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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fiction: Israel’s assertion that it is a strategic asset for the United States - Fact: U.S. suffers politically in the ME because of Israeli activities, including the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank

Why Israel Opposes a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran and What to Do About It

By Robert E. Hunter 

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 2014 (IPS) – Nov. 24 is the deadline for six world powers and Iran to reach a final deal over its nuclear programme. If there is no deal, then the talks are likely to be extended, not abandoned.
But as I learned from more than three decades’ work on Middle East issues, in and out of the U.S. government, success also depends on Israel no longer believing that it needs a regional enemy shared in common with the United States to ensure Washington’s commitment to its security.
Much is at stake in the negotiations with Iran in Vienna, notably the potential removal of the risk of war over its nuclear programme and the removal of any legitimate basis for Israel’s fear that it could become the target of an Iranian bomb.
Success could also begin Iran’s reintegration into the international community, ending its lengthy quarantine. If President Barack Obama and his national security officials get their way, including the Pentagon—hardly a group of softies—a comprehensive final accord would be a good deal for U.S. national security and, in the American analysis, for Israel’s security as well.
Yet more is at issue for Israel, and for the Persian Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. They want to keep Iran in purdah.
Indeed, since the Iranian Revolution ran out of steam outside its borders, the essential questions about the challenge Iran poses have been the following: Will it be able to compete for power and position in the region, and, how can Iran’s competition be dealt with?
The first response, led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to decry whatever might be agreed to in the talks, no matter how objectively good the results would be for everyone’s security. He has the Saudis and other Arab states as silent partners.
Between them, the Israeli and oil lobbies command a lot of attention in the U.S. Congress, a large part of whose members would otherwise accept that President Obama’s standard for an agreement meets the tests of both U.S. security and the security of its partners in the Middle East.
But a large fraction of Congress is no more willing to take on these two potent lobbies than the National Rifle Association.
Netanyahu will also do all he can to prevent the relaxation of any of the sanctions imposed on Iran. But even if he and his U.S. supporters succeed on Capitol Hill, President Obama can on his own suspend some of those sanctions—though exactly how much is being debated.
The U.S. does not have the last word on sanctions, however. The moment there is a final agreement, the floodgates of economic trade and investment with Iran will open. Europeans, in particular, are lined up with their order books, like Americans in 1889 who awaited the starter’s pistol to begin the Oklahoma land rush.
In response, U.S. private industry will ride up Capitol Hill to demand the relaxation of U.S.-mandated sanctions. Meanwhile, the sighs of relief resounding throughout the world will begin changing the international political climate concerning Iran.
Yet America’s concerns will not cease. While the U.S. and Iran have similar interests in opposing the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), and in wanting to see Afghanistan free from reconquest by of the Taliban, they are still far apart on other matters, notably the Assad regime in Syria, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas.
President Obama will also have an immediate problem in reassuring Israel and Gulf Arab states that American commitments to their security are sincere. To be sure, absent an Iranian nuclear weapon, there is no real Iranian military threat and all the Western weapons pumped into the Persian Gulf are thus essentially useless.
Iran’s real challenges emanate from its dynamic domestic economy, a highly educated, entrepreneurial culture that is matched in the region only by Israelis and Palestinians, and a good deal of cultural appeal even beyond Shi’a communities.
Obama thus faces a special problem in reassuring Israel, a problem that goes back decades. When the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in 1979, the risks of a major Arab attack on Israel sank virtually to zero. So, too, did the risk of an Arab-Israeli conflict escalating to the level of a U.S.-Soviet confrontation. All at once, U.S. and Israeli strategic concerns were no longer obviously linked.
Thus as soon as Israel withdrew from the Sinai in May 1979, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin started searching for an alternative basis for linking American and Israeli strategic interests.
For him and for many other Israelis, then and now, it is not enough that the American people are firmly committed to Israel’s security for what could be called “sentimental” reasons: bonds of history (especially memories of the Holocaust), culture, religion, and the values of Western democracy.
But such “sentiment” is the strongest motivation for all U.S. commitments, a far stronger glue than strategic calculations that can and often do change, a fact that could be testified to by the people of South Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Yet for Begin and others, there had to be at least a strong similarity of strategic interests. Thus, in a meeting with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance the day after Egypt retook possession of the Sinai, Begin complained that the US had cancelled its “strategic dialogue” with Israel. Vance tasked me, as the National Security Council staff representative on his travelling team, to find out “what the heck Begin is talking about.”
I phoned Washington and got the skinny: the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment had been conducting a low-level dialogue with some Israeli military officers. Proving to be of little value, it was stopped.
The reason for Begin’s outburst thus became clear: in the absence of the strategic tie with the United States that had been provided by the conflict with Egypt, Israel needed something else, in effect, a common enemy.
That’s why many Israeli political stakeholders were ambivalent about the George W. Bush administration’s ambitions to topple Iraq’s Saddam Hussein: with his overthrow, a potential though remote threat to Israel would be removed, but so would the perception of a common enemy. Since Saddam’s ousting, Iran has gained even more importance for Israel as a means of linking Jerusalem’s strategic perceptions with those of Washington.
By the same political logic, Israel has always asserted that it is a strategic asset for the United States. As part of recognising Israel’s psychological needs, no U.S. official ever publicly challenges that Israeli assertion regardless of what they think in private or however much damage the U.S. might suffer politically in the region because of Israeli activities, including the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
So what must Obama do in order to eliminate the risk of an Iranian nuclear weapon, while also reassuring Israel of US fealty? On one side, to be able to honour an agreement with Iran, Obama has to undercut Netanyahu’s efforts with Congress to prevent any sanctions relief.
On the other side, he could reassure Israel through the classic means of buttressing the flow of arms, including the anti-missile capabilities of the Iron Dome that were so useful to Israel during the recent fighting in Gaza.
Israel would want even closer strategic cooperation with the U.S., including consultations on the full range of U.S. thinking and planning on all relevant issues in the Middle East. Israel (at least Netanyahu) would also want any notion of further negotiations with the Palestinians, and the relaxation of economic pressures on Gaza, put into the deep freeze—where, in effect, they already are.
Israel has an inherent, sovereign right to defend itself and to make, for and by itself, calculations about what that means. (The country is not unified, however: a surprising number of former leaders of the Israeli military and security agencies have publicly differed with Netanyahu’s pessimistic assessments of the Iranian threat).
As Israel’s only real friend in the world, the United States continues to have an obligation, within reason, to reassure Israel about its security and safety.
For Obama, this reassurance to Israel is a price worth paying in the event of a deal, which would be at least one step in trying to build security and stability in an increasingly turbulent Middle East. But that can only happen if Israel refrains from obstructing Obama’s effort to make everyone, including Israel, more secure.
Robert E. Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, was director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council Staff in the Carter administration and in 2011-12 was director of Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University. Read his work on IPS’s foreign policy blog, LobeLog.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS-Inter Press Service.
Edited by Kitty Stapp
Licensed from Inter Press Service

