Quotulatiousness

March 4, 2014

Obama’s Netanyahu media ambush claims one casualty – the peace process

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:14

Jonathan Tobin identifies the problem with President Obama’s pre-emptive media strike against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama may have thought he was being very clever ambushing Prime Minister Netanyahu with scathing comments about Israeli policies that would be published just before he arrived in the United States for a meeting at the White House and to speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). By slamming Netanyahu’s policies as the primary, if not the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East, in the now infamous interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the president put the Israeli on the defensive and undermined his attempts to rally support for his positions with both AIPAC members and Congress. That should also have made it more difficult for Netanyahu to resist American pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to help the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry succeed. But the president’s move had to leave those who have actually been following the talks with the Palestinians scratching their heads.

Kerry’s current objective is to get both parties to agree to a framework for continued talks. As has been widely reported, Netanyahu has already signaled his consent to the framework even though he and his Cabinet have grave misgivings about where the talks may eventually lead. By contrast, the Palestinians have repeatedly and publicly rejected the framework. The Palestinians have angrily rejected the framework’s requirement that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is to say they agree to end the conflict rather than merely pause it. They also reject the West Bank security guarantees included in the framework even though it also contains their basic demands about a Palestinian state whose borders will be based on the 1967 borders while leaving open the possibility of territorial swaps. In other words, the Israelis have already given Kerry what he wanted while the Palestinians have done the opposite. Yet Obama still treats Israel as the truant and lauds Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as a trustworthy warrior for peace even though his government is a font of incitement for hatred against Jews and Israelis and he has repeatedly rejected every previous offer of statehood because he and his people remain unable or unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

By speaking in this manner about Israel, Obama has pleased the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s Jewish critics and Israel-bashers everywhere. But it will also do something else that perhaps the president never intended. He has killed any chance that Kerry’s peace talks could possibly succeed.

The problem isn’t Israel (although they’ve made the situation tougher to resolve in several ways): the problem is that no Palestinian leader dares to accept any proposal that explicitly accepts Israel’s right to exist. If Abbas agreed to that, Abbas himself would probably cease to exist in short order. Arafat at the height of his power didn’t dare to take that step, and no Palestinian leader since Arafat has had as much control, power, or influence among the factions and groups that loosely form Palestine politically. This is known to the American government — it can hardly be much of a secret — but for political reasons it can’t be stated. If one side cannot possibly agree, then in the looking glass world of diplomacy, you must berate the other side for their intransigence. It doesn’t matter who is President … this is the reality that must be ignored or wished away (because it’s not going away on its own).

August 25, 2013

Another (pointless) round of Mideast peace talks

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

Strategy Page on the upcoming “negotiations” over the Israeli-Palestinian situation:

Why are the Palestinians participating in yet another round of American- sponsored peace talks with Israel? It’s mostly about money. This round was forced on the Israelis and Palestinians by the U.S., which threatened to withhold aid (1.3 billion a year to Israel about half as much to the Palestinians) if the two did not at least go through the motions. Many knowledgeable observers see another round of talks as pointless. Arabs and Palestinians have not changed their “kill all Jews” attitudes towards Israel and the Israelis have still not agreed to just disappear. Because of the continued Arab intransigence over Israel, opinion polls show that most Israelis are opposed to any peace deal with the Palestinians that involves withdrawing Jews from the West Bank or Jerusalem and believe the peace talks will fail.

The Americans want the talks for domestic political reasons. The Israelis don’t mind having another opportunity to force the Palestinians to admit all their hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. The Palestinians don’t care about that because they are in big trouble. The current Fatah leadership (Hamas, which runs Gaza, is not participating) is in a desperate situation. Fatah is committed to pushing for “statehood” in the UN, but has been told by the U.S. that such a move will mean withdrawal of $600 million a year in American aid. Israel said it will withhold $100 million a year in customs taxes it collects for Fatah. Backing away from the UN statehood effort would be very embarrassing. The “peace talks” provide a credible excuse to back off.

