Monthly Archives: March 2012

Giuliani–MeK is ‘only hope’ of stopping Iranian nuclear program

Press TV

The former mayor of New York says the terrorist group of Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) is the United States’ only hope to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program through a military attack.

Speaking at a conference in Paris, Rudolph Giuliani noted that the United States should use the MKO to militarily attack Iran’s nuclear program,  International Business Times reported.

The conference was also attended by former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and former Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy.

“I have a feeling that the only thing that will stop [Iran] and the only thing that will stop [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is if they see strength, if they see power, if they see determination, if they see an America that is willing to support the people that want to overthrow the regime of Iran,” he added.

Giuliani’s remarks come despite the fact that MKO, along with 49 other groups including al-Qaeda, is on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations which considers providing “material support or resources” for such groups or accepting donations from them as illegal.

Despite that law, three top-ranking former US officials are currently being investigated by the Treasury Department for accepting speaking fees from the MKO.

Former Pennsylvania Gov., Philadelphia mayor, and Democratic National Chairman Ed Rendell was the first to face federal scrutiny for accepting speaking fees from the MKO. Earlier this month ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, were also subpoenaed.

In the past few years, dozens of other US politicians have been paid by the MKO, including former Vermont Gov. and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Bush’s White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and even former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who was also co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

Giuliani, who charges as much as USD 100,000 per speaking engagement, was asked to appear at the Paris conference by the so-called French Committee for a Democratic Iran. The US Treasury Department charges that these types of Iranian organizations are clandestinely funneling money from the MKO into speakers’ pockets.

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Israel Shields Public from Risks of War with Iran

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been   telling Israelis that Israel can attack Iran with minimal   civilian Israeli casualties as a result of retaliation, and   that reassuring message appears to have headed off any   widespread Israeli fear of war with Iran and other   adversaries.

But the message that Iran is too weak to threaten an effective   counterattack is contradicted by one of Israel’s leading experts on   Iranian missiles and the head of its missile defense program for   nearly a decade, who says Iranian missiles are capable of doing   significant damage to Israeli targets. 

The Israeli population has shown little serious anxiety about the   possibility of war with Iran, in large part because they have not   been told that it involves a risk of Iranian missiles destroying   Israeli neighborhoods and key economic and administrative targets.

“People are not losing sleep over this,” Yossi Alpher, a consultant   and writer on strategic issues and former director of the Jaffee   Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, told IPS in an   interview. “This is not a preoccupation of the public the way the   suicide bombers were a decade ago.”

Alpher says one reason for the widespread lack of urgency about a   possible war with Iran is that the scenarios involving such a war are   “so nebulous in the eyes of the public that it’s difficult for them   to focus on it.”

Aluf Benn, the editor in chief of Ha’aretz, told IPS in an interview,   “There is no war mentality,” although he added, “that could change   overnight.” One reason for the relative public calm about the issue,   he suggested, is the official view that Iran’s ability to retaliate   is “very limited.”

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in Bloomberg Mar. 20 that “Some Israel   officials believe Iran’s leaders might choose to play down the insult   of a raid and launch a handful of rockets at Tel Aviv as an angry   gesture rather than declare all-out war.”

But Uzi Rubin, who was in charge of Israel’s missile defence from   1991 to 1999 and presided over the development of the Arrow anti-  missile system, has a much more sombre view of Iran’s capabilities.

The “bad news” for Israel, Rubin told IPS in an interview, is that   the primary factor affecting Iran’s capability to retaliate is the   rapidly declining cost of increased precision in ballistic missiles.   Within a very short time, Iran has already improved the accuracy of   its missiles from a few kilometers from the target to just a few   meters, according to Rubin.

That improvement would give Iran the ability to hit key Israeli   economic infrastructure and administrative targets, he said. “I’m   asking my military friends how they feel about waging war without   electricity,” said Rubin.

The consequences of Iranian missile strikes on administrative targets   could be even more serious, Rubin believes. “If the civilian   government collapses,” he said, “the military will find it difficult   to wage a war.”

Rubin is even worried that, if the accuracy of Iranian missiles   improves further, which he believes is “bound to happen,” Iran will   be able to carry out pinpoint attacks on Israel’s air bases, which   are concentrated in just a few places.

Some Israeli analysts have suggested that Israel could hit Iranian   missiles in a preemptive strike, but Rubin said Israel can no longer   count on being able to hit Iranian missiles before they are launched.

