Canadian Press & First Post & Green Left Weekly – 2006-11-05 23:25:14
Iran Test-fires New Sea Missiles;
Tells US to Cease Manoeuvres in Gulf
Nasser Karimi / Canadian Press
TEHRAN, Iran (November 3, 2006) — The test-firing of three new models of sea missiles in the Persian Gulf should send a strong message to the United States to cease military manoeuvres in the zone, an Iranian navy chief said Friday.
“Our enemies should keep their hostility off the Persian Gulf,” said Admiral Sardar Fadavi, deputy navy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guard, hours after the new missiles were tested. “They should not initiate any move that would make the region tense,” he said.
The Iranian military chief was answering a question on Iran’s state-run radio about whether the new manoeuvres were a response to a US-led military exercise in the zone earlier this week.
The two-day US-led naval exercise that finished Monday focused on surveillance, with warships from six countries tracking a vessel suspected of carrying nuclear components or illegal weapons. The countries that took part were Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States.
The US military would not comment Friday on the Iranian military statement, but said they had monitored the missile test-firing.
“Countries throughout the region perform exercises on a regular basis, including Iran,” said Capt. Gary Arasin by telephone from the US Central Command in Florida. “It’s something that we monitor.”
Iranian state television on Friday showed footage of Revolutionary Guards firing the missiles from mobile launching pads on the shore, and from warships.
Iranian forces have previously test-fired missiles in the crowed Gulf waters, but the new manoeuvres, which began on Thursday, appeared to be geared at showing Iran’s discontent that US and western warships had held an exercise so close to its territorial waters.
“The manoeuvres are not a threat to any neighbouring country,” said Gen. Ali Fazli, the spokesman for the Iranian war-games, dubbed “Great Prophet.”
Iran nonetheless insisted the new sea missiles enhanced its military muscle in the Gulf, where a large proportion of the world’s oil is extracted. The weapons are “suitable for covering all the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian gulf and the sea of Oman” said Fadavi, the deputy navy chief.
Some 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply passes every day through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The three new types of missiles, named Noor, Kowsar, and Nasr, have a range of about 170 kilometres and were built for naval warfare, Iranian TV reported.
Earlier Iranian sea missiles had a range of 120 kilometres, Fadavi was quoted as saying.
“The test-fired missiles are among the weapons whose capacities were improved by our domestic technology,” said Fadavi, implying that the weapons had first been acquired abroad.
He said Iranian forces also intended to test air-to-ground missiles later Friday. The missiles will be fired from the first locally designed fighter plane, the bomber Saegheh, which is similar to the American F-18 fighter plane, he said.
While US officials have suggested that Iran is exaggerating the capabilities of its newly developed weapons, Washington and its allies have been watching the country’s progress in missile technology with concern.
The Iranian manoeuvres come as the UN Security Council is considering imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which has ignored demands that it cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce the fuel for nuclear reactors or material for atomic bombs.
© The Canadian Press, 2006
Remember the Maine! — A Second Tonkin?
With the US Navy involved in massive “war games” only 20 miles off the coast of Iran (in what many international observers regard as a direct provocation to an attack), Israel is pushing for America to attack Iran.
When Jim Baker attempted to intervene in the midterm campaign last month by releasing some of the findings of the Iraq Study Group, he urged direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran. His words of caution appear to have gone unheeded as Rumsfeld’s Pentagon is staying on course for a clash with Iran.
In 1898, the US declared war on Spain after a mysterious explosion aboard the USS Maine then parked in Havana Harbor. Most historians now believe that the Maine’s explosion was a “false flag” attack engineered to provide the McKinley White House with a pretext for the Spanish-American War.
In 1965, the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was staged by the US military under orders from the National Security Council to stage an “incident” to legitimize an escalation of the Vietnam war. The same sort of device could be in the making today in the Persian Gulf. — Michael Carmichael, Planetary Movement
Are Israelis Gearing Up to Bomb Iran?
