Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bombs Away

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer
December 12, 2012

Bombs Away
Arlo Guthrie tried to fake an unbalanced mind for the draft induction medics. He kept telling them, "I want to keel, I want to keel." It didn't work because he was simply not credible. No credibility, no deterrence. Israel has learned the lesson. If you do not kill from time to time, you lose your deterrence credibility.  Credible deterrence is just what Israel would like to have. Somehow, the lesson that military success often ends in political reversal is usually lost on Bibi & Co. The answer to this small difficulty is of course more force.    
Israel wants to bomb. The strategic differences of opinion between Obama and Bibi regarding the next step against Iran are well known. The Israelis would like to see Obama leading the charge but if the US insists on leading from behind, Israel wants US backing for it to start bombing Iran. Israel will bomb and Obama will hold the umbrella.
Israel has requested US backing and Jordanian fly- over rights in order to start bombing Syria. Israel was willing to bomb Syria before the chemical WMD issue hit the headlines. Now it really wants to bomb Syria.
Israel never bothered to deny credible reports that it had bombed a munitions factory last month in Kartoum, Sudan. It barely made the news, but the "intelligence sources" were on the alert and verified the item.
A few weeks back, Obama broke down and let Bibi bomb the Gaza strip (the most densely populated region in the world) night and day for more than a week. The Israelis are beginning to understand that Obama cannot say no, all the time to his trusted ally.
Israel is dying to bomb the Hezbollah rocket facilities in Lebanon. Just like the IDF did in Gaza last month. But there is a problem.  These rockets seem to be hidden in different locations in the country where the population is mixed Shi'ite, Druze, Christian and Sunni Muslim. Targeting in such circumstances is a bit complicated. You wouldn't care too much about collateral damage if the non-Hezbollah candidates for death and destruction were not pro-Israeli Christians or other buddies in the anti-Assad crowd. Israeli policy makers have surmounted this difficulty by clearly declaring that they will bomb the hell out of Beirut if hostilities break out. In Israel we talk all the time about deterrence. But the threat that Israel might bomb Beirut might appear to Hezbollah more encouragement than deterrence.   
Now if you want to do some bombing, you need bombs. No problem, as they say in these parts of the world.
The Pentagon has approved a deal to supply 6,900 precision bomb kits to replenish Israel’s weapons stockpiles,
diminished by the recent war against Hamas in Gaza. The contract is valued at $647 million.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop
and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The deal is expected to sail
This is a Sanctuary?
I hope, at a later date, to examine the problems for the Jewish people presented by having Israel and its Jewish allies in the forefront of international reaction. Here, I am concerned about the meaning of the present trends in Israeli policy in regards to the Zionist thesis that the Jews wherever they are need a homeland to serve basically as a sanctuary.  The concept in Hebrew is rather colorful. The homeland is going to be a shelter for trying times or, more literally, for stormy days. The thesis is simplicity itself. Outside of Israel, in the wide world, the Jews are prone to attack and discrimination. The wrong geography and you are in trouble.  The right geography and you are home safe. It has been suggested along the years that getting hold of the right geography might in itself be a rather dangerous proposition. The answer to that objection was that skirmishing with the Arabs was preferable to ending up in the Nazi death camps. But things change and not always for the better. Israel, cast in the role as the deputy-manager of US interests in the region is fulfilling its mission with a passion. It is not a stooge but an ambitious junior partner. While Washington shows some sort of aversion for too many flag draped boxes flying in from abroad, Israelis are, at least temporarily, willing to take enormous risks for their senior ally.

The US as long as it hopes to continue to dominate the region must have rapid response fighting units at its disposal in the Middle East to contain the enemies.  Things are much simpler when the preparedness units are already in the area. Volatility is the new normal in the area and Israel's value has indeed appreciated.  Israel seems to be very good at this sort of thing – for example, the Israeli forces appear to have bombed Sudan last month without too much exposure.    
But working for the Yankee dollar in the region is a hazardous affair.  The Israeli role expands from that of most valued employee to that of genuine junior partner, with Israel utilizing the increasing influence of the pro-Israeli camp in the US.  That camp hopes to force Obama to follow Netanyahu's recommendations. Israel has taken on itself a dangerous mission – to prevent any of the major forces in the region from spinning out of US control. And by virtue of the circumstances, there is more and more work involved in maintaining "stability" in the region. Israel believes it can fulfill this role easily because of its clear technological military superiority, including its regional nuclear monopoly.  This may be true for the minute, but this is no way to run a sanctuary.
Installing a Surrogate Mubarak Is Not So Easy
Just when we had started to reconcile ourselves to what appeared to be a new and a long period of absolute hegemony of political Islam, Egypt and Tunisia erupted once more.  It appears that even with a new, uncompromised political formation, such as the Brotherhood in power the masses are full of distrust. The US is willing to do almost anything to stabilize things for fear of anarchy or worse, a new regime that would  issue a new set of demands as the price for cooperation with the US. The clashes in Egypt, at the least, open possibilities for serious change. The US wanted to buy Egypt cheap. It is not working. The price has gone up. If political Islam tries to dominate all the picture, it may lose all or most of its political capital. The chances for a progressive- nationalist alternative have appeared.  Nasserism is not dead.

