February 18, 2013
Number 02/13 #04
Following the North Korean nuclear bomb test earlier this week, and the failure of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting with Iran, this Update discusses the potential implications for the ongoing problems of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities.
First up is an editorial on the subject from the Jerusalem Post, which notes that at the very least, the North Korean test was a morale-booster for Teheran. The paper notes that North Korea has gotten away with defying international law and international pressure, and has shown that you can shrug off sanctions if you do not care at all about the suffering of your population – as Teheran’s mullahs apparently also do not. It also points out that Pyongyang and Teheran cooperate chummily and the North Koreans have also demonstrated how to spin out and exploit a diplomatic process to gain nuclear weapons, despite outside opposition. For the Post’s plea not to repeat the same mistake with Iran, CLICK HERE. Also on this issue, Lee Smith argues that close Iranian-North Korean cooperation may mean that Iran already effectively has access to nuclear capabilities. Meanwhile, Massimo Calabresi of Time magazine explains why policymakers view Iran’s nuclear program as more threatening and less amenable to “containment” as compared to North Korea’s.
Next, historian and Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren explores the relationship between Iran and terrorist violence around the world. Going beyond the recent findings attributing Iran’s ultimate responsibility for the Burgas bombing in Bulgaria last year, he details how Hezbollah has been responsible for attacks in at least 25 cities across 5 continents, and the Lebanese group is far from Teheran’s only terrorist proxy. He raises the question of how the possession of nuclear weapons would complete the “horrific picture” or widespread murder which has been Teheran’s policy (issues also raised by the Jerusalem Post, above.) For his argument in full, CLICK HERE.
Finally, writing in the New York Times, human rights activist David Keyes takes aim at the way undemocratic practices by the Palestinian Authority seem to be glossed over and ignored. He uses as an example the recent case of a blogger named Anas Awwad who was just sentenced in absentia by a court in Nablus, the West Bank, to one year in prison for a Facebook post supposedly insulting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He then lists numerous earlier similar cases. Keyes argues that building a Palestinian government which respects human rights and is democratic is actually the key to an ultimate two-state peace. For the rest of what Keyes has to say, CLICK HERE. More comment on the Awwad case comes from former US official and analyst Elliot Abrams.
Readers may also be interested in:
- American foreign policy pundit Walter Russell Mead offers more on the geopolitics of the upgrade to Iran’s enrichment capability canvassed in the Update of Feb. 7.
- Iran expert Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar offers a fascinating account of the current severe tensions in Iranian politics, including the impeachment of the Labor Minister, and why President Ahmadinejad is being viewed internally as a threat to clerical regime.
- Reports that Iran is moving documents out of Damascus and plans to set up a militia in Syria in the event that the Assad regime falls – both signs Teheran may giving up on the Syrian regime. Plus, a good discussion of the curent state of the Syrian civil war from Jonathan Spyer.
- Iran has a fake jet fighter that cannot fly, according to experts. No problem, however, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.
- A long article describing a visit to the planned West Bank Palestinian town of Rawabi, and the many complex issues and questions which surround it.
- Good analysis of the outcomes of the Jordanian election at the end of January from Israeli academics Israeli television analyst Alon ben David (who is due to visit Australia shortly) discusses Israeli concerns about Jordan’s stability.
- Veteran Australian Jewish leader Isi Leibler discusses what we now know about the much-discussed case of Prisoner X – identified by ABC TV‘s “Foreign Correspondent” as Israeli-Australian Ben Zygier – who died in an Israeli prison in 2010, and the possible implications of this sad story. While it is not possible to canvass here the vast amount being written about this story, also worth reading is the Israeli government’s official statement on the case, the Jerusalem Post editorial on the subject, plus some comments to help in understanding the background and motivations related to this issue from journalist Shmuel Rosner and Simon Plosker of “Honest Reporting“. Plus, here is an Israeli media report on the Israel Knesset panel that will look into the case.
- Both NGO Monitor and American law professor and blogger David Bernstein note that one group that comes out of this whole tragic episode looking particularly irresponsible and unwilling to let facts get in the way of a chance to denounce Israel is Human Rights Watch.
Jerusalem Post,02/14/2013 03:35
The latest North Korean nuke test undoubtedly constituted a major morale-booster for Iran. It could not imagine a more uplifting object lesson.
The parallels between Tehran and Pyongyang are obvious – two rogue states that covet nuclear weaponry, defy the rest of the world, are fired by extremist and expansionist ideologies, conduct spurious negotiations and appear inured to international sanctions.
North Korea has been subjected to sanctions longer than any other country. Yet the citizenry’s near-starvation is hardly the highest priority for Pyongyang’s tyrants.
Tehran’s ayatollahs aren’t more caring. Neither regime is likely to back down out of compassion for its suffering masses.
Moreover, the two collude chummily. North Korea has assisted Iran’s nuclear program and Iranian scientists were invited to witness the Korean tests. Pyongyang’s pattern of suckering the West is clearly not lost on Tehran.
Iranian uranium upgrading had proceeded steadily along while its diplomats bought time in pseudo-negotiations.
