Archive for June 22, 2010

Agreement reached in US Congress on tough new measures against Iran

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–US lawmakers on Capitol Hill have reached agreementl on a series of punitive measures against Iran which could be adopted by Congress as early as this week. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman said they were circulating a draft bill to colleagues and added that their blueprint, which aims to tighten existing US sanctions on the Islamic republic, would give President Barack Obama “a full range of tools to deal with the threats posed by Iran.”

“If applied forcefully by the president, this act will bring strong new pressure to bear on Tehran in order to combat its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, support for international terrorism and gross human rights abuses,” the two Democrats said in a joint statement.

The legislation targets firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products, including gasoline or jet fuel. Although an oil-rich country Iran relies heavily on imports because of a lack of domestic refining capability. The bill could also see non-American banks doing business with blacklisted Iranian entities shut out of the US financial system.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs welcomed the move. “We appreciate that House and Senate leaders have come together with a strong bill that builds upon the recently passed UN Security Council Resolution, grants the president new authority, and strengthens a multilateral strategy to isolate and pressure Iran,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is also set to announce increased Iran sanctions. The new measures are expected to target companies that help Iran’s energy sector, including oil companies, banks, shipping firms, and insurance companies.

Two weeks ago, the UN Security Council approved a resolution that called on members to expand sanctions on Iranian individuals and organizations. Last week, the European Union imposed new sanctions of its own on Tehran, targeting the Iranian energy industry as well as the transportation, banking and insurance sectors. Australia took punitive measures against Iran.

The US Treasury Department also tightened the screws on Iran, targeting insurance and oil firms and shipping lines linked to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs as well as the powerful Revolutionary Guard.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Bomb explodes outside synagogue in Russian town

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–A homemade bomb went off in the early hours of Monday outside a synagogue in Russia. In the town of Tver, 170 km northwest of Moscow, a homemade device exploded and caused damage to the door and the entrance hall of the synagogue, and to several apartments nearby. No one was injured in the explosion. Russian anti-terrorism police are investigating the incident.

“Nobody was hurt in the explosion. The entrance to the synagogue was partly damaged. The shock wave broke windows in nearby buildings. Crime experts, representatives of the prosecutor’s office and the Emergency Situations Ministry are still working at the scene,” a police source told the Russian news agency ‘Interfax’.

“The explosion was a culmination of repeated attacks on practicing Jews,” the Federation of Jewish Communities said in a statement. “Before this anti-Semitic slogans had appeared on the synagogue’s walls, leaflets of anti-Semitic content had been circulated in the city and 140 gravestones at the Jewish part of the city cemetery had been defaced in 2009.”

A criminal case has been opened against the perpetrators of the attack, who remain unknown.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Ehrenfeld salutes bill protecting First Amendment rights from overseas libel suits

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)– Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It, and founder of the movement against libel tourism, praised Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), its Ranking Member, for introducing the “Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act” or the ”SPEECH Act” in the United States Senate today. The bill was formally placed before the entire Judiciary Committee.
The SPEECH Act will uphold First Amendment protections for American free expression by guarding American authors and publishers from the enforcement of frivolous foreign libel suits filed in countries that do not have our strong free speech protections. Such lawsuits are often used by “libel-tourists” in an effort to suppress the rights of American scholars, writers, and journalists to speak, write and publish freely in print and on the Internet.
The Act grants “a cause of action for declaratory judgment relief against a party who has brought a successful foreign defamation action whose judgment undermines the first amendment,” and provides for legal fees. These measures will help diminish the severe chilling effect such suits have already had on journalists, researchers the general media particularly on matters of national security and public safety.   

Based on New York State’s “Libel Terrorism Protection Act” (also known as “Rachel’s Law”), the SPEECH Act marks the culmination of a national campaign spearheaded by Dr. Ehrenfeld following her own experiences with libel tourism.
In Funding Evil, published in the U.S. in 2003, Dr. Ehrenfeld documented how Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz funded al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Mahfouz sued Dr. Ehrenfeld for libel in London, attempting to use the plaintiff-friendly British libel laws to intimidate her into silence. Mahfouz had previously used this tactic to bully more than 40 authors and a publisher into apologies for and retractions of similar revelations.
Dr. Ehrenfeld refused to acknowledge the British court’s jurisdiction over her as she did not live in England, nor was her book published or marketed there. The English court ruled against her by default, ordering her to pay a hefty fine, apologize, retract her statements and pay Mahfouz’s substantial legal fees.

