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 Thursday, September 28, 2006

IRAN's Nuclear Ambition: Learning from ISRAEL

  by

Bernd Debusmann

Read here full article

In developing its nuclear program Iran is using strategies that allowed its enemy Israel to assemble the Middle East's only atomic arsenal without admitting it had one, according to a leading expert on the Israeli program.

Avner Cohen, author of a landmark study entitled "Israel and the Bomb," said this in a telephone interview. Cohen is a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies.

"Whether deliberately or inadvertently, there are elements of resemblance between the way Iran is pursuing its nuclear program today and the way Israel was pursuing its own program in the 1960s,"

This is a great irony of history but Iranian policymakers and nuclear technocrats may be strategically mimicking the Israeli model."
As Cohen sees it, the elements the Israeli and Iranian nuclear programs have in common are secrecy, concealment, ambiguity, double talk and denial.

Iran's probable strategy, he says, is to create the perception of having a secret weapons program, or being close to it, without actually testing a bomb or declaring its possession or impending possession.

That echoes the Israeli program, which began in the late 1950s at the Dimona nuclear complex in the Negev Desert.

Since then, Israel has declined to confirm or deny it has nuclear weapons, saying only it would not be the first to "introduce" them into the Middle East.

Over the decades, Israel's attitude has been "let the world guess" or as former Prime Minister Shimon Peres called it, "deterrence by uncertainty."

Intelligence agencies are guessing again.

The current Washington debate on Iran features widely varying estimates of how close the Islamic state might be to a nuclear weapon.

Iran has consistently denied it is working on a weapons program and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, has found no evidence of one. Last month, the IAEA disputed a U.S. congressional report saying Iran was already producing weapons-grade uranium.

The Central Intelligence Agency and the 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies use equipment from spy satellites and supercomputers to subterranean listening devices. But there are few spies on the ground in Iran, where Washington has had no official presence for more than a quarter of a century.

"The ... nature of the Iranian target poses unique HUMINT (human intelligence) challenges; since American officials have so little physical access to Iran, it is difficult to collect information there. There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know." a congressional intelligence report said last month.

That includes, intelligence officials acknowledge, insight into the small circle of religious figures in Iran with the authority to decide whether to pursue building a nuclear bomb and how many resources to devote to the project.

U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte said in February that Iran was 10 years away from a bomb but later talked about "the beginning of the next decade perhaps to the middle of the next decade" - four to ten years.

He added:

"Iran is ... a hard (intelligence) target. They engage in denial and deception. They don't want us necessarily to know everything that they are doing.

So we don't, for example, know whether there is a secret military program and to what extent that program has made progress."


While there are parallels between Iran now and Israel then, the political context is vastly different.

Beginning with Richard Nixon, a succession of U.S. presidents looked the other way as Israel built up its arsenal, historians says.

Published estimates of the number of Israel nuclear devices range from 75 to 200.

In contrast, the administration of George W. Bush has said it would NOT tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, a country the president has termed part of an "axis of evil."

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 Saturday, September 23, 2006

Osama bin Laden: Is He REALLY Dead ?

  By

CLAUDE SALHANI

Read here full article by Claude Salhani from UPI

Osama bin Laden is dead.

At least according to Saudi intelligence sources cited by a French newspaper, which in turn claims to have obtained a document leaked to them by French counter-intelligence services.

The news of the death of al-Qaida's chief was reported in the Saturday edition of l'Est Republicain, a respected regional daily. The French paper cites a memo they claim was obtained from the French counter-espionage agency, the Direction Générale des Services Extérieurs, or the DGSE.

Bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist is believed to have died last August as a result of typhoid fever while he was in a remote part of Pakistan, according to the French newspaper.

The report of bin Laden's death was however not confirmed by official sources in either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

But a Saudi intelligence source told United Press International: "We are not saying he is dead, but there is a lot of truth in the report."

The Saudi source, who spoke on condition that his name not be revealed, confirmed the existence of a Saudi intelligence report relating to the health of bin Laden.

And according to that Saudi Arabian intelligence document, it states, "bin Laden was very ill these past few weeks."

The Saudi source told UPI the French intelligence report must have concluded that Saudi authorities believes bin Laden to be dead.

"There is no way we can prove that bin Laden is dead until we can see the body," the Saudi intelligence source told UPI. But, he stressed, "A good portion of what is in the report is true."

For the moment, the source went on to say, "We do not confirm bin Laden's death. "We don't know."

Making the report all the more credible was the choice by those in French counter-intelligence of where to leak the Saudi report, the regional L'Est Republicain, rather than one of the larger Paris-based dailies.

"There is a history with that paper," the Saudi source told UPI. The newspaper is known to have had intelligence reports leaked to it in the past. "They are very reliable," said the Saudi official.

The information purporting the death of the world's most sought after terrorist is based on what the newspaper calls "a usually reliable source," stating that Saudi intelligence sources "are convinced" of bin Laden's death.

The French intelligence report goes on to say, still according to the French daily, that bin Laden died in Pakistan on August 23 after suffering "from a severe bout of typhoid fever," and a bacterial infection provoked a paralysis of his lower body.

The Saudi intelligence report states that bin Laden's geographic isolation "rendered all medical assistance impossible. Indeed, U.S. intelligence sources have long believed bin Laden was hiding in remote parts of Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan, areas where sophisticated medical help would be difficult to obtain.

The news of bin Laden's death reached the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sept. 4. If confirmed, that, in part, might explain the complete absence of Osama bin Laden from making any appearances on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington, DC.

Instead, a videotape by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was released to television news networks.

The French daily reports that the internal and confidential memo from the DGSE reporting the death of "the enemy number one" of the United States and of the West, was handed over to the Presidency of the French republic on Sept. 21.

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 Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Breaking News !!! MILITARY COUP in THAILAND

  UPDATE 1

The Thai army took control of Bangkok on Tuesday and announced it would set up a commission to reform the constitution despite Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declaring a state of emergency from New York.

A written statement relayed on all TV channels said the armed forces and police had set up a commission to decide on political reforms, ousting Thaksin in the midst of protracted political crisis in which he was accused of undermining democracy

After tanks surrounded Government House in the country's first coup in 15 years, all television channels read the message saying the armed forces and police were in control of Bangkok and surrounding provinces, and appealed for calm.

