Monday, July 31, 2006

Iranian officer: Hezbollah has a commando naval unit

By Ali Nourizadeh

At the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, when the general command of Iran’s armed forces decided to create elite units for irregular combat, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed Mostafa Chamran, then assistant defense minister and head of military operations against Peshmerga fighters in Iranian Kurdistan.

“He has spent many years in Lebanon and contributed to the creation of the Amal movement with Imam Moussa Sadr, so he knows how to wage a guerilla war behind enemy lines,” was how the Supreme leader described Chamran to the commander of the ground forces at the time, Qassem Ali Zahirnejad.

Responsibility for guerrilla warfare training soon fell on the Revolutionary Guards. Fighters from Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and other Arab countries attended military training camps and learnt guerrilla tactics to confront a regular army. They also underwent explosive training and were taught how to hijack planes and bomb military and economic installations.

Many Hezbollah members who are currently confronting Israel’s military might have attended these exclusive camps in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad and Ahvaz.

According to a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards, who himself trained Hezbollah's navy units, the Party of God still has a number of surprises for the Israelis. The bombing of an Israeli navy vessel with two C802 missiles, with the assistance of Revolutionary Guards commanders present in Lebanon, was not a direct confrontation. Hezbollah, he said, has a submarine unit and a navy commando unit that operates Chinese-manufactured speed boats, capable of targeting the Israeli navy.

With the assistance of several Iranian engineers and technicians, as well as North Korean experts, who traveled to Lebanon disguised as servants for the Iranian embassy and its officers, Hezbollah has successfully built a 25km long underground belt, with 12-meter openings along it, the officer added. Every four openings are connected to one another through an easily accessible passageway.

In addition, Members of the Revolutionary Guards built warehouses in the Bekaa Valley containing huge amounts of rockets and ammunition, at a depth of no more than 8 meters. A central operation room is also located in the Bekaa Valley and is overseen by four Iranian officers and four Hezbollah fighters. Additional command and operation rooms are located across Lebanon.

Hezbollah has three missile units, which includes some 200 technicians and experts trained in Iran, that are supervised by a 20-strong committee.

Iranian activist dies in prison after hunger strike

BBC- An Iranian student leader has died in jail while on a hunger strike to demand his release.

Akbar Mohammadi was first arrested in 1999 after clashes between the security forces and students at Tehran University.

He was freed last year but was recently rearrested and began his fast.

Authorities say they are investigating the cause of his death. They say Mr Mohammadi was under the care of a doctor in jail.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chatting with Israelis

This is a magnificent and extremely enlightening piece by a Lebanese blogger called "Lebanon Profile", whose blog is one of my favorites:

Story I-A few days ago, a close Sunni Lebanese friend of mine, we'll call her Yasmine, developed a close relationship with an Israeli in Athens. Her family is under constant attack and is providing shelter and aid to many of Lebanon's internal refugees, most of whom probably voted for Hezbollah. His family is under attack. He has relatives serving in the Israeli military participating in the campaign against Lebanon.Yasmine and her Israeli friend kissed one night while dancing. Afterward, she broke down crying. What had she done?! It took awhile for me to explain that she is not a traitor. She is not aiding the destruction of Lebanon. She is not directly harming her family (although her father would probably have a bit to say about the drinking, close dancing, and kissing). She did what was natural. She created the kind of bond that will prevent violent action from occurring again. Israel now has a face. How could she wipe it off the planet?

Story II-In fact, for all of the party's rhetoric, many Hezbollah supporters do not want "Death to Israel! Death to America!" I just spoke with two Shia men, Muhammad and Rida, in the United States who are proud American citizens. They rhetorically support Hezbollah, but are smart enough not to send them any money or officially lobby on Hezbollah's behalf.Muhammad and Rida support the war in Iraq. Rida's brother is serving in Iraq. Muhammad is actively involved in his union's activities, and his wife is on the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of their children's school. She's thinking of running for the school board.Yet, they support Hezbollah.

How can this be, you might be asking? It's because of the sectarian nature of Lebanon. They support the political party that supports their people. Rida's village, Bint Jbeil, has been razed multiple times. Hezbollah took care of them financially. Hezbollah provided medical aid when they needed it. Hezbollah fought against the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA), which tyrannically ruled over south Lebanon while Israel controlled it. The SLA had members of multiple sects, but was led by Maronite Christians.The Lebanese government didn't help the people in the south when their area was controlled by Palestinians. The Lebanese government didn't protect them when Israel occupied the area. The Lebanese government did nothing to try and shut down the Khiam prison camp. Neither the Syrian or Lebanese governments tried to liberate the south from SLA and Israeli rule. Hezbollah's supporters stand by the people who took care of them. Most of them don't want the utter annihilation of Israel. They want the defense of Lebanon. I would say the majority are anti-semitic, but their anti-semitism isn't nearly as virulent as that I've seen in Europe and other Arab countries.

Story III-my friend Zeina is brilliant and gorgeous. She was the number one student at every institution she's ever attended, including where she did her graduate studies at one of Europe's most prestigious schools.Her boyfriend is Jewish. She talks with him on the phone daily.One of her relatives died fighting Israel during the occupation of the south. He's considered a martyr, and his picture hangs throughout southern Lebanon. She is no anti-semite. She aggressively challenges those around her who make anti-semitic remarks. She doesn't hate Israel. Yet, she supports Hezbollah. They provided aid to her family. They liberated her land. She knows Christians, Sunnis, and Druze will never come to her aid. They didn't before. The utter racism of many other Lebanese political parties also makes it impossible for her to support any of them. They make it known that she is not wanted. They don't even want her in the country.

...Obviously, Hezbollah hardliners are just as bad or worse than Iranian fanatics. Even Shia Lebanese are frightened of these guys, which is why they are not the face Hezbollah shows to the outside world. Hezbollah recruits young, attractive, intelligent, professional, moderate candidates to run for office. These people are the public face who publicize all of Hezbollah's humanitarian projects.Sadly, the Shia population of Lebanon has few other choices in Lebanon's sectarian framework.

For Israelis and Westerners, the situation with Hezbollah is different. For Lebanese and Arabs, the situation with Israelis is different. Erecting barriers of ignorance only escalates the conflict. Yasmine, Muhammad, Rida, and Zeina are good people confronting a whole slew of issues thrown at them...

Forget peace for now. We have to show them we are strong


This comment, made by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the movie "Munich", still seems to rule Israel's official policy in dealing with its enemies. But is this really a smart strategy? Has it ever really worked for Israel?

The children that survived Qana's bombing today will grow up to become another Hezbollah only because Israel is still trying to show the Lebanese people it is strong and this cycle of hatred and violence will go on and on...These kids won't care if Hezbollah used them as human shields, won't care when, later on, they find out this was a proxy war between Israel and Iran battled out in their country. All they will remember for the rest of their lives is that this was a deadly Israeli strike that took their parents and siblings away from them.

Israel has already shown Hezbollah how strong it is. Fouad Siniora has accepted to pursue the disarming of Hezbollah more seriously than ever before. Hezbollah has been taught a lesson it will never forget and the major world powers are all agreed on the deployment of a multinational force in Lebanon. So, what else is Israel after?

Does Israel not know that such bloodshed plays perfectly into the hands of Hezbollah and its masters in Tehran and Damascus?

How many more innocent human beings will it take for Israel to show the poor people of Lebanon it is strong enough?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Madness in the Middle East

Friedman's new article is definitely worth a read irrespective of your political ideology.

Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times- Some of the most primordial, tribal passions, which always lurk beneath the surface here — Sunnis versus Shiites, Jews versus Muslims, Lebanese versus Syrians — but are usually held in check by modern states or bonds of civilization, are exploding to the top.

There is nothing that you can't do to someone in the Middle East today, and there is no leader or movement — no Nelson Mandela and no million-mom march — coming out of this region, or into this region, to put a stop to the madness.

And I mean madness. We've seen Sunni Muslims in Iraq suicide-bomb a Shiite mosque on Ramadan; we've seen Shiite militiamen torture Sunnis in Iraq by drilling holes in their heads with power tools; we've seen Jordanian Islamist parliamentarians mourning the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, even though he once blew up a Jordanian wedding; we've seen hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombings of Israeli cafes and buses; and we've seen Israel retaliating by, at times, leveling whole buildings, with the guilty and the innocent inside.

Now we've seen the Hezbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah, take all of Lebanon into a devastating, unprovoked war with Israel, just to improve his political standing and take pressure off Iran. America should be galvanizing the forces of order — Europe, Russia, China and India — into a coalition against these trends. But we can't. Why? In part, it's because our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That's been shattered by their performance in Iraq. The world hates President Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive — and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.

