Sunday, August 31, 2008

Russian military performance

Former DOD senior planner and intelligence planner Felix Chang provides here (thanks to Paul) an evaluation of the performance of Russian forces in the recent invasion of Georgia. The action showed 'the Russian military's renewed ability to to prosecute a relatively complex, high-intensity combined arms operation.' The army, air force and navy all performed better than during the 1990s. It looks as if the days of horribly bungled operations in Chechnya are in the past.

As Chang notes, 'the evidently high state of readiness of such a broad array of Russian units across all three services raises more questions about Moscow's intentions and planning prior to the outbreak of hostilities.' Well, yes.

Equal opportunity islamists

British TV is airing a program, filmed undercover inside London's prestigious Regent's Park Mosque, which shows Saudi women encouraging other women to murder gays and ex-Muslims. Christianity is called 'vile' and 'abominable' and Britain a 'land of evil.' The man in charge of the mosque is the Islamic Affairs attache at the Saudi Embassy in London. He claimed not to know these female preachers. Does make you wonder what's going on in the other, less prestigious mosques in the UK. See the story here, thanks to Jihad Watch.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Roof repaired

The ceiling of the European Parliament in Strasbourg has been fixed. The Parliament will return to the building for the session that begins September 22, which means that only one session will have been moved to Brussels. In an earlier entry I talked about the relative force of gravity. Now I can only conclude now that the EU has succeeded in defying it. See details here.

Fight for the Jewel

As I reported earlier, a Danish publishers association undertook to publish Sherry Jones' The Jewel of Medina, a novel about Mohammed's favorite child-wife, after Random House backed out of its contract to do so. Now Copenhagen imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen (a Danish convert) has responded with a threatening open letter, as reported by German writer Henryk Broder in the blog Die Achse des Guten.

Pedersen warns that the entire Danish nation could become the target of Muslim anger if the book is published, in a crisis similar to the one over the cartoons of Mohammed. Publishing Jewel, he charges, is an abuse of freedom of conscience; the real motives of the book's supporters are hatred of Islam and xenophobia.

I had begun to worry about Europe's Islamists after the relatively quiet response to the Dutch film Fitna. But it appears my concerns were premature.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wives, listen up!

What goes on in sharia courts, which have operated in the UK (although with no basis in British law) since 1982? Well, for one thing, they can order wives to be more attentive to their husbands' needs. I think I'm beginning to see what makes the courts attractive (at least to husbands). See details in this article in Dhimmi Watch.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Funding the Palestinians

Who funds the Palestinians? Well, for years, the EU has supported the Palestinian Authority, despite discovering at one point that its money went directly into terrorists' pockets, or, as is the case now, that it helps to fund Palestinian textbooks inciting hatred against Israel. The EU has already provided 256 million euros this year (around $380 million), and just announced that it will add another 40 million euros ($60 million) to cover salaries for government workers.

But something far more bizarre just happened. It turns out that Israel is now sending funds ($23 million so far) directly to Hamas, perhaps in response to U.S. pressure. Technically the money, which is Palestinian tax revenues withheld by the Israelis, is intended for Fatah employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Why anyone should expect it to reach them is a mystery. Meanwhile, Hamas has unveiled a more powerful missile with which to bombard Israel. See Rachel Ehrenfeld's article here.

The EU and Russia

The EU will hold an emergency summit on EU-Russian relations on September 1, in response to the demands of many member states. Those putting pressure on the EU include new members such as Poland and Lithuania, as well as the UK and the Scandinavian countries. For example, the Lithuanian foreign minister, who spent the five days of the recent war in Tbilisi, called for diplomatic sanctions against Russia and the integration of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and the EU.

Germany, France and Italy have resisted this pressure. However, the Russians are not helping their EU friends. French President Sarkozy, who helped broker the current Russo-Georgian ceasefire, has egg on his face because the Russians have not honored it. On August 14, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev reportedly had a 'difficult and tense' meeting in Sochi. Two days later she told Georgian president Saakashvili that she supported NATO membership for Georgia. (See here.) She now has to persuade her voters; according to a recent opinion poll, 58% do not want to risk endangering German Russian relations by letting Georgia join NATO.