Israeli arrogance is being answered by the EU

Secret EU Document Reveals Israel Sanctions Policy

EU has distributed document to member-states outlining punishments against Israel for 'red lines' - like Jerusalem construction.
By Ari Yashar First Publish: 11/17/2014, 9:41 ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS

EU's Federica Mogherini, Mahmoud Abbas
EU's Federica Mogherini, Mahmoud Abbas
STR/Flash 90
The European Union (EU) has sent a secret document to its 28 member states detailing sanctions to be taken against Israel, if it takes moves the EU feels compromises the creation of an Arab state of ‘Palestine' inside Israel.

The paper, drafted by the European External Action Service (EEAS), was distributed to European diplomats who were told not to show it to Israel yet, according to Haaretz. Israeli diplomats in Europe became aware of the document and reported on it to the Foreign Ministry.

Some of the "red lines" which the EU would react to by punishing Israel with the sanctions include construction in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, as well as in Jerusalem neighborhoods over the 1949 Armistice line. According to the EU, such moves would prevent a division of Jerusalem by which it would be the capital of both Israel and “Palestine."

Sanctions under discussion in the document reportedly include marking products from Judea and Samaria in EU supermarkets to facilitate boycotts, limiting cooperation with Israel, and even limiting the free-trade agreement with Israel.

"There is big frustration in Europe and zero tolerance for settlement activity. This paper is part of the internal brainstorming being done in Brussels these days, about what can be done to keep the two-state solution alive,” a European diplomat revealed.

According to the diplomat and his colleagues, the document contains “sticks and carrots" to foist Europe's political vision on Israel - they acknowledged it mostly contains "sticks."

EU policy up to this point has put the development of ties with Israel as contingent upon the "peace process." The caveat of the new document is that the EU will now take negative steps such as sanctions and restrictions in ties in response to actions it views as being against that process.

“This paper is an uncooked dish and the process is only beginning, but it is slowly continuing," warned a senior European diplomat.

Officials speaking to Haaretz revealed the document was drafted by Christian Berger of Austria, the director for Middle East of the EEAS. Berger was behind EU sanctions last July as well.

The talk of EU sanctions comes two weeks after human rights groups and political parties in Europe demanded that the EU threaten to suspend the Association Agreement with Israel, which is the central treaty between the two sides. They called for the threat so as to force Israel to give a report on its actions fighting the Hamas terror group in Operation Protective Edge.

