Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Israel Matzav: Iran sanctions likely to target insurance

Israel Matzav: Iran sanctions likely to target insurance

RubinReports: Life in a Fourth-Grade American Classroom: The Friendship Worksheet

By Barry Rubin

When I went to school, we studied various academic subjects and even read Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. At the time, I hated these works as boring and irrelevant. But how grateful I am today for this grounding in good literature.

(Is one still allowed to say such a thing or would the response be: How can we say something is “good” and how can we define “literature”? And which literature, since Native American literature is no doubt as good as English literature.)

But as an artifact of the increasingly unacademic nature of public schooling, I give you “Friendship Worksheet” from my ten-year-old son Daniel’s fourth-grade class in the Montgomery County, Maryland, public school. This was handed out in a half-hour guidance counseling session with the entire class.

The guidance counselor said: “The point of this is when you are sad then you look at the page and you feel better because this person thinks those nice things about you.”

My son, bless him, replied, “Of course the person is going to say nice things because it’s a project.”

Responds the teacher, no doubt in a slightly huffy tone, “You’ll learn that in Somerset (school) that the class is your family and you respect each other.”

One can’t help but read into that a bit of an implied threat, perhaps of being sent to a “reeducation camp” for being an undesirable element. Only kidding. Well, I do recall that some years ago he was sent to study hall as punishment for saying that some Indians were "ferocious" during a discussion on Native Americans at another American school. I guess that's how they teach pupils about free speech in the contemporary United States.

In the current case, it seems at least in part that “respect” here seems to be implicitly defined as “never criticize” and perhaps also as “don’t compete with.” And, of course, I remember enough about being 10 years old to conclude that students are also receiving the very strong message: Shut up and parrot the official line whether you believe it or not.

The teacher then chose for each student at random who they should write about and paired them off. In other words, it didn’t matter if they didn’t like this person or knew nothing about them they still had to praise them. As the teacher explained encouragingly, “The nice kids are popular.”

Funny, but when I was in school one of the most popular kids was Frank Rich, the future New York Times columnists, who was—and remains—one of the nastiest and most snobbish bullies I’ve ever encountered.

Even aside from this, as I remember it the “popular” kids were either sport’s stars; precocious enough to know how to maneuver socially; the best-looking; or, in those circles, derided as nerds the smartest. I seem to recall the saying that “nice guys finish last.”

But back to Daniel. The Friendship Worksheet begins with Adjectives in which the student gets to choose from 28 nice things ranging from kind and dependable through funny and nice.

In part two, a noun is chosen: friend, boy, girl, or person. Under predicates you get to pick five from among 14 items including “is nice,” “cares about others,” “has good ideas,” and “is a good sport.”

There is a choice at the end to write in something but the direction is foreclosed because one alternative begins with “is good at ___” and the other “is great at ____.”

While there is a choice for “learns quickly,” and “does well at school,” there is not one for being one of the top students or best athletes.

Finally, comes a “friendship sentence” to be written using the words chosen above. In my son’s case, he received the following: "You are a good and nice friend who is kind and learns quickly."
This took thirty minutes of class time.

Am I being unfair in ridiculing this exercise? This kind of thing might make sense in first grade but in fourth? As I recall, though, students are a pretty cynical bunch and take the attitude: We’ll give them what they want whatever that might be.

Should I speculate on the roots of the doctrine, so dear to President Barack Obama, that there is no such thing as an enemy and that individual or national interests—if properly defined—never conflict? I can’t help but imagine Obama filling out a Friendship Worksheet on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he can only circle nice things about him.

PS: Daniel has informed me that he is willing to answer your questions about the state of the American educational system.

RubinReports: Life in a Fourth-Grade American Classroom: The Friendship Worksheet

Love of the Land: Respected British commentator warns that Israel may precipitate “the end of the world”

Respected British commentator warns that Israel may precipitate “the end of the world”

Robin Shepherd
Think Tank Blog
30 September 09

This week’s anti-Israeli polemic by the widely celebrated British commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is so bizarre that I am not even sure that that headline is quite correct. But as I endlessly repeat, if you subscribe to an agenda which is not only counter-factual but outright irrational as well there can be no surprise if, having said things which are simply nutty, you leave yourself open to misinterpretation. What was that line from Orwell about insincerity as the great enemy of clear writing?

So try this from her piece on Yom Kippur (coincidence?), on Monday, ending an impassioned article about how America must stop grovelling to “fanatic and aggressive” Israel, how there are positive signs in global nuclear disarmament, but how even Iranian oppositionists would rush to their nation’s defence if the evil Israelis attacked.

After some truly weird remarks about Iran’s leaders trying to prove they had “really big willies” by test firing missiles, and the hippie-day rejoinder: “Listen people, we need to talk about Israel. And soon. Like now,” she concluded with the following:

“The Israeli human rights activist Gideon Spiro bravely asks that his country be subject to the same rules as Iran and all others in the Middle East: “Rein in Israel, compel it to accept a regime of nuclear disarmament and oblige it to open all nuclear, biological and chemical facilities and missile sites to international inspection.” The US has leverage because it maintains and funds Israel. If Obama shies away from this, there can be no moral justification to go for Iran or North Korea or any other rogue state. And the leader whose election and dreams gave hope to millions thereby hastens the end of the world.”


Ok. Let’s look at those last three sentences. I suppose it could mean that the Israelis are about to unleash the apocalypse by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. If Barack Obama does not step in to stop it, the entire world, all of it, will come to an end.

But does that mean that Obama will be responsible for “the end of the world” or Israel? Or perhaps there is a shared responsibility. If so, what proportion of responsibility is carried by either side?

Or hold on, given what she has said previously about global disarmament does it mean that if Obama does not force Israel to disarm this will make it impossible for him to effect the disarmament of “other” rogue states and that soon enough all rogue states will have nuclear weapons. This will then lead to a massive nuclear conflagration, “the end of the world”?

I suspect that, if you really wind your way through the hysteria, that is what she meant. But it still does not get her off the hook.

We are still left, are we not, with the nasty smell of something familiar from this article. For which people, in her worldview, truly holds the fate of the world in its hands? Whose behaviour ultimately will decide whether we live or die? When you boil it all down, to whom are we really beholden? Which people now has to be stopped, lest they kill us all?


