Sunday, August 17, 2014

British PM: Our generational struggle against a poisonous ideology

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron warns of terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean if Islamic State succeeds

The Prime Minister says the world cannot turn a blind eye to the creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq

9:29PM BST 16 Aug 2014
     The West is embroiled in a generational struggle against a poisonous brand of Islamic extremism that will bring terror to the streets of Britain unless urgent action is taken to defeat it, David Cameron warns today.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister says the world cannot turn a blind eye to the creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq.

Warning that Islamic State fighters already control thousands of square miles of territory, Mr Cameron says that if these “warped and barbaric” extremists are not dealt with now, they will create a “terrorist state” on the shores of the Mediterranean.

He warns that Britain will have to use its “military prowess” to help defeat “this exceptionally dangerous” movement, or else terrorists with “murderous intent” will target people in Britain.

The Prime Minister says he fears the struggle will last “the rest of my political lifetime”.

“The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home. Nor is it a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago. It is our concern here and now,” he says.

“Because if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. We already know that it has the murderous intent.”

In his article, Mr Cameron says Britain and the West need a firm security response to the crisis in Iraq and that fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) cannot simply be removed by air strikes alone.

An Isil fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq (Reuters)

He says this must involve military action to go after the terrorists themselves, but also stresses that the Government must take uncompromising action against extremists in Britain trying to recruit fighters for jihad abroad. The Prime Minister discloses that the Government has already taken down 28,000 pieces of terrorist related material from the web, including 46 Isil videos.

He says he has also discussed the issue with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and pledges that anyone caught trying to recruit people in Britain – or anyone flying the black flag of Islamic State, as happened in east London earlier this month – will be arrested.

“The position is clear. If people are walking around with Isil flags or trying to recruit people to their terrorist cause they will be arrested and their materials will be seized,” he says.

“We are a tolerant people, but no tolerance should allow the room for this sort of poisonous extremism in our country.”

Last night, the Bishop of Leeds released a letter he had sent to Mr Cameron describing British policy on Islamic extremism as not “coherent or comprehensive”.

The Right Rev Nicholas Baines, who claimed to have the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he remained “very concerned about the government’s response to several issues” and poses questions to the Prime Minster about his policy towards Iraq and Syria. In the letter, published on his blog, the bishop writes of his “serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach” towards groups such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria and other extremist groups.

A Lambeth Palace source told The Sunday Telegraph that while the Archbishop of Canterbury “supports the bishop posing these questions,” he also acknowledged the “major difficulties” faced by the Government in tackling extremism and called on people to pray for the government.

In his article, the Prime Minister lays bare his alarm at how the crisis in Iraq threatens European security, Mr Cameron says the first Isil-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe have already taken place.

“We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime,” he says. “We face in Isil a new threat that is single-minded, determined and unflinching in pursuit of its objectives.

“Already it controls not just thousands of minds, but thousands of square miles of territory, sweeping aside much of the boundary between Iraq and Syria to carve out its so-called caliphate. It makes no secret of its expansionist aims.

“Even today it has the ancient city of Aleppo firmly within its sights. And it boasts of its designs on Jordan and Lebanon, and right up to the Turkish border. If it succeeded we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member.”

Mr Cameron made his comments as the Ministry of Defence disclosed that Britain had deployed a spy plane as part of humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The MoD confirmed that the intelligence-gathering Rivet Joint aircraft had carried out several flights over areas in the north of country which have been targeted by advancing Islamist extremists.

It emerged last week that Britain was considering joining France and several eastern European countries and arming Kurdish forces in Iraq to help them fight Islamic State militants. In his article, Mr Cameron discloses that he is considering sending body armour and specialist counter-explosive equipment to the Kurds.

Britain will also appoint a British representative to the region who will be based in the country and be able to have daily face-to-face contact with the people there, the Prime Minister says.

He adds that Britain will also use next month’s Nato summit in Wales and press for more action in the United Nations to “help rally support across the international community” for the Kurdish people, who have been fighting the Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq. The move to supply arms directly will inevitably be seen as a further risk that Britain will be drawn more into the conflict.