Given the heat Fatah has been taking from Palestinians over more than a decade of increasing corruption and poverty, losing $700 million a year in aid would put Fatah out of power and probably out of business. So Fatah will go through the motions to calm down the Americans and Israelis while a new strategy is developed and sold to Palestinians. The current one got going in 2000, when Fatah turned down the best peace deal it was probably ever going to get (and would probably accept today) because the Palestinian radicals threatened civil war if Fatah took the Israeli offer. In retrospect that was a hollow threat, but at the time it seemed a good idea to turn down the peace offer and start a terrorist campaign against Israel. That failed, and was largely defeated by 2005. But it all made the Palestinian radicals stronger and too many Palestinians unemployed, broke and angry. It also allowed Islamic radical group Hamas to take control of Gaza, where 40 percent of Palestinians lived. To make matters worse the great Palestinian patron Saddam Hussein lost power, and his life, cutting off another source of cash. Palestinian children are still taught to honor and praise Saddam, which has become something of a media liability. Other Arab allies have become less supportive and more insistent that the Palestinians make peace with Israel and stop being professional victims and career beggars.

June 5, 2013

US policy on Syria is 1979 all over again

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:38

In the Miami Herald, Glenn Garvin points out that the US went down this geopolitical path in 1979, with less than stellar results:

The problem in our capital is not that there’s too much division between Republicans and Democrats, but that they’ve merged into a single War Party when it comes to the Middle East.

There might have been at least a tenuous case to be made for intervention in Syria back at the beginning of its civil war, at least if you accept the view that the United States cannot disengage from the Middle East because it is, for the foreseeable future, joined at the hip with Israel.

Unlike Libya or Somalia, strategically useless states in the middle of nowhere in which Washington mysteriously chose to intervene, Syria is a pivot point in the Middle East. It shares long borders with our two major allies in the region, Israel and Jordan, who cannot help but be affected by what goes on in Syria.

Two years ago, we could have acted decisively to end the Syrian civil war before it really got started. We could have made a realpolitik decision to support Assad, who, though a vicious brute to his own people, mostly minds his own business. Or we could have thrown in wholeheartedly with the rebels, picking one faction to provide with arms and international prestige, keeping (maybe) the worst elements out of power.

Instead, the Obama administration dithered, denouncing Assad and drawing lines in the sand over his behavior, then backing away every time he crossed one. We managed to alienate both sides as well as convincing all concerned that our bark had no bite.

In short, Obama has adopted as his guide Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy of 1979, when the United States cluelessly half-yanked the rug from beneath the shah in Iran and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, then primly tsk-tsked their opponents. The eventual result was that two of our allies were replaced with regimes implacably hostile to our interests, which quickly began destabilizing everything around them. Sadly, that’s now the best possible outcome in Syria. If the War Party get its way, you’ll see the worst.

H/T to Nick Gillespie for the link.

May 4, 2013

Israeli air attack on missile shipment in Syria

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:05

It’s almost anti-climactic to report that the Israeli defence ministry is confirming that an air strike was launched against Syria yesterday. The unexpected part of the news is that the attack was on a shipment of missiles, not a chemical weapons depot:

Israeli officials said the shipment was not of chemical arms, but of “game changing” weapons bound for the Lebanese militant group. The airstrike took place early on Friday, but did not say where it took place.

American officials earlier told the Associated Press of an airstrike. One report had suggested the strike was on a chemical weapons facility.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has repeatedly warned in recent weeks that Israel would be prepared to take military action if chemical weapons or other arms were to reach Hizbollah.

Lebanon’s army said pairs of Israeli airplanes entered Lebanese airspace on three occasions overnight between Thursday and Friday.

The move will raise tensions in the Middle East and comes amid mounting pressure over the alleged use of chemical weapons by president Bashar Assad’s regime.