Iran’s longer-range missiles have always been displayed on mobile   transporter erector launchers (TELs), as Rubin pointed out in an   article in Arms Control Today earlier this year. “The message was   clear,” Rubin wrote. “Iran’s missile force is fully mobile, hence,   not pre-emptable.”

Rubin, who has argued for more resources to be devoted to the Arrow   anti-missile system, acknowledged that it can only limit the number   of missiles that get through. In an e-mail to IPS, he cited the Arrow   system’s record of more than 80 percent success in various tests over   the years, but also noted that such a record “does not assure an   identical success rate in real combat.”

The United States and Israel began in 2009 developing a new version   of the Arrow missile defense system called “Reshef” – “Flash” – or   “Arrow 3,” aimed at intercepting Iranian missiles above the   atmosphere and farther away from Israeli territory than the earlier   version of the Arrow. The new anti-missile system can alter the   trajectory of the defensive missile and distinguish decoys from real   missile reentry vehicles.

Until last November, the Arrow 3 system was not expected to become   operational until 2015. And that plan was regarded by U.S. Missile   Defense Agency (MDA) as probably too ambitious, because such a system   would normally take a decade from conception to deployment.

But Xinhua news agency reported in November that Israeli Air Force   officials said they expected Arrow 3 to become operational by mid-2013, cutting even that abbreviated timeline for development of the   system in half.

Nevertheless, the ability of the Arrow 3 system to shoot down an   incoming missile still has not been announced, although an Israeli   official said Mar. 1 that such a test would take place after the   meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

In December 2008, Western intelligence sources were reported by   Israel’s Ynet News as saying the improved version of the Shahab 3   missile had gone into production earlier that year and that Iran was   believed to be able to produce 75 of the improved missiles annually.

Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, then IDF chief of staff, told a visiting   Congressional delegation in November 2009 that Iran already had 300   missiles capable of hitting Israeli targets, according to a U.S.   State Department cable released by WikiLeaks.

Those reports suggest that Iran now has roughly 450 missiles that can   reach Israel, half of which are improved models with much greater   precision. Even if only one-fifth of those missiles get through   Israel’s missile defenses, Israeli cities could be hit by at least   100, most of which are able to hit targets with relative accuracy.

The Netanyahu government has sought to minimise the threat of Iranian   retaliation for an Israeli strike against Iran in part by likening   war with Iran to those fought against Hezbollah and Palestinian   rockets in recent years, which have resulted in relatively few   Israeli civilian casualties.

That was the message that Israeli military officials conveyed to the   Israeli news media after an escalation of violence between the IDF   and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza earlier this month.

Columnist Zvi Barel of Haaretz speculated on Mar. 11 that the purpose   of the escalation, provoked by the IDF assassination of Zuhair al-  Qaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committee in   Gaza, was to show the Israeli public that Israeli missile defense   system could protect the population against rockets that the IDF   linked to Iran.

Barel went even further. “After Iron Dome demonstrated its 95 percent   effectiveness,” he wrote, “there is no better proof to Israel’s   citizens that they will not suffer serious damage following an   assault on Iran.”

The success of the Iron Dome against short-range rockets from Gaza is   irrelevant, however, to what could be expected from a relatively   untested Arrow system against Iranian ballistic missiles aimed at   Israeli targets.

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Israelis move into contested West Bank home

AFP

Israeli settlers have moved into a contested home in a building in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, residents and Israeli security forces said on Thursday.

“At 1:30 am we heard noises and it was the settlers,” Montasser Abu Rajab, who lives on the first floor of the building in Hebron’s Old City, told AFP.

“They broke the main door and brought their furniture in, accompanied by the army, who locked us in our house,” he said.

The Israeli army confirmed the incident, with a spokeswoman telling AFP that “Jewish settlers have moved into a house in the Old City of Hebron, arguing that the title to the property is contested.”

“The area has been declared a closed military zone, and soldiers have been put in place to keep the calm,” she said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “police have been dispatched to the scene to verify the legal status of the house and the property titles that are apparently the subject of litigation.”

Palestinian sources in Hebron said the property belonged to the Abu Rajab family, some of whom live on the first floor of the building.

They said it was possible that a member of the family had sold the second floor of the house, but it was unclear to whom, with relatives saying it was to another Palestinian family.

But settlers told Israeli media they had titles to the property, located near the contested religious site known as the Cave of the Patriarchs to Jews and the Ibrahimi Mosque to Muslims.

“This is very exciting. It’s taken us years but we have finally been able to buy a house near the Cave of the Patriarchs,” Shlomo Levinger told the Ynet news website.

