Saturday, October 31, 2009

Iran - No deal on nukes


I almost have to admire the Mullahs for the way they're playing the West:
Iran insists on simultaneously exchanging its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel produced overseas, the state news agency said Friday, calling the demand a "red line" that will not be abandoned.
The condition undermines the basis of a UN-backed plan demanding Iran ship most of its uranium outside its borders to be further enriched in Russia and turned into fuel rods in France for use in a research reactor. That process could take up to a year. {...}

The news agency IRNA also said, however, that Iran has not yet given its answer to the UN-backed proposal to ship most of its enriched uranium overseas and wants to hold further negotiations on the plan.

The agency quoted an unidentified official as saying an Iranian response to the Western offer Thursday "did not contain a reply" to the UN-backed plan but simply expressed Iran's "positive attitude" and willingness to hold talks on the proposal.

Here's the game, and it's one that ought to be known to anyone with any knowledge of the Middle East: once the buyer makes an offer you like and thinks he has a deal,you up the price to see how much more you can squeeze out of him.

The original offer to the Iranians was an incredibly bad one for the West and an incredibly good one for the Mullahs.

First, Iran has no legal right to enrich uranium, and the UN Security Council said so in five successive Chapter VII resolutions
- Resolution 1696, adopted July 31, 2006 for example - that happened because the IAEA found Iran in noncompliance of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Iran signed. Cutting a deal with Iran on its illegally enriched uranium, especially since any suspension of future enrichment wasn't included just legitimized Iran's illegal program and ensured that its violations of the treaty on enrichment can continue.

Rest assured that other countries plotting to illegally join the nuclear club have noted this. Why should Iran or anybody else pay attention to any treaties or international obligations in the future?

Second, Iran gets an enrichment and technological bonus.

The deal calls for Iran's uranium to be enriched to 19.75%, just a hair under the 20% classification of weapons grade uranium.While uranium can be enriched to much higher levels, 20% is considered adequate and the deal means Iran gets to leapfrog over their current level of technology.

Even worse, the enriched uranium can be easily reconverted into uranium hexafluoride gas and quickly enriched to weapons grade..or the Mullahs could also use the nuclear fuel to chemically extract plutonium to produce their nuclear weapons.

Yes, this is the agreement President Obama, who's made a fetish of nuclear disarmament signed off on!

What the Iranians will do now is delay some more and see what additional concessions and gimmees they can extract from the West and how much more time they can buy. If Obama and the West sweeten the pot, well and good, If not, after more time passes, they will 'reluctantly' accept this bonanza and laugh themselves silly at the gullible ferenghi, who will walk away from the rug merchant's stall telling everyone what a great deal he made.

It's a win for Iran either way it goes.

Of course, the risk for the mullahs is that we could decide to change the rules of the game any to me we wanted to. Unfortunately, given their sense of whom they're dealing with, they apparently see it as a gamble well worth the risk.


Iran Rejects Deal on Nuclear Weapons’ Issue: Engagement is Dead but the Obama Administration Won't Admit It

Barry Rubin

The great experiment of engaging Iran seems to be over but the Obama Administration refuses to admit it. This shouldn't be a surprise. As the Iranian regime's record shows, it stalls, maneuvers, gives vague promises and then doesn’t deliver, but only after they’ve taken your concessions. Do you know how many years the talks with Iran have gone on without yielding fruit and letting Tehran develop nuclear weapons every day? Answer: Seven.

Do you know when the “deadline” originally was for Iran to stop its nuclear program “or else”? Answer: Approximately September 2007.

But the Obama Administration doesn't want to admit that the new Iranian counter-offer is unacceptable because it would have to give up its dreams of a deal and actually do something in response.

Even the New York Times headlines its story: Iran Rejects Nuclear Accord, Officials Report

Here’s the best article on the subject of the current deal/no deal from the sober Financial Times. The headline is “Tehran seeks big changes to nuclear deal.”

It concerns Iran’s response to questions about whether it would transfer two-thirds of its enriched uranium outside the country to make into a special non-weapons material that can only be used for medical purposes. (Note: it can be changed back into weapons-usable uranium in about four months or so.)

After interviewing officials, the newspaper concludes that the Europeans are ready to reject Iran’s demands now as “unacceptable” but the United States isn’t. It writes:

“The comments indicate the US remains more willing to show patience than either Britain and [sic] France. While London and Paris have at times made known their reservations about the agreement, it is seen in the US as a test of President Barack Obama's policy of engagement.”

In other words, the U.S. government is now lagging behind Britain, France, and presumably Germany on this issue. So who is the United States trying to keep on board if the key European allies are all saying: forget this nonsense, we have to put on more pressure!

I suggest there are three answers:

--President Barack Obama’s world view which insists that all problems are resolvable by talking and making concessions, and which fears confrontation.

--The president’s domestic constituency and colleagues (not all of them) who simply don’t comprehend that Iran and radical Islamism are threats.

I am positive, given some of her public statements, that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton knows this is all sheer nonsense. And just as the U.S. government has fallen behind its European counterparts, the White House has fallen behind the State Department.

--Someone else. Here’s the hint:

"We remain unified with our Russian and French partners in support of the IAEA draft agreement - it is a good and balanced agreement," said the US, signaling Washington's hope that Iran could yet agree to the original deal.”

That’s right, Russia. But we know that Russia won’t ever agree to sanctions and serious pressure on Iran.
For one thing, everyone in the world but the Obama Administration knows that the Russian leadership wants America to fail internationally. And for another thing, Russia is Iran’s ally.

So America’s policy is being held hostage by a president with no experience or understanding of international affairs, a set of ideas that makes failure inevitable, trying to please a country which is an ally of the adversary, and a dictatorial regime whose president believes that his country is going to conquer the whole Middle East (and on some days, the world).

And here’s a good joke: It was only--what?--four years ago that U.S. officials under the Bush Administration were making fun of Europe as wimpy and incapable of taking a tough stance on international issues. Now the goo is on the other foot!

What a mess. BUT how long into 2010 can they spin this before Washington is going to have to recognize the talks are going nowhere?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Life in the American Fourth Grade: Don't be too Scary

Barry Rubin

In the United States, mainly, there is a holiday called Halloween which involves dressing up in costumes. The holiday has a bit of a morbid side to it, often focussing on things related to monsters and death. Today, the school had the kids wear the costumes to class, which is not necessarily the best use of time in academic terms. However, and I never heard of this happening before--my 10-year-old son Daniel reports from the front--that certain costumes are forbidden, that is those deemed too scary for the younger children to see. For example, a student wearing a skeleton costume was asked to take it off, while others were forbidden from wearing masks thought to be too frightening.

I can think of a lot of political figures whose visage is far more scary than any imaginery goblins and ghouls. But I digress.

Is this don't-be-scary decree too petty to notice? Perhaps or probably so. But isn't it in line with the tendency toward zero-risk, excessive caution, passion for ensuring that young people be protected from competition or any sense of failure (which is unpleasant but can be used to teach people to do better).

Of course, despite all the efforts of the school program, bullying, low-level violence, and even non-Politically Correct rhetoric goes on among the students. Dare I say that there is such a thing as human nature and it is not so easily altered?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Comment: There are multiple other ways to address this issue of fear. The worst action is to avoid facing the truth-rather, teaching children that there is fear and to not let it control you. This entire process is far too involved for this blog, I simply point out a better way. Perhaps the current climate of protection is the beginning of the end of a once grand society.

As Iran-European gap widens over overseas enrichment, Ahmadinejad boasts: "We rule world opinion"

DEBKAfile Special Analysis
October 31, 2009

Mounting opposition leaves only two leaders in favor of the UN-brokered plan for Iran to send most of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for further processing: US President Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But Saturday, European leaders struck the opposite note. In Vienna, European officials called the new Iranian ultimatum for a balance between sending uranium abroad and receiving a fresh supply as "unacceptable."

In Brussels, European leaders began drafting a communiqué expressing "grave concern" over Iran's nuclear enrichment activities and persistent failure to meet its international obligations.

The "counter-proposal" incorporating this ultimatum, which was conveyed by Iran's nuclear negotiator to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna Friday, cancels out the whole point of the plan offered, to reduce the level of uranium stocks usable by Iran for making a nuclear bomb. Tehran also called for more negotiations before Tehran delivered its final response.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, rotating presidency of the European Union, told AP that Iran's approach of "back-and-forth talks" were reminiscent of its "same old tricks."

Saturday, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a veiled warning: "We hope the negotiations continue and evil powers don't indulge in mischief because the Zionist regime and other domineering powers are unhappy with the talks," he said in an Iranian state TV interview: "Today, Westerners know that without engaging Iran, they cannot rule the world, because Iran… rules world public opinion."

Within hours, fellow hardliners in Tehran chipped in: Deputy parliament speaker Aleddin Boroujerdi said the second time this week: "We are completely opposed to the proposals. We have deep mistrust of Westerners."

Qazem Jalili, a member of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and security committee (who is related to Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili) dismissed the world powers' proposal as "completely out of the question."

Netanyahu's words of praise for president Obama when he met Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell Friday followed an informal message from Washington asking Israel's political, military and intelligence spokesmen to align their conduct and statements on the Iran issue with the UK, France and Germany.

