Monday, November 12, 2007

'Prophets of doom: this time it's serious'

Prophets of doom are ten a penny but this time it’s serious

26 Oct 2007

Doom-mongering documents that spell out a bleak future for the planet have become ten-a-penny in recent years.

Barely a month goes by without some grim new prognosis from an environmental activist group such as Greenpeace, and many observers will doubtless ignore the Global Environment Outlook report as more of the same.

The review commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, however, is much more than campaigning propaganda from a group with an agenda. Its findings carry considerable credibility because of the way they have been assembled.

Though the report’s language might sound extreme, with talk of “humanity’s very survival” at risk, the structure of the WEO actually lends itself to conservatism. Its findings deserve to be taken very seriously as a result – this is not scaremongering to make a point.

Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has transformed political thinking about global warming and which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, it operates by consensus and strict peer review.

It was compiled by a group of more than 380 scientists, all leading figures in fields such as climate science, ecology, fisheries or land use, subdivided into ten expert groups that prepared the chapters. Some 157 of these were appointed by 48 governments – and were thus unlikely to adopt an extreme position.

A further 1,000 scientists took part as peer-reviewers, poring over the conclusions in the areas of their expertise to challenge any misleading claims. A total of more than 13,000 comments on the draft of the full report, and 3,000 comments on the summary for decision-makers, were recorded and considered by the expert groups writing each chapter.

The result of such a process is that conclusions have tended to err on the side of caution. Only claims that have reasonably robust support in published scientific literature have been made, and wilder hypotheses have been rejected. The report’s alarming conclusions appear rather more compelling in this light.

One of the few criticisms to be made of the methodology is that these comments have been kept confidential. Though UNEP cites the need to ensure that reviewers respond candidly, it might be argued that fuller and more transparent acknowledgement of any dissenting views would have added further to the document’s credibility.

The work was funded by the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden.

Sir Howard Dalton, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that while the report’s message sounds bleak, “a report of this kind cannot help it”.

He said: “The overall message of the science is pretty much incontrovertible. It is based on an incredible amount of activity around the globe that all points in the same direction.”

Sir Howard said that open, peer-reviewed research was the best route to protecting the environment. “It is critical that science is presented in a forum in which it is open to challenge – that is one of science’s greatest strengths,” he said.

“The scientific publications that come out these days are subject to some pretty high-level scrutiny, and that makes their conclusions difficult to ignore. We now need to focus on what can be done.”

~ Link ~

Corporate Malfeasance Information Repository

Total Intelligence Solutions

Blackwater's Owner Has Spies for Hire
Ex-U.S. Operatives Dot Firm's Roster
By Dana Hedgpeth
3 Nov 2007
First it became a brand name in security for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it's taking on intelligence.

The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.

The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former spooks -- high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence -- that mirrors the slate of former military officials who run Blackwater. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency's more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.

Its chief executive is Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations who was heavily involved in running the agency's role in the Iraq war.

Total Intelligence Solutions is one of a growing number of companies that offer intelligence services such as risk analysis to companies and governments. Because of its roster and its ties to owner Erik Prince, the multimillionaire former Navy SEAL, the company's thrust into this world highlights the blurring of lines between government, industry and activities formerly reserved for agents operating in the shadows.

Richer, for instance, once served as the chief of the CIA's Near East division and is said to have ties to King Abdullah of Jordan. The CIA had spent millions helping train Jordan's intelligence service in exchange for information. Now Jordan has hired Blackwater to train its special forces.

"Cofer can open doors," said Richer, who served 22 years at the CIA. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don't help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person."

Total Intel, as the company is known, is bringing "the skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said. Black had a 28-year career with the CIA.

"They have the skills and background to do anything anyone wants," said RJ Hillhouse, who writes a national security blog called The Spy Who Billed Me. "There's no oversight. They're an independent company offering freelance espionage services. They're rent-a-spies."

The heart of Total Intel operations is a suite on the ninth floor of an office tower in Ballston, patterned after the CIA counterterrorist center Black once ran, with analysts sitting at cubicles in the center of the room and glass offices of senior executives on the perimeter.

