Pakistan Moves to Curb Group Linked to Mumbai Attacks - Jane PerlezPakistani authorities widened their efforts to curb militant groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, suspected of conducting the Mumbai attacks, raiding some of their properties and arresting about 20 members, security officials said Tuesday. But questions remained about how far the Pakistani government would rein in the groups, which have functioned as an arm of Pakistan's military and intelligence services for two decades. Pakistani officials have indicated that there were no plans for a large-scale crackdown on Lashkar, which would run counter to popular sentiment and would appear to be at the behest of India and the U.S., a politically unpalatable perception for Pakistan's government. (New York Times) See also Pakistan Arrests Do Little to Stop Lashkar -
Ayesha AkramLashkar-e-Taiba will not be crippled by Monday's arrest of the purported mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, a Lashkar coordinator said. "We're still well-organized and active." He said Lashkar's strength in Pakistan was in the thousands. (Washington Times) See also Mumbai Attackers Part of Larger Band of Recruits - Jeremy Kahn and Robert F. Worth
Mumbai police said Tuesday that the 10 men who carried out the terrorist attacks last month were among 30 recruits selected for suicide missions, and that the whereabouts of the other 20 were unknown. "Another 20 were ready to die," said Deven Bharti, a Mumbai Police deputy commissioner. (New York Times)
Iranian Students Slam Ahmadinejad in Public - Meir JavedanfarOn Dec. 7, 2008, "Student Day" in Iran, Iranian students in major cities protested in great numbers against President Ahmadinejad and about imprisonment and torture of students, expulsion of lecturers, poverty, abuse of human rights, dictatorship, and looting of their country's wealth by foreign powers such as China and Russia. The demonstrations this year were bigger and more violent. Many students sang nationalistic songs and shouted chants such as: "Death to the dictator," and "Ahmadinejad, you are Pinochet, Iran won't become Chile." According to the reformist Emrouz, some students burned flags bearing swastikas in order to show their distaste for fascism, which the Ahmadinejad government has come to represent to them. (Pajamas Media)
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Lawyers Lobby Against Iran's Incitement - Tovah Lazaroff and Allison T. HoffmanA new grassroots initiative to diplomatically isolate Iran and its leader, President Ahmadinejad, for incitement to genocide was unveiled Tuesday by attorneys in Canada, the U.S., England and Israel. The initiative calls for criminal charges and travel bans to be issued against Ahmadinejad and has demanded that the UN suspend Iran's membership and levy stiffer economic sanctions against Tehran. The push for these measures was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the UN's Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler told the Jerusalem Post.
Among those who have signed the initiative are former Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Per Ahlmark and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, as well as Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. On Dec. 16, Cotler will lobby the foreign minister and other officials in the Czech Republic, which is set to take over the EU presidency in January. A copy of the initiative has also been sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (Jerusalem Post) See also Text: The Danger of a Genocidal and Nuclear Iran - The Responsibility to Prevent Genocide Petition
Israeli Health Officials Slam WHO Over Alleged Bias - Dan Izenberg
A group of Israeli public health experts have blasted human rights organizations for alleged bias regarding their criticism of Israel's policy on allowing sick Gazans to enter or pass through Israel to receive hospital care. The attacks came in a letter of protest by Prof. Elliot Berry and Drs. Elihu Richter, Ted Tulchinsky and Ronny Shterksall to the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan, as well as in an article published in October by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
In his article, Richter wrote that the WHO regional branch and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel charge that the state is denying sick Gazans access to hospitals in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank by blocking them at the Erez crossing. In fact, however, the number of permits granted to Palestinians to exit Gaza for medical treatment increased by 45% between 2006 and 2007 and the trend continued during the first six months of 2008. (Jerusalem Post) See also Israeli Approvals for Medical Entry in the Shadow of Terror Attacks at the Erez Crossing - Elihu D. Richter (ICA/Jerusalem Center)
Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik HadadPalestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed near a kibbutz in Israel Wednesday morning. A mortar shell was launched at an Israeli community on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, "Hamas is responsible for all artillery fired from Gaza." (Ynet News)
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West Bank Hardball: Fatah's Offensive Against Hamas - Jeffrey WhiteFatah and the PA have waged an effective campaign against Hamas' political, economic, and military position in the West Bank. As long as Israeli security forces remain in the West Bank, a Hamas seizure of power there is effectively impossible. Yet Hamas retains the ability to act violently against the PA and to use the West Bank as a launchpad for terrorist attacks within Israel to embarrass and undermine the PA. Hamas is better led and has greater organizational skills than Fatah.
