April 1/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 11,45-56. Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him. So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves.They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous sources April 1/07
In South Lebanon, Ban Ki-moon stresses need for eventual permanent ...UN News Centre
Iranian Official Predicts Israeli 'Suicide Attack' To Start from ...Naharnet
UN chief warns arms smuggling from Syria could threaten Israel ...San Diego Union Tribune
Regime change, Syria edition.Think Progress
Electoral reform is key to ending sectarian politics in Lebanon-Ya Libnan

NGOs: Lebanon division due to electoral system-Middle East Online
Moon patrols Lebanon-Israel border-Jerusalem Post
UN Secretary-General asks Lebanon about kidnapped IDF soldiers UN

White House objects Pelosi's Syria visit-Jerusalem Post
Lebanon: UN chief calls for full implementation of ceasefire.The News
UN Leader Calls for Lebanon's Borders to Be Secured-New York Times
Israel Will be at War by Summer, Politician
Ban to Hezbollah ally: Comply-Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Iran: The Next War?AINA
We won war, Olmert says-Jewish Telegraphic Agency

White House Criticizes Pelosi's Syria Trip-ABC News
UN's Ban stresses the need for dialogue among Lebanese (Roundup)-Monsters and
Ban Ki-moon urges Lebanon's leaders to seek national ...UN News Centre
Rebuilding bridges-Guardian Unlimited

Ban patrols Lebanon-Israel border
BEIRUT, Lebanon
The UN chief on Saturday visited with peacekeepers in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border to thank the men and women from 30 countries who are monitoring a cease-fire after a devastating war last summer between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas.
Ban Ki-moon flew by helicopter from Beirut to the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon at the Lebanese coastal border town of Naqoura, where he was briefed by senior commanders. He was expected to fly over the Blue Line, the UN-demarcated border between Lebanon and Israel, and make stops at several of the force's bases before flying to New York, ending a Mideast tour.
UN chief meets rival Lebanese leaders
"This is an occasion for me to express my gratitude in person to all of you," he said during a ceremony at the headquarters. "This visit will allow me to see the challenging environment in which you live and work," he added, paying homage to those who "paid the ultimate sacrifice" and those who were injured during the 29-year-old mission in southern Lebanon.
UNIFIL first deployed in Lebanon in 1978 after an Israeli invasion. But the force has not been able to stop guerrilla attacks on Israel or subsequent Israeli incursions into Lebanon, such as Israel's 1982 invasion. The fighting between Hizbullah and Israel last summer, which killed more than 1,000 in Lebanon and 159 Israelis, was halted by a UN-brokered cease-fire that called for reinforcing UNIFIL to help Lebanese troops patrol the region.
The reinforced UNIFIL, now numbering close to 13,000 from 30 countries, began taking up positions in August. It currently patrols a weapons-free zone alongside some 15,000 Lebanese troops.
The UN chief arrived Thursday in Beirut from Saudi Arabia, where he attended an Arab summit. His Mideast tour has already taken him to Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In Beirut Friday after meeting Lebanon's prime minister, he called for the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended last summer's war between Hizbullah and Israel, expressing disappointment that there has been no progress toward the release of two Israeli soldiers whose capture by the guerrillas triggered the conflict.
Hizbullah has not provided any information about the conditions of the two Israeli soldiers seized in a cross-border raid on July 12. Hizbullah has insisted the soldiers would be released only through a prisoner exchange with Israel.
The resolution calls for a halt in arms shipments to Hizbullah, and demands the "unconditional release" of the two Israeli soldiers.
Ban met Friday with Lebanese security chiefs to discuss ways of enhancing the monitoring capabilities of the Lebanese army along the Syria-Lebanon border, saying "there are allegations, information that the arms embargo is not being implemented." Israel has said Hizbullah continues to receive arms smuggled across the border with Syria, one of Hizbullah's principal patrons.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who is opposed to Hizbullah and Syrian influence, said the Lebanese government was trying to improve its monitoring capabilities but stressed that "not one single case of arms smuggling across the border" with Syria has been recorded.