May 1, 2013

Syrian use of nerve gas

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:13

Strategy Page outlines what we think we know about the use of nerve gas in Syria:

In Syria the rebels have been accusing the government of using nerve gas shells and bombs. Israel is convinced this is so and the U.S. is inclined to agree with them. The known incidents occurred in the northern city of Aleppo where government forces are taking a beating. Syria insists that no nerve gas was used, but the nerve gas may have been ordered as a desperate measure to halt the advancing rebels, with instructions that “this never happened”. Israel insists it has definitive proof and apparently that is convincing many NATO members, including the United States. Moreover a Syrian general defected in late April and said he was ordered to use chemical weapons against rebels in the southwest recently, but fired shells with harmless chemicals instead. The general offered to reveal where he had buried the actual chemical shells.

Syrian nerve gas is stored at some fifty locations all over the country. A large number of troops are devoted to defending these stockpiles and some chemical weapons have been moved to avoid capture by the rebels. Officially Syria has no nerve gas, but the Assad government has recently made statements indicating that it is abandoning that fiction. Syria has maintained stocks of chemical weapons for decades as a last ditch weapon for any future war with Israel (which few Syrians believe could be won). Israel has prepared accordingly. Recently Syria announced that it never had any intention of using nerve gas against Israel. This all gets even stranger as Israel has recently advised the United States to stay out of Syria, even if nerve gas is being used. That’s apparently because Israel wants to take care of this problem itself, as its Israeli civilians who are likely to die if Syrian nerve gas is captured by Islamic terrorists (who still want to use nerve gas against Israel).

Photos of dead civilians the rebels claim were nerve gas victims do show signs of nerve gas in use (foaming at the mouth and contracted pupils). The only way to obtain conclusive evidence is for someone to bring out the bodies of victims (or blood samples) and soil samples from the area where the nerve gas was used. If the rebels want to prove their accusations of nerve gas use they just have to collect these samples and get them out of the country. Apparently that has been done, at least to the satisfaction of Israeli intelligence. The U.S. said it would intervene militarily if Syria used chemical weapons and demands conclusive proof (blood and soil samples) before deciding and acting. Now the U.S. has apparently been shown evidence of Syrian use of chemical and is debating what to do about it.

February 12, 2013

Palestine as a useful symbol, but Palestinians as inconvenient “guests”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:28

Strategy Page on the paradoxical Arab view of Palestine as worth fighting for, but actual living Palestinians as less-than-welcome pests (or worse):

While most Arabs will admit they hate Israel, they will also deny that this has anything to do with anti-Semitism and has everything to do with the Palestinians. This is not true, as Arabs have long demonstrated a hostility towards the Jews, something which is part of their religion. It’s in their scriptures, the stories of how Jews refused to support Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Long held grudges are popular in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, there are many more recent reasons for Arabs to dislike the Palestinians. When the state of Israel was established in 1947 there began a series of bad decisions by Arab governments that are setting records for failure. Although the UN tried to broker the creation of Israel, Arab nations misjudged their own power and told Arabs in Israel to flee their homes, so that the Arab armies could come in and kill all the Jews. When that didn’t work, the Arabs refused to absorb the 600,000 Arab refugees, and continues to treat (actually, mistreat) them as refugees. At the same time, the Arabs expelled 600,000 Jews who had been living among them for centuries. Most of these Jews went to Israel and become Israelis, and prospered.

Thus began decades of hostility between Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. The Palestinians that fled to Lebanon proceeded to trigger a 15 year long civil war (1975-90) that devastated the country and left in place a Shia militia in the south (Hezbollah) that prevents the country from being truly united. The Palestinians that fled to Jordan eventually (1970) staged an uprising against the king, and were defeated and largely expelled. The Palestinians that went to Kuwait welcomed the Iraqi invasion of 1990 because Saddam Hussein had always been very loud about wanting to destroy Israel. When Arab and Western troops tossed Saddam out of Kuwait five months later, the Palestinians were forced to flee the vengeance of the Kuwaitis. The Palestinians that went to Iraq also had to flee in 2003, because they had helped Saddam terrorize the Shia and Kurdish majority and were, well, you know the story.

