Monday, October 16, 2006

All The News and Commentary: Monday, October 16, 2006

Firing Squad

By John E. Carey
October 16, 2006

My friend Amir Taheri asked, “Was it Tacitus who said, ‘Defeat is an orphan while victory has a thousand fathers’?”

In fact, that Roman historian had it just about right.

Argue, if you will, that Israel was the victor in its clash with Hezbollah. Meanwhile, we’ll assemble the firing squad.

Even Saddam Hussein has said he prefers the honor of the firing squad to the other more ignominious forms of death meted out as judgment for conduct unbecoming.

There are some simple rules of accountability in the U.S. military and in other places in the world. These can be rather ruthless as they enforce strict guidelines of ethics, personal performance and professional achievement.

The people of Israel must make their own assessment of their leaders in this war. But if the tenants of personal accountability followed by the U.S. military are enforced, there will be some changes at the top of Israel’s leadership team.

We therefore briefly review some of the players during the last several months or so in Israel.

Foreign Minister

“There can no longer be militias and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.” These words were spoken by Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to der SPIEGEL on July 25, 2006.This promise (or assertion?) was not fulfilled.

Moreover, Ms. Livni was absent from the United Nations in New York while that august body crafted the terms of the cease fire agreement. When she prepared to leave Israel, less than 24 hours before the cease fire was finalized in New York, the Prime Minister sent Mr. Shimon Peres instead of his Foreign Minister.

Since the war ended, she has been diligently though ineffectively lobbying United Nations diplomats in efforts to get Hezbollah disarmed. That hasn’t happened.She has also worked hard to get a real peacekeeping force into the area between Hezbollah and Israel. That hasn’t happened.

Ms. Livni should most probably be asked to leave the government.

Defense Minister

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz should retire.Israel lost 118 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians in the conflict that began July 12, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.Reservists also complained of lack of essential equipment.

There were three key objectives of the war:

--Elimination of Hezbollah’s rockets.

--Disruption or annihilation of Hezbollah.

--Return of captured Israeli soldiers.

None of these objectives were met.

The people of Israel now have a diminished confidence in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel’s enemies are surely emboldened that the IDF is now no longer seen as invincible.

Mr. Peretz is already trying to implicate defense chiefs in his downfall. As public criticism of the war's handling mounted in Israel, the Haaretz daily quoted Defense Minister Amir Peretz Wednesday as saying top military officers did not relay all relevant information about Hezbollah's arsenal after he took office in May.

Israeli soldiers are returning from Lebanon with complaints of poor training and equipment.

And there are other controversies involving Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz but they are of no consequence. The fact that Israel waged a war so unsuccessfully, and flattened much of southern Lebanon in the process, is a responsibility that clearly rests upon his doorstep.

Chief of Staff

Senior Israel Defense Forces officers expressed dissatisfaction yesterday with the announcement by Chief of Staff Dan Halutz that he had recently instructed the Field Security Directorate at the General Staff to keep track of their telephone conversations.

According to the disgruntled officers , the chief of staff's action "stinks of McCarthyism" and reflects "pressure on the part of the head of the army who feels under siege and is focusing on minor details."Dan Halutz is no Moshe Dayan.

He lost this war with Hezbollah as much as anyone and he needs now to step aside.

Prime Minister

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, already under fire for his handling of the Lebanon war, is facing a possible probe over a Jerusalem property deal. Olmert and his wife are to be summoned for questioning over the deal by the government's top watchdog, the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper reported. But this could all be window dressing.

Prime Mister Olmert led his nation into war and then lost the war.

Mr. Olmert’s “on again, off again” handling of the IDF manacled generals in the field. His famous 48 hour air assault cease fire was a terrific failure. By withholding the main thrust of the ground offensive to the Litani River while diplomats dithered in New York, Mr. Olmert handcuffed his generals and needlessly put lives at risk.

As Shmuel Rosner reminded Israeli readers in the Haaretz newspaper, “This is not a Presidency - it's the constant coalition of the willing, and the weaker the Prime Minister gets, the faster he will be abandoned by his partners.”