Nevertheless, another round of futile talks is due to begin in Kazakhstan. US President Barack Obama has decried the third North Korean nuclear test as “provocative,” while he insists on pursuing a diplomatic solution with Pyongyang’s matching twin – Iran.
It is as if the North Korean and the Iranian sagas were played out in separate, unconnected bubbles. It is as if the world’s democracies deliberately don blinders. This is foolish. The Iranian plotline is closely modeled on the North Korean precedent, where America’s failure was especially phenomenal.
Pyongyang had hoodwinked Washington, and Iran learned that it is possible to get away with the most outrageous deceit. Indeed, it learns that nuclear bombs can be used for extortion, that a nuclear power becomes invulnerable to pressure and that it can impudently use its arsenal to demand the removal of sanctions. Rather than deter Iran, the North Korean example emboldens it.
America assumed it had won North Korean cooperation for a disarmament process after the first North Korean test in 2006. By 2008, though, it became clear that the Yongbyon nuclear facility was again abuzz with activity. After further haggling, another disarmament deal was struck in October 2008. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were to be allowed to conduct forensic tests of nuclear materials. North Korea was removed from America’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list.
But on May 25, 2009, North Korea carried out another nuclear test, thereby thumbing its nose at the US. This was followed up by long-range missile tests. The latest bomb tested can reportedly be fitted into a missile’s warhead.
Now, as in 2009, the singular consolation for Washington was that both Russia and China condemned the Pyongyang insolence. But what of it? These two effectively breach the sanctions against North Korea. Their attitude to the sanctions imposed on Tehran is almost an exact replica.
So much for making progress on the diplomatic track and avoiding confrontation at all cost. Rogue regimes regard Western lenience as weakness, and the weak are humiliated. But it is not just a question of honor. The safety of humanity as a whole has been severely compromised by irresolution that can only be likened to pre- World War II appeasement.
North Korean nuclear technology is for sale and the identity of the highest bidder does not matter. The nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed in Syria was a notable North Korean export. Additionally, North Korean ballistic missiles are in the unreliable hands of Iran, Egypt and teeter-tottering Syria, to name just a few.
It is hardly impossible that a variety of nuclear devices could find their way to terrorist outfits such as Hezbollah or al-Qaida – either directly of via fronts. No nation, anywhere, would be immune from the consequences. North Korea had broadcast a video in which the flattening of New York City by nukes is simulated.
Pyongyang had no qualms about reneging on its obligations almost as soon as seeming accommodation was reached. Iran is equally adept at making mockery of Western envoys. Nonetheless, Obama apparently trusts that suave diplomats can cool the Iranians’ ardor to harness nukes in the service of fanatical Islam.
The Korean genie can no longer be pushed back into the bottle, but the Iranian genie has not yet fully sprung out.
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Bombings in capital cities, kidnappings, trade in drugs and guns—Iranian exports, all. Now Tehran wants nukes.
By MICHAEL OREN
A bomb explodes in Burgas, Bulgaria, leaving five Israeli tourists and a local driver dead. Mysteriously marked ammunition kills countless Africans in civil wars. Conspirators plot to blow up a crowded cafe and an embassy in Washington, D.C. A popular prime minister is assassinated, and a despised dictator stays in power by massacring his people by the tens of thousands.
Apart from their ruthlessness, these events might appear unrelated. And yet the dots are inextricably linked. The connection is Iran.
In 25 cities across five continents, community centers, consulates, army barracks and houses of worship have been targeted for destruction. Thousands have been killed. The perpetrators are agents of Hezbollah and the Quds Force, sometimes operating separately and occasionally in unison. All take their orders from Tehran.
Hezbollah’s relationship with Tehran is “a partnership arrangement with Iran as the senior partner,” says America’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper. The Lebanon-based terror group provides the foot soldiers necessary for realizing Iran’s vision of a global Islamic empire. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says his organization was founded to forge “a greater Islamic republic governed by the Master of Time [the Mahdi] and his rightful deputy, the jurisprudent Imam of Iran.”
With funding, training and weapons from Iran, Hezbollah terrorists have killed European peacekeepers, foreign diplomats and thousands of Lebanese, among them Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. They have hijacked American, French and Kuwaiti airliners and kidnapped and executed officials from several countries. They are collaborating in Bashar Assad’s slaughter of opposition forces in Syria today.
Second only to al Qaeda, Hezbollah has murdered more Americans—at least 266—than any other terrorist group. The United States designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1997, though the European Union has yet to do so.
Above all, Hezbollah strives to kill Jews. It has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians and tried to assassinate Israeli diplomats in at least six countries. Its early 1990s bombing of a Jewish community center and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina killed 115.
The attack in Burgas occurred last July, and this month the Bulgarian government completed a thorough inquiry into who was behind it: Hezbollah. “The finding is clear and unequivocal,” said John Kerry in one of his first pronouncements as U.S. secretary of state. “We strongly urge other governments around the world—and particularly our partners in Europe—to take immediate action and to crack down on Hezbollah.”
