Thursday, November 16, 2006

Matt 24 watch, 8: Updates on Castro and on the Middle East

Over the past week or so I have noted several important matters but have not had the time to work up a coherent post. However, some of these items are sufficiently important and neglected in the usual news sources in our region to note on, in light of the Matt 24 updates themes.

Maybe, we need a regular "spiked news" -- that is a term for news that is not rpeorted on for whatever reason -- feature for this blog, then?

Okay, here goes, leading with Castro and going on to the Middle East:

1] Castro's health status:

A recent AP release sums up US intelligence estimates on Castro's health, as he approaches his 80th birthday next month:
Castro's health is believed by U. S. officials to be deteriorating and the 79-year-old Cuban dictator, who may have terminal cancer, is not expected to live through 2007 . . . .

U.S. government officials say there is still some mystery about Castro's diagnosis, his treatment and how he is responding. But these officials believe the 80-year-old leader has cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas.

He was seen weakened and thinner in official state photos released late last month, and it is considered unlikely that he will return to power or survive through the end of next year, said the U.S. government and defense officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the politically sensitive topic.

With chemotherapy, Castro may live up to 18 months, said the defense official. Without it, expected survival would drop to three months to eight months.

American officials will not talk publicly about how they glean clues to Castro's health. But U.S. spy agencies include physicians who study pictures, video, public statements and other information coming out of Cuba.

That estimate underscores the concerns that surfaced in recent weeks, and raises the issue of how we the Caribbean can help Cuba make a transition to a more free, open and prosperous society -- especially, one that is open to the blessings of the gospel.

But also, given worrying signs of an emerging alliance between Islamists [especially Iran] and third world radicals including Mr Chavez, who is also aligned with Cuba, we can see that the ongoing and escalating World conflict [cf below] may unfortunately easily spill over into our region. [Cf a review here, by Carlos Alberto Montaner, a significant commentator in Latin America, though of course this will also need to be taken with a grain of salt in light of its own evident biases; but the concern over the implications of the ongoing Venezuelan arms buildup he builds on are very much a matter we need to reflect on. Not least, I am concerned over the implications of the PetroCaribe deal which puts us in deep debt to Venezuela, which has historically had territorial ambitions targetting Caricom member states.]

Let us pray for wisdom for our regional leaders, and for a willingness to face unpleasant and unwelcome issues and sets of alterntives, then act with resolution and fortitude. For, if we fail that test, we will be following the notorious footsteps of France in 1936 - 40. Down that road lies disaster.

2] Continuing aftermath of the Lebanon campaign, 1:

The relationship between Israel -- nb we should pause to review its modern history and straighten out the many propagandistic myths that paint it in an unfavourable light as a colonising aggressor rather than the most successful global case of a C20 national liberation struggle, e.g. the now commonly enountered accusation of apartheid -- and the UNIFIL, especially its French leadership, is very fragile. Indeed, in recent weeks we saw where there was a report that the French have been very close to firing on Israeli jets over Lebanon. At the same time, the rearming of Hezbollah -- in continued utter violation of the relevant UNSC resolutions, notably 1559 and 1701 -- continues apace, with a blind eye from the UN.

In that context, Jihad Watch has made a very interesting catch:
French officials have regularly complained that Israel's overflights of Lebanon are counter to UN Security Council resolution 1701, which included the cease-fire that brought an end to 33 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters on August 14 . . . . The UN peacekeeping chief in Lebanon, Major General Alain Pelligrini of France, said last month that the flyovers violated the cease-fire resolution and warned that force might be used to stop the incursions . . . . A senior French officer with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, insisted that the "Israeli army provocation" took place.
"The Israeli aircraft carried out a simulated attack," the official told the media on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli military spokesman said, however, that the "Israeli air force never carries out offensive overflights over south Lebanon".
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said a caution would be given to the Israeli authorities, saying that "Israeli flights over southern Lebanon are a source of serious concern".
Israel says its continued overflights do not constitute a breach of the truce because Hezbollah has not disarmed and its two soldiers remain missing.
This underscores the underlying inconsistency of treatment and improper attempts to assert or imply an immoral equivalency betweent he Israeli state and the terrotists that have attacked it and sought its destruction.

In simple and direct terms: it was Hezbollah that initiated the conflict by bombarding Israeli communities and kidnapping Israeli soldiers in Israel, half a decade after Israel has withdrawn behind the Internationally recognised boundary; in turn after an incursion triggered by a pattern of attacks and bombardments from southern Lebanon. In preparation for that, Hezbollah openly violated UNSC Resolution 1559, arming themselves with upwards of 13,000 missiles and rocketrs, up to 4,000 of which were launched [mostly from civilian areas] into Northern Israel, targetting civilian areas. After the ceasefire, which was based on international pressure on Israel in light of Lebanese civilian casualties, Hezbollah has continued to rearm, Syria is talking of following suit, Gaza is arming as well, and there is silence.

But, Israeli reconnaissance overflights in a context of an openly declared enemy in open violation of ceasefire terms and rearming for round 2, are the "violation" worthy of being noted and acted on!

"He hit back first" is its own condemnation.

