Thursday, July 31, 2008

Russia Takes Control of Turkmen (World?) Gas

By M K Bhadrakumar for Asia Times (via Informationclearinghouse)

From the details coming out of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan and Moscow over the weekend, it is apparent that the great game over Caspian energy has taken a dramatic turn. In the geopolitics of energy security, nothing like this has happened before. The United States has suffered a huge defeat in the race for Caspian gas. The question now is how much longer Washington could afford to keep Iran out of the energy market.

Gazprom, Russia's energy leviathan, signed two major agreements in Ashgabat on Friday outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. The first one elaborates the price formation principles that will be guiding the Russian gas purchase from Turkmenistan during the next 20-year period. The second agreement is a unique one, making Gazprom the donor for local Turkmen energy projects. In essence, the two agreements ensure that Russia will keep control over Turkmen gas exports.

The new pricing principle lays out that starting from next year, Russia has agreed to pay to Turkmenistan a base gas purchasing price that is a mix of the average wholesale price in Europe and Ukraine. In effect, as compared to the current price of US$140 per thousand cubic meters of Turkmen gas, from 2009 onward Russia will be paying $225-295 under the new formula. This works out to an additional annual payment of something like $9.4 billion to $12.4 billion. But the transition to market principles of pricing will take place within the framework of a long-term contract running up to the year 2028.

The second agreement stipulates that Gazprom will finance and build gas transportation facilities and develop gas fields in Turkmenistan. Experts have estimated that Gazprom will finance Turkmen projects costing $4-6 billion. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said, "We have reached agreement regarding Gazprom financing and building the new main gas pipelines from the east of the country, developing gas fields and boosting the capacity of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian gas pipeline to 30 billion cubic meters." Interestingly, Gazprom will provide financing in the form of 0% credits for these local projects. The net gain for Turkmenistan is estimated to be in the region of $240-480 million.

From all appearance, Gazprom, which was headed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for eight years from 2000 to May 2008, has taken an audacious initiative. It could only have happened thanks to a strategic decision taken at the highest level in the Kremlin. In fact, Medvedev had traveled to Ashgabat on July 4-5 en route to the Group of Eight summit meeting in Hokkaido, Japan.

Curiously, the agreements reached in Ashgabat on Friday are unlikely to enable Gazprom to make revenue from reselling Turkmen gas. Quite possibly, Gazprom may now have to concede similar terms to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the two other major gas producing countries in Central Asia. In other words, plain money-making was not the motivation for Gazprom. The Kremlin has a grand strategy.

Coincidence or not, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to Beijing at the weekend to launch with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Wang Oishan, an energy initiative - a so-called "energy negotiation mechanism". The first round of negotiations within this framework took place on Saturday in Beijing. There has been an inexplicable media blackout of the event, but Beijing finally decided to break the news. The government-owned China Daily admitted on Monday, "Both China and Russia kept silent on the details of the consensus they reached on energy cooperation in the first round of their negotiation in Beijing on the weekend."

Without getting into details, China Daily merely took note of the talks as "a good beginning" and commented, "It seems that a shift of Russia's energy export policy is under way. Russia might turn its eyes from the Western countries to the Asia-Pacific region ... The cooperation in the energy sector is an issue of great significance for Sino-Russian relations ... the political and geographic closeness of the two countries would put their energy cooperation under a safe umbrella and make it a win-win deal. China-Russia ties are at their best times ... The two sides settled their lingering border disputes, held joint military exercises, and enjoyed rapidly increasing bilateral trade."

It is unclear whether Gazprom's agreements in Ashgabat and Sechin's talks in Beijing were inter-related. Conceivably, they overlapped in so far as China had signed a long-term agreement with Turkmenistan whereby the latter would supply 30 billion cubic meters of gas to China annually for the 30-year period starting from 2009. The construction work on the gas pipeline leading from Turkmenistan to China's Xinjiang Autonomous region has already begun. China had agreed on the price for Turkmen gas at $195 per thousand cubic meters. Now, the agreement in Ashgabat on Friday puts Gazprom in the driving seat for handling all of Turkmenistan's gas exports, including to China.

Russia and China have a heavy agenda to discuss in energy cooperation far beyond the price of Turkmen gas supplies. But suffice it to say that Gazprom's new stature as the sole buyer of Turkmen gas strengthens Russia's hands in setting the price in the world gas (and oil) market. And that has implications for China. Moscow would be keen to ensure that Russian and Chinese interests are harmonized in Central Asia.

Besides, Russia is taking a renewed interest in the idea of a "gas cartel". Medvedev referred to the idea during the visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow last week. The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on Friday that "Moscow finds the idea of coordination of gas production and pricing policy with other gas exporters to be too tempting to abandon". The daily quoted Miller as saying, "This forum of gas exporters will set up the global gas balance. It will give answers to the questions concerning when, where and how much gas should be produced."

Until fairly recently Moscow was sensitive about the European Union's opposition to the idea of a gas cartel. (Washington has openly warned that it would legislate against countries that lined up behind a gas cartel). But high gas prices have weakened the European Union's negotiating position.

The agreements with Turkmenistan further consolidate Russia's control of Central Asia's gas exports. Gazprom recently offered to buy all of Azerbaijan's gas at European prices. (Medvedev visited Baku on July 3-4.) Baku will study with keen interest the agreements signed in Ashgabat on Friday. The overall implications of these Russian moves are very serious for the US and EU campaign to get the Nabucco gas pipeline project going.

Nabucco, which would run from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, was hoping to tap Turkmen gas by linking Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan via a pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would be connected to the pipeline networks through the Caucasus to Turkey already existing, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

But with access denied to Turkmen gas, Nabucco's viability becomes doubtful. And, without Nabucco, the entire US strategy of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian energy supplies makes no sense. Therefore, Washington is faced with Hobson's choice. Friday's agreements in Ashgabat mean that Nabucco's realization will now critically depend on gas supplies from the Middle East - Iran, in particular. Turkey is pursuing the idea of Iran supplying gas to Europe and has offered to mediate in the US-Iran standoff.

The geopolitics of energy makes strange bedfellows. Russia will be watching with anxiety the Turkish-Iranian-US tango. An understanding with Iran on gas pricing, production and market-sharing is vital for the success of Russia's overall gas export strategy. But Tehran visualizes the Nabucco as its passport for integration with Europe. Again, Russia's control of Turkmen gas cannot be to Tehran's liking. Tehran had keenly pursed with Ashgabat the idea of evacuation of Turkmen gas to the world market via Iranian territory.

There must be deep frustration in Washington. In sum, Russia has greatly strengthened its standing as the principal gas supplier to Europe. It not only controls Central Asia's gas exports but has ensured that gas from the region passes across Russia and not through the alternative trans-Caspian pipelines mooted by the US and EU. Also, a defining moment has come. The era of cheap gas is ending. Other gas exporters will cite the precedent of the price for Turkmen gas. European companies cannot match Gazprom's muscle. Azerbaijan becomes a test case. Equally, Russia places itself in a commanding position to influence the price of gas in the world market. A gas cartel is surely in the making. The geopolitical implications are simply profound for the US.

Moreover, Russian oil and gas companies are now spreading their wings into Latin America, which has been the US's traditional backyard. During Chavez's visit to Moscow on July 22, three Russian energy companies - Gazprom, LUKoil and TNK-BP - signed agreements with the Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company PDVSA. They will replace the American oil giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips in Venezuela.

At the signing ceremony, Medvedev said, "We have not only approved these agreements but have also decided to supervise their implementation." Chavez responded, "I look forward to seeing all of you in Venezuela."

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Acts of War: the US is already at war with Iran

By Scott Ritter for Truth Dig

The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities which result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation’s sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions which took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world today.

Much of the information behind this is being promulgated by Israel, which has a vested interest in seeing Iran neutralized as a potential threat. But Israel is joined by another source, even more puzzling in terms of its broad-based acceptance in the world of American journalism: the Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group sworn to overthrow the theocracy in Tehran. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran, including a particularly devastating “accident” involving a military convoy transporting ammunition in downtown Tehran, appears to be linked to an MEK operation; its agents working inside munitions manufacturing plants deliberately are committing acts of sabotage which lead to such explosions. If CIA money and planning support are behind these actions, the agency’s backing constitutes nothing less than an act of war on the part of the United States against Iran.

The MEK traces its roots back to the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg. Formed among students and intellectuals, the MEK emerged in the 1960s as a serious threat to the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi. Facing brutal repression from the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, the MEK became expert at blending into Iranian society, forming a cellular organizational structure which made it virtually impossible to eradicate. The MEK membership also became adept at gaining access to positions of sensitivity and authority. When the Shah was overthrown in 1978, the MEK played a major role and for a while worked hand in glove with the Islamic Revolution in crafting a post-Shah Iran. In 1979 the MEK had a central role in orchestrating the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and holding 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

However, relations between the MEK and the Islamic regime in Tehran soured, and after the MEK staged a bloody coup attempt in 1981, all ties were severed and the two sides engaged in a violent civil war. Revolutionary Guard members who were active at that time have acknowledged how difficult it was to fight the MEK. In the end, massive acts of arbitrary arrest, torture and executions were required to break the back of mainstream MEK activity in Iran, although even the Revolutionary Guard today admits the MEK remains active and is virtually impossible to completely eradicate.

It is this stubborn ability to survive and operate inside Iran, at a time when no other intelligence service can establish and maintain a meaningful agent network there, which makes the MEK such an asset to nations such as the United States and Israel. The MEK is able to provide some useful intelligence; however, its overall value as an intelligence resource is negatively impacted by the fact that it is the sole source of human intelligence in Iran. As such, the group has taken to exaggerating and fabricating reports to serve its own political agenda. In this way, there is little to differentiate the MEK from another Middle Eastern expatriate opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, which infamously supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States and other governments and helped influence the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today, the MEK sees itself in a similar role, providing sole-sourced intelligence to the United States and Israel in an effort to facilitate American military operations against Iran and, eventually, to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The current situation concerning the MEK would be laughable if it were not for the violent reality of that organization’s activities. Upon its arrival in Iraq in 1986, the group was placed under the control of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence service. The MEK was a heavily militarized organization and in 1988 participated in division-size military operations against Iran. The organization represents no state and can be found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, yet since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 the MEK has been under the protection of the U.S. military. Its fighters are even given “protected status” under the Geneva conventions. The MEK says that its members in Iraq are refugees, not terrorists. And yet one would be hard-pressed to find why the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees should confer refugee status on an active paramilitary organization that uses “refugee camps” inside Iraq as its bases.

