed by the Israëli's, as well as Hezbollah's military leader Imad Mughnieh, who was killed two years ago by a car bomb in Damascus - supposedy also planted by the Israeli's. Nasrallah unveiled what appears to be a 'tit for tat' strategy in case Israël would think of attacking Lebanon again, like in 2006.
Nasrallah's speech wasn't an isolated event. It was, as blogger Qifa Nabki rightly points out,  part of a chain of events, starting with a speech by Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak who on February 1st said something  like that if Israel was not going to make peace with Syria, the result inevitably would be war.
Next in the chain was Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian Foreign minister, who two days later, during a visit of his Spanish counterpart, said:
One day you threaten Gaza, next day you threaten Lebanon, later Iran and now Syria. Don’t test, you Israelis, the determination of Syria. You know that war this time would move to your cities. Come to your senses and choose the road of peace. This path is clear. 
  On day after that also the Israeli Foreign minister, Lieberman, hit the drum of war, warning that Assad, if he choose war, wouldn't only loose the war, but would also be pushed out of power together with his family.

And then came Nasrallah -(in Qifa Nabki's translation): 
“In Lebanon there is infrastructure, and in [occupied] Palestine as well. We have an airport and they have airports. We have power plants and they have very large ones. They have oil refineries and we do too. The infrastructure in Israel is much more advanced than ours. Today, I hereby tell them the following, and they can be assured of it: If you strike Rafiq al-Hariri International Airport in Beirut, we will strike Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. If you strike our ports, we will strike your ports. And if you strike our refineries or our factories we will strike your factories and your refineries. Today, in the memory of Sayyed Abbas and Shaykh Raghib and al-Hajj Imad, I announce and accept this challenge. We, in Lebanon, as a people and a resistance and a national army are capable [of this] because we protect our country and we don’t need anyone in the world to protect Lebanon.”
What it means in practice is unclear to you and me, we can be 100% sure, however, that Nasrallah's words are carefully studied somewhere in buildings in Tel Aviv. But what's the background? There must have been one. Have there been exchanges behind the scene between Syria and Israel that did not have the desired effect and did not lead to talks? Is Israel - together with the US - exerting pressure on Syria in order that foregoes on its reation with Iran? Something must be there - and all this coincides with the fact that the US is sending William Burns, one of its highest diplomats to Damascus, and just named an ambassador (Robert Ford) after a period of five years during which the post had been vacant.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Murder in pictures and on tape

 Hamas has blamed Israel for the murder in a Dubai hotel room last month of its offical Mahmud al-Mabhouh and the emirate's police force has refused to rule out the possibility that the 11 suspects wanted by investigators were working for Mossad.
Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, told Army Radio on Wednesday: "There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief.However, he also said that Israel has a "policy of ambiguity" on intelligence matters.

It's somewhat incredible to see the pictures of these people all over. Great-Britain and Ireland (and possibly France and Germany too) are investigating who falsified passports that belonged to citizens of their respective countries. Britain's prime minister Gordon Brown considers it to be a serious matter and the Israeli ambassador was summoned to give an explanation.
Six Israeli's who immigrated from the United Kingdom and one from the US are implicated,  because their passport numbers and names have been used on these falsified documents. Nobody knows the consequences this will have for them in the future. Austria is trying to find out the origins of a  number of cell phones with Austrian sim cards that were used during the murder operation. A number of secret agents had better stay inside and devote themselves to paperwork from now on, since they are not that secret anymore as their pictures have gone all over the world, and the scans that the Dubai customs took from them will be in many computers.
The actions of the perpetrators of the killing have even been recorded on tape and made available by the police of the UAE. In this way it is visible how the victim, Mabhouh, is followed by people in tennis gear in order to find out which room he is in, how some agents disguised themselves with false wigs or beards,  how Mabhouh is tailed till the moment of his suspected murder, etc. (In order to watch the tape, click here).
  The Mossad certainly did a great great job. If they had hired some sloppy agents from Mubarak's Egypt, of from Lebanon or Iraq, the perfomance woudl have been better, for sure.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Election campaign in Iraq starts, row over candidates not solved