Ban also met Friday with rival Lebanese leaders, including a Hizbullah legislator, who are locked in a bitter political dispute that has paralyzed the country and threatens to tear it apart.He urged them to engage in dialogue as the only way to end the political crisis and to approve an international court to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an issue stalled in Parliament amid sharp divisions between the government and the opposition, which includes members of Hizbullah.

UN Secretary-General asks Lebanon about kidnapped IDF soldiers
In talks with Lebanon's government today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for progress on the unresolved issue of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah in July 2006, leading to a 34-day war with Israel.
“I am disappointed there has not been proof of life of the two Israeli Soldiers. This is a humanitarian matter,” he told a news conference in Beirut after holding talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and his ministers.
Ehud Goldwasser, 31 years old, from Naharia and Eldad Regev, 26 from Kiryat Motzkin are still missing and have not been seen or heard from since they were kidnapped by Hizbollah while on IDF reconnaisance along the border between Lebanon and Israel on July 12, 2006.
On that day Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory while firing small arms and anti-tank missiles, killed three soldiers, and kidnapped Goldwasser and Regev, returning with them over the border into Lebanon. Simultaneously Hezbollah fired Katyusha rockets at Israeli communities and IDF posts in the area injuring five citizens.
The IDF responded immediately and in a press release dated July 12, 2006 stated "The IDF is preparing to act with full strength and determination using all means available in order to protect the citizens of Israel and IDF soldiers from Lebanese attacks. The Israel Defense Forces holds the Lebanese government fully responsible for these attacks and demands it act immediately to ensure the safe return of the IDF soldiers being held in its territory." The kidnapped soldiers were never found.
Since the war ended last year, and in the last four months, Lebanon's government has been in a shambles including an opposition walk-out from parliament and mass demonstrations. “One of my main messages here – to all Lebanese leaders I meet with – is that the path of dialogue and compromise has to be the way forward out of this impasse,” said Mr. Ban.
While in Lebanon, Mr. Ban is scheduled to visit the enhanced UN peacekeeping mission sent to the country to monitor the cessation of hostilities after last year’s war between Israel and Hizbollah. The UN Interim Force (UNIFIL) is now close to its maximum strength of 15,000, with nearly 13,000 troops and sailors from 30 countries patrolling on land and sea.Tina Simpson

Lebanon: UN chief calls for full implementation of ceasefire resolution
BEIRUT: The UN chief on Friday called for the full implementation of a UN Security Council resolution that ended last summer’s war between Hizbullah and Israel, expressing disappointment that there has been no progress toward the release of two Israeli soldiers whose capture by the guerrillas triggered the conflict. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged rival Lebanese leaders to engage in dialogue as the only way to end a deepening political crisis and to approve an international court to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a divisive issue here.
“I impressed on them (Lebanese officials) the need to have some progress on the unresolved prisoners issue,” Ban said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. “I am disappointed that there has not been proof of life of the two Israeli soldiers. This is a humanitarian matter,” he added.
Hizbullah has not provided any information about the conditions of the two Israeli soldiers seized in a cross-border raid on July 12, triggering a 34-day war that ended with an Aug 14 cease-fire. Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has insisted the soldiers would be released only through a prisoner exchange with Israel.
Ban met separately on Friday with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a major figure in the opposition, and with Saniora, who is backed by the parliamentary majority, as well as Hizbullah legislator Mohammed Fneish. He also met Lebanese security chiefs to discuss ways of enhancing the monitoring capabilities of the Lebanese army along the Syria-Lebanon border.
“Ensuring border security alongside the Syria and Lebanon border is also very important. There are allegations, information that the arms embargo is not being implemented,” he said.