February 6, 2013

Municipality really eager to get their parking revenues

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Middle East — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:18

A woman in Tel Aviv was lucky to be able to get security camera footage to prove her innocence here:

The Tel Aviv Municipality found itself in hot water on Tuesday, after a Facebook post by a woman whose car was towed after city workers painted a handicapped space around the vehicle went viral, becoming a mini-scandal and garnering coverage across Israeli media outlets.

Security camera footage from a store above the parking spot on Yehuda Halevi Street shows the car parked at a legal blue parking spot, before city workers arrive and paint a handicapped spot around the car, which is towed shortly thereafter.

The video was obtained by the owner of the car, Hila Ben-Baruch, from the surveillance camera of the store above the parking spot.

I once saw something similar happen in real time: in the mid-1970′s, I was waiting for a Mississauga Transit bus when a work crew from the city came along. The crew started putting up “No Parking” signs along the road, and a Peel Regional Police officer came along a few minutes later to write parking tickets for all the cars which were now illegally parked. The bus I was waiting for was on something like a 45 minute schedule, so this all took place within that stretch of time.

November 24, 2012

Israel: where the 1970s never ended

Filed under: Middle East — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:15

Kathy Shaidle reports on her recent trip to Israel:

Folks who say visiting Israel is like traveling back in time don’t know the half of it.

Say: Do you find yourself missing the 1970s — even though, like me, you vowed you never would?

That is: Do you miss litter, graffitti, off-leash dogs, free range cats, smoking on the beach, 13 TV channels, no wheelchair ramps — plus polyester everything?

Because if so, Israel is the 70s with cellphones! You’ll love it! Heck, the same war’s still going on!

Seriously: This shiksa just got back from her second trip to Israel — not a moment too soon, from the looks of things — and I’m here with the first of a series of articles that will go from macro to micro.

PJMedia’s own Barry Rubin literally wrote the book on Israel. I read it before I left and recommend it highly. But he’s a Jew who has lived there for years. I’m writing as a gentile two-time visitor.

To that end, I’ll start off with an overviews of major cities and regions in Israel, then drill down in the coming weeks, to cover specific attractions; define words that don’t mean what you (or more accurately, your dorky grad student nephew) think they mean (i.e., “check point,” “settlement,” “refugee camp”); then offer tips on food, language, manners and more.

November 23, 2012

Brendan O’Neill: Israel as a “rogue state”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill on the branding of Israel as a rogue state by the usual suspects:

Events of the past week have illuminated what Israel has become in Western political circles: a rogue state for the right-on. Where George W Bush had Iraq, and Barack Obama has Iran, Western Leftists have Israel: an allegedly rogue entity, a deviant state, whose lawlessness they can rail against in precisely the same way that American leaders slam states that they judge to be roguish. Today’s fashionable bashing of Israel is not a genuinely anti-imperialist or even particularly anti-war stance — rather, it is motored by the same thirst to discover a faraway embodiment of evil we can all get righteously angry about that has fuelled American foreign policy in recent years.

The most striking thing about the Israel-bashing lobby is how similar its language is to that used by Washington, which is hardly known for its peacenik virtues. Most strikingly, the anti-Israel set promiscuously bandies about the phrase “rogue state”, which was first invented by the Clinton administration in the 1990s in its desperate search for post-Soviet Union foreign wickedness that it might define itself against. As one author has said, the term “rogue state” is used by Western officials as a “certificate of dangerous insanity in the diplomatic world” — that is, it is used to brand certain states as mad, bad and beyond the Pale, as offensive to all right-minded people. A very similar streak of Western chauvinism runs through the Israel-loathing lobby.

So this week, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman said Israel is a “rogue state” and an “aggressor state”. Leaving aside that it is hilariously hypocritical for a man who voted for both the Labour government’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 (600 dead) and its bombing of Iraq in 2003 (many thousands dead) to snootily refer to another state as an “aggressor” — what is more striking is Kaufman’s insistence that Israel is “criminal” and that its people are “complicit in [their] government’s war crimes”. This depiction of Israel as deviant, as rogue, as a breaker of international laws, and the burdening of its people with collective guilt for all this criminality, precisely echoes the arguments used by the most war-hungry of today’s Western politicians as they seek to assert their authority over some “bad state” or “bad people” overseas.