Or, as observer Noah Pollak wrote, “To most Israelis, supporters of Israel, and especially to the IDF soldiers I spoke to on the border over the past few days, the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah that recently went into effect is viewed as a cruel indignity, a dangerous projection of Israeli weakness and equivocation, and a plucking of defeat from the jaws of victory.”

The people of Israel, we expect, will come to their own conclusions on Mr. Olmert.

The President

Israeli President Moshe Katsav has now been accused of rape. Even before a court hears evidence, this is a paralyzing accusation. Katsav has already avoided public appearances because, to put it nicely, he is no longer welcome.

As we’ve said before, the people of Israel have to make up their own minds on these issues. But from our perspective, it is time for change in Israel.
U.S. expects China to lead on sanctions

By Brian DeBose
The Washington Times
October 16, 2006

Top U.S. diplomats yesterday said they expected China to enforce sanctions unanimously passed by the U.N. Security Council to curtail North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said China, which shares an 880-mile border with North Korea and is Pyongyang's principal trading partner, would shoulder the major responsibility of stopping trade with the isolated communist state. Without China's cooperation on enforcement, sanctions likely would be ineffective.

"North Korea has a long border, as you say, with China. It also has very close relations with China, but China has come a very long way in being willing to sign on to a resolution that makes China now responsible to make certain that North Korea's not trading," said Miss Rice, who leaves tomorrow for a diplomatic trip to Asia, including a stop in Beijing.

"I'm quite certain that China is going to live up to its responsibilities," she said.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made similar comments yesterday, saying that North Korea's apparent nuclear test "had to have been humiliating to China," which had been protecting Pyongyang from international sanctions for years.

China's cutting its support "would be powerfully persuasive in Pyongyang," he said. "They've not yet been willing to do it. I think that China has a heavy responsibility here."

The final resolution passed by the Security Council on Saturday demands that North Korea scrap its nuclear-weapons program but rules out military action against the country, on the demand of the Russians and Chinese. It also orders countries to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting any material for ballistic missiles and to freeze the assets and restrict the travel of people or businesses connected to the country's nuclear and missile programs.

That resolution passed by the Security Council is weaker than an earlier version that called for mandatory searches of ships entering and leaving North Korean waters and seizures of any weapons or goods that could be used to create a nuclear weapon. China, rejected that version along with Russia.

"Let's remember, the inspections are a tool to effectuate the sanctions themselves. China voted in favor of the resolution. They eventually agreed to even broader sanctions," said Mr. Bolton on ABC's "This Week."

"This means China itself now has an obligation to make sure it complies with the resolution, and it has full national authority on its side of the border to conduct any inspections it wants," he said.

But China urged caution in a statement posted yesterday on its Foreign Ministry Web site.

"We call for relevant parties to be restrained and calm, adopt a cautious and responsible attitude to prevent the situation from worsening and break the stalemate as soon as possible so that process of the six-party talks can resume," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

Miss Rice said she would discuss with China's leaders the best methods and procedures for enforcing the sanctions, adding that forcible searches on the high seas might not be the best way to handle the situation.

"I think that we don't want to get out ahead of ourselves. ... But we'll want to use [sanctions] in a way that does not enhance the possibility for open conflict," she said. In an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Bolton said the U.S. "had not proposed" a blockade of North Korea.

"The overwhelming predominance of the inspections would take place in ports and at land crossings," he said.

North Korea immediately denounced the resolution, and its U.N. ambassador walked out of the council chamber after accusing its members of a "gangsterlike" action that neglects the threat that Pyongyang says is posed by the U.S.

Japan and Australia have pledged immediate enforcement of the penalties, including sending their warships, and said they were considering harsher measures on their own.

South Korea, which has taken a conciliatory approach to Pyongyang and has provided its neighbor with aid, said it would abide by the resolution's terms but did not say how. Its Unification Ministry, which handles dealings with the North, indicated that the sanctions would not affect a tourism venture and a joint industrial complex in the North, saying the "projects have nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction program."

In Seoul last night, Russian and South Korean diplomats agreed to try to restart the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

"The North Korean side several times returned to the point that the six-sided process should continue," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said about his meetings Friday in Pyongyang.

But Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's main nuclear negotiator, said, "We have to see how North Korea will respond to the sanctions. After then, we can confidently talk about the diplomatic process."