But Mr Cameron rules out deploying troops to Iraq, making clear that the crisis is not “a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago”. However, while he says this is not the “War on Terror” or a religious war, it is a struggle for “decency” and ‘tolerance” and Britain’s future prosperity.

“I agree that we should avoid sending armies to fight or occupy, but we need to recognise that the brighter future we long for requires a long term plan for our security as well as one for our economy,” he says.

“True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – in helping to achieve a more stable world. In today’s world, so immediately interconnected as it is, we cannot turn a blind eye and assume that there will not be a cost for us if we do.”

Mr Cameron adds: “This is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. It is a daunting challenge.

“But it is not an invincible one, as long as we are now ready and able to summon up the political will to defend our own values and way of life with the same determination, courage and tenacity as we have faced danger before in our history. That is how much is at stake here: we have no choice but to rise to the challenge.”

Mr Cameron also discloses that Britain is looking at leading talks with Iran to control the destabilising threat of Islamic State fighters in the region. He says Britain has to “work with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey and perhaps even with Iran” against this “shared threat”. “I want Britain to play a leading role in this diplomatic effort,” he says.
Yazidi refugees fill bottles at the Newroz camp in the Hasaka province, Syria (AFP)

The crisis in Iraq was highlighted by reports on Saturday that up to 80 Yazidis were killed by Islamic State fighters in the biggest massacre of the Iraqi minority in the jihadists’ brutal campaign.

Kurdish and Yazidi sources reported that dozens of people in the village of Kocho, located about 15 miles from Sinjar city, had been summarily executed by jihadists after they refused to “convert to Islam”.

Hoshyar Zebari, a senior Iraqi official who said he had spoken to witnesses from the scene, said that the jihadists had “committed a massacre”.

In his article, Mr Cameron admits that he is sympathetic with people who are wary about Britain becoming more involved in the country.

He says: “After a deep and damaging recession, and our involvement in long and difficult conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hardly surprising that so many people say to me when seeing the tragedies unfolding on their television screens, ‘Yes, let’s help with aid, but let’s not get any more involved.’

“I agree that we should avoid sending armies to fight or occupy. But we need to recognise that the brighter future we long for requires a long-term plan for our security as well as for our economy. True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world.

“Today, when every nation is so immediately interconnected, we cannot turn a blind eye and assume that there will not be a cost for us if we do.”

A fresh consignment of British aid was flown to Iraqis fleeing the advance of the extremists amid reports of another massacre of religious minorities late last week.

The US said its drones had destroyed two armoured vehicles reported by Kurdish leaders as being used by Islamic State forces to attack civilians near Sinjar.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution designed to choke off the terrorists’ funding and recruitment. It also imposed sanctions including a travel ban and an asset freeze on six prominent extremists and warned that action could be taken against anyone held responsible for aiding the cause.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s UN ambassador, said the resolution represented a “comprehensive rejection” of Islamic State.

But he said it was only a first step and urged the international community to be “resolved, active and creative in considering what further measures should be taken to tackle this terrorist scourge”.

Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative MP who was visiting northern Iraq late last week, said that Islamic State fighters had been caught carrying a season ticket for Liverpool Football Club and a gym card from Ealing.

He said that local forces estimated that between “500 and 750 fighters have joined the Islamic caliphate from the United Kingdom”.

Rory Stewart MP, the Tory chairman of the defence select committee who was also in Iraq, said Islamic State was now a “significant threat”.

He added: “We have been complacent. This has been developing a long time. In some ways these people have been in Mosul for two and a half years and we worked up to it about two and a half months ago.

“We ignored them when they were developing in eastern Syria, we ignored them when they took Fallujah in January.

“This is a huge and growing problem and some of those people are very, very clear in every interview they give that they want to come back and do jihad elsewhere.”

And yet he has criticized Israel for fighting Hamas which has the same ideology! How inconsistent can you be?  