Campaigning for the election in Iraq is getting under way amid a continuing row over the ban on scores of candidates. As posters appeared across Iraq for Friday's start, the fate of more than 170 candidates is still undecided.A panel op Iraqi judges is continuing its work hearing appeals from the candidates, many banned for ties to the Baath party through which Saddam Hussein governed.
The panel has reportedly upheld the decision to bar two prominent Sunni members of parliament from contesting in general elections scheduled for March 7.The endorsement of the ban against Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani is likely to raise tensions between the Shia-led government and Sunni Iraqis, who claim they are being marginalised.
The original blacklist contained around 500 names but that number has been whittled down to just over 170.
These candidates have appealed to a panel of judges to overturn the banning order from the election vetting committee.Many other banned candidates have either decided not to appeal or have been replaced by others.
Ali al-Lami, head of the political vetting committee, told Associated Press on Thursday the judicial panel had allowed 13 appeals, rejected at least 99 and was continuing its work.
Posters in Baghdad. On top: Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, below view of a street. The pictures are from the provincial elections, February 2009. 

Although the controversial list of banned candidates straddles the sectarian divide, Sunni groups have felt disproportionately targeted. The row has been a major concern for the US, which is preparing to withdraw large numbers of forces by the middle of this year.The US fears that if the election lacks credibility among Sunni voters, Iraq could slide back into sectarian violence.
Although a minority in the country as a whole, the Sunnis were over-represetented in Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. Shia parties insist the Ba'athists must be purged and have voiced fears about what they see as American interference in the electoral process.

Yemeni government and Houthis agree on truce

The Yemeni governent and the Houthi fighters in the north of Yemen have reached a cease fire that went into affect as off midnight on Thursday. President Ali Abdullah Saleh made the announcement on Thursday after reports that the Yemeni government and the group were close to reaching a deal to end six months of fighting.
The truce was made possible after the group, belonging to the Zaidi Shia sect, accepted six conditions put forward by the government for the cessation of hostilities.
Yemen said last week it had handed the fighters a timetable for implementing the ceasefire terms, a week after rejecting a Houthi truce offer because it did not include a promise to end hostilities with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Yemeni officials have said that as part of a truce deal, Sanaa would allow Houthi representatives to sit on a committee overseeing the truce, and the group’s fighters would hand over weapons they seized from Yemeni and Saudi forces.
Yemen state television said the government and the group had also formed four smaller committees to supervise the truce in four areas, including on the Yemen-Saudi border.
The deadline for the full implementation of the truce had been a point of contention, with the Houthis asking for more time for their fighters to leave mountainous positions, they said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Iran, uranium and exaggerated Western reactions