The Thai baht slid the most in four years. The baht fell 1.3 percent to 37.79 per dollar at 1:03 p.m. in New York, from 37.29 late yesterday, the biggest decline since July 2002. Maratheftis recommended buying the yen, the most-traded Asian currency, against the baht.







***********************

Read here for more on BBC and Here and Here

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok amid reports of a coup attempt.

Mr Thaksin, who is at the UN in New York, said he had removed the chief of the army. The general,Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, was sacked by the prime minister earlier in the day.

Soldiers have entered Government House and tanks have moved into position around the building.

Witnesses said several hundred troops were posted at key points around Bangkok, including at government installations and major intersections.

National television announced that forces had taken control of Bangkok "to maintain law and order", and that they were declaring loyalty to the king.

An army-owned TV station is showing images of the royal family and songs linked in the past with military coups. The declaration of loyalty does not necessarily imply that he backs the takeover attempt.

The announcement said the troops belonged to the "Council of Political Reform".

Thai media say that two army factions appear to be heading for a clash, with one side backing the prime minister and the other side backing military commander Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

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 Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The REAL Pope Benedict XVI

  Read here full article by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian UK

Only 18 months into his papacy and already Pope Benedict XVI has stirred up unprecedented controversy.

As the explanations and apologies pour out of the Vatican, the questions about what exactly this man intended by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor's insult of the Prophet Mohammed have only multiplied.

Some say this was a case of naivety, of a scholarly theologian stumbling into the glare of a global media storm, blinking with surprise at the outrage he had inadvertently triggered.

The learned man's thoughtful reasoning, say some, has been misconstrued and distorted by troublemakers, and the context ignored.

But such explanations are unconvincing.

  • This is a man who has been at the heart of one of the world's multinational institutions for a very long time.

  • He has been privy to how pontifical messages get distorted and magnified by a global media.

  • Shy he may be, but no one has ever before accused this pope of being a remote theologian sitting in an ivory tower. On the contrary, he is a determined, shrewd operator whose track record indicates a man who is not remotely afraid of controversy.

  • He has long been famous for his bruising, ruthless condemnation of those he disagrees with. Senior Catholic theologians such as the German Hans Kung are well familiar with the sharpness of his judgments.
But in the 18 months since Benedict was elected, the wary critics who have always feared this man were lulled into believing that office might have softened his abrasive edges.

His encyclical on love won widespread acclaim and the pronouncement on homosexuality being incompatible with the priesthood (and its inference that homosexuals were to blame for the child sex abuse problems in the church) were explained away as an inheritance from Pope John Paul II's reign.

But while the Pope has tried to build a more appealing public image, what has become increasingly clear is that this is a man with little sympathy or imagination for other religious faiths.

Famously, the then Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to Buddhism as a form of masturbation for the mind - a remark still repeated among deeply offended Buddhists more than a decade after he said it.

Even his apology at the weekend managed to bring Jews into the row.

In fact, Pope Benedict XVI's short papacy has marked a significant departure from the previous pope's stance on interreligious dialogue.

John Paul II made some dramatic gestures to rally world religious leaders, the most famous being a gathering in Assisi of every world faith, even African animists, to pray for world peace.

He felt keenly the terrible history of Catholic-Jewish relations, and having fought with the Polish resistance to save Jews in the second world war, John Paul II made unprecedented efforts to begin to heal centuries of hostility and indifference on the part of the Catholic church to Europe's Jews.

John Paul II also addressed himself to the ancient enmity between Muslims and Catholics; he apologised for the Crusades and was the first Pope to visit a mosque during a visit to Syria in 2001.

In contrast, Pope Benedict has managed to antagonise two major world faiths within a few months.

The current anger of Muslims is comparable to the anger and disappointment felt by Jews after his visit to Auschwitz in May.

He gave a long address at the site of the former concentration camp and failed to mention anti-semitism, and offered no apology - whether on behalf of his own country, Germany, or on behalf of the Catholic Church.

He acknowledged he was a "son of the German people" ... "but not guilty on that account";

He then launched into a highly controversial claim that a "ring of criminals" were responsible for nazism and that the German people were as much their victims as anyone else.

This is an argument that has long been discredited in Germany as utterly inadequate in explaining how millions supported the Nazis.

Given his own involvement in the Hitler Youth movement as a boy, and his refusal to make a clean breast of the Vatican's acquiescence in the horrors of Nazism by opening its archives to historians, this was a shabby moment in Catholic history.

Not for this pope those dramatic, epoch-defining gestures that made the last Pope such a significant global figure.

Even worse, in his Auschwitz address, he managed to argue in a long theological exposition that the real victims of the Holocaust were God and Christianity.

As one commentator put it, he managed to claim that Jews were the "themselves bit players - bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one."

This theological treatise bears the same characteristics as last week's Regensburg lecture; put at its most charitable, they are too clever by half.

More plainly speaking, they indicate a deep arrogance rooted in a blinkered Catholic triumphalism which is utterly out of place in the 21st century.

But if his visit to Auschwitz disappointed many and failed to resolve outstanding resentments about the murky role of German Catholicism, this latest incident seems even worse.

Quoting Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, he said:
"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
It was a gratuitous reawakening of the most entrenched and self-serving of western prejudices - that Muslims have a unique proclivity to violence, a claim that has no basis in history or in current world events (a fact that still eludes too many westerners).

Even more bewildering is the fact that his choice of quotation from Manuel II Paleologos, the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, was so insulting of the Prophet.

Even the most cursory knowledge of dialogue with Islam teaches that reverence for the Prophet is a non-negotiable.

What unites all Muslims is a passionate devotion and commitment to protecting the honour of Muhammad.

Given the scale of the offence, the carefully worded apology, actually, gives little ground; he recognises that Muslims have been offended and that he was only quoting, but there is NO regret at using such an inappropriate comment or the deep historic resonances it stirs up.

By an uncanny coincidence the legendary Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci died last week. No one connected the two events, but the Pope had already run into controversy in Italy by inviting the rabid Islamophobe to a private audience just months ago.

