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What They Are Saying, Jan. 10, 2008
Strike the Report: This Year Could Prove the Year of Action Against Iran
Think-tank scholar Peter Brookes writes in the New York Post (www.nypost.com) on Jan. 3 about Iran's dangerous nuclear game:
"Iran turned up the heat this week on still-simmering concerns about its atomic aspirations. It crowed that its 1,000-megawatt Bushehr nuclear-power plant would be 'online' as early as this spring, putting in place another important building block of its nuclear program.
"That sort of news can't help but rattle the steadiest of nerves, no matter what the (narrowly focused) U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear-weapons program said about the current state of affairs.
"Seemingly not swayed one iota by the NIE's conclusions, you have to wonder if Israel -- the country most threatened by an Iranian nuclear (weapons) breakout -- might take matters into its own hands. It has done so twice before -- and the time may be here again.
"In a 1981 dawn raid lasting less than 90 seconds, Israeli Defense Force fighters attacked the nearly completed 40-megawatt Iraqi Osirak nuclear-reactor complex, setting back Saddam's ability to produce fissile material for nukes.
"And again last September, the IDF allegedly struck a nascent Syrian nuclear program, which possibly was benefiting from outside help, in a preventive airstrike that may have also been meant as a warning to Iran.
"But why strike now?
"Well, within about a year of Bushehr becoming operational, some of its spent nuclear fuel could be stripped of enough plutonium to produce a handful of nuclear weapons if the rods aren't returned to their owner/provider, Russia. The diversion of material at Bushehr is potentially as big a problem as the 3,000 centrifuges that Iran has whirring at supersonic speeds, enriching uranium.
"Attacking Bushehr -- like Osirak -- before it comes online would not only stop it from being used to produce bomb material, but would also prevent radiation from the reactor being spewed into the atmosphere after a strike.
"Also possibly spurring Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to put the IDF into action is other recent news: Iran is reportedly buying the highly capable Russian S-300 air-defense system to bolster the Tor-M1 surface-air missile systems Moscow supplied last year.
"Despite these reasons for an attack on Bushehr before it's up and running, dealing militarily with Iran's nuclear program is a lot more complex than just that. To cripple Iran's nuclear program, the IDF would have to hit other nuclear sites: The Natanz uranium-enrichment plant, the Arak heavy-water facility and the Isfahan uranium-conversion complex, plus possibly tens of other nuclear-related sites.
"A strike would bring Iranian retaliation, including terrorist attacks by Tehran's allies, such as Hezbollah, as well as missile strikes against large Israeli cities. By association, U.S. interests could come into Iran's cross hairs.
"The new year will likely bring more unwelcome news about Iran's nuclear program as it cascades toward a weapons option. It will also be a fateful year for Israel, one that may require action -- no matter what the latest NIE says."
How Will the P.A. Use Its New Aid?
Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner asks on Slate.com on Dec. 27: What will the Palestinian Authority do with its newfound global aid money?
"Encouraged by the United States, the international community is pursuing a neatly crafted policy in the Palestinian territories: help the Palestinian Authority to reform its institutions; show the people a 'political horizon' via negotiations with Israel; strengthen the position of President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayad, to a point where they can control their subordinates effectively; turn the area they control in the West Bank into a model to which all Palestinians will aspire -- thus making the people more receptive to undoing Hamas rule in Gaza.
"Good luck with all that.
"Like a bridegroom getting married for the third time, Abbas was pocketing checks ... when he promised distinguished guests that this time it was for real. The international gathering of 'donors' in Paris resulted, as expected, in a renewed monetary commitment to the building of institutions for the Palestinians. In fact, it raised more than expected: The $7.4 billion that nearly 90 countries and organizations pledged exceeded the $5.6 billion sought by Abbas. If lack of money was the reason for the failure to reform the Palestinian Authority, that is no longer the problem.
"But as Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Middle East Affairs recently showed in a new study -- 'The Palestinians: Between State Failure and Civil War' -- lack of money was usually the result, rather than the cause, of the problems Palestinians face on their way to statehood. 'The clearest signs of the weakness of the P.A. were what Palestinians referred to as 'the four Fs': fawda ('chaos'), fitna ('strife'), falatan ('lawlessness') and fassad ('corruption').' Most of these internal problems are Palestinian-made.
"All this new money creates new temptations for Abbas: Yasser Arafat made an art of putting troublemakers on the payroll in order to keep them quiet. Pursing this strategy is much easier than creating new jobs -- and much more helpful if there is another round of fighting with Hamas. It doesn't help, though, if one is serious about building institutions for a lawful state."
Solve the Issue, or Throw Money at It?
Columnist Diana West writes in The Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com) on Dec. 21 about paying off Islam for Western guilt:
"Christmas came early to the Palestinian Authority when the international community decided not only to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' request for $5.6 billion in aid, but to throw in almost $2 billion more.
"Did the P.A. end its ways? Stop state-sanctioned incitement against Israel and the West? Change Fatah's charter calling for Israel's destruction? Alas, no, no and no.
"According to the P.C. script of the 'international community,' we never, ever discuss the Islamic context of 'Arab-Israeli' conflicts. But how else can we hope to understand them? Jihad ideology inspires the Arab struggle against Israel. It also explains it. As the only non-Muslim country amid Middle Eastern Dar-al Islam, as the only dhimmi nation to reclaim its land once conquered by Islam, Israel's very existence is a religious offense to the umma, or Islamic community. In this same context, what we call 'foreign aid' to the P.A. may be understood as a form of jizya -- the protection money paid to Muslims by non-Muslims.
"But the non-Muslim world prefers not to think like that. We avert our collective eye from the goals of jihad, from the history and teachings of Islam. Instead, we see ourselves as villains -- Israel for its existence, and Israel's supporters for, well, their support for Israel's existence.
"In so doing, we create a sinkhole of Western guilt and responsibility for suffering Muslims. They suffer not as a consequence of their religio-political bloodlust to destroy the Jews in Israel, but because there are Jews in Israel."