The Israeli prime minister made no reference to Iran's negative response to the compromise it was offered in the framework of Obama's engagement policy. Nor did he indicate where this left Israel.

That Iran's counter-proposal was a resounding "no" to an initiative backed by the world's powers and the UN was far from clear in secretary of state Hillary Clinton's tortuous remarks Friday: "We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up," she said, urging: "The process must play out."

She may be in denial, but Tehran's rebuff will certainly play out in Obama's other diplomatic initiatives.

After being badly mauled in Pakistan over US drone attacks on Taliban bastions and US policy in general, Clinton arrives in Jerusalem Saturday, Oct. 31, to administer yet another push for getting Israel-Palestinian peace talks restarted.

When he met her earlier in Abu Dhabi, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that he stood by his precondition for talks: Israel must halt settlement construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem. Netanyahu, whom she meets Saturday night, will probably agree to negotiations without preconditions.

Comment: Iran wins another round-the EU and USA play right into their hands-amazing to watch-also quite disgusting!

Caught: Muslim father who attempted honor killing in Arizona

Jihad Watch

Note the egregious, completely gratuitous attack on Rifqa Bary and defense of Islam at the end of this story. The mainstream media continues to feel itself compelled to run interference for Muslims as a group whenever a Muslim behaves badly -- a courtesy they never accord to other groups. An update on this story. "Muslim Father Arrested for Running Over 'Westernized' Daughter: Cops Capture Iraqi Immigrant Accused of Attempted Honor Killing," by Sarah Netter for ABC News, October 30 (thanks to Paul):

A 10-day manhunt ended when police arrested an Iraqi immigrant accused of running over his 20-year-old daughter to punish her for becoming "too Westernized" and rebuffing the conservative ways he valued.

Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, fled from Peoria, Ariz on Oct. 20. He was arrested by U.S. Marshalls in Atalanta when he arrived at the airport there, according to the Associated Press.

His daugher Noor Faleh Almaleki, 20, remains hospitalized in critical condition after her father hit the young woman and her boyfriend's mother with his Jeep Cherokee on Oct. 20 in the parking lot of theDepartment of Economic Development in Peoria.

Noor Faleh Almaleki is in "life-threatening condition," Peoria Police spokesman Mike Tellef told last week soon after the incident.

Her boyfriend's mother, 43-year-old Amal Edan Khalaf, is also still hospitalized, but with non-life threatening injuries. "It occurred because her not following traditional family values. We've been told that by everybody," Tellef said. "He felt she was becoming too westernized and he didn't like that."...

"Traditional family values." As if Noor Almaleki were a wayward Methodist. And of course, Christian fathers run down their daughters regularly for not following "traditional family values," don't they? What's that? They don't? What are you, some kind of Islamophobe?

Noor Almaleki had backed out of an arranged marriage about a year ago, police learned, and had been living with Khalaf and her son in a nearby town.

Tellef said the young woman dressed in American clothing and was wearing typical Western attire when she was struck....

Honor Killings Unfairly Cast Negative Light on Islam

The notion of an honor killing -- Muslim men murdering female relatives for dishonoring the family by violating Islamic tenets -- made the news over the summer when 17-year-old Rifqa Bary ran away from her parents in Ohio and turned up in the Florida home of Christian pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz. Rafqa Barry claimed that her Muslim father had threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity.

Rifqa made tearful television appearance, crying on the Lorenzes shoulders, describing how she had to sneak around to attend church.

"They have to kill me because I'm a Christian. It's an honor [killing]. If they love me more than God, then they have to kill me," she told ABC's Orlando affiliate WFTV last month.

Blake Lorenz pointed to other honor killings, including the January 2008 murders of two Texas sisters who were believed to have been murdered by their Muslim father in a religion-fueld rage.

But Rifqa's father, Mohamed Bary, denied the accusation and said that while he preferred his daughter be a Muslim, she was free to practice whatever religion she chose.

"I don't believe my daughter would say this," Bary told "Good Morning America." "She's completely being coached -- I mean trained, influenced by these people. It's so sad."

A Florida judge this month said he planned to send Rifqa back to Ohio after determining there was no evidence that her life was in danger.

Why is this in this article? And what is the evidence that anyone who investigated the threat to Rifqa even knew what to look for in terms of evidence that her life was in danger? As Pamela Geller shows here, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was outstandingly clueless when interviewing Rifqa.

Sean Penn's Cuba odyssey

Jamie Glazov
© 2009

Sean Penn is in Castro's Cuba on another one of his political pilgrimages. This time he's seeking an interview with his hero, the communist despot Fidel Castro. Penn scored interviews last year with two of his other secular gods: Cuban president and executioner Raúl Castro and Marxist tyrant Hugo Chavez. Now he is apparently on assignment for Vanity Fair to meet and interview Castro.

This is only to be expected from Penn, of course, since few Hollywood stars represent liberal Hollywood better in terms of venerating communist and Islamist butchers than Penn. A member of leftist anti-war organizations Not In Our Name and Artists United to Win Without War and an avid supporter of, he has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, a leader in fellow traveling and a champion of jihadi terrorists.

Let's take a little look back at Penn's romance with tyranny and terror:

In December 2002, just prior to the U.S. liberation of Iraq, Penn embarked on a political pilgrimage to Baghdad with Medea Benjamin, a trip that was publicized as a "fact-finding" visit. It remains a mystery what "facts" Penn was looking for or even found, since the trip basically entailed him denouncing the approaching U.S. invasion and serving as a propaganda tool for Saddam.

Penn continued his anti-war activism throughout the war and after, which included another trip he took to Iraq in late 2003, during which he demonized U.S. efforts to defeat the jihadists and bring stability to the country. During that trip, Penn had to be saved by U.S. soldiers while conducting interviews in unsafe places. He did not reflect, naturally, on whether he owed any gratitude to the U.S. – or on why he was being attacked in the first place and by whom. In other words, moral clarity eluded him even when he himself was saved by his own nation from those who hated him and wanted him dead.

Understand leftists' dedication to tyranny and tolerance of terror in Jamie Glazov's "United in Hate"

Penn's anti-war activism continued unabated throughout the Iraq war, as the actor/director consistently called for an immediate U.S. withdrawal – despite the fact that such a premature withdrawal would lead to a terrorist victory in Iraq, embolden Islamofascists everywhere and lead to a genocide. In 2006, he joined Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney and Lynn Woolsey, Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Ed Asner in staging a "Troops Home Fast" hunger strike to protest the Iraq War. The effort was organized by Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan and endorsed by Code Pink.

Iraq was not the only target of Penn's totalitarian yearnings. Iran's despotism also served as a romantic attraction. And so in 2005, three years after his Iraq pilgrimage, Penn once again took on the role of fellow traveler, but this time traveling to Iran, acting as a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle. He attended Islamic prayer ceremonies in Tehran and interviewed Iranian political leaders. In his reporting for the Chronicle, he praised the mullahs for standing brave in the face of Bush calling Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil." He commended Iran for not (in his mind) pursuing uranium enrichment, and he denounced the U.S. and Israeli positions, as well as any possible "reckless action" toward Iran that those countries might take. He did this despite the fact that the evidence had already confirmed that Iran was pursuing nuclear ambitions, a reality that subsequently forced the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution ordering Iran to suspend its nuclear pursuits.

Iran's recent admission about its illegal uranium enrichment plant in Qom has, unsurprisingly, inspired no mea culpa from Penn.

Iran's mullahs and the jihadists fighting in Iraq weren't the only objects of Penn's affections. The Hollywood star has come to the defense of Castro's despotism, which explains his presence there today. He has also, as mentioned, nurtured a friendship with Hugo Chavez, who has quoted from Penn's writings in some of his televised speeches. Penn embarked on a political pilgrimage in August 2007 to embrace Chavez in person in Caracas, Venezuela. Not much interested in Chavez's tyrannical brutality, Penn called Chavez "a fascinating guy" who is "much more positive for Venezuela than he is negative." Chavez, in turn, praised Penn for advocating the impeachment of President Bush.

Like Chavez, Islamists have shown their gratitude to Penn, cheering on the Hollywood star's statements about Iran, the Iraq war and the war on terror and stressing that U.S. citizens should hearken his message. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, which engages in suicide attacks and has carried out hundreds of shootings and rocket attacks against Israeli citizens, including women and children, has expressed particular admiration for Penn. As Aaron Klein has reported in his book "Schmoozing With Terrorists," Ala Senakreh, the terror group's West Bank chief, affirmed that he had "deep respect" for Penn. Abu Hamed, northern Gaza Strip commander of the organization, invited Penn to officially represent his group's cause to the world media. Ramadan Adassi, the group's chief in the northern West Bank Anskar refugee camp, stated that Penn's words "express dignity" and a "deep humanitarian sense." Penn is now taking his act to Castro's Cuba, a communist dictatorship that has distinguished itself as one of the most monstrous human-rights abusers in the world. As "The Black Book of Communism" has documented, half a million human beings have passed through Cuba's gulag. Since Cuba's total population is only around 11 million, that gives Castro's despotism the highest political incarceration rate per capita on earth. There have been more than 15,000 executions by firing squad. Torture has been institutionalized; myriad human-rights organizations have documented the regime's use of electric shock, dark coffin-sized isolation cells and beatings to punish "anti-socialist elements." The Castro regime's barbarity is best epitomized by the Camilo Cienfuegos plan, the program of horrors followed in the forced-labor camp on the Isle of Pines. Forced to work almost naked, prisoners were made to cut grass with their teeth and to sit in latrine trenches for long periods of time.