Speaking to Israeli public radio, rightwing Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben Ari, of the National Union party, said it was “time to recover all the Jewish homes in Hebron stolen by the enemy.”

Hebron is the biggest Palestinian city in the West Bank, home to some 170,000 Palestinian residents, but also a core of around 600 Israeli settlers who live in the heart of the city protected by a large Israeli military presence.

The Old City has become a flashpoint for confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In 1994, a settler from the nearby Kiryat Arba settlement gunned down 29 Palestinians as they prayed at the contested Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs site.

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Israel reprimands Austria, Belgium over vote on UN human rights council

Haaretz

Austria and Belgium’s ambassadors were reprimanded Monday by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for being the only two European Union members to support the establishment of a UN investigative committee on West Bank settlements.

Both ambassadors arrived separately for a meeting with Deputy Director General for Europe Rafi Shotz, where they were presented with an official governmental complaint over their countries’ respective votes in the UN Human Rights Council.

Shotz told the ambassadors that Israel is disappointed in their countries handling of the situation, in light of the fact that the other EU member states in the council – Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania – refrained from voting, explaining that there are already mechanisms in place for overseeing such issues, and the establishment of another investigative body would be redundant.

“When you voted, you knew the outcome, as well of how one-sided the decision would be,” Shotz told the ambassadors. “You assisted in the politicization of the Human Rights Council and a decision that will only worsen the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassadors in Oslo and Bern was instructed to pass along as similar complaint to the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries, respectively, after they too voted to establish an investigative committee on the issue of the settlements.

The conversations with the ambassadors in Jerusalem came several hours after the Foreign Ministry decided to sever ties with the UN Human Rights Council, as well as with its chief commissioner Navi Pillay.

Rotating President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, who also serves as Uruguay’s ambassador to the UN, called the decision “very unfortunate,” and added that she has yet to receive an official message from the Israeli ambassador.

“I have no doubt that it is in Israel’s interest to cooperate with council’s investigative committee so that it can express its position,” Dupuy Lasserre said.

 

Lieberman orders to sever ties with HRC

Senior state official says Israel will no longer appear before Human Rights Council, following its decision to probe settlements. HRC says decision ‘regrettable’; Hamas blasts it as ‘Zionist attempt to blackmail’ international institutions

ynet

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided “to cut all ties with the UN’s Human Rights forum” following its decision to probe how settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights, a senior state official said Monday.

“We maintained some kind of a relationship with them despite not being members in the council,” he said. “We will no longer appear before the council or even answer their calls. If they want to visit – we shall not assist them.”

Last week, the HRC passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel’s West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights. The council called on Israel to take steps like seizing weapons in order to prevent settler violence. It is sending a delegation to the territories to check the effect settlements have on the Palestinian people.

The Foreign Ministry said in response that the council was being used as a tool to further unilateral political steps instead of promoting human rights.

The Palestinians, the official added, were adopting a strategy of unilateralism aimed at avoiding an agreement. “They link everything to settlements,” he said. “Attempts to spearhead uncoordinated projects in Area C as well as efforts in the International Court of Justice are meant to impede any political move.”

The official added that the Palestinians’ aim is to achieve UN recognition using unilateral means.

Despite the bold move to sever ties with the UN council, the Foreign Ministry remains concerned about the political stalemate. Minister Lieberman is working on a series of unspecified steps to end the deadlock.

‘Israeli decision won’t stop HRC’

The UN’s Human Rights Council said Israel’s decision was “regrettable.” HRC President Laura Dupuy Lasserre said that the decision was “very unfortunate,” adding that she has yet to receive a formal notification of the matter.

“I have seen various reports in the Israeli media about this, but I have not received any official confirmation,” she said, 

“I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed,” she said in a statement.

Asked to comment further, she said recent history showed Israel would not stop the fact-finding mission from gathering information by deciding not to cooperate with it, even if it could not physically gain access to the West Bank or Israel.

“The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country. On the other hand, in the case of the other two Commissions of Inquiry that took place in 2011, both Libya and Cote d’Ivoire did cooperate, and allowed the Commissioners to visit.”

Meanwhile, Hamas slammed Israel’s decision, calling it a “Zionist attempt to blackmail” international institutions that criticize its policies.   “This is proof of the vulnerability the Zionist regime is facing vis-à-vis human rights and the UN,” Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

He further lauded the Human Rights Council’s decision to order its probe, saying it will “create a broad international consensus as to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the justice of their cause.”

