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21 mars 2008 5 21 /03 /mars /2008 17:05

Unconditional Talks with Iran Could Lead to War

was born in Iran and educated in Tehran, London and Paris. Between 1980 and 1984 he was Middle East editor for the London Sunday Times. Taheri has been a contributor to the International Herald Tribune since 1980. He has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Taheri has published nine books some of which have been translated into 20 languages, and In 1988 Publishers'' Weekly in New York chose his study of Islamist terrorism, "Holy Terror", as one of The Best Books of The Year. He has been a columnist Asharq Alawsat since 1987


Talk to almost anybody in Washington about foreign policy these days and you are likely to hear that Iran is the number one "international problem" for the United States. Pundits and politicians are unanimous that dealing with the Islamic Republic will be one of the key issues of the presidential election campaign.

The question is: what to do about Iran?

It is clear that the leadership in Tehran, boosted by last week's parliamentary elections, is in no mood to offer concessions.

The choice facing policymakers is between standing up to the Islamic Republic, even if that would mean military conflict, and acknowledging its right to pursue whatever policies it desires even if that meant threatening the vital interests of the Western democracies and their regional allies.

To avoid that choice, Senator Barack Obama, the front-runner as the Democrat Party's presidential nominee, has announced that, if elected, he would invite the Islamic Republic's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "unconditional talks."

This means that Obama would reverse the Bush administration's policy on Iran and ignore three unanimously approved United Nations Security Council resolutions that call on the Islamic Republic to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks.

However, Obama is no longer alone in his call for "unconditional talks" with Ahmadinejad.

Last week, Henry Kissinger, a foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain, the Republicans' presumptive nominee for president, also called for unconditional talks with Tehran.

A few days after Kissinger's change of position, it was announced that Admiral William J Fallon, Commander of the US forces in the Middle East, had resigned because he disagreed with the administration's policy of keeping the military option open against the Islamic Republic.

Fallon is reported to have opposed plans for intercepting Iranian ships suspected of carrying dual-use products. Instead, the admiral urged his political bosses to think of talking to Tehran.

Then it was the turn of Dennis Ross, a former US peace-broker in the Middle East, to call for unconditional talks with Tehran.

Ross proposed that the talks be coupled with increased sanctions against Tehran with the help of the European Union, Russia and China. To achieve that, he proposed concession to Russia including scrapping US plans to install anti-missile units in Poland and the Czech Republic. (EU and China would also receive unspecified concessions from the US in exchange for harsher sanctions on Iran.)

All this talk of talking to Tehran may well sound eminently reasonable.

However, even if we ignore Ross's weird suggestion to make Tehran angrier by imposing harsher sanctions while inviting it to negotiate a deal, the "talk to Iran" idea is problematic for other reasons.

The first problem is to decide what the talks are going to be about.

The Islamic Republic has never said it was not prepared to talk.

It has been engaged in a dialogue with the EU since 1980 and maintains a cordial conversation with many other countries, among them Russia and China. It has also held secret talks with the US, in 1979, 1985-86, and, more recently, 1999-2000, in addition to public sessions over Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 20007.

The only thing that the Islamic Republic is not prepared to talk about is stopping its uranium enrichment programme as demanded by the Security Council.

To avoid that hurdle some advocates of the "talk to Iran" policy suggest that the uranium enrichment issue not be mentioned. Instead, as Kissinger has put it, the US and its allies should ask Iran to scrap the military aspect of its nuclear programme, thus permanently abandon its right to develop atomic weapons.

The problem is that the Islamic Republic has never admitted it had a programme to build the bomb.

What Kissinger demands is that the Tehran leaders first admit that they ad been lying all the time and had had plans to build the bomb but are now prepared not to do so.

Can Kissinger seriously expect the Iranian "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi to make such an admission?

Even if Tehran leaders were prepared to admit they had been lying, and that they would scrap a programme that they had claimed did not exist, they might still find it hard to offer the undertaking that Kissinger and others demand.

Why should Iran become the only country in the world to abandon the right to develop nuclear weapons?

After all, it is not illegal to acquire the technology to make nuclear weapons or even to manufacture and deploy them.

Some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and most recently Libya, have voluntarily abandoned that right and scrapped their military nuclear programmes. Nevertheless, even they have not foresworn their right forever and could decide to revive their nuclear programmes any time they wished.

In other words, the "talk to Iran" chorus suggests that Tehran be asked to do something that no self-respecting government would contemplate.

The method that the "talk to Iran" chorus suggests could have disastrous results for all concerned.

It could persuade Tehran that it had already won and that it could ignore the three Security Council resolutions without risk. After all, unconditional talks means that the major powers have dropped their demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before engaging it in substantial negotiations about future relations.

Also, Tehran may offer concessions on a range of issues, for example sacrificing Hezballah and Hamas and even Syria, in exchange for a tacit acceptance of its nuclear ambitions by the US and its allies. That would put the Western negotiators in a quandary: granting Tehran a big and irreversible prize in exchange for smaller and reversible concessions. Tehran could activate or de-activate its Syrian, Hezbollah and Hamas pawns any time it wished as it has done with Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. However, once Tehran has the bomb no one would be able to put the genie back into the bottle.

The only way the Islamic Republic might abandon its nuclear ambitions is under duress when it realises that the cost of making a bomb, if that is indeed the aim, is much too high in terms of economic suffering, diplomatic isolation and/or military defeat.

Seen from Tehran, the idea of "unconditional talks" looks like a form of surrender by Western powers.

It could strengthen the most radical elements within the regime who could then dismiss their critics as cowards or traitors.

There is another, perhaps more important problem, with the "unconditional talk" policy. It could be tried only once.

If it fails to persuade Tehran to offer the only concession that matters, that is to say stop making raw material for a bomb, the only choice left for the US and its allies would be surrender or the use of force.

In one of those ironies of history, advocates of "unconditional talks" with Tehran may make war more not less likely.

