Thursday, 28 February 2008

Another Israel-Hezbollah war?

Another Israel-Hezbollah war?
Michael Young

Another round of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah is certainly likely, but I don’t consider it inevitable, particularly in the short term. There are several reasons for this.

The first is that we have to understand the importance of Hezbollah in Iranian strategy at present. The party is not there to get caught up in repeated conflicts with Israel , let alone a new Lebanese civil war. It is mainly there to act as an Iranian deterrent against an Israeli attack on Iran ’s nuclear facilities, and more generally as a valuable lever in the Levant to use against Israel and the United States . In that context, war poses risks. With every conflict, the party loses some of its deterrence capability; at the same time, a conflict may impose unbearable human costs on the Shiite community, in such a way that Hezbollah’s ability to fight is further eroded. (Indeed, we are already in that situation today.) And, any new war will have deeply negative repercussions on Hezbollah’s domestic position, as a majority of Lebanese and Lebanese political forces reject the idea of again entering into a devastating war with Israel .

Add to that the time factor. Hezbollah is probably not yet ready to fight a war with Israel today, despite what Hassan Nasrallah has said in public recently. Shiites are deeply anxious about a new conflict a mere two years after the summer 2006 war; Hezbollah’s defensive infrastructure north of the Litani River appears to be incomplete; and the party cannot guarantee geographical continuity between south Lebanon and the southern and northern Bekaa Valley, though this is not essential for it to fight. These are all reasons why Hezbollah has to be careful in how it retaliates for the assassination of Imad Mughniyah. Provoking a major Israeli offensive is almost certainly not something Nasrallah wants to do today.

As for Nasrallah’s claim that the next war will involve an Israeli ground offensive, that’s not necessarily true. Israel has the potential to once again primarily employ air power to wreak the destruction it did in 2006—but also in 1993 and 1996—provoking a massive exodus of Shiite civilians and bombing infrastructure targets. This gruesome policy would create a humanitarian catastrophe that would mainly affect Hezbollah, and the party would find it difficult to respond in such a way that it could impose a balance of terror on Israel . Meanwhile, Lebanese anger with the party would have only heightened, further undercutting its support in society.

What about Israel ? There may be a rationale for striking against Hezbollah before it’s too late. However, the Israeli priority today appears to be less Lebanon than Iran and its nuclear capacity. Lebanon is a sideshow—an important one, but a sideshow nonetheless. Paradoxically, Hezbollah’s reluctance to launch a war might encourage Israel to avert a conflict too. Why? Because both sides would calculate in terms of costs and benefits. Israel knows that it would be very difficult to score a knockout blow against Hezbollah in Lebanon . It does not want to risk getting caught up in a wider regional war via Lebanon . And a new Lebanon war would only make it more difficult to strike against Iran .

Given such uncertainty, each side is more likely to focus on its fundamental aims: Israel , on neutralizing Iran ’s nuclear capacity; Hezbollah on partly deterring an Israeli attack against Iran . That means both may well try to avoid an unmanageable escalation in Lebanon .

Still, the most likely cause of war remains miscalculation. Here the risks are higher. Too devastating a Hezbollah response to the Mughniyah killing might provoke a fierce response from Israel . Conversely, another assassination of a Hezbollah official could prompt Hezbollah to react in increasingly less calculating ways, making a clash more probable. Even an Israeli offensive against Gaza may force Hezbollah to take steps in southern Lebanon to back its brethren in Hamas, and this may widen the conflict with Israel .

Then again, Hezbollah would have to calculate whether this might lead to a repeat of 2006, which also followed a Hamas raid in Gaza , the net result of which was to Hezbollah’s considerable disadvantage—all claims to a “divine victory” notwithstanding.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Do you believe Bush does not see that??? I don't

Our World: Iran’s game of grand strategy
The Jerusalem Post
Caroline Glick

Sunday thousands of IDF and police forces began streaming to the border with Gaza . In a massive show of force, they successfully deterred Gazans from participating in Hamas’s first attempt to assault the border with Israel on Monday morning.

Israel’s successful response to Hamas’s provocation stemmed from the IDF’s understanding of the doctrinal source of Hamas’s call for tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians to approach the border together.

Just before Israel ’s precipitous withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbullah launched a similar attack on a South Lebanese Army base at Taibe. Back then, Hizbullah organized a crowd of thousands which marched on the base and threatened to overrun it. Not wishing to kill civilians, SLA forces abandoned their post. The move precipitated the collapse of the SLA’s lines throughout South Lebanon .

All of Hamas’s moves today - from its mortar and missile campaign against Israel, to its use of mass protests, to its weapons buildup, to its political and military humiliation and hamstringing of Fatah, to its tactical doctrines - have Hizbullah written all over them. And when you say Hizbullah - you say Iran .

Any lingering doubts about Hizbullah’s intimate connection to the regime in Teheran were dispelled in the aftermath of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination in Damascus this month. The same Hizbullah leaders who for years had denied any connection to Mughniyeh and even denied that he existed - suddenly bemoaned the death of their operational commander. The same Iran which denied any connection to Mughniyeh, sent its foreign minister to his funeral in Beirut . The near identical vitriol calling for Israel ’s annihilation and likening the Jewish people to pestilence flowing from the mouths of Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah exposes the simple, self-evident truth that a thousand denials sought to hide: Hizbullah is an Iranian organization.

IN THE WEST, public discussion of Iran is compartmentalized. Most discussion of Iran is focused on its nuclear weapons program. And Iran ’s nuclear weapons program is presented as separate from its other strategic policies in the region. This compartmentalization of the West’s treatment of Iran is the result of the US ’s misdiagnosis of Iraq ’s weapons of mass destruction programs ahead of the 2003 invasion of that country. And while it is understandable, it is also self-defeating and dangerous because the danger posed by Iran ’s nuclear weapons program, and the obvious intentions of Iran ’s nuclear efforts can only be fully understood when seen in the context of the war that Iran is waging against the US , Israel and the West through its regional policies.

The linkage between Iran ’s nuclear program and its other strategic policies in the Middle East was made clear in July 2006. Then, as the G-8 met in Russia and was poised to develop a joint policy for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Iran ordered Hizbullah to attack Israel , kidnap soldiers and so precipitate war.

That is, as the world powers were scope-locked on Iran ’s nuclear weapons program, to divert international attention away from that program at a critical juncture, Iran ordered its proxy to go to war with Israel . Rather than understand the ploy, by and large the international media, and with it, the international policy community completely ignored the connection between Iran ’s regional policies and its nuclear program. Consequently, in the discussions leading up to the war’s inconclusive conclusion, no attention was paid to how the war’s outcome would affect either Iran ’s willingness to set aside its nuclear program or the developments in other Iranian sponsored battlefields in Iraq , the Palestinian Authority, and Afghanistan . The Israel-Hizbullah war’s impact on Iran ’s escalating domination of Syria was similarly not taken into consideration at the time or since.

IN AN attempt to break through the post-Iraq invasion compartmentalization of Western discourse on Iran , the American Enterprise Institute published a 68-page report last week that sets out Iran ’s actions in Syria , Lebanon , the Palestinian Authority, Iraq and Afghanistan . Authored by Frederick Kagan, Kimberly Kagan and Danielle Pletka, the report, “Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq and Afghanistan,” shows in copiously documented detail how Iran is strengthening its regional posture at the West’s expense not only through military actions but also through economic, cultural and infrastructure projects that build bilateral and multilateral relationships with states and terror groups based on dependency on Teheran.

In November 2006, Syria ’s parliamentary speaker Mahmoud al Abrash said, “ Damascus considers consultation and cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran as a major rule and principle of its foreign policy.” The report’s authors explain that since Syrian President Bashar Assad replaced his father as the country’s leader in 1999, Iran has worked steadily to transform its relationship with Syria from a strategic partnership between two equals to a master-vassal relationship.

Assad has allowed the Syrian economy to become dependent on Iranian investment. Iranian cultural domination of Syria is similarly rising as Iran builds cultural, religious and educational institutions throughout the country. At the same time, Iran has essentially asserted control over the Syrian military and Assad has allowed Iran ’s Revolutionary Guards not only to operate throughout the country, but to open training bases outside Damascus . As the authors’ conclude, “Th[e] growing economic interdependence (with Iran at the center of the dependency network) and the increase in military aid from Iran to Syria risk reducing Damascus to a vassal state that is so tied economically and militarily to its more powerful patron that disobedience may become unthinkable.”

SOME ANALYSES of Hizbullah’s position in Lebanon in the aftermath of the 2006 war with Israel argue that its decision to go to war weakened its popularity in Lebanon . The destruction caused to Lebanese infrastructure by IDF operations made many Lebanese who had previously supported Hizbullah turn against the organization they believed sacrificed Lebanon ’s well-being to advance Iran ’s interests.

While Hizbullah may have suffered some political setbacks as a result of the war, its determined fighting then and Iran ’s open support for its rearmament since have successfully intimidated its foes in Lebanon . Hizbullah today, acting openly as Iran ’s agent, has paralyzed Lebanon ’s political system by blocking the election of a president for three months.

Iran’s sponsorship of Palestinian terror groups is longstanding. Islamic Jihad was established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 1988. Hamas leaders have been trained in IRGC camps in Iran since the early 1990s. After Israel temporarily deported 415 Hamas leaders to Lebanon in 1992, the operational connection between Hizbullah , Iran and Hamas deepened. And of course, IRGC officers received their first terror training at PLO camps in Lebanon in the early 1970s as they prepared the Khomeinist revolution.