November 20, 2012

Hamas rockets versus Iron Dome

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

Strategy Page looks at the anti-missile system Israel has been using to combat Hamas rocket attacks:

Israel has bought seven batteries of Iron Dome anti-rocket missiles. Four are in action and a fifth one entered service several weeks early (on November 17) because of the major rocket assault Hamas and other Islamic terror groups in Gaza launched on November 14th. Over 500 rockets were launched during the first two days, but then the number began to decline. On Saturday (the 17th) 230 rockets were fired, with only 156 on Saturday and 121 on Monday. While the Palestinians have fired over a thousand rockets into Israel so far, and killed three Israelis, their effort is faltering and the Israeli response is not. Few of the rockets landed in occupied areas. That’s because Iron Dome has been able to detect and destroy 90 percent of the rockets that were going to land in an area containing people. The Israelis military says they have shot down over 300 rockets so far.

Iron Dome uses two radars to quickly calculate the trajectory of the incoming rocket and do nothing if the rocket trajectory indicates it is going to land in an uninhabited area. But if the computers predict a rocket coming down in an inhabited area, guided missiles are fired to intercept the rocket. This makes the system cost-effective. That’s because Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets in 2006, and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over six thousand rockets in the past eight years and the Israelis know where each of them landed. Over 90 percent of these rockets landed in uninhabited areas and few of those that did hit inhabited areas caused casualties. Israel already has a radar system in place that gives some warning of approaching rockets. Iron Dome uses that system, in addition to another, more specialized, radar in southern Israel.

[. . .]

Since Hamas is a big believer in using civilians as human shields (often against their will), a ground campaign would get a lot more Palestinians killed. So the attacks against specific terrorist leaders are seen as the better option. Even this risks civilian casualties, because Hamas puts its government and military facilities in residential neighborhoods. It has also, on the advice of its Hezbollah advisors, built rocket launchers near mosques, schools, hospitals and residences. The Israelis have distributed lots of videos of Palestinian rockets being fired in this way. Still most Arab and some Western media keep maintaining that Israel is at fault for defending itself, or simply existing.

This latest war with the Palestinians has been a major test for the Iron Dome system. Each battery has radar and control equipment and four missile launchers. Each battery costs about $37 million, which includes over fifty Tamir missiles (costing $40,000 each). In the two years before this month Iron Dome had intercepted over 100 rockets headed for populated areas. In the last week Iron Dome has intercepted at least another 300 rockets.

November 19, 2012

Victims of state-sponsored violence in Pakistan and Gaza

Filed under: Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

Brendan O’Neill wonders why fans of Obama’s re-election (and therefore also of his bloody record of drone strikes in Pakistan) are almost uniformly against Israel’s counter-attacks in Gaza:

All the people who two weeks ago were ecstatically cheering the re-election of Barack Obama are now having paroxysms of fury over Israel. Where the blogs, Twitterfeeds and daily conversations of these caring, Left-leaning folk were packed to bursting point with glowing praise for Obama on 7 November, now they are full of scorn for Israel and its inhuman, bloodthirsty bombing of Gaza. The intensity of these individuals’ delirium over Obama’s second term now finds its match in the intensity of their disgust with Israel’s military antics.

Which is weird, when you consider that Obama, their hero, has already done to the tribal regions of Pakistan what Israel, their nemesis, is now doing to Gaza.