Saniora, who is opposed to Hizboullah and Syrian influence, said the Lebanese government was trying to improve its monitoring capabilities but stressed that “not one single case of arms smuggling across the border” with Syria has been recorded.
Ban noted an increase of Israeli military over flights of its northern neighbor in February and early March. UN Resolution 1701 calls for a halt in arms shipments to Heizbullah, and demands the “unconditional release” of the two Israeli soldiers Hizbullah holds.
The resolution also provided for the deployment of a rein forced UN peacekeeping force, now numbering close to 13,000. The force patrols a weapons-free zone along the border with Israel alongside thousands of Lebanese troops. The UN chief arrived on Thursday in Beirut from Saudi Arabia, where he attended an Arab summit. His Mideast tour has already taken him to Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. He visits with UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Saturday before returning to New York.
The US-backed Saniora government has been locked in a bitter dispute with the Hizboullah-led opposition. The opposition is demanding a national unity government that would give it a veto-wielding share in Cabinet and has been holding protests and an open sit-in in downtown Beirut since Dec 1 to pressure Saniora into resigning.
Saniora has staunchly refused, accusing the opposition of staging a coup upon orders from Iran and Syria, Hizbullah’s main patrons. Nine people have died in sectarian street violence, which erupted on two occasions since December.
Ban encouraged Lebanese leaders to work to end the political standoff, saying “the path of dialogue and compromise has to be the way out of this impasse.” While stressing his commitment to the formation of the Hariri tribunal “as soon as possible,” he said the Lebanese should reach consensus on this issue.“I urged the parties to find a quick solution to this issue while respecting Lebanon’s constitutional procedures,” he said.

NGOs: Lebanon division due to electoral system
Lebanese campaigners push electoral reform to end sectarian politics in bid to bring peace to divided country.
BEIRUT - Electoral reform would combat the sectarianism that blights Lebanon and provide an exit from its political crisis, NGOs say.
Three civil society groups have stepped up a campaign for the adoption of a draft electoral law they say would create a stable democracy that is less prone to shocks. A four-month stand-off between the Sunni-dominated government and its opponents, led by Shia political party Hezbollah, has raised fears of civil war. “We sense that there’s a general atmosphere of disregarding the new [draft] law at the moment - the politicians don’t care much for this kind of reform,” Walid Fakhreddine of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said after a press conference last week to launch an awareness campaign. Lebanon’s electoral system shores up its division of political power - from members of parliament to public servants - according to religion. Each electoral district has multiple seats, all allocated according to sect, and voters must return to their families’ ancestral homes to cast their ballots.
Gerrymandering before an election to protect incumbent powers has been a fixture in Lebanon for decades. The current electoral system was drawn up for the 2000 parliamentary elections, when Syria still politically and militarily dominated its neighbour. Despite widespread calls for change, the elections that followed Syria’s withdrawal in May 2005 were held under the old laws. Lebanon was torn apart by civil war from 1975-1990. Because religion and power are tightly intertwined, political tensions can rapidly degenerate into sectarian violence: two days of deadly street-fighting in January raised fears of another war. One of the most important reforms in the draft is the introduction of proportional representation for choosing 51 of 128 parliament seats, with the rest elected by a simple majority in each constituency.

Law would unseat traditional strongmen
Advocates say this would give rise to new political forces that would gradually unseat the traditional strongmen, many of whom have handed power over their communities from father to son for generations. “Political life would be healthier because political leaders could not monopolise their sects any more,” Fakhreddine said. Oussama Safa, head of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, agreed. “If the electoral law was passed, sectarianism would start to become irrelevant and it would sow the seeds for changing elections into a truly political exercise,” he said. “It would hold politicians accountable.”
Safa said he believed the most important aspect of the law was the establishment of an independent commission to monitor elections.
The law also stipulates capping campaign spending, regulating the use of media for electioneering, a 30 percent quota for women on party lists and lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. Lebanese nationals who live abroad would also be permitted to vote.