AHEAD OF the January 2006 Palestinian elections, Hamas together with Hizbullah and Iran decided to transform Hamas into a Hizbullah-like political and military force in Palestinian society. As the AEI report notes, since Hamas’s electoral victory, it has received some $400 million from Iran . Thousands of Hamas fighters have undergone advanced military training in Iran and IRGC and Hizbullah trainers are also active in Gaza . The report’s authors explain that Iran ’s economic assistance to Hamas is not simply aimed at enabling military operations against Israel . Rather, “as in Lebanon , Iran appears to be insinuating itself into the social and economic fabric of the Palestinian areas, making itself an indispensable ally.”

IN IRAQ, both through Hizbullah proxies and through its own IRGC command structure, Iran has set out not only to sponsor both the Sunni and Shi’ite insurgency, it has also worked to destabilize the Iraqi government while engendering Iraqi dependence on Iranian economic ties and fragmenting Iraqi society.

The report documents that not only is Iran financing, training and arming the Shi’ite militias, it is also sponsoring elements of al-Qaida in Iraq and the Sunni Ansar al Islam group. In al-Qaida dominated areas in Baghdad for instance, 15-20 percent of improvised explosive devices were made in Iran . The report concludes, “There can be no question that Iran is actively supporting multiple insurgent and terror groups in Iraq, that its efforts began even before the American invasion, that Iranian elements have included the provision of direct support in the form of weapons and advisers, and that they have been involved in the growth of a solid relationship between Lebanese Hizbullah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias.”

AS THE report notes, Iran ’s multilevel policies aimed at promoting dependence on Teheran play out in Afghanistan as well. In 2007 alone, Iran made low-cost but vital infrastructure investments in Western Afghanistan that worked to economically tie the region to Iran and cut it off from Kabul . It destabilized the Karzai government by forcibly removing more than 100,000 Afghan migrant workers from Iran in a three month period and so fomented the resignation of two Afghan cabinet ministers. It gave sufficient military support to the Taliban at critical junctures to sow Western demoralization and military instability. And it topped off its efforts with information operations aimed at alienating the Afghan people from the West and engendering sympathy with Iran .

What the report shows is that Iran engages in a concerted, multilevel policy of containing, deterring and defeating America , Israel , the West and moderate Muslims throughout the region. At the same time, by refusing to acknowledge the comprehensive and well-considered nature of Iran’s strategic policies, the US, Israel and the West bar themselves from constructing a similarly well thought out, comprehensive strategy for containing, deterring and defeating Iran. And as deterrence theory shows, when both sides of a struggle are not equally aware of what is happening, the chances of full-blown war rise.

ISRAEL WAS right to mass its forces along the border with Gaza on Monday. But that was just one small battle in a long war. As one Iran analyst in Washington recently noted, “ Iran is playing chess and we’re playing backgammon. We have to understand the game they’re playing.”

The AEI report provides the factual basis for understanding the game. It is the responsibility of policymakers and political leaders to use that understanding to construct a comprehensive policy towards Iran before it is too late.

Is USA really against iran???? lol

America's misguided blacklist
By David Waddington, Peter Archer and Robin Corbett
International Herald Tribune

If there is one issue that has dominated discussions among policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic , it is the devilish question of how to deal with an Iranian regime that has continued to frustrate the democratic ambitions of its people while meddling in the affairs of other nations. As British policymakers, we have had our share of entanglements with the Iranian government, from the naval incident last year in which our sailors were detained, to the ongoing issues surrounding Iran 's nuclear program. When it comes to Iran , we are in the same boat as the Americans.

What we find perplexing in light of our shared problem is why the U.S. government fails to take advantage of groups that seek to be helpful to the West with intelligence, information and support for Iranian pro-democracy movements. How can the United States assert that it is being tough on Iran while Washington designates Tehran 's most despised enemy as a terrorist organization?

Unfortunately, this is the case with the Iranian anti-government group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Decades ago, well before the fall of the shah, this group was set up to secure a secular democracy for Iran . In its early years, the MEK developed a reputation for being outspoken in its opposition to what it viewed as American support for the shah. But its consistent demands for a secular and democratic Iran put it at odds with subsequent Iranian governments - and, in a strange twist of fate, with Washington , which rejected the group's ideas, tactics and goal of replacing the Iranian government.

In 1997, the Clinton administration placed the MEK on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations in order to accommodate the newly elected president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, who it hoped would be a moderating influence. This hope did not pan out. But the MEK has remained on the list - to the cost of U.S. interests in the region.

After a very careful review, we are convinced that the MEK has been unjustifiably considered a terrorist organization and that its continued placement on the list is completely without merit and counterproductive.

Over the past five years, the group has contributed enormously to the gathering of vital information from inside Iran , particularly regarding Iran 's clandestine nuclear program. It has been an invaluable intelligence source for the United States and Europe on both nuclear and terrorist threats posed by the Iranian regime. It's tireless efforts in support of replacing Iran 's theocratic regime with a secular democracy have improved the chances for real change inside Iran .

On Nov. 30, 2007, a British court ordered the group to be removed from the British government's list of terrorist organizations. Along with 32 other members of Parliament from all three major parties, we appealed to the British authorities for it to be taken off the terrorist blacklist. Although the Home Office had fought to keep the MEK on the list, an extensive review by a three-judge court empowered to decide cases involving the de-listing of designated terrorist groups issued this important verdict. The court declared that the failure of the British government to lift the terrorist designation was "perverse" because the group "no longer satisfies any of the criteria necessary for the maintenance of their proscription" as a terrorist organization.

We believe that the court's decision is both fair and binding. Credible records demonstrate that the organization has not engaged in any violent activity since 2001. In 2003, it formally renounced terrorism and voluntarily disarmed. Extensive interviews and investigations of its members in Iraq at Camp Ashraf by U.S. security agencies confirm that the group poses no threat to U.S. security.

All of us are concerned about terrorism and legitimate threats to our national security and to the security of citizens everywhere. We will continue to work with the U.S. government on counter-terrorism. But we cannot support the labeling of a group like MEK as a foreign terrorist organization, especially given that the justification for doing so no longer exists. By legitimizing this pro-democracy movement, we strengthen the democratic forces inside Iran .

It is easy in the post-Sept. 11th world to label anybody a terrorist. But this kind of counterterrorism strategy only damages the credibility of freedom-loving countries like the United States and Britain .

Lord Waddington is a Conservative member of the House of Lords and former home secretary of the United Kingdom . Lord Archer is a Labour member of the House of Lords and a former solicitor general of the United Kingdom . Lord Corbett is a Labour member of the House of Lords and is chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.

America recognised it; islam does not

Kosovo and Muslim solidarity
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti - Maria Appakova)

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Maria Appakova) - More and more countries are getting ready to recognize Kosovo's independence, but many are hesitant, including some Arab and Muslim countries despite Washington's appeals to display solidarity with Kosovo Muslims.

During a briefing on Kosovo after its declaration of independence, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns welcomed the recognition of this step by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and hence, by the governments of its member countries. He said: "And we think it is a very positive step that this Muslim state, Muslim majority state, has been created today."

It's up to the Europeans to decide whether Burns is right or not, but the U.S. and European media have many apprehensions over the emergence of a Muslim enclave in the heart of Europe that is still predominantly Christian. European self-identification is one of the most sensitive issues. It is being raised over and over again - during debates on the European Constitution, the prospects of Turkey's admission into the European Union (EU), migration, or the protests after the publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. These debates are a European affair, but Washington is using the Islamic factor to pursue its own ends.

Today, the most urgent issue is whether Kosovo will create a precedent for other territories. This is why many Muslim and other countries do not rush to accept Kosovo's independence. The United States hoped for Islamic solidarity, but in vain.

Only three OIC members - Turkey, Afghanistan and Senegal - have recognized Kosovo's independence out of almost 60 members of the organization. Others have adopted a wait-and-see attitude because of the potential threat of a domestic split, or destabilization in neighboring countries.

Let's name some of the potentially dangerous zones - Iran with Kurdish and Azerbaijani enclaves; Morocco and the Western Sahara problem with the periodic Berber unrest; and Algeria with the same Berber problem. There are sizeable Shiite communities in the Persian Gulf monarchies. Shiites account for 75% of Bahrain's population; the relevant figure for Saudi Arabia is about 15%, Qatar 11%, and the United Arab Emirates 17%.

Relations between these communities and the government are quite complicated. The situation in Syria is also potentially explosive. The situation only appears stable, but if the central government shows weakness, inter-communal conflicts will instantly flare up. However, events in Lebanon and Iraq are much more dangerous than that.

For the time being, no politician in these conflict-prone zones has loudly expressed readiness to follow Kosovo's example. This is not because it would not be entirely correct to compare them with Kosovo from the legal and political points of view. Kosovo's independence is threatening primarily because a decision on it was made without a UN Security Council resolution. It is solely based on the support of the United States and some European countries. In other words, political circumstances have prevailed over international law. Hence, others may follow Kosovo's example. Success will depend on what Washington wants to achieve. This gives food for thought to those who may follow this example and those who are afraid of separatist attitudes in their own countries.