In part, it is also because China, Europe and Russia have become freeloaders off U.S. power. They reap enormous profits from the post-Cold-War order that America has shaped, but rather than become real stakeholders in that order, helping to draw and defend redlines, they duck, mumble, waffle or cut their own deals.

This does not bode well for global stability. A religious militia that calls itself "the party of God" takes over a state and drags it into war, using high-tech rockets — mullahs with drones — and the world is paralyzed. Those who ignore this madness will one day see it come to a theater near them. In part, though, this madness is home-grown.

I sat at a swank rooftop restaurant the other night with some young Syrian writers and listened to a discussion between a young woman dressed in trendy clothes, talking about how she would prefer to see Israel disappear, another writer who argued that Nasrallah was an Arab disaster, and an Arab journalist who described the "pride" and "dignity" every Arab felt at seeing Hezbollah fight Israel to a standstill. When will the Arab-Muslim world stop getting its "pride" from fighting Israel and start getting it from constructing a society that others would envy, an economy others would respect, and inventions and medical breakthroughs from which others would benefit?

There will be no new Middle East — not as long as the New Middle Easterners, like Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, get gunned down; not as long as Old Middle Easterners, like Nasrallah, use all their wits and resources to start a new Arab-Israeli war rather than build a new Arab university; and not as long as Arab media and intellectuals refuse to speak out clearly against those who encourage their youth to embrace martyrdom with religious zeal rather than meld modernity with Arab culture. Without that, we are wasting our time, and the Arab world is wasting its future. It will forever be "on the eve of modernity."

So True. I would also like to add that since Lebanese, Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis and of course Iranians, are all paying the price of policies set by mullahs in Iran, there'll be no new Middle East as long as the "root cause" of this madness in the Middle East, aka the current theocratic regime in Iran, continues to exist-Kash

President Bush: Lebanon is the latest flashpoint in a broader struggle between freedom and terror

President's weekly Radio Address, July 29-As we work to resolve this current crisis, we must recognize that Lebanon is the latest flashpoint in a broader struggle between freedom and terror that is unfolding across the region. For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by promoting stability in the Middle East, yet these policies gave us neither. The lack of freedom in that region created conditions where anger and resentment grew, radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits. We saw the consequences on September the 11th, 2001, when terrorists brought death and destruction to our country, killing nearly 3,000 innocent Americans.

The experience of September the 11th made it clear that we could no longer tolerate the status quo in the Middle East. We saw that when an entire region simmers in violence, that violence will eventually reach our shores and spread across the entire world. The only way to secure our Nation is to change the course of the Middle East -- by fighting the ideology of terror and spreading the hope of freedom...Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah -- and Syria must end its support for terrorism and respect Lebanon's sovereignty.

This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic. Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound -- for our country and the world. When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel's continuing use of force is swinging the Lebanese toward Hezbollah

Kash Kheirkhah

Israeli officials say their military campaign against Hezbollah could take weeks and that Israel will continue to strike Hezbollah targets until the captured soldiers are freed and Israelis are safe from attacks. Also, President Bush today supported Israel's continuing offensive against Hezbollah saying "Hezbollah attacked Israel. I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran. Now is the time for the world to confront this danger...Now is the time to address the root cause of the problem and the root cause of the problem is terrorist groups trying to stop the advance of democracy. Our objective is to make sure that those who use terrorist tactics are not rewarded."

President Bush's "root cause" argument is exactly what I said right from the beginning of this conflict and I'm glad the President of United States finally made an enquivocal note of Iran's role in the current crisis . The only problem here is that Israel's continuing offensive in Lebanon is beginning to hurt rather than help America's democracy obejectives in the Middle East. Take a look at the following report sent by Yahoo's Kevin Sites from the city of Tyre, Lebanon:


One man walking amid the rubble was a doctor who works at the Tyre Municipal Union, a collective of small villages and cities in the south. I had talked to him in his office earlier in the day. I asked him why he thought the building was targeted. This is an example of American democracy," Dr. Raed Ghassan said. "This was my house. I hate America. I will fight America every day, every time."

Mr Sites reports that mounting civilian casualties, is causing a gradual closing of ranks by many Lebanese behind Hezbollah.

Lebanon Profile from "Lebanese Political Journal" also writes:


Shia Lebanese, incredibly, questioned the actions of Hezbollah. Like the rest of the Lebanese, Shia asked, "Why now? Why this? Is this our battle? Why must we suffer at the exact time we hope to profit from so many years of loss and oppression? The longer the bombing went on, the less and less concerned people were for Hezbollah's actions...When the violence stops, Syria will be stronger. The West will be ever more hated for allowing this atrocious activity to continue.

The United States obviously wants to see Hezbollah neutralized before any ceasefire, but at what cost? Destruction of Lebanon? Isn't this why Baathists in Syria and mullahs in Iran helped create this mess in the first place ?

As I mentioned before, Israel's initial response was completely justified but the overwhelming military campaign that followed and so far has claimed the lives of more than 400 people on the Lebanese side seems to have lost its grounds now.

A well-trained, deeply-rooted movement like Hezbollah, that also claims to be Lebanon's "resistance force", can only be neutralized when it is delegitimized within Lebanon and by the Lebanese Government. This is only possible by the US and Israel, strengthening Fouad Siniora's hand in dealing with Hezbollah, thus paving the way for the UN's 1559 resolution that calls for the disarming of Hezbollah to be fully implemented. How can the Lebanese Government in its current status achieve such an important objective?

Also, The US and its allies should come up with practical ways (instead of making media-friendly statements) to cut the hands that feed Hezbollah and by that I don't mean military action. The right way to address the "root cause" of the current crisis is to call Both the Iranian and Syrian regimes to account through UN Security Council. Unfortunately, The focus of International community has now shifted from Iran's nuclear program and UN's Harriri assassination report--the Achilles’ heel of both regimes-- to the war between Israel and Hezbollah, relieving both Tehran and Damascus from the immense international pressures they were under.

The more this war continues, the more difficult it becomes for Mr Bush and his administration to talk of a new, prosperous Middle East. After what happened in Iraq, the Last thing the US-backed New Middle East plan needs is another "war".

Also read: NY Times-Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah

Oil from bombed plant covers Lebanon shore

Is this really called "fighting Hezbollah?"

  • AP- A black coat of oil now covers the Lebanese capital's once-beautiful sandy Mediterranean shore, spilled from a power plant that was knocked down by Israeli warplanes two weeks ago. Fishermen say hundreds of oil-coated fish have been washed ashore in what is the country's worst ever environmental disaster. About 80 miles of Lebanon's shores had been affected by a spill of more than 110,000 barrels of oil from the Jiyeh plant, about 12 miles south of Beirut, the city's mayor, Abdel Monem Ariss, said Friday. The plant was in flames after it was hit in Israeli air raids, cutting electricity to many areas in the capital and south Lebanon. "Depending on how the wind is blowing, I think many shores will be soiled with this oil spill," Ariss told The Associated Press.

  • NY Times-Christians Fleeing Lebanon Denounce Hezbollah: “Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. “They are shooting from between our houses.” “Please,’’ he added, “write that in your newspaper.”...One woman, who would not give her name because she had a government job and feared retribution, said Hezbollah fighters had killed a man who was trying to leave Bint Jbail. “This is what’s happening, but no one wants to say it” for fear of Hezbollah, she said.

  • Washington Times-Hezbollah leader said to be hiding in Iranian Embassy: Intelligence reports indicate the leader of Hezbollah is hiding in a foreign mission in Beirut, possibly the Iranian Embassy, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. Israeli military and intelligence forces are continuing to hunt for Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary-general, who fled his headquarters in Beirut shortly before Israeli jets bombed the building last week. "We think he is in an embassy," said one U.S. official with access to the intelligence reports, while Israeli intelligence speculates Sheik Nasrallah is hiding in the Iranian Embassy. If confirmed, the reports could lead to an Israeli air strike on the embassy, possibly leading to a widening of the conflict, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Foreign embassies are sovereign territory and an attack on an embassy could be considered an act of war.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chirac: France has proof of Iran's involvement in Lebanon

  • Khaleej Times -- Chirac said he held the Iran partially responsible for the confict and branded the Syrian regime as “at odds” with security and peace.
    He also suggested Iran and Syria were pulling strings behind the scenes and had encouraged Hezbollah and Hamas to abduct Israeli soldiers, the spark for the conflict which has killed more than 400 Lebanese citizens in two weeks.“In the current conflict, Iran is partially responsible. Information we have proves that sophisticated weapons and financing are sent by Iran, via Syria in all probability, to Hezbollah. It’s a problem,” he told the newspaper.