But make up your own mind about what she is saying and the mentality which drives her. Click here for the full article?

Love of the Land: Respected British commentator warns that Israel may precipitate “the end of the world”

Love of the Land: The Peace With Egypt: 30 Years Old and Still a Terrifying Precedent for Israel

The Peace With Egypt: 30 Years Old and Still a Terrifying Precedent for Israel

Marty Peretz
The New Republic
30 September 09

The Camp David Accords were signed 31 years ago this mid-month. The actual Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was sealed 30 years ago this coming March. This was negotiated between Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat. (The immediate reward for Cairo was annual emoluments of $3 billion, just about what Israel has received for military aid.) No soldiers have taken up arms against each other ever since. No airplanes have flown hostilely over each other's air space, no tanks, no missiles, no nothing. Nonetheless, the normalization of relations that many people anticipated would emerge between the two nations (Egypt being the only historic nation in the entire Arab orbit) has never materialized. A poll taken of 1000 Egyptians in 2006 (true, in the shadow of the second Lebanon war) found that 92% considered Israeli an enemy nation.

The Camp David Accords were signed 31 years ago this mid-month. The actual Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was sealed 30 years ago this coming March. This was negotiated between Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat. (The immediate reward for Cairo was annual emoluments of $3 billion, just about what Israel has received for military aid.) No soldiers have taken up arms against each other ever since. No airplanes have flown hostilely over each other's air space, no tanks, no missiles, no nothing. Nonetheless, the normalization of relations that many people anticipated would emerge between the two nations (Egypt being the only historic nation in the entire Arab orbit) has never materialized. A poll taken of 1000 Egyptians in 2006 (true, in the shadow of the second Lebanon war) found that 92% considered Israeli an enemy nation.

Ali Salem, for a time one of Egypt's most popular playwrights and its fiercest satirist,visited Israel in 1994. His life has been one of near-penury ever since. He published apiece in TNR a while back and this did not make his life any better or easier. Salem's travail is not at all idiosyncratic. A few years ago, a distinguished Egyptian film director, a feminist whose name I simply cannot retrieve from my addled brain, was honored by the Jerusalem Film Festival. She was immediately thrown out of her union. And so it goes.

The only sector in Egyptian life which seems relatively content with the detente (it is never more than that) is the military. They do not want to lose their airplanes and tanks for the third time in just about four decades. There is no Soviet Union to replace them. The sectors most hostile to Israel are the political elites (whether in power or permanently out) and the intellectual and cultural elites. These latter are just the folk who in normal societies--like Israel--would be fervently on the side of peace with their neighbors.

This little meditation of mine was occasioned by the news that the Egyptian semi-official (and not so "semi" at that) Al-Ahram publishing syndicate has just banned all (yes, I say "all") contact with any Israelis. This is a most extraordinary boycott for an enormous news operation with great pretense to be to the Arab world what the New York Times is to America. It will not deal with Israelis anywhere. Not interview Israeli diplomats. Not allow Israelis into any of its offices. It all started when the board of directors of the journalistic combine decided to punish one of its editors for meeting the Israeli ambassador someplace in Cairo. This, if you'll pardon me, is completely meshugah. Journalists, indeed.

Barack Obama did not quite expect that such aggressive regressions would be virtually the first concrete responses to his Egyptian overtures. You give them a finger and they'll take an arm. Very much like the reaction of the Saudis to the president's genuflection to their king. I wrote about

Love of the Land: The Peace With Egypt: 30 Years Old and Still a Terrifying Precedent for Israel

Love of the Land: An Enormous 3,700 Year Old Fortification was Exposed in the City of David (9/10)

An Enormous 3,700 Year Old Fortification was Exposed in the City of David (9/10)

A huge fortification more than 3,700 years old, which is ascribed to the Canaanites (Middle Bronze Age 2), was uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting in the “Walls Around Jerusalem" ational Park in the City of David, with funding provided by the ‘Ir David' Foundation.
According to the director of the excavation, Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, together with Eli Shukron on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the most massive wall that has ever been uncovered in the City of David, and it rises to a height of 8 meters. We are dealing with a gigantic fortification, from the standpoint of the structure’s dimensions, the thickness of its walls and the size of the stones that were incorporated in its construction. The walls appear to be a protected, well-fortified passage that descends to the spring tower from some sort of fortress that stood at the top of the hill. The construction of a protected passage such as this is a plausible solution that explains the innate contradiction of the situation whereby the spring – which is a source of life from the standpoint of the fortress’ inhabitants in time of emergency – is located in the weakest and most vulnerable place in the area. The construction of a protected passage, even though it involves tremendous effort, is a solution for which there are several parallels in antiquity, albeit from periods that are later than the remains described here. A small section of the fortification was discovered in 1909, and it has been ascertained in the present excavations that it was part of an enormous wall. This is the first time that such massive construction that predates the Herodian period has been discovered in Jerusalem”.
During this period Jerusalem and the fields around it were an independent political entity with self-rule, similar to its neighbors Shechem to the north and Jericho to the east. Massive walls resembling the one that was just exposed in Jerusalem are known from Canaanite Hebron (Tel Rumeida), Shechem (Tell Balata) and Gezer.
According to Professor Reich, “Even though it would seem we are dealing with impressive fortifications, the walls were after all primarily used to defend against marauding desert nomads who wanted to rob the city. These are the earliest fortifications in the region and they bear witness to the fact that from this point on the settlement had became an urban entity with a ruler who had the capability and resources to build such a structure. A small settlement would have been unsuccessful in organizing such construction”.
The known section of the fortification is 24 meters long; however, it is thought the fortification is much longer because it continues west beyond the part that was exposed, at the top of the hillside. Professor Reich adds, “The new discovery shows that the picture regarding Jerusalem’s eastern defenses and the ancient water system in the Middle Bronze Age 2 is still far from clear. Despite the fact that so many have excavated on this hill, there is a very good chance that extremely large and well-preserved architectural elements are still hidden in it and waiting to be uncovered”.

Love of the Land: An Enormous 3,700 Year Old Fortification was Exposed in the City of David (9/10)

Love of the Land: How Israel Must Fight

How Israel Must Fight
29 September 09

IDF soldier in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead

IDF soldier in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead

It’s a tragedy that the 61 years of Israel’s existence have been marked by almost continuous war. In fact, someone said that the history of Israel consists of one long war, varying in intensity, for more or less the last 100 years.