Iran is giving mixed signals, but the West really seems to be highly overreacting to an Iranian announcement that it is going to upgrade uranium to 20%....for medical purposes, a process that will take about a year an that will fall far short of the 90% enrichment that is needed to make a bomb.. 
But the story is somewhat complicated. Iran is zigzagging. In October there was a deal whereby Iran would send most of its low grade uranium abroad and was to receive it back processed as fuel for its nuclear plants. Iran however backtracked. Untill last week, when Iranian president Ahmadinejad as yet appeared to go with the deal when he, shortly before the launch of a new Iranian satellite, said that his collegues were worried that Iran would never see the uranium back, but that he himself did not have a problem with the swap. It seemed that - maybe - the deal was going to be through after all
But next in the chain of events was an anouncement, also by Ahmadinejad, that he had ordered the enrichment plant at Natanz to start upgrading uranium to a level of 20%. Iran currently enriches uranium to a level of 3.5% but requires 20% enriched uranium for its research reactor in Tehran, which produces  isotopes for medical puposes. A bomb would require uranium enriched to at least 90%.
 Ahmadinejad visits the factory in Natanz 
Iran's highest nuclear authority, Ali Akbar Salehi, anounced that the process in Natanz would begin as off today. In the same breath he mentioned that Iran is going to build another ten enrichment plants in the coming period. Experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency are present at the site in Natanz. It is expected that enriching to 20% using the 2,000 centrifuges at Natanz. would take about one year. 
The news immediately drew angry reactions from the West. The US and France reacted by saying that the time had come 'for the adoption of strong sanctions', while the British government described Iran's new position as deeply worrying. Russia signalled its disapproval. 'Actions such as starting to enrich low-enriched uranium up to 20% raise doubts in other countries and these doubts are fairly well-grounded,' Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia's security council, was quoted as saying. 'Political-diplomatic methods are important for a resolution, but there is a limit to everything,' he said.
Only the Chinese were more careful and said that more talks are needed in order to solve the matter.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu refused to comment directly on sanctions at a press conference on Tuesday and said to hope that 'the relevant parties will step up efforts and push for progress in the dialogue and negotiations.' As a UN Security Council member, China's support would be needed for any new round of sanctions against Iran.
The Western reactions are somewhat exxagerated when one realizes that it will take one year to enrich ranium to a grade of 20%, that Iran at the moment does not even have the possiblities to enrich to a grade of 90%, and that everything is taking place under the eyes of inspectors of the IAEA. Apart from that, as Juan Cole mentions on his blog:
The list of other countries capable of producing LEU of 19.75% includes Brazil, China, France, Germany, India,Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none of the others on it except N. Korea is being sanctioned-- and that is for constructing a bomb, which Iran is not doing. Argentina was sanctioned neither for enriching to 19.75% nor for selling that stock of LEU to Iran! And South Korea was never sanctioned for secretly enriching to 77%, near bomb grade, something Iran has never been accused of.
 So why apply such different standards to Iran? The fact that it has a goverment that is despised by at least half of  its population and by us here in the West, is not enough reason. And maybe that the zigzagging of this government is highly irritating and confusing, but those Iran watchers who declare that Ahmadinejad's unstable movements between yes and no may have to do with the fact that he does not want to be seen by the hardliners in Tehran as too soft and too easily accomodating to Western demands, may have a point. Just one more it of evidence for such an assumption  was presented to us today, when Salehi, the boss of Iran's nuclear program, said that Iran could drop the 20% enrichment drive if the West would guarantee that t could have this upgraded uranium from elsewhere. 

So let's hope that the Chinese approach will prevail and that cries (like those from Netanyahu in Jerusalem) for 'crippling sanctions to be applied right now' will fall on deaf ears. .

Arrests of Egyptian Moslim Brothers ahead of elections

Egyptian security services arrested 15 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) opposition group in different provinces Sunday, including group Deputy General Guide Mahmoud Ezzat.The raids targeted homes in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Assiut, Sharqiyya and Gharbiyya governorates. In addition to Ezzat, police also arrested two members of the Brotherhood's guidance council, Essam el-Erian and Abdul-Rahman el-Bar; three members of the Brotherhood's administrative office in Alexandria; and several writers and professors with ties to the group. All of the detainees are accused of engaging in banned political activity.
In a statement on its English-language Web site, the Brotherhood frames the arrests as part of an ongoing crackdown on the group ahead of parliamentary elections in April. The statement also asserted that group leaders had been arrested for the MB's support of the Palestinian cause and the besieged people of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip. 
Most analysts agree that the  arrests are in fact the Egyptian government's answer to the moderate course as revealed last month by the newly elected 'Guide' of the Ikhwan, Mohamed Badie (picture). According to political analyst Hassan Nafea, the regime is attempting to intimidate the group in retaliation for recent statements made by Badie, about a possible alliance with other Egyptian political forces. Amr el-Shobki, expert on Islamic movements, said the regime was going out of its way to weaken the group. "The regime doesn't want to destroy it completely, though, so as to avoid adverse consequences,' he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood itself said that the arrests will not divert the organization from its 'peaceful path', but some in the Ikhwan seem to be worried that governmenet interference will make it difficult for the organization to pursue a coherent election strategy. Particularly worrying is the arrest of  Essam al-Erian, who is the Ikhwan's main election strategist since a number of years, while also the arrest of  Deputy Guide Ezzat seems to indicate that the government is going to make it hard for the Brotherhood to participate in the elections. . Ezzat is known to be one of the main moderate forces. Till now the regime has kept its hands off him and permitted him to speak out  rather freely.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Iraq: Lifting ban on 500 candidates causes turmoil, third attack on Arbaeen pilgrims kills at least 31

The Iraqi government called on Thursday for a special session of parliament and branded as illegal an appeals panel decision to suspend a ban on candidates suspected of ties to an outlawed party until after an election.
Also the start of the campaign for the election of 7 March is postponed from 7 February till 13 February in order to give the high court time to consider whether the suspension of the ban is illegal or not. 