Obama, like Israel, launches bombing raids on foreign militants, and Obama, like Israel, ends up killing innocent people in the process. Indeed, of the 283 drone strikes launched by Obama in rural regions of Pakistan over the past four years, which have killed an estimated 2,600 people, only 13 per cent have successfully killed an al-Qaeda or Taliban militant. Shockingly, this means that around 2,200 non-militant Pakistanis — or what we might call innocents — have been killed by Obama: bombed in their beds, or while herding sheep, or while driving their cars. This death toll dwarfs what has been unleashed by Israel over the past week or during the first Gaza war in 2008, when around 1,400 Palestinians died.

[. . .]

What is behind these mammoth double standards? Is it that Pakistanis are considered less important than Palestinians, and therefore there’s no need to protest when they get killed? Is it that Obama is viewed as so supercool and liberal that he can bomb whom he likes and still his cheerleaders won’t kick up a fuss? Is it because Israel is a Jewish State, and we are more offended by the sight of Jews bombing brown people than we are by the sight of America’s Democratic Party bombing brown people? What is it? There must be some explanation. Perhaps if you are one of those people who cheered Obama’s re-election and is now jeering at Israel’s militarism you might take a few minutes to tell us why some forms of militarism make you see red, and others do not.

October 24, 2012

Indonesia turns to India for help with their Russian-built aircraft

Filed under: India, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:02

Strategy Page on the odd post-sales attitude of Russian aviation manufacturers:

Indonesia knows that India has learned how to deal with shabby Russian support. For example, earlier this year India went public with yet another complaint about the Su-30 fighters it buys from Russia. This time it was an unspecified “design flaw” in the electronic flight control system. This bit of information was made public because India has found that more discreet communications about these matters results in little or no action from the Russians. For example, India has been pressuring Russia for several years to do something about component failures in the Russian designed AL-31 engines that power the Indian Su-30MKI jet fighters. There have been several AL-31 failures because of this in both Indian and Russian Su-30s.

[. . .]

India buys bare bones fighters from Russia and equips these Su-30MKIs with Israeli sensors and communications gear. In many respects, the Indian made Su-30s, the Su-30MKI, is the most capable version available, due to its Israeli and European electronics and the well trained Indian pilots. The 38 ton SU-30MKI is most similar to the two seat American F-15E fighter-bomber. Even though equipped with Western electronics, the aircraft cost less than $40 million each, about half what an equivalent F-15 costs. The Su-30MKI can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away.

Indonesia has already become disenchanted with its Su-30s and announced last August the six Su-30 jet fighters it ordered from Russia earlier this year (for $78 million each) would be the last Russian fighters purchased. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, and wanted at least 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron.

August 4, 2012

George Jonas: Israel is essential … to keeping Arab regimes in power

Filed under: Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:48

George Jonas in the National Post explains that Israel is essential to the dictators, strongmen, and demagogues of the many Arab and Muslim states that surround it:

An increase in hostility was predictable. Hatred against Israel, kept on a low boil, is the organizing principle of the Middle East. It’s the region’s main fuel of governance; often its only fuel. Some ruling regimes — kings, dictators, whatever — may have oil wells and sandy beaches, but other than hating Israel (and looking after their families and tribes) they have few if any ideas. If they do, chances are it’s to hate some other group in addition to Israel.

In the Middle East a country’s national purpose often amounts to little more than a list of its enemies. A feeling of being ill-done by dominates the consciousness of groups and individuals. Since it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s not necessarily baseless: The easiest way to have an enemy is to be one.

The centrality of hatred to the culture is remarkable. The Cartesian idea is “I hate, therefore I am.” Self-righteousness is overwhelming: each desire thwarted becomes an example of justice denied. It’s not a pretty place, but millions call it home.

[. . .]

We won’t understand much about the Arab Spring as long as we persist in looking at it through Western eyes. We see popular uprisings against dictatorships as moves in the direction of Western-style democracy. If they happened here, they probably would be. Where they’re actually happening they’re taking their societies in the opposite direction.

The Arab Spring is an attempt to return the region to its roots. It’s not to Westernize the Middle East and make it more democratic; it’s to Easternize it and make it more Islamic. If the early 20th century was about the East trying to join what it couldn’t lick, the early 21st may be about the East trying to lick what it hasn’t been able to join.