Robert Fox / First Post
(November 3, 2006) — The Middle East is abuzz with ugly rumours. One of them is so dire — and comes from sources in so many capital cities — that it has to be taken seriously.
The suggestion is that the Israeli government has served notice on the White House that it must take pre-emptive action against Iran’s sites of nuclear weapons development — or Israel will go it alone and do the job itself. Israel has apparently given Bush a deadline of six months.
The pressure on the Americans — if it is true — comes with the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman, one of the hardest of all hard-liners, as Israel’s new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs, under the new coalition with his party, Yisrael Beytenu.
One reason why the rumour is being taken seriously is that it coincides with another strong rumour — that the Iranian regime of Mahmud Ahmadinejad has ordered Iran’s nuclear programme to be accelerated. According to sources, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade material is galloping ahead, and Iran could have its own deployable nuclear warheads within four years.
Given Ahmadinejad’s wild rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map (though the translation of these remarks is now acknowledged to be somewhat fuzzy), Israel’s hawks argue there is no time to lose. Former Prime Minister, and Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, for whom Lieberman once worked as chief of staff, has argued strenuously for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Lieberman, more hawkish than many hawks, was born in Moldova in 1958 and now leads a powerful group of Israeli immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union. He criticised Ariel Sharon when, during negotiations with the Palestinians, he ordered some settlements to close. He outraged moderate Jewish Israeli opinion this summer when he suggested that Arab Israelis elected to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, should be executed if they had held talks with Hamas members of the Palestinian authority.
Even the New York Times, known for its strong support for Israel, warned in an editorial a week ago that Lieberman was “the wrong partner” in an Israeli coalition. His inclusion, the paper argued, made any arrangement with the Palestinians difficult, if not impossible. “Creating new obstacles to peace with the Palestinians is the last thing Israel needs after the Lebanon fiasco.”
Strategic analysts have noticed anti-Iran noises coming from the beleaguered White House, too. “It’s the same sort of language we heard in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq,” one Washington insider told me. A London correspondent favoured by the Bush-Blair circle said, “It’s clear that Bush will not dream of leaving office under the suspicion that he allowed Iran to get nuclear weapons on his watch. He will act, and will feel uninhibited after the mid-term elections.”
The practicalities of bombing Iran’s nuclear installations are quite another thing, according to serious analysts. Israel lacks the capability to hit in one blow all the places where weaponry is being developed; planes would need mid-air refuelling that only the Americans could provide; and some centres of nuclear energy production — Bushir, Natanz and Tehran itself — are heavily populated. Civilian casualties would be high.
There is an even more compelling reason why realists like General John Abizaid, US commander for the region, and former Secretary of State James Baker are counselling the hawks in Israel as well as Washington to cool it.
Not only would a pre-emptive strike on Iran miss more than it hit — it would invite immediate and devastating retaliation. The Revolutionary Guards could launch a global terrorist campaign and the Iranian Air Force could bomb the offshore gas installations stretching along the Gulf from Qatar. That would knock out 15 per cent of the world’s natural gas supply at a stroke.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. www.globalresearch.ca
© Copyright Robert Fox, First Post, 2006
Open Racist Invited into Olmert Cabinet
Kim Bullimore / Green Left Weekly
(2 November 2006) — Arab MPs demonstrated outside the Israeli parliament (Knesset) calling on other countries to impose sanctions on the Zionist state as Avigdor Lieberman, the openly racist anti-Arab leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel is our home”) party, was sworn into PM Ehud Olmert’s cabinet on October 30.
Olmert, who has been resisting widespread calls for his government to resign following the debacle of its war on Lebanon in August, struck a deal which has resulted in Lieberman becoming deputy PM and “minister for strategic affairs”. In return, Lieberman has guaranteed that for the rest of the government’s elected term, the 11 Yisrael Beiteinu MPs will support the ruling Kadima- Labour coalition.
Prior to the March parliamentary election, the Labor party vowed never to serve as part of any government that included Yisrael Beiteinu. However, on October 29 the party’s central committee voted overwhelmingly to remain in the coalition government.