Represented by her attorney, Daniel Kornstein of Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, LLP, Dr. Ehrenfeld countersued Mahfouz in New York to prevent the enforcement of the default judgment on the grounds that it did not meet the standard of American First Amendment protections for free speech. When the court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction over Mahfouz, the New York State Legislature acted quickly, and passed “Rachel’s Law,” in April 2008, enabling the New York courts to take jurisdiction over foreign libel plaintiffs who sue New York authors and publishers abroad. Since then, six states have passed similar legislation protecting their residents.
In May 2008, Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), proposed similar bills in the House, and Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA) Joseph Lieberman (CT), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored the Free Speech Protection Act in the Senate. Dr. Ehrenfeld thanks their initiative and support, which have led to the introduction of the SPEECH Act.

The editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Post, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald, as well as organizations such as the Association of American Publishers, American Library Association, the American Society of News Editors, the Independent Book Publishers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and 9/11 Families for a Secure America, among others, have supported Dr. Ehrenfeld’s fight for free speech.

“The SPEECH Act, introduced today by Senators Leahy and Sessions, marks a critical victory in the fight for free speech and the advancement of our national security. Without the SPEECH Act, American writers, publishers, and Internet users, will continue to face an imminent threat of the enforcement of foreign libel suit when reporting on matters of public interest, including science, national security, health and personal safety.

With Congress’ action, other nations will no longer have a green light to attempt to silence American critics,” said Dr. Ehrenfeld. “We have attracted a broad spectrum of those who are interested in protecting free speech and enabling authors to write about national security and other issues. This is not a partisan cause. This is an American cause, and it’s time for Congress to protect its citizens.”
Preceding provided by Rachel Ehrenfeld

San Diego’s historic places: Montgomery Field as recalled by aviation pioneer Bill Gibbs

June 22, 2010 4 comments

Bill Gibbs on June 18, 2010 visits the air field he founded in 1937. Behind him is a T-shaped hangar for small aircraft

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Bill Gibbs has been watching the calendar as closely as he used to monitor the instrument panels of his airplanes.  Come October 6, the San Diego aviation pioneer will turn 100 years old, and Gibbs is counting the days.  He had big celebrations with his aviation buddies on his 80th and 90th birthdays and figures to do the same for his centennial. 

Before Gibbs purchased 25 acres in 1937 for $10 per acre, the Kearny Mesa area, then just outside the San Diego city limits, was “nothing but jackrabbits, coyotes and rattle snakes,”  Gibbs recently recalled.  He paid $50 down and $25 every three months.

The reason he picked that particular stretch of land, he said, was because it was on a mesa, and therefore less likely to be flooded than areas lying at lower elevations.  Water at least two feet high had previously flooded his hangar at the now defunct National City Airport after the Sweetwater River overflowed its banks. 

Among the numerous jobs Gibbs had filled in his early life was working at a service station operated by Carlysle Madson at 14th and National Avenue.  Madson’s real love was teaching flying, and when he would give a lesson, he would leave Gibbs to watch the station, paying the boy 25 cents per hour.   Gibbs didn’t take the aggregated pay in money, he took it in flying lessons.  Eventually, Gibbs became so good piloting Madson’s single engine tandem two-seater plane, that he became a co-owner with Madson of one airplane.

During the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition, Gibbs flew passengers around Balboa Park in a three-seater bi-plane. Flights could be either for seven or 15 minutes.

Although Gibbs thought he’d start his new landing strip with a partner, his excursion into the real estate business ended being a solo affair.  He borrowed $250 from the Bank of Italy—today known as the Bank of America– to purchase $500 Taylor Cub, the rest which he paid off with the proceeds from flying lessons.  By hand, he hacked brush from a pathway that he turned into an 1,100-foot landing strip.  After smacking himself with an axe, he decided that he should get help from professionals, and contracted with George Daley of Daley Construction to carve out two 2,900-foot runways, and one 1,200 feet.  All of them were 100-feet wide.  In what can be appreciated as an act of charity,  Daley charged Gibbs only $675 for the job, and allowed him to pay it off at the rate of $25 per month.

To pay his debts, Gibbs offered seven minute rides for 75 cent and half-hour sightseeing tours of San Diego for $2.  Another income stream was teaching would-be pilots how to fly.  Among his first students were Charlie Faust, who later in life would be the naturalist and architect who designed portions of San Diego’s famous Wild Animal Park, and James Dalby, who after serving as a flight instructor during World War II, then flying DC3’s for China National Airways and other airlines and owning a retail sales business, would go on to become president and general manager of Gibbs Aircraft Service Center.

Like his mentor Madson, Gibbs had another job to support his flying habit.  He worked since 1933 as a janitor for the Aztec Brewery Company in the wee hours of the morning, cleaning floors and greasing machinery.  Afterwards, he would go to his landing strip to wait for customers, catching up on sleep in those hours when none came.

