Hamas blows a gaping hole into Israel’s Gaza policy.

Israel considers the border between Gaza and Egypt as the main conduit to smuggle arms into the gaza strip. Arms, there’s no denying this, which will be used against Israeli interests. The Hamas has now destroyed the border fence and thousands of Palestinians are crossing the border into Egypt. Hamas is denying that blowing up the fence is their work, but news from the area strongly suggest that this is indeed the case and has been planned for a long time.

But a Hamas border guard interviewed by The Times at the border today admitted that the Islamist group was responsible and had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches.

That meant that when the explosive charges were set off in 17 different locations after midnight last night the 40ft wall came tumbling down, leaving it lying like a broken concertina down the middle of no-man’s land as an estimated 350,000 Gazans flooded into Egypt.

Israel has urgently requested from Egypt to restore the sealing off of Gaza, but Egypt rightly said the people in Gaza were in a dire humanitarian situation and it will not hinder Palestinians to cross the border as long as this humanitarian situation persists.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassam Zaki said his nation

“is opening up its arms to its brethren on the Palestinian side.”

He said, “As long as this is a humanitarian crisis, they’re going to be able to cross to get their needs. We are not opening the Rafah crossing just for everybody to cross — we’re opening it because it’s a very dire humanitarian situation.”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has become unbearable since Israel has decided to seal off Gaza in an attempt to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.  This has led to food and energy shortages, which mostly affected ordinary citizens. The only power factory in Gaza had to be shut down two days ago due to fuel shortages. Israel has lifted  some of the measures lately, because rocket attacks seem to have gone down. The UN relief works agency among others condemned Israels actions.

This situation comes only days before the final Winograd report is due, which is all about the bungling of the last Lebanon war. And shortly after the right wing Yisrael Beitenu party left Olmert’s coalition government. For Ehud Olmert the timeframe of his political survival looks increasingly like a manageable amount of time.

The Middle East – again

As if yesterday’s blog entry needed confirmation, here are just two developments from the Middle East, that came up today.

Israel has killed the Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar’s son in an intense battle in Gaza. Israel was destroying houses that had been used to fire rockets into Israel. Both, the firing of rockets and the retaliation have to stop if anything remotely resembling a peace process is meant to be brough to life. Hamas was never invited into the peace process, so they don’t have to feel bound by it. But Israel is part of it, at least thats what we hear on press conferences. Whenever we look at the headlines we see blood.

In Lebanon a bomb has targeted an US embassy vehicle. Four people were killed in the explosion. Lebanon doesn’t look much different than Somalia these days.

Don’t look away. The primaries will be over soon, the election even. The Middle East turmoil is going to be a lasting legacy of the Bush Administration.

In the Middle East, an ongoing crisis deepens

Before Mr Bush and Mr Cheney embark on bringing democracy to Iran, the ongoing wars in the Middle East merit taking a closer look:

This blog has featured  a story about Afghanistan threatening to fall back into the hands of the Taliban in 2008. The story was called “Kabul likely lost in 2008”.  The “Reuters” story we linked 57 days ago said:

 “It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when,” the report said.

The year 2008 is fourteen days old today and here are the Taliban! A Kabul luxury hotel, mostly used by foreign journalists and diplomats was attacked by the resurgent Taliban, Norway’s Foreign Minister survived the attack in the cellar of the building. Six people died.

In Iraq things allegedly go better. Still the US forces deem it necessary to launch an offensive and bomb the southern outskirts of Baghdad. In Iraq the killing doesn’t end, only the reporting on the killing did. 19 US soldiers lost their lives since the beginning of the year.

In Pakistan the bloodshed doesn’t end. The suicide bombing in Lahore four days ago killed 22 human beings mostly policemen. Today 8 died and 40 people were wounded in Karachi. The US has boots on the ground there, much to the dismay of the Pakistani government. It may indeed be necessary, because there is still a chance that Pakistan may fall to chaos and the control over the nuclear arsenal is lost.

In case someone hasn’t noticed the Palestine peace process is negotiated by Palestinian leaders who do not represent the Gaza strip which is only nominally under control of the Palestinian National Authority. The Palestinians are in a de facto civil war and thus make a poor party to peace negotiations. But are the negotiations anything else but window dressing anyway?

The Lebanon? No government to speak of and fighting factions, always on the brink of a civil war. Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, dictatorships, which face increasing internal pressure. All those ingredients don’t make the cocktail named Middle East any less explosive.

Any of the current involvements of the United States in the Middle East, military and political, is a failure and an attack on Iran would shatter what little stability there still is.