The horrifying experience of Armando Valladares, a Cuban poet who endured 22 years of torture and imprisonment for merely raising the issue of freedom, is a testament to the regime's barbarity. Valladares' memoir, "Against All Hope," serves as Cuba's version of Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago." Valladares recounts how prisoners were beaten with bayonets, electric cables and truncheons. He tells how he and other prisoners were forced to take "baths" in human feces and urine.

Don't expect Sean Penn to be including these facts in the story he tells when he leaves Castro's communist paradise. Expect glowing praise for the dictator and the dictatorship. Indeed, expect more and the same from what we've already seen in Penn's, and the left's, dance and flirtation with tyranny, despotism and death.

Arab World: Who will be the next leader of Egypt?


A new name has been added to the list of contenders for the presidency in Egypt. In an interview with the independent Egyptian daily, Al Shorouk last week, Amr Moussa, former minister of foreign affairs from 1991 to 2001 and secretary-general of the Arab League since 2001, acknowledged that he was considering submitting his candidacy, but had yet to come to a final decision. This led to a media frenzy throughout the Arab world, where the 73-year-old Moussa is well-known. The race for the Egyptian presidency has been a major topic of interest in the Middle East for a number of years. What goes on in Egypt, the largest Arab state, is of paramount concern to the region. Its continued stability and pragmatic approach are essential to the future of its peace treaty with Israel, to its relations with the West and to the fight against Iran. Egypt may have lost some of its former clout, but it remains the last bulwark of moderation in the region.

The possibility of a Moussa candidacy made headlines a few days after the announcement that Ayman el-Nour, leader of the small opposition party, Al Rad (tomorrow), was launching - together with a number of other opposition groups - a campaign against the presidency passing from Hosni Mubarak to his son, Gamal. Nour himself had been a candidate in 2005, receiving a mere 3 percent of the vote. He was accused of having falsified the documents used for setting up his party, sentenced to five years in jail and released after a year and a half due to intense American pressure and because of his failing health.

People in Egypt are uneasy about the younger Mubarak's candidacy, and many oppose it. Having ousted the royal family in 1952, Egyptians are not keen on having a new dynasty imposed on them through the back door. And Gamal Mubarak, 46, is far from a charismatic presence. He is considered a sound economist and is well-liked in the West. His father appointed him general secretary of the policy committee of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in 2002, and as such he has been taking an active interest in the internal problems of Egypt, subsequently getting much needed exposure to the party faithful and the general public.

But this, apparently, is not enough. Opposition parties are now united in a campaign under the slogans, "He will not inherit," and "He shall not rule." Their activity has sparked a counter campaign, which was launched by the NDP under the slogan, "We want you." Both sets of slogans were carefully chosen for their powerful emotional impact in spoken Egyptian Arabic, and they exemplify the depth of the conflict. Incidentally, a popular singer wrote a sycophantic song in favor of Gamal's candidacy.

Of particular interest in the matter is the attitude of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has become Egypt's strongest opposition force in recent years. After a series of conflicting reports - one of them being that it would join secular opposition parties against Gamal - it was revealed that the movement has not yet made its decision. Deep differences of opinion have emerged among the Brotherhood, with the younger generation eager for a greater role in decision-making, while the old guard is standing firm and refusing any attempt at democratization.

Speculation has been rife in recent weeks, with unconfirmed reports implying that the "supreme leader" of the group, Muhammad Mahadi Akef, would leave his post in 2010. In an interview with the daily, Al Masri al-Yom, Akef did not address the issue, but said that during the parliamentary elections held in 2005, he had come to an agreement with the NDP which permitted 50 Brotherhood-affliated representatives to sit in the parliament in return for a reduction in attacks against the government.

In fact 88 members of the group were elected - a fifth of the total number of representatives - and they are a very vocal opposition on local and international issues, as well as being virulent opponents of relations with Israel. Akef let it be understood that he would not be averse to reaching a similar agreement ahead of the next parliamentary elections in 2011.

The Brotherhood opposes in principle hereditary transmission of power, but as its main objective is to impose Sharia, religious law in Egypt, it has no desire to see another secular candidate succeed. Given that the group is officially banned, it cannot present its own candidate for the presidency and, as in 2005, its candidates for parliament will present themselves as "independents."

MUBARAK HAS now been president for 28 years, and his present tenure is his fifth. There is no legal obstacle to his being candidate for a sixth mandate in 2011, since in the late 1980s the law limiting the president to two terms was struck down at his initiative. Mubarak is 81, and another six-year term could be hard for a man who had to weather so many storms. For the time being, he is grooming his son to succeed him, even though he has not officially admitted so or endorsed his candidacy. He has stated many times that the next president would be "elected democratically." However, if his son's candidacy runs into too much opposition, he might launch yet another reelection bid - "for the sake of the country," which, by all accounts, is facing severe economic and social problems.

Until now opposition forces have failed to unite over a charismatic leader who would pose a real threat to the Mubaraks. The names of Mohamed ElBaradei, soon-to-be former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and that of Dr. Ahmed Zuweili, an Egyptian-born scientist living in the US who is the lone Arab scientist to win a Nobel Prize, have been mentioned, but they lack political experience and do not seem to have the charisma needed to draw crowds.

But Amr Moussa has it all. Brilliant, charismatic and wildly popular, he is also a very vocal opponent of Israel and of normalization. It should be noted, however, that he would be 75 if he won the presidency in 2011, and 81 at the end of his term.

It has been suggested that Mubarak, seeing a rival in him, actively supported his candidacy to the head of the Arab League to get him out of the way. Last week's announcement by Moussa is perceived by many as a direct challenge to the old leader. It must be remembered that before the last presidential elections, there was a groundswell promoting Moussa's candidacy. In fact Moussa declined, probably sensing that Mubarak was still too strong.

But the president took note. Immediately after the election, Article 76 of the constitution regarding eligibility was amended. It is now necessary for an independent candidate to muster 250 signatures of members of the parliament and of local and district councils. Such a task is nearly impossible given that members of the ruling NDP control a majority in all of these bodies. In addition, for a political party to present a candidate, it has to have been established and recognized by the relevant authorities for at least five years, and its candidates for both houses of parliament must have garnered at least 5% of the popular vote. Further, the candidate must have been a member of the supreme council of the party for at least a year. Here again, it would be almost impossible for a small party to fulfill these conditions.

The National Democratic Party will be holding its sixth general assembly at the end of the month, but it is doubtful that a decision on the candidate for the presidency will be made at that time. Mubarak's mandate still has two years left, and the party does not wish to fan the flames so far ahead of time.

The great unknown in the debate is the position of the army. Since the Officers Revolution in 1952 which ended the monarchy, all the presidents have been officers in the army: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak himself. Is the army still powerful enough to dictate behind the scenes who will be the next president? Will it accept Gamal Mubarak, a civilian, or will it promote Gen. Omar Suleiman, head of the Egyptian security services, who currently holds the rank of minister and enjoys the trust of the president, and is also rumored to be in the running? Will another, hitherto unknown, candidate emerge from the army? If this is done with the blessing of the president, such a candidate would run as an independent, and the party representatives would furnish him with the signatures required.

Another voice made itself heard last week, that of veteran publicist Hassanein Heykal who spoke against "hereditary presidency" and condemned the growing trend in Arab regimes to have the son succeed the father, as was the case in Syria and as is planned in Libya and Yemen. Heykal was Nasser's right-hand man, but Sadat sent him into political exile. While he is now writing his memoirs while commenting on historical events for Al Jazeera, he continues be respected as a kind of "grand old man" of Egyptian politics. Hence his position will have some influence on the Nasserites still active on the Egyptian scene.

Mubarak's hand is still strong at the helm, and he is a consummate politician. At the end of the day, he will make the decision - unless, of course, as is often the case in the Middle East, fate intervenes.

Zvi Mazel was the former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and Sweden.
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'Goldstone report - the terrorists' Magna Carta'


'I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza," Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, said during an interview with the BBC during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January Kemp later appeared before the UN Human Rights Council on October 2009 and reiterated: "[T]he Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population…

"The [...] IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza [...] the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas' way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians..."

This is a fair description of what happened. But to see how white is turned into black, how truth is twisted, justice perverted and falseness prevails, take a good look at the Human Rights Council and its Goldstone report.

A commission created in sin gives birth to an aberration

Israel has suffered from terrorism since its establishment, long before it was blamed for having conquered territories from which attacks against it were launched. The war of terror changed phases, becoming more and more sinister. From "simple" murder of women and children, it turned into airplane hijackings, murdering hostages, suicide bombers and global terror - including the mass murder of members of the Israeli team during the Olympic Games in Munich. During the past eight years a new mode of terror has developed - that of firing rockets on civilian targets from the Gaza Strip. Some 12,000 rockets have been fired, terrorizing hundreds of thousands of Israelis and causing tremendous damage to the economy.