Not long after Daley’s crews had done their work on the field, Gibbs was approached by a chief pilot for  T. Claude Ryan of Ryan School of Aeronautics.  A small auxiliary airport near Mission Bay had flooded, and Ryan needed an auxiliary landing field for a class of 75 Army Air Corps cadets to learn how to fly Ryan-built planes.

The pilot wanted to know what Gibbs would charge.  “Tell you what,” Gibbs said he replied.  “I’ll fix it up so you can drag it – send out a truck with two guys and as you go along, pick up all this brush and stone, and drag the place down, and you can use it for nothing.”

By 1940, Ryan had decided to use both Gibbs Field and the Mission Bay auxiliary field. He asked to rent the facility on a more formal basis.  The company also offered Gibbs a position teaching the cadets how to fly, enabling him to quit the brewery and to devote full time to his aviation career.

That was not the only connection to Ryan Aerospace, Gibbs said. He met his wife, Barbara, who worked as a secretary for  Ryan School of Aeronautics.  Barbara’s father,  Eddie Molloy, also worked for Ryan.  “He was the plant manager for Ryan.  Her father went to work for Ryan in 1940, a self-made aeronautical engineer.  He finally became vice president of Ryan.”  

By the time World War II started, with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, “I think had seven or eight planes,” Gibbs recalled.  Most of them were Luscombes, which “were all-metal airplanes except for the fabric on the wings.  They seated two, side by side.”  

Gibbs said Luscombes required most pilots to adjust the way they were used to flying.  In tandem two seaters—with the passenger sitting in a rear seat directly behind the pilot—the nose of the airplane was positioned directly in front of the pilot.  But when the pilot and passenger sat beside each other, it was located between them.  That required some re-orienting as pilots executed turns in the sky.

Once the war began, civilian flights were forbidden within a certain distance of the coast.  So Ryan, Gibbs and the entire operation moved to an airfield in Tucson, Arizona, for the duration of the war.  

Gibbs returned to his field in 1945, and soon was providing flying lessons to returning veterans seeking new careers in aviation.   As post World War II San Diego expanded, the city decided it wanted to take over Gibbs Field, paying the aviator $100,000 for the land and another $12,000 for the improvements.  The City also gave Gibbs a 20-year-lease with two 10-year-renewal periods.  That guaranteed Gibbs Flying Service would have a home for at least 40 years.

Not all the “$10 land” that Gibbs purchased originally was included in the deal. He combined a portion of that land with more expensive land he had purchased subsequently, and sold 209 acres east of then Highway 395 to the City of San Diego for its airport.  “I got $60,000 for the land and $48,000 for the improvements.”  

Gibbs sold another swath of land to the State of California for Highway 163, but retained approximately 55 acres in the vicinity of present day Convoy Street between Aero Drive and Kearny Mesa Road, some of which  is rented today by a variety of businesses.   What once cost $10 per acre, Gibbs estimated, today is worth approximately $1.5 million for the same acre.

Gibbs recalled that the name “Montgomery Field” was urged by then future Congressman Bob Wilson, who was a heavy hitter in the local Republican party.  Wilson was impressed that John J. Montgomery, the man reputed to have made the first controlled flight had done so in San Diego, way back in 1883.

The business continued to grow, with Gibbs eventually not only operating a flying school, but also providing 180 tie-downs spots on the apron and 80 “T” hangars for private planes.  The hangars are described by the alphabet letter because two shallow side compartments are built for the airplane’s wings, while the main part of the hangar houses the fuselage.   Contructing metal hangars in this fashion, Gibbs explained, enables the nesting of airplanes, with the fuselage of one backing up to the wing of another.  Gibbs also provided fueling, maintenance and repairs for private airplanes that landed at Montgomery Field. 

It was not unusual for former students to drop in on Gibbs years later, and to tell him their stories.  One fellow, who had been piloting a B-24 Liberator during World War II, told of his plane being shot up pretty bad, with some crew members wounded and various other problems creating panic.   The man told him that he remembered advice that Gibbs had given him about what to do in an emergency: “Just fly the plane,” and that’s what he concentrated on, despite the pandemonium all around him.  Keeping calm in that situation may well have saved the lives of everyone aboard, he said. “Stay focused” was Gibbs’ maxim.

Gibbs and his pilots flew a daily service for the Bank of America, picking up checks and inter-brsnch mail  at bank branches in more than 20 cities and bringing them to central West Coast computer centers for processing.  He used 16 twin-engines airplanes in the operation.