It is no accident that the Kurds did not follow this path in the first days after Kosovo declared independence, although many analysts and journalists, including those from America and Turkey, have been discussing the Kurdish problem in this context. They are asking why the Kurds are denied what the Kosovars have been given.

The Kurdish problem is very similar to the Kosovo case, but the political situation does not favor the Kurds. For the most part, they live in four countries - Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. No matter how much Washington would like to get at Damascus and Tehran, it will not undermine the interests of Ankara, its long-standing ally and partner. Moreover, the Americans do not even interfere with Turkey's military operations against the "Kurdish separatists." As for the Iraqi Kurds, they themselves need U.S. support that guarantees security and brings tangible political and economic benefits. This is why the Kurds are not rushing to follow Kosovo's scenario, and Ankara has boldly recognized Kosovo's independence.

Unlike the Kurds, the Palestinians were not silent. Yasser Abd Rabbo, an advisor to head of the Palestinian National Administration Mahmoud Abbas, declared that the Palestinians may follow Kosovo's example and declare unilateral independence if dialogue with Israel does not produce the desired effect. His statement was instantly refuted by other high-ranking Palestinian politicians, including Abbas himself who favors continuing the talks.

But once again, it does not matter whether the situation in Kosovo is similar to that in the Middle East, although Washington is doing all it can to prove that the Kosovo case is truly unique. Everything is much simpler. Currently, the United States stands for the continuation of Palestinian-Israeli talks and insists on an early declaration of Palestine's independence. Under different circumstances, the Palestinians will recall the Kosovo case, and will be backed by other Arab and Muslim politicians.

For the time being, most governments are pondering over what will cost them more - recognition of Kosovo's independence or neutrality.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Monday, 25 February 2008

taquyya law for obama

Obama in wagir east of Kenya end 2006 in a traditional kenyan islamic dress. After publishing his picture obama bin laden denied to be muslim. Taquyya law.

Belgrade bombed by clinton ending up in a free islamic kosovo blessed by bush

Please notice the cross burning after american bombardment of Belgrade; would we dare do that to a mosk?

Lest we forget


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Is Europe losing its mind?

Middle Israel: Is Europe losing its mind?
Amotz Asa-El

Faced with Martin Luther's heresy, Charles V is said to have quipped: "A single friar opposing a thousand years of Christianity must be wrong."

Now one wonders what that Holy Roman emperor, and the rebellious cleric he faced, would say of a Christian leader opposing not one, but two thousand years of Christianity, and not just opposing, but personally flinging open a major Christian country's door to Islamic law itself, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, effectively said the other week he would do if it were up to him.

On the face of it, that statement was but a thoughtless slip of the tongue by a man closer to God than to the ground. In fact, not only does the man behind it matter - he heads 80 million Anglican believers worldwide - his mindset is part of a broader European refusal to look history's challenges in the eye and storm them.

THAT THE archbishop's idea is bad, not to say mad, was agreed by just about everyone, from Christopher Hitchens to Gordon Brown. For heaven's sake, it takes no theologian, jurist, or English patriot to understand that allowing Shari'a a toehold in her majesty's realms would potentially launder such travesties of justice as honor killings, genital mutilation and forced marriage, and signal the beginning of English civilization's end.

Rowan Williams apparently assumes British Islamists will be grateful in the face of generosity, and in return seek greater harmony with the Christian majority. Sadly, experience elsewhere suggests that upon collecting this unexpected British reward, its recipients would proceed to fantasize about stoning ceremonies for adulterers at Wembley Stadium (which might as well begin with half the royal family).

Why, then, do people like Dr. Williams go out of their way to reconcile the irreconcilable? Because they really think that if they make believe a problem this big is in fact this small, it will actually shrink - first to smallness, then to extinction. Alas, the problem is indeed this big, and with attitudes like his will only grow bigger.

The same syndrome has now emerged in Kosovo.

WHETHER THAT Balkan province does or does not deserve statehood can be logically argued both ways. The problem is about consistency. If Brussels deprives Serbia of Kosovo - a non-nation that never was a state and doesn't have its own language or heritage - then it must give no less to Spain's Basques, Cyprus's Turks, France's Corsicans and Italy's Lombardians, not to mention Britain's Scots, whose contribution to mankind, from Thomas Carlyle and Adam Smith to David Livingstone and James Watt, was at least on a par with Kosovo's.

Obviously, then, it isn't conviction that makes Europe accept an independent Kosovo, but expediency. This, say delusional Europeans, is what will keep the neighborhood quiet, not because it is just, but because it creates the impression that the problem - in this case Balkan chauvinism - is small, it's merely about throwing a bone to this guy, or a flag, an anthem and a UN seat to that.

Of course Europe will pretend it is driven by principle. After all, a previous Serb government indeed engaged in unspeakable atrocities. Yet that government is long gone, voted out of power in a democratic election, so why punish the Serbs with a territorial amputation? According to this principle, Europe must back Chechnya's secession from Russia, for the Chechnyans were ethnically cleansed by Stalin, before being bombed into the Stone Age by Yeltsin. But who cares about principle, justice, clarity or even just consistency? We're talking Europe, the civilization that worships weakness so devoutly it took the American-led NATO to attack Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers.

It is this postmodern Europe that produces a BBC reporter who lumps together Rafik Hariri, who rebuilt Lebanon, and Imad Mughniyeh who destroyed it, as "war victims" who are both "regarded as great national heroes."

And it is this relativist zeitgeist that makes a European UN undersecretary-general fresh from Gaza lump together its bombardments of the Negev with Israel's retaliations as a "cycle of violence." Sure, why bother looking into who started, who fights for what or how? From where we Europeans are, it's all one messy hodgepodge anyhow.

Curiously enough, the very Brussels which is the wellspring of all this scorn for judgment, truth and morality, is now itself part of a rapidly disintegrating country. Needless to say that the logic that sets Kosovo loose must also, at some point, result in Belgium's Flanders and Wallonia also parting ways, and all this while the lowlands overflow with Islamist immigrants and neo-fascist natives. How ironic that all this is brewing just where thousands of so-called Euro-crats developed entire careers trying to show that any problem has at least two sides, that what to one seems black and white is to another white and black, that what to one seems just is to another unjust and vice versa, and that life is no longer divided into day and night, for Europe has placed history under the government of one continuous twilight.

No, it isn't history's conventional tensions between church and state, community and society or tribe and nation that threaten to tear Europe asunder; those Europe has met in the past and defeated. Rather, it is the encounter between Europe's anti-modernists - whether medieval theocrats or romantic nationalists - and the postmodernists who will do anything to avoid calling a spade a spade. To them, we offer a reminder from an ancient Asian who, while inspiring the very universalism and peace European postmodernists admire, never feared looking evil in the eye and giving it a piece of his mind.

His name was Isaiah and this is what he said:

Ah, those who call evil good
And good evil;
Who present darkness as light
And light as darkness;
Who present bitter as sweet
And sweet as bitter.

Ah, those who are so wise -
In their own opinion
So clever -
In their own judgment

Ah, those who are so doughty -
As drinkers of wine,
And so valiant -
As mixers of drink

Who vindicate him who is wrong
In return for a bribe
And withhold vindication
From him who is in the right.


The Obama Files

The Obama Files
by John Batchelor

What you need to measure about Barack Obama, a likely potent adversary for the presidency, is that while he is a politically junior and consciously liberal-voting member of the U.S. Senate, he is actually a veteran Chicago politician with a fertile record of surprising associations in controversial events well apart from his work in legislatures
Some few of these associations from his years in Chicago law work and urban development, and from his career in the Springfield, Illinois senate, speak to the quality of his judgment and to the strength of his character. Four associations in particular go the heart of the inquiry ahead in order to ask and answer the fundamental questions about who is Barack Obama.

The story focuses on four astute men who have little in common other than Mr. Obama: Messrs Rezko, Ayers, Khalidi and Auchi. Finding facts about Mr. Obama's exchanges with this quartet creates much of what can be called a political profile of candidate Obama.

Antoin "Tony" Rezko is the primary history to investigate for Mr. Obama's political profile. According to Mr. Obama, Mr. Rezko contacted the young law student when he was elected editor of the Harvard Law Review in 1990 and offered him employment in Chicago. Mr. Rezko, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen described by the Chicago press as a "fixer," is now in federal detention in Chicago and about to go on trial on March 3 for purloining up to $6 million from the people of Illinois with various kickback schemes while he was working for the present Democratic Governor, Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Rezko's involvement with the rapid rise of the political career of Mr. Obama long predates his work for the governor and remains largely unexamined. Mr. Obama joined a small Chicago law firm in 1993, Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, that was then headed by Allison S. Davis, a politically connected man who would go on to become a partner with Mr. Rezko in real estate deals in Chicago and, much later, a large donor to the current mayor, Richard Daley, and to Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama.
Through the connection of this law firm, Mr. Obama became a paid director of the progressive Woods Fund of Chicago, a sixty-seven-year-old philanthropy that later committed $1 million to a lucrative project developed by Mr. Davis in 2000 in partnership with Mr. Rezko. Meanwhile, Mr. Rezko advised and raised funds for Mr. Obama from his maiden entry into state politics in 1995-96, when he won a state senate seat from the 13th District, to his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S House of Representatives in 2000, to Mr. Obama's successful primary and general candidacy for the U.S. Senate in November 2004. Critically, Mr. Rezko became unusually entangled in the purchase of Mr. Obama's present home while Mr. Obama was a U.S. senator in June 2005.

