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Scuds to Hezbollah indicate true purposes of Iran and Syria

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By Alex Liff

Alex Liff

SAN DIEGO–Following is an open letter sent to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday, April 23:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

 I am a long time resident of California, a citizen of the United States, a voting and an involved member of your constituency.   I am writing to you today to express concern and solicit your explanation regarding an aspect of a statement that you made yesterday in connection to some very troubling developments in the Middle East.   According to published reports, yesterday you stated the following: “”I believe there is a likelihood that there are Scuds that Hezbollah has in Lebanon. A high likelihood. The rockets and missiles in Lebanon are substantially increased and better technologically than they were and this is a real point of danger for Israel.” 

As a senior member of Senate and the head of the important Senate Intelligence committee your pronouncements carry a lot of weight and importance.  So the statement above was timely, right on the money and critical for calling the world’s attention to this   new, dangerous and very destabilizing development.  As you are well aware the transfer of this type of technology into Hezbollah’s hands has been significant in several respects:

It has once again shown that the Syrian regime, which initiated this transfer, has no interest in playing a constructive role in the region and contrary to Senator Kerry’s pronouncement a few weeks ago, is not committed to peace.  Therefore, I call on you to object to President Obama’s plan to send our ambassador to Damascus after a 5 year absence.

For the first time in history, a purely terrorist group, Hezbollah, has acquired weapons that can cause massive, indiscriminate civilian damage and do so very quickly.  As you very well know, all of Israel is now within the terrorists’ bull’s-eye. 

This transfer has crossed the so called Israeli Red line which was clearly stated on numerous occasions and is bound to elicit a justified reaction from Israel, whose government has a duty to protect its citizens from this new mortal danger.  This step has significantly increased the chances for a new and significant Middle East conflict. 
 

Given the above you are to be applauded for coming out with the statement denouncing this development and focusing attention on it.   I support you actions in this regard completely and unequivocally. 

 However you then proceeded to make the following statement which frankly was quite baffling  “There’s only one thing that’s going to solve it, and that’s a two-state solution”. 

The above statement was not accompanied by any kind of explanation and so one was left to fill in the blanks.  In the statement you essentially linked the aspirations of an Iranian financed, created, supported, radical terrorist Lebanese Shia organization with the goals of the Sunni Palestinians and their ongoing conflict with the state of Israel.   In other words if one is take your words literally, all that needs to happen to resolve this bit of an issue is the establishment of the Palestinian state. 

With all due respect Senator, I beg to differ with your premise and propose that the statement above is completely erroneous, short sighted and does nothing to help us deal with real issues at hand.  As an ordinary citizen of course I don’t have access to the kind of intelligence information that you have at your disposal but I am a student of history and have been following Middle East for a long time now.  Here are the facts as I see them.

Hizbollah is radical Islamist Shia organization which was created by Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution that brought to power one of the most extreme, radical, hate mongering regimes in the world today.

The burgeoning Shia majority in Lebanon had long been dispossessed and marginalized in Lebanon by the ruling Sunni and Christian elites who were typically wealthier, better educated and had more opportunities for advancement.  So when the Iranian mullahs beckoned they found a very willing audience of their Shia cousins who were all too happy to link forces with them. In turn, for Iran, the Shia of Lebanon represented a wonderful opportunity to expand their influence in the region while starting to build a deadly noose around their main adversary, the state of Israel.

Initially Hizbollah’s main focus seemed to be on resisting Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon but that factor ceased to exist after Israel’s hasty withdrawal in 2000.   Nevertheless, Hizbollah never stopped its subversive activities in Lebanon or its Iranian financed, Syrian facilitated arms build up. 