At this point in the interview, Gibbs withdrew a Bank of America credit card from his wallet and pointed to where it identified him as a customer since …. 1933.   He laughed, saying that when Bank of America employees meet someone who has been a customer for 67 years, they often express astonishment.  That’s one of the perks of being just a few months shy of a century old.

Gibbs Flying Service also developed an expertise in flying to Baja California and the West Coast of mainland Mexico  flying tourists, prospectors and geologists to their chosen destinations, and sometimes delivering supplies and conducting mercy flights.

Gibbs recalled that a company called National Bulk Carriers chartered one of his planes for what was intended to be a three-day visit to examine salt flats near Guerrero Negro and staying nights at Bahia de Los Angeles.   A chabasco—a tropical storm that came inland from the Pacific Ocean—formed two thunder clouds around the plane, and the downdraft from those thunder clouds pushed it down to the ground.  The plane hit the ground, spun around 135 degrees, moved backwards 35 feet from the force ofthe wind, and then started to burn.  Pilot Pete Larson and three passengrs might have survived if the airplane had ot caught fire, Gibbs speculated.  It took an aerial search party, which at times consisted of 27 airplanes, twelve days to find the wreckage and what remained of the four men’s bodies.

Flying up to Long Beach, where National Bulk Carriers’ president was visiting a ship’s chandler, Gibbs reported what had happened.  The owner  said that a friend in the oil industry had a heart attack, and that he had purchased his airplane among other assets of the business. The airplane was stored in a hangar in Texas.  Gibbs followed up, obtained the aircraft,  and an ongoing relationship with National Bulk Carriers was established. 

As the company’s crews continued to survey the salt flats in Baja California, they occasionally needed to purchase such supplies as a 15-foot boat in the United States.  Because National Bulk Carriers was not known in San Diego, local vendors declined to sell the boat unless cash was paid at the time of purchase.  Gibbs asked if they would be willing to send an invoice to the company if Gibbs, himself, guaranteed the payment.  Yes, the vendors said, because they had been doing business with Gibbs for a long time.

When the invoice reached National Bulk Carriers, it created quite a commotion.  Who was this fellow out on the West Coast guaranteeing invoices for them?  Didn’t the people in San Diego have any idea that the man who owned National Bulk Carriers paid his own way?  The owner’s name was D.K. Ludwig.  He owned a fleet of ships, a large Japanese shipyard, and other businesses.  At the time, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.  When Ludwig’s comptroller called Gibbs to inquire about the strange turn of affairs in which the small business owner was guaranteeing the credit of a multi-millionaire industrialist, Gibbs apologetically explained that the San Diego vendors meant no disrespect, they just hadn’t heard of Ludwig’s company. 

Although Ludwig’s pride may have been wounded, he ultimately took it in good grace, sending bigger and bigger cash advances to Gibbs to act as his agent.  Eventually, Gibbs said,  it was not uncommon for Ludwig to send him $50,000 cash advances from which to draw expenses.

Bill Gibbs, seated, and son Buzz Gibbs examine photo display on Montgomer Field's history

Years later, Gibbs got out of the aircraft operations business, selling all 51 airplanes,  preferring instead to rent space to airplanes that needed homes on the ground.  His son, Buzz Gibbs, who now heads the business, related that the 1960s through the 1980s were a golden time for the general aviation business.  “There were three major manufacturers; Cessna, Beech and Piper,” the son recalled.  “Cessna was the biggest: in 1978, they made $10,000 airplanes.  In 1985, they quit making piston airplanes.  That was like General Motors not making cars, and so it has been in a general decline since then.  So the small airplane business is decreasing.  The corporate jet business started in the early 70’s with the Cessna Citation, the Beachcraft King Air … and so the business is flip-flopping going from lots of individual airplanes with individual owners to now, when the majority of the aviation business is in the corporate market.  And they’ve gone from making 18,000 airplanes in 1977 or 1978, and I think last year they made 700.”

Palomar Airport has become the center for corporate jet aircraft in the county, Gibbs said, although new generations of corporate jets, able to land on shorter runways have since been developed.

Two horrible occurrences shall always remained burned in the corporate memory of Gibbs Flying Service.  The first was the midair collision over San Diego of one of its small planes with a Pacific Southwest Airlines jet that overtook it on the approach to Lindbergh Field, resulting in the worst air accident in the United States up to that time.  The second was Montgomery Field’s brief connection to two of the 9/11 terrorists.

The senior Gibbs said that in the case of the midair collision, on September 25, 1978, the student (David Boswell) in a Cessna  “was a commercial pilot, getting his instrument rating.  And the instructor (a Gibbs employee, Martin Kazy) was rated to instruct on the instruments.”