Of his association with Mr. Rezko and the purchase of the Chicago home in the Hyde Park-Kenwood area, Senator Obama told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News "This Week" on January 27, 2008, "This is a story that has been out there for a year and has been thoroughly gnawed on by the press, both in Chicago and nationally. Tony Rezko was a friend of mine, a supporter, who I had known for 20 years. He was a contributor, not just to myself, but Democrats, as well as some Republicans throughout Illinois. Everybody perceived him as a businessman and a developer. He got into trouble that was completely unrelated to me, and nobody has suggested that I've been involved in any of those problems. I did make a mistake by purchasing a small strip of property from him, at a time where at that point he was under the cloud of a potential investigation. I've acknowledged that was a mistake. But again, nobody has suggested any wrongdoing, and I think at this point, it's important for people to recognize that I have actually provided all the information that's out there about it."

There is a deal to examine in this statement, offered coincidentally the day before Mr. Rezko's re-arrest and detention by order of U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, acting on a warrant by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, that argued successfully that Mr. Rezko was a flight risk to Middle Eastern countries that do not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

One detail needing scrutiny for its possible inaccuracy is that the "mistake" that Mr. Obama made was not "purchasing a small strip of property from him." An established fact is that Mr. Obama did not purchase any property from Mr. Rezko. Mr. Obama bought a ten-foot-wide piece of a yard adjoining his home from Rita Rezko, Mr. Rezko's wife; and Mrs. Rezko purchased that corner lot of the original estate in part with the help of a $500,000 loan against unclear collateral from a local bank administered by another Rezko political associate in the governor's circle.

William Ayers is the second Chicago figure to consider in the political profile of Mr. Obama. William C. Ayers, known as Bill Ayers, is notorious as a terrorist bomber from the 1970s who, on September 11, 2001, in the New York Times was quoted as finding "a certain eloquence in bombs." Now, at 62, Mr. Ayers, a former aide to the current Mayor Richard M. Daley, is an established professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Importantly, Mr. Ayers and his wife, the equally notorious Weatherman terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, hosted a crucial meet-the-candidate event in their Hyde Park neighborhood home in 1995 when Mr. Obama, also a Hyde Park resident, was sounded out by vital citizens, among them the retiring state senator Alice Palmer for the 13th District.

In 1999, Mr. Ayers joined the Woods Fund of Chicago as a director and served alongside Mr. Obama for modest remuneration until Mr. Obama left the board on December 11, 2002; Mr. Ayers was for a time the chairman of the board. Also of note is the fact that Bernardine Dohrn works for Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center, which received a grant from the Woods Fund in 2002.
Mr. Ayers, who has been described by one supporter as "friends" with Mr. Obama, openly speaks and writes of his role in the 1974 bombing of the U.S. Capitol Building where Mr. Obama now serves. Mr. Ayers is widely quoted from his reminiscence, which appeared in the New York Times on the infamous Tuesday, September 11, 2001: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." When asked in that same interview if he would set more bombs today, his response was, "I don't want to discount the possibility."

Rashid Khalidi is the third Chicago citizen to consider in the political profile of candidate Obama. Now the voluble Edward Saïd Professor of Arab Studies and head of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, Mr. Khalidi is said to have made Mr. Obama's acquaintance when they were colleagues at the University of Chicago, with Mr. Obama a lecturer at the law school and Mr. Khalidi a professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

In Chicago in 1995, Mr. Khalidi and his wife Mona founded the Arab American Action
Network (AAAN), a group associated with confrontational statements of support for Palestinians and antagonism toward Israel. In 2001 and again in 2002, the Woods Fund of Chicago, with directors Ayers and Obama, made grants of $40,000 and $35,000 to the AAAN. Importantly, the AAAN vice-president Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada has remembered Mr. Obama's speaking in 1999 against "Israeli occupation" at a charity event for a West Bank refugee camp; and Mr. Abunimah, an American citizen, Hyde Park resident and Princeton graduate, has also recalled Mr. and Mrs. Obama at a fundraiser held for the then-Congressional candidate Obama in 2000 at Rashid and Mona Khalidi's home, where Mr. Obama made convincing statements in support of the Palestinian cause.

There is also a report that Mr. Obama attended a farewell dinner for Professor Khalidi on the latter's appointment to Columbia University and move to New York, at which Mr. Obama socialized with the Khalidis as well as with Edward Saïd, and at which Mr. Obama left a polite testimonial, as did Mayor Daley and Governor Blagojevich.

It is necessary to consider, in light of Mr. Obama's politically rich relationship with Mr. Khalidi and his colleagues, that Palestinian sources in Ramallah confirm, for Aaron Klein of and my radio shows on WABC and KFI, that Rashid Khalidi was a paycheck-receiving PLO agent when it was formally named as a terrorist organization. In Beirut from 1976 to 1982, Mr. Khalidi headed the Palestinian press agency WAFA, for which his wife Mona Khalidi also worked. Mr. Khalidi also served Yasser Arafat's PLO at the Madrid conference in 1991. Mr. and Mrs. Khalidi have yet to comment on their reported political, financial and programmatic association with Mr. Obama in Chicago; as recently as last week neither of the Khalidis would speak on the telephone when asked about Mr. Obama, Mr. Rezko or Mr. Auchi.

The fourth name that contributes to the political profile of candidate Obama is Nadhmi Auchi of London, an Iraqi-born billionaire investor who founded his global enterprise General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH) in 1979 before he left Iraq.

Mr. Auchi apparently enters the political stage of Mr. Obama in 2003, when he was introduced to Mr. Rezko and became involved in developing a sixty-two-acre vacant lot along the Chicago River with his undercapitalized partner Mr. Rezko. Mr. Auchi is a prominent, mysterious figure, who was convicted in a French court in 2003 of political shenanigans in Iraqi oil contracts with regard French government officials and the oil giant TotalFinaElf. There are suspicions, never proven, of Mr. Auchi's commerce with Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, and even the Byzantine and corrupt UN sanctions regime for Iraq called “Oil for Food.”

In liberated Baghdad, Mr. Auchi is still regarded as a "Saddam guy" by Iraqi politicians. Nonetheless, Mr. Auchi has been linked with troubled communications systems contracts in Iraq; also, according to published Chicago Business reports, from 2004 to 2006 Mr. Auchi was linked with an aborted project by Mr. Rezko and another adventurous Chicago resident and former Illinois Institute of Technology classmate of Mr. Rezko's, Aihman Alsammarae, who in 2003 and 2004 was Iraq's Minister of Electricity, to build a power plant in Iraq. In April 2004, Mr. Auchi traveled to Illinois to meet with Mr. Rezko, Governor Blagojevich, State Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., and reportedly with then-State Senator Obama, who had just won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Prevented from returning to Chicago in November 2005 by the U.S. State Department, despite the written pleas of Mr. Rezko and others, Mr. Auchi has continued to make connections with Rezko affairs. The chief reason Mr. Rezko was rearrested on January 28, 2008, was because of allegedly hidden wire transfers in April and July 2007 of $3.7 million from Mr. Auchi's GMH via a Beirut bank to the accused and otherwise impoverished Mr. Rezko.

Considering the breadth and depth of the involvement of these four unusual men, Rezko, Ayers, Rashidi and Auchi, with the Chicago political journey and fortunes of Mr. Obama, it is reasonable to assume that more discovery will result in more anecdotes, comments, even electronic and paper records of the relationships. In April 2007, Mr. Obama, commenting about Mr. Rezko to the Chicago Sun-Times, anticipated many of the questions now being asked about his choice of political associations and his subsequent career decisions when he said, "One of the perils of public life is that you end up being responsible for, or you're being held responsible for, associations that you didn't necessarily know were a problem."

Finally, it is surprising to observe that the Democratic Party looks ready to nominate for the presidency a gifted Chicago politician, from the remnants of the old Richard Daley (father of the current mayor) machine, who asserts, against Mr. Obama's own established ideological and self-interested record, that he is "post-partisan."

There is a flickering presidential campaign analogy from the 1970s while you, Mr. McCain, were detained in Hanoi -- while Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were setting bombs, Mr. Rashidi was in the Mideast with the PLO, Mr. Auchi was in Baghdad with Saddam Hussein and Mr. Obama was eleven years old in Hawaii. In March and April 1972, Democratic primary voters elbowed aside Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's favorite, Ed Muskie of Maine, in order to nominate for the presidency the self-described "people's president," George McGovern of South Dakota. The Daley team telephoned Rowland Evans and Robert Novak to complain, "anybody but McGovern." The prescient quote from the Daley partisan: "I think the nomination of George McGovern would mean the end of the Democratic Party we have known."

Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern, forty-nine states to one. Will the four horsemen of Mr. Obama's November, Rezko, Ayers, Rashidi and Auchi, lead to a similar defeat for the spectacular candidacy of Barack Obama?

Mr. Batchelor is a veteran novelist, author of seven political romances and a short history of the Republican Party, and host of The John Batchelor Show, now on hiatus.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Saudi King or 'Custodian of the Two Mosques': men should wear hijab

Saudi men arrested for 'flirting'

Relations between the sexes outside marriage is against the law
Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have begun investigating 57 young men who were arrested on Thursday for flirting with girls at shopping centres in Mecca.
The men are accused of wearing indecent clothes, playing loud music and dancing in order to attract the attention of girls, the Saudi Gazette reported.