This is the journalist
who published a bestseller in 2001 which amounted to a diatribe of invective against Islam. This is the woman who was only too happy to fling out comments such as "Muslims breed like rats" and "the increasing presence of Muslims in Italy and Europe is directly proportional to our loss of freedom."

At the time of her papal audience, Fallaci's ranting against Islam had landed her in court and there was outrage at the Pope's insensitive invitation.

The Pope REFUSED to backtrack and insisted the meeting was purely "pastoral".

Put last week's lecture in Bavaria and the Fallaci audience alongside his vocal opposition to Turkish membership of the EU, and the picture isn't pretty.

On one of the biggest and most volatile issues of our day - the perceived clash between the west and the Muslim world - the Pope seems to have abdicated his papal role of arbitrator, and taken up the arms in a rerun of a medieval fantasy.

    • An elderly Catholic nun has already been killed in Somalia, perhaps in retaliation for the Pope's remarks; churches have been attacked in the West Bank.

    • How is this papal stupidity going to play out in countries such as Nigeria, where the tensions between Catholics and Muslims frequently flare into riots and death?

    • Or other countries such as Pakistan, where tiny Catholic communities are already beleaguered?

    • Or the Muslim minorities in Catholic countries such as the Philippines - how comfortable do they feel this week?
Two lines of thought emerge from this mess.

1. Personal Authority Damaged

The first is that the Pope's personal authority has been irrevocably
damaged
; how now could he ever present himself as a figure of global moral
authority and a peacemaker after this?

At the weekend, a message was read out from Cardinal Murphy O'Connor at all masses in Catholic churches in England; he spoke of the regret at any offence caused and urged good relations between Catholics and Muslims.

For a church that prides itself on taking centuries to respond, this was unprecedented crisis management.

It cannot but damage the pope's authority with the faithful that such emergency measures were necessary, and it compromises not just this pope but the papal office itself. (This is a job, after all, that is supposed to be divinely guided and at all times beyond reproach: a claim that looks a bit threadbare after the past few days.)

2. Failure of the Catholic Church

The second is a more disturbing possibility: namely, that the Catholic church could be failing - yet again - to deal with the challenge of modernity.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, it struggled to adapt to an increasingly educated and questioning faithful; now, in the 21st century, it is in danger of failing the great challenge of how we forge new ways of accommodating difference in a crowded, mobile world.

The Catholic church has to make a dramatic break with its triumphalist, bigoted past if it is to contribute in any constructive way to chart this new course.

John Paul II made some dramatic steps in this direction.

But the fear now is that Pope Benedict XVI has NO intention of following suit, and that he has another direction altogether in mind.

More from Pope Benedict

On homosexuality


"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living-out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option.

It is not."

On Buddhism

"Auto-erotic spirituality."

The ordination of women

On the excommunication of seven women who called themselves priests: "... the penalty imposed is not only just, but also necessary, in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion and unity of the church, and to guide consciences of the faithful."

On same-sex marriage

"Call[s] into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make[s] homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality."

On rock music

"[A] vehicle of anti-religion"; "the complete antithesis of the Christian faith in the redemption."

On cloning

"[A] more dangerous threat than weapons of mass destruction."




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Dear Fellow Americans, Have Another Good Look At Yourself, AFTER 9/11

  Read here original article by Mat Taibbi in The Rolling Stones

by

Matt Taibbi

So, why did they hate us after all?

We sure blew off that question nicely.

As with everything else in this country, our response to 9/11 was a heroic compendium of idiocy, cowardice, callow flag-waving, weepy sentimentality (coupled with an apparently bottomless capacity for self-pity), sloth, laziness and partisan ignorance.

We dealt with 9/11 in many ways.

  • We instantly dubbed everyone who died in the accident a hero and commissioned many millions (billions?) in mawkish elegiac art.

  • We created a whole therapy industry to deal with our 9/11-related grief,

  • made a few claustrophobic two-star Hollywood movies about the bombings,

  • read Lisa Beamer's book and bought that DVD narrated by Rudy,

  • watched Law and Order entertainments about sensational murders committed that morning and left for Jerry Orbach to solve,

  • made bushels of quasi-religious references to "hallowed ground."
  • We made many careers out of assigning blame for the attacks, with the right blaming Bill Clinton, Michael Moore blaming George Bush and the clinically insane blaming those mysterious demolition experts who allegedly wired the bottoms of the towers with the explosives that "really" caused the tragedy.

  • And we talked about 9/11 -- to death.

  • We blathered on so much about the attacks and whined so hard about our "lost innocence" that the rest of the world, initially sympathetic, ended up staring at us in suicidally impatient agony, a can of kerosene overturned above its head, like the old lady sitting next to Robert Hays in Airplane!

    We did just about everything except honestly ask ourselves what the hell really happened, and why.

    That process of self-examination was flawed from the start.

    We were screwed the moment Fareed Zakaria wrote his infamous "The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?" essay for Newsweek a few weeks after the attacks.

    The question -- why do they hate us? -- was maybe the right question, but that was only if everyone could have agreed on what it meant.

    For what do we mean by THEY , and what do we mean by US ? I for one am not entirely sure we're clear on these points, even now.

    That we couldn't agree on who they were should be obvious by now.

    Bush's Answers

    To the Bush administration the answers to the they/us questions were, respectively, "foreigners" and "America."

    From the outset the Bush crew showed that they viewed the 9/11 events purely as an attack on the American nation-state by a belligerent foreign power.

    Their solution to the terrorism problem revolved entirely around a strategy for dealing with those foreign nation-states that were the "sponsors" of terrorism -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea.

    It was characteristic of the fourth-rate minds in this White House that they not only immediately got lost in the wrong political paradigm in response to the bombing, but picked the wrong country, Iraq, to punish for the crime.

    Bush and his buddies grew up in the Cold War, an era where two countries dominated the world and even the scraggliest warlord in the central African jungle was usually a client of one or the other.

    It was a fun time for the overgrown Risk-playing nerds inhabiting America's think tanks, who spent half a century describing all human life as an ongoing chess match between life-affirming American capitalism on the one hand and, on the other, the bloodsucking communist religion cruelly foisted upon the world by a conspiratorial bund of grubby German Jews (Hitler was eighty years too late!) and French homosexuals.