Mr Bush, Mr Cheney why don’t you just go to Crawford or to your undisclosed location, sit still and wait for your term to end? You proved a failure for seven long years, please just play dead for the remaining 371 days!

The next step in the American primary season is nearing and Michigan, Nevada and of course Super Tuesday, will push the Middle East to the backpages of the news again. But it should be kept at least in our minds, the danger is not over until the Bush Administration’s term is over. If then.

“Europeanview” wishes you all a healthy and happy day. Hug a dear one and take care!

UPDATE: You find some new developments here.

1 + 1 + 1= War? – An attempt at analysis

The election season and the primaries, along with all the polling and speculation have taken some of the spotlight from a development which may lead to another military engagement. For the first time in his Presidency George W. Bush has visited Israel and some things he said there are worth listening to.

In Ramallah on Thursday Bush has promised support for the Palestinians and announced a peace treaty within a year from now, a Palestinian state would indeed be possible. He bolstered this with his assertion that the US are increasingly critical of the Israeli settlements politics and see the settlements as a crucial obstacle to said peace treaty.

Israel is historically security-conscious to say the least. Being peppered by rockets from neighboring countries on an almost daily basis and the rethoric of extremist politicians like the Iranian president Ahmadinejad don’t help to allay their fears. The Israeli settlements as well as the fence are part of a national security policy, or are at least called such.

So, in order to change the US position on the settlements, the United States will have to offer something in exchange, to up the security issue for Israel. The Israelis deal with Syria by themselves as proven by the still somewhat mysterious air strikes last fall. Israel, will not or cannot, deal with Iran by itself, to get Israel’s concessions on the settlements, the US will have to give them – Iran? Continue reading

Gulf of Tonkin? No, just the Straits of Hormuz!

For once an incident has removed “ObamaHillaryJohnMittMike” from the European headlines. The Iranian vessels threatening US Navy ships have made it to the front page of most European newspaper websites. Is this the run-up to the Gulf of Tonkin moment, that some in Washington obviously still desire and most of us fear?

Here are the facts:

Five small speed-boats probably manned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have cruised close to three US navy vessels:

(…) the U.S. ships involved in the incident were the USS Port Royal, a cruiser; the USS Hopper, a destroyer; and the USS Ingraham, a frigate. They were sailing into the Gulf through the Strait at the time of the incident (…)

According to the Pentagon the Iranian boats were maneuvering in a hostile and aggressive manner and at one point threatened:

“I’m coming at you and you will blow up in a couple of minutes.”

The US ships came close to firing.

Even after the NIE, stating that the Iranian nuclear weapons program may have been suspended as early as 2003, there were still threats against Iran. As those threats explicitly named the Straits of Hormuz as strategically essential, yesterday’s incident gives reason to worry.

Iran’s politics in the region, however, have turned from purely confrontational to cooperative, so that the neighbors in the Middle East don’t chime in on the “isolate Iran” mantra of the US, anymore. The US strategy on Iran is crumbling.

“Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Gulf dignitaries in Bahrain last month. But in reality, everywhere you turn, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia to Egypt, you now see Iranian leaders shattering longstanding taboos by meeting cordially with their Arab counterparts.


Gulf states see Iran as a challenge that they have been dealing with for decades, not an urgent or existential threat. The shifting Arab approach may leave the US with little choice but to do the same. Just as America’s containment of Iraq began to collapse in the late 1990s when its Arab neighbors lost faith in the value of sanctions, the new Gulf attitudes will probably now shape what the US can do with Iran.

Accordingly, a military intervention against Iran will not only be without reason, it will not meet with the support of the other Gulf states, that Washington would need. But there is no accounting for neo-con dreams. For more information and an extensive collection of links on the US-Iran relations see here.

Meanwhile “The Independent” asks: “Remember him?” Two words as brutal as the words “lame duck” and it gets worse:

He is the forgotten leader, scorned by his people, disowned by his party. This week George Bush has a last chance to undo the damage done by his presidency as he begins a Middle East tour

This man’s time is definitely over, however, there are still 378 days left for him. 378 days too many for many Americans, but not enough by far to even begin to “undo the damage”, as if he could.

“Europeanview” has taken a welcome break from the election coverage and wishes you all a bright and sunny, healthy and happy day. Take Care!

Hello from Europe – 419 Days to Go

Is there anything that gets one sailing through the day on a cloud, like belcanto with the divine voice of the unforgotten Luciano Pavarotti? No? Then let’s start the news round-up with “Torna a Surriento”

Here’s the link

You find today’s news round-up below the fold – and there’s even “sex” on the menu. Continue reading