At the time Federica Mogherini, the EU’s new foreign affairs chief, was in Israel where she called to divide the Israeli capital of Jerusalem.

European officials last month revealed they are weighing various punitive actions against Israel, such as a travel ban on Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria with any criminal record, as well as moves to subvert the trade agreement.

The various moves against Israel come as anti-Semitism has been shown to be skyrocketing in Europe, with research revealing exponential increases in anti-Semitic acts and speech particularly around the recent Gaza operation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Comet landing: Organic molecules detected by Philae


The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.
Carbon-containing "organics" are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history.
The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to "sniff" the comet's thin atmosphere.
Other analyses suggest the comet's surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.
The European Space Agency (Esa) craft touched down on the Comet 67P on 12 November after a 10-year journey.
Dr Fred Goessmann, principal investigator on the Cosac instrument, which made the organics detection, confirmed the find to BBC News. But he added that the team was still trying to interpret the results. 
It has not been disclosed which molecules have been found, or how complex they are.
But the results are likely to provide insights into the possible role of comets in contributing some of the chemical building blocks to the primordial mix from which life evolved on the early Earth.
Preliminary results from the Mupus instrument, which deployed a hammer to the comet after Philae's landing, suggest there is a layer of dust 10-20cm thick on the surface with very hard water-ice underneath.
The ice would be frozen solid at temperatures encountered in the outer Solar System - Mupus data suggest this layer has a tensile strength similar to sandstone.
"It's within a very broad spectrum of ice models. It was harder than expected at that location, but it’s still within bounds," said Prof Mark McCaughrean, senior science adviser to Esa, told BBC News.
He explained: "You can't rule out rock, but if you look at the global story, we know the overall density of the comet is 0.4g/cubic cm. There's no way the thing's made of rock. 
"It's more likely there's sintered ice at the surface with more porous material lower down that hasn't been exposed to the Sun in the same way."
After bouncing off the surface at least twice, Philae came to a stop in some sort of high-walled trap.
"The fact that we landed up against something may actually be in our favour. If we'd landed on the main surface, the dust layer may have been even thicker and it's possible we might not have gone down [to the ice]."
Scientists had to race to perform as many key tests as they could before Philae's battery life ran out at the weekend.
On re-charge
A key objective was to drill a sample of "soil" and analyse it in Cosac's oven. But, disappointingly, the latest information suggest no soil was delivered to the instrument.
"We didn't necessarily see many organics in the signal. That could be because we didn't manage to pick up a sample. But what we know is that the drill went down to its full extent and came back up again."
"But there's no independent way to say: This is what the sample looks like before you put it in there." 
Scientists are hopeful however that as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaches the Sun in coming months, Philae's solar panels will see sunlight again, allowing the batteries to re-charge - allowing it to perform more science.
"There's a trade off - once it gets too hot, Philae will die as well. There is a sweet spot," said Prof McCaughrean. 
He added: "Given the fact that there is a factor of six, seven, eight in solar illumination and the last action we took was to rotate the body of Philae around to get the bigger solar panel in, I think it's perfectly reasonable to think it may well happen.
"By being in the shadow of the cliff, it might even help us, that we might not get so hot, even at full solar illumination. But if you don't get so hot that you don't overheat, have you got enough solar power to charge the system."
The lander's Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), designed to provide information on the elemental composition of the surface, seems to have partially seen a signal from its own lens cover - which could have dropped off at a strange angle because Philae was not lying flat. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

"I love him"

'marriage': US murderer 'granted licence'

Handout photo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Charles Manson, on 18 March 2009 at Corcoran State Prison, California.Manson's death sentence for the 1969 murders was later commuted after California banned the death penalty

American mass murderer Charles Manson, 80, has reportedly been granted a licence to marry a 26-year-old woman who has been visiting him in prison.
The marriage licence was issued 10 days ago for Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, the Associated Press reports.
Ms Burton moved to Corcoran, California, nine years ago in order to be nearer Manson's prison, it adds.
Manson is serving a life sentence for the murders of seven people and one unborn child in Los Angeles in 1969. 
Their victims included pregnant actress Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski.
Ms Burton, who calls herself Star, told AP that she and Manson would marry next month. The licence is reportedly valid for 90 days.
"Y'all can know that it's true... It's going to happen," she told the agency.
"I love him," she added. 
The cult leader and his followers, known as the Manson Family, stabbed and shot seven people in Los Angeles over two nights in August 1969 in an attempt to start a race war.
Manson and three women accomplices were sentenced to death for the killings, but that was commuted in 1972 when California temporarily outlawed the death penalty.
In 2012, Manson was refused parole by a Californian prison panel - it was the 12th time he had made a bid for freedom.
He is not eligible to apply for parole again until 2027.