3] Aftermath, 2:

It has been cogently argued that South Lebanon is in effect an Iranian-controlled enclave occupied in Division strength by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' equivalent to the French Foreign Legion: Hezbollah. In that context, and given that the article reveals the fantasy world in which the Islamist radicals of Iran are operating in, we should pause to listen to this recent translation by MEMRI:

“The 33-day war ended without any of the goals that had been declared by the Zionist government and the commanders of its military being attained - and this was the first time that Israel was forced to accept its complete downfall...

“In the 33-day war, the Lebanese Hizbullah destroyed at least 50% of Israel [and therefore] half the path to the liberation of Jerusalem equals 33 days. Now, only (at most) 50% of the path [to Israel’s destruction] remains. This remaining 50% is easier than the 50% that was already accomplished. Now, in the face of the degree of fear and lack of confidence that has been deeply implanted in [all] parts of the Zionist regime, the Muslim peoples of the region, and particularly the four Arab countries neighboring Palestine [i.e. Israel] - Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon - are full of hope and confidence, and they have no doubt, that they will be able to very quickly overcome the Zionist regime...

This is very revealing indeed, given the pursuit of nuclear ambitions by the Iranian regime, and the repeated public statements by its current president about wiping Israel off the map or the like.

4] Isues and options on nuclear weapons proliferation:

Ms Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post recently put up a sobering review on the issues underlying Mr Bush's widely disdained and dismissed description of the then emerging nuclear threat across Iraq, Iran and North Korea, which now seems to be metastasising to Syria and beyond:
A week before the US Congressional elections The New York Times published a front-page story which all but admitted that Iraq's nuclear program had been active until March 2003, when the US-led coalition deposed Saddam Hussein . . . .

In response to the Times story an international security Web site run by Ray Robinson published a translation of a story that ran on the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah's Web site on September 25. Citing European intelligence sources, the Al-Seyyassah report claims that in late 2004 Syria began developing a nuclear program near its border with Turkey. According to the report, Syria's program, which is being run by President Bashar Assad's brother Maher and defended by a Revolutionary Guards brigade, "has reached the stage of medium activity."

The Kuwaiti report maintains that the Syrian nuclear program relies "on equipment and materials that the sons of the deposed Iraqi leader, Uday and Qusai… transfer[red] to Syria by using dozens of civilian trucks and trains, before and after the US-British invasion in March 2003." The report also asserts that the Syrian nuclear program is supported by the Iranians who are running the program, together with Iraqi nuclear scientists and Muslim nuclear specialists from Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

The program "was originally built on the remains of the Iraqi program after it was wholly transferred to Syria" . . . .

In his State of the Union Address in 2002, Bush placed Iraq in the same category of threat to US national security as Iran and North Korea. The three rogues states, Bush argued constituted an "axis of evil" that must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The post-Saddam insurgency in Iraq - an insurgency largely facilitated and sponsored by Iran - has caused the US and its coalition partners no end of grief . . . Frustration with the continued bloodletting in Iraq was undoubtedly the most significant factor that caused the Republican Party to lose control of both houses of Congress in last Tuesday's elections.

And yet, for all the difficulties, pain and frustration the post-Saddam insurgency has caused the US, the toppling of Saddam's regime successfully prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons . . . . To that degree, Bush was neither wrong nor premature when he made it known in the months following the invasion that the US had accomplished its mission in Iraq . . . . But as the months and years have progressed it has become clear that far from being a warning to other would-be nuclear armed dictatorships, the US-led invasion of Iraq was a one-shot deal. As Saddam was captured in his hole, Teheran and Pyongyang marched forward, unchallenged in their campaign to become nuclear powers . . . .

Iran, North Korea and al-Qaida have all been quick to interpret the Democratic victory in last Tuesday's Congressional elections as a sign that the US has chosen to turn its back on the threat they pose to America. By firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and replacing him with Robert Gates, who supports appeasing the mullahs in Teheran and finding a fig-leaf excuse to vacate Iraq, Bush has done everything to prove America's enemies right.

Last week the Sunday New York Times reported that Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE have all announced their intention to build civilian nuclear reactors . . . . It is not hard to see the lesson of these developments. As the Iraq campaign shows clearly, while the price of taking action to prevent rogue regimes from acquiring nuclear weapons is high, the price of not acting is far higher . . . .

The US and its allies are paying a high price for having successfully prevented Saddam from getting nuclear bombs. The price that Israel or the US, or both, will pay to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs is liable to be even higher. Yet the alternative to paying that price will be suffering, destruction and death on an unimaginable scale.

The issue, in short, is well posed by Mr Netanyahu: whether we are willing to learn the lessons of the Munich settlement of 1938 - appeasement of aggressive dictators only makes them stronger in the war, it does not avert the war, but this time with nukes clearly in play. (Of course, there are always the usual deniers of the lesson, but in fact without the Skoda arms factory, the LT 38 and LT 35 tanks [the LT38s especially which were a core part of Rommel's famous 7th Panzer Division that did such execution in France in 1940, catapulting him to world fame] and the trucks thus made available to him through taking over the Sudetenland and then the rest of Czechoslovakia, Hitler was simply in no position to have waged the sort of campaign that he did in Poland and in France in 1939 and 1940.)


So far, it is plain that Santayana is right: those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its worst chapers, and by and large we refuse to learn the lessons of history.

Let us ask why it is that these issues are simply not on the agenda for highlighted discussion, regionally as well as globally? END

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