Archive for September, 2013

Show me your fatwa!

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Most of my friends have already heard this story, but if you are one of them, don’t skip it. There’s an important parallel.

When I served in the IDF reserve, my job was guard duty at Air Force installations. This is (or was) one of the lowest tasks in the army, being reserved for people who hadn’t done regular service, or who had various ‘problems’. And we were a motley bunch. In particular there was one guy who always wore sneakers instead of boots. He explained to his commanders that he had a ptor, a medical release.

One day in 1987 when we guarding Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport, we were informed that a helicopter carrying the Chief of the General Staff was arriving and we were to go out and meet it. With feelings of great importance (and relief from the crushing boredom of guard duty), we surrounded the landing area. The helicopter touched down, and out stepped the highest-ranking officer in the IDF, Dan Shomron, along with other generals, bodyguards, etc.

The first thing he noticed was the sneakers. Before he stepped into his car, he nudged a major, who spoke to my associate.

Major: You. What’s on your feet?
Cpl. X: Sneakers.
M: Why?
X: I have a ptor.
M: Show it to me.

Of course he couldn’t, since it existed only in his mind. There were unpleasant consequences for him.

Which brings us to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. (h/t: Elder of Ziyon). Rouhani — and his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — have claimed several times that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons because the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa [judgment of Islamic law] against it.

In fact, they even succeeded in persuading President Obama, who mentioned it in his speech at the UN last week. But like my unfortunate friend’s ptor, the fatwa seems to be imaginary. Read what MEMRI says about it:

In fact, such a fatwa was never issued by Supreme Leader Khamenei and does not exist; neither the Iranian regime nor anybody else can present it.

The deception regarding “Khamenei’s fatwa” has been promoted by the Iranian regime and its spokesmen for several years. Each time it was mentioned, the “fatwa” was given a different year of issue – for example, 2005, 2007, or 2012 – but the text of the “fatwa” was never presented.

MEMRI has conducted in-depth research with regard to this “fatwa” and has published reports demonstrating that it is a fiction. See MEMRI reports:

Renewed Iran-West Nuclear Talks – Part II: Tehran Attempts to Deceive U.S. President Obama, Sec’y of State Clinton With Nonexistent Anti-Nuclear Weapons Fatwa By Supreme Leader Khamenei

Release Of Compilation Of Newest Fatwas By Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei – Without Alleged Fatwa About Nuclear Bomb

The Iranian regime apparently believes that its frequent repetition of the “fatwa” lie will make it accepted as truth. To date, the Europeans refuse to accept it. According to unofficial sources, the legal advisors of the EU3 made an official request to the Iranian regime in 2005 to provide a copy of the “fatwa,” but in vain.

The imaginary fatwa is just one of many lies told by the Iranians about their nuclear program. Another is that it is for peaceful purposes, when the overwhelming evidence indicates that it is intended to produce weapons.

Iran has been making great sacrifices for more than a decade to become a nuclear power, something which it correctly believes will change the balance of power in the Middle East, replacing US influence with that of Iran. Now it is on the verge of completing its project — is it likely to give up now just to end the leaky sanctions that it has borne up to this point? Would the US have scrapped the Manhattan Project in January of 1945?

The Iranian lies are transparent, but they are not designed to be convincing. They are designed to provide cover for the Obama Administration, which has already decided that it is more important to achieve a ‘diplomatic solution’ to the Iranian crisis than it is to actually prevent them from assembling nuclear weapons (or coming close enough to do so on very short notice).

Unlike the IDF major I mentioned above, President Obama is not prepared to call an obvious bluff.

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A nuclear Iran: get used to it

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Banner at Tehran military parade, Sept. 23, 2013. Although the English statement is relatively mild, in Persian and Arabic it says "Death to America."

Banner at Tehran military parade, Sept. 23, 2013. Although the English statement is relatively mild, in Persian and Arabic it says “Death to America.”

