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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Suicide Attack Outside US Base in Afghanistan (Updated)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Bodies in Afghan police and military uniforms littered the entrance of an airfield outside a major US base in Afghanistan Sunday, killed in an apparent suicide attack by the Taliban.

The attack occurred in the city of Jalalabad – two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a car, and another seven were killed in a gun fight with Afghan and coalition forces.  Several coalition troops were wounded, according to reports, and US helicopters circled above the fight.

Suicide attackers detonated bombs and fired rockets outside a major U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing five people in a brazen operation that highlighted the country’s security challenges ahead of the 2014 NATO combat troop pullout.

“There were multiple suicide bombers involved,” said Major Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), adding that several coalition troops were wounded.

Afghanistan’s defense ministry spokesman said there were rocket attacks at the Jalalabad base before the suicide bombings.

In a text message, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said : “This morning at 6 a.m. a number of our devotees attacked the major U.S. Base in Jalalabad city and so far have brought heavy casualties to the enemy.”

The US and NATO are set to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.  Afghan officials are concerned that the forces will not leave the country stable enough to prevent a civil war or Taliban overthrow.

Lieberman Approves Rice Nomination, But Won’t Partake in Vote

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he would not object to the nomination of Susan Rice, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, as secretary of state.

Lieberman’s apparent endorsement of Rice on Tuesday is largely symbolic; he is retiring as senator and likely will not be serving by the time Hillary Rodham Clinton, the current secretary of state, steps down, a move anticipated early next year.

However, Lieberman’s statement this week after meeting with Rice that she was telling “the whole truth” about why she initially depicted the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya as a spontaneous eruption and not as a planned terrorist attack undercuts criticism of Rice as unreliable by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Lieberman has throughout much of his career joined with McCain and Graham as a foreign policy hawk; his dissent, now that he is free from such alliances, could be used by Democrats to depict GOP attacks on Rice as political and not substantive.

The Benghazi attack is believed to have been the work of Al Qaida-affiliated terrorists, intelligence Rice says was not made available to her in the days after the attack, when she was the Obama administration’s point person in explaining U.S. reaction.

Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed in the attack.

President Obama has not said he would nominate Rice to the post, but also has said he would not be deterred from doing so by McCain and Graham.

Some Questions For Ambassador Rice

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Reports in recent days suggest that Republican opposition to the possible nomination of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as secretary of state seems to be softening. Critics such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are changing or at least modifying their tune regarding concern over Ms. Rice’s statements in the aftermath of the attack on U. S. diplomats in Benghazi.

Sen. McCain has said he looks forward to meeting with her to give her an opportunity to directly address his concerns, and Sen. Graham is now saying he’s not sure he would vote against or try to block her confirmation in the Senate should she be nominated.

We’ve stated in the past our concerns about Ambassador Rice’s comments on Benghazi and her vehement denunciation of Israeli settlements in a UN speech she gave while casting a U.S. veto of a resolution condemning the settlements.

Certainly her very public discomfort with a pro-Israel expression of U.S. policy signaled by President Obama makes us leery of her serving in any senior capacity relating to Israel, especially as secretary of state. Despite it being understood that a UN representative does the bidding of the president, her outburst confirmed to the world that she may not agree with the very policies she advocates.

And there are serious questions regarding Benghazi that we trust Senators McCain and Graham share and will pursue either now or in confirmation hearings.

As we asked last week, just how did Ms. Rice, when arguing on several news interview programs that the Benghazi attack resulted from spontaneous Muslim anger over a video critical of Muhammad, process the knowledge that it occurred on 9/11 and that the attackers carried rocket-propelled grenades?

Ambassador Rice has said she relied on talking points supplied by intelligence agencies, though she now acknowledges those agencies had information that the attack was pre-planned by Al Qaeda affiliates. Senators McCain and Graham should try to find out if she believes it appropriate for high public officials to be blindsided in this manner.

Do they?

On a related note, did Ms. Rice take advantage of her access to classified information to confirm the intelligence agencies’ talking points, especially given the 9/11 factor and the curious fact that she, rather than Secretary of State Clinton, was chosen to make the case for spontaneous combustion?

Perhaps most important, did she have anything to say to President Obama? After all, he made a big deal in the second debate with Mitt Romney that he already labeled the attack an act of terror the very next day in the White House Rose Garden. If the president knew, why didn’t he tell her?

We also hope that Ms. Rice will be asked whether she has any information that would support or counter the belief that adequate protection was not supplied to the Benghazi consulate because to have done so would have undermined the Obama campaign’s claim that the U.S. had eliminated the operational capacity of local terror groups.