Gravity to the rescue

The European Parliament for years has migrated between two venues, Brussels and Strasbourg. The more than 700 Members meet most of the time in Brussels, but 12 times per year they, their staff, and their papers must all move to Strasbourg, France. That city, on the Franco-German border, symbolizes reconciliation - and the importance of France.

For years, all efforts to end this 'travelling circus' have met with failure, despite its estimated annual price tag of 200 million euros ($300 million), not to mention its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Now nature has come to the rescue. A portion of the roof of the Strasbourg building collapsed (no one was injured), so for the time being the Parliament will meet only in Brussels. See details here, thanks to

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No problem: no terrorism

In two recent cases, local police authorities, working with the FBI, have said that suspicious incidents were not terror-related:

-- An Egyptian using a Sudanese passport builds a drone that can carry more than 600 pounds of explosives. He is doing this in Calverton, Long Island, near the firing range where the terrorists who subsequently tried to blow up the Twin Towers in 1993 practiced their skills. When asked, he says he wants to market his invention to DOD. He had not yet broken any U.S. law. See Jihad Watch here.

-- A Somali enters the U.S. from Ottawa, travels to Denver, and is discovered dead in a hotel room with a jar of cyanide crystals just days before the Democratic Convention. His sister says he was a schizophrenic, the Denver police that he was not a terrorist. See here.

Isn't it a relief to know there's no problem?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Danes to the rescue

The Jewel of Medina is a fictionalized account by Sherry Jones of the life of Mohammed's favorite wife, child-bride Aisha. Last month, Random House dropped it just days before publication after American academic Denise Spellman raised a storm with an email saying the book would offend Muslims and provoke violence. (Spellman had been sent the manuscript in hopes that she would write a favorable blurb for the cover.)

Serbian publisher Beobuk, who was also bringing out The Jewel of Medina, quickly withdrew it after receiving a threatening letter from the mufti of the Islamic Community in Serbia. (See here.). Italian, Spanish, and Hungarian publishers have purchased rights as well; no news so far as to what they will do.

Danish publishers association Trykkeselskabet, however, has announced that it will publish the book. See details here, thanks to Libby, who's been tracking this story for some time. According to Trykkeselskabet spokeswoman Helle Merete Brix, herself a prominent critic of Islamism, 'fear or threats should not keep a book from being published.' We need to clone her.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yes, it is shameless self-promotion, but it seems to me that I can do that on my own blog.

Anyway, here's a link to my book review of the The Village of the German (Le Village de l'Allemand) by Boualem Sansal (mentioned in an earlier entry). In this novel, Sansal argues that a fine line separates Islamism and Nazism.

Fighting back

The President of the University of Southern California has forced the USC chapter of the Muslim Student Association to remove from its website a hadith (sacred teaching) that calls on Muslims to kill Jews as a way to achieve redemption.

As Reut Cohen says in his FrontPageMagazine article, "this is the first time that an American university has acknowledged that the Muslim Student Association's agenda involves the promotion of ethnic hatred." It's a refreshing change from the usual dynamic, in which anyone who criticizes Islamist hate creeds is accused of being 'Islamophobic.'

A similar incident occurred in Frankfort, in the Chicago area. Township assessor Paul Ruff circulated an email to his friends, apparently quoting (inaccurately) recent statements by the Australian prime minister to the effect that people coming to Australia or the United States should adapt. Ruff met with predictable outrage from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the local mosque and was accused of spreading a 'hate' message. He then called a news conference at which he refused to apologize. Instead, he defended his position by saying that Islam 'institutionalizes discrimination against women and non-Muslims'. Read more at Dhimmi Watch.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Russia: the big picture

Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, offers here the best, objective analysis I've seen of how Russia sees the world and what its objectives are. He weaves in key post Cold War elements, starting with Yeltsin's retreat from democracy in 1993 that led to Clinton's decision to expand NATO. He links the Kosovo dispute to the Caucasus, and missile defense to other pressures on former Warsaw Pact members. The article is long but well worth your while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Twin regions

What do West Yorkshire and Detroit, Michigan have in common? Well, how about the occasional radicalized Muslim youth dreaming of jihad and mayhem? At least, that's what it looks like from this report and this one, both thanks to Jihad Watch.

