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Friday, September 29, 2006




Time to Die

Gaza City by AP and JPost.com staff

Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters marched through the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon to show their backing for the militant group...

Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri, attending the rally, vowed that his group would never recognize Israel, no matter what the cost.

"We vow to God never to recognize Israel, even if we all die (!!! NB) ..." al-Masri said.

Source

I am not sure what it is but there is something funny about the Palestinians

;)

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Beita and Qalqilya

The Economist published an article about Hamas local government in the West Bank.

The fundamentalist movement retains much of its discipline and motivation. It's still apparently unaffected by corruption.

The thing about fanatics, jewish or muslim or whichever, is that if only they could drop the most insane parts of their ideologies, they could have been the greatest assets for their nations. Without doubt they possess motivation and commitment rarely seen in secular people.

But given that the fanatics are who they are, they are usually building with one hand and destroying with another. The last Hezbollah's war is a good illustration to this point.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006




Time to Close the Country

The World Bank estimates that 42% of Yemenis live below the poverty line. Economic growth in recent years has not matched population growth, which still runs at more than 3% a year. Oil exports, which now produce 70% of state revenue, are set to decline as reserves dwindle, with some experts predicting they may run out as soon as 2012.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006




Somalia's Islamic Courts Took Kismayo

AP reported that Somalia's Islamic Courts movement took over the southern town of Kismayo, one of the last seaports that had been outside their control. Most of Somalia is now under the Courts control.

The world will probably notice these developments at some point later... When, for example, a war with Ethiopia would break out.

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Friday, September 22, 2006




Pheonecia Reborn?

(Click to enlarge)

Blacksmith published a post under this title with a an interesting map. My comment about the map and its relation to the future of the Middle East and beyond it:

I actually think that you can use this map very practically to predict where the next trouble will come from. Its like seeing tectonic plates with arrows indicating whether they are moving towards each other or are going to split. It gives one visually a very good idea along which tectonic lines the future earthquakes would strike.

One of the things, that catch attention when exploring this map, is that some countries not only shrink or expand, but move. Iran for example moves to the east by ceding territory to the Arabs, Kurds and Azeries, while incorporating areas in and around Herat in Afganistan.

You may want to check Blacksmith's original post

PS

For articles dealing with specific ethnic realities of the region check the tags below.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006




The Pope and the Muslims

Many sites and articles, discussing the last controversy stirred by the Pope Benedict XVI, don't provide a link to the Pope's actual lecture. Here it is for those interested, LECTURE OF THE HOLY FATHER

The Pope responded to the fierce criticism he provoked by claiming that he was just quoting a Byzantine emperor and in no way the quote represents the Pope's personal views. And here is the peace that started the whole mess:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The reactions coming from the enraged Muslim world were familiar and predictable. Some were threatening in the sense that unless the Pope and/or the West apologize and acknowledge the inherently peaceful and tolerant nature of Islam they should brace themselves for another round of suicide bombings and 9/11 style attacks. Other Muslims have been so disappointed by the Pope's failure to make a positive contribution to the peaceful and constructive dialog between the civilizations that they publicly designated his person as a primary target of the next attack. Across the Middle East and elsewhere dozens of churches were attacked and in Somalia an elder nun of 70 years was shot in the back.

Regardless of what the Pope was thinking when preparing the text of his lecture, he should have certainly got the idea by now that , unless he wants to see more churches burning and more of his followers fleeing the Middle East for their lives, he should start watching his mouth better and to come to terms with the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion, tolerant of other faiths.

In the meantime it may be interesting to check what actually the Pope is thinking about Islam and Muslims, since in the present intellectual environment paralyzed by the politically correct its not often when public figures and even just ordinary people would say what they really think. Here is that part of the lecture that stirred the controversy:

In the seventh conversation (controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

The point the Pope is making is not so much about Jihad/ Crusades and whatever. What the Pope is basically saying is that Christians (say Roman Catholics) take it for granted that God is bound by the same spirit of the ten commandments he commanded the mankind and finds pools of blood an unpleasant sight. Given that reason is a part of the God's divine nature, its not reasonable to think that God would be unreasonable to the point of commanding people to do something that stands in contradiction to the spirit of love embodied by the ten commandments.