Pillar Of Defense Aftermath

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

We doubt anyone outside of the Palestinian street really believes the stream of Hamas hyperbole that it emerged from Operation Pillar Of Defense in a better position than before. Of course, we have come to expect this sort of fantasy-based spin from much of the Arab world. Indeed, all reports prior to the cease-fire indicated that Hamas’s military capacity had been severely degraded and its ability to shoot rockets at Israel largely neutralized, at least for now. And Hamas lost some of its top military commanders.

In a sober, understated report, OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo said that “Hamas’s long-range rocket fire has been all but destroyed” and that “Hamas’s drone capabilities were destroyed.”

“We can measure results only after a reasonable period of time passes,” he noted. “Hamas has been badly damaged. Deterrence is in place, despite the victory cries we heard in Gaza. Israel and Hamas both know Hamas has been hit hard.”

We were initially dismayed by the text of the cease-fire agreement, which in addition to providing for the end of all hostilities also opened the door for discussions about opening the crossings between Gaza and the outside world. Did this not suggest that Hamas’s intensified rocket attacks had, in the end, succeeded moving along an issue long pursued by Hamas?

A fuller story will doubtless emerge in the coming weeks. But it already appears that Israel came out ahead of the game beyond even what Maj.General Russo indicated. The perpetuation of the Israeli-Egyptian treaty is of vital interest to both Israel and the U.S. in terms of Israel’s security needs and regional stability. And Israel’s overriding reason for the Gaza blockade is to stanch the rampant weapons smuggling from Syria and Iran.

According to news reports, the Obama administration has come to accept that any relaxation of restrictions on Gaza would require assurances that arms smuggling end. The Jerusalem Post cited comments by an unnamed senior American official who said Washington understands that stopping the smuggling is a “critical element” of the cease-fire and that the U.S. will make it a priority in its discussions with Egypt and other international players.

The same official said that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama recognized early on that Egypt was the “only party that could influence Hamas and get them to accept certain things,” and Egyptian President Morsi seems to have delivered. But Mr. Morsi, desperate for American financial aid and wanting to please President Obama, had to deliver something to Hamas. Ergo, there will be discussions designed to ease travel restrictions but Egypt will now also be the guarantor for the cessation of weapons smuggling.

And there are other added dividends. Because of U.S. involvement, Egypt and Israel seem to be on the same side of the smuggling issue which can only enhance their interaction and strengthen prospects for the continued life of the peace treaty. (This of course will depend at least somewhat on Mr. Morsi’s surviving the current crisis in Egypt precipitated by his presidential order granting himself near dictatorial powers.)

It also seems clear that the conflict has resulted in a dramatic uptick in cooperation between Israel and the U.S. This was noted in an analytical New York Times piece last week in the aftermath of the truce agreement:

The conflict that ended, for now, in a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel seemed like the latest episode in a periodic showdown. But there was a second, strategic agenda unfolding, according to American and Israeli officials: the exchange was something of a practice run for any future armed confrontation with Iran, featuring improved rockets that can reach Jerusalem and new antimissile systems to counter them.

It is Iran, of course, that most preoccupies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. While disagreeing on tactics, both have made it clear that time is short, probably measured in months, to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

And one key to their war-gaming has been cutting off Iran’s ability to slip next-generation missiles into the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, where they could be launched by Iran’s surrogates, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, during any crisis over sanctions or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Missiles Targeted Israel’s Economy

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The barrages of homemade Grad rockets and Iranian produced Fajr-5s that were fired by Tehran’s proxy Hamas and Islamic Jihad militias at Israeli population centers in southern and central Israel during the recent fighting were reportedly not only meant to kill and maim civilians but also to wreck Israel’s economy. The militias’ goal was to exact revenge on Israel, the U.S. and the EU for the stifling sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime.

Prior to the relentless rocket attacks on Sderot, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod, among other towns and cities, Israel’s Ministry of Finance said that despite a significant slowdown in various exports due to the EU’s ongoing recession, the Israeli economy was growing at a higher rate than the economies of the U.S., UK and EU. In addition, Israel’s foreign tourism industry was in the midst of its best year ever, with close to three million tourists having booked trips through the first quarter of 2013.

Several days after Fajr-5s were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, an Israeli Hotel Association executive told an Israeli business news site, “[It is] time to write off the winter season.” Sources say that a significant number of Christian groups canceled their pilgrimage missions planned for the forthcoming holiday season, while bookings from foreign individual tourists for the December-January winter vacation respite were down by nearly 25 percent. During a meeting of tourism industry leaders last Thursday, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) representatives said that, “The damage could be minimized, and it was estimated that the potential for rehabilitation is large in relation to other crises the industry has dealt with.”