  • Christopher Dickey, Newsweek--Let it bleed: The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That’s the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, “Hizbullah is eating their lunch.” it started this fight against a much greater military force—and it’s still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hizbullah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor, all at once.

  • Lebanese Political Journal--Israel's Atrocious Error : Israel squandered a valuable opportunity. After the first two days of bombing:1. Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, attacked Hezbollah and expressed an understanding for Israel's response. This is absolutely unprecedented. It's the first time Arabs have come to the defense of Israel.2. Christian, Sunni, and Druze Lebanese politicians expressed outrage at Hezbollah's attack. Their main concern was timing (ie, money), as the Lebanese economy floats on tourism dollars. But, for the first time, they directly challenged Hezbollah.3. Shia Lebanese, incredibly, questioned the actions of Hezbollah. Like the rest of the Lebanese, Shia asked, "Why now? Why this? Is this our battle? Why must we suffer at the exact time we hope to profit from so many years of loss and oppression?The longer the bombing went on, the less and less concerned people were for Hezbollah's actions.

Dennis Ross: There is a real risk of escalation

Spiegel-Former United States Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, 57, tells DER SPIEGEL about Tehran's interest in the war in Lebanon and the chances of a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: The Bush administration is convinced that Syria and especially Iran are behind the new escalation. Do you agree?

Ross: I do. Iran wants to be able to create all sorts of problems a long way away from its own borders. Syria sits much closer and here there is a real risk of escalation. If some of the missiles that Hezbollah has, if they were to hit a school and you had a large number of Israeli kids suddenly killed, the impulse to do more than just to hit Hezbollah would be quite high within Israel.

SPIEGEL: It seems that voices in Washington are becoming louder saying we have to deal seriously with Iran now.

Ross: I would say, first of all, what you have is an interesting indicator of real Iranian behavior. They deny what they do, so you can't believe what they say. They obviously have been providing all sorts of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. You also see they're feeling confident now. If they had a nuclear shield they would become even more aggressive. It would be good now, in fact, to move a resolution in the Security Council. The resolution needs to be serious on sanctions and it can't be minimal sanctions.

SPIEGEL: And with the help of the Arab world which fears the growing influence of Iran in the region?

Ross: For Saudi Arabia to criticize Hezbollah directly and publicly, says they understand that Hezbollah is a tool of Iran.

SPIEGEL: So you see signs that the rest of the Arab world will side with the United States, or maybe even Israel?

Ross: I see a strategic convergence of interest. The Arabs won't act because of Israel. They'll act because of Lebanon. Hezbollah pursued an Iranian agenda at great consequence and at great cost to Lebanon.

More...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Iranian hand seen in tunnel network

  • Mark Dodd, The Australian-Israeli forces trying to root out militant Hezbollah fighters from southern Lebanon have uncovered sophisticated "Viet Cong-style" tunnel networks and encountered fierce resistance they say indicates the presence of Iranian military advisers. In its latest report on the fighting, British-based security and intelligence journal Jane's Defence Weekly cites a "senior defence source" who claims that what the Israeli army is facing in Lebanon is not a militia force but "rather a special forces brigade of the Iranian army".

    Jane's reports Israeli forces have discovered a well-established network of tunnels and trenches with entrances often disguised inside dwellings. Jane's correspondent Alon Ben-David told The Australian the tunnels were deep enough for the Islamic militant group to survive Israeli artillery and aerial bombardment.

  • Jane's Defence Weekly-The Israeli position is that Nasrallah, Hizbullah's secretary general, had assumed that Israel's response to the attack would be relatively moderate and similar to those that followed previous provocative incidents since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. There is evidence that soon after the abduction of the two Israel Defense Force soldiers from Israeli territory, Hizbullah officials in contact with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had suggested the possibility of a ceasefire as early as that evening. Israel's prolonged military response appears to have come as a genuine surprise to the Hizbullah leadership.

  • AP-Hezbollah Says Israeli Response a Surprise: A senior Hezbollah official said Tuesday the guerrilla group did not expect Israel to react so strongly to its capture of two Israeli soldiers. Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of Hezbollah's political arm, also told The Associated Press in an interview that his group will not lay down arms. "The truth is _ let me say this clearly _ we didn't even expect (this) response.... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati. He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel to the July 12 cross-border raid, in which three Israelis were killed.

  • BBC News-Turkey and S. Arabia Close Air Space to Iran Supplies for Hezbollah: Turkey and Saudi Arabia have stopped Iran using their air space to send humanitarian relief to Lebanon, media in Iran have said. Iran's health ministry has been collecting supplies to send to the Lebanese people, the reports said. But the goods had to be sent via Dubai to Syria because of objections by other countries

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lebanon: Battlefield for hire

See how we Iranians and the government that represents us are perceived in the eyes of a Lebanese intellectual. Wouldn't we have said the same things about Lebanon if it had caused Iran to be torn to shreds?

Spiegel-The Lebanese should hire out their country to any people wishing to fight a war, suggests Lebanese novelist Charles Chahwan. Iranian megalomania, Syrian rancour and Israeli attacks are bringing about the country's slow death.

The Lebanon which we have inherited from our forbearers who fought for her independence, doesn't exist anymore -- at the most it lives on in some of the patriotic songs of Lebanese singer and icon, Fairouz. But the country which the first intellectuals like Michel Mscheha had in mind, has now disappeared for ever.

The Lebanon in which we lived before this war between the Republic of Hezbollah and the State of Israel bears no similarity to the worst places on this planet. But, I'm sure that we will soon ashamedly be able to compare it with failed states like Somalia, if the Iranians -- with their tumultuous regime and their crazy, archaic convictions -- can abuse it even more and make Lebanon at least as terrible and ugly as Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban.

The pinnacle of the Iranian project in Lebanon, so I believe, is to use its first available atomic bombs, and launch them in our honor. They will fight the "devil" (America) and Israel down to the last Lebanese. The Iranians, which Saddam fought with the help of Arab Sunnis and the Americans, want to get revenge. The Shiite Persians will fight down to the last Shiite and last Lebanese, in order to avenge the Sunni Arabs in historical, religious and ethnic terms, so too to avenge the Americans and ultimately perhaps also the Israelis.

Iran -- drunk on billions of dollars of oil receipts -- dreams of atomic weapons and a new empire, which will revive the splendour of ancient Persia, is this not so?

The Iranian influence in Lebanon has managed in less than a year to unleash this war, in which we Lebanese are now dying. The war is a gift from Syria primarily to the Lebanese, but also to the Americans and every other power which has worked with her to expel Syria from the paradise of Lebanon.

It was at this time, during a period of national dialogue, a period of transition, when the Iranian demon marched via the gate of Damascus into the weak and impotent Lebanon.

Suddenly the Iranian regime decided, under the leadership of the new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to take on the Arab-Israeli conflict, utilizing all of the collected prejudices from the time of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser until the rotten slogans of the Baathists of both regimes, Iraqi and Syrian: The same slogans which most Arab states, including large and influential countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan and others had long ago renounced.

The Iranians also managed to export their so-called "culture of death", which was soon taken over by the Shiites in Lebanon as a social and political way of living. The defeats during more than one Israeli invasion in the days of the Palestinian presence of the 1970s and 1980s until their withdrawal in 2000, had their part in spreading this "culture."

More...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

For you Lebanon...


We went down to the edge of the water,
by the light of a Lebanese dawn,
And she told me all the stories of her beautiful land in the war,
Her tears fell down, the sun came up,
And I saw again the young girl in her eyes;

All of my life, all I have known,
only a place where peace cannot go;
All over the world, the gift from before,
nothing is left for the children of war;

And did you go to your bed with a sweet lullaby,
And the sound of the guns in the night,
And did you dance in the fields, did you run for your life,
From the hell that came down from the sky?
On a Lebanese night, on a Lebanese night,
I will be waiting, in Lebanon...

From "Lebanese Night" By Chris De Burgh and Elissa

Thank you, Nasrallah.

Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times-Profiles of the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah always describe him as the most “brilliant” or “strategic” Arab player. I beg to differ. When the smoke clears, Nasrallah will be remembered as the most foolhardy Arab leader since Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser miscalculated his way into the Six-Day War.