There are several possible flare-ups on the horizon today. Iran is unlikely to halt its progress towards becoming a nuclear power, and the international establishment doesn’t seem prepared to stop it. Israel sees acquisition of the bomb by Iran as an existential threat, and an Israeli attack would mean war with Iran and its surrogates.

Even if the US suddenly gets some backbone — and the latest threat of sanctions if Iran doesn’t respond in yet another three monthsdoesn’t impress me (or the Iranians) too much — there is the problem of Hezbollah, which I can’t see going away peacefully. Something has to happen to those 40,000 rockets. And Hamas.

Although it would be wonderful if we could expect peace to break out in the region, Israeli leaders have to be thinking hard about what happens if it doesn’t.

One thing they need to think about is how Israel must fight in an environment where the actions of outside powers are as important as those of the combatants.

In 1973, the fate of Israel was in the hands of the US. Israel was struggling when Nixon and Kissinger decided that the American interest — reducing Soviet influence in the Mideast — justified an airlift to resupply the IDF, which then turned the tide and came close to crushing Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria. ‘Came close’, I said, because as Yehuda Avner points out in the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph, the US also slammed the brakes onto the IDF while the Egyptians still had a Third Army and Damascus was still intact.

Of course, similar stories can be told about the last few wars, which all ended in similar ways: the 1982 Lebanon war, in which Arafat’s PLO was allowed to escape; the 2006 war with Hezbollah, ended by the worthless Security Council resolution 1701; and the recent Operation Cast Lead, terminated early with Hamas still firmly in control of Gaza.

There’s no question that one of the biggest questions discussed by the Security Cabinet and the General Staff is always: what will the US do? How will Russia respond? Management of these outside players is as important as planning the deployment of fighting forces.

One of the factors which supposedly affects their behavior is the perception of such things as civilian casualties, proportionality, etc. The 2006 war, in which Hezbollah effectively manipulated the media, was a PR disaster for Israel. It’s been suggested that Hezbollah propaganda about the ‘Kfar Kana massacre’ actually caused Condoleezza Rice to end US support for an Israeli victory in Lebanon in 2006.

So in 2008-9, the IDF took unprecedented steps to hold down the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, as well as to try to respond quickly to fabricated atrocity stories. Unfortunately, although the amount of collateral damage was remarkably low for urban warfare — especially against an enemy which made a point of using the population as a shield — and although the IDF did do a much better job of responding to propaganda than in 2006, the result was the same: worldwide fury against ‘Israeli war crimes’, and a US-imposed end to the fighting before Hamas was defeated.

One thing that we can learn from this is that regardless of how Israel fights, it will be accused of war crimes and atrocities. What matters is not what is, but what people think.


Love of the Land: How Israel Must Fight

Love of the Land: It takes much more than talk to stop Iran's stonewalling

It takes much more than talk to stop Iran's stonewalling

by Michael Rubin
New York Daily News
September 30, 2009

Tomorrow, U.S. diplomats and their Russian, Chinese and European counterparts will join Iranian officials to discuss the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. The meeting follows new Iranian missile tests and exposure of a second covert Iranian nuclear enrichment facility. Iran enters the negotiations defiant. "The announcement of the enrichment facilities will be Iran's winning card," Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader, editorialized last Sunday.

The meeting will be a nail in the coffin of the Obama doctrine. Throughout his campaign, President Obama preached unconditional diplomacy. "We need a President who'll have the strength and courage to go toe-to-toe with the leaders of rogue nations, because that's what it takes to protect our security," Obama declared during his campaign.

Within a week of his inauguration, Obama offered Tehran an olive branch, promising that should Iran unclench its fist, it would find a willing partner in him.

The President sought a fresh start. In order to neutralize historical baggage, he apologized for real and perceived American wrongs, such as the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew Iran's populist prime minister. He reached out with letters, interviews and intermediaries.

The President's aides - Secretary of State Clinton, for example - described Obama's strategy as nuanced. Negotiating without precondition would not only force the Islamic Republic to show its true face, but it would give Washington time to construct a united international front. Diplomats scurried the globe, courting Moscow and Beijing, whose UN Security Council veto threat has watered down sanctions for years.

The administration also imposed a time line: If Iran did not respond constructively to negotiation offers by last week's G-20 meeting, then the administration would impose, in Clinton's words, "crippling" sanctions.

Two mistakes, however, will condemn Obama's diplomacy to failure: First, the President assumed that other leaders share his goodwill. If Iranian leaders did not respond to diplomacy offered without preconditions, what reasonable state would not support the U.S. position? Governments, however, are not neutral arbiters; they act in their own interests. Russia's refusal to compromise its position after Obama this month rescinded a U.S. pledge to build an anti-ballistic missile base in Poland is a case in point.

As devastating to diplomacy's success has been the administration's insistence on sequencing talks, sanctions and military preparation. The Obama administration has delayed consideration of sanctions let alone anything more robust during this grace period. Some - Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for one - suggest the White House should extend the deadline for diplomacy because summer unrest distracted Iran.

Any delay in sanctions is dangerous. Failure to abide by deadlines and red lines heightens the chance of miscalculation as Tehran will only conclude that it can act with impunity.

Proponents of diplomacy may chafe at labeling Obama's rush to engage as naive. After all, President Richard Nixon flew to China and, at the height of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan talked to the Soviet Union. The comparison, however, underlines Obama's weakness. Even as they talked, neither Nixon nor Reagan suspended military preparations. Indeed, it was Reagan's willingness to build and use both the U.S. military and covert capacity that catalyzed Soviet defeat.

If the world is to avoid war or a nuclear Iran, talk is not enough. Engagement is a tactic, not a strategy. If Obama waits to prepare militarily until talks run their course, then the United States will fail. Military preparations take months.

The Iranian leadership will not engage sincerely until faced with a credible threat, nor will European allies - let alone Russia and China - make concessions if they see the commander in chief twiddling his thumbs. The military option should be the last resort. The irony is that without a finger on the trigger, diplomacy will fail.