Monday, August 11, 2014

News of the Middle East flow chart

Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures

War zones are not easy places to collect statistics.
In the Gaza conflict, most news organisations have been quoting from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which leads a group of humanitarian organisations known as the Protection Cluster.
Its recent report said that as of 6 August, 1,843 Palestinians had been killed and 66 Israelis and one Thai national since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July.
Of those Palestinians, the status of 279 could not be identified, at least 1,354 were civilians, including 415 children and 214 women, the UN body reported.
So there were 216 members of armed groups killed, and another 725 men who were civilians. Among civilians, more than three times as many men were killed as women, while three times as many civilian men were killed as fighters.
The UN report carries a caveat with its figures: "Data on fatalities and destruction of property is consolidated by the Protection and Shelter clusters based on preliminary information, and is subject to change based on further verifications."
There has been some research suggesting that men in general are more likely to die in conflict than women, although no typical ratio is given.

Nonetheless, if the Israeli attacks have been "indiscriminate", as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women.

Matthias Behnk, from OHCHR, told BBC News that the organisation would not want to speculate about why there had been so many adult male casualties, adding that because they were having to deal with a lot of casualties in a short time, they had "focused primarily on recording the casualties".
"As such, we have not at this stage conducted a detailed analysis of trends of civilian casualties, for example in relation to the reasons why different groups are affected and the types of incidents, but hope to carry this out at some point in the coming future," he said.
"However, even in the compiling of these preliminary figures, we cross-verify between different sources, not only media and several different human rights organisations, but also use other sources, including, for example, names of alleged fighters released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and notices by armed groups in Gaza claiming someone as a member."
A number of other news organisations have been considering the civilian-to-fighter ratio.
An analysis by the New York Times looked at the names of 1,431 casualties and found that "the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll. They are 9% of Gaza's 1.7 million residents, but 34% of those killed whose ages were provided."
"At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71% of the population and 33% of the known-age casualties."

The list of names and ages of the dead published by al-Jazeera also found men aged between 20 and 29 to be significantly overrepresented.
The IDF say they have killed at least 253 Hamas operatives, 147 Islamic Jihad operatives, 65 "operatives of various organisations" and 603 "operatives whose affiliation is unknown", although they also stress that this is not a final number.
Spokesman Capt Eytan Buchman told BBC News that "the UN numbers being reported are, by and by large, based on the Gaza health ministry, a Hamas-run organisation".
He said that part of the reason for the discrepancy between the figures was "when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations".
"Hamas also has given local residents directives to obscure militant identities," he said.
"It's important to bear in mind that in Operation Cast Lead [the last Israeli ground offensive in December 2008-January 2009], Hamas and Gaza-based organisations claimed that only 50 combatants were killed, admitting years later the number was between 600-700, a figure nearly identical to the figure claimed by the IDF."
In conclusion, we do not yet know for sure how many of the dead in Gaza are civilians and how many were fighters. This is in no sense the fault of the UN employees collecting the figures - their statistics are accompanied by caveats and described as preliminary and subject to revision.
But it does mean that some of the conclusions being drawn from them may be premature.

Please note that on the Timeline of attacks graph  Gaza targets hit by Israel seem to be roughly in proportion to Rockets fired from Gaza

Friday, August 8, 2014

Norman Podhoretz on Iran

From the article  

The new war in Iraq spurred you to write an article defending the Bush administration's original invasion and critical of President Barack Obama's subsequent policies. Now that the Sunni terrorist organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is taking over the western part of the country, Obama is sending U.S. troops there. What is your position on this current strategy?

"We have no good option in Iraq at the moment, but the greater immediate danger is that Obama will use this as another excuse for letting Iran off the hook in the negotiations over its acquisition of nuclear weapons."

You have advocated bombing Iran. Not believing that the Obama administration is going to it, you have said that it will have to be up to Israel. But can Israel go it alone?

"Yes. According to assessments of people I trust, Israel has the capability to inflict a lot of damage in one day. The real question is what happens on Day 2. The Obama administration would undoubtedly be furious at Israel for undertaking it unilaterally. But I think it would be enormously popular in the United States.

"In 1981, When Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq, the Reagan administration condemned it; even [U.S. Ambassador to the UN] Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who was a passionate friend of Israel's, had to vote against it. Yet popular opinion was more than 80 percent in favor. Americans were saying, 'Why don't we have the guts to do something like that?'