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16 mars 2008 7 16 /03 /mars /2008 19:46

dimanche 16 mars 2008

BRUXELLES - Les élections législatives qui viennent de se tenir en Iran "n'ont été ni libres, ni équitables", a déclaré dimanche la présidence slovène de l'Union européenne dans un communiqué publié à Bruxelles.

L'UE exprime "sa profonde préoccupation devant le fait que les procédures électorales dans la République islamique d'Iran ont été au-dessous des standards internationaux et que le processus électoral n'a pas permis des élections véritablement concurrentielles", a indiqué la présidence slovène.

Elle souligne "son profond regret et sa déception" devant la disqualification par les autorités iraniennes, avant le scrutin, d'un grand nombre de candidats réformateurs. Ces exclusions "constituent une claire violation des normes internationales", estime-t-elle.

"En conséquence, les élections n'ont été ni libres, ni équitables", déclare la présidence de l'UE.

Des résultats encore partiels des législatives de vendredi confirmaient dimanche l'emprise des conservateurs sur le Parlement iranien avec une majorité des deux tiers.

Pour la présidence de l'UE, "l'Iran doit s'engager à ce que le peuple iranien puisse lors des élections futures choisir dans une gamme complète de candidats".

"Le peuple iranien mérite un véritable choix démocratique sur l'avenir de son pays", déclare-t-elle.
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15 mars 2008 6 15 /03 /mars /2008 23:28

The Iranian Coup
Ghassan Charbel     Al-Hayat     - 15/03/08//


The Arab citizen is expected to keep track of American presidential elections. Certainly, the point is not for him to develop a desire to imitate Americans, but simply to secure the future of his children. After all, the man who will occupy the Oval Office will be the general leading the world's sole superpower, until further notice. His decisions will affect the world's security and stability. His actions could beget disasters for both his country and the rest of the world. It is enough to refer to the foolishness of invading Iraq to verify that US elections, as remote as they may seem, are of concern for our stability, economy, and hopes for the future.

The Arab citizen is also expected to keep track of elections in Israel. Knowing the enemy is the first necessary step to face it, or to at least avoid some of its evils. The point is not to make Arabs feel that the "usurping entity" has succeeded in building institutions that spares its supporters the dangers of civil war. On a certain day, an extremist assassinated Prime Minister and founding General Isaac Rabin, and yet the backbone of the state was not broken. To a certain extent, keeping track of Israeli elections allows one to predict the level of Israeli hostility under the rule of one party or another. The outcome certainly affects the stability of neighboring countries as well as levels of tension in countries located further away.

A new item can now be added to the list of Arab concerns. From now on, the Arab citizen will also be expected to keep track of elections in Iran. Certainly the point is not to be seduced by Iran's fashion of democracy, nor to import a model whose attempts at exportation continue to collide with the nature of the region. In truth, the point is to predict the direction of Iranian winds and to ward off, as much as possible, the quakes and storms that they may bring.

The Arabs have no interest in classifying Iran as a foe, nor does Iran. Furthermore, dealing with this large neighbor, by the region's standards, should not be based on historical bitterness. If nations were to remain captive to history's bloodbaths, we would not see France and Germany join hands to become the driving force that has led the European Union to what it is today. Nevertheless, the ability to deal with a neighbor like Iran, to cooperate with it, and perhaps to occasionally contain its impulsiveness, requires the knowledge of its demands, fears and appetites.

I write this in light of what I have heard from an Arab official who said: "We have to admit that, as a result of its aggressive policies, rising energy prices and the American adventure in Iraq, Iran has achieved a series of successes that have enabled it to gain control of certain assets in the Arab world." When I asked him to clarify further, his response was: "It is not possible to build a stable Iraq without Iran's approval and without taking its interests and a significant portion of its demands into consideration. It is not possible to elect a president in Lebanon without Tehran's approval. It is not possible to resume dialogue between Fatah and Hamas without its approval either. Iran is present in Gaza through its allies. It is present in the Mediterranean through Syria and Hezbollah. It has, through all of this, the ability to influence the region's two most prominent issues: the security of oil and the security of Israel."

Furthermore, he said that Iran was planning an unprecedented coup against international presence and the balance that exists between the major forces in the region. In his view, what is more dangerous in this attempted coup is "Iran's attempts at becoming the religious and political reference of Arab Shiites scattered across the region, a matter that the region's states can neither accept nor bear." He believes that Iran is trying to gather as many bargaining chips as possible, including its nuclear program, in an effort to obtain American and international recognition of its right to act as a major power in the region.

I remembered what a senior Arab official said when Mahmoud Ahmedinejad visited Baghdad. His visit was a message directed to the US as well as the Arabs. A major power with alarming ambitions has been born in the region. The world could not tolerate the rise of Gemal Abdul-Nasser with a program that extended beyond his country's borders. Will the world tolerate a program that aims to transform the region according to the terms of Ahmedinejad? The magnitude of this ongoing attempted coup is of the fabric of widespread assaults that alert to coming wars. That is why the Arab citizen must now add the Iranian issue to his list of daily concerns, for we are now in the midst of a major battle for the spirit, position, and leadership of the region.

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14 mars 2008 5 14 /03 /mars /2008 10:07

Israel, the United States and Iran: the tipping-point

A Washington military resignation - and Israel's operations in Gaza - may affect the likelihood and timing of a war with Tehran, says Paul Rogers

The resignation of Admiral William Fannon, the commander of United States Central Command (Centcom) on 11 March 2008 brings the issue of a confrontation between the George W Bush administration and Iran suddenly back on the security agenda. Most analysts had thought that the risk of war had subsided with the publication on on 3 December 2007 of the US national-intelligence estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran was probably not now developing nuclear weapons. There were various qualifications and provisos in that report - Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities - but it still appeared to limit the administration's war option by removing the main argument.

Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001

Fallon's resignation followed a magazine profile that made clear his differences with the president and Dick Cheney, principally his own robust view that war with Iran would be counterproductive to US security interests (see "The Man Between War and Peace", Esquire, 11 March 2008). Nevertheless, most opinion in European capitals and in the US state department, and even in many parts of the Pentagon, is that Fallon is broadly right. So has anything really changed?

The war scenario

An earlier column in this series summarised the dangers of war: they include the wide-ranging Iranian options for responding in Iraq and western Gulf states, the potential for a rapid rise in oil prices, the likelihood that Iran really would go all out for nuclear weapons - thus necessitating further US bombing campaigns (see "America and Iran: the spark of war", 20 September 2007). The conclusion was that the awareness of such concerns may well have a salutary effect on the more hawkish elements in Washington, but that other factors might still lead to a war. These could include a deliberate act of aggression by one of two groups: Revolutionary Guard radicals anxious to re-establish their standing within Iranian society, or attack by Israel on Iran's nuclear facilities (strongly supported as that would be the more militant backers of Israel within the Bush administration).

All of these issues are equally relevant six months after this analysis was presented. Admiral Fallon's precipitous disappearance from the scene now raises an old question in a new context: does it make war with Iran more likely during the closing months of the Bush administration? The answer is a guarded yes - with the qualification that Fallon's resignation is not itself the main factor in shaping the outcom, since it remains unlikely that the Bush administration would deliberately and openly start a war. Rather, war - if it occurs - would stem from other events (see "Iran and Pakistan: danger signals", 10 January 2008).

Any attack on Iran that occurred before November 2008 would have a considerable impact on the presidential election. A scenario of the following kind illustrates the point.

In addition to his weekly openDemocracy column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; for details, click here

Paul Rogers's most recent book is Why We're Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007) - an analysis of the strategic misjudgments of the post-9/11 and why a new security paradigm is needed.

A conflict develops in September or October and is raging in the run-up to the election on 4 November. At this stage, the main involvement will be by the United States air force supported by the US navy. The overstretched army and marine corps will have little initial involvement.

The war, it's important to emphasise, might not have been started by the Bush administration - it could been triggered in some other way. But whatever its origin, US tactics would quickly acquire a familiar aspect. In the war's opening few weeks, extensive US bombing raids would cripple Iranian nuclear facilities, air defences, command-and-control systems and key facilities of the navy and Revolutionary Guard. At this stage, US military power would be so massive that Washington would appear to be "winning". This was the situation in the first eight weeks of the Afghanistan war in late 2001, and in the first six weeks of the Iraq war up to Bush's "mission accomplished" speech on 1 May 2003 (see "The long war", 3 April 2003).

A US war against Iran, and especially one that is ostensibly not of its own choosing, will grab all the domestic as well as global headlines as the election reaches its peak. The crisis will reinforce the argument that an essential qualification of America's new president is an impeccable military background to guide the country safely through. Step forward the obvious choice: Senator John McCain (who plans to burnish his security credentials during a trip to Europe and the middle east in the coming week).

This scenario does not mean that a war will be manufactured by the US leadership - but it does imply that if a conflict does break out, the Republicans will be the likely political beneficiaries.

The uncertainties of the current situation do not exclude (for example) the orchestration of some kind of border incident to elicit an Iranian overreaction, thus leading to a major conflict; or a provocation by obliging elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Both are plausible, though neither is likely - another "Gulf of Tonkin" incident would be just too obvious, and a certain recovery of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's position might caution rather than incite the more intransigent forces among Revolutionary Guard supporters from seeking early confrontation with the United States. Whether the elections to the majlis (parliament) on 14 March 2008 affects Ahmadinejad's political room for manoeuvre, or the wider balance of power inside Iran, remains to be seen.

The Israeli factor

A vital component in this assessment of the military-strategic-political equation following Admiral Fallon's departure is Israel. What do its leaders want to do, think they can do, and seek to make happen with regard to Iran? Its extensive use of force in Gaza - in which over a a hundred Palestinians were killed in the five day to 3 March 2008 - may be part of a process of ratcheting up regional tensions (see Kaveh L Afrasiabi, "Israel raises the ante against Iran", Asia Times, 14 March 2008). Iran's increasing regional status, combined with a frank Israeli disbelief in the conclusions of the NIE assessment, means that there is real concern in the Ehud Olmert government that Iran cannot be stopped in its nuclear pursuits by diplomatic or economic means alone.

Israeli observers are as uncertain as any others about the outcome of the United States election. Of the three possible victors, John McCain and Hillary Clinton are broadly pro-Israel (though lacking the "end days" mentality of George W Bush and some of his key supporters, which can envisage a confrontation with Iran and other enemies of Israel as part of God's plan). Barack Obama has less of a known, reliable profile on Israel and its policies in the region, and there is for some the worry that if elected he might weaken the US's unstinting pro-Israel stance (though the Democrats' leading contender is covering his bases; see "Obama calls Livni, back's Israel's right for self-defense" [Ynet, 11 March 2008]).

Israel has not always had such conflictual relations with Iran as at present (see Trita Parsi, "The Iran-Israel cold war", 28 October 2005). But the dangers of the current period are palpable, and calculable: for Israel, the time for a war with Iran ends in November 2008. Before then, any kind of Israeli air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would result in Iranian action against US units in Iraq, especially by the Revolutionary Guard. This would be certain to invite a much greater US military assault that would cripple Iran to Israel's advantage. A unilateral Israeli move might not be hugely popular across the United States (and an opinion-poll in December 2007 found that two-thirds of Israelis would also oppose this course); but if it followed major Hamas or Hizbollah actions against Israel, then it could be represented as pre-empting a larger but linked threat.

What might cause such actions? More Israeli military operations as or more intensive than those seen in Gaza could well do it.