They were arrested following a request of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The mutaween enforce Saudi Arabia's conservative brand of Islam, Wahhabism.

Earlier in the month, the authorities enforced a ban on the sale of red roses and other symbols used in many countries to mark Valentine's Day.

The ban is partly because of the connection with a "pagan Christian holiday", and also because the festival itself is seen as encouraging relations between the sexes outside marriage, punishable by law in the kingdom.

The Prosecution and Investigation Commission said it had received reports of such "bad" behaviour by 57 young men at a number of shopping centres in the holy city of Mecca, the Saudi Gazette said.

The guardians of some of the men defended their actions, however, saying they would regularly get together at the weekend to have fun without ever violating laws governing the segregation of the sexes, it added.

It is important to notice that earlier this month, saudi authorities have banned the selling of red flowers for valentines day, a christian ritual which encourages love between men (superior in islam) and women (inferior in islam)according to the same saudi authorities.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Kosovo: Islamism's New Beachhead?

Kosovo: Islamism's New Beachhead?
By Julia Gorin

As Americans look quizzically at their TV sets while non-Muslim protestors in Europe torch a U.S. embassy, they should know that yesterday’s 200,000-person protest in Belgrade (whose members are separate from the fire starters) is the first time in two decades that Serbs are showing a glimmer of rational behavior--amid 20 years of the “free world” foisting terrorist neighbors upon them.

To put this in perspective, with advance apologies to any offended ethnic groups: How would Americans react if Latino gangs started ambushing police and killing government officials in California, and after a few years the U.S. sent in the troops because the gangs were outgunning the police force; following this, the gangsters started claiming atrocities—and so Russia and China bombed California and Washington in response to the “atrocities”; the foreign powers then occupied California for eight years while the gangs killed or expelled most of the non-Latinos in “revenge attacks,” then backed a declaration of independence for California as a Mexican-majority state that may just unify with Mexico?

The current state of affairs is a product of a concerted, single-minded, bipartisan American effort to turn Serbs into an enemy as the U.S. tries to make friends of its enemies in the region, always at Serbian expense. “Will Russia now become the leader of the Europeans who resist the Islamization of their continent?” Thomas Landen asks in the Brussels Journal. He notes that Moscow has called on the UN to annul independence, and a UN vote may be the only thing to save us from a new world war over this Balkan province, ignored by the media and public for eight years as insignificant, despite the Balkans’ history for setting off world wars.

“Indeed,” continues Landen, “what will Russia do if the 16,000 NATO ‘peacekeeping’ troops in Kosovo attack the Serbian army when it attempts to recover its breakaway province? If Russia intervenes, then 2008 might become the year that war broke out between Russia and NATO. America , the EU, Europe’s immigrant ‘youths,’ and Osama bin Laden would find themselves on one side, fighting Russia , China , and those Europeans who resist Islamization on the other."

Who could have envisioned such a sorry state of affairs on September 12, 2001? The answer is: anyone who noticed that our Balkan policies didn’t change following 9/11. We are now several years post-9/11, yet our government is creating Muslim states in Europe and is about to engage the United States military against European Orthodox Christians who don’t want to live under Muslim rule.

When did it become the free world’s business to spread Shari'a law, as is always the upshot of any Islamicizing region?

The remarks upon Kosovo’s independence by the U.S. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference might as well have come from a joint statement:

Secretary General of the OIC declares support to the Kosovo Independence :

…Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu made the following remark…"…a very important event took place yesterday. Kosovo has finally declared its independence after a long and determined struggle by its people. As we rejoice this happy result, we declare our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there. The Islamic Umma wishes them success...There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the joint Islamic action."

U.S. welcomes "Muslim state" in Kosovo:

“We think it is a very positive step that this state -- Muslim majority state -- has been created today,' [Undersecretary of State Nicholas] Burns said Monday... Creating a Muslim-majority state in a region that is the cradle of the Serbs' Orthodox Christian religion never was the driving force of US policy on Kosovo, [Council on Foreign Relations analyst Charles] Kupchan said in a telephone interview. “But it's a fringe benefit.”

Bosnia Grand Mufti: U.S. Policy In Region Serves Muslims' Interests:

In an interview with Islamonline on the sidelines at the “ U.S. and the Muslim World” conference in Qatar , Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mustafa Ceric said that the U.S. 's policy in the Balkans serves the interests of the Muslims and of Islam.

This week merrymakers in Pristina waving Albanian and American flags shouted “KLA! KLA!” – the supposedly disbanded, heroin-financed “rebels” who trained in terrorist camps. “What is the point of fighting Islamism in Iraq ,” asks the Brussels Journal’s Landen, “while at the same time one creates a free haven for Islamists on the European continent?” He adds, “The Jerusalem Post reported in 1998 that the [KLA] was ‘provided with financial and military support from Islamic countries,’ and had been ‘bolstered by hundreds of Iranian fighters or mujahedin [some of whom] were trained in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist camps in Afghanistan .’”

It is worth reminding the conservative blogosphere, which for nine years chose to ignore the region entirely or, alternately, bolster the jihadist pro-independence position, that they are helping implement a Clinton-era policy supported and co-financed by George Soros, which has been pursued from a pre-9/11 mindset. My fellow conservatives, you do not defend America or American policy when you support our pro-independence policy in Kosovo; you support Hillary and Bill Clinton, George Soros, and Osama bin Laden, who co-financed and co-trained the KLA troops that we and Germany co-financed and co-trained.

It is a rare thing to meet someone among the remaining 100,000 Christians of Kosovo who hasn’t had a close relative or friend slaughtered by the Albanian “non-Islamic” Muslims since our intervention, the selfsame Muslims to whom we’re granting Serbian territory. While Serbia and Russia fight to ensure these remaining Christians don’t have to live under Albanian-Muslim rule — either by partitioning the province, or by fighting the Albanians to keep the province within Serbia — the U.S. and its NATO allies will fight Serbia and Russia to make sure that Europe’s newest, U.S.-created Muslim state gets all the territory it demands.

If this doesn’t worry you, and you’d rather make an exception in your jihad views for an area because it fits in with a more comfortable, manufactured Cold War context, then be prepared for the adverse consequences.

What we’ve set ourselves up for is dealing with still more gangsters and terrorists as we build an oil pipeline that runs from the Caucasus through the Balkans, when we could have worked with a willing Serbia on this from the very beginning -- at much less peril to our interests and with a partner that had excellent intelligence and border security structures (before we dismantled the latter).

The rest of the world is sharply divided on Kosovo. Israel easily recognized some parallels to its situation, and is therefore withholding any recognition of independence. These are no longer the 1980s and '90s. It is not OK to view this, or Russia ’s correct stance against our incorrect one, in a Cold War context. It is not OK to ally with Iran and deliver territory to al-Qaeda. It wasn’t OK in the 90s, either, and now we’ve buried ourselves deeper.

Given that we’re creating a mafia-run jihadist haven in Kosovo, whose U.S.-spawned statehood exposes our government’s disregard ultimately for its own citizens’ safety, not to speak of non-Muslims in Europe, how can we ever expect any other world power — never mind the jihadists — to care about American lives, and think twice before striking?

And still, the situation is not unfixable, as Jihad Watch's Hugh Fitzgerald advises:

There is no reason not to take Serbia 's side now. There is every reason -- of principle and of Infidel self-interest--to take it. And then there is the larger scheme of things. Does it make sense, at this moment in history, to give Muslims the sense that they are on the march, that they are establishing beachhead after beachhead in Europe itself--even if, for all we know, that sense of triumphalism is based on a misunderstanding of the devotion to Islam of the Albanians (now "Kosovars") in question? Assuming that the Chechens have a point (and they did have a point, considering the history of Stalin's treatment of them), was that reason enough to support the Chechens against Russia, or should one have refrained from so doing, because of the larger context, in which any Muslim victory feeds the assurance that other victories are sure to come, that Islam is unstoppable?

Perhaps the rule should be, all over the Western and larger Infidel world, this: whatever makes the Umma happy, or the O.I.C. happy, is to be opposed for that very reason. That's a rule of thumb…

We can still turn this around. Jim Jatras, the director of the American Council for Kosovo, advises to immediately begin new negotiations between Serbia and responsible representatives of the Albanian community, this time without preconceived results that sabotage any discussions, and consistent with international law.

...If only to keep the task of saving us from ourselves out of Russian hands.

Kosovo’s Troubled Independence

Kosovo’s Troubled Independence
by Robert Maginnis

On Sunday, the Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence. The consequences of that move will reach far beyond that tiny, mountainous region. The U.S. will regret that decision because Islam will increase its influence across southern Europe , the Russian bear — already aroused will use it as another front in a reviving Cold War. At considerable risk the West will continue to pay a high price.

The celebration in Kosovo’s streets now clouds geopolitical realities. Balkan Muslims will exploit Kosovo’s independence to expand the Islamic crescent that begins in Bosnia passes through the Balkans and into Turkey . This move encourages other disenfranchised groups to redraw their national borders. Russia , which opposed the move, is itching to renew confrontation with the West and this decision provides that opportunity.

Since 1999, the United Nations has administered Kosovo after 60 days of airstrikes against Yugoslavia (and the loss of Russian support) which prompted then-president Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces. Milosevic’s Serbia was accused of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing, just as it had against Bosnian Muslims. Today, Kosovo is protected by 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers including about 1,000 Americans and is heavily dependent on Western aid.