    That was what it came down to:
    World politics for half a century was a pissing match between two warring factions in the sociology department of the international University of Well-Fed White People.
    Things were so simple, even George Bush could understand them.

    Things Have Changed

    Well, things have changed since then.

    The operating conflict on earth now is no longer capitalism vs. communism, but one pitting organization vs. anarchy.

    All over the world, the borders of nation-states are blurring and becoming more and more meaningless. From the north Indian subcontinent, to the jungles of the Amazon basin, to the Middle East, and especially to West and Central Africa, nations are fast losing their integrity while local warlords and gangs are taking over.

    In some places in the world, authority changes more from block to block than nation to nation.

  • In countries like Pakistan, which last week was forced to sign a humiliating peace accord with belligerents on its own territory of Waziristan, a tribal leader can twist the nipples of a nuclear power and not only keep his neck but come out ahead of the game afterward.

    In the late Eighties and early Nineties the Risk nerds squealed with delight over the supposedly unipolar world created by the fall of the Berlin Wall, but actually the change was from bipolar to apolar.

    There was anarchy and a crisis of international identity on the other side of that wall. Our pole, one might say, turned out to be a lot smaller than we thought it was.

    So what happened?

    American's Attitude

    We never got that far in our reasoning.

    The farthest we ventured, before returning to our regularly scheduled programming, was a vague concession that the world was now "different."

    "All of this was brought upon us in a single day -- and night fell on a different world," said George Bush in his "Churchillian" State of the Union address that next January.

    "The United States confronts a very different world today," opined the 9/11 commission report.

    It was "After 9/11, A Different World," as CBS News put it.

    Different how?

    Well, that's the part we HAVEN'T really figured out yet.

    For the most part, America looks pretty much like it looked BEFORE 9/11.

    We spend most of our time pounding Ding-Dongs and Sonic burgers, watching ESPN and surfing porn sites, while transnational corporations install turnstiles in Congress and steadily move our entire manufacturing economy overseas.

    Our culture is a parade of idiot reality shows where ordinary citizens eat caterpillars for money and Southern jocks drive moving billboards in a circle at 200 mph in front of euphoric crowds of a hundred thousand.

    In the intellectual north, our braver political dissidents dress in T-shirts with the face of George Bush morphed onto a pig's body and watch documentaries in which other intellectuals brag about being tricked by the Republicans into voting to invade the wrong country.

    So what's changed?

    Well, we now hang our heads when we remember that dark day, kneel before the appropriate icons (Pat Tillman, firefighters, the Flight 93 passengers) at the appropriate times, and periodically make sure to remember the Big Lesson, a.k.a. Anything Can Happen, Even to Those Such as Us.

    The Monday Night Football crew this week commemorated 9/11 by bringing a firefighter named Tim Buckley into the booth; when asked what was different now, the humbled Buckley said that after 9/11, you have to think about things more when you go out on a call. "You don't know what to expect, after something like that," he sighed, shaking his head.

    Somber nods all around to that in the booth, and then, with the snap of a finger, back to the field -- Third and 16 for the struggling Raiders . . .

    In this light one could almost view our response to 9/11 as a triumph of the American system.

    If nineteen knife-wielding lunatics blowing a hole in the middle of Manhattan on international television can't even temporarily knock us out of "What, me worry?" mode, you have to feel pretty good about our future chances for remaining just as cheerfully numb through even a more serious disruption of our fantasy existence.

    America's response to 9/11 was basically to blow off the entire question of why it happened, change the set-design behind the same old us-vs.-evil commies cowboy-movie worldview, and to patch the hole blown in our self-esteem with a crude mix of stage-managed self-congratulation and sentimental claptrap.

    Our failure to actually win our subsequent self-declared war on the evildoers we explained away by using a modern innovation, i.e. taking a New-Agey approach to our shortcomings and forgiving ourselves for our little imperfections.

    In the Dr. Phil age, actual achievement isn't important, so long as you're comfortable with yourself! Make a list every morning, think about the good things in life!

    Living in Madison Avenue's irony age helps also -- when even Tony Soprano pours his heart out to a shrink every week, it's not hard to convince Americans that they're still tough, even though Osama bin Laden is still doing bong hits on Al Jazeera five years after we boldly promised to kick his ass.

    Whatever happened to actually being tough?

    What happened to speaking softly while we carry that big stick?

    Of staring problems bravely in the face, of taking the world seriously?

    History long ago washed that generation of "us" away, along with the world we still think we live in.


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     Monday, September 18, 2006

    Full Text of the Pope's Speech That Angered the Muslim World

     

    Other Breaking News

    New York Times Editorial Says Pope Must Apologise to the Islamic World

    " There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims, quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as 'evil and inhuman.'

    ....this is not the first time the pope has fomented discord between Christians and Muslims. In 2004 when he was still the Vatican’s top theologian, he spoke out against Turkey’s joining the European Union, because Turkey, as a Muslim country was “in permanent contrast to Europe.”

    ....The world listens carefully to the words of any Pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly.

    He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal."

    Read here for more




    Pope's speech at University of Regensburg
    (full prepared text)

    The following is the prepared text from which Pope Benedict XVI spoke as he addressed an academic audience at the Unviersity of Regensburg on September 12. As he actually delivered it, the speech differed slightly.

    Because the speech has aroused an unusual amount of debate-- particularly regarding the Pope's references to Islam and to religious violence-- readers are strongly recommended to read the entire text.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves.

    We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas: the reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason-- this reality became a lived experience.

    The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the whole of the universitas scientiarum , even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole.
    This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God.
    That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

    I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.
    It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

    The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an.
    In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

    In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war).
    The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

    But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.
    Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

    Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

    The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
    Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

    God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body.
    Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

    The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.
    The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."
    Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

    As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: In the beginning was the ???o?. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos.

    Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.

    The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: Come over to Macedonia and help us! (cf. Acts 16:6-10)-- this vision can be interpreted as a distillation of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

    In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is, is already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates's attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: I am.

    This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

    Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria-- the Septuagint-- is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.

    In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

    As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

    This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history-– it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

    The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity-– a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

    Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this program forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.

    The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this program was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue. I will not repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack's central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of hellenization: this simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favor of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God.

    In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament restored to theology its place within the university: theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university. Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's "Critiques", but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.