June 5, 2012

Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame: joint US-Israeli projects

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

The US and Israeli governments have admitted that the Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame malware infections were joint efforts:

American and Israeli officials have finally confirmed that the industrial grade Cyber War weapons (Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame) used against Iran in the last few years were indeed joint U.S.-Israel operations. No other details were released, although many more rumors are now circulating. The U.S. and Israel were long suspected of being responsible for these “weapons grade” computer worms. Both nations had the motive to use, means to build and opportunity to unleash these powerful Cyber War weapons against Iran and other that support terrorism.

The U.S. Department of Defense had long asked for permission to go on the offensive using Cyber War weapons. But the U.S. government regularly and publicly declined to retaliate against constant attack from China, mainly because there were fears that there could be legal repercussions and that weapons used might get out of control and cause lots of damage to innocent parties.

Iran turned out to be another matter. Although not a serious Cyber War threat to the United States, Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons and apparently Israel had already been looking into using a Cyber War weapon to interfere with that. Given the nature of these weapons, which work best if the enemy doesn’t even know they exist, don’t expect many details to be released about this Cyber War program. What is known is that the Cyber War weapons unleashed on Iran were designed to concentrate only on very specific targets. So far, only three weapons that we know of have been used. One (Stuxnet) was designed to do damage to one specific facility, the plant where Iran produced nuclear fuel for power plants, and atomic weapons. That one worked. The other two (Duqu and Flame) were intelligence collection programs. They also apparently succeeded, remaining hidden for years and having lots of opportunity to collect enormous quantities of valuable data.

May 15, 2012

Israel and the draft dodgers

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:21

Israel’s growing ultra-orthodox community are exempt from the military draft, and even those who choose to join the military are demanding changes in the way the military operates. Strategy Page explains:

Israeli police have declared open season on young men and women who refuse to serve in the armed forces. Last year 2,700 Israeli men and over a thousand women illegally avoided military service. That’s fifty percent more than in 2010. This trend is partly in response to the growing number of Jewish Israelis claiming religious exemptions. Government efforts to placate the religious conservatives have not worked. This perceived unfairness is making it difficult to maintain morale and high standards in its armed forces.

The most obvious sign of this declining morale is the growing number of young men and women who are avoiding service (draft dodgers, in U.S. parlance). The Israeli armed forces has about 175,000 people on active duty, about 60 percent of those are draftees (men serving for 36 months, women for 21 months) and a third are women (who can serve in 90 percent of military jobs). There are another 450,000 reservists (those who have already completed their active service). You get drafted at 18, unless you have a deferment. Currently about a quarter of men and nearly half the women get some kind of deferment.

The military expects this deferment rate to keep increasing. In an effort to get more young men with a religious deferment to volunteer, the army is giving in to conservative Jewish sects that demand unmarried men and women remain separated while in the military. At first, this meant smaller (company and battalion size) units containing only “religious” (actually, very religious) Jews. But when these units came together for operations or ceremonies, the religious Jews demanded that female soldiers be segregated from the men. They also demanded that women soldiers not sing (Israeli soldiers sing a lot) when religious male soldiers are around. In general, female soldiers were increasingly not allowed to mingle with male soldiers if there are religious soldiers present. All this sort of thing has been bad for morale, angered the female soldiers and caused a public uproar over the issue.

[. . .]

But the most contentious problem is, ironically, the religious one. Israeli women know very well how women are mistreated in Moslem countries and they see ultra-religious Jews as a local version of that. The ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews are becoming more aggressive in imposing their rules on others. Violence by religious extremists is becoming more common. The most conservative religious Jews have increasingly used violence in Jerusalem. For example, they oppose the government allowing cars to park near Haredi neighborhoods on Saturday (the Sabbath). They also oppose billboard ads that feature women anywhere near where Haredi live, and segregate women on buses in their neighborhoods. Now they want to segregate the military as well, in addition to keeping most of their young men and women out, and that has aroused a lot of public opposition.

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