The moving finger 

If - to continue the scenario planning - there is to be a war with Iran this year, instigated by Israel, two key factors are relevant:

* It would aid John McCain, the Republican candidate in the election
* It would need, in order to have this effect, to be started before the beginning of November.

None of this makes war a certainty or even highly probable. But it is worth noting here that US neo-conservatives - a reliable bellweather of political sentiment among those who will make the key decisions over whether to attack Iran - are deeply concerned about Iran's current diplomatic manoeuvres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's much-publicised welcome in Baghdad during his visit of 2-3 March was hard enough, as it underlined the developing links between Iran and Iraq (see "The war over there", 3 March 2008); equally tough for the neocons to witness has been the high-profile visit to Tehran by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 11-12 March. This followed Indonesia's abstention in the vote in the United Nations Security Council on the third tranche of sanctions against Iran (see "Islamic world can become a global power", Tehran Times, 12 March 2008); it has resulted in multiple agreements between the two countries, thus giving Iran another link to east Asia to complement its extensive relationship with China.

From a neo-conservative perspective, the prospect of George W Bush leaving office in circumstances where Iran is a rising power with nuclear potential is just not acceptable. Admiral Fallon's resignation does not make a huge difference, yet it removes one irritant from the scene. That alone makes a war with Iran marginally more likely. But the real determinant remains the Israeli government and what it chooses to do in the next six months.

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13 mars 2008 4 13 /03 /mars /2008 09:44


(Milices du Mahdi ou Jaysh Al Mahdi) : Ils ressemblent au Hamas, au Hezbollah, au Djihad Islamique, mais ils ne sont ni les uns ni les autres. Alors, qui "tire les ficelles"? Devinette à 5 balles...

Moqtada Sadr est hors-course, et se serait "retiré des affaires" politiques, à Qom, Iran, pour "étudier", après avoir signé un renouvellement de "cessez-le-feu" (comme mentionné ci-dessous) avec les Forces de la Coalition.

U.S. soldiers, militia exchange fire in south Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers and Iraqi militants exchanged fire after a rocket attack from a Shi'ite Mehdi Army militia stronghold on a U.S. base southeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police said on Thursday.

An Iraqi police official, who asked not to be identified, said as many as 11 Katyusha rockets landed on the U.S. base near Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, late on Wednesday.

Two Iraqi men, who the police source said were brothers, were killed and four others, including a 6-year-old girl, were wounded when U.S. soldiers responded to the rocket attack with mortar rounds, the official said.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said the Americans responded after four rockets were fired at the base. She had no information about civilian casualties but said no U.S. soldiers were hurt in the exchange.

Iraqi police said the rockets were fired from Kut's Shuhada district, one of four Mehdi Army strongholds raided by Iraqi police on Wednesday, a day after anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia clashed with security forces.

Sadr renewed a six-month ceasefire last month but at the weekend issued a statement telling followers they could defend themselves if attacked. There had been no major violations of the truce until fighting erupted on Tuesday.

The ceasefire has been praised by U.S. commanders for contributing significantly to falling levels of violence. Attacks across Iraq have fallen 60 percent since last June, when an extra 30,00 U.S. troops became fully deployed.

But with U.S. forces already stretched thin by an upsurge in violence in Iraq since January, such violations of the ceasefire are a worrying development.

(Editing by Ross Colvin)

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12 mars 2008 3 12 /03 /mars /2008 20:22
Iran's Fear - Iraq's Chance  
By Amir Taheri
New York Post | Wednesday, March 12, 2008


'I HAVE lost hope of liberating Iraq and turning it into an Islamic society." So said Muqtada al-Sadr in an open letter to his followers published last week.

The young Shiite mullah once claimed he would lead Iraq "back to true Islam," but he has been in Iran for at least the last six months. He had been expected to announce an end to the cease-fire observed by his Mahdi Army since 2007. Instead, he voiced a litany of woes that ended with an implicit pledge not to reactivate his death squads.

Muqtada blamed members of his entourage and unnamed mullahs and Shiite notables for having "undermined the struggle" for "worldly reasons" and for having succumbed to the temptation of wealth and power presented to them by the Iraqi government.

The 32-year-old ex-militia leader ended his letter by announcing that he is withdrawing from public life to pursue clerical studies "in accordance with the will and testament of my late father," Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr.

Muqtada now lives in Tehran but spends part of each week in the Iranian "holy" city of Qom, where he's taking a crash course in Shiite theology under the guidance of Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, a pro-government mullah with extensive business interests. Iranian sources say Tehran has decided to transform Muqtada into a genuine mullah who could be presented as a religious leader for Iraq in the next five to 10 years.

The real reason for Tehran's decision to withdraw Muqtada from active politics, however, may lie elsewhere.

In recent months, Tehran policymakers have begun to understand a crucial fact about Iraq: Any weakening of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government now could persuade the United States to throw its support behind an alternative, anti-Iranian coalition of Arab Sunnis, Kurds and secular Shiites openly hostile to Iran.

Thus, Tehran and Washington have a joint interest in keeping al-Maliki's coalition in power - at least until next year's Iraqi general election.

A worsening of Iraq's situation would increase the pressure on the next US president to start disengaging from what many Americans already see as a dicey adventure. And a US departure would produce a gap that only other outside powers would be able to fill.

The conventional wisdom in many places is that the key outside power likely to fill that gap is Iran. Iran does wield immense influence in Iraq, yet it's in no position to dictate Iraq's future political course. Even the Iraqi Shiite factions who look to Iran as the ultimate guarantor of their safety don't wish to see Iran as the dominant influence in Baghdad.

An early US withdrawal could lead to the disintegration of the Shiite-Kurdish coalition that is at least not hostile to Iran. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disastrous visit to Iraq this month showed, a good segment of Iraqi opinion regards the Islamic Republic as a troublemaker if not an outright enemy.

So we have a paradoxical situation in which the Islamic Republic actually fears that a precipitous US departure from Iraq could enable anti-Iran elements to come to power with the help of Arab Sunni states and Turkey.