None of these actions triggered UN intervention. Moreover, other countries involved in the war against terror elsewhere in the world - such as in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey - have remained immune to fact-finding missions by the Human Rights Council, despite the thousands of civilians killed or wounded in these conflicts, and the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced. Israel, the victim of incessant rocket attacks and endless acts of terror, has been singled out for special treatment.

The Human Rights Council's obsession with targeting Israel is common knowledge. Since its establishment in 2006, five out of its 11 special sessions have been devoted to matters involving the Jewish state. Yet in its resolution to establish the fact-finding mission in Gaza, the council outdid itself. Employing extremely biased wording, the council's charge directed its mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people... particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression..."

Israel is thus declared culpable even before the investigation begins.

Many states on the council refused to support this one-sided resolution, including the member states of the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, Korea and Japan.

The council never changed its outrageous mandate, but its president stated the mission's mandate in more moderate terms: "To investigate all violations of international human rights and international human rights law that might have been committed [...] in the context of the military operation in Gaza..."

Despite the reworded resolution, it seems that the mission acted in the spirit of its original mandate.

The composition of the mission

The prejudicial nature of the mission led several distinguished individuals, including former high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, to refuse invitations to chair it. Justice Richard Goldstone was, however, happy to comply. Other members of the mission included Hina Jilani of Pakistan, a country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and Prof. Christine Chinkin, who was one of the signatories of a letter, published in the Sunday Times on January 11, 2009, and entitled, "Israel's bombardment of Gaza is not self-defense - it's a war crime."

The amazement at Chinkin's appointment is dwarfed by the way Goldstone justified the refusal to disqualify her. In an interview on Israel TV, he was asked about Chinkin serving on the mission. He had no qualms explaining that "it is not a judicial inquiry. It's a fact-finding mission." Further, he said that he found Chinkin "to be an intelligent, sensible, even-handed person," and he was "satisfied that she's got a completely open mind."

"She is one of four people on the committee," he continued, adding that he did not "believe that any prima facie views she might have held at an earlier stage is going to [...] affect [...] the report."

Goldstone thus justified an appointment that militates against basic rules of fairness, due process and natural justice. His untenable reasoning, which would have failed a first-year law student, casts grave doubts about the justice himself.

Moreover, Goldstone's claim that he was leading "a fact-finding mission" is refuted by the report, which is highly judicial, replete with purported legal analysis of international law, detailed legal findings and reaching judicial determinations on "war crimes."

The inescapable conclusion is that the whole report is invalid and cannot form a basis for any decision or action.

It is also not surprising that Goldstone's report became what it is - a complete aberration.

The mission's general approach

The report makes every effort to downplay Hamas crimes. Hamas and other terrorist entities are described by the benign term "Palestinian armed groups." In some cases, the mission simply declines to examine Hamas misdeeds. One example of this inaction regards Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Despite ample grounds indicating that a Hamas command center was located in the hospital, the report states that it did "not investigate the case of Al-Shifa hospital and is not in a position to make any finding with regard to these allegations" (p. 466).

Clear evidence unfavorable to Hamas is either discarded or "reinterpreted." For instance, during the operation, Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas police force, stated that "police officers received clear orders from the leadership to face the [Israeli] enemy." However, this clear admission as to the role of the Hamas police takes on new meaning when the mission uncritically accepts Shahwan's explanation that his intention was that in the event of an invasion, the police would continue to uphold public order and ensure the movement of essential supplies (p. 414). A statement by the commander of Hamas's Executive Force (p. 410) that his group acted as "resistance fighters" received similar benign interpretation (p. 416).

Reliable evidence supporting the Israeli position received completely different treatment.

In an effort to explain its targeting of sensitive locations, Israel submitted to the mission photographic evidence showing the launching of rockets from within or near residential buildings, schools, mosques and hospitals. However, the mission had no qualms in discounting them on the grounds that it could not determine whether the photos showed what is alleged, and that many photos related to firing of rockets from Gaza before the operation (p. 449).

The mission even denied requests to invite witnesses such as Col. Kemp, who was likely to support the Israeli position. The explanations offered by Goldstone for this unbalanced treatment are not much stronger than those he provided for keeping Chinkin on the mission.

Much of the evidence gathered by the mission was most likely tainted. Members of the mission were accompanied during their visit to Gaza by Hamas officials, a group which deliberately and consistently pursues a policy of disinformation. It is highly improbable that the mission could get a true picture of Hamas's misdeeds and of what really happened. Indeed, the report admits that the witnesses interviewed appeared "reluctant to speak about the presence or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups" - a reluctance which "may have stemmed from a fear of reprisals" (p. 438).

This behavior by the Islamic group has been aptly described by Kemp:

"Hamas, like Hizbullah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents."

The scope of this article does not allow for a full exposition of all the falsenesses and distortions included in the report. However two examples will be briefly discussed - that of the civilian casualties and that of the use of human shields by Hamas. In addition, a few words will be devoted to the damage suffered by the Gazan infrastructure.

The civilian casualties

According to the IDF 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation, and the great majority, 709 of them, were members of the Hamas and other terrorist groups. An additional 295 were civilians. It is unclear whether the remaining 162 (all male) fatalities were involved in the fighting. It is also not clear how many of the noncombatants were killed by Hamas fire, a possibility which was even raised by the mission (p. 361).

The mission did not bother to inquire about the number of civilian casualties, nor about the ratio between civilian and combatant casualties in recent wars, which could indicate the degree of care taken by the IDF to avoid civilian casualties as compared to other armies in the world.

One of the most vicious, false accusations leveled by the report against Israel is that civilians were deliberately targeted. This falseness is based on the fact that the IDF receives legal advice and possesses advanced technology, and that its operations are carefully planned. In addition, the misinterpretation of statements made by Israeli officials (p. 61 and p. 1182-1188) further twisted the mission's conclusion, which runs contrary to a large body of available evidence.

It is well known that a number of Israeli soldiers were killed in the operation by friendly fire. According to the reasoning of the mission, these casualties must have been killed on purpose. Moreover, the mission's reasoning applies to all other armies engaged in the war against terror, in which thousands of noncombatants have been killed. The Americans, the British, NATO, the Russians and the Turks all employ sophisticated weapons, and their operations are all carefully planned. Does this mean that the civilians killed in their operations were intentionally targeted, as well?

The mission disregarded the fact that Israel has a clear policy of protecting civilians. It also disregarded the myriad of statements made by the IDF regarding this policy and its implementation in the Gaza operation. Kemp, whose evidence the mission declined to hear, also described this.

Israel made great efforts to issue warnings to the civilian population through thousands of telephone calls, leaflets and radio broadcasts. While the mission acknowledged these facts (p. 37), it immediately attempted to show that the actions were insufficient. Regardless, these warnings clearly refute the unfounded allegation that there was a purposeful intention to target civilians.

The use by Hamas of human shields

It is common knowledge that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Even the mission could not escape the facts that Hamas fires rockets from urban areas (p. 446-447), that its gunmen mingle with the civil population and that "members of Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from civilians" (p. 481). The use of human shields is openly admitted by a Hamas member who states that:

"[Hamas] created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against the Zionist bombing machines" (p. 475).

Nevertheless the mission incredibly states that it has not been able to obtain any direct evidence that the firing of rockets from urban areas "was done with the specific intent of shielding the rocket launchers from counterstrokes by the Israeli armed forces" (p. 480). Similarly "the mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack" (p. 481).

A more blatant example of a double standard can hardly be imagined. False accusations against Israel are made in the absence of evidence or even contrary to the evidence, while the innocence of the terrorists is presumed even in the face of convincing evidence of guilt.

Damage to Infrastructure

The mission also discusses the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza, notably a flour mill, a wall of one of the raw sewage lagoons, and chicken farms that "reportedly supplied over 10 percent of the Gaza egg market." (p. 51) The discussion is replete with harshly-worded language denouncing Israel, and ends with a malicious conclusion as to Israel's culpability. Apparently, the mission did not even bother to hide its prejudice against Israel. The destruction of the flour mill was "wanton," and the mission has no scruples in jumping to the conclusion that this was done "for the purposes of denying sustenance to the civilian population" (sic.) which "may constitute a war crime" (p. 50). Such a conclusion, of course, is contrary to the clear evidence available to the mission that during the operation, as well as before and after, Israel allowed ample supply of food to be brought into Gaza, and that Israel did and continues to do its best to prevent a shortage of essential supplies in the Strip.

In this respect, the report seems to be in line with the propaganda of Hamas, which created the false impression of total destruction in the area.

Such findings may be contrasted with a report by British journalist, Tim Butcher, which was published in the Telegraph, on January 20, 2009. Mr. Butcher who arrived in Gaza shortly after the end of the operation, says: "I knew Gaza well before the attacks […] One thing was clear. Gaza City 2009 is not Stalingrad 1944. There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions [...] for the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be."

