Morning Report: December 6, 2006

Moving forward. Analysts parse a prospective Defense Secretary's words, a European minister takes the broad view, Iran will get little subs but lose big bucks, an isotope goes to town, and a woman's life is spared. Oh, and there are still people in the world who understand the value of human life.

Return of the Baker Doctrine? It's not yet clear whether the Administration's new moves signal a return to the Baker Doctrine on Israel, but Debka reports:
Israel will face demands for concessions in the fresh US initiative on Israel-Palestinian peace advised strongly by the Bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The panel headed by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton submits its report to the White House later Wednesday, Dec. 6. It is expected to recommend that Washington talk directly with Iran and Syria, as well as shifting the US military role in Iraq from combat to training by early 2008.

The Israeli prime minister’s office, responding to incomplete leaks from the bipartisan reports, assured the public Wednesday that there is no diplomatic pressure on the horizon. His aides must have missed this phrase: “The US cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it embarks on a renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive peace plan on all fronts.”

A further the recommendation for US troops in Iraq to withdraw “from combat roles” leaves Jordan and Israel exposed on their eastern fronts to the mayhem in Iraq. Since the US presence in Iraq cannot be sustainable without engaging Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda in combat, this wording appears to be a euphemism for the US military exit from Iraq in just over a year.

And if the White House indeed takes up the Bush-Hamilton recommendation to deal directly with Iran and Syria, the Bush administrations policy somersault on the Middle East will be complete.

Four significant changes are indicated:
1. The US finds itself unable to prevent or respond to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, as incoming defense secretary Robert Gates stated bluntly in the Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
2. American forces will be gone from Iraq in just over a year.
3. Washington will soon embark on a fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
4. Direct US-Iran, US-Syria talks are in the offing.
DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources note that Israel’s leaders, PM Ehud Olmert and FM Tzipi Livni, have not come up with any serious responses to the Gates statement on Iran and the Baker-Hamilton recommendations – both of which bear fundamentally on Israel’s security in the face of existential dangers. They would be well advised to get their act together fast, because the Bush administration is not expected to delay before putting these recommendations into effect.

At the Standard, Robert Kagan and William Kristol write that 'after nine months of deliberation and an unprecedented build-up of expectations that these sages would produce some brilliant, original answer to the Iraq conundrum, the study group's recommendations turn out to be a pallid and muddled reiteration of what most Democrats, many Republicans, and even Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officials have been saying for almost two years.' The article continues, 'One of the more striking aspects of the Iraq Study Group's report is that these recommendations are clearly not anyone's idea of the right plan. As the New York Times put it, they represent "a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March." One commission source declared, "We reached a consensus, which in itself is remarkable." "Everyone felt good about where we ended up," said another. We're happy for them. But reaching consensus among the 10 members of the group was presumably not the primary goal of this exercise. The idea was to provide usable advice for the Bush administration that would help it move toward an acceptable outcome in Iraq. In that, the commission has failed. ... As for Baker's other significant and more original recommendation--that the United States hold direct talks with Iran and Syria to get their help in Iraq--Bush nixed that idea, too.' Full article at the link. (Debka, Standard)

Return of the Baker Doctrine, Part 2. Vital Perspective responds to an interview with the United States' likely next Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates: 'We're doing some blogging of the SECDEF hearings with Robert Gates, and thought this line of questioning from Sen. Graham on the Iranian nuclear threat was particularly interesting. Gates says that nobody - that's nobody - can assure Israel that they will not be attacked with an Iranian nuclear weapon should Iran obtain one...' Excerpts at the link. Debka has a similar take on the Gates interview: 'Gates’ words imply the Bush administration will disavow its long-held pledge to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. The designated defense secretary Robert Gates’ replied to the Senate committee’s at his confirmation hear Tuesday: “If Iran obtains nuclear weapons no one can promise it would not use them against Israel.”' Full article at the link. (VP, Debka)