According to the October 31 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily, Labor leader Amir Peretz’s speech in favour of staying in the coalition was full of “hackneyed platitudes about national responsibility and political initiative and the hopelessness of sitting in the opposition”.
A small group of Labor MPs, led by Ophir Pines-Paz opposed the majority decision. Pines-Paz resigned from his cabinet post as culture minister just hours before Lieberman was sworn in, telling Israeli journalists: “I came to the decision for reasons of conscience” because he could not sit in a government “with a party whose platform is full of racist characteristics”.
Pines-Paz told HaÃ¡retz: “If Lieberman is the answer to the government’s loss of direction after the second Lebanon war, the entire government should resign and let Lieberman and his friends — the Likud, National Religious Party and National Union — lead the country.”
Lieberman, a former member of the right-wing Likud party, served as its director-general in 1993-96, also served as infrastructure minister in 2001-02 and as transport minister in 2003-04. He strongly opposed then-Likud PM Ariel Sharon’s 2004 plan to unilaterally “disengage” from Gaza.
Instead, in May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan in which the populations and territories of Jews and Arabs, including Israeli Arabs, would be “separated”. According to the plan, only those Israeli Arabs who felt “a connection with the State of Israel” and were “completely loyal to it” would be allowed to remain. Otherwise they would be stripped of the Israeli citizenship and driven out of the country.
Sharon condemned Lieberman’s plan, stating that Likud regarded “Israeli Arabs as part of the State of Israel”. On June 4, 2004, as the disputes over the up- coming disengagement plan grew more intense, Sharon dismissed Lieberman from the cabinet.
Even prior to 2004, Lieberman had advocated driving out Arabs from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In 2002, he told Britain’s Independent newspaper that the Israeli military should “destroy everything” in the OPT, including Palestinian commercial centres, petrol stations and banks.
In July 2002, he called for all Palestinian prisoners held by the Israeli occupation forces to be drowned in the Dead Sea, offering to provide the buses for their transportation.
On the day he was sworn into Olmert’s cabinet, Lieberman’s party withdrew, temporarily, a bill aimed at the Israeli Arab MPs. The bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu MP Esterina Tartman, would allow a majority of 80 MPs to expel an MP who they identify as “advocating armed resistance against Israel, racist incitement, or opposing the existence of Israel as a democracy”.
Similar to a bill put forward by National Union MP Zevulen Orlev, Tartman’s bill is believed to be aimed at Israeli Arab MPs who give critical speeches on Israel. Orlev’s bill, which has already passed a first vote in the parliament, differs from Tartman’s bill in that it refers the issue to the Supreme Court for a final vote.
The October 30 Jerusalem Post reported that “Labor MKs joined Likud, Balad, Hadash, and Meretz MKs in expressing outrage at what has commonly been called â?~racist legislation’.”
“This bill is very similar to a bill passed in the 1930s by the Reichstag in Nazi Germany where 95 Communist parliamentarians were expelled”, the Post quoted Dov Kheinin, an MP for the leftist mixed Arab- Jewish Hadash party. “This is the type of bill a member of the new government wants to pass.”
While some sections of the liberal left in Israel have compared Lieberman to Austria’s Joerg Haider and France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, the difference between Lieberman and many mainstream Israeli politicians is very small. The positions held by Lieberman are strikingly similar to many of those held by both Olmert and Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Like Lieberman, both Olmert and Netanyahu are keen to introduce policies that will continue to guarantee a demographic Jewish majority, at the expense of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. And like Lieberman, both Olmert and Netanyahu advocates policies that seek to cleanse the region of as many Palestinians as possible.
The main difference between Olmert and Netanyahu on the one hand and Lieberman on the other is in the rhetoric they use to present their racist policies. While Lieberman openly takes about “transfer” and “expulsion” of Arabs, Olmert uses more coded pleasant-sounding words like “disengagement” and “convergence”. The effect on the ground, however, is the same — the inexorable continuation of Zionist colonisation of Palestinian land.
International News, Green Left Weekly issue #689 8 November 2006.
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