The MEK is behind much of the intelligence being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in building its case that Iran may be pursuing (or did in fact pursue in the past) a nuclear weapons program. The complexity of the MEK-CIA relationship was recently underscored by the agency’s acquisition of a laptop computer allegedly containing numerous secret documents pertaining to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Much has been made about this computer and its contents. The United States has led the charge against Iran within international diplomatic circles, citing the laptop information as the primary source proving Iran’s ongoing involvement in clandestine nuclear weapons activity. Of course, the information on the computer, being derived from questionable sources (i.e., the MEK and the CIA, both sworn enemies of Iran) is controversial and its veracity is questioned by many, including me.

Now, I have a simple solution to the issue of the laptop computer: Give it the UNSCOM treatment. Assemble a team of CIA, FBI and Defense Department forensic computer analysts and probe the computer, byte by byte. Construct a chronological record of how and when the data on the computer were assembled. Check the “logic” of the data, making sure everything fits together in a manner consistent with the computer’s stated function and use. Tell us when the computer was turned on and logged into and how it was used. Then, with this complex usage template constructed, overlay the various themes which have been derived from the computer’s contents, pertaining to projects, studies and other activities of interest. One should be able to rapidly ascertain whether or not the computer is truly a key piece of intelligence pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programs.

The fact that this computer is acknowledged as coming from the MEK and the fact that a proper forensic investigation would probably demonstrate the fabricated nature of the data contained are why the U.S. government will never agree to such an investigation being done. A prosecutor, when making a case of criminal action, must lay out evidence in a simple, direct manner, allowing not only the judge and jury to see it but also the accused. If the evidence is as strong as the prosecutor maintains, it is usually bad news for the defendant. However, if the defendant is able to demonstrate inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data being presented, then the prosecution is the one in trouble. And if the defense is able to demonstrate that the entire case is built upon fabricated evidence, the case is generally thrown out. This, in short, is what should be done with the IAEA’s ongoing probe into allegations that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons. The evidence used by the IAEA is unable to withstand even the most rudimentary cross-examination. It is speculative at best, and most probably fabricated. Iran has done the right thing in refusing to legitimize this illegitimate source of information.

A key question that must be asked is why, then, does the IAEA continue to permit Olli Heinonen, the agency’s Finnish deputy director for safeguards and the IAEA official responsible for the ongoing technical inspections in Iran, to wage his one-man campaign on behalf of the United States, Britain and (indirectly) Israel regarding allegations derived from sources of such questionable veracity (the MEK-supplied laptop computer)? Moreover, why is such an official given free rein to discuss such sensitive data with the press, or with politically motivated outside agencies, in a manner which results in questionable allegations appearing in the public arena as unquestioned fact? Under normal circumstances, leaks of the sort which have occurred regarding the ongoing investigation into Iran’s alleged past studies on nuclear weapons would be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine the source and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to end them. And yet, in Vienna, Heinonen’s repeated transgressions are treated as a giant “non-event,” the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends isn’t really there.

Heinonen has become the pro-war yin to the anti-confrontation yang of his boss, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Every time ElBaradei releases the results of the IAEA probe of Iran, pointing out that the IAEA can find no evidence of any past or present nuclear weapons program, and that there is a full understanding of Iran’s controversial centrifuge-based enrichment program, Heinonen throws a monkey wrench into the works. Well-publicized briefings are given to IAEA-based diplomats. Mysteriously, leaks from undisclosed sources occur. Heinonen’s Finnish nationality serves as a flimsy cover for neutrality which long ago disappeared. He is no longer serving in the role as unbiased inspector, but rather a front for the active pursuit of an American- and Israeli-inspired disinformation campaign designed to keep alive the flimsy allegations of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to justify the continued warlike stance taken by the U.S. and Israel against Iran.

The fact that the IAEA is being used as a front to pursue this blatantly anti-Iranian propaganda is a disservice to an organization with a mission of vital world importance. The interjection of not only the unverified (and unverifiable) MEK laptop computer data, side by side with a newly placed emphasis on a document relating to the forming of uranium metal into hemispheres of the kind useful in a nuclear weapon, is an amateurish manipulation of data to achieve a preordained outcome. Calling the Iranian possession of the aforementioned document “alarming,” Heinonen (and the media) skipped past the history of the document, which of course has been well explained by Iran previously as something the Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan inserted on his own volition to a delivery of documentation pertaining to centrifuges. Far from being a “top-secret” document protected by Iran’s security services, it was discarded in a file of old material that Iran provided to the IAEA inspectors. When the IAEA found the document, Iran allowed it to be fully examined by the inspectors, and answered every question posed by the IAEA about how the document came to be in Iran. For Heinonen to call the document “alarming,” at this late stage in the game, is not only irresponsible but factually inaccurate, given the definition of the word. The Iranian document in question is neither a cause for alarm, seeing as it is not a source for any “sudden fear brought on by the sense of danger,” nor does it provide any “warning of existing or approaching danger,” unless one is speaking of the danger of military action on the part of the United States derived from Heinonen’s unfortunate actions and choice of words.

Olli Heinonen might as well become a salaried member of the Bush administration, since he is operating in lock step with the U.S. government’s objective of painting Iran as a threat worthy of military action. Shortly after Heinonen’s alarmist briefing in March 2008, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, emerged to announce, “As today’s briefing showed us, there are strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully, at least until recently, to build a bomb.” Heinonen’s briefing provided nothing of the sort, being derived from an irrelevant document and a laptop computer of questionable provenance. But that did not matter to Schulte, who noted that “Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization.” Schulte did not bother to note that it would be difficult for Iran to explain or acknowledge that which it has not done. “This is particularly troubling,” Schulte went on, “when combined with Iran’s determined effort to master the technology to enrich uranium.” Why is this so troubling? Because, as Schulte noted, “Uranium enrichment is not necessary for Iran’s civil program but it is necessary to produce the fissile material that could be weaponized into a bomb.”

This, of course, is the crux of the issue: Iran’s ongoing enrichment program. Not because it is illegal; Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not again because Iran’s centrifuge program is operating in an undeclared, unmonitored fashion; the IAEA had stated it has a full understanding of the scope and work of the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program and that all associated nuclear material is accounted for and safeguarded. The problem has never been, and will never be, Iran’s enrichment program. The problem is American policy objectives of regime change in Iran, pushed by a combination of American desires for global hegemony and an activist Israeli agenda which seeks regional security, in perpetuity, through military and economic supremacy. The specter of nuclear enrichment is simply a vehicle for facilitating the larger policy objectives. Olli Heinonen, and those who support and sustain his work, must be aware of the larger geopolitical context of his actions, which makes them all the more puzzling and contemptible.

A major culprit in this entire sordid affair is the mainstream media. Displaying an almost uncanny inability to connect the dots, the editors who run America’s largest newspapers, and the producers who put together America’s biggest television news programs, have collectively facilitated the most simplistic, inane and factually unfounded story lines coming out of the Bush White House. The most recent fairy tale was one of “diplomacy,” on the part of one William Burns, the No. 3 diplomat in the State Department.

I have studied the minutes of meetings involving John McCloy, an American official who served numerous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in the decades following the end of the Second World War. His diplomacy with the Soviets, conducted with senior Soviet negotiator Valerein Zorin and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev himself, was real, genuine, direct and designed to resolve differences. The transcripts of the diplomacy conducted between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to bring an end to the Vietnam conflict is likewise a study in the give and take required to achieve the status of real diplomacy.

Sending a relatively obscure official like Burns to “observe” a meeting between the European Union and Iran, with instructions not to interact, not to initiate, not to discuss, cannot under any circumstances be construed as diplomacy. Any student of diplomatic history could tell you this. And yet the esteemed editors and news producers used the term diplomacy, without challenge or clarification, to describe Burns’ mission to Geneva on July 19. The decision to send him there was hailed as a “significant concession” on the part of the Bush administration, a step away from war and an indication of a new desire within the White House to resolve the Iranian impasse through diplomacy. How this was going to happen with a diplomat hobbled and muzzled to the degree Burns was apparently skipped the attention of these writers and their bosses. Diplomacy, America was told, was the new policy option of choice for the Bush administration.

Of course, the Geneva talks produced nothing. The United States had made sure Europe, through its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had no maneuvering room when it came to the core issue of uranium enrichment: Iran must suspend all enrichment before any movement could be made on any other issue. Furthermore, the American-backed program of investigation concerning the MEK-supplied laptop computer further poisoned the diplomatic waters. Iran, predictably, refused to suspend its enrichment program, and rejected the Heinonen-led investigation into nuclear weaponization, refusing to cooperate further with the IAEA on that matter, noting that it fell outside the scope of the IAEA’s mandate in Iran.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to respond. After a debriefing from Burns, who flew to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Rice was holding closed-door meetings with the foreign ministers of six Arab nations on the issue of Iran, Rice told the media that Iran “was not serious” about resolving the standoff. Having played the diplomacy card, Rice moved on with the real agenda: If Iran did not fully cooperate with the international community (i.e., suspend its enrichment program), then it would face a new round of economic sanctions and undisclosed punitive measures, both unilaterally on the part of the United States and Europe, as well as in the form of even broader sanctions from the United Nations Security Council (although it is doubtful that Russia and China would go along with such a plan).

The issue of unilateral U.S. sanctions is most worrisome. Both the House of Representatives, through HR 362, and the Senate, through SR 580, are preparing legislation which would call for an air, ground and sea blockade of Iran. Back in October 1962, President Kennedy, when considering the imposition of a naval blockade against Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in that nation, opined that “a blockade is a major military operation, too. It’s an act of war.” Which, of course, it is. The false diplomacy waged by the White House in Geneva simply pre-empted any congressional call for a diplomatic outreach. Now the president can move on with the mission of facilitating a larger war with Iran by legitimizing yet another act of aggression. One day, in the not-so-distant future, Americans will awake to the reality that American military forces are engaged in a shooting war with Iran. Many will scratch their heads and wonder, “How did that happen?” The answer is simple: We all let it happen. We are at war with Iran right now. We just don’t have the moral courage to admit it.

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector and marine intelligence officer who has written extensively about Iran.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

If Iran is Attacking It Might Really be Israel

by Philip Giraldi for the American Conservative

The Benny Morris op-ed in the NYT last Friday should provide convincing evidence that Israel really really really wants an attack against Iran sooner rather than later. Morris is close to the Israeli government and his case that Iran must be bombed soon and with maximum conventional weaponry to avoid using nukes later was clearly intended to push the United States to do the attacking. The likelihood that Dick Cheney is almost certainly supportive of a US pre-emptive strike and might well be pulling strings behind the scenes, possibly without the knowledge of the Great Decider, makes the next several months particularly significant if a war is to be avoided.