The six-party talks involve the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
Questions Grow Over U.N. Curbs

On North Korea

By Norimitsu Onishi
The New York Times
October 16, 2006

TOKYO, Monday, Oct. 16 — Questions over the effectiveness of the Security Council’s punitive sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test grew Sunday, as both South Korea and China — the North’s two most important trading partners — indicated that business and economic relations would be largely unaffected.

A day after the Council unanimously passed the resolution, following nearly a week of intensive diplomatic negotiations, the South Korean government said it would still pursue economic projects with North Korea, including an industrial zone and tourist resort in the North. Those projects are not explicitly covered by the Security Council resolution, but they are an important source of hard currency for the North.

China, which shares a 870-mile porous border with North Korea and is perhaps its most critical economic gateway to the outside world, said Saturday that it had no intention of stopping and inspecting cross-border shipments, as called for, but not specifically required, in the resolution. The Chinese government said nothing on Sunday about how it intended to carry out the sanctions, and American officials said they would be focused on whether the normal trade flow across the border was slowed.

The relative silence on Sunday about how the resolution would be enforced, coupled with the vagaries of the resolution itself, raised concerns that the Security Council action would not have much of an impact for the foreseeable future.

“We’re in the situation where everyone is saying what they won’t do, but no one has yet said what exactly they will do,” said Jonathan D. Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “The question for the next few days is what this all means, because there is a lack of specificity in the resolution.”

Read the full report:


Iran Rejects U.N. Stance

On North Korea

By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's president said his country has no reservations about pursuing its nuclear ambitions despite the U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its purported nuclear test.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again rejected the U.N. Security Council's demand that Tehran suspend its nuclear activities in response to concern they are aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.

The comments represented Iran's first official reaction to the council's vote Saturday to punish North Korea's defiance of international will.

The United States said Sunday that it hoped the sanctions would be a lesson to Iran not to follow North Korea's example.

But Ahmadinejad's remarks suggested North Korea's claim to have tested an atomic bomb has emboldened Tehran in its own standoff with the U.N.

"Some Western countries have turned the U.N. Security Council into a weapon to impose their hegemony and issue resolutions against countries that oppose them," Ahmadinejad was quoted by the state-run television as saying Monday.

"They use the council for threats and intimidation," the television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

But Iran "won't be intimidated," he said.

"Mounting threats and pressures against Iran's peaceful nuclear activities won't cause even one iota of hesitation in the will of the Iranian nation to continue this path."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned Iran that it risks sanctions like those slapped on North Korea.

"I hope the lesson they learn is that if they continue to pursue nuclear weapons, they will face the same kind of isolation and restrictions that we have just imposed on the North Koreans," Ambassador John Bolton told CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday.

Iran says its nuclear activities are aimed at generating electricity, not developing weapons.

It has repeatedly ignored Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium, which can be used to produce electricity or fuel for a bomb.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is not new language for Ahmadinejad. When Mike Wallace from CBS interviewed Ahmadinejad early last August, Ahmadinejad said, "The United Nations Security Council is there to safeguard the interests of the British and the Americans. They are not there to provide security. It's very clear," the president said.

Iraqi forces concern U.S. commander

By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
October 16, 2006

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expressing growing concern about how quickly Iraq's emerging security forces can take over the job of fighting insurgents, say defense sources familiar with his briefings in Washington last week.

Contrasting Gen. Casey's latest assessments with more optimistic ones he gave early this year, the sources described him as "more sober" and "more concerned" about the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Bush administration's opportunity to bring home troops and reduce battlefield deaths is tied directly to the ISF's ability to assume the counterinsurgency mission.

Sources did not describe Gen. Casey's mood as pessimistic. They say he still expresses confidence that the coalition eventually will win, but the timing is much more in doubt.

"His concern is the Iraqis are not standing up quickly enough to take this mission," said a defense source with knowledge of Gen. Casey's discussions in Washington. He briefed President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior leaders.

Gen. Casey predicted earlier this year that he could make substantial troop reductions from the 130,000 level at the time. But he has had to increase to 140,000 forces to counter historically high levels of violence in Baghdad since the March 2003 invasion. Generals now talk of keeping forces at that level until at least spring. The Army is making rotation plans for a large number of soldiers in Iraq, if needed, until 2010.