The appeals panel said on Wednesday that candidates barred by the Justice and Accountability Commission -- set up to ensure Saddam Hussein's Baath party did not return to public life -- could stand in the poll, but would still have a case to answer. That seem to have caused an uproar in the shiíte parties, the Iraqi National
 Alliance (which consists of the Sadrists and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq among others) and prmime minister Nuri al-Mailiki's own coalition. "Postponing implementing the law of the Justice and Accountability Commission until after the election is illegal and not constitutional," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement on his website.
It was unclear if the government could contest the panel's decision -- much of the process of banning the candidates has involved creative interpretations of the law and the legality of the commission that drew up the list is also in question.
Hamdiya al-Husseini, an official with the Independent High Electoral Commission, said the body had asked a high court to rule on whether it was required to abide by the panel's decision, and that the start of campaigning would be delayed.
"The (start of) election campaigning has been postponed from February 7 to February 12 to give time to the federal court to look into our inquiry," she told Reuters by telephone.
Officials said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had called on lawmakers to discuss the dispute in parliament, which would meet on Sunday in an extraordinary session.
The 500 banned candidates were mainly - but not exclusively - Sunni, what might jeopardize a fair outcome of the upcomming elections. Particularly the US, which is planning to  withdraw its troops in the course of 2010, seemd to be concerned about the ban.

Twin car bombs killed more than 40 people and wounded at least 95 on Friday in Iraq's holy city of Kerbala as hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims observed a major religious rite, hospital sources said.
The attack on the final and most important day of the Arbain festival was the third major strike this week against Shi'ite pilgrims amid a political furor over the banning of candidates, many of them Sunnis, from a March 7 election.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Iraq lifts ban on ´ex-Baathists´, new bomb attacks on Arbaeen pilgrims

Iraq has lifted a ban on nearly 500 candidates barred from the March election for alleged links to the late Saddam Hussein's Baathist party. The ban was lifted by an appeals panel on candidates listed last month by the post-Saddam Justice and Accountability Committee, the BBC reports quoting election officials.
The repeal of the ban will particularly be welcomed by Sunni politicians, as they happened to be the main target of the ban. In fact the ban was endangering the March elections, as it thratened the participation of Sunni muslims altogether.    
"The appeals panel decided to allow the banned candidates to participate in the next election and decided to postpone looking into the case until after the election," said Hamdiya al-Husseini, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission. She said successful candidates on the list would not be able to assume office until the appeals panel had given a final ruling on their cases. The ban was lifted after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had specifically asked for it, saying the commission's decision might not have been legal as it was not approved by parliament.

Mosque of Imam Hussein in Kerbala during Arbaeen.

Meanwhile at least 23 Shia pilgrims were killed and 140 others injured in a new bomb attack, this time in the holy city of Kerbala in central Iraq. The attack follows a similar deadly incident on Monday in Baghdad. Today´s attack was the work of a  suicide bomber on a motorcycle who detonated explosives in a crowded area, Iraqi police sources told Al Jazeera. The bomb exploded in an area known as Ibrahimia near the east entrance - one of three - into Karbala, about 80km south of Baghdad.Witnesses described widespread panic as people tried to carry the dead and wounded through a thick crowd of pilgrims packed shoulder to shoulder  Some hours earlier, two separate roadside bombs targeting the pilgrims exploded in Baghdad, killing one and wounding seven others, a security official in the Iraqi capital said. 
On Monday, at least 54 people were killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on the pilgrims by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up inside a tent in Baghdad, where drinks were servied to the pelgrims.There were security guards searching the people who entered the tent, but the bomber who had the bom hidden under her chador, blew herself up before she could be checked.

The latest incidents raise fears of a spike in attacks by suspected Sunni insurgents when the pilgrimage culminates on Friday. Arbaeen is a Shia religious observation that occurs 40 days after the Day of Ashura, the commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Thousands take part in marches to the Tomb of Hussein in Kerbala, in spite of the fact that also last year the pilgrims were the target of attacks.Thousands of troops and police have been deployed to protect the worshippers during their journey.