A handful of analysts in their 20s and 30s sit hunched over Macintosh computers, scanning Web sites, databases, newspapers and chat rooms. The lights are dimmed. Three large-screen TVs play in the background, one tuned to al-Jazeera.

The room, called the Global Fusion Center, is staffed around the clock, as analysts search for warnings on everything from terrorist plots on radical Islamic Web sites to possible political upheavals in Asia, labor strikes in South America and Europe, and economic upheavals that could affect a company's business.

"We're not a private detective," Black said. "We provide intelligence to our clients. It's not about taking pictures. It's business intelligence. We collect all information that's publicly available. This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don't go anywhere near breaking laws. We don't have to."

Total Intel was launched in February by Prince, who a decade ago opened a law enforcement training center in Moyock, N.C., that has since grown into a half-billion-dollar business called Blackwater Worldwide. Prince has nine other companies and subsidiaries in his Prince Group empire, offering a broad range of security and training services. (One, Blackwater Security Consulting, is under scrutiny because of a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Iraq that involved some of its armed guards and in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.) Prince built Total Intel by buying two companies owned by Matt Devost, the Terrorism Research Center and Technical Defense, and merging them with Black's consulting group, the Black Group. Devost, a cyber security and risk management expert, is now president of Total Intel.

Devost runs day-to-day operations, overseeing 65 full-time employees. At the Global Fusion Center, young analysts monitor activities in more than 60 countries. They include a 25-year-old Fulbright scholar fluent in Arabic and another person with a master's degree in international affairs, focused on the Middle East, who tracks the oil industry and security in Saudi Arabia.

Black and Richer spend much of their time traveling. They won't say where. It's a CIA thing. Black called at midnight recently to talk about Total Intel from "somewhere in the Middle East."

"I don't spend a lot of time telling people where I am as part of my business," he said. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making connections."

Black, who also serves as vice chairman of Blackwater Worldwide, said he also does "a lot more mundane things like go to conferences and trade shows," looking for business opportunities. "I'm going to have to go," he said. "My guy is motioning for me. I have to go meet people."



Government people? Business people?

All kinds.

The company won't reveal its financial information, the names of its customers or other details of its business. Even looking at an analyst's screen at its Global Fusion Center wasn't allowed.

"No, no," Richer said, putting his hands up. "There may be customers' names on there. We don't want you to see."

In their conference room overlooking the Global Fusion Center, Total Intel executives fired off a list of some of their work. Are some recent bombings at major cities in India isolated incidents or should you pull your personnel out? What are the political developments in Pakistan going to mean for your business? Is your company popping up on jihadist Web sites? There's been crime recently in the ports of Mexico, possibly by rogue police officers. Is the government going to be able to ensure safety?

Since 2000, the Terrorism Research Center portion of the company has done $1.5 million worth of contracts with the government, mainly from agencies like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Customs and the U.S. Special Operations Command buying its data subscription or other services.

To Black and Richer, one of the most surprising things about being in the private sector is finding that much of the information they once considered top secret is publicly available. The trick, Richer said, is knowing where to look.

"In a classified area, there's an assumption that if it is open, it can't be as good as if you stole it," Richer said. "I'm seeing that at least 80 percent of what we stole was open."

As he's no longer with the CIA, Richer said he's found that people are more willing to share information. He said a military general in a country he would not name told him of the country's plan to build its next strike fighter. "I listened," Richer said.

"We talked business and where we could help him understand markets and things like that." At the end of the conversation, Richer said, he asked the man, "Isn't that classified? Why are you telling me this?"

Richer said the man answered, "If I tell it to an embassy official I've created espionage. You're a business partner."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

~ Link ~

"the bestselling poet in the US in the 1990s...

...was a classically trained Muslim cleric who taught sharia law in a madrasa in what is now Turkey"
" ... Mowlana Jalal al-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi was born in 1207 in the ancient city of Balkh, in present day Afghanistan and in 1273 passed away in the city of Ghoonieh, in present day Turkey. Rumi after Shakespeare, is considered the most popular poet in the world. Sales of his poetry books are second only to the Christian Bible. “He is the universal voice,” said event director, Cima Sedigh, associate professor of Education.