Michael Rubin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Love of the Land: It takes much more than talk to stop Iran's stonewalling

Love of the Land: B'Tselem Knocks Goldstone Report

B'Tselem Knocks Goldstone Report

30 September 09

Over the years, B'Tselem has hardly shown itself to be a beacon of accuracy and fair treatment of Israel (see here, here, here, and here). It is therefore notable that B'Tselem director Jessica Montell has come out critically against the Goldstone report. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The UN Human Rights Council and the Goldstone Report are either biased or mistaken in some of their fundamental accusations against Israel, according to B'Tselem human rights group director Jessica Montell.

She said the council was wrong in its gravest accusations against Israel. These include the claim that Israel intentionally targeted the civilian population rather than Hamas, and the "weak, hesitant way that the report mentions Hamas's strategy of using civilians [in combat]." . . .

"There's no question that the HRC, which mandated the Goldstone [fact-finding mission into the Gaza fighting], has an inappropriate, disproportionate fixation with Israel," she said.

She added that the council was "a political body made up of diplomats, not human rights experts, which means that the powerful states are never going to come under scrutiny the way the powerless will. So China, Russia and the US will never have commissions of inquiry, regardless of how their crimes rank relative to Israeli crimes."

But in her accusation that Israel has brought the report upon itself by failure to conduct internal investigations, Montell, like Goldstone and his team, ignores Israeli investigations that have been completed or are underway.

Love of the Land: B'Tselem Knocks Goldstone Report

Love of the Land: Intelligence Gamesmanship

Intelligence Gamesmanship

Jennifer Rubin
29 September 09

Rich Lowry observes that the discovery of the secret Iranian nuclear facility puts a stake through the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which was vilified at the time by conservatives. (Thomas Joscelyn: “As many noted at the time, the language and logic of the NIE were nonsensical. There were transparent flaws in its analysis, including the arbitrary decision to set aside concerns over Iran’s overt uranium enrichment and ballistic missile development efforts — both of which continued apace.”) That would be the same NIE report that was heralded by Obama and his fellow liberals.

Lowry writes:

In November 2007, US intelligence agencies wrote a National Intelligence Estimate concluding, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” . . .

The 2007 NIE had a very circumscribed definition of a weapons program, but it included “covert conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work.” Exactly what Qom is for. What do the Iranians have to do to convince US intelligence they have a weapons program?

Iran has been very lucky in its watchdogs. The 2007 NIE, which stands exposed as about as worthless as then-CIA Director George Tenet’s prewar talk of a “slam-dunk” on Iraq’s WMD, crushed any thought of the politically weakened Bush administration moving against Iran. And the punch-pulling International Atomic Energy Agency has been suppressing damaging material, concerned more with forestalling a conflict over Iran’s nuclear program than forestalling the program itself.

But apparently at some point not even the Obama team bought the NIE’s conclusions. Obama after all was quick to admit that Iran’s Qom facility wasn’t configured for peaceful uses. And the ever changing and highly suspect conclusions about Iran’s nuclear intentions keep dribbling out. The Iranians aren’t much interested in long-range missile development, we were told—a conclusion that fit (magically!) with the Obama team’s fervent desire to give something away (missile defense) to butter up Putin.

We are left with only one conclusion: the incessant reassurances that we have little to fear from Iran are the product of wishful thinking and a high degree of “self-delusion,” as Lowry puts it. Unfortunately, the intelligence bureaucracy that churns out the feel-good estimates has a willing consumer for its defective product in the president. He is only too eager to believe what is being peddled — or ignore what’s unhelpful.

The public and our allies, however, are waking up to the gamesmanship here—and may begin to wonder why the president isn’t the least bit upset that the intelligence community got it exactly wrong in 2007. When that happened under Bush, we had a torrent of outrage and a mob of investigative committees. Yet hardly a peep here. Funny how that works.

Love of the Land: Intelligence Gamesmanship

Love of the Land: Egypt: Where Bookburners Are Heroes and Democracy Advocates Are Villains

Egypt: Where Bookburners Are Heroes and Democracy Advocates Are Villains

Barry Rubin
The Rubn report
29 September 09

Hala Mustafa is one of Egypt’s leading thinkers regarding contemporary political and international issues. Recently, she’s been the subject of a campaign to destroy her career because of something she did which has made her the object of hatred amidst the Egyptian professional and intellectual elite: She met for a few minutes with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

The Mustafa case is a real sign of how things work in the Arab world, far different from the assumptions so often made by policymakers, journalists, and both experts and “experts.”

Thirty years ago, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula, captured in the 1967 war, to Egypt, providing that country with a valuable strategic and economic (Suez Canal and oilfields) asset. Relations were nominally normalized though the Egyptian government limited tourism and trade. The Egyptian media continued to treat Israel as a demonic and enemy state. Egyptian professional associations, many under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, banned their members from any contact with Israel.

It was in this context that Israeli Ambassador Shalom Cohen asked to visit Mustafa’s office to discuss a symposium he wanted to hold, in which Egyptians, Israelis, and Palestinians were to discuss the peace process. After a short discussion, Mustafa told him that she would have to consult her bosses about whether she could participate.

The head of the Egyptian journalists’ association has claimed this violates the group’s 1983 boycott of Israel and therefore Mustafa should be punished. Whether or not this actually happens, she is under a severe and vicious verbal and print assault.

To understand Mustafa’s complex position is to learn a lot about the contemporary Arabic-speaking world. Egyptian professionals and intellectuals can often be truly mediocre, slogan-spouting people who resemble the bureaucrats of the Soviet Communist regime. In contrast, Mustafa is clearly a serious and bright person, as became immediately evident to me in our conversations and through her writing. She also really cares about issues of free speech and democracy while showing some real courage on their behalf.

But what’s a liberal intellectual to do? Her main job is as editor of the quarterly journal Democracy. While published in Arabic, I believe that more copies are printed in English. This indicates the journal’s purpose as a showpiece, designed more to show the West that the Egyptian government is democratic-minded than it is to spark real discussion in Egypt.

Indeed, the journal virtually never publishes articles about Arabic-speaking countries, much less Egypt. The quality of the material, to Mustafa’s credit, is good but it is hardly going to spur a struggle for democracy within Egypt. And, of course, it cannot publish articles about, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia, since those governments would then protest this as an attack by the Egyptian regime.