Then there is the Quds Force, the elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which takes orders directly from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The U.S. has repeatedly accused the Quds Force of helping insurgents kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of supplying weapons to terrorists in Yemen, Sudan and Syria. In 2007, Quds Force operatives tried to blow up two Israeli jetliners in Kenya and kill Israel’s ambassador in Nairobi.
Hezbollah and the Quds Force also traffic in drugs, ammunition and even cigarettes. Such illicit activities might seem disparate but they, too, are connected to terror and to Tehran.
In 2011, the New York Times reported that Hezbollah was working with South American drug lords to smuggle narcotics into Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The terror group laundered its hundreds of millions of dollars in profits through used-car dealerships in America.
Also in 2011, the FBI exposed a plot in which senior Quds Force operatives conspired with members of Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington by bombing the restaurant where he dined. The Israeli Embassy in Washington was also targeted. The middleman between the terrorists and the drug dealers was an Iranian-American used-car salesman.
And still the dots proliferate. U.S. authorities have implicated Hezbollah in the sale of contraband cigarettes in North Carolina, and Iran has manufactured and sold millions of rounds of ammunition to warring armies in Africa. So while skirting Western sanctions, Iran funds terror world-wide.
But Iran’s rulers are counting on the West’s inability to see the larger pattern. Certainly the European Union would take a crucial step forward by designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but terror is only one pixel.
Tehran is enriching uranium and rushing to achieve military nuclear capabilities. If it succeeds, the ayatollahs’ vision of an Islamic empire could crystallize.
Iran and its proxies have already dotted the world with murderous acts. They need only nuclear weapons to complete the horrific picture.
Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
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By DAVID KEYES
New York Times, February 12, 2013
LAST week, a 26-year-old Palestinian activist, Anas Awwad, was sentenced in absentia by a court in Nablus, the West Bank, to one year in prison for “extending his tongue” against the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Facebook. Thousands have joined a Facebook group to show their solidarity with Mr. Awwad, but the damage has been done. Free speech has been set back, and a chill sent throughout Palestinian society.
It should come as no surprise that the Palestinian Authority is cracking down on basic freedoms. From the top down, a culture of repression reigns supreme. President Abbas’s term ended four years ago. He has clung to power as an unelected autocrat for nearly half a decade. In November, a senior adviser to Mr. Abbas, Mohammad Shtayyeh, told me that Mr. Abbas had no desire to continue ruling, but that he simply could not leave because of the divisions in Palestinian society. Suppressing criticism by resorting to a 50-year-old Jordanian law — designed to punish critics of Jordan’s monarchy when it ruled over the West Bank — has not helped burnish the questionable democratic credentials Mr. Abbas so often claims when meeting Western leaders.
This is not the first time the Palestinian Authority has used antiquated laws to clamp down on Internet activists. Last year, the Palestinian blogger Jamal Abu Rihan was arrested for starting a Facebook campaign called “The People Want an End to Corruption.” Like Mr. Awwad, Mr. Rihan’s crime was “extending his tongue” against the Palestinian leadership. In April, the university lecturer Ismat Abdul-Khaleq was arrested for criticizing Mr. Abbas on Facebook. Days later, a journalist, Tarek Khamis, was detained for criticizing the Palestinian Authority’s treatment of Ms. Abdul-Khaleq. George Canawati, the director of a Bethlehem radio station, and the journalist Rami Samar were similarly detained for posting criticisms of the Palestinian Authority on Facebook.
So long as Mr. Abbas says he is committed to peace, there appears to be little pressure from the West on issues of human rights. Human rights for Palestinians, it seems, continue to play second fiddle to the peace process.
A good indicator of how committed a government is to upholding peace with its neighbors is its commitment to protecting the human rights of its own citizens. Nations that disregard the freedoms of their own people are not likely to care much about maintaining peace with their historic enemies. Palestinian human rights, in other words, are key to the peace process.
In Gaza, where Hamas shuts down social media conferences, represses women, tortures dissidents and arrests journalists, there is scant hope for constructive steps toward regional peace. With the latest crackdown on free speech, the Palestinian Authority seems to be moving in a worryingly similar direction when it comes to human rights.
Last August, in a speech encouraging jihad against enemies who set foot on Muslim land, the deputy speaker of the Hamas parliament, Ahmad Bahr, called on God to kill all Jews and Americans as well as their supporters. “Count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one” he said.
Rather than repudiating such genocidal rhetoric, when an Al Jazeera interviewer asked Mr. Abbas last year if there were political and ideological differences between his party, Fatah, and Hamas, he replied, “In all honesty, there are no disagreements between us.”
But there should be enormous — indeed unbridgeable — gaps between any potential peace partner and a terrorist organization that acts tyrannically and calls for the annihilation of a people.
The sentencing of Mr. Awwad reminds us that despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Palestinian Authority has little respect for democracy and freedom of speech. Rather than continuing to give Mr. Abbas a free pass, the West should roundly criticize crackdowns on dissidents and stand firmly with Palestinian democrats. A positive first step would be linking Western economic aid to the Palestinian Authority’s respect for free speech. Human rights, too often seen as a diversion from the peace process, are in fact the secret to it.