Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Really Happened on the Mavi Marmara and Some Revealing Events in the Middle East Today

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By Barry Rubin

I. Saudi and Arab Leaders Want Obama to Rescue Them, Not Flatter Them

A UPI dispatch reports:

"A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately not for attribution, told this reporter July 6, `All the Middle Eastern and Gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business and they all know sanctions won't work.'"

Now there are few former Arab leaders--they usually stay leader until health or a bullet makes them no longer available for interviews--but this sounds precisely like Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, former Saudi ambassador to the United States.

This is an accurate reading of what's going on in most Arabic-speaking states (obviously not Syria and another de facto country called the Gaza Strip). It runs quite contrary to the dominant Western view that the Arabs-will-love-us-if-we-bash-Israel-and-show-we-think-Muslims-invented-mathematics-and-don't-want-to-be-aggressive-or-use-force-against-anyone school.

Well, the Prince who used to be known as ambassador was basically expressing this sentiment (note 1):

"If there's something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?"
(note 2)

The "Zionist entity"?

One can almost imagine the Saudi king's memo book:

Monday: Bash Israel
Tuesday: Israel destroys Iran nuclear facilities. Whew!
Wednesday: Bash Israel 

2. U.S. Government Cannot Find Evidence That Flotilla Organizer is Terrorist, Germany Can

Not only are the Saudis ahead of the U.S. government, so is Germany. In an earlier article I provided proof--including U.S. court records--that the Turkish IHH, organizer of the flotilla and a Hamas ally--was linked to terrorism. Now Germany has banned the group from raising money for that very reason.  So might one expect that observers reevaluate the flotilla? And I'm not talking about the good intentions of the European participants but the fact that they were being used for a pro-terrorist public relations' operation.

The German statement says:

"The IHH [is] supporting organizations specifically under the control of Hamas or support Hamas. Hamas is, as noted also by the Federal Administrative Court in its Al-Aqsa 2004 decision, a unified structure in which social activities can not be separated from the terrorist and political action organization....

"Organizations that operate directly or indirectly, from German soil against the existence of the State of Israel, have forfeited their right to exist as a recognited organization."

While the government statement said that the IHH in Germany is not part of the IHH in Turkey,  sources tell me that despite the formal independence of the group in Germany it is for all practical purposes a branch of the IHH-Turkey. This point was also made on the German Television One program whose transcript I published last month.

Here's another tip: Israel has now dropped all limits on imports except the restrictions on weapons and dual-use military items. Nevertheless, more ships are being organized and sent off. So again this is not a humanitarian operation but one to support a revolutionary Islamist, client of Iran, genocide-intended, terrorist state on the Mediterranean that oppresses women, seeks to subvert moderate Arab governments, and expels Christians.

There is also a deliberate design to persuade the world that there is some terrible suffering in Gaza and a humanitarian crisis which is belied by photos from there on a regular basis. It is part of the war to destroy Israel and bring revolutionary Islamists to power. And the good will or naivete of many participants in this effort has nothing to do with that reality and no effect on it.

3. What Really Happened on the Mavi Marmara ship

A new Israeli army report is fascinating in its details on the flotilla operation, including the fact that three soldiers were taken hostage and taken to a lower deck, two escaped by jumping into the sea, and the third was too injured to do so. Thus, the need for a rescue raid using force. Lots of other new material.

There was also a real mistake. The navy disregarded intelligence and reports from others that the militants would use violence if the soldiers went on board.

Giora Eiland, former national security advisor, summarized his report as follows:

"We found some professional mistakes that were made, however there were also positive aspects. Specifically, the manner in which the Israeli commandos behaved, the decisions that they made and the way in which they took control of the ship. There were at least 4 incidents where Mavi Marmara passengers shot at IDF soldiers. There is good reason to believe that the first incident of live fire shooting on the ship was by passengers of the Mavi Marmara. The classified suggestions that I made were accepted in an open and willing manner by the officers who received them."

Preparing to attack the soldiers, the terrorists took over the ship and ignored the orders of the captain to stop what they were doing.

The first three Israeli soldiers to arrive on deck were taken hostage forced to the lowest deck at the ship's bow. During the rescue attempt, two jumped into the water and were picked up by Israeli navy boats. The third was too badly hurt to escape but was saved by the rescue forces.