Some intel types are beginning to express concerns that the Israelis might do something completely crazy to get the US involved. There are a number of possible “false flag” scenarios in which the Israelis could insert a commando team in the Persian Gulf or use some of their people inside Iraq to stage an incident that they will make to look Iranian, either by employing Iranian weapons or by leaving a communications footprint that points to Tehran’s involvement.

Those who argue that Israel would never do such a thing should think again. Israel is willing to behave with complete ruthlessness towards the US if they feel that the stakes are high enough, witness the attack on the USS Liberty and the bombing of the US Consulate in Alexandria in the 1950s. If they now believe that Iran is a threat that must be eliminated it is not implausible to assume that they will stop at nothing to get the the United States to do it for them, particularly as their air force is only able to damage the Iranian nuclear program, not destroy it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's trip to Yad Vashem: What about Wounded Knee?

By Mike Whitney for Information Clearing House

There were no surprises on Barak Obama's trip to Israel. Everything went by without a hitch. Obama met with all the heads of state and party bosses and raced from one event to another without incident. He skillfully tip-toed through a political minefield that could have ended his presidential bid in a blinding-flash. But he never stumbled. There were no gaffes, no miscues, and no slips of the tongue suggesting that US policy under President Obama would be any more "evenhanded" than it has been under George Bush. Instead, the Illinois Senator made his way from one landmark to the next professing his "unshakable" commitment to Israel, just as expected.

"The way you know where somebody's going is where have they been. And I've been with Israel for many, many years now," Obama proclaimed.


Obama touched down in Jerusalem on Tuesday and was rushed off to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to pay his respects to the many victims of Nazi extermination camps. Donning a white yarmulke, Obama performed the traditional ritual; rekindled the flame, offered a prayer, and laid a wreath on the marble tomb. All politics; all de rigeur.

“At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again'. And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

No mention of the holocaust going on next door in Gaza. No mention of the settlements. No mention of UN resolution 242.

These events are always loaded with the kind of phoniness that politicians love. Bush even wept he was so caught up in his own fake sincerity. But it's all politics and no one in Israel is really fooled by the performance. If Obama has such deep feelings about genocide he doesn't have to go eight thousand miles to prove it. He could just hop a short flight to Wounded Knee in South Dakota where the 7th Cavalry massacred over 300 Lakota Sioux men, women and children in cold blood. Then he could propose something really original, like declaring that he'll make December 29 (the anniversary of Wounded Knee) a national holiday; a fitting tribute to the over 10 million American Indians who were slaughtered by the invading northern Europeans. But Obama won't support a national holiday for America's native people any more than he'll support a memorial to the victims of slavery. After all, that might alienate the pudgy, middle-aged white guys he's trying to win over for the November balloting.

When the creation of a National Slave Memorial was proposed some years ago for the Washington Mall, the idea was scorned in the right wings journals as "an appalling idiocy" that "would inflame both blacks and whites". The article goes on:

"Expediency-minded politicians of both parties may think of a slavery memorial as a cheap way to 'throw a bone' to the black community, A slave memorial is guaranteed to become a magnet for every race hustler from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton down to any local demagogue who can scare up a crowd to go stand in front of the slave memorial and spew venom at American society on TV....What a memorial would do is perpetuate the fraud that slavery was something peculiar to the United States, when in fact it was one of the oldest and most widespread of all human institutions, existing for thousands of years on every inhabited continent, involving people of every race and color as both slaves and slave owners."

There you have it; "compassionate conservativism" in a nutshell, bigotry and all. So, now a memorial to the victims of slavery is nothing more than "throwing a bone' to the black community"?

Nice, eh?

By the way, Obama's signature was nowhere to be found on the list of supporters for the Slave Memorial. He was probably too busy working on his speech blasting black people for not pulling themselves by their own bootstraps.

So, are we supposed to believe that Obama cares more about the Jewish Holocaust than the injustice that was perpetrated against his own people? But, then, maybe we're being hasty. Maybe these aren't Obama's people after all? Maybe his real people are the brandy-drooling, silver spoon, Harvard loafers he surrounds himself with? Is Obama capable of flying over New Orleans and blowing raspberries to the people below like Bush or is that too hard to imagine?

Obama's performance at Yad Vashem is nothing more than political kabuki; pure Hollywood. It simply reminds us of the fundamental power-relationship between Israel and the United States. Presidential candidates have to jump all kinds of Israeli hoops or they won't get elected. It's as simple as that.

“I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States," Obama roared while visiting the Wailing Wall. "My abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner whether as U.S. senator or as president in bringing about a more lasting peace in the region....The most important idea for me to reaffirm is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel. One that cannot be broken. One that I have affirmed throughout my career and one that I will intend to not only continue but actually strengthen in an Obama administration.”

Blah, blah, blah.

What's particularly troubling about Obama, is that he has a good understanding of the core issues in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and yet, he's aligning himself with the more powerful group. That doesn't bode well for the "mothballed" peace process.

Palestinian activist, Ali Abunimah recounts his experiences with Obama in Chicago in the 1990s in Wednesday's UK Guardian:

"Obama grasped the oppression faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation. He understood that an honest broker cannot simultaneously be the main cheerleader, financier and arms supplier for one side in a conflict. He often attended Palestinian-American community events and heard about the Palestinian experience from perspectives stifled in mainstream discussion."

True. Obama knows exactly what is going on in the occupied territories; the boycott, the sanctions, the check-points, the targeted assassinations, the military incursions, the arrests, the torture, the daily humiliations. He knows it all, but he's also shrewd enough to know what it takes to get elected in the United States.

Abunimah again:

"Every aspect of Obama's visit to Palestine-Israel this week has seemed designed to further appease pro-Israel groups....Other than a cursory 45-minute visit to occupied Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians got little... Some observers took comfort in his promise that he would get engaged "starting from the minute I'm sworn into office". Obama remained silent on the issue of Jerusalem, after boldly promising the "undivided" city to Israel as its capital in a speech to Aipac last month, and then appearing to backtrack amid a wave of outrage across the Arab world. But Obama missed the opportunity to visit Palestinian refugee camps, schools and even shopping malls to witness first-hand the devastation caused by the Israeli army and settlers, or to see how Palestinians cope under what many call "apartheid". This year alone, almost 500 Palestinians, including over 70 children, have been killed by the Israeli army - exceeding the total for 2007 and dwarfing the two-dozen Israelis killed in conflict-related violence. Obama said nothing about Israel's relentless expansion of colonies on occupied land. Nor did he follow the courageous lead of former President Jimmy Carter and meet with the democratically elected Hamas leaders, even though Israel negotiated a ceasefire with them."

Many people are convinced that Middle East policy will change dramatically under Obama. Don't count on it. In the last few weeks, Obama appointed Dennis Ross to a "prominent advisory role" in dealing with the conflict. The soft spoken Ross is "the founder of an AIPAC-sponsored pro-Israel think-tank." His politics are somewhere just slightly to the right of Ariel Sharon. There's no reason for optimism.

Obama is following the well-worn path of 100 per cent, unwavering support for Israel and the Zionist project. His trip to Israel just proves that he is a skillful politician thoroughly devoid of character. Is this the "hope we can believe in"?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Karadzic’s Arrest: Bosnian Myths Rehashed

by Srdja Trifkovic for Chronicles Magazine

The spirit of the media frenzy surrounding the arrest of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on July 21 is based entirely on the doctrine of non-equivalence inaugurated in 1992: Serbs willed the war, Muslims wanted peace; Serb crimes are bad and justly exaggerated, Muslim crimes are understandable.

This doctrine was spectacularly reiterated a month before Karadzic’s capture, when the Muslim wartime commander of Srebrenica, Nasir Oric, was found not guilty by The Hague Tribunal of any responsibility for the killing of thousands of Serb civilians by the forces under his command in the three years before the fall of the enclave in July 1995. It is also apparent today, in the endless media repetition of Karadzic’s alleged bellicose intransigence before and during the Bosnian war.


The imbalance is more than merely unfair. The talking heads gloating over Karadzic’s capture no longer need to suppress the thought that different U.S. policies could have prevented the horror of “Bosnia,” because no such thought—however pertinent in this case—ever occurs to them. Yet the fact remains that in the spring of 1992 the late Warren Zimmermann, the last U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia before its breakup and civil war, materially contributed—probably more than any other single man—to the outbreak of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The facts of the case have been established beyond reasonable doubt and are no longer dosputed by experts.

Nine months earlier, in June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, a move that triggered off a short war in Slovenia and a sustained conflict in Croatia where the Serbs refused to accept Tudjman’s fait accompli. These events had profound consequences on Bosnia and Herzegovina, that “Yugoslavia in miniature.” The Serbs (34%) adamantly opposed the idea of Bosnian independence. The Croats (17%) predictably rejected any suggestion that Bosnia and Herzegovina remains within a Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia.

Alija Izetbegovic, the leader of the Muslim community (43%), had decided as early as September 1990 that Bosnia should also declare independence if Slovenia and Croatia secede. On 27 February 1991 he went a step further: “I would sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina I would not sacrifice sovereignty.” The process culminated with the referendum on independence (29 February 1992). The Serbs duly boycotted it. In the end just over 62 percent of voters opted for independence, overwhelmingly Muslims and Croats; but even this figure was short of the two-thirds majority required by the constitution. This did not stop the rump government of Izetbegovic from declaring independence on 3 March.

Simultaneously one last attempt was under way to save peace. The Portuguese foreign minister Jose Cutileiro organized a conference in Lisbon attended by the three communities’ leaders, Izetbegovic, Radovan Karadzic, and the Croat leader Mate Boban. The EU mediators persuaded the three sides that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be independent but internally organized on the basis of ethnic regions or “cantons.”