    This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

    We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter.

    This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

    Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

    And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application.

    While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

    Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology.

    Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology.

    For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss".

    The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

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    President Bush Under Powerful Pressure from US-Israel Lobby Groups and Israel to Bomb Iran

      Quote:

    The Iran problem is causing particular concern because it raises fundamental questions about the continued validity of the security doctrine Israel has forged over the past half century... that, to be safe, Israel must dominate the region militarily and be stronger than any possible Arab or Muslim coalition. The doctrine received a severe knock from Israel's inconclusive war in Lebanon.

    Another cause of anxiety is that Israel is coming under increasing international pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians, with a view to the creation of a Palestinian state.

    This is all very bad news for right-wingers in Israel and their American supporters. They had hoped that the "land-for-peace" formula of UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 had been finally buried.

    They want to break the Palestinian national movement - hence Olmert's unremitting assault on Gaza and the West Bank - rather than negotiate a political compromise with it.

    They want to seize more Palestinian land, not to withdraw to anything like the 1967 borders.

    An Iranian bomb would end Israel's regional monopoly of nuclear weapons.

    It would force Israel to accept something like a balance of power, or at least a balance of deterrence. "
    - Patrick Seale


    Read here full article by Patrick Seale

    President George W Bush is coming under enormous pressure from Israel - and from Israel's neoconservative friends inside and outside the US administration - to harden still further his stance toward Iran.

    They want the American president to commit himself to bombing Iran if it does not give up its program of uranium enrichment - and to issue a clear ultimatum to Tehran that he is prepared to do so.

    They argue that mere rhetoric - such as Bush's recent diatribe, in which he compared Iran to al-Qaeda - is not enough, and might even be counter-productive, as it might encourage the Iranians to think that America's bark is worse than its bite.

    Hard-liners in Israel and the United States believe that only military action, or the credible threat of it, will now prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, with all that this would mean in terms of Israel's security and the balance of power in the strategically vital Middle East.

    Fears that Bush might succumb to this Israeli and neoconservative pressure is beginning to cause serious alarm in Moscow, Beijing, Berlin, Paris, Rome and other world capitals where, as if to urge caution on Washington, political leaders are increasingly speaking out in favor of dialogue with Tehran and against the use of military force.

    The quickening international debate over Iran's nuclear activities comes at a difficult time for Israel, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is fighting for his political life and for that of his ruling Kadima-Labor coalition.

    The Iran problem is causing particular concern because it raises fundamental questions about the continued validity of the security doctrine Israel has forged over the past half century.

    A central plank of this doctrine is that, to be safe, Israel must dominate the region militarily and be stronger than any possible Arab or Muslim coalition.

    The doctrine received a severe knock from Israel's inconclusive war in Lebanon, which demonstrated the country's vulnerability to Hizbullah's missiles and to the challenge of "asymmetric" guerrilla warfare.

    Israelis were shocked to discover that the war was being waged on Israel's home territory. All previous wars had been waged on Arab territory alone, and this had become something of an axiom for the Israeli military.

    Another cause of anxiety for Israel's right wing - the settler movement, the nationalist-religious parties, the Likud and the right-dominated Kadima - is that Israel is coming under increasing international pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians, with a view to the creation of a Palestinian state. Influential voices are calling for an international conference - a sort of Madrid II - to re-launch the peace process.

    Overcoming the crippling conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinians themselves are forming a national unity government, which will make it more difficult for Israel to claim that it has "no partner" with whom to negotiate.

    Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom the Israelis believed had been firmly co-opted into the US-Israeli camp, has recently called for the economic boycott of the Palestinians to be lifted once the unity government is in place.

    This is all very bad news for right-wingers in Israel and their American supporters.
      • They had hoped that the "land-for-peace" formula of UN Security Council
        Resolution 242 of 1967 had been finally buried.
      • They want to break the Palestinian national movement - hence Olmert's
        unremitting assault on Gaza and the West Bank - rather than negotiate a
        political compromise with it.
      • They want to seize more Palestinian land, not to withdraw to anything like
        the 1967 borders.
    Such is the background to the outcry over Iran's nuclear activities.

    An Iranian bomb would end Israel's regional monopoly of nuclear weapons. It would force Israel to accept something like a balance of power, or at least a balance of deterrence.

    Israelis claim vociferously that an Iranian bomb would pose an "existential threat" to their state.

    It is not clear whether they really believe that Iran might attack them and risk national suicide - an Armageddon scenario - or simply that they cannot contemplate a Middle East in which they would no longer be overwhelmingly strong, and in which their freedom to attack their neighbors and crush the Palestinians might be circumscribed.

    When it destroyed Iraq's French-built nuclear reactor in 1981, Israel made clear that it would strike pre-emptively against the nuclear program of any hostile state in the region.

    The message which it and its friends are now addressing to President Bush is that if the US does not bomb Iran, Israel will have to do so.

    This was put unambiguously in an article last week by Efraim Inbar, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and a well-known right-wing Israeli analyst. He wrote:

    "Israel can undertake a limited pre-emptive strike. Israel certainly commands the weaponry, the manpower, and the guts to effectively take out key Iranian nuclear facilities .

    .. While less suited to do the job than the United States, the Israeli military is capable of reaching the appropriate targets in Iran.

    With more to lose than the US if Iran becomes nuclear, Israel has more incentive to strike."

    These views are echoed by pro-Israeli writers in the United States, such as Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.

    " Offers of dialogue with Iran are a waste of time. Iran has pursued ruthless oppression at home, terrorism abroad and weapons proliferation, largely with impunity ... We have talked about talking for long enough, there must be other options.

    It is not wise to force American into a choice between doing nothing and doing everything. But it may come to that."

    Commentators like Inbar and Pletka, and many others in America and Israel who share their hard-line views, are deeply suspicious of what they see as Iran's duplicity, which they fear has seduced the Europeans.

    They are outraged by the negotiations which Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, is pursuing with Ali Larijani, Iran's principal nuclear negotiator.

    The reported suggestion that Iran might suspend uranium enrichment for a month or two is seen as a trick to divide the Security Council and remove the threat of sanctions.

    They suspect that the international community is edging toward a position of allowing Iran to produce nuclear fuel under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. For the hard-liners, this would be one step away from tolerating an Iranian bomb in the not too distant future.