Above all, Hamas is capable of taking the long view, and is unlikely to give up its struggle with the PA, even as it pursues tactical accommodations to relieve short-term difficulties. The expansion of the PA's West Bank capacity is critical to any progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The PA must be seen as a real alternative that is worth supporting. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Blaming Palestine for the Massacre in Mumbai Is Preposterous - Howard Jacobson
How does the BBC always manage to have the appropriately sanctimonious speaker on hand to remind us that, whatever the calamity in whatever part of the world, we in the West in general, and Israel in particular, are responsible. This time it was Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, who said after the Mumbai attacks: "If we are to defeat extremism we have to go to the root causes of it - we have to look in particular at countries like Palestine." To argue that Palestine fueled the massacre at Mumbai, that the Hindu waiter shot in the forehead after serving water to a terrorist was paying for the inequities of Gaza, that he wasn't already, in the eyes of that terrorist, expendable enough as an unbeliever, as one who had stolen Kashmir, or simply as a spot of target practice en route to a mad and misguided martyrdom, is not only preposterous, it is irresponsible. The Habad Center in Mumbai was a Jewish organization, not an Israeli one. Its occupants were tortured and killed for being Jews, not for being complicit in the "strangulation" of Gaza. (Independent-UK)
Russia Courts the Muslim World - Jacques LevesqueVladimir Putin was the first head of a non-Muslim majority state to speak at the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2003. Putin stressed that 15% of the population of the Russian Federation are Muslim, as are all the inhabitants of 8 of its 21 autonomous republics, and Russia won observer member status thanks to support from Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since then, Putin and other Russian leaders claim that Russia "is, to some extent, a part of the Muslim world." Before 9/11, Putin called Chechen rebels "Muslim fundamentalist terrorists"; now he avoids any reference to Islam.
Since Russia's foreign policy aim is to "reinforce multipolarity in the world" and develop poles of resistance to U.S. hegemony and unilateralism, this means taking advantage of the hostility to U.S. foreign policy in the Arab and Muslim world. (Le Monde Diplomatique-France)
Iran Uses Negotiations to Play for Time - Ephraim Asculai and Emily Landau (Jerusalem Post)
A new Brookings Institution and Council on Foreign Relations study concludes that the only way to gain a change in Iran's attitude is to engage it in constructive dialogue. The most serious deficiency of the report - and indeed of much of the current debate on the question of possible U.S.-Iranian negotiations - is the lack of sufficient attention to the question of whether Iran will be serious in negotiating with the U.S.
Iran has demonstrated that it uses negotiations to play for time.
Even if Iran is ultimately interested in a negotiated deal with the West, it knows that the further it advances its program, the better its bargaining position will be. Therefore, Iran's rational choice is to continue to play for time until it has gained the upper hand in its nuclear program - when it has produced enough enriched uranium for the production of a few nuclear explosive devices.
The major challenge is to convince Iranian decision-makers to start negotiating seriously. For this, massive pressure on Iran is necessary - economic pressure, political pressure and the credible threat of military force. Without such pressure, it is difficult to see why Iran's leaders would believe it to be in their interest to enter serious negotiations.
Iran cannot be allowed to gain the precious time it needs to arrive at a potential that would increase its bargaining position multifold.
The writers are senior research associates at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.