First, Nasrallah has set back the whole fledgling Arab democracy movement. That movement, by the way, was being used by Islamist parties — like Hezbollah and Hamas — to peacefully ascend to power...Does this mean Hamas and Hezbollah will never get another vote? Of course not. Their followers will always follow. What it does mean is that if the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or Islamists in Jordan or the Gulf, had any hopes of taking power through electoral means, they can forget about it. I don’t see their governments ever allowing elections that might bring Islamist parties to power, and I don’t see the U.S. promoting any more elections in the region, for now. The Arab democracy experiment is on hold — because if Islamist parties can’t be trusted to rule, elections can’t be trusted to be held.

All Arab dictators say, “thank you, Nasrallah.”

But let’s assume Nasrallah doesn’t care about democracy or a Palestinian state. He has to care about his own standing. His adventures have led to the devastation of his people — what is happening to Lebanon is a terrible tragedy — with relatively little damage to Israel. He launched a war on behalf of Iran that ruined his people, and the best outcome he can expect is a cease-fire that requires Hezbollah to move away from the Israeli border. Moreover, Iran gave Nasrallah missiles to deter any Western or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program. By frivolously playing their missile card now, Hezbollah and Iran have exposed and weakened Iran’s deterrent. Really dumb.

Can America capitalize on Nasrallah’s foolishness? To me, the big strategic chess move is to try to split Syria off from Iran, and bring Damascus back into the Sunni Arab fold. That is the game-changer.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Iran is invading the Arab world and burning everything in its path

Another take on the current crisis in the Middle East, this time from a Saudi Journalist's point of view:

Mshari Al-Zaydi, Asharq Alawsat-Whose war is this? Is it a war of Lebanon, all of Lebanon, or Iran, as Walid Jumblatt claims?

On whose behalf are those who fired the first shot acting? Did they fire for the sake of a specific agenda by the ruling Syrian regime, especially as we are nearing the start of an international trial for the murder of Rafik Hariri?

We are facing a gigantic Iranian assault on the Arab world, in Iraq where Iran has become the number one player, even at America's expense, according to the Iraqi politician Saleh al Mutlaq, and in Lebanon, where everyone knows how far-reaching Iranian influence is, through its local representative, Hezbollah, since the party's weapons, finances, ideology, media and military training are all Iranian!

The latest characteristic of this onslaught is Iran's increasing influence on the Palestinian scene and its power over Hamas and Khaled Meshaal, after it seized control of Islamic Jihad in Palestine. Meshaal has been transformed into a "Sunni Hassan Nasrallah" in every aspect. Following the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, both men adopted extremist stances sought to direct the crisis by mobilizing the people and appearing inflexible. Hamas and Hezbollah are therefore walking the same path, set by Iran. Iran is invading the Arab world and burning everything in its path. With the Arabs standing idly by, Iran seeks to impose its control over the region and spread its influence over Iraq, in an attempt to create a fundamentalist Arab Shiaa entity in Iraq, to support the world's sole Shiaa country. It also wants to influence Lebanon through Hezbollah, in order to keep a frontline with Israel.

Iran is playing its cards, slowly, one by one, but it appears to have exhausted its trump card, and by that, I mean Hezbollah. This time, Iran miscalculated...

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Iranian opposition divisions mar visit to White House

Eli Lake, NY Post-- A planned meeting in the White House of Iran's opposition fell short of expectations yesterday as a rift among the factions emerged. While two senior Bush administration officials met with 30 Iranian activists and academics to discuss the future of Iran, the son of the late shah, Reza Pahlavi, and Iran's leading dissident, Akbar Ganji, who is touring America this month, did not attend.

The meeting with the Iranian opposition groups — hosted by a senior National Security Council aid, Elliot Abrams, and Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns — is significant in light of Iran's role in the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah. Following the militia's cross-border raid of July 12, President Bush blamed Iran and Syria, suggesting that the two states, which have supported terrorists in Iraq, were conspiring to plunge the region into a wider war.

A unified Iranian opposition would pose an existential threat to Iran's ruling mullahs in a way that limited airstrikes on the country's nuclear facilities would not. But White House efforts to organize such an opposition may be doomed to fail. Mr. Ganji — who has drafted a two-part manifesto outlining a theory and plan for Iranian civil disobedience — told the Sun before he landed in America that he has no plans to meet with American officials unless they give him the opportunity to plead for America not to bomb Iran's nuclear installations.

"The quality of the people invited differed widely.I am not referring to the political affiliation, but their gravitas. Many people were invited at the last minute and were not told what the meeting was about and who else was there," the main organizer of this spring's London conference for a constitutional referendum in Iran, Fred Saberi, said in an interview from Stockholm, Sweden. Mr. Saberi, who has been an intermediary between Iran's student opposition movement and Western governments, said one of the main concerns of some of those who declined the invitation, such as the Revolutionary Guard founder and former political prisoner, Mohsen Sazegara, was working with supporters of the former shah's son. Mr. Ganji has said in Persian interviews that he would avoid working with Mr. Pahlavi. Messrs. Pahlavi and Ganji have been two of the loudest voices calling for nonviolent means to achieve regime change in Iran.

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Update: Akbar Ganji tells VOA he wasn't invited to this gathering.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Is a strike on Iran imminent?

Kash Kheirkhah

Unfortunately, it looks that way. Take a look at the following headlines:

  • William Kristol, Weekly Standard-It's Our War: The right response is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?
  • Scripps Howard Foundation-Panel Urges Iranian Regime Change: "Iran poses a grave threat to the world," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the subcommittee chairman, said. "Unfortunately, sanctions are not a promising option."
  • Bloomberg-Blair to Visit White House to Discuss Middle East, Iran: President George W. Bush and his closest ally, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, will meet in Washington next week to discuss the crisis in the Middle East, the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear ambitions, the White House announced
  • Jerusalem Post-Ahmadinejad promises Muslims will 'rejoice' soon: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday promised a "rejoicing" for Muslims in the Middle East "soon," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
  • Reuters-Rafsanjani Rejects West Precondition: Accepting west's precondition for suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities is equal to Tehran's submission to the west, said Tehran's substitute Friday prayers leader Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Friday.

Also, the London-based Dr Alireza Noutrizadeh, one of Iran's most prominent journalists, reports that 22 US and Israeli fighter jets entered the Iranian air space two nights ago although on a direct ordinance from the Spiritual Leader Ali Khamenei, the Iranian officials were barred from reporting the incident (Mr Nourizadeh's report hasn't been confirmed by other sources yet.)

Mr Nourizadeh, who is just back a week-long trip to Washington, says there are now "Iran operation" rooms in Pentagon, NAC and the State Department with NeoCon talks, eerily reminding him of the US military preparation in the run-up to the Iraq war.

According to Dr. Nourizadeh, the countdown on striking Iran which had already started, has now picked up speed, due to Iran's role in the curreny Mid-East conflict.

And the headlines suggest he could very well be right. Iran, under its current leadership, is indeed heading toward a disaster and the Iranian opposition figures, chief among them Reza Pahlavi and Akbar Ganji, might want to hurry up before it's too late.

Israel's military stunned by the failure of its air war

This could explain why, as AP reports, Israel has decided to destroy Hezbollah's tunnels, hideouts, weapons caches and other assets through its expected land incursions into southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, Israel keeps warning civilians living in southern Lebanon (south of the Litani River in Lebanon, about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli border) to leave the area but where do those poor people have to go? Reuters reports that The Israeli military's extensive destruction over the last several days of bridges, roads and vehicles, as well as shortages of food and fuel, have made evacuation in 24 hours impossible for many. An estimated 300,000 people still live south of the Litani River-Kash

World Tribune.com-TEL AVIV - Israel's new chief of staff, an air force general, believed that most of Israel's future operations would be conducted from the air. Military leaders were convinced that with superior communications and air power they did not even need new U.S. "bunker buster" munitions to root out terror leaders in underground hideaways.

Today, this vision of air power as a panacea has been shattered.

Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz and his advisers have been stunned by the failure of Israel's air war against Hizbullah, which has shrugged massive air bombings on its headquarters in Beirut to maintain the rocket war against the Jewish state.

Air power is not the answer here," a senior officer said. 'You have to go from one Hizbullah [weapons] bunker to another. Some of these bunkers are seven meters deep and can't be destroyed by aircraft, even if you could find them." The air force learned that lesson in Beirut as fighter-jets sought to destroy Hizbullah headquarters, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials acknowledged that 23 tons of munitions failed to penetrate the thick walls of the underground command headquarters constructed by Iran.

Indeed, the air force did not even deem the purchase of deep penetration munitions a priority. Earlier this year, Israel decided against purchasing U.S.-origin bunker-buster weapons regarded as a requirement for any air strike against Iran or Syria.