No less important is the fact that the great majority of infrastructure installations in Gaza were not hit and remained unscathed. A conspicuous example is the power plant in Gaza. It is obvious that had Israel intended to destroy infrastructure, the plant would have been targeted. It was not. Even in the case of the flour mill, the mission concedes that "no other buildings in the industrial compound belonging to the Hamadas (owners of the mill) were damaged at the time of the strikes" (p. 924). This is in line with the clear policy of Israel to avoid damaging civilian property. To the extent that the mill and few other installations were destroyed, it was presumably either a result of a mistake or because they were suspected as being used for military purposes. The mission clearly could not get reliable evidence clarifying this matter, as the reluctance of a witness to give evidence detrimental to Hamas which "may have stemmed from a fear of reprisals" (p. 438) already demonstrated. In any, event the evidence clearly suggests the absence of any intention by Israel to destroy civilian infrastructure.

Iran and the failure to investigate

The mission failed to examine highly relevant topics such as the use of Shifa Hospital in Gaza as a Hamas command center, and the use of mosques to store weapons. The mission also failed to investigate the major role played by Iran in supporting and instigating terror, such as by training gunmen and supplying weapons and rockets intended to be used against civilians. Is Iran's involvement in line with international law? Such an investigation would have enabled the mission to better understand what it terms "the blockade" - the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip which attempts to prevent illegal arms smuggling while simultaneously allowing for the influx of food and other essential supplies.

The recommendations

I shall not elaborate upon the mission's biased recommendations which are not devoid of a ludicrous aspect. "The mission recommends that Palestinian armed groups undertake forthwith to respect international humanitarian law, in particular by renouncing attacks on Israeli civilians" (p. 1770). This recommendation is a plea to fundamentalist terrorists for whom terror against civilians is their raison d'être, who regard suicide bombers and murderers as heroes. Is this recommendation, which seems like recommending to the Mafia to respect the law, a lip service to objectivity, naiveté, or evidence of complete detachment from reality?

One wonders whether this kind of recommendation should not also be sent to the Taliban and al-Qaida. Why should they be deprived of Goldstone's learned advice?

The aftermath

Goldstone's report is well on its way to becoming the Magna Carta of the terrorists, who will regard it as their guardian angel. But the world community cannot allow international law to be hijacked by terrorists, nor appropriated by biased scholars or naïve jurists who are detached from reality. International law must be interpreted, implemented and developed to deal with terror launched from populated areas behind human shields.

The report is likely to damage the cause of peace and increase violence in the area, while the operation in Gaza brought a lull in rockets attacks against civilians. But the terrorists may now feel that they can renew the terror since the report gives them immunity. The report also strengthens extremism, thus hindering efforts by the Palestinian Authority - whom the extremists strive to topple - to make peace with Israel.

The author is a professor of law (emeritus) and a former justice minister of Israel.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1256799045773&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Rally Behind Denmark

Diana West

Pakistani jihad death squads were much in the news this week. In Peshawar, Pakistan, they bombed a marketplace, claiming more than 100 lives, and in Chicago, they were thwarted, according to an FBI affidavit, from carrying out a planned attack on a newspaper in Denmark to kill two Danish journalists, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and cultural editor, Flemming Rose. It's important to link these events to put them into proper perspective. According to the FBI, the Danish operation -- busted in Chicago with arrests of David Coleman Headley (aka Daood Gilani) and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, both of Pakistani origin with American and Canadian citizenship, respectively -- was planned in conjunction with Pakistani jihadists. One is identified as Individual A, a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the jihadist group behind the 2008 Mumbai massacre, among other atrocities. The other is identified as Ilyas Kashmiri, operations chief of Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI). Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal writes that Kashmiri is "considered by U.S. intelligence to be one of Al Qaeda's most dangerous commanders." Roggio further notes that LeT and HUJI, along with several other Pakistan jihadist groups, including Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, have merged with Al Qaeda in Pakistan and operate under the name Brigade 313.

While the triggermen behind the Peshawar carnage have not been identified yet, it is highly likely, to say the least, that they come from this same jihad network.

So, let's probe a little. Let's think beyond the scenes of the Pakistani market-turned-charnel-house and the newspaper office in Denmark spared a similar fate. Let's think beyond the "terror" to the point of the terror -- a place we as politically correct multiculturalists are never supposed to go: The point of Islamic terror is to assert Islamic law. Period.

In the Pakistani case, the terror further enmeshes the United States in misbegotten efforts to "stabilize" the jihadist-riddled government, but that serves Islamic law as well. Such terror further asserts the power of those who bring Islamic law to a nation that already embraces its brand of "justice" as the findings of an August Pew poll confirm yet again. An overwhelming 78 percent of Pakistanis believe those who leave Islam should be killed, 80 percent favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery, and 83 percent favor stoning adulterers.

And how many billions did the Obama administration just shovel down that hole? As a condition of such aid, Pakistan should be required to dismantle its nukes and trust key components to us for safekeeping while the threat of seizure by "extremists" endures. Isn't that what a bona fide ally would do?

In the Danish case, the Islamic terror is designed to punish and make examples of the two men chiefly responsible for the revolt that began four years ago against the emergence of Islamic law in Denmark. Flemming Rose, having discovered that a Danish publisher couldn't find an artist willing to violate Islamic prohibitions on imagery of Mohammed to illustrate a Danish children's book, commissioned 12 cartoons of Mohammed in 2005 to reassert Denmark's freedom of the press, which in this case also meant freedom from Islamic law. Kurt Westergaard's cartoon -- ask your local newspaper to run it, as the Chicago Sun-Times did this week, to assert America's freedom of the press -- has become the symbol of this victorious affirmation of free speech for which Denmark remains under continued threat of Islamic attack, as this Pakistani plot dramatically shows.

So, what to do about which assault? In Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told government officials: "I want you to know that this fight is not Pakistan's alone. This is our struggle as well." To Denmark, the U.S. government said nothing.

This is exactly backward. Pakistan's struggle, feckless and conflicted as it is has been and will continue to be (Roggio also reports, for example, that Ilyas Kashmiri is a "longtime asset of Pakistan's military and intelligence services") is not America's fight. Rather, this fight is among factions of Islam, and far from being a player in this treacherous game, the United States is a dupe. If Pakistan's nuclear arsenal poses a dire threat to the West (like Iran's), the correct military solution is its destruction, not nation-building around it.

Clinton's statement of solidarity should have been directed to Denmark, a tiny Western nation valiantly asserting the core principles of liberty, and subsequently threatened for doing so with catastrophic attack, meted out according to Islamic law. It is Denmark's struggle that is our own, or should be.

Will we ever learn?

'Obama Is Average',1518,656501,00.html

In a SPIEGEL interview, Charles Krauthammer, the leading voice of America's conservative intellectuals, discusses Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, the president's failures and the state of the United Nations and the international community.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Krauthammer, did the Nobel Commitee in Oslo honor or doom the Obama presidency by awarding him the Peace Prize?

Charles Krauthammer: It is so comical. Absurd. Any prize that goes to Kellogg and Briand, Le Duc Tho and Arafat, and Rigoberta Menchú, and ends up with Obama, tells you all you need to know. For Obama it's not very good because it reaffirms the stereotypes about him as the empty celebrity.

SPIEGEL: Why does it? Krauthammer: He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today's politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.

SPIEGEL: It hardly makes sense to blame him for losing the Olympic bid in one week, and then for winning the Nobel Prize the next.

Krauthammer: He should have simply said: "This is very nice, I appreciate the gesture, but I haven't achieved what I want to achieve." But he is not the kind of man that does that.

SPIEGEL: Should he have turned down the prize?

Krauthammer: He would never turn that down. The presidency is all about him. Just think about the speech he gave in Berlin. There is something so preposterous about a presidential candidate speaking in Berlin. And it was replete with all these universalist clichés, which is basically what he's been giving us for nine months.

SPIEGEL: Why do Europeans react so positively to him?

Krauthammer: Because Europe, for very understandable reasons, has been chaffing for 60 years under the protection, but also the subtle or not so subtle domination of America. Europeans like to see the big guy cut down to size, it's a natural reaction. You know, Europe ran the world for 400 or 500 years until the civilizational suicide of the two World Wars. And then America emerged as the world hegemon, with no competition and unchallenged. The irony is America is the only hegemonic power that never sought hegemony, unlike, for example, Napoleonic France. Americans are not intrinsically imperial, but we ended up dominant by default: Europe disappeared after the Second World War, the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991, so here we are. Of course Europeans like to see the hegemon diminished, and Obama is the perfect man to do that.

SPIEGEL: Maybe Europeans want to just see a different America, one they can admire again.

Krauthammer: Admire? Look at Obama's speech at the UN General Assembly: "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation." Take the first half of that sentence: No nation can dominate another. There is no eight year old who would say that -- it's so absurd. And the second half? That is adolescent utopianism. Obama talks in platitudes, but offers a vision to the world of America diminished or constrained, and willing to share leadership in a way that no other presidency and no other great power would. Could you imagine if the Russians were hegemonic, or the Chinese, or the Germans -- that they would speak like this?

SPIEGEL: Is America's power not already diminished?

Krauthammer: Relative to what?

