Morning Report: October 26, 2006

Israel/Germany incident in Mediterranean. Debka:
Conflicting versions released by Germany and Israel of an incident in which two Israeli F-16 warplanes flying low said to have shot two missiles at a German naval vessel off Lebanon. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources have investigated the incident, which was first disclosed by the German daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier Wednesday, Oct. 25 . They confirm that it did occur and involved six Israel F-16 warplanes and the German navy command ship, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern F 218 frigate, which leads the UN naval force opposite Lebanon. Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, Israeli warplanes were flying low over Damour 20 km south of Beirut on their way to gather intelligence of arms smuggling to Hizballah through the Lebanese coast. The European fleet deployed to monitor the coast for arms smuggling cannot get close enough because the ships are not allowed by the Lebanese government to access coastal waters. On their way from west to east, the Israeli F-16s passed low over the German command vessel, releasing infra-red decoys to ward off any rocket attack. This triggered an alert on the German frigate and its crew jumped to battle positions.

At this point, the Israeli and German versions diverge. he frigate’s officers flashed Berlin a signal that Israeli air force planes had fired two missiles near the ship. Israel denies this. The Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz, who talked by telephone to the German defense minister Franz Josef Jung Wednesday night, insisted the ship’s officers were wrong. The conversation was described as acrimonious. DEBKAfile’s sources in the German capital add that Israel agreed to send over films taken by its warplanes in the course of the episode to convince the Germans that no missiles were fired and expected Berlin to release a notice of clarification on this point.

Arutz Sheva: 'Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday spoke with German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung, telling him that reports that IDF fighter planes fired at a German UNIFIL ship in southern Lebanon are simply untrue.' Jerusalem Post: 'In the wake of the controversy surrounding earlier reports of IAF fighter planes firing on a German warship, IDF sources said Wednesday evening that several days ago there was an incident in which a German helicopter took off from a warship off the Lebanese coast, in an area where, according to agreements, it had to declare the flight to the IAF. Since Germany failed to follow this procedure, the IAF scrambled its fighter jets towards the area but the problem was solved without confrontation and without any shots being fired, reported the IDF.' Previous DiL post here: Israeli planes buzz German navy ship. (various)

Gay partnership victory in New Jersey. CNN: 'In a decision likely to stoke the contentious election-year debate over same-sex marriage, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits. The court's vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.' Gay.com: 'New Jersey's Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision issued Wednesday, has failed to find that the state's same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. But the justices found New Jersey's 2-year-old domestic-partnership system inadequate, and gave the Legislature 180 days to "enact an appropriate statutory structure" giving same-sex couples rights equivalent to those of married couples. The seven plaintiff couples "pursued the singular goal of obtaining the right to marry, knowing that, if successful, the rights of marriage automatically follow. We do not have to take that all-or-nothing approach," Justice Barry Albin wrote in the 4-3 majority opinion.' Previous post at DiL: Gay partnership wins in New Jersey. (CNN, Gay.com)

Australian Muslim leader: Women are meat. The Australian: 'The nation's most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned "meat" that attracts voracious animals. In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.' Tammy adds: 'Lying hypocrite. All Australians, especially Muslim women, should reject this Bravo Sierra and take that religion back from the cavemen who squat and defile it. And do I hear a condemnation of this freak from the American feminist establishment?' (The Australian via Tammy Bruce)

CTB: Hijack attempts were test runs. Counterterrorism Blog: 'In a September 18 article for the Daily Standard, "Practice Makes Terror," ... I argued that the "rash of false alarms" following the August 10 revelation of a foiled transatlantic air terror plot may not have been entirely false. I argued that there may be casings and dry runs occurring -- and that a number of incidents that were casings may not end up being remembered as such. Now a new article in Norway's Aftenposten lends further credence to the view that casings are indeed occurring ...' Read the rest at the link. (CTB)

Commentary. Yesterday's Morning Report carried an item from Debka reporting that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki rejected the US proposal of a timetable. Today's Belmont Club has more:
The Iraqi PM publicly denounced American calls for a timetable to shutdown militias and decried US operations against death squads, including operations against Sadr City. "We expected it," US officials said. (AP/Breitbart)

Maliki has nailed his colors to the mast on this issue at least. Legally Iraq is a sovereign country, which the US must treat it as any other country from the perspective of US national interest. Theoretically Maliki is under no obligation to obey Washington, which is correspondingly under no compulsion to support Maliki. While America would prefer to see a stable government in Iraq that is ultimately a task that cannot be delegated to Americans indefinitely. So expect some hardball to be played as this is the way of relations between nations. That said, Maliki's statements imply he values American support less necessary than the goodwill of his Shi'ite base.

The post is long but well worth reading in full. The post quotes a US Army intelligence sergeant: 'We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century.' Wretchard explains: 'In one sense, the US defeated Saddam's Army and the Sunni insurgency too well.'

On the Arab-Israeli front, this morning's analysis from Stratfor expresses skepticism about the idea of an anti-Iran coalition between Israel and the Arab states (excluding Syria). 'Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly plans to attend a U.N. conference on democracy in Qatar next week. Wednesday's announcement of the travel plans, which have not yet been confirmed, is the latest event in a series of developments that underscore Qatar's attempts to emerge as a regional player in the Middle East. It also points toward a larger geopolitical trend: Israel's eagerness to court what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called an axis of moderate Arab states in hopes of countering Iran and its radical allies as they try to exploit the Arab-Israel conflict to their advantage.' Despite the growing trend of back-channel Israeli/Arab contacts, Stratfor's analysis argues that "the reality is far more complex" involving Tehran's advantage in manipulating Sunni/Shi'a sectarian tensions. The article also notes that Sunni states like Egypt and Qatar - and the unique case of Turkey - further complicate the picture.

Stratfor's analysis concludes with the assertion that a lasting Arab/Israeli peace is contingent on a resolution of the "Palestinian problem". Forgive me if I think this is hogwash. It's just the standard CW on the Middle East that we've been conditioned to accept. The regimes in Tehran and Damascus are milking the Palestinian pseudo-problem for all it's worth. I call it a pseudo-problem because I don't think the problem lies in the Palestinian territories at all - nor does its solution. The solution lies in Syria and Iran - and specifically in a fundamental change in the nature of those regimes.

I do not believe that regime change in Iran and Syria will solve everything. It is a necessary but by no means sufficient element of a future free and secure Middle East. The remaining elements will require more learning and more hard work by all parties. President Bush has publicly recognized the scale of the challenges we're facing and the setbacks we've seen - and he's determined to press forward. I agree.

The future will be determined by the interplay of a great many shifting factions, loyalties, and ideals - and I am not speaking only of Iraq.