The breakthrough was due to the Bosnian Serbs’ acceptance of an independent Bosnia, provided that the Muslims give up their ambition of a centralized, unitary one. Izetbegovic appeared to accept that this was the best deal he could make—but soon he was to change his mind. When he returned from Lisbon, Zimmermann flew post haste from Belgrade to Sarajevo to tell him that the U.S. did not stand behind the Cutileiro plan. He said it was a means to “a Serbian power grab” that could be prevented by internationalizing the problem. When Izetbegovic said that he did not like the Lisbon agreement, Zimmerrmann encouraged him to renege. State Department subsequently admitted that the US policy “was to encourage Izetbegovic to break with the partition plan.” The New York Times (August 29, 1993) brought a revealing quote from the key player himself:

The embassy [in Belgrade] was for recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina from sometime in February on,” Mr. Zimmermann said of his policy recommendation from Belgrade. “Meaning me.” … Immediately after Mr. Izetbegovic returned from Lisbon, Mr. Zimmermann called on him in Sarajevo… “He said he didn’t like it; I told him, if he didn’t like it, why sign it?”

After that moment Izetbegovic had no motive to take the ongoing EC-brokered talks seriously., just as the Albanians had no motive to negotiate with Belgrade in 2007, after President Bush declared in Tirana that it would become independent. After his encounter with Zimmermann Izetbegovic felt authorized to renege on tripartite accord, and he knew that the U.S. administration would come to his assistance to enforce the independence of a unitary Bosnian state.

The motives of Zimmermann and his political bosses in Washington were not rooted in the concern for the Muslims of Bosnia as such, or indeed any higher moral principle. Their policy had no basis in the law of nations, or in the notions of truth or justice. It was the end-result of the interaction of pressure groups within the American power structure: Saudis and other Muslims, neocons, Turks, One-World Nation Builders, Russophobes… all had their field day. Thus the war in the Balkans evolved from a Yugoslav disaster and a European inconvenience into a major test of “U.S. leadership.” This was made possible by a bogus consensus which passed for Europe’s Balkan policy. This consensus, amplified in the media, limited the scope for meningful debate.

Zimmermann’s ploy heralded a virulently anti-Serb, agenda-driven form of Realpolitik that was to dominate America’s Bosnian policy. Just as Germany sought to paint its Maastricht Diktat on Croatia’s recognition in December 1991 as an expression of the “European consensus,” after Zimmermann’s intervention in Sarajevo Washington’s fait accomplis were straightfacedly labeled as “the will of the international community.” Europe was resentful but helpless when the United States resorted to covert action to smuggle arms into Croatia and Bosnia in violation of U.N. resolutions. Zimmermann’s torpedoing of the EU Lisbon formula in 1992 started a trend that frustrated the Europeans, but they were helpless.

Cutileiro was embittered by the US action and accused Izetbegovic of reneging on the agreement. Had the Muslims not done so, he recalled in 1995, “the Bosnian question might have been settled earlier, with less loss of life and land.” Cutileiro also noted that the decision to renege on the signed agreement was not only Izetbegovic’s, as he was encouraged to scupper that deal and to fight for a unitary Bosnian state by foreign mediators.”


Over the past two centuries Balkan lands were bargaining chips for alliance construction. The Bosnian war of 1992-95 confirmed this trend. It was the most destructive segment of the War of Yugoslav Dissolution that began when the Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia seceded in the summer of 1991. With no ethnic majority and no “Bosnian” nation, of all six republics of the old Yugoslav federation the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina had most to fear from violent secession. Yet once reunited Germany was committed to the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo knew both that the old Yugoslavia was dead and that historic opportunities beckoned.

At the outset of the present crisis most inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina did not want to become “Bosnians” in any political sense; but they were unaware of the extent to which their future depended on events beyond their republic’s boundaries. The ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia literally disintegrated in the first months of 1990, setting the stage for multi-party elections in all six federal republics. The resulting power vacuum was felt in Bosnia-Herzegovina more keenly than in other republics because the Party rule there was more rigidly doctrinaire than in other federal units. When the first multi-party election since 1938 finally took place in November 1990, the voters overwhelmingly acted in accordance with their ethnic loyalties that proved more enduring than any ideological differences between them.

The weakness or even non-existence of non-nationalist opposition to the old communist establishment was at least partly due to the deliberate Western policy of appeasement of Tito’s dictatorship following his break with Moscow in 1948. Contrary to the situation in Poland (“Solidarity”) or Czechoslovakia (“Charter 77”), in Tito’s lifetime and even in the decade following his death in 1980 there had been no serious attempt by the United States to develop or cultivate alternative political teams in Yugoslavia among the narrow stratum of the intellectual establishment which could have been considered friendly to “Western democracy.” In accordance with the Kennan Doctrine, Tito’s dictatorship enjoyed America’s cheque blanche to do as it pleased domestically, for as long as it shunned full rapprochement with Moscow.

When the system unravelled the Muslims were the first to organize, founding their Stranka Demokratske Akcije, SDA (Party of Democratic Action) in March 1990. The Croats followed two months later with the creation of Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica Bosne i Hercegovine—HDZ BiH (Croatian Democratic Union); in reality theirs was but a local subsidiary of the retired YPA General Franjo Tudjman’s HDZ in Zagreb. Finally, in July the Serbs established the Srpska Demokratska Stranka Bosne i Hercegovine, SDS (Serb Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina). The pattern of the Muslims and Croats acting proactively, and the Serbs reacting, was thus established very early on.

When the Bosnian election results were tallied, they effectively read like a census plain and simple. The overwhelming share of the vote—80 percent—went to the three parties that had grounded their appeal in the ethnic-national identity and issues. In the National Assembly of 240 seats (Chamber of Citizens and Chamber of Municipalities), the SDA won 86 seats, the SDS took 72 seats, and the HDZ 44. The three winning parties soon reached a power-sharing agreement. Although the maverick businessman-politician Fikret Abdic from the region of Velika Kladusa polled more votes, due to the constitutional vagaries of the late-Yugoslav Bosnia Alija Izetbegović was elected President of a seven-member multi-ethnic rotating presidency. The prime ministry of the Republic went to the HDZ, and the presidency of the Assembly to the SDS.

The tripartite coalition agreement was applicable not only to the distribution of posts at the level of the Republic, but also at the regional and municipal level. The ruling SDA-SDS-HDZ coalition, contrary to some dark predictions by the defeated communists, started functioning without major difficulties in the early months of the new regime. The notion of such cooperation was counter-intuitive to the outside observers of the Bosnian scene, but it made perfect sense in the context of the common desire by all three groups to purge the body-politic of the decades-long layers of communist lies and distortions.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1990 three tiers of government authority were in existence, those of the Republic itself, of the regions, and of municipalities. Depending on the level of participation among the coalition partners, the distribution of political power was accordingly carried out at all levels. The apparent ability of the three “nationalist” parties to cooperate in the immediate aftermath of the election was based on one thing they all had in common: the desire to break free from the Titoist straightjacket. During Tito’s lifetime the three constituent nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina found themselves under steady pressure to “Bosnify” their identities. (Bosnian Serb writing, to take a little known but drastic example, was not to be classed as Serbian literature but as Bosnian literature.)

The SDA, the HDZ, and the SDS, all sought to recreate long-established identities, to represent real, traditional national diversity as against a new, synthetic (“modern”) composite identity. This was a blast of fresh air; it was not the precursor of war as one can see from the simple fact of amicable co-operation. It was, in any case, a natural response to the decay of communist authority. But the SDS were in no sense “anti-Yugoslav” in the political sense: what they were against was the communist cultivation of false nationality (“Yugoslav,” “Bosnian”), as against the spontaneous, natural identities of the historic nationalities of Yugoslavia.

Had Yugoslavia not been breaking up in 1991-92, this emphasis on traditional identities would have passed as a perfectly natural democratic readjustment to reality. The “Left Bloc” was finished, defeated even in the municipality of Prijedor where it confidently expected to be victorious thanks to the area’s “Partisan” tradition and strong “Yugoslav” spirit. The old CPY apparat was simply irrelevant: the pampered friends and clients of the old bureaucracy, who could not explain why their version of Yugoslavia had needed a police state to keep together. The truth is that there was no internal, Bosnian threat to peace at the beginning of 1991: when it came the threat was from outside. The SDS and the SDA were not simply in coalition: they were natural allies while Bosnia remained at peace, although they would become just as natural enemies if Yugoslavia fell apart.


Karadzic headed the party representing the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they wanted, overwhelmingly, to preserve the status quo. Since they had no desire for the destruction of Yugoslavia, they were forced into reactive posture vis-à-vis those who willed the Federation’s disintegration. It is important to dispose of the idea that the Serbs of Bosnia in 1991 were simply fanaticized by Belgrade propaganda: they were still gasping for air after the Titoist era and composing a revisionist history of ethnic civil war and Serbian suffering, a history which may have contained new exaggerations, but which corrected the evasions and lies in the old story.

At the outset of the last Yugoslav crisis, the Serbs’ basic argument—even if seldom stated with simplicity and coherence—was clear when freed from rhetoric: they had lived in one state since 1918, when Yugoslavia came into being. They reluctantly accepted Tito’s arbitrarily determined internal boundaries between the six federal republics—which left one third of them outside Serbia-proper—on the grounds that the Yugoslav framework afforded them a measure of security from the repetition of the nightmare of 1941-1945; but they could not swallow an illegal ruse that aimed to turn them into minorities, overnight and by unconstitutional means, in their own land.

Even without the vividly remembered trauma of the Second World War, they reacted in 1991-1992 just as the Anglophone citizens of Texas or Arizona might do if they are outvoted, one day, in a referendum demanding those states’ incorporation into Mexico. They demanded the right that the territories, which the Serbs have inhabited as compact majorities long before the voyage of the Mayflower, not be subjected to the rule of their rivals. In the same vein the Protestant Ulstermen demanded - and were given - the right to stay apart from united Ireland when the nationalists in Dublin opted for secession in 1921. In the same vein the state of West Virginia was created in 1863, incorporating those counties of the Commonwealth of Virginia that refused to be forced into secession. The Loyalists of Ulster and the Unionists of West Virginia were just as guilty of a “Joint Criminal Enterprise” to break up Ireland, or the Old Dominion, as were the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina who did not want to be dragged into secession against their will.

Yugoslavia was admittedly a deeply flawed polity, and there could have been no rational objection to the striving of Croats, and even Bosnian Muslims, to create their own nation-states. But equally there could have been no justification for forcing over two million Serbs west of the Drina to be incorporated into those states against their will, and without any guarantees of their rights. Yugoslavia came together in 1918 as a union of South Slav peoples, and not of states, or territorial units. Its divorce should have been effected on the same basis; the boundaries of the republics should have been altered accordingly.