Military sources said Halutz was convinced that communications and air power rather than troops would rapidly win Israel's wars. They said the air force was surprised by its failure to halt or even reduce Hizbullah rocket strikes.

More...

Meanwhile, Iran gets on with its bomb

Telegraph-Just how much responsibility Teheran bears for initiating hostilities remains unclear, but certain facts are now emerging that indicate the timing of the Israeli soldiers' abduction was no coincidence. To start with, there is the visit Mr Larijani paid to Damascus last week after his discussions in Brussels with Javier Solana, the EU's foreign affairs representative, ended without agreement. Apart from fulfilling his duties as chief nuclear negotiator, Mr Larijani, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, is chairman of Iran's national security council and a close confidant of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spiritual guardian of the Islamic revolution and the driving force behind the attempts to acquire a nuclear weapons arsenal.

During his stay in the Syrian capital, Mr Larijani briefed Syrian intelligence officers about the nuclear talks and the latest developments in Iran's mutual defence co-operation with Damascus. Mr Larijani then met senior Hizbollah representatives.

The following day, Hizbollah launched its operation against Israel's northern border, kidnapping two soldiers and killing eight others. The operation had been more than a month in the planning, and Teheran dispatched a team of 20 Iranian Guard commanders to southern Lebanon in mid-June to oversee the preparations. There were also shipments of military equipment, including surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles: the Iranians were well aware that Israel would not tolerate an attack on its northern border with impunity.

The Iranians will also have been surprised by the failure of the world's major powers to intervene. While there has been much criticism of Israel's "disproportionate" response, none of the leading powers feels inclined to act in any way that might be to Hizbollah's benefit. This is particularly true in America, where the Bush Administration has made it plain it is in no hurry to get involved, so long as the conflict is confined to its current parameters. The White House is well aware of Iran's sponsorship of Hizbollah, and has in effect given Jerusalem a free hand to do whatever it believes is necessary to destroy Hizbollah's effectiveness. The eradication of Iran's most important foreign ally would be a serious blow for the ayatollahs, and was clearly not one they took into their calculations when they precipitated this crisis.

But even if Teheran has overplayed its hand in southern Lebanon, Iran's leaders will console themselves that it is a sacrifice worth paying for the maintenance of its all-important uranium-enrichment programme.

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Rudy Bakhtiar on Hezbollah and Iran

From Brian and the Judge on Fox News, July 19 2006-Rudi Bakhtiar discusses (mp3 audio) Hezbollah with Brian Kilmeade and Judge Andrew Napolitano, and also tells of the assassination of her uncle, Dr Shapour Bakhtiar, who was the last Prime Minister of Iran under the Shah.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Global sanctions on Tehran sought

The Washington Times-Former senior U.S. and Israeli officials called yesterday for the United States to rally the international community to impose sanctions on Iran and push Arab allies to work against Hezbollah and Hamas. Mr. Ross blamed Iran for recent Hamas and Hezbollah attacks and said encouraging political and economic sanctions against Iran and Syria "should be our objective right now."

Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2002 to 2005, said, "These attacks were masterminded by Iran and facilitated by Syria." He pointed out that Hezbollah's initial attack on Israeli forces coincided with a deadline for Iran to respond to a U.S.-led coalition offer regarding its nuclear program. "Iran guaranteed that the world's attention would be directed elsewhere," Mr. Ross said, noting that the nuclear issue was pushed off center stage at the weekend Group of Eight summit in Russia. Gen. Yaalon also said Iranian officials "prodded" Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus shortly before the Hamas kidnapping that triggered Israel's offensive in Gaza in June.

Mr. Ross urged the United States to "work intensely behind the scenes" with Iran's enemies in the Arab world to broker a peace deal. "I watch for changes in behavior. And one thing that makes this situation different from past ones is that some Arab states are acting very uncharacteristically by criticizing Hezbollah and not letting up, especially Saudi Arabia," he said. Mr. Ross suggested that the United States encourage the development of an "Arab plan," which would include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others interested in undermining Iran's regional influence. He said the plan would include political, economic and military support for the Lebanese government and military, which is still relatively weak and unable to rein in Hezbollah.



Also in the news:

AS FIGHTING in the Middle East continues, the Bush administration is coming under pressure to launch some sort of diplomatic initiative. These calls sound reasonable; the loss of innocent life in Lebanon and Israel is tragic, the dangers of further escalation are real and U.S. shuttle diplomacy has been instrumental in halting previous conflicts. The problem is this: The usual options in the State Department's playbook would hand to the extremists who launched this war exactly the results they have hoped for.

  • Lou Dobbs: US not so smart when it comes to the Middle East
CNN's Lou Dobbs weighs in and raises some interesting points:

We Americans like to think we're a pretty smart people, even when evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. And nowhere is that evidence more overwhelming than in the Middle East. History in the Middle East is everything, and we Americans seem to learn nothing from it.

Even now, as Katyusha rockets rain down on northern Israel and Israeli fighter jets blast Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, we simultaneously decry radical Islamist terrorism and Israel's lack of restraint in defending itself.

And the U.S. government, which wants no part of a cease-fire until Israel is given every opportunity to rescue its kidnapped soldiers and destroy as many Hezbollah and Hezbollah armaments as possible, urges caution in the interest of preserving a nascent and fragile democratic government in Lebanon. Could we be more conflicted?

While the United States provides about $2.5 billion in military and economic aid to Israel each year, U.S. aid to Lebanon amounts to no more than $40 million. This despite the fact that the per capita GDP of Israel is among the highest in the world at $24,600, nearly four times as high as Lebanon's GDP per capita of $6,200.

Lebanon's lack of wealth is matched by the Palestinians -- three out of every four Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the vast majority of our giving in the region flows to Israel. This kind of geopolitical inconsistency and shortsightedness has contributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict that the Western world seems content to allow to perpetuate endlessly.

In the Middle East, where is our sense of proportion? Where is our sense of perspective? Where is our sense of decency? And, finally, just how smart are we?

More...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hezbollah: The legitimate son of the Iranian revolution

A look back on how Islamic Republic of Iran created Hezbollah. A must read and that's why I'm posting it fully here.

By Dr Alireza NouriZadeh

London, Asharq Al-Awsat

The emergency meeting of the Supreme National Security Council, chaired by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon and the ongoing Israeli aggression, came as no surprise to political circles in Tehran.

Observers of the strong and comprehensive relations between Iran and Hezbollah, still remember how the Party of God was born from the Amal movement, in a caesarian birth, with the assistance of the Iranian midwife, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, Iran’s former ambassador in Damascus. Indeed, Hezbollah is not only the legitimate son of the Iranian revolution, but also the sole successful organization, according to the Iranian view, out of all the groups that were established in the region, with Iranian funding. Hezbollah has gained political legitimacy in Lebanon and won over the Lebanese and Arab publics.

In other words, Hezbollah, which was created in 1984 to establish an Islamic Republic in Lebanon, has been transformed, after years of being responsible for the bombing of the US Marines headquarters in Beirut and the US embassy, as well as the kidnapping of a TWA flight, into a mammoth semi-state structure, with a military force, intelligence services and social organizations, including schools and hospitals.

Relations between Hezbollah and Iran, its main backer and financer, has evolved through the years, with the isolation of Sheikh Subhi al Tufeili, who was faithful to Imam Moussa al Sadr’s legacy, the assassination of its Secretary-General Abbas al Mussawi in an Israeli rocket attack in 1992, and the election of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the Ali Khamenei’s student, and resembled the relationship of a father and his son.

With the disappearance of Imam Moussa al Sadr, the Shiaa community in Lebanon found itself orphaned and lacking a figure that would protect them.

Despite the Shiaa in Lebanon admiring the Islamic revolution in Iran and its leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Sadr’s followers and members of the Amal movement rejected Iranian tutelage and maintained their independence. On his first visit to Tehran, Hussein al Husseini, the movement’s former Secretary General, told Iranian revolutionary leaders the Shiaa in Lebanon supported them, as long as they respected Lebanon’s independence and recognized its special characteristics.

The idea of creating a party independent of the Amal movement was developed during Mohtashimi’s secret visits to Baalbeck, where he met with Moussawi and revealed his readiness to split from Amal and establish an Islamic Amal, “as the continuation of the Islamic revolution in Lebanon.”

However, Mohatashemi was eager to establish a larger party and one that would be able to transform Lebanon into an Iranian colony. Soon after, in a meeting in the Iranian embassy in Damascus, seven former Amal members and four student of Khomeini took an oath to remain loyal to the Supreme Leader and wilayat e faqih.

Khomeini preferred Sayyif Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah to become Hezbollah's supreme authority but the latter opted to remain outside of any political framework and to act as an authority for everyone.