Czechoslovakia and Georgia

The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that ended the 'Prague Spring' happened just 40 years ago. At the time, it was a shocking event. Radio Free Europe has a short then-and-now video that gives a good idea of what it felt like, both for the Czechoslovaks and for the soldiers in the invading army.

Yet by many measures, what Russia is doing in Georgia is worse: see the first-person reporting by journalist Michael Totten at City Journal. The Soviets didn't destroy Czechoslovak cities and murder people indiscriminately; irregular Cossack paramilitaries weren't let loose on the local populace; and no wave of refugees flooded the capital city.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Russian capital markets down

The amount of foreign investment flowing into Russia's capital market is expected to be down almost 23% from the level in the first half of 2007. Observers see several causes. One is poor conditions in global financial markets. The second is investor unease following recent attacks on a British Petroleum joint venture and on Mechel, a huge Russian metals company. The third is Russia's invasion of Georgia.

As one sign of the times, Soros Fund Management has dumped virtually all its Russian securities. Ten years ago, high-profile investor George Soros' lack of confidence in the Russian financial market contributed to its collapse, which in turn caused great economic turmoil and hardship in Russia. Then the Russian government was broke; now it is sitting on a huge surplus from oil and gas revenues. While this money is a tremendous cushion, it is also true that surpluses can evaporate faster than expected, particularly during a military campaign.

It will be interesting to see if declining foreign investment flows make the Russian government more cautious, or if Western governments seek to exploit this situation. Analyst Paul Goble suggests that Western political moves to isolate Russia could further decrease inflows.

Polygamy in the Netherlands

The Dutch government, it turns out, has been taking a novel approach to data on polygamous unions - its Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) has been erasing multiple entries on the assumption that they are mistakes. Said one official, "A man with two wives just cannot exist by law." The CBS has been doing the same thing regarding registration of child marriages. Now the Amsterdam city council is suggesting that the polygamy cases be re-examined. No indication of whether the CBS will also come under pressure to trace the child brides. (Thanks to Islamist Watch.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

India and home-grown Islamist terrorists

Indian authorities have released disturbing information about how Islamists are recruiting and training young Indian Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks, according to Jihad Watch. India, a democracy with a large Muslim population, is vulnerable on several accounts. Not only are there various schools and camps within India, but terrorists are being trained to exploit India's human rights protections if they are caught - the same technique Islamists use in the West.

Russian attack long planned

Several prominent commentators, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, argue that Russia's invasion of Georgia had been planned for some time. Steven Blank of the Army War College noted last year that Russia's 2007 withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe put Georgia directly at risk. The Treaty had constrained troop movements in the region; Russian analyst Pavel Felgenhauer notes that last July the division which invaded Georgia carried out similar exercises just to the north.

Last spring NATO denied immediate membership to Ukraine and Georgia, but held out the possibility of future accession. This decision, which was designed to placate the Russians, may instead have emboldened them, notes Steve Pifer, former US ambassador to Ukraine.

Georgians and the IOC

When a number of Georgian athletes decided to withdraw from the Olympics to go home to their families, what was the response of IOC president Rogge? According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, he urged them to stay, saying that such a withdrawal could damage their prospects of competing in the London Olympics in 2012. (See my earlier entry for arguments that the IOC should lose its tax-free status.)

Three of the Georgian athletes were from Gori, then under fire, and had no way of knowing what was happening to their families and friends. Just for perspective, Rachel reminds us that the ancient Greeks observed a truce during the original Olympic games. Might be something to consider.