An independent body of 12 specialists, equally divided between Muslims and Christians and headed by former minister Fouad Boutros, presented the draft in June 2006. But a planned parliamentary debate was thwarted by the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hezbollah last July.
Safa said the campaigners, who also include the Lebanese Transparency Association, were realistic about the draft. “We don’t think the whole thing will be adopted. But if they adopted 50 or 70 percent of it we’d be happy.” © IRIN

Top Democrat's planned visit to Syria angers White House
Syria's embassy in Washington hails proposed trip as ‘momentous’, expresses hopes of change.
By Olivier Knox – WASHINGTON
Aides to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked Saturday to prepare her groundbreaking visit to Syria that has sparked protests from the White House, officials said.Syria's embassy in Washington hailed the proposed trip as "momentous" and expressed hopes it may change sorely strained relations with the United States, even as the White House denounced the visit as "a really bad idea" undermining US policy.
The State Department tried and failed to convince Pelosi, who will be the highest-ranking US official to visit Syria in years, to cancel the visit, which is expected to take place next week.It then asked her to carry a "strong message" to Damascus, officials said.
"They should end their support for Palestinian rejectionist groups, take a constructive stance vis-a-vis Lebanon, and obviously do what they can to help support Iraq," said spokesman Sean McCormack. Pelosi -- currently in Israel with a delegation that includes Democrat Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress -- will travel to Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, said Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert.
The White House denounced the visit by Pelosi -- a determined opponent of US President George W. Bush's Iraq war policies -- and warned she may hand Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a symbolic diplomatic victory."Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him and have discussions about where they're coming from, but we do think that it's a really bad idea," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Pelosi's office did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but she is due to meet with Syrian leaders on April 3, according to an informed source.
Last year, a blue-ribbon panel said that improving the situation in Iraq required holding direct high-level talks with Iran and Syria -- a step Bush firmly rebuffed."This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Siniora government in Lebanon, and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow into Iraq from its borders," Perino told reporters.
A spokesman for Syria's embassy here, Ahmed Salkini said that "this is definitely a momentous visit," but that "it all depends at the end on how it is going to affect the Bush administration's decision-making."Salkini noted that three lawmakers from Bush's Republican party were currently in Syria and added "anyone that wants to come and engage with Syria is more than welcome."McCormack argued against such trips, saying the Syrians "point to these visits as proof that there's no problem with their behavior and that they are not in fact isolated."Pelosi's trip comes two weeks after Ellen Sauerbrey, the US assistant secretary of state for refugees and migration, returned from the highest-level US diplomatic visit to Syria in two years.Washington withdrew its ambassador in Damascus after Syrian authorities were implicated in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut."It's not like visiting the 'axis of evil,'" one US official quipped, referring to Bush's description of Iran, North Korea, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "But it is like touring the 'axis of the really bad.'"
Several top Democratic lawmakers were travelling with Pelosi and Ellison, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman.They were expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said Jauert, who added, "they will also travel to Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia."He declined to provide a more detailed itinerary because of security concerns.Separately, Pelosi's office said in a statement that the speaker, who is just behind Vice President Dick Cheney in the line of succession to the US presidency, would address Israel's Knesset on April 1.US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited Syria in early January 2005. The last US president to visit Syria was Bill Clinton, in late October 1994.

Olmert: Mideast peace possible in five years
Israeli PM says his country is ready to discuss with Saudis their peace approach.
By Charly Wegman - JERUSALEM
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews published on Friday that the Jewish state could clinch global peace with its enemies within five years, after Arab leaders revived a peace plan. "There is a real possibility that Israel can sign a global peace accord with its enemies within five years," Olmert said in an interview with the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot. Asked whether he meant "all of the Arab world," Olmert said "yes."
The interviews with several Israel's leading dailies ahead of the Passover holiday were published after Arab leaders revived a five-year-old peace plan for comprehensive peace in the Middle East at a Riyadh summit.The blueprint offers Israel full normalisation of relations if it withdraws from all land occupied in the 1967 war and allows the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees.