Disagreements soon emerged between Sobhi al Tufeili, the party’s first leader, and the revolutionary guards in Lebanon and Mohtashemi Pour who wanted Hezbollah leaders to closely follow his orders. This was accompanied by the rise of Abbas al Moussawi, who was admired and loved by Khomeini as a son. He was assassinated by an Israeli rocket attack on his convoy in February 1992. His successor, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, revolutionized the party. Under his rule, the Party of God grew into the biggest political, military, social and religious institution in the region. Accordingly, the party’s budget grew from 10 million dollars to more than half a billion dollars a year, in addition to a separate budget for al Manar televison and other media outlets.

Recent statements by Iranian officials, warning Israel against attacking Syria , were suspiciously free of any mention of Lebanon , which is reeling from Israeli bombings. But, a senior Iranian official told Asharq al Awsat, “Hezbollah is part of us and does not need guarantees to be certain the Islamic Republic is with it. We are standing with the Party, in spirit and physically, militarily and financially.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Iran provider of Hezbollah's weaponry-source

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive16/07/2006

By Ali Nouri Zadeh

According to a source close to a high-ranking official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Teheran has supplied Hezbollah with approximately 11,500 missiles and projectiles.


The source said more than 3,000 Hezbollah members have undergone training in Iran, which included guerilla warfare, firing missiles and artillery, operating unmanned drones, marine warfare and conventional war operations. He said they have also trained 50 pilots for the past two years.


According to the source, Hezbollah currently possesses four types of surface-to-surface missiles, some of which extend to a distance of 150 kilometers.


Katyusha missiles hit Tiberias, on the Lake of Galilee, for the first time on Saturday, while today Hezbollah fired rockets, which killed eight people in the Israeli city of Haifa, and bombs shook Beirut as Israel pursued a five-day-old assault in Lebanon aimed at crippling the Shi'ite Muslim group.


It was Hezbollah's deadliest rocket strike on Israel in at least 10 years and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it would have "far-reaching" consequences for Lebanon.
Hezbollah said the attack was retaliation for Israel's killing of civilians and destruction of Lebanese infrastructure.

Also in the news,

At 46, Nasrallah is also the most controversial leader in the Arab world, at the center of the most vicious new confrontation between Israel and its neighbors in a quarter-century. Yet he is not the prototypical militant.

Was it just a coincidence that Ahmadinejad's prediction of "a huge explosion" came only days before Hezbollah's assault across the border and its unprecedented attack on Haifa? Or did the rabid president of the evil regime that bankrolls Hezbollah with an estimated $200 million a year know what was coming? It was Iran that supplied Hezbollah with its immense arsenal of artillery rockets. When Hezbollah launches them at Israel, it is doing the bidding of its patron.

Mr. Olmert and his commanders believe that after enough bombardment in Gaza and Lebanon, Israeli towns will be safer, at least in the short term. Hamas and Hezbollah will run out of rockets, supply routes will be cut, and the rocket attacks will slow or stop. What they do not know is how long that process will take — or what other regional dynamic involving Iran, Syria or the Shiites of Iraq they will unleash along the way.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bush barking up the wrong tree, again

Kash Kheirkhah

While Israeli intelligence officials say about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon fighting alongside Hezbollah and that they helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the Israeli warship late Friday, President Bush is demanding that Syria rein in Hezbollah attacks on Israel.

The fact that Hezbollah is backed financially and logistically by mullahs in Iran is no secret to anyone. Why President Bush is pointing his finger at Syria instead of Iran raises a big question for me at this point. Has Mr Bush not read Jane's intelligence review?

Well let me try again here. The article three of the Iranian Constitution states that in order to attain its objectives the country's foreign policy must be based on "Islamic criteria, fraternal commitment to all Muslims, and unsparing support to the freedom fighters of the world." Under this banner, Mullahs have created the Hezbollah, supplied it of large quantities of arms and cash to support its operations. At the same time, Iran has established ties to Islamic Jihad, a former terrorist wing of Hezbollah responsible for most of the kidnappings of Western nationals in Lebanon from 1984 to 1989.

Now why is Iran trying to expand its terrorist tentacles to all corners of the region? Is it really "fraternal commitment to all Muslims, and unsparing support to the freedom fighters of the world?" Of course, not. The current regime in Iran is one created out of the ideology of terror. It very well knows that due to its rogue nature, it won't be able to survive unless it spreads terror and keep the region on the brink of wide-scale crises on a permanent basis.

Hezbollah and other Muslim radical organizations were created out of this ideology and were groomed for the day the existence of the terror regime in Iran could be, in any way, jeopardized and that day is today.

The alarm bell rang for the mullahs last week, when Russia and China joined the United States and Europe on Wednesday by agreeing to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution ordering Iran to freeze some nuclear activities, or face sanctions and that's when Hezbollah and terrorist groups alike can come handy.

The United States should know that from now on, the closer it gets to punishing Iran over its nuclear defiance and possibly overthrowing its current regime, the more violent reactions it'll get from Iran and its terrorist satellites in the Middle East. There must be a well-thought-out plan in place as to how to handle Iran's reactions. Although I recognize Israel's right to defend its citizens, I hardly believe a military campaign-- even as massive as the on-going one-- can root our Hamas or Hezbollah. Instead, it’ll just cost the lives of innocent civilians and in the long run, will cause the masses to rally to the defense of these organizations. Why should Israel, who knows where Hizbollah hidouts and its arsenal are located, target Beirut and make innocent people of Lebanon pay the price for what Hezbollah and its masters do?

The US, Israel and the world should focus on "the root of all evil" in the Middle East instead once and for all. Without mullahs in Iran, terror organizations in the Middle East will be doomed to perdition and an abandoned Syrian regime to either have to change its behavior or eventually face the music. Mullahs' reaction to the threat of "possible UN sanctions" not only shows how helpless they get when the world speaks with one voice against them, but also proves how vulnerable they are. It's time for the US to go for the jugular.

Update 1- Also read: Newsweek- Iran's Stealth War on U.S. and Israel

When Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, met last week with the European Union's Javier Solana and delegates from Britain, France, Germany and Russia, they expected he'd make some counteroffer to their proposed package of incentives for Iran to stop its nuclear-enrichment program. But no...Iranian bloggers and other commentators suggest the regime is badly divided over Ahmadinejad's radical rhetoric, and the risks he is running in the confrontation over nuclear arms. Nevertheless, as soon as the fruitless talks in Brussels had adjourned, the delegation went straight to Damascus. And the next day, Nasrallah started his war...

Update 2-Khaleej Times-Lebanon a proxy battleground for Iran: Jumblatt

DUBAI - Lebanon has become a proxy battleground for Iran in its resistance to US-led pressure on its nuclear programme, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt charged on Sunday.

“The war is no longer Lebanon’s ... it is an Iranian war,” Jumblatt told Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya on the fifth day of an Israeli onslaught against its northern neighbour following the capture of two soldiers by Shia militant group Hezbollah.

“Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear programme? I will hit you at home, in Israel,” said the Druze leader, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and an outspoken critic of Iran’s key regional ally Syria.Jumblatt said Hezbollah’s “sophisticated arsenal is not there for no reason” and that “Lebanon has become the battlefield” for Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West.

Akbar Ganji: 'The regime must change'

Bravo Akbar Ganji!

Newsweek-Akbar Ganji is the most vocal voice against the government in Iran. A former revolutionary guard turned reformist journalist, he was jailed for six years for revealing that Iran’s ministry of intelligence played a role in the killings of up to 70 intellectuals during the 1990s. After his release from prison last March, Ganji began a tour of Europe to meet Western intellectuals as well as Iranians in exile.

On Saturday, Ganji began a U.S. visit. During his trip, world leaders including French president Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush have requested meetings. Ganji refused, calling himself “only a journalist.” But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, in which he discussed Iran’s confrontation with the West over its nuclear program, he said he could change his stand on political meetings. Ganji and his acolytes in 25 cities around the world have begun a hunger strike to try to force the release the political prisoners in Iran. Ganji himself says he will lead the protests in front of United Nations headquarters in New York. NEWSWEEK’s Maziar Bahari met Ganji in London on Friday.

You were recently released from prison and plan to go back to Iran in a few weeks time. What do you think will happen to you?
I think they will arrest me as soon as I arrive in the airport and put me in jail

Yet still you want to go back?
Yeah. It’s the Iranian government’s dream to keep me abroad. If it were up to them they would keep me in jail. But they were worried about more international condemnation after illegally holding me for six years. When I look at the Islamic republic and its constitution I see that there is no possibility that this system can become a democratic one which respects human rights. I, and people like me, are trying to change the system into a democratic means.