A brave man

MEMRI has a TV clip of Iranian VP for Cultural Heritage Esfandiar Rahim Mashaii affirming that Iran should be the friend of the entire world, including Israel and the United States. It also shows top Iranian officials denouncing him, doing everything they can to to avoid even saying the name of Israel out loud. Mashaii is one brave guy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Islamist infiltrators

Aafia Siddiqui, who has been arraigned in a New York court, is one of some 40 Islamist sympathizers or operatives targeting the United States or U.S. forces. In particular, some have sought to infiltrate U.S. intelligence, law enforcement or other organizations. Daniel Pipes has provided a list of eight such confirmed cases.

Russia is feeling its oats

The United States and Poland agreed on August 14 to build the long-discussed U.S. missile interceptor base in Poland. Senior Russian general Anatoliy Nogovityn responded by threatening to attack Poland, possibly with nuclear weapons. (This is the same fellow who assured the Georgians on August 4 that Russia was not planning an offensive.)

Longstanding Russian opposition to this missile defense system is political, not technological. The system aims to intercept missiles from sources such as Iran, and is not powerful enough to degrade Russian offensive missile capabilities. The Russians are unhappy, though, to have a U.S. military presence on the territory of a former Warsaw Pact member.

The Russians' success in Georgia may be encouraging them to bully the next country in line. The dynamics this time should be different, though. Poland is a member of both NATO and the EU. It is bigger and stronger than Georgia, its common border with Russia is much shorter, and there is no remaining element of surprise.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russian imperialism

That's the title of an informative article by Michael Radu in FrontPage Magazine. Russian 'peacekeepers' and state subsidies have been propping up criminal havens in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for years. This policy gives Russia leverage over Georgia, and ensures that the Russians can, for example, block NATO membership for Georgia, or eventually control the pipeline that runs through Georgian territory.

Radu urges the West to re-arm the Georgians, perhaps even offer Georgia security guarantees against further Russian aggression, and kick Russia out of the G-8. Most importantly, he wants the West to treat Russia like the security threat that it is.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The EU ducks

EU foreign ministers rebuffed Poland, the Baltic countries and the UK, and agreed with France and Germany to avoid any recriminations of Russia that would harm the EU's status as mediator, as described here. As French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner sees the goal, it is "to involve the EU in the practical resolution of the conflict." The EU will support Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but refrain from criticizing Russia.

So how will the EU respond to Russia's call to haul Georgian President Saakashvili before a Russian or international tribunal for war crimes, thus getting rid of a democratically elected president? Or what will the EU do when the Russian troops refuse to leave Georgian soil, especially when it has already yielded to Russia's refusal to allow any Western peacekeepers in Georgia? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

In my opinion, the EU lost an important opportunity to stand up and be counted. The Georgians made their share of errors - but that's not the point. If Russia feels it has succeeded in Georgia, it will try similar operations elsewhere.

Al Qaeda is thinking of us

Aafia Siddique, the MIT graduate and Al Qaeda operative captured recently in Pakistan, apparently had The Big Apple on her mind. She allegedly had data on the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the subway system, and the animal disease center on Plum Island, as well as chemical, biological and radiological weapons information. The U.S. government reportedly considers her as a 'treasure trove of information on supporters or sleepers in the United States and elsewhere. See Jihad Watch for details.

More on Georgia

The Russian strategy of 'regime change' in Georgia - which they deny pursuing - is for Russian citizens to sue Georgian President Saakashvili in European human rights courts for war crimes. Russians see their invasion of Georgia as a mirror image of NATO's intervention in Kosovo; if one was justified, the other must be too. After all, Yugoslavia never threatened NATO, but Georgia actually attacked South Ossetia. They propose to get rid of Saakashvili in the same manner that the West deposed Yugoslav President Milosevic. See here.

Nor are the Russians likely to be swayed by accusations that they have used 'disproportionate force' (the charge Europeans levied against Israel in its war against Hezbollah), since they always use it, especially if they think it will work. And, to continue the comparison, they can argue that the West used disproportionate force in the Kosovo war, bombing Belgrade civilian targets. (See Wayne's analysis here.)

Are the Russians also interested in gaining control of the pipeline that runs through Georgia? Probably.