This is, and has been, the real foundation of the Yugoslav conflict ever since the first shots were fired in the summer of 1991. Even someone as unsympathetic to the Serb point of view as Lord David Owen conceded that Josip Broz Tito’s internal administrative boundaries between Yugoslavia’s republics were grossly arbitrary, and that their redrawing should have been countenanced at the time of Yugoslavia’s disintegration:

Incomprehensibly, the proposal to redraw the republics’ boundaries had been rejected by all eleven EC countries… [T]o rule out any discussion or opportunity for compromise in order to head off war was an extraordinary decision. My view has always been that to have stuck unyieldingly to the internal boundaries of the six republics within the former Yugoslavia… as being the boundaries for independent states, was a folly far greater than that of premature recognition itself.


Of the three ethnic-religious parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Muslim party—the SDA—was perhaps the most radical, in that it alone advocated a fundamental restructuring of the Bosnian society in accordance with divine revelation. It attempted to do so not on Bosnia’s own terms, not within the Republic’s own local paradigm, but within the terms of the global-historical process—as its leaders saw it—of the global Islamic renaissance. Many commentators in the West have been in a state of denial for years about the true nature of Alija Izetbegovic’s long-term program. To put it simply, they preferred to believe their own assurances that Izetbegovic’s blueprint is not “Islamist” but “multicultural.”

Not unlike Islamist parties elsewhere—notably the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey—the SDA had a public, “secular” front, and an inner core of Islamic cadres that remained semi-conspiratorial in the early days. This is vividly described by one of the party’s founders who had previously made a successful business career in the West, Adil Zulfikarpašić. He was appalled by the “fascist” methods of the SDA and by its “conservative, religious, populist” orientation, Adil Zulfikarpašić founded his own party, the MBO (Muslim Bosniak Organization). It fared badly in the elections of 1990 but it nevertheless left an important mark by charting the potential for a genuinely secular, “post-Islamic” political force of the Bosniaks.

In the early stages of the Bosnian crisis numerous Western reporters and commentators have claimed that the SDS sought to scare Bosnian Serbs with exaggerated and untrue claims of the militantly Islamic character of the SDA ideology and policy. It is a matter of record, however, that Izetbegovic was an advocate of Sharia law and a theorist of the Islamic Republic long before the first shots were fired. Already as a young man during World War II, Izetbegovic was a member of the Young Muslims organization (Mladi Muslimani). His was a radical Islamic political organization inspired by the teaching of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Husseini, who toured the German-occupied Europe preaching that the Third Reich and the Muslim world had a natural community of interests that demanded personal commitment of every able-bodied Muslim. Izetbegovic’s ideas subsequently matured into a comprehensive, programmatic statement in the Islamic Declaration (1970), the document that led to his imprisonment by the communist authorities in 1983.

The Declaration became Izetbegovic’s de facto political platform. Reprinted in Sarajevo at a key moment in 1990, it startled the public. In the language familiar to the students of militant jihad everywhere, it called for Islamic moral and religious regeneration, and for the strengthening of different types of Islamic unity—up to, and including, armed struggle for the creation of an Islamic polity in countries where Muslims represent the majority of the population.

As Izetbegovic put it,

The Islamic movement must, and can, take over power as soon as it is morally and numerically so strong that it can not only destroy the existing non-Islamic power, but also build up a new Islamic one… There is no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions.

This was a political program par excellence that non-Islamic groups in Bosnia could not accept; for the Serbs “it confirmed their suspicions that Izetbegović wished to transform Bosnia-Herzegovina into an Islamic state.” The author’s contempt for Western values is evident in his dismissal of the Kemalist tradition: “Turkey as an Islamic country used to rule the world. Turkey as an imitation of Europe represents a third-rate country the like of which there is a hundred in the world.” Elsewhere, he accepts the “achievements of Euro-American civilization” but only in the area of “science and technology… we shall have to accept them if we wish to survive.” In a revealing sentence, Izetbegović discusses the status of non-Muslims in countries with Muslim majorities: “The non-Muslim minorities within an Islamic state, on condition that they are loyal [emphasis added], enjoy religious freedom and all protection.” He advocates “the creation of a united Islamic community from Morocco to Indonesia.”

It should be stressed that Izetbegovic’s views are unremarkable from a traditional Islamic point of view. The final objective is Dar al Islam, where Muslims dominate and infidelssubmit. That is the meaning of Izetbegovic’s apparent generosity to the non-Muslims, “provided that they are loyal”: the non-Muslims can be “protected persons” only if they submitted to Islamic domination.

In his daily political discourse Izetbegovic behaved throughout the 1990s as a de facto nationalist, fostering narrowly-defined Bosniak (i.e., Muslim) nationalist feeling and seeking to equate the emerging “Bosniak” identity with an imaginary supra-ethnic “Bosnia.” He was juxtaposing the construct with the two traditionally Christian communities—Serbs and Croats—whose loyalties were alleged to lie elsewhere, with Belgrade and Zagreb respectively. The two sides of Izetbegovic’s personality—the deeply committed Islamist on one hand and the functional nationalist on another—were not at odds, since within his terms of reference the Bosniak ethnicity was defined by religion, the Muslim religion.

Izetbegovic should not be blamed for being what he is, nor should his followers be condemned for subscribing to his outlook: Luther would say that he and they kann nicht anders. But to have Alija Izetbegovic, with his record and his vision, as the head of a democratic, pluralist state anywhere in the world, is simply unthinkable. But for his peculiar vision to be applied in practice, Bosnia-Herzegovina had to be taken out of Yugoslavia and proclaimed independent and sovereign.


As the fateful year of 1991 approached, the Serbs would have preferred an all-Yugoslav referendum based on the principle of “one man-one vote,” with a simple question—“Yugoslavia, Yes or No?”—and with the result binding for all. While in theory this same principle should have appealed to the Western democracies, in practice the “international community” appeared to be too deeply committed to the quasi-federal Titoist framework to question the assumptions of the secessionist-minded leaders in Croatia and Slovenia—assumptions that paved the way for disintegration. The separatists preferred the model of localized, republic-by-republic elections. Once they were in power, those elections would be followed by ambiguously worded referenda on independence with de facto preordained outcomes. This strategy had little to do with “democracy,” but it proved effective in radicalizing political discourse and escalating Yugoslavia’s crisis.

In early 1990 separatist parties had already triumphed in Slovenia and Croatia. In December of that year Slobodan Milošević’s authoritarian Socialist Party of Serbia gained a convincing victory in Serbia’s elections. The media in all republics had been busy pursuing openly nationalist themes, and the politicians followed suit. In December 1990 the Slovenes voted for an “independent and sovereign state,” and within months Slovenia stopped sending conscripts to serve in the federal armed forces. That same month the Assembly of the Republic of Croatia adopted the new Constitution—the so-called Christmas Constitution—that defined the Republic of Croatia as the “nation-state of the Croatian people.” The constituent status of the Serbian people in Croatia was thus abrogated and the Serbs in Croatia were reduced to the status of a national minority.

Unlike Slovenia, however, Croatia had within its boundaries a large Serb population that resented being stripped of its status as a constituent nation. The Serbs had initially favoured the preservation of Yugoslavia, but in the light of Slovene and Croat moves towards independence they raised the issue of self-determination. This was specifically related to the question of adjusting borders between the Yugoslav federal units in such a way as to allow various Serb communities outside Serbia to remain attached to it.

Separatist republics are free to go, the Serb argument essentially went, but they should not be allowed to take areas with a Serb plurality along with them. Slovenia’s and Croatia’s declarations of independence (June 25, 1991) were accordingly followed by rather different responses. There was a short conflict in Slovenia involving the Yugoslav Army, and a sustained and much bloodier war in Croatia involving local Serbs. Inevitably these events were bound to have profound consequences on Bosnia.

Izetbegovic’s chief concern was to find a pretext for the intended separation from Yugoslavia—any Yugoslavia—and to use the Croat tactical alliance in pursuit of that goal; the day of reckoning with the HDZ could come later. The decision by Izetbegovic to treat Tudjman’s bid for independence as the cue for Bosnia’s repeat act was fateful: the moment that the SDA made it clear that it would not remain in any Yugoslavia without Croatia, war was inevitable in Bosnia. Izetbegović was willing to risk that war. In the 1990 election campaign he said that the Muslims would “defend Bosnia with arms.” In February 1991 he declared in the Assembly: “I would sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina I would not sacrifice sovereignty.” To the Serbs this was a war cry. By May Izetbegovic went even further, saying that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina probably could not be avoided because “for a state to be created, for a nation to be forged, it has to endure this, it is some kind of fate, destiny.” This statement echoed his Islamic fatalism.


Over the past two centuries Balkan lands were bargaining chips for alliance construction. The Bosnian war of 1992-95 confirmed this trend. It was the most destructive segment of the War of Yugoslav Dissolution. With no ethnic majority and no “Bosnian” nation, of all six republics of the old Yugoslav federation the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina had most to fear from violent secession. Yet once reunited Germany was committed to the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo knew both that the old Yugoslavia was dead and that historic opportunities beckoned.

President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, however, played the Bosnian crisis primarily as a means of consolidating his power in Serbia proper and extending his influence without committing himself to any clearly defined strategic objective, such as a “Greater Serbia.” By contrast, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia did not shed Marxist crocodile tears at the passing of the old Titoist certainties. Unlike Milosevic he was a true nationalist. In April 1992 he brought Croatian troops into western Herzegovina just as Milosevic withdrew the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) from Bosnia. Furthermore, in a twisted re-enactment of the chetnik-partisan divide, Milosevic had constantly sought to deepen the divide between the civilian leadership in Pale headed by Karadzic, and the military HQ at Han Pijesak led by General Ratko Mladic.

When the Bosnian Serbs took control of the Serb-majority areas and connecting corridors in 1992, they were well equipped and officered. But the numerical advantage lay with the Muslims, who hoped to win in the end with international help. Radavan Karadzic never understood that this was, indeed, Izetbegovic’s grand strategy, and that time was not on the side of the Serbs.

In addition Karadzic personally and the Serbs collectively were severely damaged by the western media handling of their mistreatment of Muslim prisoners and by their expulsion of non-Serb civilians in the summer of 1992. Similar atrocities by Croats and Muslims against Serbs and against each other, while no less common, were less conspicuous and deemed unworthy of attention. The Western elite class chose its sympathies at the start and kept up an agitation in favor of military intervention against the Serbs.

Of several peace plans offered or mediated by the Europeans, Karadzic was under particular pressure—especially from Milosevic in Belgrade—to accept the Vance-Owen Plan (May 1993) that would have divided Bosnia into ten “cantons.” He initialled its acceptance, but subsequently it was rejected by the Republika Srpska national assembly. Only months later Muslims rejected the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan that provided for a confederal model of three sovereign national entities (December 1993). A vague yet “non-negotiable” plan presented by the “Contact Group” in 1994 was refused by the Serbs. It was quietly discarded in early 1995, by which time the Clinton Administration decided to intervene directly on the Muslim side.