Meaning?
Mainly through civil disobedience. Meaning breaking unjust and inhumane laws. The regime uses these laws to contain our movement. If you’re sentenced then you can be denied work as a journalist for the rest of your life. We say that this kind of laws are unjust and have to change.

More...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Zogby poll of Iranians: The sound of alarm bells is ringing for the US

From a new Reader’s Digest-Zogby International survey of Iranians:

When it came to their view of the United States, there was a split between the generations. Older Iranians were much more likely to admire the American people and society than younger Iranians. John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International, hypothesized that this generational split may be due in part to the lack of exposure to Americans over the past two decades.

Younger and older Iranians would favor a more conservative, religious society, while those aged 30–49 said they would favor a more liberal, secular culture. What is striking is that just 15% said Iranian culture should stay just the way it is right now. Women were more likely than men to say they wanted a more liberal, secular society. Among those Iranians with Internet access, 41% said they wanted a more religious culture, compared to 33% who said they wanted a more secular society.

“The poll illustrates the impact of 25 years of separation,” said Zogby. “The attitudes of younger Iranians toward the government, people and policies of the United States have been shaped by years of isolation, largely conservative religious leadership, and anti-U.S. rhetoric. This group is consistently more negative in its attitudes towards Americans and the American government than are older Iranians. However, new technology, including satellite television and the Internet, could be used as tools that connect young Iranians with other nations in the region, and the West.”

Those technologies – Internet access and satellite TV ownership –appeared to influence attitudes among Iranians, as did gender. Iranians with access to the Internet or satellite TV were significantly more likely than their “unconnected” compatriots to identify the United States as the country they admire the most. They were also significantly less likely to pick the U.S. government as the one they admire the least: one in three Iranians without Internet access (34%) chose the United States as least admired, compared with fewer than one in five Iranians with Internet access (18%), the poll shows.

After what happened in the US 2004 Presidential election, I really don't know if I can trust John Zogby and his polling organization any more but if --and only if-- Zogby poll of Iranians is true, even to some extent, then I must say, unfortunately what I wrote last week "President Bush is losing time and Iranian people" is indeed true. This is an alarming piece of news for US Iranians outside the country who still believe the majority of Iranians are pro-American and want to get rid of this regime as soon as possible and the US administration who, faced with a three-headed monster called "Islamic Republic of Iran regime" in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestinian territories, (not to mention Iran's nuclear ambitions), is considering a "Regime Change" policy on Iran, thus already taking Iranian people's support for granted.

That's why what I said before, that US should supply Iranian dissidents with technical support such as more TV programs and specially, access to unfiltered internet inside the country, is of tremendous importance.

The longer this regime remains in power, the more it deceives the new generation of Iranians by feeding them lies, distortion and disinformation via its 24-hour propaganda machine, making them finally accept the regime as a legitimate part of their lives. We shouldn't let that happen (if it has already not.)

It's not easy for me to say this but Madame Secretary Rice and President Bush, take this poll seriously. Based on everything I have heard recently from those who have just been to Iran, this poll, although coming from Zogby's organization, could very well be close to an alarming reality and a grave indication that, if things continue to go this way, "regime change in Iran" could very soon turn into a thing of the past.

Latest articles on Iran and the Middle East

Hezbollah's attack on Israel serves not only to distract from Iran's defiance of the international community. It also plays into a propaganda campaign that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has conducted in recent months, conflating the issue of Iran's nuclear program with what he has condemned as the intolerable existence of Israel. Also, by having Hezbollah strike now at Israel, the Iranian regime clearly means to neutralize Arab regimes that are fearful of Iran's spreading influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Knowing that Iran is behind Hezbollah's act of war, Israeli leaders -- who are openly warning of devastating strikes on Lebanon's infrastructure -- would be well advised to avoid a reflexive military response that lands Israel in an Iranian trap. If the regime in Tehran wants to provoke Israel to bomb Lebanese power plants, roads, and bridges, maybe this kind of military retaliation is not such a good idea.

The likely failure of diplomacy would not deter Bush from pursuing it, however. If and when it failed, he would be able to choose the military course, and no fair person could accuse him of not having tried to bring the world along to do what had to be done. At least he would know in his own mind that he had sincerely given diplomacy a chance. And when he ordered the strike on Iran, he would know that, whatever else could be said about him, he would not go down in history as the man who let the mullahs have the bomb.

America and these other nuclear powers are able to consummate their own strange courtship, they will likely catch the Iranians in a vise, just as they did when they adopted a similar approach with the Libyans a decade ago. And there's every reason to believe that, like the Libyans, the Iranians would come to see it's in their best interests to accept the carrots to get rid of the sticks. However, if the United States and its partners refuse to take these final steps together, it is very likely that the Iranians will once again slip through the gap between us. And that means, not too far down the road, we will all discover what it's like to live with a nuclear Iran.

Lebanon is the pond, the IAF bombs are the stones, and the hope in Jerusalem is that hurling enough of those stones into the Lebanese pond will produce a ripple effect felt as far as Teheran. Israel woke up Thursday morning finding itself facing a two front war - but not a traditional two front war, rather a two front terrorist war. And on each front it is facing one of Iran's proxies - Hamas in the south; Hizbullah in the north. One of the assumptions of the current campaign is that if you hit the proxy hard enough, its master will get the message. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intimated this much Wednesday when he said he was certain the IDF actions would "echo in the right places and with the necessary strength."

Monday, July 10, 2006

U.N. nuclear chief pulled inspector at Iran's request

NY Sun-The Nobel Peace Prize-winning chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively fired his lead Iran investigator this spring at the request of the Iranians, according to a new report in the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag.

The lead inspector of the 15-man IAEA team in Iran, Chris Charlier, told the newspaper that the IAEA chief, Mohammad ElBaradei, agreed to a request the Iranian government made, and relegated Mr. Charlier, a 64-year-old Belgian, to office work at the organization's Vienna-based headquarters. The Iranian request was reportedly made when Mr. ElBaradei visited Iran in April.

Mr. Charlier told the German newspaper that he believes Iran is hiding elements of its nuclear program. In comments that echoed U.N. inspectors' during the 1990s looking at Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, he said, "Wherever we went, whatever we did, they always followed us, monitoring us with video cameras and capturing every single one of our conversations. Never letting us out of their sight for a second, watching everything over our shoulder. ... How the devil were we supposed to rationally do our work?"

A spokesman for the IAEA yesterday would not comment on the story. Die Welt wrote that officials from the organization confirmed the key facts of the piece and asked the newspaper not to publish it. One of the reasons the officials gave was that it would harm the work of its inspectors on the ground. Mr. Charlier found this explanation lacking. "Just conceding, without any need, to the extortion of Tehran, by itself puts an end to a working basis. This has de facto ended even a half-way rational inspection of the Iranian nuclear program by the IAEA," he told the newspaper.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The end of Bush doctrine?

Drudge Report-In the span of four years, the Bush Administration has been forced to rethink the pre-emptive "Bush doctrine" by which it hoped to remake the world, as the strategy's ineffectiveness was exposed by the very policies it prescribed, TIME's Mike Allen and Romesh Ratnesar report in this weeks cover story on 'The End of Cowboy Diplomacy' on newsstands Monday, July 9th.

President George W. Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years. After Sept. 11, however, the Bush team embarked on a different path, outlining a muscular, idealistic, and unilateralist vision of American power and how to use it, TIME reports. They aimed to lay the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states, by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize. And the U.S. wasn't willing to wait for others to help. The approach fit with Bush's personal style, his self-professed proclivity to dispense with the nuances of geopolitics and go with his gut. "The Bush Doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by words," Bush told Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One in 2003.

Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action-or at least a tongue lashing. Instead, the Administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation. As much as anything, it's confirmation of what Princeton political scientist Gary J. Bass calls "doctrinal flameout." Put another way: cowboy diplomacy, RIP...

The Boss continues to rule the court


LONDON - JULY 09: Roger Federer of Switzerland holds the aloft trophy after winning the Men's final against Rafael Nadal of Spain on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 9, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bravo Roger!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bush expresses frustration with diplomacy in foreign affairs

AP-CHICAGO -- President Bush expressed frustration Friday with the slow pace of diplomacy in dealing with North Korea and Iran and prodded world leaders to send an unmistakable message condemning Pyongyang's long-range missile test.

Bush came here as the United Nations struggled over how to deal with North Korea, which defied world appeals and test-fired a long-range missile that fell into the sea 42 seconds after launch this week. China and Russia have balked at a proposed Japanese resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.