Thus, the decision to leash Muqtada is part of a broader Iranian scheme to buy time. In the meantime, Tehran wants the Americans to keep on bleeding but not so profusely that the next president disengages from Iraq.

Tehran is also developing its ties with anti-US Sunni groups, especially by supplying them with sophisticated explosive devices. The idea is that, at some point, Tehran would be able to put together a coalition in Iraq transcending the Sunni-Shiite cleavage in the name of a common struggle against the American "Great Satan."

While Washington decision-makers are forced to think short-term, from one election to another, Tehran's powers take a longer-term view. In the case of Iraq, they are thinking for the next decade or so, just as they did in the case of Lebanon and, later, the Palestinian territories.

The Iraqi government and its coalition allies shouldn't stand idly by and watch the Islamic Republic impose its strategy on Iraq. Maliki should acknowledge the importance of the constituency that once backed Muqtada. (In the last general election, it won 11-plus percent of the votes.)

With Muqtada deciding to go to school, millions of poor Shiites, especially in Baghdad's slums, are left leaderless and vulnerable to the siren song of criminal gangs. Maliki could build a bridge to them by offering them jobs, better health care and, above all, security against racketeers and other criminals.

Numerous former Muqtada associates are prepared to work with the government locally and nationally. But many are shut out of power circles because of old rivalries with the largest Shiite political faction, led by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a mid-ranking mullah with a history of family feuds with Muqtada al-Sadr.

Hakim's friends, including America, should encourage him to forget past grievances. A large chunk of Shiite support is floating around like a dangerous iceberg - but could be stabilized as part of the broader national coalition. Shiite unity remains the key to long-term stability and democratization in Iraq.

Muqtada shattered Shiite unity when, encouraged by Tehran, he rose in revolt against the elected government in Baghdad. With him out of the picture, no one knows how long the opportunity to rebuild that unity will last.

The re-inclusion of Muqtada's followers in the political process will make it easier for Maliki to hold long-overdue local and municipal elections sooner rather than later. These elections are necessary to allow the new leadership groups that have emerged at the grass-roots level all over Iraq to find their proper place within the decision-making process.

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12 mars 2008 3 12 /03 /mars /2008 20:10
Shimon Pérès : l’Iran veut prendre le contrôle du Proche-Orient par "le colonialisme religieux"
12 mars 2008 - AP

"L’Iran essaie de prendre le contrôle du Proche-Orient. Il veut faire du colonialisme religieux ; une hégémonie que les pays arabes n’aiment pas du tout", a souligné mercredi le président israélien Shimon Pérès en dénonçant l’utilisation de l’argent du pétrole.

"Ces pays ont peur de l’Iran et du Hamas encore davantage que nous", a-t-il dit sur Europe-1 avant d’ajouter : "l’Iran a deux espèces de métastases, deux succursales : c’est le Hezbollah (libanais) et le Hamas. Téhéran veut prendre le contrôle de la Syrie".

"C’est là qu’ils investissent tout leur argent, l’argent qu’ils tirent du pétrole. En fait, le pétrole est le plus grand ennemi aujourd’hui. Outre la pollution, le pétrole finance le terrorisme, du Venezuela jusqu’à l’Iran", a estimé Shimon Pérès au troisième jour de sa visite d’Etat en France.

L’Etat hébreu, a-t-il ajouté, entend développer des énergies alternatives : "Nous avons le soleil. Et je préfère le soleil aux pays pétroliers. Le soleil est éternel et le soleil n’est pas membre de la Ligue arabe", a ironisé le président israélien.

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12 mars 2008 3 12 /03 /mars /2008 09:00

Des timbres postaux à l’effigie du commandant en chef du Hezbollah Imad Mughniyah exposés à Téhéran, Iran, lundi 10 mars 2008. Les services postaux iraniens ont émis un timbre commémorant Imad Mughniyah, tué dans l’explosion d’une voiture piégée en Syrie le mois passé. Imad Mughniyah était l’un des cerveaux du terrorisme les plus craints dans le monde, accusé d’avoir fait tuer des centaines d’Américains au moyen d’attentats suicide au Liban dans les années 1980. (AP Photo/Borna News, Hamid Saeidi)

Ce grand homme figurera probablement bientôt dans les manuels scolaires iraniens.


Iran — 30 ans de préparation à la guerre

Ce mois-ci, les manuels scolaires iraniens font un tour d’Europe. Ils ont été présentés la semaine passée en Suisse. Ils étaient ensuite exposés à Paris, où ont été prises les quelques images suivantes (photos © IRENA ELSTER), tirées essentiellement d’un manuel de 8e année. Mais la préparation à la guerre commence très tôt. Il faut absolument au moins feuilleter le rapport complet (en anglais) établi par le CMIP [Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace] et dont il existe un résumé et une synthèse en français. Il est difficile d’imaginer comment ce pays pourra éviter de déclencher un conflit catatrophique, avec ses millions de jeunes gens endoctrinés à la guerre depuis des décennies.


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12 mars 2008 3 12 /03 /mars /2008 00:31

Après la confirmation par Robert Gates

Comment interpréter la démission de l’amiral William Fallon ?

mardi 11 mars 2008 - 22h27, par Chawki Freïha

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Le secrétaire d’Etat américain à la Défense, Robert Gates, a confirmé la démission du commandant en chef de l’armée américaine au Proche-Orient, l’amiral William Fallon. La rumeur affirmait, depuis plusieurs jours, que Fallon s’oppose à la politique de l’administration concernant l’Iran. Y a-t-il un lien entre cette démission, et la guerre annoncée dans la région ?

Le secrétaire d’Etat, Robert Gates, a confirmé ce mardi, que le commandant des armées américaines au Proche-Orient et en Asie mineure, l’amiral William Fallon, a demandé la possibilité de prendre sa retraite et que « sa demande a été acceptée avec regret ».