The media call for intervention, launched in its early stage, made the Bosnian war the subject of international debate to an extent unknown since Vietnam. Many Europeans were inclined to support a compromise peace, a federalized Bosnia, and a real arms embargo; whereas the United States disliked European peace plans, broke the arms embargo starting in late 1993, and overtly supported the Muslims.

In 1992-1993 Karadzic made a fundamental miscalculation that made the war unwinnable for the Serbs. Ever obsessed with maps, square miles and territorial percentages to the detriment of strategic planning, he sat on his advantages and hoped that in the fulness of time the world would recognize the Serbs’ apparent victory. His often repeated adage, “we don’t want to defeat them [Muslims], we want to separate from them,” was absurd, however: the latter could not be effected without securing the former.

Blinkered by his flawed assumptions, Karadzic failed to grasp the tectonic shift that took place in January 1994, when the U.S. sponsored a Croat-Muslim alliance and the Europeans realized that there would be no settlement unless they surrendered political leadership to Washington. This new stage was inaugurated in February 1994, when a mortar shell fell on the crowded Markale market in Sarajevo. The Serbs were duly blamed, and evidence that the shell could not have been fired from Serbian lines became available too late to affect the subsequent crisis.

From this point the war became a matter of Muslim attempts to exploit the “safe areas”—in Sarajevo, Gorazde, Tuzla, Bihac, and Srebrenica—which had been declared by the UN but never demilitarized. In short the Muslims were allowed to attack out of these areas, but the Serbs were not allowed to pursue them back in. From spring 1994 on the Muslims could no loger lose the war, which, in view of their weak starting position, was tantamount to winning it.

Once treated as a key interlocutor in London, New York, or Geneva, by early 1995 Karadzic was no longer a player in the big game. In Washington Bosnia was seen as an opportunity to transform NATO from a purely defensive alliance into an “out-of-area” enforcement agency, thus paving the way for the Kosovo intervention four years later. The success of the pro-intervention lobby in the media must be seen in the context of strong support for their agitation from parts of the U.S. administration.

Russia was the source of Karadzic’s constant hopes and repeated disappointments. Often puzzled by Moscow’s supine posture, he kept hoping that it would “shake itself up.” Yet Yeltsin’s Russia was weak, eager to appease the West, and reluctant to exert itself in the Balkan area. Russian policy began with an almost ideological commitment to accepting Western good faith, and Russia was slow to grasp that Washington wanted a peace settlement based on the defeat of the Serbs. By 1995 informed Russian opinion was getting alarmed at the direction events were taking, but it was too late, and too difficult, for the Yeltsin presidency to devise a new policy.

In the summer of 1995 London and Paris reluctantly agreed to allow NATO to bomb the Serbs, while the United States reluctantly accepted the sort of settlement the Europeans had wanted in 1992-3. But the bombing of the Bosnian Serb army in August 1995, which appeared to end the war, was less important militarily than the entry of the Croatian Army into Bosnia, now trained and extensively re-equipped by the U.S. Even this Croatian intervention was only possible because the Yugoslav army refused to intervene to save its clients west of the Drina. The war ended because Milosevic of Serbia wanted it to end.

The chief outcome of the war was a transformed NATO, and the renewal of American leadership in Europe to an extent not seen since Kennedy. It established that America wanted to lead, and to be indispensable, in the process of European reorganization after 1989. Bosnia itself was not much affected by international intervention. The war took longer than it would have done and the Serbian position is more uncertain, but the settlement that followed Dayton is not unlike a plausible compromise that seemed within reach in Lisbon in April 1992.

Richard Holbrooke, the chief U.S. negotiator in 1995, boasted a year later: “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.” This “we” meant the United States, not “the West” or “the international community.” Indeed, no nation-state started and finished the Bosnian story as a political actor with an unchanged diplomatic personality. Each great power became a forum for the global debate for and against intervention, the debate for and against a certain kind NATO, and an associated, media-led international political process. The interventionists prevailed then, and their narrative dominates the public commentary on Karadzic’s arrest now.


Far from bringing the Bosnian episode to a close, Karadzic’s transfer to The Hague raises an old question that remains unanswered by the interventionists: If the old Yugoslavia was untenable and eventually collapsed under the weight of the supposedly insurmountable differences among its constituent nations, how can Bosnia—the Yugoslav microcosm par excellence—develop and sustain the dynamics of a viable polity? The answer will become known only when the outside powers lose their present interest in upholding the constitutional edifice made in Dayton.

As for the specific charges against Karadzic, we need not hypothesize a pre-war “joint criminal enterprise” to ethnically cleanse and murder, to explain the events of 1992-5. The crimes and violations of human rights that followed were not the direct result of anyone’s nationalist project. These crime, as Susan Woodward notes, “were the results of the wars and their particular characteristics, not the causes.”

The effect of the legal intervention of the “international community” with its act of recognition was that a Yugoslav loyalty was made to look like a conspiratorial disloyalty to “Bosnia”—largely in the eyes of people who supposed ex hypothesi that if there is a “Bosnia” there must be a nation of “Bosnians.” In 1943-4 Tito was able to force the Anglo-Americans to pretend that his struggle was not communist revolution. In 1992-5 Izetbegovic forced the West to pretend that his jihad was the defense of “multi-ethnicity.” Both pretenses were absurd.

How do they do it, these Balkan political impresarios? The Hague Tribunal does not recognize the question as legitimate and therefore does not seek answers. The strange truth is that then, like now, great powers pay a fee for entering the Balkan casino. They consent to someone’s story, not “the Truth.”

Radovan Karadzic will be duly convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, and he will not come out of jail alive. The verdict is already written, but it reflects a fundamental imbalance. It ignores the essence of the Bosnian war—the Serbs’ striving not to be forced into secession—while remaining mute about the culpability of the other two sides for a series of unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal political decisions that caused the war.

The judgment against Karadzic at the U.S.-sponsored and largely U.S.-funded tribunal at The Hague will be built on this flawed foundation. It will be neither fair or just, and therefore it will be detrimental to what America should stand for in the world. It will also give further credence to the myth of Muslim blameless victimhood, Serb viciousness, and Western indifference, and therefore weaken our resolve in the global struggle euphemistically known as “war on terrorism.” The former is a crime; the latter, a mistake.

Note: also check out Everyone's Favorite Villain by Nebojsa Malic. He also has an important webpage on What Really Happened at Srebrenica.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Caught between sobbing and war chants

by Gilad Atzmon for Palestine Think Tank

Monitoring the current Israeli collective pornographic lament in the Hebrew press, I found, to my amazement, a critical editorial written by Dr Mordechai Keidar, an Israeli rightwing academic.

“Our enemies,” says Keidar, “see in front of them a frenetic, emotional, weeping, corrupted, hedonistic, possessive and liberal nation. People who grab and eat, people who lack historical roots, people who are short of ideology, naked of values, lack a sense of solidarity. People who are only concerned with the ‘here and now’, people who are happy to pay any price without taking into account the grave consequences of their reckless behaviour.” (Dr Mordechai Keidar,7340,L-3568863,00.html).

It is slightly encouraging to find out that someone in Israel may realize how severely the Israeli reality is viewed. Keidar grasps how pitiable the current collective mourning festival appears to outsiders and Israel’s neighbours in particular. As much as one can empathise with the pain of the soldiers’ families, Regev and Goldwasser were IDF soldiers in uniform serving a very hostile army. When abducted they were in a military patrol on the disputed Lebanese border. For those who still didn’t get the picture, they were soldiers rather than merely ‘innocent civilians’. They were theoretically capable of defending themselves. The case of Gilad Shalit is not very different. Shalit, who is presented in the world media as an ‘innocent victim’ was nothing less then a post guard in an Israeli concentration camp, namely Gaza. Shalit, like Goldwasser and Regev, was wearing an IDF uniform when captured. Neither Regev, Goldwasser nor Shalit were victims. They were all serving a state that employs some devastating genocidal tactics including starvation, ethnic cleansing and assassination of those it views as its enemies.

However, it is rather astonishing to find out how short the Israeli collective memory is. The failed IDF rescue of Regev and Goldwasser, following Hezbollah’s successful ambush evolved into Israel launching the Second Lebanon War. In an act of retaliation, retribution and vengeance Israel demolished Lebanon’s infrastructure, it flattened southern Lebanon towns and villages as well as some neighbourhoods in Beirut. It killed thousand of Lebanese civilians. Somehow the Israelis managed to forget all of this. The only thing the Israelis see is two black coffins. They even managed to neglect the fact that in return they themselves traded 190 plain coffins containing the bodies of Hezbollah militants.

The Israelis are pretty gifted in seeing themselves only. In their eyes, their pain is somehow superior to the pain others feel. Yet something puzzles me. In the light of the Israeli collective necrophilic weeping event I find myself rather confused. If Israel and the Israelis can hardly get over two tragic Israeli military casualties, how will they be able to cope with the global war they insist upon launching against Iran. If the Israelis cannot cope with two coffins, how will they ever be able to cope with Tel Aviv turning into the site of a mass grave? Their war cries suggest that this is something they seem to insist upon involving themselves in.

Funnily enough, Dr Keidar suggests an answer, “Only a nation full with ideological conviction, a nation with a sense of a strong belief in its just way, a nation who feels part of an historical process, a nation that can take the pain and buy its survival with blood, sweat and tears, only such a nation can last in the Middle East. This region,” says Keidar, “doesn’t have room for Post Jewish Rugs who sooner or later will reveal their true face as post Zionists.”

I must admit that Keidar, the Israeli rightwing zealot has a point. People who collapse in front two coffins better not initiate another international conflict. The Israelis are just not made of the right stuff. They are not exactly a nation of Spartan warriors. As much as they enjoy inflicting pain on others, they really can’t abide the idea of suffering themselves, they are clearly not ready to sacrifice, actually, they are a bunch of defeated cowards. They better run away for their lives. As Keider pointed out, their chance to survive in the region is zilch.

Reflections on the Israel-Hezbollah Prisoner Swap Deal

by Khalid Amayreh for Palestine Think Tank

The latest prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hezbollah is a healthy indicator that at least some Arabs are beginning to understand the depraved Zionist mentality, and act accordingly. Such mentality is based on arrogance, insolence, and religious and ethnic superiority.