"What matters most of all is for Kim Jong Il to see the world speak with one voice," Bush said. "That's the purpose, really."

In months of negotiations, Beijing and Moscow also have had reservations about penalizing Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

"You're watching the diplomacy work not only in North Korea but in Iran," the president said. "And it's, kind of _ you know, it's kind of painful in a way for some to watch, because it takes a while to get people on the same page," Bush said. "Not everybody thinks the exact same way we think. Different words mean different things to different people. And the diplomatic processes can be slow and cumbersome." Asked if he felt a sense of urgency in dealing with North Korea and Iran, Bush said, "I'm realistic about how things move in the world." He said he wanted diplomatic rather than military solutions.

God bless America

A belated Happy Forth of July to my American friends and readers. It's words such as the ones in your "Decleration of Independence"--a genuine masterpiece--that shall inspire all of us freedom-loving Iranians to keep fighting for our freedom:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

So true.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Iran's nuclear crisis: Is it over for the US?

Reuters, July 04, 2006: The West has no choice but to wait as Tehran plays for time and considers an offer of incentives from six major powers aimed at resolving its nuclear standoff, Western diplomats and analysts said..."Iran is clearly playing for time. Everyone in the G8 knows that ... But nothing can happen with Iran because everybody agreed that we should wait until it's clear what Iran's response is going to be," a senior Western G8 diplomat told Reuters..."I don't think they would say 'No', and I think it's hard to expect a clear 'Yes'. Rather they'll try to drag out the process, a method that has worked successfully for over three years," an EU diplomat said.

AP, July 5, 2006: China and Russia resisted an attempt in the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against North Korea for its missile launches Wednesday, saying only diplomacy could halt the isolated regime's nuclear and rocket development programs...China, the North's closest ally, and Russia, which has been trying to re-establish Soviet-era ties with Pyongyang, countered that they favor a weaker council statement without any threat of sanctions. Both countries hold veto power in the council, making sanctions unlikely...In a possible sign that Moscow's and Beijing's position may carry the day, President Bush addressed the issue in a subdued manner without the harsh warnings that he had issued as recently as last week when he said that a missile launch would be unacceptable.

The only conclusion I can reach from these two news stories is that even when Iran proclaims itself a nuclear weapons state and tests its nuclear bombs, Russia and China will continue to stand against the US and any possible US-backed sanctions. The 'package and response' story is just a shameful game run by Russia and China, considering their reaction to North Korea's missile tests. The signs are already on the wall...Will mullahs--by the help of their masters-- eventually carry the day? Will the US continue to waste time until it's left with military option--a catastrohpic option, in fact? Is President Bush in for another subdued speech soon?-Kash

Monday, July 03, 2006

President Bush is losing time (and the Iranian people)

Kash Kheirkhah

On a New Year's Eve visit to Tehran, Iran, in 1977, Jimmy Carter toasted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi at a state dinner in Tehran and called Iran "an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” thus, reiterating American support. A year after that Iran was in a massive political turmoil. Shah left Iran in early 1979 and shortly after that, the Islamic revolution brought a radical Islamic regime to power which changed the future of the Middle East forever.

The "Island of Stability" is now the hotbed of terror and instigator of turmoil and bloodshed in the region. Now many elder Iranians I know personally, put this down to the role Jimmy Carter and his western allies played in bringing down Shah from power and replacing him with an Islamic regime which--the West naively thought-- could act as an obstacle against the then Soviet Union's expansionism in the region (see how Russia has Iran in its paws now, thirty years after the Zbigniew Brzezinski-engineered "Green Belt" policy that led to Shah's downfall and the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran.)

Having seen how the US turned its back on its most precious ally in 1979, the previous generation of Iranian people have long believed that it was the US and its allies that removed Shah from power and it will be eventually them that will decide when to change mullahs' regime. They see the US presidents’ rhetoric against mullahs (from Reagan to Clinton) as 'empty' and 'a cover behind which the US can continue extorting blackmail from the Islamic regime in return for its survival.'

The new generation of the Iranians-myself included-- or at least most of them now believe otherwise. We believe it's ultimately on us to democratize our country and end almost 30 years of tyranny and not the US. The United States can be a catalyst but not the installer or the remover of a regime due to the political fallout such a policy can have for both the future rulers of that country and the US credibility in the eyes of an already-cynical world.

What the US can do is help Iran's democratic movements with spiritual and technical support. President Bush must know that many Iranians think of him as the first US President after Iran's revolution who means it when he says "the United States will stand by the Iranian people." But time is running out for Mr Bush. The more the US dilly dallies along side its European allies, the more cynical the Iranian people and the more demoralized Iran’s democratic movements will get.

The US needs to have a defined regime change strategy; one that relies on Iranians to bear years of struggle against the Islamic regime to fruition as against a military attack; one that can empower Iran's democracy activist inside and outside the country with tools to communicate better and more effectively; one that can bypass Iranian regime's jamming of the satellite signals and filtering of the internet; one that can relay the US respect for the Iranian people and its spiritual support for their desire for freedom straight to every Iranian household and finally, one that can prove the Iranian people it's more than a media-friendly, toothless statement.

The United States can be the deciding factor in Iranian people's quest for freedom. President Bush STILL can right the wrong his predecessors caused, but time is running out.

Faith Hill voted most beautiful woman in country music

There seems to be a mistake here. She is the most beautiful woman IN THE WORLD!

AP- Faith Hill is country music's most beautiful woman, according to a reader poll released Friday in Country Weekly magazine.

"To thousands of fans, Faith embodies the ideal woman who really `has it all' — classic beauty, a superstar career, a great marriage to Tim McGraw and three lovely daughters," the article says. "No other country star projects a sexier, more stunning image."

Her husband, McGraw, finished No. 4 in the magazine's recent poll on country's sexiest man, with Keith Urban topping the list.

Rounding out the top 5 most beautiful women in order were Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and Shania Twain.

Besides Underwood, two other newcomers made the list: Jennifer Nettles (No. 6) and Miranda Lambert (No. 8).

Also in the top 10 were Terri Clark (No. 7), Trisha Yearwood (No. 9) and Reba McEntire and Gretchen Wilson (tie, No. 10)

Superman Returns: A fun movie to watch

For a lot of people--including me--who spent their childhood reading and watching Superman stories, "Superman Returns" certainly brings back a lot of memories and--for that matter--a lot of expectations, specially when the original Superman music is played at the beginning of the movie(It did give me goosebumps, truth be told!)

In a nutshell, I beg to differ with Roger Ebert on this one. I really like the movie and its emotional subplot. I watched "Superman Returns" in an IMAX 3D which made it even more of an enjoyable movie experience for me.

There are obviously comparisons made with "Superman" (1978) and 1980 "Superman II" (1980) and I'm sure there are those who--having seen Christopher Reeve as Superman and Margot Kidder as Louis Lane--will never feel comfortable finding Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth in their shoes. Well, I certainly agree that this new movie and the acting in it are no match for the previous ones, but I still believe, inspite of its shortcomings, "Superman Returns" works.

One thing I still can't figure out is that why there's so little interaction/dialogue between Superman and Louis Lane in this movie. Why,as Roger Ebert mentions, are these two characters so tongue-tied each time they run into each other considering their romantic past?

Still, I believe "Superman Returns" includes enough fun moments to make it generally enjoyable if you aren't too hard on the movie.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Seymour Hersh: The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy

In the July issue of The New Yorker, Symour Hersh insists President Bush's military options are still on the table:

On May 31st, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced what appeared to be a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The Bush Administration, she said, would be willing to join Russia, China, and its European allies in direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. There was a condition, however: the negotiations would not begin until, as the President put it in a June 19th speech at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, “the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.” Iran, which has insisted on its right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point of the negotiations before they started. The question was whether the Administration expected the Iranians to agree, or was laying the diplomatic groundwork for future military action. In his speech, Bush also talked about “freedom for the Iranian people,” and he added, “Iran’s leaders have a clear choice.” There was an unspoken threat: the U.S. Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up plans, at the President’s direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran.

Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.

A crucial issue in the military’s dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit.

...If the talks do break down, and the Administration decides on military action, the generals will, of course, follow their orders; the American military remains loyal to the concept of civilian control. But some officers have been pushing for what they call the “middle way,” which the Pentagon consultant described as “a mix of options that require a number of Special Forces teams and air cover to protect them to send into Iran to grab the evidence so the world will know what Iran is doing.” He added that, unlike Rumsfeld, he and others who support this approach were under no illusion that it could bring about regime change. The goal, he said, was to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.

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