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Chechnya & Gaza, Iran & Sanctions

New Wave Of Chechnyan Terrorism In Russia Exposes Nature Of Radical Islam In Gaza

China Hedging On President Obama's Call For Stiff Sanctions On Iran 'Withing Weeks'

Prime Minister Netanyahu Takes Passover Holiday Before Answering Obama's Demands

 Radical Islamic terrorists are again on the rampage. In Russia, Chechnyan terrorists murdered over fifty people, while Palestinian terrorists from Gaza killed two IDF soldiers and launched over thirty rockets at Israeli civilians in March. Although, U.S. President Barack Obama has been talking confidently about the international community imposing a new round of sanctions against Iran within 'weeks', China is still balking. Analyst David Essing says it may be still too early to pop upon the champagne over a sanctions solution to the Iranian nuclear threat.

 Radical Islam has struck again in two different parts of the world but with similar aims. In Russia, Chechnyan terrorists launched a new wave of suicide bombing attacks while terrorists from Hamas governed Gaza escalated their border attacks and Kassam rocketing of Israeli civilians. Islamic terrorists, be they in Russia or Gaza, have the same goal: to impose their political and religious will that includes the eventual rule of Islamic shariya law. The international community often tends to view Israel's campaign against Palestinian terror as a local, territorial conflict excluded from 'the clash of civilizations' that confronts the rest of the world. U.S. President Barack Obama has adopted a Middle East approach that seems to infer that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is actually a source of Islamic radicalism and as such harms his ability to wage the war against radical Islam in Afghanistan and Iraq. However is this not a naive approach that bears no relation at all to the World Jihad movement in Russia, Phillipines, other parts of the globe or in the Sunni - Shiite confrontation in the Middle East.

Surprisingly, after the latest blood bath in the Moscow subway, even Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told Hamas leader Khaled Mashal that the rocketing of Israel from Gaza 'serves no purpose'. After the breakup of the USSR, the Russian Federation fought two ferocious wars to suppress the Chehnyan attempt to form an Islamic Republic. Moscow fears a domino effect - if Chechnya succeeds in breaking away, others will follow suit. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has now pledged to 'dredge the terrorists from their sewers' and bring them to justice. If past experience is any indication, the Russians can be expected to launch a no-holds barred crackdown against the Chechnyans that will make Israel's 'Cast Lead Operation' into Gaza look like a Boy Scouts excursion.

IDF troops near the Gaza Strip

On this score, Israeli counter-terrorism expert Dr.Boaz Ganor recounted how he once accompanied a Russian general to the Gaza area during an IDF counter- terrorism operation. The Russian officer was amazed that the IDF was warning Palestinian civilians to take cover and move out before IDF actions in addition to the other Israeli efforts to avert civilian casualties. The Russian general left no doubt that Russian forces never took such precautions in Chechnya or elsewhere. Moreover, note the reaction of Richard Holbrooke, the Special U.S. representative to Afghanistan, when asked by CNN recently about the 'collateral damage' (inadvertent killing and wounding of Afghan civilians) by NATO forces during the recent Marjah campaign. Holbrooke expressed regret over this collateral damage while noting that in his view U.S. General Stanley McChristal had taken 'an unprecedented step in warfare' by giving advance warning to civilians to clear out before the NATO offensive. Holbrooke was apparently unaware that this was IDF standard behavior during its Cast Lead operation into Gaza. The IDF even telephoned civilians and dropped harmless explosive charges on their roofs before attacking. But for obvious reasons, the Russians in Chechnya nor the NATO forces in Afghanistan will not have any Goldstone commissions coming in their wake.

As for Gaza, the IDF has adopted a zero tolerance to Palestinian provocations. The Israeli security fence built along the border has stymied the terrorists and because it is so tough to penetrate on the ground they fire Kassams over it or try and tunnel underneath. Another tactic is to try and infiltrate, under cover of dark of fog, to plant explosive charges on the fence to be detonated when an IDF patrol passes by on the other side. IDF sources say this is a 'cat and mouse' game that goes on all the time. For the most part, Israel's sophisticated electronic network keeps the terrorists at bay. But the question now is whether the IDF will take punitive action, possibly after the Passover holiday, for the two IDF soldiers who were killed in a recent encounter.

Bibi Netanyahu

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took a Passover timeout to supply answers to President Barack Obama's demands. Netanyahu and his six key cabinet ministers have to formulate a response not only on building beyond the old 1967 lines in Jerusalem but also on Obama's insistence that core issues, such as borders and Jerusalem, be discussed in the proposed proximity talks to be chaired by American envoy George Mitchell. Netanyahu has insisted that these questions be left for direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Mitchell is expected back in Jerusalem before April 12th, when Netanyahu is due to fly back to Washington to attend a an international nuclear conference chaired by the U.S. leader. One of the only good things that can be said about the current confrontation between Jerusalem and Washington is that Israel has a Right-wing prime minister, otherwise the country might now be headed for an internal upheaval.

So far, the Prime Minister is sticking to his guns and has not indicated that he will back down over the issue of Jerusalem. If he does, Netanyahu will face a rebellion inside his own Likud party. Cabinet minister Yossi Peled is typical. Peled declares:' Jerusalem is not a subject for discussion. The Prime Minister should be a lot less equivocal on this issue!' Peled is angry over the U.S. pressure now being exerted on the Jewish state: 'Israel is called upon to make more and more compromises, while the Palestinians are pleased and we are at a loss about what to do. I have no doubt the U.S. is a vital ally. Yes, I remember they give us military and civilian aid. However there are situations when even a small state must tell her closest friend, even if it is gigantic, that enough is enough! We must remind them that we are no less important to them than they are to us. Netanyahu must draw red lines and not behave as he is today'. Peled's views are representative of four other cabinet ministers Begin, Yaalon, Liberman and Yishai in the Big Seven. Barak amd Meridor are considered to be more compromising when it comes to the U.S. so undoubtedly Netanyahu is caught between the hammer and the anvil as he weighs all the pros and cons of bucking Obama in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat.

IRAN & CHINA: While Israel's Prime Minister ponders how to resolve the current dilemma, President Obama has spoken optimistically about imposing new sanctions on Iran within a period 'of weeks rather than months'. The word was that not only Russia but also China are now on board the current American campaign in the UN Security Council. However, although some Israeli officials are now talking in more hopeful terms about stopping Iran's drive for nuclear weapons, not all the experts agree that the diplomatic track will work. Professor Efraim Kamm, a strategic analyst at Tel Aviv University, predicts that even if China supports new sanctions, she will insist they do not affect oil or petroleum products. Iran, although a big oil supplier, actually imports about 40% of her refined petroleum needs such as gasoline. On the other hand, China imports some 10% of her oil from Iran. Kamm concludes that the Iranian leadership will opt for paying the economic price of new sanctions while continuing the nuclear weapons project. The Iranians believe they can cope with watered down sanctions and bank on acquiring a nuclear weapons arsenal within two or three years. Then the U.S. will have to confront a different Iran. Moreover, China and Russia can be expected to seek concessions of one kind or another from Washington even for the softened sanctions.

David Essing, IsraCast, Jerusalem

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