"I think you would get a similar reaction from the American public if Israel bombed Iran; in which case, whether he liked it or not, President Obama would have very little choice but to resupply Israel."

Even as a lame duck president? Would he really have to take public opinion into account?

"He wouldn't have to, but it's very hard to resist that kind of pressure."

You have always said that Israel needs the U.S. and therefore cannot afford to dismiss its wishes. How, then, can you support Israel's thumbing its nose at its most important ally?

"Israel does need America, and the strategic necessity of keeping it friendly is an overriding consideration in almost every situation -- except this one. Iranian nuclear weapons would put Israel in immediate mortal peril. Under such extreme circumstances, and left to its own devices by the West, Israel wouldn't have much choice but to take military action.

"You know, everyone has been saying that one of the worst things that will happen if Iran gets the bomb is that there will be a nuclear arms race across the Middle East. My view is that we would be lucky to have enough time for an arms race. If Iran gets the bomb, Israel will be in a hair-trigger situation of a kind that has never existed since the invention of nuclear weapons. In the event that Iran gets the bomb, Israelis will ask themselves: ‎‎'Do we sit and wait to be attacked and then retaliate out of the rubble, or do we pre-empt?' The Iranians will be asking themselves the same question. So, one is going to beat the other to the punch."

This sounds like Mutual Assured Destruction, as existed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Why is this situation any different?

"The difference is that the Soviet regime was evil, but it was not suicidal; it was very prudent. Whereas, from everything we can tell, the mullocracy in Iran doesn't care about the prospect of destruction. We know that the Ayatollah Khomeini had said he didn't give a damn about Iran; what he cared about was the Muslim umma. Even [Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who is considered a moderate in the West, once said that if Iran has a nuclear exchange with Israel, Israel would be completely destroyed, but the Muslim world would survive. He did not refer to Iran.

"According to their religious ideology, patriotism is a form of idolatry. And [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei gives every indication of believing the same thing.

"During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians sent hundreds of thousands of children into mine fields with plastic keys -- the keys to paradise -- around their necks. There was nothing similar in Soviet mentality or behavior. The only thing that comes close was the Japanese Kamikaze pilots in World War II. But even that was considered a desperate measure taken by the Japanese when they were losing. In any case, they had a totally different world view from that of the Iranians."

Nevertheless, the P5+1 countries are engaging in negotiations with Iran, while pressuring Israel to make a deal with Palestinians, many of whom are backed by Iran. How do you explain that?

"They do not believe that Iran is suicidal, and that a deal can be reached with it. And though I hate to resort to what the philosopher, Leo Strauss, called argumentum ad Hitlerum, the situation now is very similar to 1938-39 in Europe, when the British and the French were unable to admit to themselves that Hitler was a dangerous foe.

"'We can do business with Herr Hitler,' was the slogan. And it's because they weren't prepared to do what was necessary to resist him, they had to persuade themselves that it wasn't necessary. In that case, they sacrificed the Czechs for the sake of the deal they were making with Germany. Today, there are many people who are willing to sacrifice the Israelis for the sake of a deal with Iran.

"They certainly don't see it that way; they persuade themselves that by putting pressure on Israel, they're doing Israel a favor. I remember a famous article written in 1977 by the former undersecretary of state, George Ball: 'How to Save Israel in Spite of Herself.'

"That insane mentality of 'knowing Israel's interests better than the Israelis do' still exists in the State Department and in the foreign ministries of other Western countries. But many of them are, in fact, simply hostile to Israel."

Is this, as the Israeli Left likes to claim, the fault of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whom they accuse of causing the isolation of Israel in the international community?

"That's absurd. The same attitudes towards Israel existed when Netanyahu was still a furniture salesman, which is what he was when I first met him. It has nothing to do with him. It is true that he and Obama do not like one another. But it's childish to think that personal relationships are a serious factor in the actions of nations.
"Former U.S. president George W. Bush, who had a different world view from that of Obama -- and who had a great personal relationship with the late prime minister Ariel Sharon -- did not bomb Iran either.