"The fighting is more intense than he had expected," said the defense source. The source said Gen. Casey has expressed particular concern about setbacks in fielding a national and local police force. The Iraqi Interior Ministry was forced to take down a full police brigade because it was infiltrated with insurgents and death squad members.

Said an Army official at the Pentagon, who asked not to be named, "There is resignation that we are in this for the long haul. It's harder to plan now because your world has been turned upside down. Soldiers are being delayed in assignments and surprised by freezes and short-fused reassignments. Families are in a pressure cooker not knowing whether stability is all but thrown out the window. The question that must be asked is how long can this pace be sustained?"

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a military analyst and a hawk on Iraq, said the past three months of intense Sunni-versus-Shi'ite violence, coupled with attacks from Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists, might be designed to influence the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 7 in favor of candidates who want a quick troop exit from Iraq.

"This is all orchestrated around the election," Gen. McInerney said. "It's simple. It should come as no surprise."

Other military analysts have said the huge increase of killings is a typical insurgent tactic. Invade key cities -- in this case, Baghdad -- and create mass death and chaos in an attempt to weaken the will of the coalition and dampen the U.S. public's war support.

During a joint press conference at the Pentagon with Mr. Rumsfeld, Gen. Casey assessed the war. "I think it's no surprise to anyone that the situation in Iraq remains difficult and complex," he said.

He said that since the bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Dome mosque in February, "we have seen the nature of the conflict evolving from an insurgency focused against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis."

He said he had been on a course in July to cut two brigades, or about 15,000 U.S. troops, but instead increased the number of troops when violence flared in the capital.

He said "whether more U.S. troops for a sustained period will get us where we're going faster is an open question. And that's part of the calculations that I make as I go through this."

Gen. Casey also defended the Iraqi police in the face of persistent reports of incompetence and collusion with the enemy.

"I would also say that we continue to make progress with the Ministry of Interior and police forces," he said. "Now, the police have a bad reputation in Iraq, and from my view, that's undeserved. Broadly, it's undeserved."
Panel to Seek Change on Iraq

A commission backed by Bush has agreed that 'stay the course' is not working, its leader says. A phased withdrawal is one option on the table.

By Doyle McManus
Los Angeles Times
October 16, 2006

WASHINGTON — A commission backed by President Bush that is exploring U.S. options in Iraq intends to propose significant changes in the administration's strategy by early next year, members say.Two options under consideration would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting.

While it weighs alternatives, the 10-member commission headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III has agreed on one principle."It's not going to be 'stay the course,' " one participant said.

"The bottom line is, [current U.S. policy] isn't working…. There's got to be another way."If the panel recommends overhauling Bush's approach to Iraq, it could give a boost not only to critics of current policy but also to officials in the administration who have argued for broad changes."There'll probably be some things in our report that the administration might not like," Baker said in a television interview last week.

It's unclear how willing Bush is to change his strategy, which focuses on improving security in Baghdad, training Iraqi security forces and pressing the Iraqi government to forge a political agreement among warring factions.Progress on all those fronts has been slow, and Bush last week said he was open to ideas.

"My attitude is: Don't do what you're doing if it's not working — change," Bush said at a news conference.When the panel was formed in March, some administration officials hoped it would produce a bipartisan endorsement of existing policy. But as sectarian violence in Iraq has worsened, more Republicans in Congress — and privately some administration officials — have become receptive to alternatives.

The Baker panel, called the Iraq Study Group, was formed in response to a proposal by members of Congress. Nevertheless, Baker sought — and won — Bush's endorsement.Other members include former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), who also served as co-chairman of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; former Rep. Leon E. Panetta, a California Democrat who was President Clinton's chief of staff; and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates.In its most recent closed-door meetings, the commission focused on two options drafted by experts outside the government.One, titled "Stability First," calls for continuing to try to stabilize Baghdad, boosting efforts to entice insurgents into politics, and bringing Iran and Syria into plans to end the fighting.