After Rumi’s death, his followers founded a religious order of Sufis referred to as the Whirling Dervishes. While entertaining, their form of dance is not intended for performance but rather for spiritual enlightenment, a physical means to try to attain religious ecstasy. They are true practitioners of Sufism, a mystical Islamic tradition, Sedigh said.
[ ... ]
“Rumi is just this amazing voice of love and unity and tolerance and going beyond our differences. He has this wonderful line in one of his poems that says basically, ‘I’m not a Jew, I’m not a Muslim, I’m not a Christian, I’m not a this, I’m not a that, I am every man, I am a child of God.’ It’s just this amazing language that’s very simple and yet very deep” ... "
~ Link ~
What goes round...

The popularity in the US of Rumi, a 13th-century Turkish poet, is a tragic irony, as the order of Sufi dervishes he founded is banned at home, writes William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple
Saturday November 5, 2005


It seems almost unbelievable in the world of 9/11, Bin Laden and the Clash of Civilisations, but the bestselling poet in the US in the 1990s was not any of the giants of American letters - Robert Frost, Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens or Sylvia Plath; nor was it Shakespeare or Homer or Dante or any European poet. Instead, remarkably, it was a classically trained Muslim cleric who taught sharia law in a madrasa in what is now Turkey.

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi lived in Central Anatolia in the early 13th century, and he died around the time of Dante's eighth birthday. How Rumi came to outsell any other poet in America in the late 1990s, at least according to the LA Times, is an unlikely story - but not quite as unlikely as the way Rumi has been mysteriously morphed from a medieval scholar of Islamic law, or fiqh, into an American New Age guru.

A selection from the "arousing" Rumi translations by the poet Coleman Barks has been set to music with his verses mouthed by such spiritual luminaries as Madonna, Goldie Hawn and Demi Moore (the cover blurb of this CD describes it as all about "Passion. Music. Romance. Transcending the boundaries of ecstasy it creates a musical tribute to the Act of Love.") Sarah Jessica Parker is reported to do her aerobics to rock'n'roll settings of Rumi, and he is also available in a self-help audiobook version aimed at stressed New York commuters. Rumi has even been hailed as one of the torchbearers (according to one book on the subject) "of homoeroticism and spirituality".

Very little of this, of course, seems to have much connection to the original, historical Rumi, or the voluminous pages of profoundly mystical Persian religious verse he wrote. According to his most authoritative modern biographer, the Persian scholar Franklin D Lewis, "while Rumi seems slightly out of place in the company of Ginsberg, and seriously misunderstood as a poet of sexual love, it simply defies credulity to find Rumi in the realm of haute couture. But models draped in Donna Karan's new black, charcoal and platinum fall fashions actually flounced down the runway to health guru Deepak Chopra's recent musical versions of Rumi."

There is an additional layer of paradox and absurdity here: although Rumi lived and wrote in central Turkey, he is almost unread in his homeland and there is no accessible modern edition of his work in contemporary Turkish. According to Talat Halman, the leading Turkish Rumi scholar, whom I went to see in Istanbul, "Rumi is certainly not the bestselling poet in Turkey - far from it. For one thing, his poems have not been translated as extensively as they should have been, and the translations that exist are not poetic enough. People here simply don't have the patience to read a huge book like [Rumi's masterpiece] The Masnavi."

But it is not just that Rumi's poetry is unread. The order of Sufi dervishes that Rumi was father to, the Mevlevis, have been officially banned since the time of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and their beautiful lodges or tekkes lie locked and left to decay or seized by the state, in order - a tragic irony - to westernise Turkey, and bring it closer to Europe and the US. Although discreet expressions of Sufism are now openly tolerated, and pictures of Whirling Dervishes are prominently used in Turkish government tourist brochures, the open practice of the Sufi mysticism that Rumi represented can still technically result in a seven-month prison sentence. While in Turkey making a Channel 4 documentary on Sufi music this summer we found it almost impossible to get any genuine Turkish Sufi group to allow us to film them, so nervous were they of the reaction of the authorities.

