Read here full article in The Guardian UK
The proposed new package of United Nations sanctions against Iran is far from being the breakthrough it has been hailed.
The world's fourth-largest oil producer has little to fear from modest economic restrictions. If Iran wants nuclear weapons, it is going to get them.
The indications are that it does want them, and with good reason.
It is entirely understandable that they should now wish to maximise their security.
Any regime in Tehran that neglected to develop nuclear weapons would arguably be failing in its duty.
In these circumstances, Canute-like efforts to thwart Iranian ambitions will serve only to reduce the UN's credibility. They will certainly stoke up nationalist fervour in Iran, diminishing the chances that moderate political elements will be able to make headway. They will also have even more damaging effects.
As long as the "international community" maintains that a nuclear Iran is unthinkable, Israel will be tempted to mount a pre-emptive strike against Iranian facilities, even if the US lacks the stomach to do so itself.
This will cause a relentless rise in regional tensions as Iran's nuclear programme progresses.
The Iranians have warned that military action against them would provoke a military response.
At present, this seems to be where we are heading.
Instead, Security Council members could abandon their doomed quest to obstruct Iranian nuclear aspirations.
The US could use its stranglehold over Israel to force it to do likewise.
Iran could be left to develop its nuclear programme as it saw fit, and to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if it chose to, just as North Korea did in 2003.
Such a course would have its dangers. But would these really be worse than those that we face already?
Hopes of preventing further nuclear proliferation would inevitably be dealt a blow, but the dream of nuclear continence has already effectively evaporated. Egypt and Saudi Arabia might insist on joining the nuclear club, but would that make the Middle East less peaceful than it is now?
It is imbalance, not balance, that creates instability.
Currently, Israel's nuclear status unsettles its neighbours, while Israel itself has to be constantly primed to defend its advantage.
A nuclear stand-off might help to stabilise the area, just as it stabilised Cold War Europe. It might even create the conditions for more realistic negotiation over the region's future. India and Pakistan's Cuba moment in 2002 certainly seems to have helped cool passions.
What, though, about President Ahmadinejad's infamous threat to wipe Israel of the map? Well, there NEVER was any such threat.
What Ahmadinejad actually called for was merely regime change in Jerusalem, and, unlike President Bush in Iraq, he was not proposing to bring it about himself. Demagogues go in for bluster; it is not always to be taken at face value.
It does of course remain possible that some future leader of a nuclear-armed Iran would indeed abuse his position. Unfortunately, this is a contingency that the world is in any case powerless to eliminate. Vainly trying to do so will create more immediate dangers.
Accepting the inevitable now looks like the LESSER of the two evils confronting us.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Read here full article
Malaysia deployed two sniffer dogs in its battle against music and movie piracy on Tuesday, becoming the first country in the world to use the animals to hunt for disks of illegal recordings hidden in cargo.
Two female Black Labradors, Flo and Lucky, demonstrated their technique by sniffing through piles of sealed cartons in an air cargo hangar and then signaling their handler about a suspect package by sitting down in front of it.
"It's cost-effective, and in terms of time, it's very effective too," said Domestic Trade Minister Shafie Apdal, adding that the dogs took only 10 minutes to check boxes that security officials would have needed a day to plow through.
Malaysia, which figures on a U.S. watchlist on piracy, has dramatically stepped up efforts to rein in copyright pirates as it negotiates a free-trade pact with the United States.
Shafie said Malaysia would try out the dogs for a month, carrying out searches at border posts, in cargo hangars and storage centers to see where they functioned best before the government made a decision on setting up a permanent dog unit.
"The arrival and deployment of Lucky and Flo will make Malaysia the first country in the world to test the capability of dogs in detecting optical disks in hidden compartments or shipments," he said at Malaysia's biggest air-cargo center, in Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur.
The trial is a joint effort of the Malaysian authorities and the Motion Picture Association, which groups six major Hollywood movie companies.
The MPA has spent $17,000 on the dogs, including eight months of training to detect the chemicals used in optical discs, one official said.
"No one's ever trained dogs to sniff polycarbonate before," Mike Ellis told reporters. "These dogs were taken from scratch and trained how to sniff these chemicals."
Trained by a handler in Northern Ireland who usually teaches dogs to find bombs, Lucky and Flo are both 3 years old and can find, but cannot distinguish between, CDs and DVDs, burned and replicated disks, or legitimate and pirate disks.
"However, the dogs will be valuable in locating disks being shipped in unlikely or unregistered containers," the MPA said.
The grouping estimates that copyright theft cost its members about $1.2 billion in lost revenue in the Asia-Pacific region last year, a fraction of annual worldwide losses of $6 billion.
In 2006, Malaysian authorities seized 25 VCD replicating machines capable of turning out 87 million pirated disks a year.
Handler Dave Mayberry said Lucky and Flo would start work alongside Malaysian officials on Wednesday, despite feeling the heat after moving from temperatures of 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit in Britain to 96.8 degrees in Malaysia.
"They have a very thick coat for the cold weather at home," he said. "The longer they stay here, the thinner that will get."
Read here full article by Joseph Frank in BrickBurner.com
Sen. Barack Obama isn’t quite sure how he feels about the lopsided situation between Israel and Palestine.
Less than two weeks after Obama gloated to AIPAC about his love for Israel, he unexpectedly admitted the truth while campaigning in Iowa recently. “[N]obody is suffering more than the Palestinian people...” said Obama, “the Israel government must make difficult concessions for the peace process to restart...”