SPIEGEL: To emerging powers.

Krauthammer: The Chinese are rising, the Indians have a very long way to go. But I'm old enough to remember the late 1980s, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" by Paul Kennedy and the prevailing view that America was in decline and Japan was the rising power. The fashion now is that the Chinese will overtake the United States. As with the great Japan panic, there are all kinds of reasons why that will not happen.

Look, eventually American hegemony will fade. In time, yes. But now? Economically we now have serious problems, creating huge amounts of debt that we cannot afford and that could bring down the dollar and even cause hyperinflation. But nothing is inevitable. If we make the right choices, if we keep our economic house in order, we can avert an economic collapse. We can choose to decline or to stay strong.

SPIEGEL: Do you really believe that Obama deliberately wants to weaken the US?

Krauthammer: The liberal vision of America is that it should be less arrogant, less unilateral, more internationalist. In Obama's view, America would subsume itself under a fuzzy internationalism in which the international community, which I think is a fiction, governs itself through the UN.

SPIEGEL: A nightmare?

Krauthammer: Worse than that: an absurdity. I can't even imagine serious people would believe it, but I think Obama does. There is a way America will decline -- if we choose first to wreck our economy and then to constrain our freedom of action through subordinating ourselves to international institutions which are 90 percent worthless and 10 percent harmful.

SPIEGEL: And there is not even 1 percent that is constructive?

Krauthammer: No. The UN is worse than disaster. The UN creates conflicts. Look at the disgraceful UN Human Rights Council: It transmits norms which are harmful, anti-liberty, and anti-Semitic among other things. The world would be better off in its absence.

SPIEGEL: And Obama is, in your eyes, …

Krauthammer: He's becoming ordinary. In the course of his presidency, Obama has gone from an almost magical charismatic figure to an ordinary politician. Ordinary. Average. His approval ratings are roughly equal to what the last five presidents' were at the same time in their first term. Other people have already said he's done and finished because his health care plans ran into trouble; but I say they're wrong. He's going to come back, he will pass something on health care, there's no question. He will have a blip, be somewhat rehabilitated politically, but he won't be able to pass anything on climate change. He will not be the great transformer he imagines himself to be. A president like others -- with successes and failures.

SPIEGEL: Every incoming president to the White House has to confront reality and disappoint voters.

Krauthammer: True. But what made Obama unique was that he was the ultimate charismatic politician -- the most unknown stranger ever to achieve the presidency in the United States. No one knew who he was, he came out of nowhere, he had this incredible persona that floated him above the fray, destroyed Hillary, took over the Democratic Party and became president. This is truly unprecedented: A young unknown with no history, no paper trail, no well-known associates, self-created.

There was tremendous goodwill, even I was thrilled on Election Day, even though I had voted against him and argued against him.

SPIEGEL: What moved you that day?

Krauthammer: It's redemptive for a country that began in the sin of slavery to see the day, I didn't think I would live to see the day, when a black president would be elected.

Now he was not my candidate. I would have preferred the first black president to have been somebody ideologically congenial to me, say, Colin Powell (whom I encouraged to run in 2000) or Condoleezza Rice. But I felt truly proud to be an American as I saw him sworn in. I remain proud of this historic achievement.

SPIEGEL: What major mistakes has Obama made?

Krauthammer: I don't know whether I should call it a mistake, but it turns out he is a left-liberal, not center-right the way Bill Clinton was. The analogy I give is that in America we play the game between the 40-yard lines, in Europe you go all the way from goal line to goal line. You have communist parties, you have fascist parties, we don't have that, we have very centrist parties.

So Obama wants to push us to the 30-yard line, which for America is pretty far. Right after he was elected, he gave an address to Congress and promised to basically remake the basic pillars of American society -- education , energy and health care. All this would move America toward a social democratic European-style state. It is outside of the norm of America.

SPIEGEL: Yet, he had promised these reforms during the campaign.

Krauthammer: Hardly. He's now pushing a cap-and-trade energy reform. During the campaign he said that would cause skyrocketing utility rates. On healthcare, the reason he's had such resistance is because he promised reform, not a radical remaking of the whole system.

SPIEGEL: So he didn't see the massive resistance coming?

Krauthammer: Obama misread his mandate. He was elected six weeks after a financial collapse unlike any seen in 60 years; after eight years of a presidency which had tired the country; in the middle of two wars that made the country opposed to the Republican government that involved us in the wars; and against a completely inept opponent, John McCain. Nevertheless, Obama still only won by 7 points. But he thought it was a great sweeping mandate and he could implement his social democratic agenda.

SPIEGEL: Part of the problem when it comes to health care is the lack of solidarity in the American way of thinking. Can a president change a country?

Krauthammer: Yes. Franklin D. Roosevelt did it. Back then, we didn't have a welfare state, we didn't have old age pensions, we didn't have unemployment insurance. This country was the Wild West until FDR. Yes, you can change the spirit of America.

SPIEGEL: If Obama is so radical, why is the left wing of the Democratic Party so unhappy with him?

Krauthammer: They are disillusioned because he has ignored some of their social agenda, such as gay rights; continued some of the Bush policies he had once denounced, such as the detention without trial for terrorists; and on his large agenda for education and energy, where he has had no success.

SPIEGEL: How could Obama still win Republican support for healthcare reform?

Krauthammer: He should finally realize that we need to reform our insane malpractice system. The US is spending between $60 and $200 billion a year on protection against lawsuits. I used to be a doctor, I know how much is wasted on defensive medicine. Everybody I practiced with spends hours and enormous amounts of money on wasted tests, diagnostic and procedures -- all to avoid lawsuits. The Democrats will not touch it. When Howard Dean was asked why, he said honestly and explicitly that Democrats don't want to antagonize the trial lawyers who donate huge amounts of money to the Democrats.

SPIEGEL: What would be your solution?

Krauthammer: I would make Americans pay half a percent tax on their health insurance and create a pool to socialize the cost of medical errors. That would save hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to insure the uninsured. And second, I would abolish the absurd prohibition against buying health insurance in another state -- that reduces competition and keeps health insurance rates artificially high.

SPIEGEL: But you also need to cut back on healthcare expenses.

Krauthammer: It is absolutely crazy that in America employees receive health insurance from their employers -- and at the same time a tax break for this from the federal government. It's a $250 billion a year loophole in the government's budget. If you taxed healthcare benefits, you would have enough revenue for the government to give back to the individual to purchase their own insurance. If you did those two reforms alone, you would have the basis for affordable health insurance in America.

What the Democrats seem to be aiming for, however, is something somewhat different: the government gets control of the healthcare system by proxy; you heavily regulate the insurance companies, you subsidize the uninsured. That kind of reform would also work, but less efficiently -- and because of its unsustainable costs, we would, in the end, have to go to a system of rationing, the way the British do, the way the Canadians do, there is no other way. Obama can't say any of that, the word rationing is too unpopular.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Krauthammer, can a Nobel Peace Prize winner send more troops to Afghanistan?

Krauthammer: Sure, I don't see why not. The prize could have two contrary effects. It could give him an incentive to send more troops to show his own people that he is not an instrument of five Norwegian leftists. Or it can work the other way where in order not to lose the popularity he obviously feels from Europe, he would be less inclined. I think whatever impulses come out of those considerations neutralize each other. The prize will have zero effect on his decision.

Part 2: 'What the Obama Administration Pretends Is Realism Is Naïve Nonsense'

SPIEGEL: You have called him a "young Hamlet" over his hesitation about making a decision on Afghanistan. However, he's just carefully considering the options after Bush shot so often from the hip.

Krauthammer: No. The strategy he's revising is not the Bush strategy, it's the Obama strategy. On March 27, he stood there with a background of flags, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on one side and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the other, and said: "Today, I'm announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan." So don't tell me this is revising eight years of Bush, he's not. For all these weeks and months he's been revising his own strategy, and that's okay, you're allowed to do that. But if you're president and you're commander-in-chief, and your guys are getting shot and killed in the field, and you think "maybe the strategy I myself announced with great fanfare six months ago needs to be revised," do it in quiet. Don't show the world that you're utterly at sea and have no idea what to do! Your European allies already are skittish and reluctant, and wondering whether they ought to go ahead. It's your own strategy, if it's not working, then you revise it and fix it. You just don't demoralize your allies.

SPIEGEL: Is Afghanistan still a war of necessity, still a strategic interest?

Krauthammer: The phrase "war of necessity and war of choice" is a phrase that came out of a different context. Milan Kundera once wrote, "a small country is a country that can disappear and knows it." He was thinking of prewar Czechoslovakia. Israel is a country that can disappear and knows it. America, Germany, France, Britain, are not countries that can disappear. They can be defeated but they cannot disappear. For the great powers, and especially for the world superpower, very few wars are wars of necessity. In theory, America could adopt a foreign policy of isolationism and survive. We could fight nowhere, withdraw from everywhere -- South Korea, Germany, Japan, NATO, the United Nations -- if we so chose. From that perspective, every war since World War II has been a war of choice.

So using those categories -- wars of necessity, wars of choice -- is unhelpful in thinking through contemporary American intervention. In Afghanistan the question is: Do the dangers of leaving exceed the dangers of staying.