"I can apologize for him to this extent: Everyone in his administration except [Vice President] Dick Cheney was against it. Henry Kissinger once told me that these were the most insubordinate State Department and Pentagon in American history.

"Though there was a moment at which Bush might have been able to pull it off, the CIA sabotaged it by releasing an intelligence report assessing Iran wasn't working on the bomb. Some of us knew at that point that this was nonsense. But the fact is that it made it impossible for Bush to be able to claim that there was imminent danger.

"Before the CIA report came out, I had a 45-minute meeting with Bush, during which I tried to persuade him to bomb Iran. He listened very solemnly, interrupting once or twice to ask a question.

"One question he asked was, 'Why are the Jews all against me?' A few years later, I wrote a book ['Why Are Jews Liberals?' 2010] trying to answer that question.

"But I had an article in galleys at that point in which I predicted he was going to bomb Iran. I had a chance to take that passage out or rewrite it, but I decided to let it stay, because I felt pretty sure when I left him that he was going to do it. And I think he wanted to. He then justified his inaction to himself by saying, 'Well, John McCain is going to be the next president, and he'll be able to get away with it better than I.' But, of course, Obama became the next president."

Obama has said that though he will exhaust every other avenue, he will not let Iran get the bomb, even if he has to take military action. Why is this any different from what Bush said?

"Look, at a certain point in the early 2000s, every country without exception said that Iran must not be allowed to get the bomb. There was also a universal consensus that force should be used, if necessary, not only because of nuclear proliferation, but because Iran is a rogue regime that might not only use nuclear weapons, but could give them to their proxies like Hezbollah. This was the consensus even before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, and his presidency only reinforced the idea that the regime was crazy. Every intelligence agency in the world -- without exception -- said that Iran was building nuclear weapons. There was no debate about it. The only debate was weather it could be stopped short of military action, with carrots and sticks, diplomacy and sanctions.

"That's when multi-party negotiations started.

"But as time went on, and it became clearer and clearer to people involved in the process that they were not going to succeed with negotiations, they were faced with the question of what to do now: Do we let Iran have the bomb, or do we take military action?

"It was then that the foreign policy establishment in the U.S. and other countries began to say, 'Well, we're probably exaggerating; the Iranians are not really crazy.' And this meant that, due to Mutually Assured Destruction, we could probably live with an Iranian bomb.

"The election of Hassan Rouhani, touted by the West as a moderate, was confirmation of this idea in their minds, which justified an escape from military action against Iran, and then to go on pretending that an Iranian bomb can be prevented through an agreement.

"In any case, the only reason that Obama wants an agreement is so that he can take credit for preventing Iran from getting the bomb, knowing all the while, deep-down, that no agreement they might reach would prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

"As for pressure on Israel: The view of one administration after another has been that Israel needs to be forced to make peace, as though it were up to Israel to do so. Only Bush put the ball in the Palestinians' court.

"But the idea that this conflict is the key to stability in the Middle East is ridiculous. Most conflicts in the region since 1948, when Israel was established, have had nothing to do with Israel; nor did the Arab Spring uprisings have anything to do with Israel. Yet many people still believe -- or profess to -- that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary for stability.

"Putting pressure on Israel is what the diplomats believe is a way of achieving d├ętente with Iran. Though Iran doesn't give a damn about a Palestinian state, it does care about wiping Israel off the map, so putting Israel in a situation of maximum danger suits its purposes very well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kerry, Netanyahu call ‘cut off,’ is not renewed

A call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry was disconnected on Sunday, and the two haven’t spoken since, according to various media reports, giving rise to media speculation on the strained state of diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Washington.
 “Their phone call was cut off,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a briefing Tuesday, citing a “communications issue.”

Asked by one reporter if Netanyahu had hung up on Kerry in anger, she responded: “Sometimes calls get cut off. You — it was a brief call, is what I’m trying to convey. There was nothing… There was nothing that interesting about it, no. That was not the case. That was not the case.”
Kerry probably again asked Netanyahu to meet Hamas half way