Most observers expected that Hassan Rouhani would continue his so-called ‘charm offensive’ when he spoke at the UN yesterday. They thought that he would accept the proffered handshake from Barack Obama, and then propose negotiations that, some hoped, might lead to a halt in Iran’s nuclear program.

I admit that although I believe that negotiations with Iran would be no more than an attempt to run out the clock, I thought that Rouhani would at least continue his pretense of moderation.

Well, I was wrong. Rouhani is so confident that Barack Obama is no threat that he snubbed the US president’s hand, and in his speech took the hard line that his nuclear program is for ‘peaceful purposes’ — if you believe this, I will sell you all of the bridges to Manhattan — and indicated that while he would be prepared to negotiate, “the right to enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights” would not be on the table.

Two days before he spoke, Rouhani reviewed a military parade in Teheran at which missile transports carrying slogans of “Death to America” and “Israel should cease to exist” were shown.

Unfortunately, Rouhani’s confidence is not misplaced.

Although President Obama says that he is “determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” his willingness to talk, along with his unwillingness — indeed, inability — to premise such talks on a credible military threat, guarantees that Iran will continue its weapons development.

Rouhani understands Obama’s weak position, both domestically and with Western allies, which was illustrated by his embarrassment over the Syrian crisis. He can afford to play to the gallery of anti-Americans and Israel-haters at the UN.

Israel has threatened to use force. But it has been neutralized by the Obama Administration, which already vetoed an Israeli attack in October of last year. Any Israeli action during the interminable negotiations that will follow would be portrayed as disruptive to the diplomatic process, making Israel an international pariah. Israel will only act if it believes a strike against it is imminent.

Unless something entirely unforeseen happens, I expect that Iran will continue to approach nuclear capability asymptotically, not actually testing weapons, but reducing the time required to deploy them to a minimum. At some point within the next year or two, Iran will be a nuclear power for all intents and purposes.

The discussion will then shift to questions about deterrence, containment, etc.

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Islam’s violence problem

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Yesterday I wrote that Muslims have a problem: a significant number of them believe that killing non-Muslims (or ‘bad’ Muslims) is a legitimate expression of their grievances (and boy, do they have grievances).

Here is another example:

Last March, Mohammed Merah entered the Ozar Hatorah school on a motorcycle and gunned down a 30-year-old religious education teacher and his two sons, aged 3 and 6 and the 10-year-old daughter of the school principal. …

Lucien Abdelrhafor, a French national of Moroccan origin who claimed to be Merah’s cousin, was arrested over the weekend for making a threatening phone call to the French Jewish school …

According to SPCJ, the French Jewish community’s security service, the man called the school on Sept. 16 and told a secretary “I am Mohammed Merah’s cousin and I’m coming over tonight to kill you.”

According to reports, the man was not actually related to Merah, but had recently become extremely religious.

Just a nut? Probably. For every terrorist murder there are probably 100 threatening phone calls made by nuts.

Look at the last sentence above. Do you see the problem?

Here is a description of Lucien from another source (my translation):

Lucien, who called himself Lahcène, was born of an unknown father and a Moroccan mother, into a family of nine brothers and sisters who did not practice Islam. He has been regularly attending the Luxeuil mosque for four years. Unemployed but enrolled at the local mission, he admits to two passions in life: “religion and football.”

The police noted religious books in his room, and a photo of a jihadist holding an RPG on the screen of his mobile phone.

Lucien likely was incapable of murder. But being passionate about religion, for him, meant being violent in its name.

The problem is the equation of piety with violence. A significant number of Muslims, often including recent converts or returnees to Islam, seem to believe that the more ‘religious’ you are, the more violent you will be (usually presented as violence in defense of Islam, although it may seem aggressive to us).

A more moderate Muslim might find it hard to criticize extremists, even if he thinks their behavior is not productive or excessively cruel, because he sees it as an excess of piety, something good in itself. Extremism is seen as Islam done more seriously. To criticize extremists would be to criticize Islam. So there are many Muslims who are not extremists themselves who keep quiet, and even contribute money in support of extremist organizations.