Now the Pope says that this line of argumentation is totally lost on Muslims since Islam views God as so transcendental that he transcends both love and reason, his ways are transcendental and unpredictable (unlike the reactions of Muslims themselves) and he is bound by nothing including his own word. In this sense the elegantly constructed argument of the emperor against the ungodly nature of holy wars means little for Muslims since they don't see God as limited by human notions of rationality and they are not waiting from their God for that much of consistency in his transcendental ways.

I have no idea if the Islamic theology indeed views God this way, but practically the bells were ringing all the way when i was reading the text. It was my impression since long time ago that there is a kind of passive obedience in the way the Muslims i see around react to life and its challenges, and even when they apparently take an initiative, and even a very extreme initiative like when they go on jihad or suicide bombings, it still looks more as a sort of extreme devotion bordering on surrendering oneself totally to an external force, which means making a full circle and coming back to the total state of passive obedience. If the Pope is right about God's transcendence in the Islamic theology, then this is very understandable since dealing with God that's beyond ethics and rationality leaves you with little else you can do about the situation rather than practicing an extreme form of surrendering to God's will.

The point that the Pope is making in his lecture makes Jihad/Crusades pale in comparison since he is digging under the very foundations of the Muslim faith. Either the Muslims missed the point completely or they preferred to ignore it. It could be interesting to hear top Muslim clerics responding to the Pope's claim that in Islam God is transcendental to the point of Satanism by explaining Islam's view of the matter in theological terms. But instead on the very first day of the scandal the world of Islam immediately fell back into its habitual ways of transcending all common sense and rationality.

Unfortunately there is also another part that the Muslims missed in the Pope's oration. Unfortunately because it was probably the one they should have studied most assiduously and may have even found interesting to the point of intriguing. Just above the two paragraphs i have been quoting, the Pope is talking about his old memories of the University of Regensburg where he was gaving the lecture:

This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

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Friday, September 8, 2006




Sunni & Shia

Diana said:

Back to Nobody:This war has really brought out to be the fact that Sunni and Shia Muslims are really really different and really hate each other. That's a good thing. Israel should exploit that.
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My understanding is that its not in our interests to have the Arabs sinking all the time into the insanity of their paranoias and conspiracy theories, be they in the form of the protocols of the elders of Zion, chomskism or the traditional Sunni Shia shit.

Our wars with the Arabs will stop the day around our borders would appear secular moderately developed countries. I don't expect the Arabs to create here replicas or Sweden/Swiss but even 10000-12000 $ of GDP per head would do. Unless this happens nothing of long term value can be achieved here. And probably for this reason we should think that to this day we have achieved nothing of real substance.

Our peace with Egypt is a peace with its political elite which is presiding over the madness of the arab street which on the first occasion would replace Mubarak's regime with one of the Muslims Brothers, the same way it happened with the Palestinians. During the last election we could see what happens when Mubarak relaxes the pressure on the brothers. Mubarak's regime is gone, Camp David is over. Its as simple as that.

Tactically i don't see what we can get from this Sunni Shia thing. Its close to impossible for us to manipulate it in our interests and strategically it has just ruined the American experiment in Iraq.

The funds allocated for reconstruction of Iraq make pale in comparison the post war american occupations of Germany/Japan. Coupled with Iraq's oil fields they were supposed to produce the biggest economic miracle in history.

Democratic Iraq would have probably meant the end of Asad and other dictators. The Lebanese Shiites might have reconsidered their options watching the prosperous and democratic Shiites in Iraq. And even the Palestinians could have started having second thoughts about the wisdom of voting for the fundamentalists.

What we got instead is an unmitigated disaster and this disaster is 99% a result of the Sunni Shia conflict.

The Israeli Arab conflict is not a war to be finished thru the decisive final victory. It would come to the end when the Arabs around us would become modern. Until then our wars would continue and all our peace agreements would be in danger of being overruled or canceled. That's why i don't think we should be in a rash to strike a peace deal with Syria for example. Lets first see that it can survive the first real attempt at modernization, that we don't get here another Iraq.