Another view of Gates. It's been said that "There are two kinds of people in the world - those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't." James Jay Carafano in National Review seems to be expressing a similar idea when he says 'There are “two Americas.” One is the land of bitter partisan political rhetoric where Republicans and Democrats hold Manichean views of national security and what needs to be done to make the nation safe, free, and prosperous. The other America is represented by the reality reflected in the Gates confirmation hearings — that the factions in Congress are not nearly far apart as their election-year ranting would leave you to believe.' Carafano's view of a prospective Gates era is distinctly more upbeat than some other analysts':
For the most part, the senators’ questions and the secretary-designate’s answers revealed Washington’s political leadership is not really all that divided on national-security priorities or on the practical range of options available to address the challenges ahead.

We learned, for example, that no one is really for “cutting and running” in Iraq, pulling our troops out right now regardless of the consequences. Nor is anyone seriously considering “staying the course” — leaving 150,000 troops in Iraq forever, doing the same thing day in and day out. In fact, there is a consensus for changes that will push the Iraqis to become less dependent on the U.S. forces and make the security assistance and support we provide them more effective and efficient.

We also found out that no one has really forgotten about Afghanistan. That country remains a critical front in the war on terror. ...

There was also a uniform recognition that the war on terror has worn down America’s military and that there needs to be a sustained commitment to adequate Defense spending to make sure the armed forces are trained and ready for the future.

It was also remarkable to see that when Gates reaffirmed his commitment to missile defense as an important tool in the future national-security tool kit, there wasn’t much rancorous disagreement from committee Democrats.

Go to the link for the full article. (NRO)

French FM sees context for Israel overflights in Lebanon. Via ProSemite Undercover, Jerusalem Post reports some refreshing news from France: '"The IAF forays cannot be considered as a separate element of UN Resolution 1701," French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Paris on Wednesday. "All parts of the resolution must be implemented, including the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and preventing Hizbullah from rearming," said the French foreign minister. Israel's Foreign Ministry took Douste-Blazy's statement to mean that the he was siding with Israel regarding the IAF flights. Nevertheless, Douste-Blazy still pressed for a halt in the IAF sorties. "It's an important achievement we have to consolidate ... and ensure the respect of the embargo and - at the same time - a halt to the overflights," he said.' Full article at the link. (JPost)

More mini-subs for Iran. Strategy Page: 'December 5, 2006: Iran has put two coastal submarines into service. Apparently with technical help from North Korea, Iran is building these mini-submarines for operations along its coasts, and throughout the Persian Gulf. Four have been built so far. The sub has a two man crew, and can carry three divers, or several naval mines, or a torpedo. The Iranians say they will use the mini-subs to lay mines or launch underwater commando attacks. ...' (Strategy Page)

Trace polonium found at stadium. Seems like that irrepressible Element 84 is turning up all over the place. MSNBC: 'MOSCOW - Traces of the radioactive isotope polonium-210 have been detected at a London stadium that hosted a soccer match attended by a key figure in the probe of the fatal radiation poisoning of a former Russian spy, a British official said Wednesday. The key figure, Andrei Lugovoi, who is hospitalized in Moscow and being tested for possible polonium contamination, was to be interviewed by British investigators Wednesday, according to a Russian news agency report confirmed by a Lugovoi associate. ... Vyacheslav Sokolenko, a business associate, confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that Lugovoi would be meeting with British investigators. Lugovoi, who is also a former Russian agent, attended a soccer match at Emirates Stadium on Nov. 1 after meeting Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko fell ill that day and died Nov. 23 in London. Toxicologists found polonium-210 in his body.' The Health Protection Agency states that there is no risk to public health from the "barely detectable" radiation. (MSNBC)