Israel, a country whose collective mindset views non-Jews as virtual animals or at least lesser human beings, had to face a new enemy, an enemy that will not be scared by overwhelming brutality, but one that will meet Israel’s state terror with toughness, resilience, valor and defiance.

This is a new reality that Israelis, especially Israeli leaders, have yet to come to terms with, especially psychologically.

This explains the deep frustration that is apparent in the tone of Israeli leaders reacting to the latest swap deal, especially the fact that Israel has been forced to release the Lebanese guerilla Samir Kuntar.

Israel, utterly ignoring her own countless murderous sins, has come to view Kuntar as the prototype of the ultimate terrorist - as if the tens of thousands of Jewish murderers and terrorists who have enormous amounts of innocent blood on their hands were the Lord’s angels of love and mercy.

Indeed, if Israel were a normal state, and its people a normal people, it would have adopted an honest and just approach toward its neighbors, an approach that would not discriminate between “blood and blood” and “life and life.”

Undoubtedly, such an approach would have saved thousands of lives, Jewish and Arab, and spared the region and its peoples decades of pain and suffering.

But then Zionism would be losing its face, mind and heart, and would morph into something entirely different.

Unfortunately, it is probably futile to preach morality to Zionism, a manifestly demonic movement which experience shows is not capable of behaving morally and humanely.

Well, let us examine some of the statements and remarks Zionist leaders have been making with regard to the latest swap deal with Hezbollah.

Shimon Peres, the hero of the Qana massacre of 1996, who is now Israel’s President, has been quoted as saying that “We don’t want murderers to go free, but we have a moral obligation to bring home soldiers whom we sent to defend their country.”

Peres also reportedly said that “my heart is torn over the decision to pardon Kuntar,” adding that his decision to that effect “in no way constituted forgiveness.”

Certainly no one, Arab or otherwise, is particularly infatuated with what Kuntar did in 1979, although the Israeli army then was at least partially responsible for the killing by the Lebanese guerilla of three Israelis, including a paramilitary policeman, a man and his daughter.

The three lives, like numerous other victims, Arab and Jewish, would have been spared had the insolent Israeli military establishment behaved wisely.

After all, Kuntar, and his friends who were killed in that rescue operation, didn’t come to Israel to kill and shed blood but to force Israel to release Arab prisoners.

Nonetheless, one is prompted to ask difficult questions, questions that most Israelis don’t like to hear - let alone answer, but when confronted with them, they either seek to evade or prevaricate and quibble in their answers.

Who has killed more innocent people, Shimon Peres or Samir Kuntar? Who has more blood, including children’s blood, on his hands, Shimon Peres or Samir Kuntar? Who has inflicted more terror, suffering and death upon innocent people, Shimon Peres or Samir Kuntar?

If honesty is to be the ultimate arbiter among men, then one can’t escape the inescapable conclusion that it is mass murderers like Peres, Ariel Sharon and other Israeli leaders, dead or living, who really need forgiveness for their horrible crimes against humanity.

In fact, Israelis should be reminded on this occasion that a Presidential post, a business suit with a necktie, and the ability to speak eloquent sound-bites in several languages and have audience with statesmen and VIPs from around the world, doesn’t really transform a criminal into a true human being.

A criminal is a criminal especially if he refuses to come to terms with his crimes and if he refuses to apologize to his victims. Needless to say, Peres has done neither.

But then criminals are not concerned about their sins.

One elderly Israeli woman interviewed by the Ha’aretz newspaper lashed out at Hezbollah for having refused until the very last moment to tell if the two Israeli prisoners were dead or alive.

“It’s the saddest day for Israel. They kept us waiting until the last second to learn the fate of our sons,” the woman was quoted as saying.

I certainly sympathize with the woman at the personal level. However, I would want to ask the Jewish lady why she thought that Jewish lives were worth more than non-Jewish lives?

I also would like to ask her what she would tell the mothers, families and relatives of thousands of Arab prisoners who have been languishing in Israel’s dark, underground dungeons since 1967?

We are talking about POWs and MIAs and other ordinary people whose families have no way of knowing if their beloved ones are dead or alive. Aren’t these “forgotten prisoners” human beings, too? Are they children of a lesser God?

Unfortunately, most Israelis, thoroughly self-absorbed and self-centered, don’t like to be asked such questions lest their superiority complexes and collective psychosis be exposed.

Finally, the latest prisoner swap shows that Israel only understands the language of cold realpolitik which is by definition immoral and coercive.

For Palestinians, who have more than 10,000 of their beloved ones languishing in Israeli concentration camps, the message is very clear: If you want to get Israel to release your beloved ones, take Israeli hostages and swap them for the Palestinian captives.

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist based in the Occupied Palestinian town of Dura.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's July 16th speech - full transcript

Peace be upon all of you,

It’s just as we promised in 2000, the age of defeats has gone and that of victories has come; these people, this land and this country which demonstrated an obvious image-

Today, it’s well known to the entire world (including friends as well as enemies) that it’s impossible to have this country defeated!

I liked to pass by you personally for greeting and salutation, but now I will go and let you enjoy an anthem; then, I will be addressing you via the giant TV screen. (as he was hugging the freed Samir AL Qintar along with his 4 friends of the resistance)

“In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Gracious”

Thank to the Lord of people;

Peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad and his family members and well chosen accompaniers;

Peace be upon all Prophets as well;

Peace be upon all the gathering especially the representatives of the three presidents;

Salute Mr. President Emil Lahoud;

Salute to all religious men, leaders, ministers, parliamentary members, diplomatic representatives, official envoys-especially those of the Islamic Republic of Iran, brothers representatives of Lebanese and Palestinian parties, families of martyrs and released prisoners of war, all brothers and sisters;

Dear gathering, peace be upon all of you!

Welcome all of you in this great wedding !

Welcome Samir, Maher, Khodor, Hussien, and Mohammad

Welcome pure martyrs whose return will be celebrated tomorrow as we did welcome today the pure alive Lebanese, Palestinians and Arabian youths, this nation’s privilege.

In July 2006 a group of resistant men abducted two Israeli soldiers to liberate war prisoners- preceded by Samir- from Zionist prisons; today July 16th, Samir is back proceeded by the liberation of Nsim Nisir. Now Samir is back along with his brothers who fought for his return and here they are alive by his side as well as who martyred.

Is it a coincidence that the promise is fulfilled and the dream is interpreted in the very similar days of July?

Or, is it the governing , controlling and decision making will of God?

Every one will interpret it according to his beliefs. This timing adheres lost of indications could be explained by good readers.

How could we reach this outcome which seemed several times too hard to be achieved?!!!

The main and greatest factor that has led us to today’s achievement- which we labeled as the “Ridwan Operation”- is endurance and July 2006 victory adding to it the enemy’s failure to achieve any of its goals plus this failures consequences loaded upon its entity, leadership, army and people. In another words, if we had been defeated in July 2006, Samir and his bothers wouldn’t have been able to be back today; then, the whole region including Lebannon would have been lost in the American-Zionist “New Middle East” maze!!!

When House Speaker Nabih Berry was in charge of negotiating of this file, lots of pressure was practiced on him; he was a real participant in the conflict; however, it’s because the world turned deaf ears to Lebanon’s conditions and was just parroting that “the two Israeli soldiers must be unconditionally released”.

Together determination plus victory have made Lebanon and the resistance be standing on a solid base to persist our war-jailbirds and martyrs liberation process.

Now, we remember those who fought in that battle and were in the leadership, martyrdom, injury, challenge and front position – the first to be remembered is the great, brilliant, genius and pure leader Haj Imad Moughnieyeh.

We remember as well the tolerance and the stance performed by our people from all areas and sects;

we remember some governmental stances at that time;

we remember the patience of the people whose house and stores were destroyed and whose belongings were burnt;

we remember the hundred of thousands displaced people who beard being open to air for 33 days- and despite that they kept silent, uttering no complain, showing no weakness or hesitation!

Patience and victory are the most and primary factors that contributed in achieving today’s victory!

The second factor is the hard negotiations in which many subordinating factors were overlapping: the Israeli’s inability to get back his soldiers in any other way rather than negotiations- this particular failure was obvious as July 2006 war ended but non of his goals hadn’t been achieved yet- until he absorbed the fact that his two soldiers could never be back unless through indirect negotiations; the Israeli security and intelligence systems inability even to know whereabouts they are and what about their fates- this was among the strongest merits in the negotiations for if no flaw or tactic were disclosed by our team; otherwise, the negotiations direction would have been totally different.

The third factor is of a great importance: the Israeli’s fear of announcing the failure of the negotiations process or at least the probability of leading it to the failure that means another capture will be performed by the resistance!

It was the humanitarian factor that was pressing the Israeli; it was his incapability- even of the intelligence system- of getting his two soldiers rescued; besides that, his fear that when the resistance speaks, it does. The Israeli recognized that if what’s in the resistance hand is insufficient, another capture will be operated to get Samir back.

This was obvious in the Israeli internal discussions and in his ministerial sessions as the majority were delivering their votes and blaming each other for due to their overbidding they were consequently responsible of halting the chance of the release of Samir, Nasim and Yehyah in 2004; we told them in 2004 celebration of the war-prisoners return that you had reserved Samir AL Qintar but you would be regretful! Here they are regretted! They recognized if negotiations wouldn’t lead to today’s result that the Israeli would be in a place that I think they haven’t been ready for yet.

The fourth factor was Samir’s persistence and steadfastness. All along his imprisonment period, he has stressed to fasten the negotiations, but rather he was rooming us time to be able to achieve the utmost possible result for the rest of the prisoners of war as well. Besides that, the patience of the resistant men captured whom we watched in the “fabricated” trials; I would like to tell these youths today that I was listening to your words; I heard one of them when he was asked that whether he would be involved in another war if he was asked by this man (Sayyid Nassrallah), I heard him as replying if we see this man crossing the middle of the sea, so will I do with no need of his requesting; these words put in my eyes the tears of love of these youths whom could be changed by lashes.

The patience of the honourable and pure families of the alive and martyr war-prisoners families who put their trust and sureness in us and helped as they let the process taking its positive direction to reach its best possible end. Now, I want you to be aware of the qualification, accuracy and patience demonstrated by our negotiation-team who faced as long pressure as the end of the process and the announcing moment of its success.

In your names, in the names of the war-prisoner and martyr families I would like to thank this team who was practicing Al-Jihad in secret but under God’s observation and for his Almighty sake!