Democracy is, ironically but typically in Arab political terms, a state publication. Mustafa’s bosses are the heads of the al-Ahram Center. Al-Ahram is Egypt’s leading newspaper which is controlled by the state. It runs editorials, for example, claiming that the United States is responsible for all the terrorist violence in Iraq because it wants to split and rule Arabs and Muslims.

So a propaganda arm of a dictatorial regime is the publisher of the main journal in the Arabic world that nominally advocates democracy. If you understand that paradox, you get a concept of the situation.

What keeps the journal from being a stolid mouthpiece is the effort of Mustafa to do as much as possible within the limits permitted. At the same time, she is a member of the ruling National Democratic Party's policy planning staff, a point that is even more significant when it is noted that this is part of the apparatus of Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son and likely successor.

None of this is said to criticize Mustafa. If you want to know more about the constraints under which liberal reformers work in the Arabic-speaking world and why they are doomed to fail, at least in the short- to medium-run,
you can read my book on the subject which is still quite up to date: The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, John Wiley Publishers (2005).

It has now been
reliably reported that the entire al-Ahram group has decided to boycott Israel entirely and to punish Mustafa. Note that this means the staff of Egypt's leading newspaper and Egypt's largest international affairs' research center will be forbidden from meeting Israelis (and perhaps from reading any Israeli publications?). In other words, no reporter can interview any Israeli. If anyone from this large media group would even have a conversation with me, they could be subject to firing.

And who appoints the head of the al-Ahram group and determines its policy? Why, President Husni Mubarak, the man who is supposedly a great U.S. ally, whose country hosted Obama's speech of conciliation when he spoke about the greatness of Islam, criticized Israel harshly, and urged Arabs to make peace with Israel. This is Mubarak's answer but no U.S. official will acknowledge that fact and it will not enter into U.S. policy.

Meanwhile, a key theme in Obama's strategy is the abandonment of any support for democratic change--which was a historic liberal position long before President George W. Bush thought of it--and close cooperation with the Arab regimes. This is a defensible tactic on one condition: that the United States gets something out if it. And this doesn't seem to be happening.

As for Arab liberals, they are being abandoned by the United States and the West in general. Here's one little anecdote that gives you a sense of how hard is the life of Arab liberals. A Syrian dissident, who has spent a lot of time in prison, during the course of an interview said: "Our government is fascist" but a few minutes later added that it was vital to support the government. Why? Because he hates the existing repressive regime but fears a radical Islamist one, the most likely alternative, would be worse.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, while Mustafa is under attack, former Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is a hero. Hosni was the supposed cultural custodian of Egypt at the same time as he was uttering antisemitic statements and told the Egyptian parliament that if he found any Israeli-authored books in Egypt’s libraries he would immediately and personally burn them.

Oh, and Hosni--like the al-Ahram media group--is also close to Mubarak, the man whom Obama looks upon as a close ally, the recipient of massive U.S. aid, the leader who has benefited by Obama's taking off the pressure over reform, etc.

In one of the few signs of sanity in the world recently, his behavior was too much even for the UN (which is saying a lot!) and he lost the election to be the next head of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural, educational, and scientific organization. In today’s atmosphere, it could not be assumed that a man who advocated book-burning might be rejected for the post of world’s leading cultural official. After his defeat, Hosni blamed an international Jewish conspiracy for his humiliation.

Egypt, by the way, is a country where despite about $2 billion in U.S. aid a year over a period of more than a quarter-century, the textbooks still claim that America secretly attacked the country in June 1967 and destroyed its air force in order to help Israel. And the media regularly publish articles on how the U.S. government or Israel were behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on America.

The story of Mustafa and Hosni is but one small tale of the contemporary Middle East. What are some of the lessons?:

--You can tell a lot about a country by who it regards as heroes and villains.

--The efforts of President Barack Obama have had no effect on the situation. The real problem is not due to U.S. actions or insensitivities but to the needs of the Egyptian regime. It requires America as a scapegoat to mobilize support for the dictatorship among those whose primary ideology is either Arab nationalism or Islam-oriented. Remember that the worst thing President George W. Bush did from an Egyptian government perspective was to advocate democracy in the Arabic-speaking world.

--There is almost no margin for the free functioning of intellectuals and democracy advocates in the Arab world. What the state doesn’t eat up, the extremist and repressive consensus devours.

--After thirty years of peace with Egypt, Israel is viewed with the same overweening hatred and slander as it was before the treaties were signed. Thus, real peace is extraordinarily difficult to achieve and is not subject to the kinds of expectations Western leaders and media have.

Related: Silencing Dissent
Love of the Land: Egypt: Where Bookburners Are Heroes and Democracy Advocates Are Villains

Love of the Land: New Low–Again

New Low–Again

Jennifer Rubin
29 September 09

Well, we certainly have come a long way from the conference call with representatives of Jewish organizations in which an Obama national security official, Dan Shapiro, promised to pull out the stops to quash the Goldstone report. That was deemed a misstatement. Now we hear:

The United States called on its close ally Israel on Tuesday to conduct credible investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, saying it would help the Middle East peace process.

Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, said that Hamas leaders also had a responsibility to investigate crimes and to end what he called its targeting of civilians and use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in the strip. . . .

“We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic [judicial] review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow-up on credible allegations,” Posner said in a speech to the Geneva forum.

“If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace,” he said.

But Israel has already done just that. Didn’t the Obama team read about it in their home paper? As the Washington Post reported in March:

The Israeli military’s top lawyer on Monday closed an investigation into alleged misconduct by soldiers who took part in Israel’s recent three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, concluding that accusations made by graduates of a military preparatory school were “based on hearsay.”

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said that Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, the IDF’s advocate general, found no evidence to support the most serious accusations, including alleged instances in which civilians were shot without cause.

So what could this newest tour de force of moral relativism possibly refer to? Israel has done its part; the terrorists couldn’t possibly be expected to. Apparently, this is the sort of official response to the Goldstone report that we get from the Obama team—equating a functioning democracy with civilian oversight and an active judiciary with a terrorist clique. Does the Obama team actually suggest that terrorists police themselves? One tires of saying it, but this is a new low for the administration.