“From today onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free,” Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former fighter with Kosovo’s Liberation Army, told his parliament. Thaci’s move was encouraged by the U.S. but bitterly contested by Russia .

On Sunday, American flags were plentiful on the streets of Pristina, Kosovo’s capitol, in recognition of the U.S. ’s leading role in the move to independence. President Bush expressed support for Kosovo’s internationally supervised independence. “On Kosovo, our position is that its status must be resolved in order for the Balkans to be stable,” Bush said.” For supporting Kosovar freedom the West gets to support another likely failed state with peacekeepers and aid for untold decades. And this move will more likely destabilize the Balkans and damage our war with Islamic radicals.

It is quite likely that Kosovo’s independence will accelerate the region’s transformation into a base for Islamic terrorism. Muslim charities pour millions of dollars into the region to plant Osama bin-Laden radicalism in local mosques. Islamic extremists in the region will see Kosovo’s independence as a green light to expand into other areas.

Historically, Greater Albania denotes the territories claimed as the traditional homeland of the ethnic Albanians: Albania , Kosovo , Macedonia , Montenegro and the Epirus region of Greece . These regions are rapidly becoming Islamic havens.

Since the war, Kosovo has become monoreligious with Christians fleeing and Muslims making up more than 90 percent of the population. Kosovo Muslims with outside encouragement are becoming radicalized and fierer in their explicitly political faith.

Albania has been transformed into a Muslim nation — now 70 percent — with the help of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates which have invested in spreading Islam by building many hundreds of mosques and Islamic schools. “The mosques are full of young people who know nothing about Islam,” said Sali Tivari, secretary general of the Muslim community. One estimate indicates that Albania will be 85 percent Muslim by 2015.

The threat of instability due to Islamic extremist seeking a Greater Albania is serious. Europe already has Islamic problems but this new region could well become a safe haven for al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists to operate against European governments and economies.

The Bush administration is eager to support Muslim Kosovo perhaps because it naively views the area as a means to bridge the gulf with the Islamic world and to show how democracy can work in an Islamic country.

Moscow is determined to prevent Kosovo from obtaining international legitimacy and used a closed-door emergency session of the UN’s Security Council to make its case. “We expect the UN mission in Kosovo … to take immediate action to fulfill their mandates… including voiding the decisions of the Pristina local government,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia , is concerned that Kosovo’s independence could spark secessionist movements across the former Soviet Union . Already, separatist leaders in Georgia said they would seek recognition of their independence, citing Kosovo as a precedent.

Kosovo’s independence comes at an especially bad time for Vladimir Putin, Russia ’s president, who is rebuilding Russia ’s sphere of influence. Putin advised against Kosovo’s independence and he can’t afford to be perceived as weak because that would jeopardize his leverage when it comes to blunting NATO’s expansion to countries like Ukraine and his efforts to recapture Central Asia’s allegiance. He will ratchet up diplomatic, economic and military pressure to force the West not to recognize Kosovo.

Putin wants to avoid the humiliation his predecessor Boris Yeltsin was dished in the Balkans. In 1999, the US manipulated Russia to persuade the Serbs to leave Kosovo. At the time, President Yeltsin was guaranteed a Russian role in Kosovo for help persuading the Serbs to leave. The Serbs abandoned Kosovo but Yeltsin was left empty handed and his troops returned humiliated.

Putin won’t wait like Yeltsin to be humilitated before sticking it to the West. On the diplomatic front he will make Moscow less cooperative on issues like Iran ’s nuclear program. Then he will create a crisis.

His crisis will help him avoid looking weak like Yeltsin. Stratfor, an intelligence think tank, indicates that Putin has two crisis levers: economic and the “light military” option.

Putin could pull the plug on natural gas to Europe as he did to the Ukraine in 2005, bringing it to its knees. Moscow can make Europe cry uncle over Kosovo long before the petro-rich Russians feel the pain.

The “light military” option is an interesting face-saver as well. Stratfor suggests that Putin might send troops to Kosovo, Russian fighters to Serbia and Russia ’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the Adriatic Sea . Will the U.S. and the EU cave in to Putin’s saber-rattling? Or will the fact that we recognized the new Kosovo government cause Putin to take more heavy-handed steps?

Whether Kosovo’s independence eventually expands Europe’s Islamic crescent or Russia uses it to spark a new Cold War, what’s clear is that the West has bought a long-term lease in the Balkans. And the U.S. is now the guarantor of Kosovo independence defending Muslims — including some who wish to kill us and destroy our way of life — with American lives.

The mess in the Balkans has tied down American troops and billions in aid for thirteen years. The next president needs to do a better job of coaxing the Europeans to do their own fighting and keep our powder dry for fights that better fit our strategic interests.

Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television and a senior strategist with the U.S. Army.

Kosovo's stark warning

Kosovo's stark warning

Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence is deeply troubling. By setting a precedent of legitimizing the secession of disaffected minorities, it weakens the long-term viability of multi-ethnic states. In so doing, it destabilizes the already stressed state-based international system.

States as diverse as Canada, Morocco, Spain, Georgia, Russia and China currently suffer problems with politicized minorities. They are deeply concerned by the Kosovo precedent. Even the US has latent sovereignty issues with its increasingly politicized Hispanic minority along its border with Mexico. It may one day experience a domestic backlash from its support for Kosovar independence from Serbia.

Setting aside the global implications, it is hard to see how Kosovo constitutes a viable state. Its 40 percent unemployment is a function of the absence of proper economic and governing infrastructures.

In November, a European Commission report detailed the Kosovo Liberation Army's failure to build functioning governing apparatuses. The report noted that "due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread... Civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism." Moreover, "Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient."

The report continued, "The composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organized crime and combating of trafficking in human beings."

Additionally, the prosecution of Albanian war criminals is "hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify" against them. This is in part due to the fact that "there is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place."

The fledgling failed-state of Kosovo is a great boon for the global jihad. It is true that Kosovar Muslims by and large do not subscribe to radical Islam. But it is also true that they have allowed their territory to be used as bases for al-Qaida operations; that members of the ruling Kosovo Liberation Army have direct links to al-Qaida; and that the Islamic world as a whole perceived Kosovo's fight for independence from Serbia as a jihad for Islamic domination of the disputed province.

According to a 2002 Wall Street Journal report, al-Qaida began operating actively in Kosovo, and in the rest of the Balkans, in 1992. Osama bin Laden visited Albania in 1996 and 1997. He received a Bosnian passport from the Bosnian Embassy in Austria in 1993. Acting on bin Laden's orders, in 1994 his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri set up training bases throughout the Balkans including one in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The Taliban and al-Qaida set up drug trafficking operations in Kosovo to finance their operations in Afghanistan and beyond.

In 2006, John Gizzi reported in Human Events that the German intelligence service BND had confirmed that the 2005 terrorist bombings in Britain and the 2004 bombings in Spain were organized in Kosovo. Furthermore, "The man at the center of the provision of the explosives in both instances was an Albanian, operating mostly out of Kosovo... who is the second ranking leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Niam Behzloulzi."

Then, too, at its 1998 meeting in Pakistan, the Organization of the Islamic Conference declared that the Albanian separatists in Kosovo were fighting a jihad. The OIC called on the Muslim world to help "this fight for freedom on the occupied Muslim territories."

Supporters of Kosovo claim that as victims of "genocide," Kosovar Muslims deserve independence. But if the Muslims in Kosovo have been targeted for annihilation by the Serbs, then how is it that they have increased from 48% of the population in 1948 to 92% today? Indeed, Muslims comprised only 78% of the population in 1991, the year before Yugoslavia broke apart.

In recent years particularly, it is Kosovo's Serbian Christians, not its Albanian Muslims, who are targeted for ethnic cleansing. Since 1999, two-thirds of Kosovo's Serbs - some 250,000 people - have fled the area.

The emergence of a potentially destabilizing state in Kosovo is clearly an instance of political interests trumping law. Under international law, Kosovo has no right to be considered a sovereign state. Even UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999, which the KLA claims provides the legal basis for Kosovar sovereignty, explicitly recognizes Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo.

For Israel, Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence should be a source of alarm great enough to require a rethinking of foreign policy. Unfortunately, rather than understand and implement the lessons of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government is working actively to ensure that they are reenacted in the international community's treatment of Israel and the Palestinians. Today, Israel is enabling the Palestinians to set the political and legal conditions for the establishment of an internationally recognized state of Palestine that will be at war with Israel.

By accepting the "Road Map Plan to a Two-State Solution" in 2004, Israel empowered the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, who comprise the international Quartet, to serve as judges of Palestinian and Israeli actions toward one another. In November 2007, at the Annapolis conference, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government explicitly empowered the US to "monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map."

That these moves have made Israel dependent on the kindness of strangers was made clear this week when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni instructed Israel's ambassadors to launch a campaign to convince the international community that Israel and the Palestinians are making great strides in their negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. Livni's move was precipitated by growing European and US dissatisfaction with the pace of those negotiations and by reports from the meeting of Quartet members in Berlin on February 11. There all members voiced anger at the slow pace of negotiations and opposition to Israel's military actions in Gaza, which are aimed at protecting the western Negev from rocket and mortar attacks.

The US representative at the Quartet's meeting, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, reportedly told his colleagues, "First, we must not allow the suicide bombing in Dimona and the shooting on Sderot to affect the negotiations."