What will the West do? NATO should start dusting off its territorial defense plans. As for the EU, the Russian invasion has probably put a proposed EU-Russia agreement on ice. Watch to see if the G-8 (club of the rich and powerful) shrinks to the G-7, as Russia is excluded. Or if the United States opposes Russia's long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization.

And let's hope the Congress votes to allow offshore drilling and exploitation of the oil shales, because the sooner the United States reduces its dependence on foreign energy sources, the better.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia on my mind

Tonight's news reported that Georgia may be cut in half by Russian troops soon, if it hasn't already happened. Somehow, I have a sense of deja-vu.

A series of bombings in Russia in 1999 allegedly carried out by Chechen separatists subsequently constituted a major pretext for Russia to start the second Chechen war - and to propel upwards the career of then Prime Minister Putin. However, credible reports state that the bombings were most likely performed by Russian FSB operatives (the successor to the KGB).

This time, it was Georgia that invaded South Ossetia (history will tell what provocations pushed it to do so). The Russians then returned the favor, in spades. If the goal had been merely to keep the Georgians out of South Ossetia, the Russians would presumably have halted at the border. They did not.

Ukraine, which can read the tea leaves, told Russia that any of its ships leaving Ukrainian ports to shell Georgia would not be allowed to return. Ukraine has at various times expressed a desire to join NATO. As it was most likely Georgia's repeated calls for NATO membership that most angered the Russians, the Ukrainian government probably figures it had better act decisively now or lose the opportunity to act at all.

Meanwhile, the United States has narrowly dodged a bullet. Since Georgia is not a NATO member, we have no treaty obligation to defend it. The United States has enthusiastically supported enlarging NATO, but I doubt that much serious work has been done to figure out how to defend the new NATO members. I suppose that work will begin in earnest now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Petraeus Interview

Austin Bays conducted a radio interview with General David Petraeus on August 7. You can listen to it or read the transcript here on Pajamas Media. (There's also a short version of excerpts.) The interview includes some very interesting background on:

-- the surge of Iraqi troops. There are an additional 140,000 police and soldiers from the level in early 2007, at the start of the U.S. surge, and continuing to grow, in terms of numbers and of professional capabilities;

-- reform of the Iraqi national police. This included replacing every division commander, every brigade commander, and 75% of the battalion commanders, as well as extensive retraining of the police units;

-- nuts and bolts of successful civil-military cooperation.

Petraeus notes the progress to date, but cautions that the enemy remains 'lethal, resilient and very dangerous.'

Nissan's humor

Here, thanks to Jihad Watch, is the video of the Israeli ad that has led the Gulf States to threaten a boycott of Nissan. It shows an Arab sheikh enraged because the new Nissan Tiida is so fuel-efficient it will put him out of business. According to Fox News, the Arabs in the ad are indeed Arabs. They apparently found it to be a good joke; wouldn't it be great if their sense of humor were more widely shared?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Working together to get the bad guys

What happens when the bad guys, especially terrorists, can easily cross borders and communicate globally, while the good guys have to stay within their national, regional or local jurisdictions? In Europe as well as in the United States, law enforcement and intelligence officials are looking for ways to solve this problem, usually by enhancing cooperation at home and abroad.

Regional fusion centers, with co-located federal, state and local authorities, are part of the U.S. response. Now a special EU study group has proposed enhanced coordination within the EU, as well as closer ties with other countries such as the United States.

In both Europe and the United States such proposals are controversial, largely because of fears that the personal data of both alleged terrorists and criminals and members of the public will not be adequately protected. That is a genuine concern, and one which calls for technological as well as political solutions. At the same time, the need to protect both sides of the Atlantic from further terrorist attacks is urgent. Let's hope the EU and United States can work together to crack this nut sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama in Chicago

If you're wondering what Obama did during his years as an Illinois legislator, The Weekly Standard has just published a lengthy piece by Stanley Kurtz on that topic. The article obviously covers domestic rather than foreign policy, but I've included it for its general interest.