Cette démission - volontaire ou forcée - intervient quelques jours après la parution d’un article dans le magazine « Esquire » qui qualifiait Fallon comme « un opposant à la politique iranienne du président George Bush ». Selon l’auteur de l’analyse, « Fallon était hostile au recours à la force contre Téhéran », dans le cadre du bras de fer autour du programme nucléaire iranien.

Le général-adjoint Martin Dempsey, N°2 au Proche-Orient, assurerait l’intérim de William Fallon en attendant la nomination de son successeur et sa confirmation par le Sénat américain, souligne-t-on au Pentagone.

Mais au moment où les Etats-Unis déploient leur armada dans les eaux du Golfe et en Méditerranée, et au moment où les divisions se renforcent entre le camp chiite mené par l’Iran, la Syrie et le Hezbollah, avec leur prolongement à Gaza d’une part, et le monde sunnite mené par l’Arabie saoudite, l’Egypte et la Jordanie, d’autre part, il est légitime de s’interroger sur les réelles motivations de ce changement. La nomination d’un commandant des opérations moins hostile à l’utilisation de la force favorisera-t-il l’embrasement tant redouté, mais tant attendu, dans la région ?

Chawki Freïha

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Alan Note: Peacenik Admiral Fallon reportedly on his way out by summer. Thank Goodness!

Finally this top brass with no brass in his balls has outdated conceptions of anything that needs strong action BUT a strong desire to appease Iran, the source of most of our terror problems.

With him gone, there may yet be a hope that we will do the necessary in the MIddle East to save our American populace - including the idiot liberals who concurr with the deadbeat admiral and try to sabotage anti-terror activity.

As he did by refusing to send a third carrier fleet to show Iran we are serious. Expect the Mullahs to award him the title of "Sword of Islam" for his adamant contribution to their cause.

This dictatorial, fervently anti-Bush, apology for a military leader clearly did not have his ass kissed by Gen. Petraeus and thus was furious!

Read about this dhimmi and judge for yourselves! Even his Pakistan focused views are simply contrived obstacles to avoid doing anything else that's more urgent or contrary to his entrenched opinions.

By Gareth Porter


In sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say.

That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior. That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus's recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.

The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when the Washington Post reported Sep. 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq.

The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to "bad relations" between them is "the understatement of the century". Fallon's derision toward Petraeus reflected both the CENTCOM commander's personal distaste for Petraeus's style of operating and their fundamental policy differences over Iraq, according to the sources.

The policy context of Fallon's extraordinarily abrasive treatment of his subordinate was Petraeus's agreement in February to serve as front man for the George W. Bush administration's effort to sell its policy of increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq to Congress.

In a highly unusual political role for an officer who had not yet taken command of a war, Petraeus was installed in the office of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, in early February just before the Senate debated Bush's troop increase.

According to a report in The Washington Post Feb. 7, senators were then approached on the floor and invited to go McConnell's office to hear Petraeus make the case for the surge policy.

Fallon was strongly opposed to Petraeus's role as pitch man for the surge policy in Iraq adopted by Bush in December as putting his own interests ahead of a sound military posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia -- the area for which Fallon's CENTCOM is responsible.

The CENTCOM commander believed the United States should be withdrawing troops from Iraq urgently, largely because he saw greater dangers elsewhere in the region. "He is very focused on Pakistan," said a source familiar with Fallon's thinking, "and trying to maintain a difficult status quo with Iran."

By the time Fallon took command of CENTCOM in March, Pakistan had become the main safe haven for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to plan and carry out its worldwide operations, as well as being an extremely unstable state with both nuclear weapons and the world's largest population of Islamic extremists.

Plans for continued high troop levels in Iraq would leave no troops available for other contingencies in the region. Fallon was reported by the New York Times to have been determined to achieve results "as soon as possible". (By leaving Iraq in defeat? Get a brain, Admiral.)

The notion of a long war, in contrast, seemed to connote an extended conflict in which Iraq was but a chapter.

Fallon also expressed great scepticism about the basic assumption underlying the surge strategy, which was that it could pave the way for political reconciliation in Iraq. (Wrong again, Admiral, it's coming).

In the lead story Sep. 9, The Washington Post quoted a "senior administration official" as saying that Fallon had been "saying from Day One, 'This isn't working.' "

One of Fallon's first moves upon taking command of CENTCOM was to order his subordinates to avoid the term "long war" -- a phrase Bush and Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates had used to describe the fight against terrorism. (Not obeying and sabotaging your Commander in Chief is your way to operate in the military? Your hatred of Bush addled your brain more than it already was. No wonder you enjoyed having enemies).

Fallon was signaling his unhappiness with the policy of U.S. occupation of Iraq for an indeterminate period. Military sources explained that Fallon was concerned that the concept of a long war would alienate Middle East publics by suggesting that U.S. troops would remain in the region indefinitely.

During the summer, according to the Post Sep. 9 report, Fallon began to develop his own plans for redefine the U.S. mission in Iraq, including a plan for withdrawal of three-quarters of the U.S. troop strength by the end of 2009.

The conflict between Fallon and Petraeus over Iraq came to a head in early September. According to the Post story, Fallon expressed views on Iraq that were sharply at odds with those of Petraeus in a three-way conversation with Bush on Iraq the previous weekend.

Petraeus argued for keeping as many troops in Iraq for as long as possible to cement any security progress, but Fallon argued that a strategic withdrawal from Iraq was necessary to have sufficient forces to deal with other potential threats in the region.

Fallon's presentation to Bush of the case against Petraeus's recommendation for keeping troop levels in Iraq at the highest possible level just before Petraeus was to go public with his recommendations was another sign that Petraeus's role as chief spokesperson for the surge policy has created a deep rift between him and the nation's highest military leaders.