It all adds up to an archetypal - if unusually poignant - case of east-west misunderstanding: a west earnestly looking eastwards for an ancient spiritual wisdom, which it receives through the filter of sexed-up translations that most Persian scholars regard as seriously flawed, and which recreate a Rumi wholly divorced from his Islamic context; while in the east, a Republican Turkish government anxious to integrate Turkey with Europe bans Rumi's Sufi brotherhood as part of its attempt to embrace a west it perceives as rational, industrial, intolerant of superstition and somehow post-mystical.

In the middle of this confusion of civilisations, Sufism or Islamic mysticism, the most accessible, tolerant and pluralistic incarnation of Islam, and a uniquely valuable bridge between east and west at this moment of crisis, finds itself suppressed by the Islamic world's two most pro-western governments: the fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabis, who see it as a heretical threat to their own harsh, literal and intolerant interpretation of the Qur'an; and secular Turkey, which regards it as a token of their embarrassing, corrupt and superstitious Ottoman past.

It is, as Halman says, a major missed opportunity. He believes that Rumi's brand of Sufism represents "the free spirit of Islam ... the liberal spirit that I think needs to be recognised at a time when Islam has come to be considered almost synonymous with terrorism. The Sufi spirit softens the message of the Qur'an by emphasising the sense of love, and the passionate relationship between the believer and the beloved, God of course being the ultimate beloved. So in the eyes of Rumi and the Sufis, God becomes not the angry god of punishment, nor the god of revenge, but the god of love."

At this moment, more than ever, that message desperately needs to be heard.

Like most medieval saints in both the east and west, the life of the historical Rumi lies clouded in a fog of later hagiography. Some facts do however stand out. He was born in Balkh, capital of Khorasan, in what is now Afghanistan, on September 30 1207, and migrated with his family to Anatolia shortly before his home city was destroyed by the Mongols in 1221. After training as a Muslim preacher and jurist, he taught sharia law, of the Hanafi school, in a madrasa in Konya where he died on December 17 1273, and where his shrine, the Yesil Turbe, or Green Tomb, still stands.

At 37, Rumi's life was transformed when he met an enigmatic wandering dervish called Shams Tabrizi, who brought about a major spiritual epiphany in the respectable and bookish jurist. The two quickly became inseparable (though judging by Rumi's writings, it is most unlikely there was any sexual relationship as some have claimed). When Tabrizi mysteriously disappeared, Rumi's grief was expressed in one of the greatest outpourings of longing and separation ever produced in any language: a great waterfall of Persian verse - some 3,500 odes, 2,000 quatrains, and a massive mystical epic, The Masnavi, 26,000 couplets long, a rambling collection of tales, teaching stories and spiritual anecdotes built around the theme of "the Nightingale who was separated from the Rose". It is, in the eyes of many, the deepest, most complex and most mellifluous collection of mystical poetry ever written in any language, and from any religious tradition. It certainly stands as the supreme expression of mystical Islam.

Rumi advocated an individual and interior spirituality, and it is the love, rather than the fear, of God that lies at the heart of his message. He attempts to merge the spirit of the human with the ideal of a god of love, whom Rumi locates within the human heart. Rumi's first biographer, Aflaki, tells of a man who came to Rumi asking how he could reach the other world, as only there would he be at peace. "What do you know about where He is?" asked Rumi. "Everything in this or that world is within you."

Because God can best be reached through the gateway of the heart, Rumi believed you did not necessarily need ritual to get to him, and that the Divine is as accessible to Christians and Jews as to Muslims: "Love's creed is separate from all religions," he wrote. "The creed and denomination of lovers is God." All traditions are tolerated, because in the opinion of Rumi anyone is capable of expressing their love for God, and that transcends both religious associations and your place in the social order: "My religion," he wrote, "is to live through love."

Yet for all this, Rumi himself always remained an orthodox and practising Sunni Muslim. As Lewis rightly notes, "Rumi did not come to his theology of tolerance and inclusive spirituality by turning away from traditional Islam, but through immersion in it." He was not a "guru calmly dispensing words of wisdom capable of resolving, panacea-like, all our ontological ailments", as he is presented in the translations of Coleman Barks, so much as "a poet of overpowering longing, trying to grope through his shattering sense of loss". Likewise the poet and fellow of All Souls Andrew Harvey, who has produced some fine recreations of Rumi's verse, emphasises Rumi's "rigorous, even ferocious austerity". It is a far cry, he believes, from the New Age construct, "Rosebud Rumi, a Californian hippy-like figure of vague ecstatic sweetness and diffused warm-hearted brotherhood, a kind of medieval Jerry Garcia of the Sacred Heart".