The IMOT representatives stressed the urgency to implement rehabilitative actions because the tourism industry, unlike other industries, is highly unlikely to retrieve much of its lost revenue. They also said that a return to normalcy after the fighting is a crucial incentive for future tourists to visit Israel, thus enhancing the tourism industry’s ability to increase its profit margin. According to the IMOT, The Federation of Israeli Tourist Organizations has pledged to contact organizations that have canceled trips in an attempt to have them rescind their cancellations.

Tel Aviv, the headquarters of many of Israel’s major business entities (including the country’s stock exchange and a number of hi-tech and real-estate companies), was also battered during the past two weeks. Israel’s leading business dailies, Globes and Calcalist, reported that many foreign investors had stopped investing in the Israeli economy. This was especially so in the real-estate sector, as many foreign Jewish investors from Russia, France and the U.S. had been purchasing properties in a number of affluent Tel Aviv residential and commercial projects. The startling pictures of a severely damaged apartment building in West Rishon LeZion, less than five miles from Tel Aviv, in the aftermath of a Fajr-5 strike sent shudders throughout the Israeli real-estate marketplace. The damage to the relatively new building was estimated at nearly $1.5 million.

According to Israel’s Tax Authority, the overall indirect damage (loss of work and production) to the Israeli economy as a result of Operation Pillar of Defense is estimated at $100 million. But senior economists told Globes that when all of the damages are factored in, including damages to homes, infrastructure and tourism, the loss to the Israeli economy could approach $500 million.

Gimme Five

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

This is U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Baker with a group of children during a security halt in Qalat City, Afghanistan. Baker is assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul’s security force and is deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

It is a staged picture, obviously, directed by the photographer, or, worse, by headquarters’ PR person. They called the kids over and asked them to slap five, or worse, bussed the kids over from their neighborhood, or, worse yet, hired the kids and the soldier from Central Casting – we have no idea.

So that, strangely, this image of a female U.S. soldier joshing with a group of Afghani children represents bot a reality but a kind of visual wishful thinking. Because we know there aren’t in the world Afghani children joshing with U.S. soldiers, not in the wild, anyway. Because Afghanistan is quickly retreating into what it has always been, a backwards, mountainous, harsh land, with a warlike people who grow poppy and kill each other for sport.

Somehow, the U.S. leadership figured it could succeed in “civilizing” the Afghani, save their women from a life of slavery, educate their children, improve their hospitals – after the Soviet Union and the British Empire and half a dozen other invaders have failed.

Or maybe it just gave us something to do to while away the time and the budget. Folks got rich, nothing to scoff at.

So we’re looking at a soldier and some children pretending to be having some cross-cultural fun together, as dreamed up by a PR team in a conquered country soon to be left to its own devices at the whopping cost of many billions of dollars.

Your tax dollars at make-work?

This Ceasefire Won’t Last

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A ceasefire ending this round of the Hamas-Israel fighting went into effect at 9 PM local time, November 21, 2012. There were reports of more rockets being fired from Gaza at Israel after the ceasefire was to be implemented. Hamas immediately claimed victory. So did Netanyahu and here is his statement.

The brief agreement provides that both sides will stop all hostilities. For Israel, that included the targeted killings of terrorists and Hamas leaders. For the Palestinian side, the phrase, “All Palestinian factions,” was used. That means the Hamas regime is responsible for any attacks by Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida affiliates, and other small Salafist groups. According to the text, at least, Hamas cannot hide behind allowing or encouraging such groups to attack and then disclaiming responsibility.

Another provision is that Israel will reopen the crossings and let people (a small number of Gazans seeking medical attention in Israel) and supplies to return to normal levels.

Egypt—not the United States, which isn’t mentioned in the agreement–is the sponsor of the ceasefire. According to some reports which seem accurate, the ceasefire was agreed to through Egypt but delayed until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived. By allowing Clinton to claim credit for the agreement, Israel may get something in return including most obviously a greater U.S. commitment to make the agreement work.

There is an interesting hint on this kind of secret agreement contained in Netanyahu’s statement:

“Israel obviously cannot sit idly while our enemy reinforces itself with weapons of terror. Therefore we decided, President Obama and myself, that the United States and Israel would work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terror organizations – weapons, virtually all of which come from Iran.”

Here is a very significant point that’s being missed in all of the coverage and discussions regarding the ceasefire. Netanyahu’s remark suggests there will be a new anti-smuggling effort involving U.S. intelligence, cooperation with other countries, and pressure on Egypt to make it harder to get weapons–especially missiles–into the Gaza Strip. It is clear that long-range missiles are the hardest thing to bring in and the easiest weaponry for Egypt to stop at the border. Whether this will have any U.S. effort does reduce the arms going to Hamas, of course, remains to be seen.