Love of the Land: New Low–Again

The Silly and the Ignorant

The Silly and the Ignorant

On Monday, when many Jewish blogs shut down for Yom Kippur, Glenn Greenwald wrote a long post called "A Glossary of Terms in Foreign Affairs".

As we debate the many scary enemies and exciting possibilities for new wars -- escalation in Afghanistan, our very own "Cuban Missile Crisis" against the Persian
Hitlers, the Socialist Menace in Venezuela -- events can become very confusing. Compounding that problem are the many complex, technical terms often used in media discussions of foreign affairs. It's therefore helpful to keep track of the relevant terms --- ones just from the events of the last week alone -- to maximize clarity as we debate our imperial responsibilities:

He then goes on to offer a long list of snippets he's cut from statements made by all sorts of people. The point of the exercise is very simple: The Americans are bad or hypocrites for saying bad things about the Iranians while being worse themselves. Anyone they've ever looked askance at, be they Iranian, Venezualian, Russian, Palestinian and what have you, are exactly as good or bad as the Americans, except that they're generally better. And of course, the Israelis are the worst of all, no doubt about that.

Greenwald probably has a handle on constitutional matters, the legality of torture, habeas corpus and similar themes he generally writes about. I doubt his positions are as obviously correct as he makes out, but at least he's arguing about things he understands. Foreign relations, clearly, are not his forte. As for basic things such as political context, wheat and chaff, historical depth precedent and significance - these are clearly beyond his ken, even though you'd think no-one could get through a freshman's year at college without at least bumping into them.

Using his method of snipping two sentences from any context and setting them up as proof of intent or identity or anything, I assure you I could prove that Yassir Arafat was a staunch Zionist, Franklin Roosevelt a fascist, Abraham Lincoln a racist, and Martin Luther King a male chauvinist pig and serial fornicator. (Actually, that last one, taken out of context, was true - though totally irrelevant to the man's historic greatness). Free yourself from the world people live in, and allow yourself to edit their words to serve your purposes regardless of truth, and you can prove just about anything. (Well, I don't suppose there are any sentences that could be misquoted to make Gengis Khan seem a Wall Street executive, or Julius Ceaser an atomic scientist. Some leaps of anachronism truly are beyond plausibility. I think).

Greenwald is an important blogger, and many people read him to learn things. Were I to be caught writing a post like that I'd be embarrased to leave home for a month, but I guess Greenwald and I have different positions on intellectual integrity, and on truth and how it might be determined, not only on things such as whether Israel is the world's worst offender.

He didn't (stay at home). As a matter of fact, the very next day he was on television, explaining to the viewers of MSNBC that America and Israel are bullies, and Iran is their much-maligned and misunderstood victim. He proudly posted the You-tube link at his blog so readers who missed it might catch up.

The funny part of the story is that his positions were so outlandish that the person brought in to counter him was none other than Arrianna Huffington, hardly a fan of Bibi Netanyahu she. The sad part of the story is that of the five talking heads who appear in the 8-minute section of this current affairs TV program, not a single one - not one - had anything informed to say beyond the usual clischees. They were brought in to talk about the growing tensions between Iran and the world, or perhaps Iran and the United States. You'd think a panel on that would have included an expert on Iran, say, one on the constuction of nuclear weapons, perhaps an expert on the decision-making process in the American government, an international-relations buff, perhaps an expert on miltary matters, or the gathering of intelligence.

Nope. Two journalists, two bloggers, and an anchor; and nary any relevant expertise from any of them. Maybe it isn't so surprising Greenwald allows himself to write such intellectually sloppy blog posts.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

Fallible Rabbis

Fallible Rabbis

The Talmud is arguably the most influential book in all of Jewish writing - and Jews have written many many books. The Torah (Pentatuch) of course ranks higher and is more seminal; the rest of the Bible only notionally so, I'd argue. Absent either Talmud or Torah and you have no Judaism; over the centuries, however, considerably more time has been invested in relating to the Talmud, and that's the sense in which I'm willing - a bit gingerly - to position the Talmud even higher than the Torah.

This year the 100,000 or more of us who do Daf Yomi have been doing the Nezikim tractates (Bava Kama, Bava Metzia and now Bava Batra); in many ways, these three, perhaps along with the Shabbat, Sanhedrin, and perhaps Kiddushin tractates are the most improtant of all 37 tractates.

What do these volumes, whch stand at the center of Judaism, mostly deal with (bearing in mind that all tractates wander all over the thematic landscape)? Not theology, as you might expect of the heart of an ancient religion; not how God relates to us and back. Nor even religious belief in any recognizably Protestant form, of Faith, say, or Destiny. The Nezikim tractates deal with civil law. What happens when my ox damages your vegetable patch. How do we know when a contract is valid. This month we've been discussing things like setting boundries between fields, respecting the neighbor's property, figuring out what happens when two people claim the same property. In a month or two we'll have a long look at the laws of inheritance. (I peeked).

Which means these discussions which stand at the heart of Judaism deal with the reality that people living together will have a lot to bicker about. Real people in the real world will have all sorts of differences about lots of things in their daily lives. This can't be changed or abolished, but hopefully it can be regulated.

It's not only the simple folk or the uneducated. The other day I passed the story of Rav Kahana, whose field was washed away in a flood, and who then rebuilt his fence on his neighbor's land. There's a medieaval scholar who explains he did this by mistake, but that's not the reading as I see it, since he was certain enough about it to be taken to court. The Gemara then tells both of the ruling that was handed down, but also of how Rav Kahana himself - as an important scholar - participated in the legal discussion of how such a case should be ruled. This is not the first time I've come across such a case, where an important scholar and religious leader is censured (or exonerated) for his earthly actions. Even important rabbis, leaders of their communities and figures of reverance for the following millennia, were real people, and they had real quarrels just like everybody else.

Bava Batra 41a-b. (Note for Soccerdad and the other eagle-eyed pedants: Yes, I know this is a few pages ahead of the schedule. I'm a progressive fellow).

Have I ever mentioned that this thread starts and is explained here? Well, it does.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

The Torah Revolution: 20 terrorists for a video that serves hamas' interests? ???

The Torah Revolution: 20 terrorists for a video that serves hamas' interests? ???