One way Rumi did, however, most certainly diverge from some of the more austere ulema of his time was in that he believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God, as a way of, as he put it, opening the gates of paradise. For Rumi, music helped devotees to focus their whole being on the divine, and to do this so intensely that the soul was both destroyed and resurrected. It was from these ideas that the whirling of Rumi's Mevlevi Sufi brotherhood - known in the west as the Whirling Dervishes - developed into a ritual form. The intention was to help devotees focus on the God within: as one Mevlevi Whirler we interviewed put it, there is a "palpable stillness you discover at the centre of the whirling ... everyone disappears and you feel as if you're in the eye of a hurricane".

Beautiful as it is, this use of poetry and music in ritual is one of the many aspects of Sufi practice that has attracted the wrath of modern Islamists. For although there is nothing in the Qur'an that specifically bans music, Islamic tradition has always associated music with courts, dancing girls and immorality, and there is a long tradition of clerical opposition to music. Today, Islamic puritans, like those of 17th-century England, firmly regard all music as unacceptable, and work to ban it wherever they come to power.

While filming in Pakistan we interviewed Maulana Mohammad Abdul Malik, a senior cleric with the Islamist political party, Jamaat-i-Islami, which has just banned the public playing of music within the Frontier province. For him the matter was quite simple. "Music is against Islam," he said. "These musical instruments - the tabla, sarangi, dhol - lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers." This attitude is on the ascendant across the Islamic world and the pacifist Sufis have frequently faced violence from their Islamist opponents: several Sufi shrines and brotherhoods, for example, have recently been bombed in Iraq.

In Turkey, however, the Sufis have suffered far more from the secular Republicans than from the country's relatively quiescent Islamists. Before the first world war there were almost 100,000 disciples of the Mevlevi order throughout the Ottoman empire. But in 1925, as part of his desire to create a modern, western-orientated, secular state, Atatürk banned all the different Sufi orders and closed their tekkes. Pious foundations were suspended and their endowments expropriated; Sufi hospices were closed and their contents seized; all religious titles were abolished and dervish clothes outlawed. Turkish intellectuals were encouraged to study the western classics, while Rumi's writings, along with those of all his Sufi peers, were treated as an intellectual irrelevance. In 1937, Atatürk went even further, prohibiting by law any form of traditional music, especially the playing of the ney, the Sufis' reed flute.

While filming in Istanbul, we visited one beautiful old Ottoman tekke, by the Mevlana gate of the old walls: since 1925 it had been used as an orphanage and warehouse, before its priceless library was finally destroyed in a fire in the 1980s. It has now fallen into ruins and lies locked and abandoned. All one can do is peer through the barbed wire at the domes and semi-domes and the overgrown panels of Ottoman calligraphy half covered with vines and creepers. Other Mevlevi centres, like the magnificent Galata tekke in the centre of Istanbul, have become museums.

As far as the Turkish state is con-cerned, the Mevlevis are little more than a museum culture to be exploited as a tourist attraction. This process began in the mid-60s when the wife of a senior US army officer came to Konya and asked her government escorts about the dervishes. The officials were thrown into a panic. The local mayor eventually found an old dervish and forced him to teach the local basketball team how to turn; soon a "folkloric" festival began to be mounted in the Konya sports hall every year to attract foreign tourists. For a while there was even a brief attempt made to replace the Sufi musicians who accompanied the dancers with the town's brass band, which was judged to be more modern and republican.