In general, Obama supported affirmative action and set-asides, and based his strategy on the African-American vote. In this, he met with some opposition. In 1999, for example, he attacked the black caucus for not voting together to put a riverboat casino in a minority neighborhood. State Senator Mary Flowers responded: "The Black Caucus is from different tribes, different walks of life. I don't expect all of the whites to vote alike...Why is it that all of us should walk alike, talk alike, and vote alike? ... I was chosen by my constituents to represent them, and that is what I try to do." Sounds like she's the post-racial politician.

Anyway, there's plenty more, on crime and prison policy, social welfare legislation, etc.

Kinder, gentler Islam

A Jewish psychology professor in Israel developed a teaching unit, comprised of Koranic verses, that his Muslim students could use when treating Muslim patients who were resistant to the approach of traditional Western psychology. The material, which was developed with his students and cleared by several Islamic clerical figures, was intended "to help students reinforce in their patients concepts like respect, responsibility, honesty, dignity and kindness."

His initiative is causing yet another wave of hysteria in the Arab media for two reasons. First, that a Jew dared to write about the Koran. Second, that he dared to suggest that Islam has a kinder, gentler side. Says a professor at Al-Azhar university in Cairo (the foremost university for Sunni Islam): the Israeli project "aims to tarnish the image of Islam by giving wrong interpretation of the noble Koran."

I'm not making this up - read it for yourself. Thanks to Jihad Watch.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More on EU justice, etc.

Julien Frisch posted a comment on yesterday's item about European immigration to which I would like to respond.

My assumption was that many ordinary Europeans view the Court of Justice and the Council of Europe as 'outsiders.' Given that opinion polls show that a significant proportion of Europeans don't know the most basic facts about the EU, such as how many countries belong to it, I find it hard to believe that they are conversant about the role of either the Court or the Council of Europe (which is not an EU institution). Nor, looking at indicators such as the low turnout (by European standards) for European Parliament elections, is it easy to adduce much enthusiasm for the EU.

These indicators are related to the EU's so-called 'democratic deficit.' The EU brings many benefits to Europeans, but often fails to get the recognition it deserves. I think the public's inability to weigh in - to accept or reject EU proposals - contributes greatly to its disenchantment.

Just look at the ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty. European leaders did their best to keep their publics from actually voting on it for fear they would vote no, as the French and Dutch did on its predecessor, the Constitutional Treaty. When the Irish did vote, and voted no, the EU political elite made it clear the Irish would be punished unless they voted again and got it right.

Mr Frisch also objects to 'non-European associations' weighing in on such issues. For the record, I am a person, not an association. And, much as I am sure he has opinions on U.S. politics - I cannot believe he doesn't have one about George Bush - so do Americans on European politics. Long live the blogosphere!

Palestinian perspectives

Here are a couple of glimpses into the relationship between Hamas and Fatah, as well as Fatah and Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas shaves off the mustaches of captured Fatah leaders in order to humiliate them. Hamas claims that Palestinian Authority officials shave off the beards of Hamas detainees for the same reason - in addition to torturing them.

Jihad Watch says that, in the latest fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, some 180 Fatah sympathizers sought refuge in Israel. Nothing like throwing yourself on the mercy of your arch-enemy! Palestinian President Abbas, who wants to maintain a Fatah presence in Gaza, asked Israeli President Olmert to send them back. Olmert complied; about 30 were returned and promptly detained by Hamas. Meanwhile, the wounded will remain in Israel for treatment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The IOC - a for-profit business?

You've probably all heard about China's limiting of internet access for journalists covering the Olympics. This article argues that it's unrealistic to expect the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to fight or win such a dispute with the Chinese government. The IOC's financial stakes are too high to make any threat to withdraw credible.

The IOC is now a non-profit organization. Among other things, it is supposed "to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity." The article argues that the IOC should instead become a regular business: then its actions would be in line with people's expectations. (Disclaimer: the author is well and personally known to me...and related...)

Muslim apostates in the West

David Rusin of Islamist Watch has produced a short report on the dangers facing Muslim apostates in the West, including in the United States. It's sobering and should be required reading for all. Among other things, it demonstrates the need to shine the light of day on what Muslim authorities here are saying.