Bush presumably would not have chosen to invite an opponent of the surge policy to make such a presentation without lobbying by the top brass. Fallon had a "visceral distaste" for what he regarded as Petraeus's sycophantic behaviour in general, which had deeper institutional roots, according to a military source familiar with his thinking.

Fallon is a veteran of 35 years in the Navy, operating in an institutional culture in which an officer is expected to make enemies in the process of advancement.

"If you are Navy captain and don't have two or three enemies, you're not doing your job," says the source. Fallon acquired a reputation for a willingness to stand up to powerful figures during his tenure as commander in chief of the Pacific Command from February 2005 to March 2007.

He pushed hard for a conciliatory line toward China, which put him in conflict with senior military and civilian officials with a vested interest in pointing to China as a future rival and threat.

He demonstrated his independence from the White House (and his Commander in Chief) when he refused in February to go along with a proposal to send a third naval carrier task force to the Persian Gulf, as reported by IPS in May.

Fallon questioned the military necessity for the move, which would have signaled to Iran a readiness to go to war. Fallon also privately vowed that there would be no war against Iran on his watch, implying that he would quit rather than accept such a policy. (Bye, bye!)

A crucial element of Petraeus's path of advancement in the Army, on the other hand, was through serving as an aide to senior generals.

He was assistant executive officer to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Vuono, and later executive assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Henry Shelton. His experience taught him that cultivating senior officers is the key to success.

The contrasting styles of the two men converged with their conflict over Iraq to produce one of the most intense clashes between U.S. military leaders in recent history.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.


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11 mars 2008 2 11 /03 /mars /2008 10:30

Dossier spécial


Le quotidien algérien « Ech-Chorouk » confirme son statut de porte-parole du Hezbollah

Il contribue à la propagande de l’axe chiite

lundi 10 mars 2008 - 20h57, par Khaled Asmar

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Depuis plusieurs jours, le quotidien algérien arabophone « Ech-Chorouk » publie une série de « reportages », sous la plume de son correspondant au Liban, Walid Arafat, un proche du Hezbollah. Le parti chiite a ainsi transformé le journal algérien en porte-parole de l’axe syro-iranien et de ses instruments au Liban et à Gaza…

Après avoir ouvert le bal en adressant ses charges infondées et illogiques contre le Premier ministre libanais Fouad Siniora, l’accusant d’être l’un des plus précieux agents du Mossad israélien, et d’avoir à ce titre assassiné son prédécesseur et ami d’enfance Rafic Hariri, le quotidien algérien « Ech-Chorouk » publie, depuis plusieurs jours, une série de « reportages », écrits par le même Walid Arafat. Mêlant « la passion et l’excitation, jouant sur la fibre islamo-nationaliste arabe, et s’appuyant sur une imagination d’une rare fertilité, il distille des mensonges, des inventions, des affabulations d’une extrême gravité pour révéler les secrets les plus croustillants de la guerre qui se prépare au Proche et Moyen-Orient, et qui sera une guerre presque mondiale ».

Dans son premier article, datant du 5 mars, Walid Arafat décrit la situation actuelle dans la région, s’appuyant sur « des rapports secrets de plusieurs services de renseignement, dont les russes », et affirme que « la guerre est inévitable. Toutes les parties y sont impliquées, et visent à faire plier la Syrie, les forces de Résistance qui lui sont alliées, afin d’obliger l’Iran à abandonner son programme nucléaire ». « Les Services russes auraient informé leurs alliés régionaux que les Etats-Unis et Israël préparent activement les frappes contre l’Iran, et ce qui se passe aujourd’hui à Gaza et au Liban n’est que diversion, afin de détourner l’attention des véritables objectifs » souligne-t-il. « Une situation qui ressemble à celle qui avait prévalu en 1981, quand l’Etat hébreu avait provoqué la crise des missiles (Sam-6) avec la Syrie au Liban, pour pouvoir frapper le réacteur nucléaire irakien ». Cette guerre semble d’autant moins inévitable qu’elle a débuté le 27 février, avec la campagne contre Gaza, donnant le « top départ », et que tous les pays y sont engagés, y compris l’Algérie.

Dans le deuxième article daté du 6 mars, Arafat se consacre au rôle que jouera l’armée algérienne dans cette future guerre, et affirme « avoir reçu des rapports israéliens qui décrivent les Algériens comme pires ennemis, dont l’entrée dans la guerre sera fatale pour l’entité sioniste, comme lors de la guerre de Kippour (1973). Tous les efforts israéliens d’anéantir l’Algérie de l’Intérieur, avec le terrorisme islamiste, sont restés vains », déplorent les sionistes. « Au contraire, l’Algérie et son armée sont sorties renforcées ». Ainsi, selon Arafat, « le terrorisme en Algérie est d’origine sioniste ».

La troisième partie de cette série, publiée le 7 mars, est consacrée aux « plans militaires mis au point par les sionistes. Ils chercheront à encercler le Hezbollah et à capturer vivant Hassan Nasrallah, le secrétaire général du Hezbollah et commandant de la Résistance ». Pour y parvenir, Arafat affirme que « les Services israéliens ont proposé cinq scénarios contre le Liban ». En attendant, rappelle-t-il, « Israël, terrorisé par la capacité de riposte du Hezbollah, a déjà installé des batteries de missiles anti-missiles, a renforcé la sécurité à Dimona, par crainte de bombardement de sa centrale nucléaire, et a distribué discrètement des masques à gaz à ses ressortissants et renforcé les abris… ».