A flicker of hope: Parisa Akbari's life spared. Or Does It Explode: 'Parisa Akbari is alive. The fact that she is still alive offers a flicker of hope from Iran. On Monday, she was released from jail and acquitted of the charges against her, which carried the death penality. Here is the update on her case via Her Earth: Parisa Akbari, one of the Iranian women sentenced to death by stoning for "adultery," was released from jail as a free woman today after receiving 99 lashes for having sex outside of marriage. ... The lawyers representing these women are true heroes. Here's a salute to them - and to Parisa for survivng her ordeal - and to Ashraf, may she too soon escape the executioner's stoning.' (ODIE)

Under US pressure, UK banks end Iranian ties. Via Marze Por Gohar: 'Several of the UK's largest banks fear they could face the full legislative wrath of the US government unless they bow to Washington's pressure to shut their operations in Iran. It is believed that officials in President George Bush's administration have also put pressure on banks with operations in the US, including RBS, HSBC and Barclays, to stop acting on behalf of UK business customers in Iran. Barclays, it is thought, has already told its corporate clients that it will not accept deposits from transactions originating in Iran. ...' (MPG)

Belmont Club on Sunnis and Shi'as in Iraq. Wretchard continues to follow the Sunni/Shi'a conflict in Iraq: 'The logic for crushing the Sunni insurgency is that is the fate they have chosen for themselves. The objections against it are not only moral but practical. Removing them from the board will mean that there will be no countervailing force against the Shi'ites.' Shi'a leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim isn't interested in a "regional solution" at this point because: 'The Sunnis are on the ropes. He doesn't want anyone ringing the bell. He wants the full count.' Full post at the link. (Belmont Club)

Briefly noted. Woman Catholic joins DiL's blogroll.

Commentary. This morning, Steve at ThreatsWatch reports:
On the heels of an Israeli report of Hizballah’s use of human shields, the Hizballah coup d’etat continues in Beirut. Lebanese army commander General Michel Suleiman warned that the violence could escalate and adversely affect the army’s ability to hold itself together as a mixture of Shi’a, Sunni, Druze and Christian Lebanese soldiers. Gen. Suleiman said, “The absence of political solutions, along with the recurring security incidents, particularly those with a sectarian tinge, drain the army’s resources and weaken its neutrality. This weakness will make the army unable to control the situation in all areas of Lebanon.” This, of course, is surely one of Hizballah’s objectives should it eventually pursue a strategy of escalation as expected. The areas the Lebanese army would not be able to control would be the Hizballah-controlled territory south of the Litani River and the Bekaa Valley on the eastern border with Syria.

Hizballah’s current tactic utilizes the Shi’a civilian population in confrontation just as it did over the summer in its war with Israel.

Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center will be releasing a study into Hizballah’s use of Lebanese civilians as human shields and Israeli civilians as targets, plainly titled Hezbollah’s Use of Lebanese Civilians as Human Shields. ...

The study will exhaustively document Hezbollah's cynical abuse of the civilian population in Lebanon. Steve's main complaint is that the report is coming rather late in the game. Israel - like certain other governments I can think of - sometimes has trouble getting the message out. But, better late than never.

The jihadi movement depends on keeping the public ignorant and misinformed of its true intentions and tactics. As the Militant Ideology Atlas from West Point's Combatting Terrorism Center explains, we can exploit one of the jihadis' principal vulnerabilities by exposing their fundamentally anti-human nature.

One who knows about this is Abu Kais at Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal:
I was raised by my grandmother. Not once did she tell me that I should die. Her husband, who met her at a tobacco field when she was a teenager, threw a fit one day when I threatened to quit college following an argument with my parents. “You will graduate,” he would order me.

I graduated three times after that, but he wasn’t there to see it. Both he and my grandmother, two Shia villagers who migrated to Beirut to raise their children, did not see their favorite grandson (or so they told me), graduate. Both, however, instilled in me the rejection of death as an objective in life. They were both illiterate. My grandmother never missed a prayer. Yet she never told me that I should sacrifice my life. They said go and learn, and hoped they would see the day when I am successful with children of my own.

My grandparents are with me every minute of the day telling me to embrace life and look forward.

There is really nothing more for me to add to that.

Embrace life, and look forward.