"A bloc of states is emerging that understands that they may have been wrong to think that Israel is the world's greatest problem," he said in an interview with the liberal Haaretz. "That is a revolutionary change in outlook.""There are things that are happening, which have not happened in the past, which are developing and ripening," he said, adding that Israel had to "know how to profit from this occasion."
Israel has not accepted the Arab blueprint as it stands, saying negotiations were needed, notably on the refugee issue.
In an interview with the Maariv newspaper, Olmert said: "I have a dream. That within five years there will be a global peace accord in the Middle East."
"We will react prudently and wisely with the aim of creating a dynamic that will reinforce the process," he told Haaretz. Israel currently has peace treaties with only two Arab countries -- its neighbours Egypt and Jordan. Although Israel rejected the Arab initiative when it was first unveiled in 2002, officials have said in recent weeks that the plan could be a good basis for negotiations if the clauses granting Palestinian refugees the right of return are dropped.
Israel fiercely opposes allowing refugees to return to where they lived prior to the 1948 war, arguing that the possible influx of up to four million Palestinians would effectively erase the Jewish character of the state.But Olmert said the revived Arab peace plan had "interesting ideas."
"We are ready to hold discussions and hear from the Saudis about their approach and to tell them about ours," he told Haaretz."Saudi Arabia is the country that in the end will determine the ability of the Arabs to reach a compromise with Israel," he said. In an interview with the English-language Jerusalem Post, Olmert called Saudi King Abdullah a "remarkable" leader whom the Israeli premier "would like to meet. But I don't think that such a meeting is on the agenda." Olmert, who formally came to power last May, has watched his ratings crash following last year's inconclusive war against Hezbollah and a string of corruption scandals involving him and senior members of his government.
With only two percent of Israelis trusting their premier, two-thirds wanting him to resign and a majority favouring early elections, analysts say Olmert desperately needs a breakthrough in the peace process to survive politically. His political troubles have coincided with an increased push by Israel's main ally Washington to try and jumpstart the dormant Middle East process.

White House objects Pelosi's Syria visit
The leader of the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in coming days will visit Syria, a country President George W. Bush has shunned as a state sponsor of terrorism, despite being asked by the administration not to go. "In our view, it is not the right time to have these sort of high-profile visitors to Syria," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Friday. Pelosi will not be the first member of Congress in recent months to travel to Syria, but as House speaker she is the most senior. "This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Saniora government in Lebanon and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow into Iraq from its borders," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Israel on Friday on her second fact-finding trip to the Middle East since she took over in January.
Among those in her delegation is Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress. Others traveling with Pelosi include Rep. Tom Lantos, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The group planned to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and to travel to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Ellison's spokesman, Rick Jauert.
The speaker plans to address the Israeli Knesset on Sunday in what will be her first address to a foreign government legislature and as the highest ranking American woman to speak before the Israeli parliament, according to Pelosi's office. She is expected to discuss "America's commitment to Israel and the challenges facing the two nations in the Middle East," according to a statement. In late January, Pelosi led a delegation of House members to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and other neighboring countries.

Iran: The Next War?
Posted GMT 3-30-2007 13:48:29
The capture by Iran of fifteen British sailors and marines while they were inspecting a trading dhow in international waters for smuggled goods could be the spark that ignites the next war. Whether that happens or not will not depend on us, or on the Brits. It will depend on President Ahmadinejad, his backers in Tehran, and Iran's Supreme Leader. Clearly, Ahmadinejad and his supporters have been planning this sort of thing for some time.
One week before the kidnapping of the British hostages, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards weekly newspaper, Sobh-e Sadeq, published these incendiary remarks from Reza Fakr, a writer said to have close links to Ahmadinejad:
"We've got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks. Iran has enough people who can reach the heart of Europe and kidnap Americans and Israelis."