Preparing the Region for War

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer
November 26, 2012
Preparing the Region for War Against Iran       
The Israeli attack on Gaza is yet another round in the ongoing efforts by Israel to squash any expression of active Palestinian resistance to the occupation. The siege of Gaza is of course, along with the settlement drive, part of the permanent structures in place to prevent the accumulation of any means that might help the Palestinians to enhance their resistance.
The latest Israeli operation exhibits all the permanent characteristics of typical forms of Israeli repression, but must be seen and analyzed on an additional level. Israel attacked Gaza, this time, mainly in pursuit of its duties as the regional deputy of the US in their common preparations for war against Iran.     
Indeed, enough evidence has accumulated to confirm that  Israel, with full US backing, attacked Gaza and the Hamas leadership after it became clear that Hamas refused to break off its main links with the Iranian bloc. The attack was punishment for that refusal.   
Following the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi to power, there were rumors that Hamas was well on the way to transfer its allegiance away from the Iranian bloc and to the US regional alignment.  The US hoped that Hamas would act in accord with its historical and traditional links to the Moslem Brotherhood, which had recently become the ruling power in Egypt. Well, things  are not that simple. The US and Morsi, backed by Qatari money, were indeed involved in encouraging Hamas to chose a path similar to that traversed by Abbas and Fatah in the WestBank. Their efforts proved futile.
" Iran and its regional rivals, the Sunni Muslim-led states in the Gulf, have been competing in recent months to lure Hamas into their respective camps. The top Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, is being hosted by the Gulf state of Qatar, which has promised hundreds of millions of dollars for Gaza." (Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2012)
The US and the Gulf sheikhs wanted very much to wean Hamas away from its Teheran connections.  Theoretically, the sheikhs could have included weaponry in the dowry for Hamas. But this was not feasible because Hamas refused to cooperate with the US, unlike its West Bank counterpart.  Haniah is not Abbas and Hamas is not Fatah. If Hamas wanted to move into the US sphere of influence, it would have to declare at the door that it had forsworn armed military resistance to the Israeli occupation.  And it was not willing to pay that kind of price.
Sources of weapon supply are usually considered a matter for discretion. But two key Hamas leaders have seen fit to relate precisely and openly to the issue of arms and the preservation of Hamas' links to Iran. It is essential to quote them at length since their statements are essential for understanding the specific nature of this round of the war. The Walrus was calling: Oh dear Hamas - Leave the Iranian monsters and come over to the side of democracy.
The WSJ continues:"CAIRO – Gaza's ruling Hamas won't stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group stated.
The comments by Mousa Abu Marzouk in an interview just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbor on a new border deal… an Israeli security official said this week that Israel would likely link a significant easing of the blockade to Hamas's willingness to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and producing them there.
Mr. Abu Marzouk said Saturday that the group wouldn't disarm, arguing that recent Palestinian history has shown that negotiations with Israel lead nowhere unless backed by force.
"There is no way to relinquish weapons," Mr. Abu Marzouk said in his office on the outskirts of Cairo. "These weapons protected us and there is no way to stop obtaining and manufacturing them…
Hamas used to be evasive about Iranian weapons support, but in recent days senior officials in the group have openly thanked Tehran.
Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar told reporters on Saturday that he is confident that Iran will increase military and financial support to Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad.
Mr. Zahar said Saturday that Hamas isn't beholden to anyone, but defended the group's ties with Iran. "If they don't like it, let them compete with Iran in giving us weapons and money," he said in an apparent jab at the Gulf states." (From the same article in the Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2012)
Follow the Guns (Rockets)
Haaretz (November 25, 2012) quotes the Sunday Times to the effect that Israel spy satellites have spotted an Iranian ship loaded with missiles that analysts say may be headed to Gaza. It is a poorly kept secret that Israel bombed a Sudanese arms factory last month
The next round in the fighting is shaping up. Israel and the US went to war to warn Gaza to stay out of ME politics, to threaten Hamas with the danger involved in taking arms from the Iranians and, meanwhile, to smash a significant section of long range missiles at the disposal of Hamas.
Tom Friedman in Search of Democracy
In case anyone still failed to understand the name of the game, Thomas Friedman chimed in with an outline of the proposal. It is to be understood that the attack on Gaza was a wonderful opportunity for Mohammed Morsi to chose between the pleasures of the Camp David peace and US aid and economic development or support for Hamas's radical pro-Iranian stand. Morsi had a great success in Gaza and was well on his way to becoming the hero of our time when he saw fit to announce to his people that he was really the state or that the state was really him. Friedman had advised Morsi that he could achieve eternal fame and glory if he would only team up with Mohammad Abbas. Morsi it seems has other problems.     
This last bloody chapter in the war against the Palestinians pitted a ultra-sophisticated war machine against the spirit of a people who demand freedom.  Someone said it seems like another case of David against Goliath.   