We have also to salute the great effort paid by the international mediator to live this outcome. I would like also to seize the opportunity to deliver my thanks to UN president Ban Ki Moon and his envoys to this region.

Today, War-prisoners Dean Samir AL Qintar is back to us along with all the alive brothers as well as martyrs whether who belong to Lebanese resistance or Palestinian parties and factions.

I want to admit that when Samir decided to be involved in resistance 30 years ago, Hezbollah wasn’t found yet. And when Dalal Al Moughrabi and her friends performed their highly brave martyrdom operation, Hezbollah was not born yet. But getting them back by the hands of Hezbollah is something that carries lots of indications among the most important is that the project of the resistance is one with one aim and fate despite the diversity of its structure, parties, groups, beliefs, sects, doctrines, intellectual and political trends- that’s firstly. Secondly; things being so assure that the movements of resistance in this region- particularly in Lebanon and Palestine- are in complementary; they share their effort and expertise, sacrifice that are continuously built upon each other to achieve the very same aim of liberating the man, the land and the wholly thing.

Dear brothers and sisters, standing in this particular celebrating the martyrs resistance that obvious all over these decades and remembering the sacrifice performed by Lebanese, Palestinian, Arabian, Muslim and national resistant men whom we pay all our respect; we pay our respect as well to the different resistant parties, factions and all martyrs who had proceeded us toward the battle of resistance from whose expertise and sacrifice we benefit; we do reserve their highly contribution performed in the past, at the present and in the future. In this context, I want to assure that the true, original, firm and well-rooted identity of this region and nation is the identity of the will and the culture of the resistance as well as the rejection of all sorts of lowliness or weakness whoever the occupiers, tyrants and dictators may be. That’s why the flag of the resistance has never fallen down all over these decades, but rather it has been transmitted from one party to another, one faction to another, under one title to another- this is the cover while the core is this nation’s truth which is resistance!

Some might feel tired, be killed, leave the battle free, or change choices; but God always determines that someone will continue the resistance. Now, we have demonstrations of all resistant groups and parties as models left for the interest of the coming nations and generations.

Our resistance in Lebanon is attempting to demonstrate a model that is complementary with the other models and that should be followed and spread all over the world even if we will be enlisted on the “terrorist list” fabricated by the terrorist states’ departments!!!

Now, I want to inform- as I declared in the last press conference- the other still Arabian, Palestinian, Jordanian and Syrian war-prisoners that despite the difficulties resulted from the regional political situation plus the real situation of the two Israeli soldiers captured with us they weren’t ignored during the 2-year long negotiations. The Israeli in its turn kept fabricating reasons for his inability of releasing other than Lebanese, but we insist on the inclusion of some Palestinians regardless of their names and numbers for the symbolism carried with in it. All our concern lies in getting them back to their families. We asked the Israeli to hand them to any one he chooses (to any leader, government, country and under any title or scenario, decoration or structure) for we are not concerned of attaching this success to us for we are not searching for a glory. Our utmost goal is the get them back to their families. What we could finally agreed about is that the exchange deal must include in its last stage a number of Palestinian prisoners of war regardless the total number or their names. This issue was then in the charge of the international mediator and the UN. My letters in which I address UN president and insist on the release of the greatest number of women, children and sick people will be published shortly afterward. I hope that something will take place and be achieved. To us this is a very symbolic and humanitarian step; we don’t expect great or huge results. Our Palestinian brothers know the reality of the difficulties, but we did insist on the symbolism imbedded in the inclusion of the Palestinians in this exchange deal led by a Lebanese resistance just to confirm the unity of the affair and the fate as well as the interrelation of the entire humanitarian and jihadi issues.

As we are celebrating the return of our prisoners of war, though this gather I would like to address the Arabian world, the hundred-million of Arabs, the milliard and hundred-millions of Muslims, the Arabian and Muslim governments-some of which are among the richest countries in the world, and some are having strong relationship with USA; I want to address nations to remind, in the anniversary day of the liberation of our war prisoners, about the still eleven-thousand Palestinian prisoners (including man and women), the tens of Jordanians, Syrians and Arabs. It is not permitted for the Arabian and Muslim worlds to remove their hands of responsibility and leave the Palestinians or claim that it is a merely Palestinian affair that must be solved only by the Palestinian government. It isn’t allowed to leave the issue on the shoulders of “Hamas”, “the Martyrs of AL Aqsa”, “the Islamic Jihad” or the rest of the resistant groups; This view is not correct in terms of law, ethics, religions and national or humanitarian conventions. Consequently, the entire nation must remind the pain of eleven thousand war prisoners along with their families left behind including all what they might be facing in life on the economical, abstract and psychological levels. All of this is taken place without changing a bit by the Arabian world. I am one of those who believe in the choice of the resistance; however, to all who sing the rhythm of diplomacy I say: let the Arabian and Islamic diplomacy along with the “great” relationship that some Arabian and Islamic countries are enjoying with the USA, let all of these pay an effort. There hasn’t been any real effort made on this level; there was recently some statement “but ineffective” in some conferences and meetings of foreign affairs ministries. Let build a serious framework on the official level and another one among parties, powers and movements in this nation; let both of them work each from its own position to help the Palestinians and let the issue of the Arabian and Palestinian prisoners of war a vital one in media, politics and diplomacy while some of us motivate it in the battle field in order to let all of these efforts in complementary with each other until we reach the desirable outcome.

Concerning Lebanon affairs, today the achievements seem to be completed and gathered in one day, after the end of July 2006 war we had two goals: the first was to release the prisoners of war through the difficult and complicated negotiations, and this is done today by God’s help; the second demand was the national government, and thank God it’s achieved. After the end of the war in the celebration of the victory we called for the establishment of the national government not for stickling reasons but to cooperate together in the building and protection of Lebanon. Today the first national government in the new age has this great and historical chance. Today, the national government met and had the memorial picture taken, and it has made the committee that will write the ministerial statement. This good luck is designed by God and not by chance for a believer in God doesn’t believe in chances, and all what’s going on in this universe is arranged by a great Will. It’s a good fortune that the new government meets and takes its picture for the first time and has the first has the first task of welcoming the liberated prisoners of war in the international airport of Rafiq Al Hariri. It’s the great fortune arranged by God for Lebanon and Lebanese. At this moment, I have to thank Mr. President Mishel Soleiman who organized and was in charge of welcoming the prisoners of war in this great national structure just as preceded Mr. President Emil Lahoud did in 2004. The whole country was in the airport and its surrounding. I thank Mr. Solieman for what he did and said. And I support every single word he said in his welcoming speech in the airport. I thank all current and previous presidents and official figures as well as all the representatives of sects and all who participated in this celebration. Again through the official scene in the airport- the scene in which the national Lebanese army and the resistance stands side by side and a martyr along the other- again through the public scene and the stance of the political powers. Lebanon has proved that it deserved the sacrifice of the sons and the blood paid for it. Today is a real celebration day upon which one has to build and establish. We call all to meet again, overcome the sensitive issues, be away for the ill will and benefit from this opportunity to solve all the main problematic affairs. All is willingly involved in the national government to effectively and seriously share and cooperate in solving the fundamental problems and relive Lebanon in the way that deserved the amount of sacrifice paid by its youth, women, martyrs, sons and prisoners of war. With the spirit of cooperation and solidarity, rather than the will of eliminating the other. Among what’s on the discussion table, I declare that we are mostly and entirely concerned in the liberation of the rest of our occupied land; we are also in Hezbollah open every discussion related to the National Strategy Defence (Shebaa farms, Kafar-shouba heights, and the parts of AL-Ghajjar). All we are concerned about is the liberation of our land, water and sovereignty as well as our people and their dignity and security. We insist on holding this discussion.

We insist that all participate in this discussion for the protection of our country. It’s the government that must bear responsibility of protecting this country. Let’s get out of the bargaining who’s monopolizing the resistance as if it’s a delicious meal. People including those believers usually escape form fighting:

(In the Name of Allah, you have been assigned to fight although it’s undesirable for you.)

People usually like to be involved in cultural, economical, political, trade activities. But when you invite them to participate in fighting, injuries, sacrifice, hunger, getting imprisoned, climbing hills and go to canyons, for sure they would refuse. For that we are envied for? Is it for our youths in the enemy’s jail and we are bringing them back? Are we envied that our youths have lost their spring ages defending this homeland and now we are bringing their corps back? I insist today that all must participate in the defence of this country and the one who turns his back to this duty is the disloyal one. We are ready to cooperate in the treatment of all the national files in the way that saves Lebanon’s unity and let this country passes over its crises.

In the few coming days the fate of the missed and the identity of the martyrs remaining be clarified; we are waiting to build on reports of the international mediator about the four Iranians.

In the freedom, liberation and resistance day I want to say that we must not forget the leader of the prisoners of war and the Imam of the freedom, liberation and the resistance Sayyid Moussa AL Sadr (God help to return them back in safety). Now Samir is known as the senior of the prisoners of war for he had spent 30 years in the zionist jail meanwhile another 30 years has been gone and Sayyid AL Sadr is absentee. As I said in 2004 liberation day, we don’t want to be involved in a conflict or an enmity against any one.

We want to enclose all the painful, saddening and critical files and this intersect with the interest of the Arabian and Muslim countries; it’s time to have this file reaching the end of the tunnel; I said years ago in a general meeting that if he is alive get him back, and if he’s dead, let us know and get us back his pure corps for martyrdom is the feature of his family. It is not allowed that the issue of Imam AL Sadr still be circled with all this ambiguity, ignorance and continuous delay. I am aware of the sensitivity that prevails the Arabian official relationships, we remind about the issue of the founder of the resistance in Lebanon; I call for a real and serious Arabian and Islamic cooperation to have this file done and get the Imam along with his two friends back to Lebanon and the nation as well.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear liberated war-prisoners, the families of the war prisoners and martyrs that are waiting for their loving people tomorrow, dear gathering, I address you in this celebration day to congratulate you for your victory which is your own triumph, your accomplishment, your promise, your doing, your own patience; by you we win; by you we impose defeat on our enemy; by you we are able to continue the movement and get the glory for our country and nation! We ask God liberation for all the remaining captured, and that Lebanon will treat this file as he did today, especially concerning Samir AL Qintar whom must be deal with as a real countrywide, national, humanitarian, civilized and jihadi treasury; he must be treated in a way that equals the patience, aggressiveness, crisis he lived and all the steadfastness he showed.

The entire liberation for all prisoners; the entire mercy for all the martyrs, the entire victory for you; the entire honour and glory for Lebanon, Palestine and the nation.