The kidnapping of the soldiers led to the fighting in which nine militants were killed. People killed after attacking and kidnapping soldiers aren't innocent bystanders.

On at least four occasions and perhaps six, passengers shot at Israeli soldiers. Shell casings were found and one soldier was wounded in the knee by weapons that the soldiers did not possess.

The only mistake made was not to use different boarding tactics based on the assumption that the militants would attack. There was no guarantee that this would have resulted in fewer casualties. Eiland concluded that without boarding the ship there was no alterntive way of stopping it.

Incidentally, Eiland specifically said that while he found mistakes he did not conclude that the operation had failed.

So what are the headlines? Israel Says At Least Four Flottila Members Fired at Soldiers?

Of course not!:

Israel military faulted over flotilla raid (AFP)

Israel report blames flawed planning for Gaza raid (AP)

Israel failed in ship interception planning: reports (Reuters)

But here's a critical point everyone has missed. Suppose the navy had planned for a violent resistance. The soldiers would have been more aggressive, perhaps crowd control gas would have been laid down first and they would have been ready to fight. Given the terrorists' determination, more people might have been killed and Israel would have looked more aggressive.

In other words, if the operation had been a "total success" Israel would have looked worse, kidnapping attempts--even if temporary--would have failed, and no Israeli soldiers (instead of nine) would have been wounded.

This is an important reminder. The goal of a military operation is to minimize your own casualties and eliminate--by incapacitating or killing--those who are fighting you. A military success would have been even worse in international terms. Think of that the next time you see Israel judged in such matters, given the complaints from abroad that not enough Israelis are killed when the army fights Hizballah and Hamas.

4. PA Leader Says No Direct Talks, Throws Pie in Obama's Face

Mahmoud Abbas said it would be pointless to engage in direct negotiations with Israel. President Barck Obama says he wants direct negotiations. Oh, no! PA leader, recipient of massive U.S. aid, thwarts will of president. U.S. media rage at extremism, intransigence, ingratitude, proof that Palestinian leaders don't want peace? Palestinian-Americans undergo crisis of conscience; write letters to editor beginning, "As a Palestinian I cannot approve the actions of...: form anti-Palestinian lobby called A Street? President criticizes publicly, puts on major pressure, supports the other side?

No, we're talking about the PA, not Israel.

5. Um, Hasn't that happened?

Lead of Los Angeles Times article:

"Pressure intensified for a resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Sunday, but Palestinian leaders continued to insist that Israel first freeze settlement construction in the West Bank."

Memo to PA: When coming up with excuses for refusing to negotiate peace with Israel you should stick to things that might actually hold up if journalists really thought through what they write on the subject.

Example 2, Financial Times:

"The question facing Mr. Netanyahu now is whether his success in Washington also offers a fresh start back home."

Right, Netanyahu needs Obama's approval to be popular at home? Um, he's far more popular in Israel than Obama is in the United States. (In a few months, the way the president's public approval at home is going Netanyahu might be more popular in the United States than Obama.)

Example 3: New York Times editorial

"Nearly six weeks later, Turkey and Israel are still stoking anger over the disastrous Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship. ... The Obama administration has been trying to help."

Right, Israel is just criticizing Turkey every day and, who knows, may threaten to break relations! (It's the other way around, dude.

6. Military Force at Work

"The U.N. Security Council strongly deplored on Friday recent confrontations between south Lebanese villagers and U.N. peacekeepers in the area and called for the troops to be allowed to do their work.

"Last week villagers seized weapons from French troops in the UNIFIL force and wounded their patrol leader."

So do we need another UN military force to protect the UNIFIL soldiers from the villagers? Obviously, they aren't going to confront Hizballah or stop it from a build-up in south Lebanon or an attack on Israel.

Of course, the villagers are acting on Hizballh orders. Let's see, Hizballah agents attack UN soldiers. Hizballah condemned, sanctions, support for other side? Oh, right, still not Israel. They're only terrorists so no reason to be angry at them. In fact, the (ex) CNN Arab affairs editor and the British ambassador to Lebanon finds them thoroughly admirable and all sorts of people want to engage them diplomatically.

You don't need to have a good sense of humor to be a Middle East analyst. It's easy to develop one along the way.

Note 1: Reference is to Prince, the nom-de-rock of the singer/songwriter. He said he wanted to be known as the artist formerly known as prince.

Note 2: Song, "Ghostbusters" from film of the same name.

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