SPIEGEL: General Stanley McCrystal is asking for more troops. Is that really the right strategy?

Krauthammer: General Stanley McCrystal is the world expert on counterterrorism. For five years he ran the most successful counterterrorism operation probably in the history of the world: His guys went after the bad guys in Iraq, they ran special ops, they used the Predators and they killed thousands of jihadists that we don't even know about, it was all under the radar. And now this same general tells Obama that the counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan will fail, you have to do counterinsurgency, population protection. That would seem an extremely persuasive case that counterterrorism would not work.

SPIEGEL: You famously coined the term "Reagan Doctrine" to describe Ronald Reagan's foreign policy. What is the "Obama Doctrine?"

Krauthammer: I would say his vision of the world appears to me to be so naïve that I am not even sure he's able to develop a doctrine. He has a view of the world as regulated by self-enforcing international norms, where the peace is kept by some kind of vague international consensus, something called the international community, which to me is a fiction, acting through obviously inadequate and worthless international agencies. I wouldn't elevate that kind of thinking to a doctrine because I have too much respect for the word doctrine.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that diplomacy always fails?

Krauthammer: No, foolishness does. Perhaps when he gets nowhere on Iran, nowhere with North Korea, when he gets nothing from the Russians in return for what he did to the Poles and the Czechs, gets nowhere in the Middle East peace talks -- maybe at that point he'll begin to rethink whether the world really runs by international norms, consensus, and sweetness and light, or whether it rests on the foundation of American and Western power that, in the final analysis, guarantees peace.

SPIEGEL: That is the cynical approach.

Krauthammer: The realist approach. Henry Kissinger once said that peace can be achieved only one of two ways: hegemony or balance of power. Now that is real realism. What the Obama administration pretends is realism is naïve nonsense.

SPIEGEL: How do you solve problems like climate change if international institutions are failing?

Krauthammer: It's not the institution that does it, it's the confluence of interests. Where there is a confluence of interests among nations, as, for example the swine flu or polio, you can get well functioning international institutions like the World Health Organization. And you can act. Climate change is different, because the science remains hypothetical and the potential costs staggering.

SPIEGEL: You think it's a speculative theory?

Krauthammer: My own view is that there is man-made warming. On several occasions I have written that I don't think you can pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere indefinitely and not have a reaction. But there are great scientists such as Freeman Dyson, one of the greatest physicists of the last hundred years, who has studied the question, who believes quite the opposite. The reason transnational action is so difficult is because the major problem with climate change is, A, that there is no consensus, and, B, that the economic cost is simply staggering. Reversing it completely might mean undoing the modern industrial economy.

I'm not against international institutions that would try to tackle it. But the way to go, at least in the short run, is to go to nuclear power. It's amazing to me that people who are so alarmed about global warming are so reluctant to adopt the obvious short-term solution -- the bridge until the day when we have affordable renewable energy -- of nuclear power. It seems to me intellectually dishonest. Nuclear is obviously not the final answer because it produces its own waste -- but you have a choice. There's no free lunch. If you want an industrial economy, you need energy. If you want energy, it will produce pollution. You can have it in two forms. You can have it dissipated in the atmosphere -- like carbon dioxide -- which then you cannot recover, or you can have the waste concentrated in one small space like nuclear. That is far easier to deal with. The idea that you can be able to create renewable energy at a price anywhere near the current price for oil or gas or coal is a fantasy.

SPIEGEL: Do you basically think Obama is going to be a one-term president?

Krauthammer: No, I think he has a very good chance of being reelected. For two reasons. First, there's no real candidate on the other side, and you can't beat something with nothing. Secondly, it'll depend on the economy -- and just from American history, in the normal economic cycles, presidents who have their recessions at the beginning of their first term get reelected (Reagan, Clinton, the second Bush), and presidents who have them at the end of their first term don't (Carter, the first Bush). Obama will lose a lot of seats in next year's Congressional election, but the economy should be on the upswing in 2012.

SPIEGEL: Is the conservative movement in the United States in decline?

Krauthammer: When George W. Bush won in 2004, there was lots of stuff written that about the end of liberalism and the death of the Democratic Party. Look where we are now.

SPIEGEL: A Democrat is back in the White House, the party also controls Congress.

Krauthammer: Exactly. We see the usual overreading of history whenever one side loses. Look, there are cycles in American politics. US cycles are even more pronounced because we Americans have a totally entrepreneurial presidential system. We don't have parliamentary opposition parties with a shadow prime minister and shadow cabinets. Every four years, the opposition reinvents itself. We have no idea who will be the Republican nominee in 2012. The party structures are very fluid. We have a history of political parties being thrown out of the White House after two terms -- as has happened every single time with only one exception (Ronald Reagan) since World War II. The idea that one party is done in the US is silly. The Republicans got killed in 2006 and 2008, but they will be back.

SPIEGEL: The party lacks a strong, intelligent leader.

Krauthammer: Yes. And if the Republicans don't have one by 2012, they'll lose and they'll have to wait till 2016. It could take eight years to develop. You know, people say -- the White House was pushing this idea -- that the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the opposition because there's no other leader. Well, ask yourself, in 2001 and 2002 and 2003, who was the leader of the Democratic Party? There was none. We don't have a parliamentary system in which opposition leaders are designated.

SPIEGEL: Some people say you're that leader.

Krauthammer: I'm just getting to an age where a lot of my contemporaries are retiring or dying. So I'm on default a voice of authority. I don't attribute very much to that.

SPIEGEL: Who will be the next leader of the Republican Party?

Krauthammer: Some presidential candidates from last year will return in 2012. Sarah Palin is not a serious contender, but somebody like Mitt Romney will be. He is a serious guy, he understands the economy. There will also be some young people many haven't yet heard about, such as Rep. Paul Ryan or Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Or outsiders like the mastermind behind the surge in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who might retire from the military and run for President on the Republican ticket.

SPIEGEL: Many people, however, currently think the Republicans are the party of "no."

Krauthammer: That perception is a serious problem for them.

SPIEGEL: At the end of Bush's second term, he granted you a long interview. Afterwards, you wrote that history would judge Bush kindly. Why?

Krauthammer: Basically I think Bush will have the same historical rehabilitation that Harry Truman did.

SPIEGEL: And why is that?

Krauthammer: Truman left in the middle of an unpopular war, to use your phrase, a war of choice. Truman didn't have to go into South Korea. And he was reviled and ridiculed for the stalemate that resulted. Now, he's seen as one of the great presidents of the 20th century.

I think Bush actually handled the Iraq War better than Truman handled the Korean War. For one thing, the number of losses is about one-tenth. Secondly, he made the right decision with the surge. Thirdly, if Iraq turns out well, meaning becomes a country fairly self-sufficient and fairly friendly to the West, it will have a more important effect on the West than having a non-communist South Korea. The Middle East is strategically a far more important region.

Bush's worst mistake was the conduct of the Iraq war in the middle years -- 2004-2006 -- and the attempt to win on the cheap, with a light footprint.

On the other hand, I think he did exactly the right thing after 9/11. Look at the Patriot Act, which revolutionized how we deal with domestic terrorism, passed within six weeks of 9/11 in the fury of the moment. Testimony to how well Bush got it right is that Democrats, who now control Congress and had been highly critical of it, are now after eight years reauthorizing it with almost no significant changes.

Afghanistan is more problematic. Our success in overthrowing the Taliban in 100 days was remarkable. It's one of the great military achievements of all time. On the other hand, holding Afghanistan is a lot harder than taking it, and to this day we are not sure how to do it. But the initial success in 2001-2002 did decimate and scatter al-Qaida. It is no accident that we have not suffered a second attack -- something no one who lived in Washington on Sept. 11 thought possible.

I'm sure he will be rehabilitated in the long term.

Clare Booth Luce once said that every president is remembered for one thing, and that's what Bush will be remembered for. He kept us safe.

SPIEGEL: Is it too early to foresee what Obama will be remembered for?

Krauthammer: It is quite early. It could be his election.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Krauthammer, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer and Gregor-Peter Schmitz.
Guest Comment: Obama is a nightmare and an absurdity to the US! Obama's diplomacy is utter foolishness. The ONLY thing that will save the US from him is perhaps when he gets nowhere on Iran, nowhere with North Korea, when he gets nothing from the Russians in return for what he did to the Poles and the Czechs, gets nowhere in the Middle East peace talks — maybe, at that point, he'll begin to rethink whether the world really runs by international norms, consensus, and sweetness and light, or whether it rests on the foundation of American and Western power that, in the final analysis, guarantees peace.

We can choose to decline along Obama’s vision or stay strong by making sure he is OUT in 2012!

The world would be better off in the absence of the United Nations Organization the UN.
To maintain his liberty a man must remain eternally vigilance

Don't be fooled-Mandatory savings?

Jacob Sullum

The recently revived idea of creating a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers may reinforce the impression that President Obama and his allies in Congress are standing tall against those corporate fat cats who delight in denying lifesaving care to children and old ladies. But Mr. Obama and the insurers still see eye to eye on a central element of his health care agenda: the requirement that every American obtain medical coverage. t's obvious why the insurers like this idea. What industry wouldn't welcome a law that forces everyone to buy its product? But the insurers also argue that a mandate will help control costs, and the president agrees. Judging from the experience in Massachusetts, which imposed its own insurance requirement in 2006, they're both wrong.