    The real fear of the hard-liners is that the United States might agree to direct talks with Iran which would legitimize the theocratic regime, vastly increase Iran's stature as the dominant power in the Gulf, and eventually downgrade Israel as America's exclusive regional ally.

    For Washington's neoconservatives, the battle to shape US policy toward Iran is a crucial test of their dwindling influence. They played a decisive role in persuading the US to make war on Iraq.

    They clamored for the destruction of the Hamas government in the Palestinian territories.

    They gave fervent support to Israel's war on Hizbullah, relentlessly portrayed as a "terrorist movement" and as the armed outpost of Iran.

    But the neoconservatives have lost ground in Washington.

    The war in Iraq has turned into a strategic catastrophe, with another disaster looming in Afghanistan. Anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim worlds is at record levels.

    Leading neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Lewis Libby have left the administration.

    For the remaining neoconservatives - and their standard-bearer, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, losing the argument over Iran could be a terminal blow.

    Their ultimate nightmare is that the United States may have to come to rely on Iran to help stabilize the dangerously chaotic situation in both Afghanistan and Iran.

    The visit to Tehran this week of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is, from their point of view, a ghastly pointer in that direction.

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    2006 Build Up For US Military Attack on IRAN : Bush Replaying the Lead Up to 2003 IRAQ War.

      By Editor & Publisher Staff

    Read here full article " False Reports on Iran a Replay of Run-Up to Iraq War? " by Editor & Publisher staff

    According to reporters John Walcott and Warren P. Strobel some of the same type of shaky intelligence that proved false in the run up to the Iraq war may be rearing its head again in regard to Iran.

    As Editor & Publisher magazine has often noted in the past, reports from Strobel, Walcott and others in the former KR Washington office, proved more accurate than those from other leading news organizations in the pre-Iraq invasion push.

    They wrote:

    "U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Bush political appointees and hard-liners on Capitol Hill have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear program as more advanced than it is and to exaggerate Tehran's role in Hezbollah's attack on Israel in mid-July.

    President Bush, who addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, has said he prefers diplomacy to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he hasn't ruled out using military force.

    Several former U.S. defense officials who maintain close ties to the Pentagon say they've been told that plans for airstrikes - if Bush deems them necessary - are being updated."

    "It seems like Iran is becoming the new Iraq," said one U.S. counterterrorism official quoted by Walcott and Strobel. This official and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the information involved is classified.

    The article concludes:

    " Some officials at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department said they're concerned that the offices of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney may be receiving a stream of questionable information that originates with Iranian exiles, including a discredited arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who played a role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

    Officials at all three agencies said they suspect that the dubious information may include claims :

    • that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July;
    • that Iran's nuclear program is moving faster than generally believed; and
    • that the Iranian people are eager to join foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers.

    The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those assertions and some that contradicts all three.

    The officials said they fear a replay of the administration's mishandling of what turned out to be bogus information from Iraqi exiles in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, documented earlier this month in a Senate intelligence committee report.

    But they said this time, intelligence analysts and others are more forcefully challenging claims they believe to be false or questionable."

    Earlier this week, E&P carried the following related story.

    When Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst, leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, it created one of the most significant newspaper stories -- and battles -- of the century. One thing it did not do was prevent the Vietnam War, although it may have shortened it.

    Now he is calling on officials within the government to leak "the Pentagon Paper of the Middle East" to modern reporters, to short-circuit another possible war.Ellsberg's challenge is found in the October issue of Harper's magazine, to appear next week.

    E&P has obtained an advance copy.

    The article is titled, "The Next War," with the conflict in question a possible face-off between the U.S. and Iran.

    Ellsberg, based on unconfirmed reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, believes there is a "hidden crisis," with government insiders aware of "serious plans for war with Iran" while "congress and the public remain largely in the dark."

    His remedy:

    "Conscientious insiders" need to leak hard evidence to the press and public, while risking their current and future employment, as he did in the early 1970s.
    But Ellsberg is hardly the hero of his own story.

    While proud of what he did, he faults himself for waiting far too long in the 1960s. If he had leaked government information in 1964, it might have halted the entire enterprise in its tracks, he feels.

    In the same way, he hails former Clinton and Bush terrorism expert Richard Clarke for blowing the whistle on trumped-up evidence used to support the invasion of Iraq -- but, as in his case, this came after the Iraq adventure had already come to fruition.

    Indeed, Ellsberg had called for insiders, such as Clarke, to come forward before the Iraq invasion, in a January 2003 interview with E&P.

    Now, in the Harper's article, therefore, he declares:

    "Assuming Hersh’s so-far anonymous sources mean what they say -- that this is, as one puts it, 'a juggernaut that has to be stopped' -- I believe it is time for one or more of them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents.

    That means doing what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had fallen and thousands had died, years into a war.

    It means going outside executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the president’s lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with unequivocal evidence from inside.

    Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities of officials rightly 'appalled' by the thrust of secret policy.

    I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision -- accepting sacrifice of clearance and career, and risk of prison -- to disclose comprehensive files that convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and dangers of the military plans being considered.

    What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear 'options' -- the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East.

    ...The personal risks of doing this are very great.

    Yet they are not as great as the risks of bodies and lives we are asking daily of over 130,000 young Americans -- with many yet to join them -- in an unjust war.

    Our country has urgent need for comparable courage, moral and civil courage, from its public servants.

    They owe us the truth before the next war begins."


    The Washington Post reported that United Nations inspectors probing Iran's nuclear program have contested Bush administration's claims.

    They "angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of the document 'outrageous and dishonest' and offering evidence to refute its central claims," the Post relates.

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     Saturday, September 16, 2006

    Ex-PM of Malaysia: " Muslim Countries Should Also Have Nuclear Weapons"

      Quote:

    "If you allow Israel to have nuclear weapons why shouldn’t others?"
    -Dr.Mahathir Mohammad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia

    Read Here full article and Here

    Muslim nations in the Middle East should arm themselves with nuclear weapons to deter Western enemies from attacking them, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.

    "They should have tanks, warplanes, warships, guns and missiles," Mahathir said.