Israel Matzav: Congress fast tracks jumbo bunker busters

Congress fast tracks jumbo bunker busters

Two years ago, I first reported on massive bunker busters that were being built specifically to deal with an Iranian underground nuclear facility. On Tuesday, Congress quietly approved the fast-tracking of the BGU-57A/B or Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) (Hat Tip: Jawa Report).

The Pentagon plans to rush the deployment of 10 BGU-57A/B "bunker buster" bombs by June 2010. The MOP is so enormous that it can only be delivered by a B-52 or a B-2A. In fact, the B-2 bombers will need to be refitted in order to carry two MOPs.

The MOP weighs in at a whopping 30,000 pounds, it's warhead weighs in at 5,300 pounds and it can penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft (8 m) of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete, or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock.

There are more details about the MOP here.

I wonder if Obama will veto the authorization.

Nah, even he couldn't be that stupid, and the veto would probably be overridden anyway.

Israel Matzav: Congress fast tracks jumbo bunker busters

Israel Matzav: Why Sarkozy mocked Obama

Why Sarkozy mocked Obama

On Sunday, I reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy took down American President Barack Hussein Obama at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday over his nuclear-free dream. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports how that came about (Hat Tip: Power Line).

[Britain and France] wanted to confront Iran a day earlier at the United Nations. Mr. Obama was, after all, chairing a Security Council session devoted to nonproliferation. The latest evidence of Iran's illegal moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon was in hand. With the world's leaders gathered in New York, the timing and venue would be a dramatic way to rally international opinion.

President Sarkozy in particular pushed hard. He had been "frustrated" for months about Mr. Obama's reluctance to confront Iran, a senior French government official told us, and saw an opportunity to change momentum. But the Administration told the French that it didn't want to "spoil the image of success" for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N. and his homily calling for a world without nuclear weapons, according to the Paris daily Le Monde. So the Iran bombshell was pushed back a day to Pittsburgh, where the G-20 were meeting to discuss economic policy.

Le Monde's diplomatic correspondent, Natalie Nougayrède, reports that a draft of Mr. Sarkozy's speech to the Security Council Thursday included a section on Iran's latest deception. Forced to scrap that bit, the French President let his frustration show with undiplomatic gusto in his formal remarks, laying into what he called the "dream" of disarmament. The address takes on added meaning now that we know the backroom discussions.

"We are right to talk about the future," Mr. Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. resolution on strengthening arms control treaties. "But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises," i.e., Iran and North Korea. "We live in the real world, not in a virtual one." No prize for guessing into which world the Frenchman puts Mr. Obama.

The Journal concludes with this gem of a line:

We thought we'd never see the day when the President of France shows more resolve than America's Commander in Chief for confronting one of the gravest challenges to global security. But here we are.

And just think, it only took eight months to get here. We still have at least another three years and four months of this.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Why Sarkozy mocked Obama

Israel Matzav: Witness rips Goldstone Report

Witness rips Goldstone Report

An Israeli woman who was seriously wounded in a rocket attack and testified in front of the Goldstone Commission rips the report.

On May 14, 2008, my life was changed forever. I was working in my clinic. Suddenly, the building was hit by a missile, fired from Gaza. I was terribly wounded. Blood was everywhere. My patient was also wounded, and more than 100 others. Next month will be my eighth operation.

Judge Goldstone, I told you all of this, in detail. I testified in good faith. You sent me this letter, saying, "Your testimony is an essential part of the Mission's fact-finding activities."

But now I see your report. I have to tell you: I am shocked.

Judge Goldstone, in a 500-page report, why did you completely ignore my story? My name appears only in passing, in brackets, in a technical context. I feel humiliated.

Why are there only two pages about Israeli victims like me, who suffered thousands of rockets over eight years? Why did you choose to focus on the period of my country's response, but not on that of the attacks that caused it? Why did you not tell me that this council judged Israel guilty in advance, in its meeting of last January? Why did you not tell me that members of your panel signed public letters judging Israel guilty in advance?

Israel Matzav: Witness rips Goldstone Report

Israel Matzav: Goldstone's unconscious humor

Israel Matzav: Goldstone's unconscious humor

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinians,' British lawyers seek to have Barak arrested in London

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinians,' British lawyers seek to have Barak arrested in London

Israel Matzav: Obama treats Israel like Hamas

Obama treats Israel like Hamas

You just knew this was coming. At the UN's 'Human Rights Council' in Geneva, the Obama administration has called on Israel to probe alleged Gaza 'war crimes' - just like Hamas.

The United States called on its close ally Israel on Tuesday to conduct credible investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, saying it would help the Middle East peace process.

Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, said that Hamas leaders also had a responsibility to investigate crimes and to end what he called its targeting of civilians and use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in the strip.


"We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic [judicial] review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow-up on credible allegations," Posner said in a speech to the Geneva forum.

"If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace," he said.

The United States joined the Council, set up three years ago, for the first time earlier this year.

Posner reiterated Washington's view that the Council paid "grossly disproportionate attention" to Israel, but said that the U.S. delegation was ready to engage in balanced debate.

The implication of that statement is that the investigations that Israel has undertaken until now - some 100 investigations, 23 of which remain open and one of which has resulted in disciplinary action against IDF troops - are not enough. Like Goldstone, Obama wants blood. IDF blood.

It's a dark day for the United States when it equates the only democracy in the Middle East to a terror organization, placing both of them on the same moral plane. Yes, a dark day for the United States because it shows the extent to which in the eight and a half months of the Obama Presidency, the United States has abandoned all pretense to moral leadership. There's no more exceptionalism - for the United States, for Israel, or for democratic countries in general. In the age of Obama, we are all no better than terrorist organizations and the human rights violators that make up the 'Human Rights' Council.'

George Orwell should have called 1984, 2009. It's all coming true just a few years later than he expected.

The downward spiral is just about complete. America and its values are being flushed down the toilet.

Israel Matzav: Obama treats Israel like Hamas

Israel Matzav: The 'likely scenarios'

The 'likely scenarios'

JPost's Yaakov Katz lists three 'likely scenarios' that could result from the talks between Iran and the P-5 + 1 powers that are scheduled to start on Thursday.

The first is that the dialogue fails and the EU, Russia, US and China decide to impose tough sanctions on Iran, particularly in the energy sector and supply of refined fuel, a measure believed to be capable of having a real effect on the regime. Israel would then have to give the sanctions time, to wait to see if they are effective.