Iran appears as yet to accept uranium-swap and launches space capsule

The US has reacted warily after Iran appeared to accept a deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would have "no problem" if most of its stock was held for several months before being returned as fuel rods.The US said that if this was a new offer, it was "prepared to listen".

A deal struck in October between Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the so-called P5+1 - the US, Russia, China, UK, France plus Germany - envisaged Iran sending about 70% of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France where it would be processed into fuel for a research reactor.
Last month, however, diplomats said Iran had told the IAEA that it did not accept the terms of the deal and had instead demanded a simultaneous exchange on its territory. But,  in a state TV interview on Tuesday, president Ahmadinejad in asuprise move dismissed the concerns of his "colleagues" that the West would retain the uranium and said that he had ´no problem´ with the swap.

Soon after the statement, Iranian state TV announced the successful launch of a satellite rocket carrying an "experimental capsule". The Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer) rocket was carrying an “experimental capsule”, state-owned Al-Alam television reported. State television’s website said it was carrying “live animals” — a rat, turtles and worms, the first such experiment by Iran in space technology.

State television also carried pictures of President Ahmadinejad unveiling another home-built rocket for satellite launches dubbed the Simorgh (Phoenix).
The milk-bottle shaped rocket, emblazoned in blue with the words “Satellite Carrier Simorgh,” is equipped to carry a 100-kilogram satellite 500 kilometres into orbit, the television report said.
The 27-metre tall multi-stage rocket weighs 85 tonnes and its liquid fuel propulsion system has a thrust of up to 100 tonnes, the report added.
The defence minister Ahmad Vahidi revealed the details of three new satellite prototypes — the Toloo (Dawn), Navid (Good News), and Mesbah-2 (Lantern).
“Toloo is a satellite used for remote survey and weighs 100 kilograms. It is planned to be placed in 500 kilometre orbit for three years,” Mr Vahidi said.
The Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket is able to place a satellite weighing 100 kilos in 500 kilometre orbit,” Mr Vahidi said, adding that a further refinement of the same design would allow satellites to placed in 1,000 kilometre orbit.The satellite launch and the unveiling of the new prototypes came as Iran marked “Space Technology Day” as part of celebrations for the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Iran launched its first home-built satellite, the Omid (Hope), in February last year to coincide with the 30th anniversary.

Pakistani paper: US drones killed 123 civilians, three Al-Qaeda men in January

Afghanistan-based US predators carried out a record number of 12 deadly missile strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan in January 2010, of which 10 went wrong and failed to hit their targets, killing 123 innocent Pakistanis, the Pakistani paper The News reports. The remaining two successful drone strikes killed three al-Qaeda leaders, wanted by the Americans.

The rapid increase in the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan can be gauged from the fact that only two such strikes were carried out in January 2009, which killed 36 people. The highest number of drone attacks carried out in a single month in 2009 was six, which were conducted in December last year. But the dawn of the New Year has already seen a dozen such attacks.

The unprecedented rise in the predator strikes with the beginning of the year 2010 is being attributed to December 30, 2009 suicide bombing in the Khost area of Afghanistan bordering North Waziristan, which killed seven CIA agents. US officials later identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national linked to both al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Israel considers demonstrations against Wall ´Acts of War´ and consequently accepts no responsiblity for victims

 The Israeli ministry of Justice has announced that no indictments will be filed in the case of  Tristan Anderson (picture), an American who was critically wounded during a demonstration against the Wall on March 13 2009 in Nil´in on the Westbank.A spokesman of the ministry said that the investigation, which started in May, was closed last week.
Anderson, 38 was hit by a high velocity teargas cannister on his forehead. It inflicted fractures to his skull en severe brain damage. He underwent several life saving operations and has been in coma untill recently. After he awoke he was able to utter sounds, but unable to speak.