The other, called "Redeploy and Contain," goes further. It calls for a gradual, phased withdrawal of American troops to bases outside Iraq where they would be available for strikes against terrorist organizations anywhere in the region.The experts also prepared an option called

"Stay the Course, Redefine the Mission," and an alternative urging a quick U.S. withdrawal, but the panel appeared less interested in those plans, participants said.The options were first reported last week by the New York Sun.Baker and other commission members refused to confirm the substance of the options and emphasized that the panel had made no decisions. But Baker signaled the thrust of the panel's deliberations in several television interviews last week.

"Our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run,' " Baker said.The former secretary of State, who was a longtime aide to former President George H.W. Bush, also said he favored reaching out to Iran and Syria.

"I personally believe in talking to your enemies," he said. "Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians want a chaotic Iraq … so maybe there is some potential for getting something other than opposition from those countries."Bringing Iran and Syria into negotiations would require significant changes in U.S. policy.

"To bring them in, we need to stop emphasizing things like democracy and start emphasizing things like stability and territorial integrity," said James Dobbins of the Rand Corp., a former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan.

"We need to stop talking about regime change. It's unreasonable to think you can stabilize Iraq and destabilize Iran and Syria at the same time."

The Iraq Study Group said Dobbins was one of its advisors. Dobbins refused to talk about the panel's work, and said he was giving a personal opinion. Other participants described the commission's discussions on condition they not be identified because Baker had asked them to keep the work confidential.

Baker, promoting a new volume of his memoirs in a recent flurry of television interviews, including an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," offered his views on issues under consideration by the panel. He also appeared on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show."

After the publicity blitz drew quiet grumbles from other panel participants, Baker canceled a scheduled breakfast with newspaper reporters and declined a request from The Times for an interview.In his interviews, Baker said he did not support calls for an early withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"I think that if we picked up and left right now that you would see the biggest civil war you've ever seen," he said.

He also said he did not agree with proposals to divide Iraq into three states for Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. "Most all the experts we've talked with think that might … trigger a civil war." And instead of trying to bring democracy to all nations in the Middle East, he said, the U.S. should define success as achieving "representative government, not necessarily democracy."

Another participant, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the panel was considering whether the United States should warn the Iraqi government to get its "act together or else," a threat to withdraw troops unless the government's performance improved.An administration official was skeptical that the panel would uncover new policy options, but said the White House would welcome ideas.

"If an independent group like the Baker panel can come up with some good ideas, we're all for it," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because his comment had not been approved.

Participants in the Iraq Study Group said an additional goal was to identify options that Republicans and Democrats could endorse. The commission is scheduled to meet again in mid-November. It hopes to deliver a report to Bush, Congress and the public by early 2007.

Some members of Congress, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), asked Baker to provide a report after next month's congressional elections, but Baker reportedly concluded that he would need more time to build a bipartisan consensus on significant recommendations.

Baker and Hamilton noted that the panel had consulted more than 150 experts, including representatives of Iran and Syria, and that its members spent four days in Iraq this year.Administration officials also have briefed the panel."You can't come out of those briefings and not have a sense that things are in real bad shape," one participant said.

"The bottom line is, it's not working. They know that. And they know that time is not on their side."
Today's Best Commentary:

An Offer Kim Can't Refuse, By Aaron L. Friedberg

Multifaceted strategy for Iraq, By James A. Lyons Jr.

WTO To Approve Vietnam's Entry

Early November - Reports

HANOI -(Dow Jones)- The World Trade Organization is expected to approve Vietnam's entry at a meeting early November, state media reported Monday, citing Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen.

"The WTO Secretariat will hold a general meeting between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8 in Geneva to accept Vietnam as its new member," Tuyen was quoted as saying in the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.

He said the National Assembly, the country's highest lawmaking body, will approve the country's entry into the trade body Nov. 10-14, the report said.

His remarks were also reported in the Tuoi Tre (Youth) and Lao Dong (Labor) newspapers.
Tuyen, who returned to Hanoi Sunday morning after attending a series of meetings in Geneva last week, said Vietnam has completed all of its negotiations with members of the WTO, said the Thanh Nien report. The talks lasted more than 10 years.

-By Hanoi Bureau; Dow Jones Newswires; 844-8250732; Phammuoi.nguyen@