Because he wants to show that an insurance mandate is fair as well as fiscally wise, Mr. Obama focuses on uninsured Americans who skip out on their medical bills, leaving policyholders and taxpayers with the tab. "Such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money," he said in a speech last month.

Perhaps so, but it's not very much money. In a 2008 Health Affairs article, George Mason University economist Jack Hadley and three co-authors calculate that "uncompensated care represents 2.2 percent of health spending in 2008."

Mr. Obama came closer to explaining the real motivation for the insurance mandate when he said that "unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - just can't be achieved." He worries that insuring older, sicker people will be prohibitively expensive unless the young and healthy are forced to subsidize them.

The insurers are more forthright on this point, warning that insufficient penalties for failing to buy insurance will result in "adverse selection," fueling the rise in premiums. Yet the penalties in Massachusetts are faster and heftier than the ones proposed in the bills Congress is considering, and the state continues to experience rapid health care inflation.

Since 2006, Michael Cannon notes in a recent Cato Institute paper, health insurance premiums in Massachusetts have risen by 8 percent to 12 percent a year, almost double the national average. During the same period, total medical spending has increased by 28 percent. The cost of subsidizing coverage through the state's Commonwealth Care program is expected to hit $880 million next year, 20 percent more than originally projected.

There are several reasons why mandatory insurance, contrary to Mr. Obama's promises, has been accompanied by rapidly escalating costs. First, when you subsidize something, people tend to consume more of it. Total spending is therefore bound to be higher, whether it's covered through direct taxes or through the indirect tax of forcing people to pay for insurance they don't want.

Second, despite stricter penalties, Massachusetts seems to be experiencing adverse selection. Mr. Cannon notes that, while the share of residents without insurance has shrunk from about 10 percent to about 5 percent, the proportion of uninsured people in the 18-to-25 age group has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent, indicating that "the young (and presumably more healthy) are less likely to comply with the mandate."

Third, requiring people to buy insurance entails defining the minimum level of coverage, which necessarily makes insurance more expensive than it would otherwise be. In effect, the government prohibits the cheapest insurance plans, the ones with the highest deductibles and the least generous benefits.

Defining one minimum medical package for the entire country, thereby inviting every health care interest to descend upon Capitol Hill and lobby for inclusion, will compound the inflation caused by state requirements. Mr. Cannon warns that such a federal standard could force 100 million Americans into more expensive plans while effectively banning the money-saving combination of high-deductible insurance and health savings accounts.

The upshot is a phenomenon we have seen many times before: Instead of protecting us from big business, big government buys it off with our money.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

EC:Double trouble

Victor Davis Hanson

Immigration activists and Hispanic groups are demanding that President Obama deliver on his promised comprehensive package of immigration reform.

Already, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has derided federal sweeps of illegal immigrants as "un-American." And recently the Obama administration stripped the federal authority of Arizona's controversial Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to make immigration arrests. Yet expect the public to oppose any so-called comprehensive immigration reform even more vehemently than it did President George W. Bush's 2007 doomed proposals.


Conditions on the ground have changed drastically in the past two years.

First, the nation's unemployment is now over 9 percent. It may peak beyond 10 percent. In many Western states, such as California, the jobless rate may climb even higher.

The old notion that "illegal immigrants pick the lettuce that Americans refuse to" is an ossified stereotype. In fact, today fewer than 1 out of 20 illegal immigrants currently do farm labor. Most are engaged in construction or the service industry, or are homemakers with child-care responsibilities. While plenty of unemployed American citizens may still not yet wish to pick oranges, the jobless might consider taking jobs like hammering nails or working in restaurants.

Second, many states are broke. Taxes are rising. The public is questioning all sorts of government entitlement expenditures. In California, the latest budget crisis saw a $26 billion shortfall - at a time when some studies put the state's net health, housing, education and criminal justice costs for some 3 million illegal immigrants at over $10 billion a year.

Yet illegal immigrants who receive government help somehow can send money back home to Mexico.

Of the 11-12 million illegal immigrants believed to be residing in the United States, well over half are thought to be Mexican nationals. Each immigrant on average may send back perhaps about $3,000-4,000 per year to Mexico - making their total of $25 billion in remittances a major source of Mexico's national income. So the money sent south may approximate much of the cost of providing support for the nation's resident illegal population in the first place.

Americans have never minded helping the poor in their midst, even during hard times. But it's fair for us to wonder whether our own rising taxes go in part to pay for those who are subsidizing the Mexican government's inability or unwillingness to provide basic care for its own citizens.

Finally, Mexico has seen the worst spate of drug violence in its recent history - threatening to reduce the government to the status of a narco-state like Colombia in the 1980s. Over 7,000 Mexican citizens have been killed in gun battles so far this year between government security forces and the drug cartels. Who wants that violence to keep spilling over into major U.S. cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles?

Politically, the Obama administration is between a rock and a hard place - under partisan pressure to go further than any past government in easing immigration enforcement while the wider public increasingly wants the border strictly enforced and illegal immigration ended. Polls of all sorts reveal consistently that the public believes illegal immigration is a serious problem and that the government is not doing enough to stop it.

Apparently, a hesitant Mr. Obama hopes that the crisis over illegal immigration will just go away on its own - despite his now-forgotten April vow to enact "comprehensive immigration reform."

The economic slowdown, together with beefed-up security and the border wall, have cut down the number of illegal entries to the lowest number in recent years. Privately, Mr. Obama must be happy that the pool of illegal immigrants is shrinking, allowing the formable forces of American assimilation to work on smaller, more integrated populations, without politically charged talk about amnesty and deportation. Publicly, he can lament to his Hispanic base that Mr. Bush, not he, was responsible for the wall and increased security.

In other words - like his positions on the need for more troops n Afghanistan and the nuclear crisis with Iran - Mr. Obama is voting "present" on illegal immigration.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Capture and escape

Clifford D. May

Almost a year ago, New York Times correspondent David Rohde was abducted by the Taliban. I was in Afghanistan at the time and, like many Westerners in the country, I heard about it but agreed not to write about it. Publicity, it was thought, could increase the danger Mr. Rohde faced. Even so, over the months that followed, many people figured he would not be seen again except, perhaps, on a videotape with hooded jihadis ecstatically applying a butcher knife to his infidel throat But Mr. Rohde survived seven months in captivity - briefly, in Afghanistan, then in the Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan - before managing to escape. His account of this period, published in the Times last week, is riveting. It is revealing, too, though sometimes in ways Mr. Rohde does not articulate and may not intend.

When Mr. Rohde's captors took him across the border into Pakistan, he was "astonished" to find "a Taliban mini-state that flourished openly and with impunity.... We heard explosions echo across North Waziristan as my guards and other Taliban fighters learned how to make roadside bombs that killed American and NATO troops." These tribal areas, "widely perceived as impoverished and isolated," in fact had "superior roads, electricity and infrastructure compared with what exists in much of Afghanistan.... Taliban policemen patrolled the streets ... foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns."

The obvious implication is that the Pakistani government and military were permitting the Taliban to maintain elaborate bases of operation, safe havens where combatants - Afghans, Pakistanis, Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and others - could rest, train and prepare to fight American and Afghan forces on the other side of the frontier.

Has that changed? Earlier this month, while I was visiting Pakistan, the Taliban attacked the military's General Headquarters, the equivalent of the Pentagon. Since then, a major campaign against the Taliban has been launched in Waziristan. It's too soon to say whether the Pakistani military possesses both the will and the capability to clear these areas and hold them for the long run. But perhaps that should be determined before aid to Pakistan is tripled, as envisioned under legislation signed by President Obama this month.

We also can infer this: Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders are not living in caves or suffering severe deprivation as so many have believed. On the contrary, we must now assume they are ensconced in comfortable villas with electricity and running water as well as guards, servants and maybe even wives to attend them.

Mr. Rohde writes that, before his kidnapping, he viewed the Taliban "as a form of 'al-Qaeda lite,' a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan." In captivity, however, he learned that "the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with al-Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world."

In fact, the evidence suggests this is not new. Though groups such as the Taliban - as well as Hezbollah and Hamas - may fight locally, their leaders have always thought globally, viewing their struggles as part of a broader War Against the West. The claims that these groups are fighting "national liberation struggles," that their only goal is to free themselves from "foreign occupation," are talking points to be used when addressing credulous Westerners, of which there never seems to be a shortage.

The happy ending to Mr. Rohde's story is that he and Tahir Luddin, an Afghan journalist kidnapped with him, escaped late one night while their guards slept. They walked to a nearby Pakistani military base where they were given refuge and assistance.

Among the questions Mr. Rohde does not raise: What arrangement did the Pakistani soldiers on the base have with the terrorists in the surrounding town? Did they know that an American journalist was being held virtually under their noses? Or were they not interested? And what does Pakistani intelligence know now - or what could it learn and share - regarding bin Laden's whereabouts?

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.