One man whose life has been shaped by this official Turkish hostility to Sufism is the great Turkish ney player, Kudsi Erguner. Erguner, who has for years lived in Paris working with Peter Brook, Didier Lockwood and Peter Gabriel, was born into a family of hereditary ney players of the Istanbul Mevlevi brotherhood. His recent autobiography, Journeys of a Sufi Musician, gives a wonderful picture of the trials of being a Sufi devotee in the early years of the Turkish Republic after the Sufi orders were banned. He describes the strict secrecy in which his father and the other Mevlevis were forced to organise their spiritual life: "Though I must have been hardly five years old, I remember those old men with luminous faces whose eyes always appeared moist as if they had just wiped away a tear at the sound of the ney, or the recitation of a Rumi poem."

Every time the brotherhood had a musical gathering (sama), members of the brotherhood would be posted at each end of the street as lookouts to give warnings of a police raid. It was not dissimilar to the US during Prohibition - except that in the case of the Sufis, bottles of raki were kept in a fridge as a cover: "This alcohol was practically considered a symbol of the republic, so it was unthinkable for the authorities to believe that it could be drunk by 'religious fanatics'. If the police came in, the sheikh could always bring out the bottle and say they were only having a little party among friends."

All his professional life, Erguner found both his music and its Sufi inspiration blocked by Turkish officialdom, so that even his sell-out tours in Paris and London were disapproved of by the respective Turkish embassies, which accused him of "projecting a retrogressive image of Turkey abroad". More shocking still is the description Erguner gives of the government's refusal to conserve Turkey's Sufi heritage. On one occasion he found a priceless stash of Ottoman Sufi music and instruments in the cellar of the Istanbul mosque of Yeni Cami, where they had been dumped in the 1920s after being confiscated from various tekkes. Despite all his efforts, Erguner could not get permission to conserve any of the material: "In this damp underground vault these venerable relics, including flags, books, clothes and musical instruments were left to rot. My begging was of no avail, and none of it could be saved."

We filmed Erguner playing his ney after hours in one of Sinan's great mosques in Istanbul. It is one of the most elegiac sounds in all world music, and for Rumi the supreme symbol for man's separation from God. As the opening lines of The Masnavi puts it: "Listen to the song of the ney, how it laments its separation from the reed bed." Afterwards I accompanied Erguner to the south-east of the country to visit the marshy reed beds where he, and his father before him, have always found the reeds which they turn into neys. As we walked through the reeds, looking down at the Mediterranean sparkling far below us, he talked sadly of all that had been lost.

"In Turkish culture," he said, "Sufism has always provided the religious justification for the fine arts. It is like the sea and a boat: one cannot exist without the other. All our fine arts found themselves in Sufism. In Istanbul alone there were 700 tekkes. This is where the arts of poetry, music and calligraphy were all developed and passed down."

Erguner selected a fine reed of the right length and width and got out his knife: "When you look at the history of classical music in the Ottoman empire," he said, "there is not a single composer who was not a follower of Rumi. That is why in Turkey you cannot distinguish classical music from religious music. So what happened [under Atatürk] in the 1920s was like a cultural revolution: it turned everything upside down."

We walked on through the reeds, Erguner expertly fingering them in search of the perfect ney: "The buildings and the foundations disappeared," he said, "and the poets and musicians found themselves out on the streets. Successive generations of children were taught to look west, were told that civilisation lay elsewhere. So the deep continuity, the exchange between human beings, the continuity of teaching, all that was utterly lost."

He shook his head: "Once such a tradition is broken," he said, "it can never really be recovered. Today people in Turkey are beginning to understand that western civilisation is not the only answer, that our own civilisation had great worth. But in so many ways it is too late now: too much has already been lost, and can never be recovered."

~ Link ~

My god, what did we do?

" ... One night, Tamar Yarom was awakened by one of the soldiers in her unit. He said he wanted to show her something in the basement of the abandoned building where they were staying. "Before we opened the door, I heard this awful noise from a generator and there was a strong smell of diesel fuel. I saw a middle-aged Palestinian detainee lying with his head on the generator. His ear was pressed against the generator that was vibrating, and the guy's head was vibrating with it. His face was completely messed up. It amazed me that through all the blood and horror, you could still see the guy's expression and that's what stayed with me for years after - the look on his face." ... "

'Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran'

By Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington
7 Nov 2007

"The Times" -- - - ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb

Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

The mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe


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