    "Yes, they need to have nuclear weapons too, because only with the possession of such would their enemies be deterred from attacking them."

    Mahathir, 81, who retired as prime minister in 2003, remains highly respected and influential throughout the Muslim world.

    He is currently on a lecture tour of Central and South Asia, and was addressing a conference on religious tolerance in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

    During his 22 years in office, he was known for his often caustic tirades against the West and its policies in the Middle East.

    When asked whether Muslim nations in the Middle East should acquire nuclear weapons, Mahathir replied, "Well, if you allow Israel to have them, why should the others not have them too?"

    Israel - which has neither confirmed nor denied reports that it possesses nuclear arms - is generally believed to have the world's sixth-largest stockpile of such weapons, including hundreds of warheads.

    Mahathir, a frequent critic of the Jewish state and its nuclear arsenal, stressed that he believed in a world free of nuclear weapons.

    "My own opinion is that we should get rid of them," he said.

    "All nations should (give up) nuclear weapons, in particular the very belligerent United States."

    He said that the US-led war against terrorism has turned into a war against Islam and Muslims, because only countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria are being targeted.

    "The 'Axis of Evil' was supposed to include Iraq, Iran and North Korea," he said, referring to a comment US President George W Bush made in 2002 labelling the three countries as the "axis of evil."

    "But no one really believes that North Korea is targeted. Even provocations by North Korea have not resulted in military strikes and invasion," Mahathir said.

    In the visit to Kazakhstan a day earlier, Mahathir said there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim and US President George W Bush is mistaken in casting his war on terror in terms of a "struggle for civilisation".

    Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years and is known for his frequent barbs against what he has called Western double standards, said he believed even the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US were at root linked to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

    "What is happening today has got nothing to do with religion. It has got to do with territorial disputes, mainly the dispute over Palestinian land," he said after a religious congress in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

    He said Bush's description of America's "war on terror" as "a struggle for civilisation" on the fifth anniversary of the attacks was flawed, as was the West's hope that moderate Muslims would have a dominant voice.

    "There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim," he said. "We are fundamentalists in Malaysia. We follow the true teachings of the religion and the true teachings do not teach us to bomb and kill people without reason."

    On Bush's comments, Mahathir, 81, said: "He's not civilised, he shouldn't be talking about civilising others."

    Mahathir - whom Israel has in the past dubbed anti-Semitic - said he saw the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as the root cause of Islamist extremism.

    "They (the hijackers) had no direct link but there is a great deal of sympathy for the sufferings of the people of Palestine," he said.

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    Hoekstra-Harman's Congressional Report on IRAN : "Outrageous, Dishonest, Erroneous, Misleading and Unsubstantiated."

      Authors of the Congressional Committee Report on Iran:

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    Peter Hoekstra. A Dutch-born REPUBLICAN Congressman
    (Born in Groningen in the Netherlands, Hoekstra emigrated to Holland, Michigan at the age of three with his family. Hoekstra's district has the largest concentration of Dutch-Americans in the country. Hoekstra attended Hope College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975 and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in 1977.Prior to his election to Congress, he worked for 15 years at Zeeland, Mich.-based office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc., where he held the title of Vice President of Marketing.)

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    Jane Harman, Jewish-American DEMOCRAT Congresswoman
    Read here Profile of Jane Harman,


    Related Articles:

    • The lies pile up, one placed upon another until an edifice of massive deception is constructed, a narrative that can convince the American people to go along with the effort to start World War III (or IV, as some would have it).

      Iran, the latest target of the regime-changers, is in America's sights, and we aren't going to let such a paltry consideration as the facts get in our way.

      Peter Hoekstra and Jane Harman have NO interest in reality: their "report" is war propaganda, pure and simple. That's why they shrieked that Iran is "covertly" producing polonium-210, a substance with "two known uses," one of which is to produce nukes (the other is to make satellite batteries).

      .... Jane Harman and her Democratic colleagues have no dispute with the Republicans – and the far-right neocons epitomized by Perle – when it comes to Iran.

      Both are determined to protect Israeli interests, at the expense of American interests, by threatening to go to war if Iran continues to pursue its apparent goal of joining the nuclear club, along with its neighbors, Israel and Pakistan.

      Everybody knows that what John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt call "the Lobby" is behind the current campaign to gin up another Middle Eastern war, this time with Iran. Israel's recent incursion into Lebanon was but a dress rehearsal for the main event – which is coming no matter how badly the Lebanese adventure turns out.

      It is coming because there is simply no opposition to the Lobby's ironclad control of the U.S. Congress. The defense of Israel overrides and effectively neutralizes all other considerations. It doesn't matter that a confrontation with Iran will create yet more terrorists determined to strike at America, it is deemed an act of "appeasement" to point out that, if we contained the nuclear-armed Soviets for half a century, we could easily deter the Iranians from attacking our Middle Eastern allies – and it is considered beyond the pale to note that the advocates of war with Iran are serving the interests of a foreign power, namely Israel, over and above what is clearly in American interests.
      .... Read here for more
    Read here full article by Ludwig De Braeckeleer in Ohmy News

    An official at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called an intelligence report put out by a U.S. congressional committee "outrageous and dishonest," filled with "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements."

    Vilmos Cserveny, IAEA director for External Relations and Policy Coordination, made his comments in a letter to U.S. House Representative Peter Hoekstra, who chaired the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence which on Aug. 23 issued the 29-page document assessing Iran nuclear activities: " "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States."

    Personal attack on ElBaradei

    The House report accuses Dr. ElBaradei, director of the IAEA and a Nobel Peace Laureate, of preventing the U.N. inspectors from telling the truth about Iran's nuclear program.

    The Report on page 13 said:

    "While not an instance of Iranian perfidy, the Spring 2006 decision by
    IAEA Director General ElBaradei to remove Mr. Christopher Charlier, the chief
    IAEA Iran inspector, for allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception
    regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purpose of Iran's nuclear
    program is to construct weapons, should give U.S. policymakers great
    pause.

    The United States has entrusted the IAEA with providing a truly objective
    assessment of Iran's nuclear program. IAEA officials should not hesitate to
    conclude that the purpose of Iranian nuclear program is to produce weapons if
    that is where the evidence leads.