The truth hurts indeed, and Obama has been feeling the wrath of the pro-Israel activists since his statement last week.
Nonetheless, Obama shouldn’t be trusted on the issue.
While Rep. Dennis Kucinich hired avid pro-Palestine advocate Noura Erakat to sit on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Obama has been backpedaling -- assuring AIPAC and others that he is unwavering in his support for Israel’s continued bullying of Iran and occupation of Palestine.
“[Iran] is a genuine threat” to the United States and Israel, expressed Obama at a forum sponsored by AIPAC on March 12 in Washington D.C., only one day after his lucid remarks in Iowa.
At the event Obama also reiterated that he would not rule out the use of force in disarming Iran, a position shared by the other leading Democratic presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
Earlier this month on March 2, Obama spoke at an AIPAC Policy Forum in Chicago where he clearly laid out his full stance on Israel, promising he would not alter the U.S./Israeli relationship. “[W]e must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs,” he said.
“This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza.”
So while Obama admits that Palestinians suffer more than Israelis, he still won’t do a damn thing to balance out the asymmetrical relationship.
In fact, Obama has made it clear that U.S. tax payers will continue to foot the bill for Israel’s ever-growing arsenal of weapons and missiles if he is indeed elected president in 2008.
In Obama’s March 2 speech, he even had the audacity to declare that “we have to press for enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which demands the cessation of arms shipments to Hezbollah, a resolution which Syria and Iran continue to disregard."
"Their support and shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which threatens the peace and security in the region, must end.”
If Obama is truly interested in invoking U.N. Resolutions to prop up his case for a military assault on Iran, we may as well note the some 65 Resolutions the senator has blatantly ignored that condemn Israel’s actions -- past and present -- including Resolution 242 which calls for the withdraw of “Israeli armed forces from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War of 1967.
Sen. Obama, despite his acknowledgment of Palestinian suffering, has LITTLE to offer those who recognize that lasting peace in the Middle East will only begin when the U.S. radically alters its relationship with Israel. Continued funding of Israel’s illegal occupation won’t end the violence -- it’ll only continue it.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Syed Imran ("Kuda Ranggi")
Read here full article, "The Penang Jews" on Malaysian Blog, "Kuda Ranggi" by Syed Imran
(Syed Imran is ex-journalist (1971-1998) of Bernama press, and former Press Secretary to Minister in PM's Department. He is Arab-Malaysian born in Penang, Malaysia, whose grandfather migrated from Makkah and mother's forefathers migrated from Hadhramaut, Yemen.
On my last trip to Penang, I decided to re-visit Jahudi Road (now Jalan Zainal Abidin) where you can find a Jewish Cemetery.
Jahudi Road is located between Burma Road and MaCalister Road, a 10-minute walk from the towering Komtar (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak).
What is wrong with Jahudi Road or Jalan Yahudi for that matter?
Many Malaysians and for that matter Penangites, do not know the existence of this cemetery or the fact that there was once a Jewish community in Penang.
The Penang Jews consisted mainly of Oriental Jews, the majority of whom were Baghdadi Jews (from Baghdad, Iraq) as well as European and Central Asian Jews and a handful of Chinese Jews, yes Chinese Jews, from Kaifeng.
The Kaifeng Jews fled their Chinese homeland mainly during the Communist take over of mainland China in 1949.
The first known Jew to settle in Penang was believed to have been Ezekiel Menasseh who migrated from Baghdad in 1800s. Menasseh remained the only Jew in British Malaya for 30 years, and he continued to observe Jewish holidays.
After World War I, more Jews began to settle in Malaya.
Then during World War II, the Jewish community was evacuated by the British military to Singapore, fearing Japanese imprisonment and ill-treatment.
By 1963, only 20 Jewish families remained in Malaysia including former RTM orchestra conductor Gus Styne.
Penang's only synagogue closed down in 1976 because it "could no longer muster the requisite 10 male above the age of 12 needed to perform religious ceremonies".
The descendants of Penang Jews can be found in Singapore (such as ex late Chief Minister David Marshall, a Baghdadi Jew), in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.
The Jewish Cemetery in Penang is believed to be the oldest single Jewish cemetery in Malaysia, if not South-East Asia. The oldest tombstone is dated 1805 and the most recent being 1976, that of a teacher's college lecturer.
It is the only cemetery established solely for the once small and thriving Jewish community although there may be a few Jewish graves in other non-Jewish cemeteries such as the Protestant cemetery (Farquhar Street) and the Catholic cemetery (Kelawai Road).
The Jewish cemetery in Penang also has one of the largest number of Jewish graves interned in one specific area, numbering 70 graves.
The cemetery is well-kept and clean compared to most other cemeteries in Penang.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter
Read here full article
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office.
The Sunday Times has learnt that up to FIVE generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike.
“All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,”said a Pentagon source.
The Iranian paradox: to gain victory the West must first concede defeat
“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table.
He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there.
Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran.
He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month.
According to a report in The New Yorker magazine, the Pentagon has already set up a working group to plan airstrikes on Iran. The panel initially focused on destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been instructed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq.
However, army chiefs fear an attack on Iran would backfire on American troops in Iraq and lead to more terrorist attacks, a rise in oil prices and the threat of a regional war.
Britain is concerned that its own troops in Iraq might be drawn into any American conflict with Iran, regardless of whether the government takes part in the attack.
One retired general who participated in the “generals’ revolt” against Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war said he hoped his former colleagues would resign in the event of an order to attack.
“We don’t want to take another initiative unless we’ve really thought through the consequences of our strategy,” he warned.