At the time, the Revolutionary Guards were seeking to "retaliate" for moves by multinational forces in Iraq to crackdown on Iranian intelligence networks in Iraq, including the capture of five Iranian intelligence operatives in Irbil on the night of Jan. 10-11, 2007.
But they had already exacted tit-for-tat retribution in the attack on Karbala on January 20, when what now appears to have been an Iranian snatch team posing as American security guards kidnapped five U.S. soldiers inside an Iraqi army base.
That attack went awry, and the Iranians slaughtered all five Americans instead of taking them hostage.
My sources in Iran tell me that the IRGC leadership realized it was going to be too hard to go after U.S. forces, given stepped up protection measures the Americans instituted after the Karbala incident. So they sought British targets as a substitute.
This hostage-taking was no accident. It didn't just "happen." It was part of a centrally-planned and organized strategy to step up tension with the West."
As we learned on Wednesday, the Iranians most likely sent their snatch teams into international waters where the Brits were conducting maritime inspections to catch smugglers. In fact, the initial GPS coordinates the Iranians themselves released showed that they captured the Brits 1.7 miles beyond their territorial waters. Then conveniently "altered" those GPS coordinates in subsequent communications with the British government.
So what can the Iranians possibly hope to gain? Are they miscalculating? Do they simply believe that Tony Blair is a "wimp" and won't respond? That they can tweak the noses of the Brits, perhaps even compel them to withdraw their forces from Iraq?
This is what I heard earlier this weak from an eminent, former CIA analyst of Iraq at a forum on Iranian policy sponsored by the Center for Naval Analysis.Judith Yaphe believes the Iranians are "rational" and calculating, but may have "over-reached." (She also believes that Iran is seeking a stable, unified, but weak Iraq, something that simply defies the facts).
Yaphe "advised" the Baker-Hamilton commission -- no surprise there. She has been consistently wrong on everything involving her area of expertise for over twenty years. Her views tend to parrot those of the Saudis and the Jordanians, who have shown little insight into the psychology or eschatology of Iran's current leaders. A far better interpretation was offered by the CNA's own Alireza Nader. He believes the Iranian hostage-taking was "Iran's way of saying, don't mess with us, because we can mess with you." He also noted that it was timed just the day before the March 24 vote at the UN Security Council on the latest sanctions resolution on Iran. But instead of convincing the Brits to walk away from the UN Security Council resolution, the Iranian regime's actions only hardened Britain's resolve. So what's happening here? How could the Iranians be so stupid as to miscalculate so totally the Western response?
The answer, of course, is that Ahmadinejad and his supporters don't think as Westerners think. They aren't making cost-benefit analyses. They aren't looking at their "bottom line."The only bottom line that counts for them is the perpetuation of their regime. They believe that by attacking Britain and America they can rally their supporters, rally the faithful beyond Iran, and launch their worldwide jihad to "destroy America" and "wipe Israel of the face of the earth" -- the two goals Ahmadinejad set for his presidency.
In the April issue of Newsmax magazine, which will be on newsstands next week, I run through a detailed, blow-by-blow scenario of what a six-day military confrontation with Iran could look like. One thing is very clear: the spark that could ignite such a confrontation could come from any number of different sources. It could be a kidnapping such as this one. It could be an attack on a U.S. warship by Iran, using its Russian and Chinese-supplied bottom-tethered sea mines. Or it could be something completely different.
But what's clear is this: Ahmadinejad and his faction want war. They believe that war with the West is their ticket to victory.Even if they lose large portions of their country, or if their nuclear sites are destroyed, they believe that they will emerge victorious. Because in their eyes, this type of war with the West will hasten the return of the Imam Mahdi, the savior figure of the radical hojjatieh sect of Shia Islam in which Ahmadinejad and his faction believe.