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Gaza baby dies after respirator runs out of fuel

Associated Press

A Gaza man said Sunday his 5-month-old baby died after the generator powering his respirator ran out of fuel.

The baby, who was born with lymphatic disorder, had only a few months to live, said his father, Abdul-Rahim Helou, 27. But his parents miscalculated how much fuel a new generator needed to remove fluids that accumulated in his respiratory system, he said.

“If we were living in a normal country with electricity, I think his chances of living (longer) would have been better,” Helou said.

Gaza health official Bassem al-Qadri said the baby arrived dead at a Gaza City hospital on Friday night.

The baby’s death highlights the human cost Gaza’s 1.6 million residents are paying for 18-hour-a-day blackouts, triggered by a cutoff of Egyptian fuel.

Shortages have caused days-long lines for fuel at gas stations, a sharp reduction in public transportation and families left shivering in poorly built apartments during a wet and cold winter.

More than a year ago, Hamas decided to power Gaza’s only power plant with smuggled fuel from Egypt, rather than pay for more expensive Israeli fuel, as it had done in the past.

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Shin Bet security service confirms Toulouse gunman spent time in Israel

According to security officials, Mohamed Merah entered Israel after crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan in September 2010 where he was investigated by the Shin Bet,

Haaretz

An investigation by Israeli intelligence revealed on Monday that Mohamed Merah, the gunmen responsible for last week’s Toulouse shootings, spent time in Israel and Palestinian territories over a year and a half ago.

According to the Shin Bet, Merah entered Israel after crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan in September 2010. He was investigated by the Shin Bet. The investigation did not bring up any suspicious information, and he was allowed to enter the country.

Furthermore, The Shin Bet investigation could not confirm a claim by the French intelligence that Merah was arrested in Israel with a knife.

Merah stayed in Israel for a total of three days, during which it is unknown whether he was involved in any terror-related activity.

Security sources told Haaretz that Merah visited Israel before his stay in Afghanistan or Pakistan, thus there was no information that could indicate whether or not he constituted a security threat.

The revelation comes a day after a French judge placed Merah’s brother under formal investigation. Abdelkader Merah is set tobe moved to a prison and remain there for the duration of an inquiry into suspected complicity in a spate of fatal shootings.

A legal source told Reuters that four anti-terrorist judges would lead an inquiry into gunman Mohamed Merah’s killing of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers, and investigate his elder brother for complicity.

“He has been placed under formal investigation in line with the prosecutor’s requirements,” the source said.

Mohamed Merah was shot dead by a police sniper on Thursday as he scrambled out of his apartment window, firing a pistol, after special force commandos stormed his home in the southern city of Toulouse to break a more than 30-hour siege.

He earlier told police negotiators he had carried out the three shootings in Toulouse and the surrounding area to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and protest against the French army’s role in Afghanistan. He said he regretted there were not more victims.

Since his death, the focus of the investigation has switched to Abdelkader, 29, who was already known to security services for helping smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007. He is suspected of playing a role in providing logistical support to his brother.

Abdelkader had been in detention since dawn on Wednesday as police in Toulouse and then Paris questioned him. Being placed under formal investigation is the next legal step after being held in custody and means that a criminal trial is likely.

 

Israel confirms questioning Toulouse terrorist in 2010

Defense sources confirm Mohammed Merah stopped in Israel en route to Afghanistan in September 2010, aroused suspicion of border officers but eventually allowed to enter country.

Sources in the Defense establishment confirmed on Monday that Toulouse terrorist Mohammed Merah had visited Israel.

According to examinations conducted recently, Merah, who murdered a rabbi and three children in a Jewish school last week, stopped in Israel en route to Afghanistan in September 2010.

Defense sources confirmed that the terrorist entered Israel from Jordan via the Allenby crossing. He was questioned after arousing the suspicion of border officers but was eventually allowed to enter Israel after it was determined he wasn’t involved in terrorist activity.

Merah entered Israel as a tourist with a French passport. The sources had no knowledge of reports that he had been caught with a knife in Jerusalem, as claimed by a French minister last week. Merah left Israel after three days and returned to Jordan.   Meanwhile, French newspaper Le Parisien revealed additional details from the terrorist’s exchange with French police during the siege on his house. He told the officers that a day prior to the raid, he had noticed three suspicious cars parked outside his building. He also claimed he was being followed.

It was also reported that a day after the school shooting, where he shot to death four people, he drove to his hometown and played soccer.

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Eostremonath

Eostremonath Starts 24/3/12

 

Ostara-Eostre Full-Moon on 8/4/12

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