Sunday, December 27, 2009

"The Iranian Threat and More"

As I wrote last night, the three terrorists who had hit Rabbi Chai in the drive-by shooting have been killed by the IDF. Of the three:

Anan Suleiman Mustafa Subih, 36, an operative of the "Shuhada al-Aksa" brigade, was part of the IDF amnesty program for members of Al Aksa Brigades that took him off an IDF wanted list, in return for his pledge to no longer be involved in terrorism. As you can see, that "pledge" was worth just about as much as we might have expected it to be. I've always considered this program to be a colossal farce. The other two, Nader Raed Sukarji (a top Al Aksa operative who prepared bombs) and Ghassan Abu Sharkh, had both served time in Israeli prisons. Sukarji was released less than a year ago, and clearly wasted no time getting back to terrorism.


Now, is this purely coincidence?

This morning Netanyahu told the Cabinet:

"At this point, there's no deal [regarding Shalit], and it's not clear whether or not there will be a deal. If it comes to a vote, I'll bring it to the government, but we're not there yet, and I don't know if we ever will be."

We want to bring captives home, he said, but, "We need to minimize risk to civilians...We will not agree to expose our citizens to terror."

Cynic that I am right now, this is my take: Netanyahu, in spite of inner resistance to the principle of trading Hamas prisoners, was prepared to do it because of the public clamor for it. But the mood in the Israeli public has shifted with this latest terror attack. And now caution in advancing this deal seems prudent.

This, apparently in spite of the fact that Hamas -- according to reports-- is leaning towards agreeing to having some of the terrorists deported.

Please G-d, let it fall through.


The Netanyahu-Livni meeting with regard to a unity government will not take place until this evening, and so there is no word as I write. Several advisors are telling Livni that she needs a team of Kadima members negotiating on the issue -- but they in the main do not believe Netanyahu's offer is serious.

I have heard that those who want to leave Kadima promoted this so that when she refuses they have a good reason to quit the party. This is not beyond the realm of possibility.


Do I have this straight? I think so:

Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the Nigerian man who tried to blow up an American plane bound for Detroit was known by the US to have possible terrorist connections. But he was not on a "no-fly" list (gee, they have thousands on the list of terror-connections and cannot put everyone on the "no-fly list") and so was able to board the plane. Now, after the fact, they're checking into his Al-Qaida connections.

Well, I would like to comment on this from the perspective of my personal experience. I have encountered a tendency, when flying in the US, (particularly in Dulles Airport outside of Washington), to get pulled off for a heightened security check. When I have asked if the reason I'm being checked is because my destination is Israel, I'm told it is not -- this is simply random. Which I don't believe for a second, because I've seen the little red mark the clerk puts on my boarding pass before I pass through security.

The check does not stop me from flying. I'm no danger to anyone. But before I board, in these cases, among other checks, a little wand that detects chemical molecules is waved in my hand-luggage. In other words, it would seem that the technology to detect what this guy was carrying is out there, and being used with frequency. Certainly frisking him -- which requires no technology -- would have uncovered what he had strapped to his body.

And so now this question: Why wasn't there a little asterisk next to his name, a little note -- so possible in this age of computers -- that would tell security personnel for the plane: "Check him carefully before letting him on"?

Something is very seriously amiss.

Last night, I attended a significant talk by Professor Irwin Cotler, a member of the Canadian parliament and former Canadian minister of justice.

Speaking of the parallels between our current situation and 1939, he addressed the issue of the Iranian threat from multiple perspectives:

The Iran of Ahmadinejad, says Cotler, is a clear and present danger to Middle East stability, Israel and Jews more broadly, and its own people. Of great concern is the indifference and inaction of the international community with respect to these dangers, and the impunity with which Ahmadinejad is permitted to proceed.

He proposes an approach to Iran that is broad-based, and demands accountability of Iran with regard to all of the threats it currently represents:

1) Iran is defying the international community with regard to its nuclear development. It is in standing violation of UN prohibitions.

2) Iran has already committed incitement to genocide, as forbidden by the Genocide Convention.

3) Iran is a state sponsor of international terrorism.

4) Iran commits major human rights violations against its own people.

It is a mistake to focus only on the nuclear threat. This marginalizes the other threats, and allows Iran to proceed as if there is no international concern at these various levels. Engagement with Iran must deal with all of it.


Professor Cotler is working with some 60 international human rights lawyers, who will be releasing a petition very soon that will provide documented evidence of Iranian violations and propose actions to be taken. Members of this group will be visiting Western capitals -- 15 have been targeted -- in an attempt to energize specific actions against Iran.

Recommendations include comprehensive, calibrated and targeted sanctions:

a) Iran is currently in violation of five sets of UN resolutions, which are not being enforced. The start is the enforcement of these resolutions.

b) Gasoline sanctions: measures against those who export refined petroleum products to Iran, or facilitate such export.

c) Curbing of energy investments in Iran. This would include the energy infrastructure -- shipping, etc.

d) Include the Iranian Central Bank -- which is at the heart of Iranian financial dealings -- in financial sanctions. This has not been done yet.

e) International institutions must be monitored with regard to money laundering for Iran.

f) Companies that facilitate domestic repression in Iran must be sanctioned.

g) Sanction companies that do business with the Revolutionary Guard -- the most vicious and radical element in Iran and the one that now has control. The Guard must be put on terrorism lists.

h) Embargoes must be placed against technology and arms transfers to Iran.

i) Landing permission must be denied to the Iranian transportation industry -- planes and ships.

Note: The UN is serving as a third party in money laundering for Iran. Iran has been using a UN office -- The Asia Clearing Union -- to avoid US financial sanctions that forbid dealing with Iran.


These sanctions are only the beginning, however. Additional recommendations include these:

1) The eight precursors to genocide have already been identified as existing in Iran. In such a situation, the Genocide Convention calls for specific actions. HOWEVER, not one single signatory nation has undertaken these actions. They are not voluntary -- they constitute a legal obligation.

Says Cotler: "International legal responsibility is not a 'policy option.'"

The issue must be raised in the Security Council and an inter-state complaint must be brought before the International Court of Justice.

2) Interpol, the international criminal police organization, has a warrant out for the arrest of Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian Minister of Defense, for his role in the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But the world seems to be ignoring this.

3) It is important to provide solidarity with the Iranian opposition forces -- those challenging the government. We are not at a tipping point yet, but it may come, and they may in time overturn the current regime. They need international support.


Professor Cotler says there is no absence of remedy -- the problem is absence of action. We are witnesses to the crime of indifference. The moral deficiency of governments is not new, but it is painful none-the-less. Particularly since

I salute Irwin Cotler and all those he is working with for acting to change this situation.

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