That is the approach taken by UK Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. He has challenged prominent Muslim leaders to affirm the right of all individuals to change their faith; so far none has volunteered to do so. Meanwhile, opinion polls report that some 36% of young British Muslims think the penalty for apostasy should be death.

Concerned on Iran

A reader ('concerned') commented on the August 1 entry on Iran. Unfortunately, the comment seems to have attached itself to the other entry for that day, the one on Rachel's Law. My technical knowledge is too limited for me to be able to move it, but I did want to respond.

'Concerned' asked why we should allow an Israeli attack on Iran, with all its downsides, rather than pursue negotiations or other options. The EU began negotiating with Iran in 2003 - yes, five years ago! For several years it had full U.S. backing. Net result: zero. Also, look what happened to Bill Burns, the No. 3 at the State Department. He attended a recent high-level meeting with the Iranians and received a Bronx cheer in return.

I have to conclude that the power, prestige and influence that accrue from being a nuclear power matter far more to the Iranian government than pleasing the international community. That said, I don't detect any enthusiasm in Washington for a war with Iran. I also doubt that the Israelis are that keen either, but increasingly feel they have no other option. It's really about least worst outcomes: a nuclear-armed Iran with global, millenarian goals, is unlikely to be a good world citizen.

The EU, the Council of Europe, and immigration

Several years ago, the Danish government restricted the immigration of prospective foreign spouses of Danish citizens and residents. The aim was to stop 'fetching marriages', arranged marriages to bring in young spouses, mostly women, from Muslim countries. These women often failed to integrate into Danish society and were frequently little more than household slaves.

On July 25, the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, ruled in an Irish case that spouses of EU citizens cannot be prevented from living in Ireland. By July 28, a number of couples appeared at the Danish Ministry for Integration to demand a review of their rejected applications (they have been living in nearby Sweden, which has less restrictive laws). Meanwhile, Danish newspapers reported that a 'common knowledge' test for immigrants may also conflict with EU rules. As a result, the Danish government is reviewing its entire immigration system.

Italy's immigration policies have also been criticized, this time by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Council says those policies 'lack human rights and humanitarian principles and may spur further xenophobia.' Italy just declared a national state of emergency due to the 'exceptional and persistent flux' of illegal immigrants. As if to confirm this assessment, more than 800 Africans arrived on July 31 by boat off the coast of southern Italy.

The EU has been working for years on a common immigration policy. Once it lifted its internal border controls, allowing people to move freely within the EU, the need for a single approach became obvious. At the same time, residency and citizenship rules vary, with some nationalities easier to acquire than others. I assume that the Court's ruling would apply equally to a native Italian or a Syrian-born Swede who want to move to Dublin.

I wonder how the average Dane, Italian or Irishman (or woman) feels when judges in Luxembourg, whose names and faces they probably don't know, or the human-rights-focused Council of Europe in Strasbourg, tell them and their governments to stop trying to preserve the very nature of their society.

What these countries are doing by themselves isn't perfect and in fact may even be ineffective (since Denmark imposed its requirements on foreign spouses, its number of resident permits has almost doubled). But why should outsiders be likely to know or do any better?

Friday, August 1, 2008

More warning signs on Iran?

According to an editorial in the Investor's Business Daily, several signs suggest an approaching crisis between Israel and Iran.

-- Israeli Prime Minister Olmert will soon resign, and any of the three potential candidates to replace him (Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, or former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) will likely be more inclined than he has been to authorize an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

-- The U.S. government is selling the Israelis a high-tech radar detection and tracking system.

-- A Kuwaiti newspaper identified what it says is a secret nuclear weapons construction site in Iran - heretofore unknown to the West - near the Iraqi border.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards appear to be investigating a mysterious explosion that hit a military transport passing through a Teheran suburb with equipment for Hezbollah. Iran has experienced several unexplained explosions in recent months, including one at a mosque in Shiraz that had been holding a military exhibition, and another at an Iranian missile site.