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Middle East Meltdown?

IDF Maj.Gen.Amos Gilad: 'Just Imagine If Today Libya's Muamar Kadafi Had Nuclear Weapons - This Lesson Of Libya Also Applies To Iran'

IAEA Report Expresses Concern Over Iran's Possible Use Of Nuclear Materials For Military Purposes

Prof. Fouad Adjami: 'I Am Optimistic About Arab Democracy & That Egypt Will Honor Peace Treaty With Israel'

Amos Gilad

Maj.Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, a senior adviser to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has warned that one lesson from Libya is that radical regimes such as Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Gen. Gilad noted that Muamar Kadafi had been forced to abandon his nuclear weapons project in the past, otherwise he would now be threatening to use them today against his opponents at home and abroad. IsraCast analyst David Essing reports on some of the issues now facing Israel.

'Just imagine if Libya's Muamar Kadafi now had nuclear weapons - the same also applies to another radical regime like Iran if it ever acquires the bomb!' That was the reaction of IDF Maj.Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad to the latest IAEA report about Iran's nuclear weapons program. Yukia Amano, the IAEA's Director General, had earlier told the Washington Post of 'concern over Iran's possible use of nuclear materials for military purposes in the past and perhaps now'. And Amano added: 'Iran is somehow producing enriched uranium of up to 20% steadily and constantly'. The IAEA report on Iran is being forwarded to the UN Security Council. Interviewed on Channel One TV, Gen. Gilad said he was not surprised by the latest report adding that Israel relies on its own sources of intelligence. He stressed the seriousness of radical regimes such as Libya or Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and 'the lesson is that it is impossible that Iran, which threatens Israel, be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons'. In his view, it was not a matter of Iran now trying to exploit the current upheaval in the Middle East, Iran has been conducting a consistent campaign to acquire nuclear weapons for years something that is now recognized as a dire threat to the international community and stability.

Pressed by reporters on possible dangers to Israel posed by the violent unrest in several Arab countries and the failure of the U.S. to take any decisive action, after demanding the resignation of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Gilad spoke of the need to 'keep things in proportion, it's not as if everything is collapsing all around us'. Far off Libya was a separate case where Kadafi was running wild and the army was not playing a stabilizing role. However in Egypt and Tunisia, the armies had apparently stabilized those states and despite demonstrations in Jordan, the government was in control while Saudi Arabia was quiet. As for the U.S., it was the only superpower on the world stage and there was 'no alternative to America's role in the Middle East'. Gilad played down the assumption that America had adopted a back seat role in Libya and was not doing enough in support of its allies in the Middle East.

Muamar Gaddafi

Iranian Vessels In Mediterranean: 'The two Iranian Navy's ships that sailed through he Suez Canal to the Syrian port of Latakia is another indicator of Tehran's aggressiveness in the region' - that's the assessment of strategic analyst Dr. Dore Gold. In his view, Iran's naval extension into the Mediterranean Sea reveals a new and problematic strategic reality: every place where the U.S. is perceived to be withdrawing, Iran will be there to enter the vacuum. If Iran crosses the nuclear weapons threshold its assertiveness will most certainly escalate.

Prof. Fouad Adjami of Johns Hopkins University is a preeminent expert on the Middle East who is optimistic about the current power struggle between entrenched dictatorships and the people power in the Middle East. For one thing he noted the the Egyptian throngs that packed Cairo's Freedom Square did not shout: 'Death to America, death to the Jewish state!' Interviewed in the Haaretz newspaper, advised Israel not to fear Arab democracy, adding that he had always been a fan of Israel and of the possibility of reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. He quoted Natan Sharansky who once said: ' Democracies that hate you are less dangerous than dictators that love you'. On this score, it was often thought that autocracies bring with then a sense of security and Israel is not alone in believing this - so did the U.S. For security considerations, America had opted for deals with autocrats in many countries. But a deal with an autocrat was never a good thing. And Adjami contended: ' Israel signed deals with pharaohs and kings, but peace with their peoples has yet to arrive. In my opinion peace - making between peoples is more difficult and requires taking more risks, but nonetheless I still think that peace with democratic states is more logical.

Dictators who made peace with Israel and appeased the U.S. still held a holy trinity: anti- Americanism, anti- modernity and anti-Semitism. I understand Israel's concerns, but if long-term peace is desired, Israel should gamble on the democratic experiment. Israel's peace with Sadat's Egypt and Hussein's Jordan has remained an orphan. A profound peace must be a democratic peace. I also think that today it is hard to envisage improved relations between Israel and more Arab states without a Palestinian agreement'.