Leading from Behind

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer
Thursday 22, November, 2012
 Leading from Behind
The Israeli Government: We are going to Finish with Hamas
There are many signs, such as the text of the cease fire agreement, which suggest that Israel suffered a crushing defeat in its effort to break Hamas. The government spread illusions among the people that this time it was going to deal Hamas a final "death blow." This is what the masses, especially those in the south under rocket fire, believed was going to happen. It is hard to know what people are thinking regarding the promises by Netanyahu and Barak that they were going to bring Hamas to their knees. Instead of surrender, it is clear that Hamas survived a critical political-military test. It personified, in its own way, the Palestinian demand for freedom and independence. Hamas was not brought to its knees and the masses of Gazans celebrating after the cease fire bears witness to this. Israel's bragging and boasting were exposed in their full  spiteful ugliness.    
Israel's failure to smash Hamas can serve to encourage renewed efforts to advance the cause of Palestinian unity.  This unity is as vital as ever in order to overcome the US-Israeli determination to destroy the hopes and the dreams of the Palestinians for the full realization of their rights.

Obama – Leading from Behind
When hesitation regarding a ground offensive was gathering force in Israeli public opinion here two-three days ago, the world heard from the White House that : Obama has not asked Israel to hold off on ground invasion of Gaza and believes that Israel has [the] right to make its own security decisions. (Reuters)
It is too early to sum up all the events connected with the Israeli offensive and the ensuing diplomatic activity. A lot of the facts and information are still hidden. Even so, some initial conclusions seem warranted.
This whole crisis burst out and sharpened with the United States seemingly out of the picture. This was the US technique of leading from behind. But it was absolutely clear here by virtue of Obama's total enthusiastic backing that the US was behind the Israeli aggression and leading it from behind.   
In Spite of Everything - Obama Loves Bibi
Obama led the international choir chanting the gibberish about Israel's right to defend itself. Israel had exploited one of those almost daily border skirmishes going on along the border with Gaza to launch a full scale retaliation, which was in fact, an attempt to eliminate the Palestinian issue from the international arena. Let us be clear that whoever gives total blanket approval to the Israeli attack bears responsibility for the aggression which in terms of scope and proportion has nothing in common with legitimate defense.
The diplomatic remoteness of the US during the first week of the Israeli operation is merely an indicator that it had appointed Israel as its proactive deputy in the region, including a carte blanche to advance US interests in the region through armed operations. This policy answers the US need to have sizable military ground forces of its or those of a faithful ally at its disposal. The shortage of its own appropriate ground forces is a well-known Achilles heel of the US giant.  Israel, on the other hand, has demonstrated a capacity to mobilize tens of thousands of ground troops in a matter of days. The romance between Barack and Bibi intensifies precisely when many liberals were waiting for the US president to punish Bibi for his attempt to stab a knife into Obama's back during the recent elections. Interests overcome sentiments.
The Demotion of Muhammad Morsi
The complete US identification with the Israeli operation on the Egyptian doorstep was a severe challenge for the Egyptian president.  It was a clear demonstration that the US had empowered Israel to be the sole interpreter and exponent of US interests in the region.  This was a slap in the face for Egypt and a challenge to Morsi's standing.  Morsi failed to meet the challenge. It is definitely not the role of Egypt as the chief force in the Arab world to become a mediator in the conflict between the Palestinians, under occupation, and Israel.  Egypt is supposed to formulate the position and the demands of the Arab world and to fight for those demands, one way or another. At any rate, it is the first duty of the president of Egypt to express to the best of his ability solidarity with the Palestinian people. The job of "objective mediator" for Morsi is demeaning and a self imposed demotion for him and for Egypt. He received his task as mediator through the good offices of the United States and the Israeli establishment has been showering him with compliments ever since he took the job.
And so: Obama and Netanyahu have this new romance. The Israeli population in the south of the country is trying to figure out how it was conned into believing that Bibi, Barak and Lieberman were going to bring them years of peace and quiet. Hamas wrote an impressive chapter in Palestinian resistance. The Palestinian issue does not want to go away and will survive current Egyptian faint heartedness.
This morning news is that the Israeli army and police have arrested 55 Palestinian leaders and activists in the West Bank for fomenting resistance to the Israeli aggression in Gaza. This, it seems is supposed to alleviate the severe frustration of the Israeli leadership.