The second scenario is that the US and Iran reach a deal under which the Islamic republic is allowed to continue enriching uranium at low levels for energy purposes but would have to agree to new supervision measures and to keep all of its international obligations. If this happens, the Obama administration will likely laud the deal as a major diplomatic success - particularly in the absence of one with North Korea - and would effectively tie Israel's hands.

The third scenario is that the talks will fail, the world powers will not agree to impose sanctions and Israel will be left to decide whether or not it will strike Iran. This would likely happen sometime around spring 2010.

I look at the second or third scenarios as most likely, but I don't believe that the second scenario ties Israel's hands. I don't believe Iran will keep any deal made under the second scenario (they've already lied to the UN three times) and if that happens, I don't believe Israel will wait for permission from anyone to strike. It's too late for that.

Over the weekend, Anthony Cordesman published a lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal that set out Israel's military options and their likelihood for success. Cordesman was very pessimistic.

At best, such action would delay Iran's nuclear buildup. It is more likely to provoke the country into accelerating its plans. Either way, Israel would have to contend with the fact that it has consistently had a "red light" from both the Bush and Obama administrations opposing such strikes. Any strike that overflew Arab territory or attacked a fellow Islamic state would stir the ire of neighboring Arab states, as well as Russia, China and several European states.

This might not stop Israel. Hardly a week goes by without another warning from senior Israeli officials that a military strike is possible, and that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, even though no nation has indicated it would support such action. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to threaten Israel and to deny its right to exist. At the same time, President Barack Obama is clearly committed to pursuing diplomatic options, his new initiatives and a U.N. resolution on nuclear arms control and counterproliferation, and working with our European allies, China and Russia to impose sanctions as a substitute for the use of force.


Most analyses of a possible Israeli attack focus on only three of Iran's most visible facilities: its centrifuge facilities at Natanz, its light water nuclear power reactor near Bushehr, and a heavy water reactor at Arak it could use to produce plutonium. They are all some 950 to 1,000 miles from Israel. Each of these three targets differs sharply in terms of the near-term risk it poses to Israel and its vulnerability.

The Arak facility is partially sheltered, but it does not yet have a reactor vessel and evidently will not have one until 2011. Arak will not pose a tangible threat for at least several years. The key problem Israel would face is that it would virtually have to strike it as part of any strike on the other targets, because it cannot risk waiting and being unable to carry out another set of strikes for political reasons. It also could then face an Iran with much better air defenses, much better long-range missile forces, and at least some uranium weapons.

Bushehr is a nuclear power reactor along Iran's southwestern coast in the Gulf. It is not yet operational, although it may be fueled late this year. It would take some time before it could be used to produce plutonium, and any Iranian effort to use its fuel rods for such a purpose would be easy to detect and lead Iran into an immediate political confrontation with the United Nations and other states. Bushehr also is being built and fueled by Russia—which so far has been anything but supportive of an Israeli strike and which might react to any attack by making major new arms shipments to Iran.

The centrifuge facility at Natanz is a different story. It is underground and deeply sheltered, and is defended by modern short-range Russian TOR-M surface-to-air missiles. It also, however, is the most important target Israel can fully characterize. Both Israeli and outside experts estimate that it will produce enough low enriched uranium for Iran to be able to be used in building two fission nuclear weapons by some point in 2010—although such material would have to be enriched far more to provide weapons-grade U-235.

Israel has fighters, refueling tankers and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons to strike at all of these targets—even if it flies the long-distance routes needed to avoid the most critical air defenses in neighboring Arab states. It is also far from clear that any Arab air force would risk engaging Israeli fighters. Syria, after all, did not attempt to engage Israeli fighters when they attacked the reactor being built in Syria.


Israel would, however, still face two critical problems. The first would be whether it can destroy a hardened underground facility like Natanz. The second is that a truly successful strike might have to hit far more targets over a much larger area than the three best-known sites. Iran has had years to build up covert and dispersed facilities, and is known to have dozens of other facilities associated with some aspect of its nuclear programs. Moreover, Israel would have to successfully strike at dozens of additional targets to do substantial damage to another key Iranian threat: its long-range missiles.

Experts sharply disagree as to whether the Israeli air force could do more than limited damage to the key Iranian facility at Natanz. Some feel it is too deeply underground and too hardened for Israel to have much impact. Others believe that it is more vulnerable than conventional wisdom has it, and Israel could use weapons like the GBU-28 earth-penetrating bombs it has received from the U.S. or its own penetrators, which may include a nuclear-armed variant, to permanently collapse the underground chambers.

No one knows what specialized weapons Israel may have developed on its own, but Israeli intelligence has probably given Israel good access to U.S., European, and Russian designs for more advanced weapons than the GBU-28. Therefore, the odds are that Israel can have a serious impact on Iran's three most visible nuclear targets and possibly delay Iran's efforts for several years.

Read the whole thing.

Cordesman is correct when he says that at best an Israeli will strike will delay Iran's nuclear capability and not destroy it. However, I don't believe Iran will retaliate, except possibly by sending Hezbullah and Hamas terrorists to attack Israeli targets. With the domestic unrest in Iran, I don't believe it will risk dedicating its own troops to fighting a war against Israel or against American troops in Iran. I also believe that Iran fears that any retaliation from it would be met by Israeli strikes from afar using Jericho missiles and Saar class submarines.

Further, I don't believe it will be possible for Iran to rebuild quickly. Between Iran's internal unrest and its inability to provide its own refined oil products (and I would bet that the refineries that the Chinese are building for Iran will be targets - they should be easy to take out), I don't believe Iran will have the resources to rebuild quite as quickly as everyone else seems to think. I believe that a 3-5 year setback (which is what most estimates of the damage of an Israeli attack that I have seen give as an estimate) could easily become a 10-15 year setback, by which time it would be a whole new ballgame.

Besides, if Barack Obama is defeated in 2012, the odds are that the next President will be much more sympathetic to Israel's needs (it can't really get worse, right?). And any Israeli strike on Iran that's even moderately successful will prevent them from building a nuclear weapon before 2012.

I prayed well yesterday. I'm feeling confident that God is on our side.

Israel Matzav: The 'likely scenarios'
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