Gibbs said that the PSA crew “made what was called a ‘cowboy approach,’ where you come in and put the wheels down and the  flaps down in a real steep descending turn, and then come down in a very short approach to the runway….”  The plane leveled out in airspace in which the much slower private plane was in front of it, but not easily seen.  “They were warned about it, from the radar control, and they said ‘no, we think we just passed him’ and there was a conflict alert that went off, and then about 17 seconds before they hit.”

Gibbs said one of the two was thrown from the private plane, hitting a building on the east side of Interstate 805, and the small airplane came down (with the other passenger) along the freeway.   The commercial plane took out a row of homes, killing their occupants, as well as the 135 persons aboard.  In total there were 144 persons killed in what to that date was the worst disaster in U.S. aviation history.

The NTSB report focused on mistakes made both by the PSA crew and air traffic controllers.  Gibbs said he had $5 million in insurance, which his insurance company wanted to contribute toward a settlement fund.  Because his people had not been at fault, Gibbs said he first refused.  After two weeks, the insurance company came back and said Pacific Southwest Airlines’ insurance company was willing to indemnify Gibbs if he would contribute $3 million to the settlement package.  He continued to resist, but the insurance company said defending against a class action suit likely would prove more expensive than $3 million, so they were better to be indemnified and out of it.  Gibbs said he agreed only after the insurance company promised not to raise his rates.

The two terrorists included in the 9/11 plot who had done some of their pilot training at Montgomery Field were subsequently identified as Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two Saudi Arabians who were among the five hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 which was crashed into the Pentagon. 

Gibbs said although the two men had been trained by one of the flying clubs at Montgomery Field, and not by Gibbs Flying Service, he had encountered the two usually taciturn men on several occasions, but never had a conversation of any length with them.  He said their cover story was that they were learning to fly so that they could become pilots for members of the Saudi royal family.   He said he recalls they went to Florida after leaving San Diego. 

Several years ago, with Gibbs Flying Service’s latest extension on his lease coming to an end,  a manager in the city’s airport division seemed intent on finding new tenants, prompting quite a bit of protest from Gibbs’ many friends in the aviation industry.  Numerous  letters were written to the City Council in the company’s support, with the result that Gibbs Flying Service is still there.  The company’s 75th anniversary operating on that field comes in 2012.   However, Gibbs Flying Service is on a month-to-month lease, and said Gibbs, if for any reason, the lease is terminated, he expects the family would close the business down.  

General aviation is not what it used to be, and, besides, the family has done quite well on its real estate investments, Gibbs said. 

Gibbs had retired from flying about 20 years ago, explaining that he felt it was neither fair to his passengers nor to people on the ground if something should happen to him while he was piloting an airplane.  He continued to come into the office from time to time, but gradually he did so less and less, leaving the business completely to his son Buzz. 

Gibbs said that he misses flying and confided that being around the airport for too long makes him feel withdrawal pains.

“Bill is part of the legacy of aviation in our San Diego region,” James Kidrick, president and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum said.  He noted that Gibbs has been a consistent supporter of the museum’s scholarship preogram, which encourages excellence in science, technology and mathematics.

Among others, Gibbs has devoted his philanthropy to such organizations as the Salvation Army, including its Joan Kroc Center, and the San Diego Zoo.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World


Suppose Turkey Transfers U.S. Technology and Tactics to Iran and Syria

June 22, 2010 1 comment

Ed. Note: Turkish media jumped on a sentence in a recent column in which we worried about the potential compromise of Western military technology by Turkey as it expands its relations with Iran and Syria (and Brazil, Hamas and Hezbollah). We weren’t the only ones worried. A member of our Board of Advisors with long experience in U.S. defense policy wrote the following:

As a member of NATO, Turkey has access to a wide array of American technology that, if compromised, could spell real danger for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and threaten allies that rely on American equipment and training. Turkey’s increasingly close relations with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and, recently, Russia, should cause the United States to monitor Turkey closely with an eye toward the damage that could be done to American interests.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has shown no interest in the radical reorientation going on inside of Turkey. The widespread arrest of past and present Turkish military figures along with a large number of others has not sparked even a comment from the State Department or Pentagon, and nor from the White House. The participation of the Turkish government with the IHH in the Gaza flotilla – and the corresponding inflammatory rhetoric that has emanated from the Turkish government – received even less attention. The result is that the Turkish government thinks it has a free hand with Israel, as well as with Iran – although it is peeved the U.S. did not back the Turkish-Brazilian deal for a portion of Iran’s nuclear materials.