Dans le quatrième volet de ses reportages, publié le 8 mars, Arafat revient sur le plan américain de frapper l’Iran, « un plan mis à jour régulièrement depuis plusieurs années, avant même l’intervention en Irak ». Arafat croit savoir que la date et l’heure sont d’ores et déjà choisies pour lancer l’opération baptisée « la morsure mortelle ». Les premières frappes sont prévues, selon l’auteur, à « 4h00 précises du 6 avril prochain ». Un tapis de bombes visant une vingtaine d’installations nucléaires est prévu durant de longues semaines, afin de détruire les infrastructures iraniennes et préparer l’entrée des fantassins, souligne Arafat, qui s’interroge par ailleurs si les Américains utiliseront leurs bases en Israël ou en Afghanistan pour bombarder l’Iran ? A cet égard, il remet au goût du jour les spéculations autour du projet de Washington de construire une base aérienne au Nord du Liban. Cette information avait alimenté les tripotages autour de la bataille de Nahr El-Bared, le camp palestinien distant de quelques kilomètres de la base de Qoleïat et où était retranché le Fatah Al-Islam… L’auteur cite des rapports secrets américains qui affirment que « des experts de l’armée américaine travaillent depuis plus de deux semaines à réhabiliter cette base ». En outre, Arafat s’appuie sur un rapport préparé par « le sénateur américain juif, Joseph Libermann, qui suggère le bombardement des camps des forces “Fajr”, “Brigades Al-Quds”, relevant des Gardiens de la révolution, avant même de s’attaquer aux installations nucléaires. Ces camps sont notamment basés dans la région des Ahwaz, au sud-ouest iranien, où sont fabriqués les armes sophistiquées et les missiles antichars, particulièrement ravageurs et qui ont prouvé leur efficacité lors de la guerre de l’été 2006 entre Israël et le Hezbollah au Liban ». Enfin, dans ce quatrième épisode, Arafat affirme qu’« un accord a été conclu, permettant aux avions israéliens de survoler l’Arabie saoudite pour atteindre l’Iran ».

Si, jusque-là, les scénarios décrits par « Ech-Chorouk » et par son correspondant au Liban Walid Arafat, un proche du Hezbollah, peuvent paraître plausibles, bien qu’exagérés, l’épisode publié le 10 mars est d’un autre calibre et bat en brèche la crédibilité du quotidien. En effet, le dernier article en date est consacré à l’Arabie saoudite. Selon l’auteur, « le royaume saoudien et gardien des Lieux saints de l’islam est le troisième pôle de cette “alliance satanique” constituée d’Israël et des Etats-Unis. Le “plan diabolique”, incluant l’Arabie, consiste selon Arafat à “attaquer la Pierre noire sacrée de La Mecque, la Kaaba”, et d’attribuer l’attaque à l’Iran. La frappe serait menée par des missiles israéliens tirés des sous-marins sionistes déployés dans le Golfe, afin de faire croire que les attaques proviennent d’Iran. Ainsi, il sera plus facile de mobiliser le monde sunnite contre la République islamique chiite et les mollahs de Téhéran ». Il souligne que ce plan comprend « une invasion saoudienne du territoire iranien », sans oublier d’affirmer que « des soldats israéliens se sont entraînés dans le désert saoudien. Frappés de l’étoile de David, ces militaires ont poussé le mépris à son paroxysme, faisant leurs prières talmudique en terre islamique et diffusant les photos... ». Arafat remonte l’histoire pour affirmer également qu’« Israël a protégé les dynasties du Golfe dans les années 1990, et compte monnayer sa protection contre l’enrôlement de ces monarchies dans sa guerre diabolique contre l’Iran ».

Le quotidien promet de poursuivre sa série de reportages, et de révéler les dessous de ce qui se prépare dans la région. Il annonce les grandes lignes du prochain épisode : « Les Gardiens de la Révolution contre-attaquent en Irak et investissent les bases américaines. Le plan iranien vise à couler les porte-avions américains, à bloquer le détroit d’Ormuz, à bombarder Israël avec les missiles de type “Ashoura”. L’Iran compte riposter contre ses ennemis par mer et à terre, et leur infliger des milliers de morts. Des dizaines de milliers d’Américains seront tués, et des centaines de milliers de civils ».

Quoiqu’on puisse dire de la crédibilité de cette série, à la lecture de certains commentaires de lecteurs algériens qui soupçonnent Walid Arafat de faire le jeu du Hezbollah, le quotidien algérien « Ech-Chorouk » semble avoir choisi son camp : non seulement celui de défendre l’Iran, la Syrie et le Hezbollah, mais surtout d’en faire un vecteur de propagande contre le monde sunnite, contre les pays arabes qui ont choisi la voie de la paix avec Israël, et contre les Etats-Unis.

Traduction, synthèse et analyse de Khaled Asmar - Beyrouth.

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Ne vous est-il jamais venu à l'esprit d'en savoir un peu plus sur le titre de ce blog ?

Puisque nous nous sommes aujourd'hui habillés de bleu, il conviendrait de rentrer plus a fond dans l'explication du mot lessakel.

En fait Lessakel n'est que la façon française de dire le mot léhasskil.

L'hébreu est une langue qui fonctionne en déclinant des racines.

Racines, bilitères, trilitères et quadrilitères.

La majorité d'entre elle sont trilitères.

Aussi Si Gad a souhaité appeler son site Lessakel, c'est parce qu'il souhaitait rendre hommage à l'intelligence.

Celle qui nous est demandée chaque jour.

La racine de l'intelligence est sé'hel שכל qui signifie l'intelligence pure.

De cette racine découlent plusieurs mots

Sé'hel > intelligence, esprit, raison, bon sens, prudence, mais aussi croiser

Léhasskil > Etre intelligent, cultivé, déjouer les pièges

Sé'hli > intelligent, mental, spirituel

Léhistakel > agir prudemment, être retenu et raisonnable, chercher à comprendre

Si'hloute > appréhension et compréhension

Haskala >  Instruction, culture, éducation

Lessa'hlen > rationaliser, intellectualiser

Heschkel > moralité

Si'htanout > rationalisme

Si'hloul > Amélioration, perfectionnement


Gageons que ce site puisse nous apporter quelques lumières.

Aschkel pour Lessakel.



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