I don't think that what we have seen in Iraq leaves any doubt as to what our real interests should be in this respect. This religious rivalry between the two does nt make one enthusiastic about endless possibilities of exploiting it. It simply makes one despair from the Arabs. No israeli of course wants to see the united Sunni Shia front against his country but one is expecting the Arabs to get some brains at the beginning of the 21 century. They are supposed to be able to overcome this nonsense before they would be able to create normal countries. Its impossible to get the Arabs modernizing if they continue with the Sunni Shia bullshit.

Fortunately, apart from Lebanon, there is nowhere sizable Shiite minorities in the countries around us. That means that when these countries enter the stage of modernization and democratization they would not be torn apart by Sunni Shia conflicts like it happened in Iraq. But the fact that in the 21 century the Arabs are still stuck in this shit makes one very skeptical about their ability to produce anything decent in terms of nation building and reinventing themselves.

I know that what i am saying contradicts of sorts the immediate logic but there is actually very little to exploit here in my view. We have got nothing worth of time and effort to be fishing for in the muddy waters of the Sunni Shia conflict. We should better to leave it to the Arabs in an apparently vain hope that at some point they would be able to sort this mess out by themselves. But if Hezbollah's 'victories' is the only way they can bridge the Sunni Shia divide then its bad for them and too bad for us.

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Sunday, September 3, 2006




Back to Basics

September 3, 2006

According to Ze'ev Schiff, towards the end of the war the IDF discovered that Hezbollah was using hundreds of permanent short-range rocket launching positions set up in orchards close to underground shelters and houses where rockets were stored. This exciting discovery came by chance at the last days of the war when on several occasions fires started by air strikes destroyed vegetation around some of the launching pads.

The rockets, stored near the launch points in underground shelters or houses, were usually aimed with a direction and trajectory precalculated to hit a specific target in Israel. They were usually set up in orchards by arrangement with the grove owners, who were paid by Hezbollah.

Source: How the IDF blew chance to destroy short-range rockets

The rockets were fired from a hydraulic launch pad that was raised during the operation and the launcher was preconfigured to hit particular targets in Israel, so its operation was reduced to reloading it with new ammunition. The pad was then lowered back, the position covered with thermal blankets in order to keep IAF aircrafts from detecting the post-shooting heat signature, and camouflaged with vegetation.

After reading this story probably many readers were asking themselves if the IDF has become so advanced and technological that its sophistication has finally reached the proportions of sheer idiocy. Mind you, that a significant portion of Hezbollah launchers was operated from similar launching pads we knew since several years ago and for no other reason that these launching pads feature so prominently in Hezbollah's propaganda clips!

Ze'ev Schiff suggests that were the IDF to have intelligence about locations of the launching pads the outcome of the war might have been different. But one of the comments to the article (#6) makes even this reasonable suggestion to look grotesque and oversophisticated, the IDF style. The commenter is asking, "Early in the conflict it occurred to me that by burning vegetation in south Lebanon the launchers would become visible. Does anybody know if this tactic was even used?" The most striking about this simple question is that its plain common sense is apparently no longer within the reach of minds trained to think in terms of smart laser guided bombs, heat detecting equipment and similar stuff.

There is another story that was repeating itself throughout the war - the IDF takes a town or village, considers it to be clean and moves on. The very next night either from underground tunnels or simply from nearby hills came hezbs and reinfiltrate the place. Only in the last days of the war after retaking Eit ash Shaab for god knows what time, the IDF finally brought bulldozers and started leveling the place with the ground. Now some are urging on purchasing expensive bunker detecting equipment, but why to search for bunkers in the first place if one can bulldoze houses that were used to conceal many of the entries to these underground systems?

The lack of imagination on the part of the IDF contrasted strongly with Hezbollah's low-tech no-nonsense methods, like underground tunnels or preset launching pads hidden in thick vegetation and covered with thermal blankets, and eventually the common sense defeated the hi-tech in the sense that to the last days of the war Hezbollah's Katyusha attacks proceeded unabated at the rate of 120-180 rockets per day.