Although there are violent extremists in Christianity and Judaism, they are not generally considered ‘more religious’ than the moderate majority — they are marginalized, placed outside the tent.

Critics will say that I am overgeneralizing, that not every Muslim thinks like this. And I agree. But there are enough who do to enable, encourage and financially support the jihadists among them.

British PM David Cameron was entirely wrong when he said,

These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don’t. They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don’t represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world.

They do it precisely in the name of Islam. And a great many other Muslims understand and even accept this.

As I wrote yesterday, this is a Muslim problem that Muslims must solve.

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A vicious weekend

Monday, September 23rd, 2013
Women with children flee Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya

Women with children flee Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya

How was your weekend?

2013.09.22 (Baghdad, Iraq) – A sectarian suicide bomber hits a funeral, killing at least sixteen mourners.

2013.09.22 (Peshawar, Pakistan) – Two Jundullah suicide bombers obliterate over eighty [Christian] worshippers at a church service, including many women and children.

2013.09.21 (Azamiyah, Iraq) – Fundamentalist gunmen kill four people at a store selling alcohol.

2013.09.21 (Nairobi, Kenya) – Nearly sixty shoppers are murdered by Islamic activists in a targeted attack on non-Muslims at a shopping mall [now at least 69].

2013.09.21 (Sadr City, Iraq) – Women and children are amply represented among over seventy people massacred by a Shahid suicide bomber at a funeral.

2013.09.20 (Qalqiliya, Israel) – An Israeli soldier is kidnapped and murdered by Fatah [the majority faction of the PLO, Israel’s ‘peace partner’].

And this list doesn’t include Sgt. Gal Kobi, killed by a sniper in Hevron yesterday. Or who knows how many killed in Syria.

The shopping mall incident is still in progress as I write this, with the attackers holding hostages. According to news reports, the mall is partly owned by Israelis and some Israeli security personnel are at the scene assisting Kenyan police.

Is it ‘blowback’ against years of ‘Western imperialism?’ So the Pakistani Christians were imperialists? And the Iraqi Shiites?

Israel is a special case, always a target. The ideological excuses for killing Israeli Jews are multiple: they combine the religious motive, Arab honor, imperialism-colonialism-apartheid (thank the KGB for this), etc. But note that Palestinian nationalism developed as a response to Jewish sovereignty. The Arabs of Palestine didn’t target the Ottoman Turks that exploited them for hundreds of years, nor did they demand a Palestinian state from Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

In Kenya, the attackers specifically targeted non-Muslims. Witnesses said that people were asked the name of the Prophet’s mother (Aminah bint Wahab — remember this the next time you are a hostage), and shot if they answered incorrectly.

I think we have a general problem here, which is that a significant number of Muslims think that it is a proper expression of their grievances to murder people of different religious persuasions, including the ‘wrong’ form of Islam.

I wonder if this would stop if the various Islamic authorities — the Ulama of Al-Azhar in Egypt, for example, and the Shiite Ayatollas, as well as local scholars and Imams would issue fatwas saying, more or less, “don’t kill people for religious reasons.”

This isn’t a “tiny minority of fanatics.” It costs money to support and arm all of these terrorists and to carry out attacks. The jihadist factions in Syria, Gaza and the Sinai are well-armed, the fighters are paid. Somebody provides the Kalashnikovs, grenades, RPGs, etc. that are in their hands. I am not even talking about the NATO-level armament in the hands of Hizballah!

The Sunni factions are financed by wealthy individuals in the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, and by money collected all over the Muslim world (even in Europe and the US) and funneled through a network of helpful banks and Islamic finance institutions. Money is collected at the annual Haj to Mecca and at local mosques. The Shiites have Iran.

This is a Muslim problem that Muslims must solve. The rest of us need to aggressively — and preemptively — defend ourselves.

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US and Israel far apart on Iran

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

NPR this morning:

Rachel Martin: After 34 years of open hostility, the United States and Iran appear to be on the verge of a historic thaw. Iran’s new reform-minded president Hassan Rouhani wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week that he wants to move “beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program, or its relations with the United States.”