A particular worry is the Turkish intelligence services, to which Prime Minister Erdogan has appointed two radical Muslim civilians to key positions: Hakan Fidan as head of Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT), Turkey’s foreign intelligence service; and Muammer Güler as Undersecretary for Public Order and Security, which heads Turkey’s counterterrorism service. The intelligence services are playing a key role in separating the Turkish military from Israel and in the removal of those they see as a threat to the current government.

The big risk is that the intelligence services, conflating their very strong hatred of Israel with their support of Israel’s – and America’s – enemies, will grab equipment and information from the Turkish military and share it with those enemies.

No one can competently say what Turkey is discussing – or sharing – with Hamas and Hezbollah, or with Iran and Syria. Until the Gaza flotilla, Israel did not collect intelligence on Turkey, and it is unlikely the U.S. has paid much attention.

Turkey has the third largest air force in NATO (some 930 aircraft) after the U.S. and the UK. Of these, 230 are F-16’s (Blocks 20, 40 and 50) and Turkey is a Level 3 partner in the forthcoming Joint Strike Fighter. Like the U.S., Turkey has KC-135 refueling tankers, meaning that the Turkish Air Force can operate just about anywhere on a sustained basis (or could provide refueling to Iranian F-14’s or Syrian Sukhois and MiGs). Turkey also has four AWACS aircraft that can be used to direct air battles – their own or those of their new allies. This is a particular risk to the U.S. because it exposes all U.S. assets in the Gulf area to Turkish real-time surveillance, and it could give to the Iranians and Syrians a strong ability to actively target U.S. bases and operations, as well as U.S. air, naval and land assets in the region.

Turkey also has a relatively strong Navy with a number of German-designed diesel electric submarines, modern torpedoes, and surface ships equipped with missiles and gun systems. Its navy is probably not capable of challenging the U.S., but Turkey could transfer sensitive systems to America’s adversaries. Among the systems in Turkish hands that could pose serious threats are the U.S. Harpoon missile, the Norwegian Penguin, the Exocet from France, Sea Skua from BAE systems, Hellfire II from the U.S. and others.

Turkey has a strong amphibious capability with an assortment of landing craft, mobile armor systems, self-propelled guns, anti-tank systems and a range of equipment that, if in Iranian or Syrian hands, could spell real trouble. For example, Turkey has more than 850 Stinger missiles (now locally built). These missiles are the same ones the Mujahedeen used to great effect against Russian helicopter gunships. Also in the Turkish army are tens of thousands of LAW antitank rockets, TOW antitank missiles and the very effective Russian Kornet antitank missile. Any of these systems, but particularly the TOW missiles, if transferred would significantly strengthen the Iranians and Syrians.

There are countermeasures systems, night vision equipment, communications gear, command and control and capabilities from other countries, such as advanced Israeli drones, that in the hands of either the Iranians or Syrians, could tip the balance in the region and directly harm U.S. operations and leverage while also posing a serious operational threat.

At this time, the U.S. has not taken any steps to moderate the flow of technology, equipment, systems and supplies to Turkey. In fact, the reverse is true as the Obama Administration has been building its “pro-Muslim” foreign policy in large part around Turkey. And it is true that in some areas, most particularly in Afghanistan, the Turks are making a contribution. Turkey has a small contingent responsible for security around Kabul, and also assists in training the Afghan Army and police forces. But even this positive is a red flag, because Turkey’s close relationship to Iran could pose a serious risk if Ankara and Tehran expand their relationship to cover the evolving situation in Afghanistan and connected with it, Islamic ideological collaboration.

Turkey is a powerful country for many reasons – its NATO membership, its heavy investment in the military, its historical position in the region and its strong alliance with the United States. That the United States is standing by and waiting for the next example of Turkey’s turn away from the West to happen is narrow-minded and reckless.

Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

‘A Shayna Maidel’ seems manipulative

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

LONG BEACH, California –Is it too soon to pan a play about the Holocaust?

Sadly, 65 years after the stories from the death camps shocked and horrified the world, the shock and horror revealed in Barbara Lebow’s 1989 play A Shayna Maidel” (Yiddish for “a pretty girl”) seems somewhat manipulative.

The play is about a family from Poland, split by circumstance, in which the father and younger daughter fled to America while the mother stayed behind with the “big sister” who was ill with scarlet fever.  Reunited as adults, after the war, the sisters are strangers to each other.  Raizel, now Rose, is a self-confident American woman, while Lusia is still a ragtag, haunted victim.

Liza de Weerd gives Lusia a luminous dignity, especially in the scenes where she remembers her husband Duvid (a vigorous Charles Pasternak), her girlhood friend Hanna (Erin Anne Williams), and her beloved Mama (Julia Silverman).  Laura Howard, in contrast, plays Rose as pathologically perky, chirping her way through the role almost to the point of inappropriateness.  It may have been meant to cheer up her tormented sister, but it was, in fact, terminally annoying.