The fact that the case was closed came not really as a surprise. The Israeli Ministry of Defense informed Anderson’s family and legal counsel already in August  that it considers that he was shot during a protest in Nil’in, (...) which it considered an ´act of war.´ -That effectively absolved the soldiers responsibility from any liability under Israeli law, as the Alternative Information Centre said at the time. (....) 
The designation, under a recently amended tort law, automatically relieves Israel of its obligation to pay Anderson’s family any kind of compensation; Leah Tsemel, the attorney leading the Andersons’ civil suit against the Israeli government explained. The same categorization is used in cases against Palestinian victims “all the time.”  Overwhelming eyewitness and video evidence indicates that Tristan was not a combatant and presented no threat to the authorities; he was shot from a distance of 60 meters while taking pictures of the Wall with a group of Palestinians and internationals hours after the protest had been dispersed from the Wall’s construction site by the Israeli military. 
The Andersons, who have filed both a criminal complaint and a civil suit against the Israeli government, plan to fight the decision in Israeli and, if necessary, international courts.  In the words of Michael Sfard, the family’s criminal attorney, “[…] if a process by which unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an ‘act of war,’ then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians. International law identifies the incident as a clear case of human rights abuse.”

Peaceful protests against a policy labelled ´acts of war´.  I think that the Israelis really succeeded in out-Orwelling Orwell´s 1984.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Ultimate Mission to.....

This seems to be an annual event. Shurat haDin - The Law Center - an organizations which is more concerned with settlers and settlements than law, yearly organizes these Ultimate Mission to Israel trips for people in the USA who can afford it. In Haaretz it is advertised as follows`
Experience a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Israel’s struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today: "a military, humanitarian, historical, judicial, religious, and political reality check."

Mission Highlights
  • Briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.
  • Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
  • Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
  • Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
  • Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
  • First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points.
  • Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
  • Meeting Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
  • Briefing by Israel’s war heros who saved the country.
  • Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
  • Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan heights, water activities on Lake Kinneret, a cook-out barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem’s Old City.
And Norman Finkelstein posted on his website the following response:

A once-in-a-lifetime experience: THE ULTIMATE MISSION TO DEUTSCHLAND
Experience a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Nazi Germany’s struggle for Lebensraum and against the Judeo-Bolshevk conspiracy in Europe today: “a military, humanitarian, historical, judicial, religious, and political reality check.”

Mission Highlights

 * Briefings by the Gestapo and commanders of the Wehrmacht

* Inside tour of the SS unit that carries out extermination of Judeo-Bolsheviks

* Live exhibition of heroic SS units battling Jewish scum in Warsaw Ghetto.

* Observe a trial of Jewish terrorists in a Nazi military court.

* First hand tours of the Russian front-line military positions and the Polish border

* Inside tour of the controversial Wall around Warsaw and secret bases of Jewish collaborator.

* Meeting Germany’s Kapo collaborator agents who infiltrate the Jewish terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.

* Briefing by Germany’s war heroes who saved the country from Jewish terrorists in Warsaw.

* Meetings with senior Nazi Ministers and other key policymakers.

* Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan heights, water activities
on Lake Kinneret, a cook-out barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Egypt reports arrest of jihadists

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has arrested 26 suspects who the prosecutor said belonged to a cell of militant group Islamic Jihad and were plotting "terrorist acts" against tourists and state installations, the official news agency MENA reported on Sunday.The suspects, arrested in the provinces of Mansoura and Dakahiliya on the Nile Delta, had firearms, ammunition and explosives, the agency said. "The public prosecutor ordered them placed in precautionary detention for 15 days pending investigations," MENA wrote, adding that the prosecutor had sent the arms and explosives for forensic investigations.Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) emerged in the 1970s and carried out the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Security analysts say it has been largely absorbed into al Qaeda, in which former EIJ leader Ayman al-Zawahri is deputy to Osama bin Laden.
Egypt is concerned about the possibility that al Qaeda-inspired militants could infiltrate the country after being forced out of the neighboring Palestinian enclave of Gaza by Islamist group Hamas, analysts told a conference last week.
Ha´aretz claimed that the group among other things planned an attack on the tomb of rabbi Jaacov Abuhatzeira in the Egyptian Delta, apparently at the date of his ´moulid´ (birthday festivity) as hundeds of Jews of Moroccan descent come to Egypt, many of them from Israel. Abuhatzeira was a kind of a saint in Morocco.