Martin then introduces Trita Parsi of the Iranian-American council, who says that the Iranian PR campaign is “sincere” and that “reform-minded” Rouhani is “capable of delivering.” Parsi argues that Rouhani has been granted “flexibility” by the real power in Iran, the Supreme Leader Khameinei, and if he can “prove” that his softer approach will be successful in advancing Iranian interests, like removing sanctions, then we have a historic opportunity for rapprochement. In 2003, Parsi says, Rouhani and others made overtures to the US, which didn’t respond. Now we have another chance.

No one else is interviewed for this story, and Parsi is asked no probing questions.

On the face of it, Parsi’s argument is simply a non-sequitur. There is no evidence that the ‘softer’ approach is anything other than a PR device. There is no evidence that Rouhani’s ‘flexibility’ extends to a willingness to give up the development of nuclear weapons. Listen to what Barry Rubin wrote about this very subject today:

Rouhani is a veteran national security official. He was backed by the regime. The voters would not be allowed a choice of a reformer so they could only vote for a phony one.

Now what then happened?

“President Rouhani says Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.” But that is what Iranian leaders have always claimed!

The Los Angeles Times applauded that ten dissidents were released. But they weren’t even though the newaspaper said, “It’s Rouhani’s strongest signal yet that he aims to keep a pledge to improve ties with the West.” But he didn’t do it!

Rouhani said, “I have full authority to make a deal with the West.” But that’s what they said too!

He then implied that he reversed Iran’s denial that the Nazis committed a Holocaust of Jews. But even that turned out to be a lie here and here.

They also had a phony New Year’s greeting to the Jews. Rouhani added a Jew to the UN delegation of Iran, no doubt to tell how well they were treated. So Rouhani loves the Jews and wants to make peace.

Obama swallowed the bait, eagerly.

But note that Rouhani does not have a moderate record and meanwhile Iran now has troops in Syria. What suckers Americans are. They’ll still [be] talking about Iranian nukes on the day they get them and probably about Syria giving up chemical weapons, too.

Rouhani may speak more pleasantly than Ahmadinejad, but the scale of the Iranian nuclear program indicates that it is a major policy goal of the regime. It is hard to imagine that it would have gotten to the point it has, while defying international pressure and suffering (although not as much as one would like) from economic sanctions, just to dismantle the program as success is around the corner.

The Obama administration is jumping on the bandwagon for the ‘moderate’ Iranian president. Barack Obama loves the idea of solving problems diplomatically, without recourse to force. That is what he wants to happen in Syria, and now with Iran. The problem is that the Iranian regime, as well as Bashar al-Assad, have interests too, and they won’t give them up unless they get something that they think is at least of comparative value. What can the US offer Iran that would be as valuable to them as nuclear power status? The end of sanctions? Please.

A credible threat of force changes the equation. Suddenly, the nuclear path to regional domination doesn’t look so inviting. You might not get there at all, and you might lose other important assets along with your enrichment facilities, like for example your air defense system, missiles and launchers, etc.

But everyone can see that the US will not use force, that the calculation has been made that US interests will better be served by allowing Iran to build its weapons than to take the risks inherent in trying to stop it. So the US cannot make such a threat.

Iran’s charm offensive has made it possible for the administration to delay or even avoid the embarrassment of admitting this.

Israel’s calculation has had a different outcome. Although Israel does not have the capabilities of the US, it probably can put a big dent in Iran’s program — and in other stuff that the regime does not want to lose. Israel will suffer in the process, but its leadership believes that if Iran does get the bomb, the chances that it will use it are too great to ignore.

The problem is that the US strongly opposes an Israeli attack. Iran has threatened that it would retaliate against US interests if Israel strikes, which is one reason. Another is that it would mess up the carefully nurtured impression that the administration’s foreign policy is actually succeeding in the Mideast.

Israel is therefore in the uncomfortable position that it must act against Iran, and do it against the will of the US, which has already vetoed a planned Israeli attack.

Talk about “daylight” between the US and Israel!

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