As the girls’ Old World father, Mordechai Weiss, Larry Eisenberg is the pitch-perfect example of that stubborn, opinionated, overly proud breed.  The sort of man who wouldn’t accept a loan that he wasn’t sure he could pay back, even if it meant leaving his wife and daughter in Poland to perish.  (Of course, he didn’t know at the time that he was leaving his wife to perish and his older daughter to barely survive the camps, and he is condemned to live with that unspoken guilt for the rest of his life.)

Of the many tear-jerking moments, however, there is one terribly authentic scene in which Mordechai stoically reads aloud his list of erstwhile relatives and Lusia responds with a cold, deadly numbness, revealing what had happened to each of them.  THAT scene left me with chills.

Barbara Lebow has written other plays and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in the Arts from the Governor of Georgia, among other awards.  She is obviously a gifted playwright and is adept at writing moving dialogue.  The problem is, there is just too much of it.  At two and a half hours A Shayna Maidel is way too long and needs extensive cutting (and a little lightening up).  And, ironically, while you are meant to feel sympathy for Lusia and her friend Hanna, they remain somewhat inaccessible, since playwright Lebow leaves to your imagination what happened to them in the camps, how they survived, and how they became the women that they are.  In fact, once your imagination has done its worst, Lusia’s prevailing optimism and her certitude that her husband has survived becomes almost inexplicable.

And, as always in plays with a Jewish theme, the question of when to translate the Yiddish phrases and when to leave them for the audience to grasp at their gist is always present. Too much translation makes the play seem like a visit to Berlitz; too little makes the audience feel like outsiders.  A Shayna Maidel straddles this question and sometimes misses the mark.

The play is directed by Shashin Desai, founding artistic director and producer of the International City Theatre of Long Beach.  The set design, vintage 1946, is by Stephen Gifford, the light and sound by Chris Kittrell, and costumes by Kim DeShazo.

A Shayna Maidel will continue at the International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through July 3rd.  Call (562) 436-4610 for tickets.

Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World 

New Iran sanctions will make it more difficult for Iran to obtain missiles, other weapons

June 22, 2010 1 comment

 WASHINGTON D.C. (Press Release) — William Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs, made the following statement on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.S. policy towards Iran and the rest of the Middle East:

Chairman Kerry, Senator Lugar, Members of the Committee: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today.

The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 two weeks ago establishes the most comprehensive international sanctions that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has ever faced. It reinforces the determination not only of the United States, but of the rest of the international community, to hold Iran to its international obligations, and to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. At this critical moment, as we vigorously implement resolution 1929 and use it as a platform on which to build further measures by the European Union and other partners, it’s important to take stock of what’s at stake and where we go from here.

Let me start with the obvious: a nuclear-armed Iran would severely threaten the security and stability of a part of the world crucial to our interests and to the health of the global economy. It would seriously undermine the credibility of the United Nations and other international institutions, and seriously undercut the nuclear non-proliferation regime at precisely the moment we are seeking to strengthen it. These risks are only reinforced by the wider actions of the Iranian leadership, particularly its longstanding support for terrorist groups; its opposition to Middle East peace; its repugnant rhetoric about Israel, the Holocaust, and so much else; and its brutal repression of its own citizens.

In the face of those challenges, American policy is straightforward. We must prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We must counter its other destabilizing actions in the region and beyond. And we must continue to do all we can to advance our broader interests in democracy, human rights and development across the Middle East. President Obama has made clear repeatedly, including in his statement on the adoption of resolution 1929, that we will stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings, and stand with those brave Iranians who seek only to express themselves freely and peacefully.

We will also continue to call on Iran to release immediately Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, and all other unjustly detained American citizens. And we continue to call upon Iran to determine the whereabouts and ensure the safe return of Robert Levinson.

We have pursued our broad policy goals over the past 18 months through a combination of tough-minded diplomacy – including both engagement and pressure – and active security cooperation with our partners in the Gulf and elsewhere. We have sought to sharpen the choices before the Iranian leadership. We have sought to demonstrate what’s possible if Iran meets its international obligations and adheres to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations. And we have sought to intensify the costs of continued defiance, and to show Iran that pursuit of a nuclear weapons program will make it less secure, not more secure.