The effective range of the short range arsenal of Hezbollah moves from 7 to 25 kilometers and this means that instead of producing scenes of such a spectacular devastation in the southern suburbs of Beirut the IDF would have better moved 20-25 kilometers into South Lebanon with bulldozers, rapidly de-urbanizing the area and destroying vegetation.

The next time IDF is going to fight a war with Hezbollah it should serioulsy consider developing methods and equipment for rapidly reshaping the landscape in its favor, both in terms of bulldozing urban landscape and in terms of destroying vegetation. It should ensure that it has efficient techniques of doing just this from the moment it makes sure that the bulk of the civilian population has been moved out of the area.

Bin Laden was reported once to have said that no equipment, smart or dumb, can detect well camouflaged underground tunnels. The target acquiring system used by the IDF's planes is one of the most advanced in the world. The same goes about much of the IDF's equipment. But nothing can beat the simple method of burning out vegetation across the narrow strip of 20-25 kilometers in terms of exposing katyusha launchers or Hezbollah fighters moving across the area.

Such tactic could have saved Israel loads of headache in terms of hunting down and destroying rocket launchers. It could have saved Lebanon its transportation infrastructure and maybe some bits of the tourist season, were the IDF to keep its activity concentrated in the south instead of much wider area, occasionally reaching Tripoli and areas even farther to the north. Finally it could have broken Hezbollah's determination much earlier on seeing its mini-Iran turning into an uninhabitable wasteland with most of its people expelled into areas out of its control and with no prospect of going back soon.

The next time the IDF fights Hezbollah, it should certainly try less to be sophisticated and more to be just smart.

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The Fourth Way

For decades Israel's options in dealing with its Arab neighbors were two:

1) to do peace, a negotiated peace - land for peace (if you trust the Arabs)

2) to do nothing - land without peace (if you don't trust them)

Barak and Sharon have found the third way: unilateral, unnegotiated withdrawals - no land, no peace.

The last war has destroyed completely the idea of convergence, big or small. Now it appears that almost immediately Olmert and Livni have discovered the fourth way - the UN way.

Now it appears that some Muslim states, for example Bangladesh and Indonesia, may take part in the UNIFIL force. These countries are traditionally hostile to Israel and refuse to have diplomatic relationships with the Zionist entity. The participation of these countries makes one to start pondering a simple question - what it's good for? Was Hezbollah asking for reinforcements lately? Because until now the understanding was that its Syria/Iran's function.

The fact that Olmert and Livni didn't even raise any objection makes me wonder - where is their trust and confidence in the goodwill of the UN coming from. There is nothing particularly godly about this organization dominated by a few dozens of Muslim states, blackmailing the rest with their oil resources.

To aggravate the situation the Italian FM is saying that if the UNIFIL mission would be successful, the UN may want to try this trick in Gaza.

The UNIFIL mission can not fail in Lebanon obviously for two reasons:

1) They are going to do nothing since they are not coming to Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah.

2) Hezbollah would avoid staging cross border raids for years now. Nasrallah recently admitted that had he known that there is even a 1% chance for such a war he would not have kidnapped the soldiers. This means indirectly that the Hezbollah's low scale warfare at the border is over now since nobody can claim today that he does nt know about this 1% chance.

So the border would be peaceful for the time being and the UNIFIL would claim this to its credit. Probably the only achievement of the IDF in the last war (apart from destroying the economy of another country) would be appropriated now by these clowns. And then the Israeli politicians are wondering why they are always losing the propaganda war!!

And then the UN would start pushing Israel to let it into Gaza. And they would go there of course among other missions to stop the kassam attacks and tunnel digging but for some reason my intuition is that they would be as effective in this as they have been in anything else until now.

And another intuition is that every second time IAF planes would try to hit kassam or katyusha launchers, miraculously they would be getting UNIFIL troops instead. God knows why I am so pessimistic when it comes to the UN.

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Saturday, September 2, 2006




Ex-generals urge Halutz to quit

Jpost by By Yaakov Katz

( I'd better to have won that war )

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