But don't make the mistake some have made in placing all your bets on Ahmadinejad. If somehow the U.S were able to wave a magic wand and get rid of him overnight, we would still be facing a security and political establishment in Iran that is devoted to confrontation with the West, and to the destruction of Israel. Don't forget that it was Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the "moderate" former president of the Islamic Republic, who first evoked publicly the possibility of a nuclear weapons exchange with Israel. I quote him in my book, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.
"The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely, while [the same][against [Iran] would only cause damages. Such a scenario is not inconceivable," Rafsanjani said in a sermon at Tehran University on Dec. 14, 2001.
Decoded, the message is chilling. Iran has no fear of an Israeli nuclear attack, because Iran is a vast country, with deep underground bunkers for its leadership, and clandestine nuclear sites that most likely are not on anyone's target list. If the Israelis were to attack, or to respond to an Iranian nuclear attack, Iran will suffer great losses. But Israel will cease to exist.
Such is the calculus of a "moderate" leader of Iran's Islamic "Republic."But the Iranian regime does not believe it will fight for its survival in Iran alone. Over the past nine months, since Hezbollah's infrastructure in Lebanon was devastated by Israeli air strikes last summer (after Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel), the Iranians have been shipping massive quantities of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in preparation for the coming war.
Iran's clerical leaders and Ahmadinejad believe that they actually defeated Israel last summer during Iran's first proxy war with Israel. And that they can do even greater damage in the next war, which could come next month, this summer, or next year.
Arieh Eldad, a leader of the opposition National Union Party in Israel's Knesset, or Parliament, told me this week while on a trip to the United States that he is convinced there is "no way to avoid the next war" in Lebanon. He sees the massive rearmament of Hezbollah by Iran, with Syrian assistance, as clear evidence of Iran's strategy to launch another war against Israel. "Hezbollah is becoming stronger every day," he said.
Eldad believes Israel must "neutralize Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria as a preliminary step, or we will not be able to engage Iran."By "engaging" Iran he does not mean economic or diplomatic "engagement," as the State Department might use the term. He is talking about having Israel's military take out Iranian nuclear and missile sites.
Now that's engagement.
Dr. Eldad is a plastic surgeon who headed the burns at Hadassah hospital for twenty years. He has personally treated Palestinian suicide bombers, only to see them come back after their treatment with bombs strapped to their chests to blow themselves up in the very hospital that saved their lives.
The foes that oppose Israel and America do not reason as we do, he says. "When states have missions that are bigger than life, they are not obeying the basic rules of logic that Western civilization obeys."He believes the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a state, is following the same logic as a suicide bomber. "If the goal is to kill the Big Satan [America] or the Small Satan [Israel], then your own life is not to be considered under their logic," he told me. "The Iranian regime is willing to sacrifice millions and millions of their own people to defeat the Big Satan and the Small Satan."
Because of this, we need to understand that Tehran regime will not comply with sanctions, and does not care about sanctions. "It's just not the same logic," he said.Dr. Eldad's fear is that Israel will be "left alone" and have to confront a nuclear Iran. And if that day arrives, he warns, "the world should know that we will be ready to destroy the nuclear infrastructure of Iran at whatever the cost it takes."
"That means we will be ready to use unconventional weapons, because conventional weapons will not be enough," he added.These are stakes.
A seemingly simple hostage-taking could be how this begins. A series of mushroom clouds could be how it ends.
In the meantime, the U.S. is conducting naval and air exercises in the Persian Gulf with two carrier battle groups. The message to Iran, one administration official told me yesterday, was clear: Don't make any false moves.
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).
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We won war, Olmert says
Print News Brief
Israel won last summer's war in Lebanon, Ehud Olmert said. The prime minister said in an interview published Friday that the Hezbollah terrorist group suffered severe strategic damage in the 34-day conflict when Israeli forces overran guerrilla strongholds in southern Lebanon.