Last year, we embarked on an unprecedented effort at engagement with Iran. We did so without illusions about whom we were dealing with, or the scope of our differences over the past thirty years. Engagement has been both a test of Iranian intentions, and an investment in partnership with a growing coalition of countries deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We sought to create early opportunities for Iran to build confidence in its intentions. In Geneva last October, we supported — along with Russia and France — a creative proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide fuel for the production of medical isotopes at the Tehran Research Reactor. Unfortunately, what appeared to be a constructive beginning in Geneva was later spurned by the Iranian leadership. Instead, Iran pursued a clandestine enrichment facility near Qom; announced plans for ten new enrichment facilities; flatly refused to continue discussions with the P5+1 about international concerns about its nuclear program; provocatively expanded enrichment to 20%, in further violation of UN Security Council resolutions; and drew new rebukes from the IAEA in the Director General’s most recent report a few weeks ago.

Iran’s intransigence left us no choice but to employ a second tool of diplomacy, economic and political pressure. Passage of resolution 1929 is the essential first step in that effort. The provisions of 1929 go well beyond previous sanctions resolutions. For the first time, it bans significant transfers of conventional weapons to Iran. For the first time, 1929 bans all Iranian activities related to ballistic missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon. For the first time, it imposes a tough framework of cargo inspections to detect and stop Iran’s smuggling and acquisition of nuclear materials or other illicit items. It prohibits Iran from investing abroad in sensitive nuclear activities, such as uranium mining. It creates important new tools to help block Iran’s use of the international financial system to fund and facilitate nuclear proliferation. For the first time, it highlights formally potential links between Iran’s energy sector and its nuclear ambitions. And it targets directly the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran’s proliferation efforts, adding fifteen specific IRGC entities to the list of designations for asset freezes.

Resolution 1929 provides a valuable new platform, and valuable new tools. Now we need to make maximum use of them. My colleague, Bob Einhorn, will lead this effort for the State Department. He’ll work closely with Under Secretary Levey, whose own leadership on these issues for a number of years has been extraordinarily effective. Already, the European Union has acted strongly to follow up 1929. Its leaders decided last Thursday to take a series of significant steps, including a prohibition of new investment in the energy sector and bans on the transfer of key technology, and tough measures against Iranian banks and correspondent banking relationships. Australia has indicated similar resolve, and other partners will follow suit shortly. Meanwhile, as Stuart will discuss in more detail, we continue to have success in persuading a whole variety of foreign companies that the risks of further involvement in Iran far outweigh the benefits. As you know, the Administration has been working closely with the Congress to help shape pending legislation so that it maximizes the impact of the wider international sanctions that we are putting in place.

The net result of this combination of economic pressures is hard to predict. It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea. But it is a mark of their potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council, and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now underway. Iran is not ten feet tall, and its economy is badly mismanaged. Beneath all their bluster and defiant rhetoric, its leaders understand that both the practical impact of resolution 1929 and its broader message of isolation create real problems for them.

That is particularly true at a moment when the Iranian leadership has ruthlessly suppressed, but not eliminated, the simmering discontent that bubbled over so dramatically last summer. Millions of Iranians went to the streets last June, and in smaller numbers over the course of the ensuing months, with a simple but powerful demand of their leaders: that their government respect the rights enshrined within its own constitution, rights that are the entitlement of all people – to voice their opinions, to select their leaders, to assemble without fear, to live in security and peace. A government that does not respect the rights of its own people will find it increasingly difficult to win the respect that it professes to seek in the international community.

Sanctions and pressure are not an end in themselves. They are a complement, not a substitute, for the diplomatic solution to which we and our partners are still committed. We continue to acknowledge Iran’s right to pursue civilian nuclear power. But with that right comes a profound responsibility to reassure the rest of the international community about the exclusively peaceful nature of its intentions. Facts are stubborn things, and it is a striking fact that Iran is the only NPT signatory in the world today that cannot convince the IAEA that its nuclear program is intended for purely peaceful purposes.

The Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 countries made clear in the statement they issued on passage of resolution 1929 that we remain ready to engage with Iran to address these concerns. EU High Representative Ashton has written to her Iranian counterpart to convey this readiness directly. We have joined Russia and France in expressing to IAEA Director General Amano a number of concerns about Iran’s latest proposals on the Tehran Research Reactor, and the TRR remains a potential opportunity in the context of the broader P5+1 efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program. The door is open to serious negotiation, if Iran is prepared to walk through it.

The road ahead will not be easy, and the problems before us posed by Iran’s behavior are urgent. But there is growing international pressure on Iran to live up to its obligations – and growing international isolation for Iran if it does not. Resolution 1929 helps significantly to sharpen that choice. We will work very hard to implement and build upon it. We are absolutely determined to ensure that Iran adheres to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations. Too much is at stake to accept anything less.

Thank you.

Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department