By helping negotiate and guaranteeing the ceasefire, Egypt also clinches its gaining more U.S. aid, though that probably would have happened anyway. Israel will know to what extent Egypt is helping Hamas smuggle in weapons, looking the other way, or merely not trying hard enough. This will be a key issue in future Egypt-Israel relations.

On Hamas’s side, the decision to reach a ceasefire was motivated by the damage the organization was suffering and fear of a massive Israeli ground attack. Perhaps most important, however, was that Hamas found it was not receiving strong support from Egypt and other states, especially because Cairo is now ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood government. Hamas is an independent branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Apparently, Hamas did not consult with Egypt before escalating attacks against Israel, the factor that set off large-scale Israeli retaliation. In turn, Egypt, along with Qatar, the Hamas regime’s main Arab funder, pressured the regime to stop the fighting.

The timing for a crisis could not be worse for the new Egyptian regime. It has not yet tamed its army, finished writing its constitution, or established the legitimacy of the parliament it dominates. At the precise time the war started, the Egyptian government was completing negotiations that can be expected to bring it almost $10 billion in aid from the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and United States.

Whatever Egypt does in future, it does not want trouble from Israel at present. Israel had also earlier reassured the Cairo regime that it would support an amendment in their thirty-year-old peace treaty that would allow Egypt to station more troops in the eastern Sinai. The number wouldn’t be enough to threaten Israel but enough to help control the Salafist groups there that have targeted Israel several times in cross-border raids. That is, if Egypt wants to stop them from doing so. At any rate, Egypt faces attacks on itself from some of these groups as well.

Israel’s motives included ending attacks on its civilian population which caused few fatalities but had a tremendously disrupting psychological and economic effect. The truth is that Israel’s population, while overwhelmingly supporting the war, evinced more fear about the attacks than in earlier conflicts. The ability of Hamas to fire missiles toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem–though this was partly a bluff since these missiles were almost emptied of explosives to get a longer range–set off concerns, especially in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome system worked very well in shooting down a high percentage of the rockets outside the far south.

But Israel’s most realistic interests–though not its preferences–were reached by agreeing to a ceasefire now. There was international, and especially U.S., pressure to avoid a ground attack which meant that the limit of its military gains using only air power had been already attained. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to develop the best possible relationship with newly reelected President Barack Obama, with whom he will probably be dealing with–assuming Netanyahu’s reelection on January 22–for the next four years.

Equally important was that Israeli leaders–and public opinion generally agrees–know that a temporary ceasefire is the best outcome that can be obtained. A very large portion of Hamas’s weapons, especially longer-range missiles, has been destroyed and it will take Hamas time to rebuild. While people can come up with ideal solutions in their heads the problem is that Israel does not want to return to rule the Gaza Strip (which would involve armed battles almost daily) and does not have international support for overthrowing Hamas.

In a reasonable world, the international community would support, even join, in bringing down the current regime and replacing it with the Palestinian Authority. After all, Hamas staged an armed coup and chased out its Fatah rivals, killing many of them brutally. It then openly declared its intentions to commit genocide against Israel and Jews generally; staged a constant series of terror attacks; forced out the small Christian population; let al-Qaida affiliated groups operate; and systematically taught children to grow up to be terrorists and suicide bombers.

Instead, however, the international community is determined to protect the survival of the Hamas regime and the Palestinian Authority would not take back rule over the Gaza Strip, either by its own efforts to overthrow Hamas or at the hands of a victorious Israeli army. If the war continued, some more Hamas leaders would be killed and munitions would be destroyed. But that additional benefit would be limited. At the same time, more civilians would be killed on both sides and the relatively positive international support and mild media criticism–by the usual standards, of course–would dissipate.

Of course, everyone knows that this ceasefire won’t last. The key to anything more durable is if the Egyptian government decides that it wants to avoid another war because of its own interests. In other words, despite its hard line toward Israel, would the Brotherhood regime decide that it wanted to consolidate its rule over Egypt–totally transform the army; Islamize the society; and suppress Christians, women and secularist–before taking on Israel. Can it create a repressive regime and fight a jihad simultaneously or does it need to take on these tasks one at a time? By helping to broker the ceasefire, the Egyptian regime has also won points with the Obama Administration that should bring it benefits in future.

Thus, is the twisted situation characterizing contemporary Middle East politics and U.S. policy.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/this-ceasefire-wont-last/2012/11/22/

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