    If Mr. Charlier was removed for not adhering to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program, the United States and the international community have a serious problem on their hands."

    Mr. Charlier, 61, was the head of the inspection team until April, when Iran requested the IAEA to remove him from the team.

    The story was first reported on July 8 by Bruno Schirra, writing in the German Newspaper Die Welt: "Atomic Secrets: The Man Who Knew Too Much."

    On the following day, George Jahn wrote a column about it in the Washington Post: "Iran Asks IAEA to Remove Chief Inspector."

    Mr. Charlier had publicly complained about the constraints imposed by Tehran on the inspectors.

    According to the German newspaper, he is convinced that Iran runs a parallel program aiming at the fabrication of nuclear weapons.

    "The IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion in the staff reports ... that the Director General of the IAEA decided to remove Mr. Charlier for allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that that the purpose of Iran nuclear programme is to construct weapons," Cserveny writes.

    "In addition the report contains an outrageous and dishonest suggestion that such removal might have been for not having adhered to an unstated IAEA policy bearing IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian Nuclear Program,"
    he continues.

    There is however no doubt that Iran has only exercised its right and ElBaradei his obligations which are clearly stated in the Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

    Article 85 of the text on the Treaty reads:

    "The Agreement should provide that:

    a) The Director General shall inform the State in writing of the name, qualifications, nationality, grade and such other particulars as may be relevant, of each Agency official he proposes for designation as an inspector for the State;

    b) The State shall inform the Director General within 30 days of the receipt of such a proposal whether it accepts the proposal;

    c) The Director General may designate each official who has been accepted by the State as one of the inspectors for the State, and shall inform the State of such designations; and

    d) The Director General, acting in response to a request by the State or on his own initiative, shall immediately inform the State of the withdrawal of the designation of any official as an inspector for the State..."

    Iran has accepted more than 200 U.N. inspectors, a number that is similar to other countries having signed the agreement under the Non Proliferation Treaty.

    Allegations of weapons-grade uranium

    The report alleged incorrectly that Iranians have produced weapons-grade uranium in Natanz.

    Under a satellite picture of the Natanz site, one reads "Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz. Iran claims it will have 3,000 centrifuges at this site by next spring."

    Weapons-grade Uranium is a term used to describe uranium enriched to 90 percent or more in the uranium 235 isotope.

    However, Iranian have enriched their uranium to a low level of only a few percent, compatible with enrichment required for fuelling their nuclear reactors.

    Moreover their work was described in a report provided to the IAEA board of governors by Dr. ElBaradei.

    On September 14, the IAEA Board derestricted the latest report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran.

    Polonium-210

    The report alleges that Iran has covertly produced Polonium-210, an isotope which in conjunction with Beryllium provides the neutron flux needed to initiate a chain reaction.

    This statement is misleading because, as pointed out by Cserveny, Iran has no legal obligation to declare its activity related to Polonium-210 production to the IAEA.

    Spent fuel from light-water reactors

    The House Report alleges that Iranians could use the plutonium contained in the spent fuel of their reactors in construction at Busher to fabricate nukes.

    "Extracting plutonium from a light water reactor's (LWR) spent fuel rods would produce weapons-grade fuel in less time than spinning unenriched UF6 in centrifuges.

    Spent fuel from the LWR Russia is building for Iran in the city of Bushehr could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 30 weapons per year if the fuel rods were diverted and reprocessed.

    Spent fuel from the LWRs that EU-3 states are proposing to give Iran as
    part of a new diplomatic agreement probably could be used to produce a similar
    amount of plutonium,"
    - states the report on pages 10 and 11.
    The statement is simply false.

    The capture of a single neutron by an uranium-238 nucleus leads eventually to the formation of a plutonium-239 nucleus, an isotope suitable for the construction of nuclear weapon.

    However, in a light-water reactor operated for electricity production, a significant percentage of plutonium-239 absorb a neutron and transmute into plutonium-240, the presence of which complicates the fabrication of nukes because of high radiation and more importantly because it may lead to premature fission.

    A clandestine enrichment program

    "Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and despite its claims to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons," alleges the Report.

    In his series of articles published in The Hindu, "The Persian Puzzle: Iran and the invention of a nuclear crisis," Siddharth Varadarajan has shown how the idea of a clandestine program is an invention without legal basis.

    Click here: http://www.payvand.com/news/05/sep/1216.html . In it, Varadarajan argued:

    "First, the NPT allows uranium conversion and other processes central to enrichment.

    Secondly, the Esfahan facility is under IAEA safeguards... nearly a month after Iran resumed uranium conversion there, the Director-General of the Agency, Mohammad El-Baradei, certified that all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for and, therefore, such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.

    Thirdly, the agreement to suspend enrichment, which Iran reached with the EU-3 at Paris last November, clearly states that the E3/EU recognize that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation.

    In other words, if the voluntary suspension was not a legal obligation, the ending of that suspension can hardly be made the grounds for legal action by either the IAEA or the UN."

    Dubious claims and explanations for Iran's nuclear activities

    "Aside from Iran's lack of uranium deposits, Iran's claim that its nuclear program is for electricity production appears doubtful in light of its large oil and natural gas reserves. Iran's natural gas reserves are the second largest in the world and the energy industry estimates that Iran flares enough natural gas annually to generate electricity equivalent to the output of four Bushehr reactors," the Report claims.

    Dafna Linzer wrote in Washington Post:

    "Lacking direct evidence, Bush administration officials argue that Iran's nuclear program must be a cover for bomb-making.

    Vice President Cheney recently said: They're already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy."

    "Yet Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago."

    In 1975, Kissinger, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld approved National Security Decision Memorandum 292 "US-Iran Nuclear Cooperation," which approves the transfer of full-cycle nuclear technology.

    The deal was worth US$6 billion.

    "It is absolutely incredible that the very same players who made those statements then are making completely the opposite ones now. Do they remember that they said this? Because the Iranians sure remember that they said it," said Joseph Cirincione, a non-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    "This is like prewar Iraq all over again. You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that's cherry-picked and a report that trashes the inspectors," said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector and current president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

    "This is a very troubling instance here, this report, of U.S. policymakers in my view trying to push the intelligence community to find evidence that they believe supports their suspicions and their end policy goals," said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association in Washington.


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