'I am convinced Egypt will continue to honor its peace treaty with Israel - this is not out of love for Israel but paradoxically it will be the Egyptian army and not the people who will have the final say. The army will continue to play an important role and will preserve the peace accord because its senior commanders know what happened to Egypt in previous wars. People are wondering what will transpire now in Egypt - democracy, theocracy, military dictatorship? The answer is that politics will have elements of religion but also a strong element of democracy, with the army fulfilling the role of custodian. As one who knows the Egyptian traits, I am optimistic'.

However, some Israeli pundits have noted the warm welcome accorded given Sheikh Yousef al-Qardawi, the Egyptian self exiled religious leader of radical Islam, who returned to Cairo to address a crowd of two million in Freedom Square. Qardawi leads the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Muslim organization that wants to make Muslim shariya law the law of the land and rejects peace with the Jewish state. During the nineties, Qardawi called for suicide bombings against Israel and today he also supports Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Shiite Hizballah, an Iranian proxy that now dominates Lebanon. Qardawi argues that Sunni Muslims should support Hizballah because of its ongoing war against Israel. One of his most extreme religious rulings is permission to kill a pregnant Jewish mother because her child might later grow up to become an Israeli soldier. So the question now is whether Qardawi has returned to Egypt to lead the Muslim Brotherhood to victory in a future election. He told the cheering crowd that the Palestinians were also victors of the Egyptian Revolution and promised to see to it that the Rafah border terminal with Gaza would be reopened for them. (This would allow an unimpeded flow of missiles and other weapons into Gaza for attacking Israel). Qardawi also promised: 'Soon we will all be able to pray at the Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem!' And the religious mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood has also decreed it was permissible for a Muslim husband to beat his wife, albeit moderately, in order to educate her while homosexuals should be executed by being thrown off a high tower.

Israel & Arab Dictators: Dr. Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister has taken issue with the contention that Israel has preferred to do diplomatic business with Middle East dictatorships such as Egypt and Jordan. Beilin argued this was simply not true, although Israel may be at fault for other things. Israeli governments have never had a preference for dealing with dictators. With tongue in cheek, Beilin argued the problem was that no one ever asked what type of government Jerusalem would prefer in their country. Therefore Israel had to conduct a very complex foreign policy in any given international situation. This did not only apply to the Middle East; take for example China. Israel has diplomatic relations with China which it views as a huge diplomatic achievement, although China is ruled by an outdated regime, authoritarian and often cruel, one that executes hundreds of people annually. Would Israel wish for China to become a democratic state? Undoubtedly, but Beilin asked whether Israel boycott the biggest country in the world until it does? He concluded that for its part, Israel with all its weaknesses, is one of the most democratic countries in the world and numbered among the oldest.

Grads From Gaza: The two Grad missiles, fired from Gaza at the Isreali city of Beer Sheva, were a fresh reminder of the danger close to home. However, deadly as it might have been, the rocketing is being viewed by Israel as being sparked by the Islamic Jihad and not Hamas. What apparently happened was that terrorists were first spotted trying to plant explosive charges on the security fence to be detonated when IDF troops passed by.The IDF opened fire wounding eleven of the gunmen. Islamic Jihad then launched two Grad missiles at Beer Sheva, the biggest city in the southern Israel with a population of some 200,000. One of the Grads hit a building in a residential area causing damage and some civilians had to be treated for panic attacks. After the close call, Israeli aircraft raided Gaza city hitting three Jihad members. Prime |Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later warned: 'No country would allow its civilians to be rocketed nor will Israel, I would not advise anyone to test our resolve to defend our people!' Since taking office some two years ago, the Netanyahu government has enforced a zero tolerance policy to terrorism of any kind from Gaza. However this does not cut any ice with the residents of Beer Sheva and the other towns and villages, who are within rocket range of Gaza and have to race to their bomb shelters within less than 30 seconds or less, whenever the terrorists feel like firing off some rockets.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak got an earful from angry residents of Beer Sheva when he visited the city. They demanded the Israel's new Iron Dome rocket defense system be deployed in their town as soon as it goes fully operational in the near future. However, due to the limited number of units being produced because of budget restraints, Iron Dome will apparently be saved for protecting strategic targets. What is clear is that the current Israeli government will not acquiesce in any new Palestinian attempt to gradually escalate attacks from Gaza and draw Israel into another round of low intensity warfare. This was their strategy that ended up with hundreds of rockets being launched at Israeli civilians daily, a situation that eventually lead to Israel's Cast Lead operation into Gaza in 2008. That's why Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dashed off a formal complaint to the UN Security Council.

David Essing

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