Welch reportedly added, "It is also important to us that neither the Palestinians in Gaza nor the Israelis in Sderot are hurt. Also, we must continue to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad."

Moreover, Ran Koriel, Israel's ambassador to the EU, reportedly warned Livni that the Russians are pushing for the re-establishment of a Fatah-Hamas government. Several EU states, including France, are reconsidering their refusal to recognize Hamas.

If Israel had not empowered the Quartet generally and the US specifically to determine whether the PA and Israel are behaving properly, a European or Russian decision to recognize Hamas would have little impact. But given their role as arbiters, Quartet members can take punitive action against Israel if it fails to comply with their wishes. The Quartet can replace international law in determining who can assert sovereignty over Gaza, Judea and Samaria and how Israel can exercise its own sovereignty. And so, Livni is reduced to begging them not to recognize Hamas.

Once the US decided in 1999 to commit its own forces to NATO's bombing of Serbia and subsequent occupation of Kosovo, the jig was up for Serbian sovereignty over the area. The fact is, NATO forces in Kosovo were deployed for the express purpose of blocking Serbia from exercising its sovereignty over Kosovo, not to prevent violence between the Kosovars and the Serbs or among the Muslims and Christians in Kosovo. That is, NATO deployed in Kosovo to enable it to gain independence.

And if US or NATO forces are deployed to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, they will not be there to protect Israelis from Palestinian terror or to prevent the areas from acting as global terror bases. They will be there to establish a Palestinian state.

Failing to understand the meaning of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government refuses to understand this point. Indeed, the government is actively lobbying NATO to deploy forces in Gaza. Just as it wrongly hoped that UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon would fight Hizbullah for it, so today, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government insists that NATO forces in Gaza will fight Hamas for it.

If applying the lessons of UNIFIL to Gaza is too abstract for the Olmert-Livni-Barak government, Israel has experience with EU monitors in Gaza itself to learn from. Wrongly assuming that the Europeans shared Israel's interest in preventing terrorists and weapons from entering Gaza, Israel requested that EU monitors set up shop at the Rafah terminal linking Gaza to Egypt after Israel withdrew from the border in 2005. Yet whenever confronted by Fatah and Hamas terrorists, rather than fight the EU monitors flee to Israel for protection. And its monitors' experience with Palestinian terrorists taking over the border has never caused the EU to question its support for Palestinian statehood.

Then, too, since the US, EU, UN and Russia all consider Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to be one territorial unit, it is not surprising that Israel's request for NATO forces in Gaza has been greeted by a US plan to deploy NATO forces in Judea and Samaria. If NATO forces in Gaza would do nothing to secure the border with Egypt or to fight terrorists and would scuttle Israeli operations in the area, NATO forces in Judea and Samaria would not simply prevent Israel from protecting its citizens who live there. They would also prevent Israel from taking action to prevent the Palestinians from attacking central Israel and asserting control over the border with Jordan. And yet, as The Jerusalem Post reported this week, Israel is conducting talks with the US regarding just such a NATO deployment.

What the Serbs made NATO fight its way in to achieve, Israel is offering NATO on a silver platter.

Not surprisingly, Abbas's adviser and PA propaganda chief Yasser Abd Rabbo reacted to Kosovo's declaration of independence by recommending that the Palestinians follow the example. Abd Rabbo said, "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence."

For its part, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has responded to Kosovo's declaration of independence with customary confusion. But the lessons of Kosovo are clear. Not only should Israel join Russia, Canada, China, Spain, Romania and many others in refusing to recognize Kosovo. It should also state that as a consequence of Kosovo's independence, Israel rejects the deployment of any international forces to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, and refuses to cede its legal right to sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem to international arbitration.

Bush is the mohallel of kosovo

Supported & Influenced by Oil $$ Politics
The birth of a Ben Laden supported State in Europe
The US should revise its strategy & cooperate with Russia against Islamic Terrorism
Not challenge Moscow instead; Islamic Fundamentalism will be victorious against both
This is a fight Washington will not win alone in the after 9/11world
Russia has its place, its will & importance in it
With Respect to Clinton, Albright & Richard Holbrook
Mecca Foreign Policy & its oil influence in Washington politics
And will always remain, History will prove it
The “independence” of KOSOVO is just a distorted political show by the West against Russia
At the expense of Belgrade
Serbia , an Orthodox nation with pride who stood with courage in WW1 and WW2 against Nazism will mark victory again
Washington needs delicately to review its alliances, correct strategies and fix up historical errors
Counting on Islamic Mechanism to challenge Russia ’s influence has proved to be an “unreliable” strategy
The 9/11 event were the tragic, painful wake up call of the century

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Question of the week.

which is the arab country's secret service killing for the mossad?

Who finances this arab secret service?

Answers are expected in the comments.

We will give our answer next week.

If you wanted to read just one article then read this one, scrupulously of course

The 'known unknowns' of the Mugniyah killing
February 22, 2008 Asia Times
We know well who killed top Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyah on February 12 in Damascus.
Although in the US media only journalists like Seymour Hersh have the nerve to point out the obvious, the Israeli media has not shied away from evidence of Israeli intelligence's involvement in this well-calculated assassination.

The major Israeli daily newspaper Maariv shared the views of many others when it concluded that: "Officially, Israel yesterday denied responsibility for the killing. But experts say the brilliant execution of the attack was characteristic of the Mossad."

The Financial Times reported on the "triumphant mood" of the Israeli press which hailed "the demise of one the country's most feared adversaries" and quoted an Israeli paper stating "the account is settled".

The Financial Times also quoted a most telling analysis offered by one Israeli commentator: "Mugniyah's assassination is perhaps the hardest blow Hezbollah has taken to this day. Not just because of his operational abilities, his close ties to the Iranians, and the series of successful terror attacks that he carried out. But because he was a symbol, a legend, a myth."
Donald Rumsfeld is no longer in public eye but his "wisdom" lives on. "We also know there are known unknowns," he once told perplexed reporters. Precisely, the "known unknown" in this case is that the Israeli Mossad killed Mugniyah, and killed him for specific political reasons at a well-chosen time and place that would make perfect sense from the Israeli government's point of view.

Let's first look at the timing.

President George W Bush's second term in office will expire in one year. For the president who has unconditionally rubber-stamped Israeli policies, one year is not enough to set long-term goals, but it's enough to ignite chaos.

"If you want chaos, then we welcome chaos. If you want war, then we welcome war. We have no problem with weapons or with rockets which we will launch on you." These were the words of Lebanon's MP Walid Jumblatt of the ruling March 14 Coalition, directed at the Hezbollah-led opposition a few days prior to the third anniversary of Rafiq Hariri's assassination. Considering the military strength of Hezbollah within Lebanon, it isn't difficult to guess where the MP's rockets would come from.

Indeed, the internal disunity and open hostility - notwithstanding the political impasse over the future of the country's parliamentary and governmental organization - all point at the readiness of Lebanon to descend into chaos. This is good news for Israel and the Bush administration. A civil war could achieve what Israel's botched, illegal war of 2006 could not.

The 34-day war, celebrated by Hezbollah as a victory, was a massive setback to Israel's regional designs and to those who wanted Hezbollah removed from the country's political equation. The war backfired, achieving the exact opposite: Hezbollah emerged triumphant. More recently, Israel's own investigation into the war admitted, if somewhat circuitously, Israel's defeat.

The Winograd Commission's report indicted the army, and largely absolved Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. It described the war's failure as a "serious missed opportunity". The report didn't chastise the war, but decried its lack of effectiveness and poor execution.

How could Olmert correct the mistakes of the war without waging another? And what better timing for war than a moment when Hezbollah and its rivals in Lebanon are engaged in one of their own?

But the assassination of a high-profile person like Mugniyah was not merely an opportunity to boast over a classic Mossad operation. It was a major ingredient in a larger scheme, the end result of which may be war with both Lebanon and Syria - with the hope of getting Iran involved.

Israel didn't hide its disappointment over the US's National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran is no longer in the nuclear weapons manufacturing business. It simply meant that the US will not attack Iran at this time. But for Israel, "absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence" - another Rumsfeld quote. Fearing that unchecked Iran could dominate the region, Israel, with Bush's green light, is now ready for escalation.

Israeli officials and pundits - and their friends in the US government and media - are building a case for a confrontation with Iran. On a recent trip to Germany, after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Olmert was "sure" of Iran developing nuclear weapons. "The Iranians are moving forward with their plans to create a capacity for non-conventional weapons," he told reporters.

Israel, however, is neither capable, nor willing to face Iran in a conventional war.

But going after Hezbollah as they have done unsuccessfully in the past could be disastrous. Thus there is a need for a new tactic. Last September, Israel experimented, once again, with the idea of bombing Syria. US media parroted ridiculous claims that the bombings targeted "secret" Syrian nuclear facilities, courtesy of North Korea. What Israel wants is an easy victory over Syria, which will block Iranian military supplies to Hezbollah, and deny Palestinian opposition parties a save heaven in Damascus, the last Arab capital willing to provide them with a political platform. Facing an internal challenge at home and without Iran's help, Hezbollah cannot withstand a fight on two fronts.

For Israel's scheme to succeed, the internal conflict in Lebanon must escalate and internal cohesion must not be achieved, a mission entrusted to the "mysterious" car bombings that have been blamed squarely on Syria and its Lebanese allies.