"I have no doubt at all that we won," Olmert told Ma'ariv. "For eight months, no armed Hezbollah operative has been seen in southern Lebanon. The moment they come out, they are arrested right away," he added, referring to crackdowns by a boosted U.N. peacekeeper force and regular Lebanese troops. Olmert's popularity at home has plummeted since an Aug. 14 truce ended the war, amid many Israelis' perception that national security was compromised by the failure to crush Hezbollah. Despite its massive tactical disadvantages, the Iranian-backed militia managed to fire 4,000 rockets into the Jewish state. Olmert said he saw such setbacks as inevitable. "Has there ever been a war in Israeli history without failures?" he asked.Ehud Olmert said he would not quit, despite his plummeting popularity since last year's war in Lebanon.
"I was elected for four years," the Israeli prime minister told Yediot Achronot in an interview published Friday. "I have lived a political life for over 30 years. I have seen them all. I have seen all the country's leaders in days of terrible polls. In the end, the test is whether you know how to focus on doing the right things. The polls will come around in due time." Political analysts say Olmert's next big test will come after the May 28 primary in the Labor Party, his biggest partner in the coalition government. If Labor chief Amir Peretz is toppled, it could prompt a major Cabinet reshuffle.

Rebuilding bridges
The Arab League summit has helped Syria overcome tensions with Saudi Arabia and brought it firmly back into the fold.
Faisal al Yafai
The outcome of the Arab League's annual summit - which ended last night - is being billed as an attempt to revive a five year old Saudi peace plan to normalise relations between Israel and the Arab nations. On the sidelines, though, the other major issues of the region were also discussed: Iraq, the rise of Iran, and Lebanon.
Lebanese politics are still going through a convulsive time. In November, the country's worst political crisis since the civil war struck when six cabinet members resigned, leaving the government of Fuad Siniora paralysed. For the last four months, anti-government protests have been held in the capital Beirut.
The politics are complex but are portrayed as a clash between pro and anti-Syrian forces. Syria - Lebanon's bigger, better-armed neighbour - still retains considerable influence. A sign of this conflict was seen at the Arab League, where Lebanon was essentially represented by two delegations: one led by the president Emile Lahoud (who is backed by the Syrians), and the other led by Prime Minister Siniora (who is backed by the Saudis).
When Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah spoke to the summit about Lebanon, he appeared to support his ally Siniora against the Hizbullah-led opposition, saying, "We reject the act of turning common streets into hotels", a reference to the sit-in protests in the capital. In fact, in the long term, Syria is likely to increase its power in the region, perhaps at the expense of Lebanon.
The summit was the first time Syria's president, Bashar Al-Assad, and King Abdullah have met since last summer's conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. The King was stung when Assad praised Hizbullah's performance in the war, calling Arab leaders who failed to back the militia group "half-men". It is no secret Saudi Arabia fears the increasing influence of Iran, through Hizbullah, in the Arab countries, and relations between the two leaders were decidedly frosty until recently. (A quote attributed to the King ran: "We will meet Assad ... during the Arab summit, and then he will tell us if we are men enough.")
Indeed, it is because of Iran's influence that Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in trying to mediate between the political parties in Lebanon, quietly prodding the Lebanese. In the last few weeks, under Saudi pressure, the son of the slain former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri met with Lebanon's parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, a leader of the opposition.
It isn't certain which way the Lebanese crisis will eventually play out, but Assad certainly holds strong cards, not least his long-time friendship with King Abdullah, which predates his presidency. That isn't to suggest a particular outcome to the current political crisis in Lebanon would be better for the country; but Lebanon, sandwiched between Syria and Israel, is always likely to be in someone else's sphere of influence, rather than being able to navigate its own affairs. As other events in the region increase Syria's power, it is likely the balance will shift towards Damascus.
Next year's Arab League summit will be held in Syria. Bashar Al-Assad, who seemed confident as he gave his final address to the summit, is now firmly back in the fold and must be expecting to host it under favourable circumstances.