By gloating, yet without revealing much about the assassination of Mugniyah, Israeli commentators might have lost sight of the great gamble of their government. Hezbollah's response, articulated by their leader Hassan Nasrallah, was a vow for an "open" war. The group will most likely avoid border clashes, and take the war against Israel to the international arena, just as Israel has. And like Israel, it may gloat in private but officially refrain from sponsoring whatever operations are carried out.

The course of future events is now more predictable, although whether such tit-for-tat behavior will work in Israel's favor remains in the realm of "unknown unknowns". Maybe Rumsfeld had it right after all.

We've alkways said it: sarkozy what a jerk.

Sarkozy isn't gaining in style, but he's losing in substance
By Dominique Moisi
Commentary by
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ever since key public figures signed a manifesto in a French magazine denouncing the dangers of a monarchical drift - without ever mentioning the president's name - the political atmosphere in France has been electric. Nicolas Sarkozy's rapid fall from grace is unprecedented in the history of the Fifth Republic. His popularity ratings are plummeting, and his party, the conservative UMP, is predicted to fare badly in the municipal elections in mid-March.

What is behind the collapse in Sarkozy's popularity? And can he recover?

These questions are crucial not only for France, because we are five months away from a French presidency of the European Union that should have been an important step in Europe's own rebound. The attacks on Sarkozy are very personal, and focus as much on his "essence" as on his performance. Can he incarnate France with dignity and legitimacy? Can he transform intuitions and speeches into concrete actions? Has he already lost touch with reality, surrounded as he is by a court of media courtesans?

In the eyes of a majority of French citizens, for whom presidents are "elected monarchs," Sarkozy has "de-sacralized" the presidency. Unlike constitutional monarchies, France does not distinguish between the symbol and the reality of power. Sarkozy may want to be a combination of British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, but in symbolic terms he is also the queen. And, in his quest for modernity and transparency, he has de-legitimized the symbolic dimension of his function by mixing his private and public lives.

On the one hand, Sarkozy's fascination with rich people has helped isolate him from the average Frenchman. Yet, on the other hand, his flashy style is considered vulgar by traditional French elites, who are keen to dissociate themselves from someone whose educational background and instinctive reactions clearly mark him as not one of them. His love life is not seen as a human, romantic affair and a sign of youthful energy, but as a possibly fatal distraction, the ultimate proof of his "immaturity."

Of course, if the international economic environment had been more favorable, and if there were not so much legitimate concern about declining purchasing power, the French might have shown greater indulgence toward their young president. But it looks as if Sarkozy, once obsessed with gaining power, has progressively lost touch with reality since achieving his goal. You cannot proclaim your impotence in the face of empty state coffers after pushing through useless and costly tax breaks for the richest. And you cannot adopt a Churchill-like call to sacrifice when you indulge in a series of highly publicized luxury weekends with your latest girlfriend or wife.

Moreover, if Sarkozy has eroded, perhaps fatally, the "sacred" symbolic nature of the presidency, his governance has failed to provide any compensating reassurance. Multiplying initiatives, being everywhere at once, accelerating the pace of reforms at the risk of confusing quality and quantity, breaking taboos, and blurring the lines between secularism and religion, Sarkozy has reinforced lingering doubts about a brilliant politician's ability to become a statesman or at least an effective ruler. The influence of his court has been seen as excessive and dangerous, marginalizing and frustrating the government, Parliament, and his own party.

But it is much too early to bury Sarkozy. While he has seemingly lost touch with the French people, he is deeply aware of and wounded by his declining popularity, and no one should underestimate his ability to reinvent himself with a new government after the municipal elections and greater distance from his immediate entourage.

In any case, France is not Russia. Despite some troubling similarities between Sarkozy and Vladimir Putin, French democracy is not in danger. What is at stake is the dignity of the presidential office and, beyond that, France's ability to modernize.

Indeed, the most serious casualty of the current political climate in France is Sarkozy's reform agenda. It is as if his personality had become the biggest obstacle to his determination to break with the past. Perhaps too much uncontrolled rupture in style can ultimately lead to paralysis in substance.

Dominique Moisi, a founder and senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations, is currently a professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c) (

Educate the mozlems have been since 11 years Bush HQ's motto to solve terrorism of islam

Arabs miss the import of early childhood development
By Ghassan Rubeiz
Commentary by
Friday, February 22, 2008

The fame of Sigmund Freud hangs on a simple idea: The first five years of life are developmentally crucial. Through the care of a loving mother a newborn learns to trust adults emotionally. In the way a toddler is trained to eat, sleep, stand, walk and talk, the quality of the first lessons of independence is set. Between the ages of three and five, children expand their verbal abilities rapidly, begin friendships with peers and sharpen their sense of inquiry about life. If children do not learn to trust, to be independent, to form relationships and be curious, they are bound to face immense challenges in school and in their adjustment to society later.

Along with emotional and intellectual care-giving, health services in early childhood are also vital. Poor nutrition can stunt a child's physical growth. Many infants die due to infectious diseases that parents can easily learn to prevent. In severely deprived communities, about one in three children is anemic. In many Arab localities hunger, disease and emotional neglect gravely affect young children by arresting their normal development.

Most traditional societies are not aware of the critical importance of early childhood. Once the Arab world discovers the value of early childhood development programs, it will have found a new means to empower women and to spread wellbeing evenly and more abundantly than by relying on the region's vast resources of oil.

An Arabic proverb tells us, "Open a school, close a prison." This adage reveals the high esteem Arabs have for education. But opening more schools is not enough to guarantee quality education. Educational reform is needed. A recent World Bank report on education in the Arab world informs us that schools do not prepare children to think independently. The report notes that the curricula are not "inquiry-based."

Having grown up in the Middle East, I have witnessed how Arab children are not encouraged to question norms. They are often punished when they dare to challenge higher authority, whether in school, the family, places of worship, or, later in life, in the workplace and in government.

Tens of millions of Arab children live in low-income neighborhoods, in highly urbanized cities, in refugee camps, and in communities for the displaced. Overburdened parents, especially those living in crowded cities without the support of their extended families, do not know how to protect and support their child's growth and development.

Early childhood development programs, based on intellectual stimulation, protection from neglect, and prevention of illness, set the child on the right track for a bright future in elementary school. A child of five is known for a keen sense of curiosity. Because learning and other forms of developmental stimulation are crucial in the early years, childhood programs are needed to help children get into the habit of thinking on their own starting from that time.

Arabs leaders must face the reality that their school systems are mostly failing the child and the family. The World Bank report on Arab education shows that dropout rates in elementary and secondary schools are high. It reveals that university degrees do not lead to jobs. The report offers familiar recommendations for changing the educational system, but it does not mention adoption of early childhood education as a basic measure of system change. Adding early childhood development programs to national curricula would not only expand coverage of children, it would enhance the quality of the entire system of education.

An important component of early childhood education is the involvement of parents. In the Middle East parents tend to be emotionally and physically close to their children. If mobilized, parents, especially mothers, can contribute valuable time and resources to the pre-school system. Through voluntary service, mothers can help reduce the cost of universal public education. In child-centered programs groups of mothers receive basic training on how to stimulate children's development.

The mother is also the focus of attention in early childhood development. Among the endless possible varieties of contributions for mothers are increasing literacy levels, helping in vocational training and job orientation, and participating in health services. These comprehensive activities can contribute to family and population planning. Why? Because an educated mother is more able to plan the size of her family than a mother who is burdened by poverty, ignorance, and isolation.

Poor policy squanders human resources. There is growing evidence that children who receive early childhood education are more likely to succeed in elementary and secondary school, more likely to enter college, and less likely to commit crime. Educational economists reveal that financial returns on investment in early childhood development programs are extremely positive: It has been estimated that for every $1 invested in early childhood, the return is $6-8. That's worth mulling over.

Ghassan Rubeiz is an Arab-American commentator. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
Blarney kissers romancing wrong stone?
By Xinhua News Agency

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Millions of tourists may have been romancing the wrong stone on a castle battlement in southern Ireland, according to media reports Thursday.

A legend said kissing the Blarney Stone on the castle, which had been practiced by about 400,000 tourists a year, was able to endow the kisser with the gift of great eloquence and skill at flattery.

But its authenticity was questioned by Mark Samuel, an archaeologist and architectural historian, and Kate Hamlyn, in a new book.

The stone only came into use for health and safety reasons in 1888, when people was dangled from the castle by two people holding their ankles to place their lips on the stone, said the authors.

"I'm not in a position to say the stone is worthless, I'm saying there's a real kernel of hard fact that there is a special bluestone," said Samuel.

However, the Blarney Castle backs up its claim about the gift of blarney with a long list of famous eloquent kissers, ranging from former British prime minister Winston Churchill to Scottish comedian Billy Connolly.

The Blarney Stone is a piece of the Stone of Scone or "Stone of Destiny," on which the kings of Scotland were crowned.

One legend says the Scone Stone is supposed to be the pillow stone used by the Biblical Jacob.

The part of the stone that came to Blarney was given to an Irish king, Cormac MacCarthy, by Scotland's king Robert the Bruce as a gift in gratitude for 4,000 Irish soldiers sent to aid Scotland when Robert defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The Scone Stone was subsequently captured by the English and taken to Westminster Abbey in London. It was returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1996.

Today those who wish the gift of gab just need to lie on their back and, holding on to an iron railing, lean backwards from the parapet walk to smooch the stone.-Agencies

Editor: Mo Hong'e