In fact most of the atrocities committed by Hizbollah never had anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but were ordered and executed on behalf of their masters in Tehran who had their own regional goals.  We all remember the Beirut marine barrack bombings, the Khobar tower attacks, the Jewish center attack in Argentina and the recent Hariri assassination in Beirut.  None of these events had anything to do with the desire to promote a separate state for the Palestinians. 
If Hizbollah is so concerned about the Palestinians they could start by helping the hundreds of thousands if not millions of them who are housed in squalid refugee camps.  In fact the opposite is true, the Lebanese have completely disenfranchised these folks, denying them basic rights and keeping them locked up in miserable conditions.  There has been no attempt whatsoever to integrate, resettle or even improve the basic daily conditions of that group.  The truth is that for Hizbollah and the rest of the Arab world, Palestinians are simply a convenient lever to use to continue to question Israel’s legitimacy. 

I can go on, but hopefully these are all facts familiar to you and your staff.  The point is that there is absolutely no connection between the Sunni Palestinians’ desire for a state and Hizbollah’s Iranian dictated objectives.  Their goal as stated on numerous occasions by head of Hizbollah, Sheikh Nasrallah as well as President of Iran, Ahmadinajed is the complete and final destruction of Israel.  In fact, Nasrallah was quoted on several occasions, stating that his utmost wish was for all Jews to gather in Israel so that Hizbollah can eliminate them all once and for all.  I hope you would agree with me, those are not the words of a man, whose goal is a peaceful resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Senator Feinstein, I hope you will agree with me, the historical facts do not support in any way your statement linking the resolution of the Hizbollah issue with the two state solution.  Stating so is misleading, confusing and flat out wrong.  These types of statement prevent us from dealing with and resolving real issues in the region but worst of all they detract us from focusing on the real problems at hand. 

As a senior and powerful senator, you are privy to much information which is not available to regular citizens like myself.  All I can do is look at the historic facts and interpret them intelligently.  As the old saying goes, “the truth may not always win, but it is always right”.   The truth, as underpinned by recent undeniable history, is that Hizbollah, is nothing but an extension of a dangerous, fanatical, radical Iranian region whose goal is the total and complete annihilation of one of our staunchest and most important allies, Israel.  The latest moves by the Hizbollah is just one of the numerous steps it has taken to bring that goal closer to the reality.  That reality has absolutely nothing to do with the Palestinian issue or the so called two state solution. 

Senator Feinstein, it is my humble request that you look at the facts carefully and not fall into the common traps of repeating old, overused mantras, which have nothing to do with reality.  As Iran is racing to acquire game changing nuclear technology and Hizbollah is arming to the teeth, it is imperative that the leaders of our great country take the time to understand the situation and make conclusions based on actual facts and history, not fiction or empty one liners. 

I thank you for your attention and look forward to hearing your views on this topic.

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Liff, born in the Soviet Union and a former resident of France, has an MBA from Stanford with a Global Management certificate.  A well-traveled student of the Middle East, he currently resides in San Diego.

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U.S. Senators urge Uganda not to criminalize homosexuality

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment
WA SHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)—U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, both Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 10 other Senators today urged Ugandan President Yoweri Musseveni to block enactment of a law that would criminalize homosexuality and codify prejudice against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and HIV-positive Ugandans.

The bill, which if passed would impose sentences as severe as life in prison or death, runs counter to global declarations of universal human rights and efforts to expand tolerance and health assistance in Africa and worldwide. In addition to Senators Cardin and Durbin, the letter was also signed by Democratic  Senators Patty Murray of Washington,  Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mark Udall of Colorado, Barbara Boxer of California, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii,  Diane Feinstein of California, and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. 

 
“Legislating prejudice is wrong for any government in any country. President Musseveni must take any and all steps available to end this serious breach of human rights and basic tolerance,” said Senator Cardin, who also serves as chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “Ugandans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or HIV-positive, should not live in fear or be punished for simply living their lives.”
 
“If this proposal carries the day, their government will undermine years of positive Ugandan leadership combating HIV infections, and instead, will begin pursuing a policy of intolerance,” Durbin, Chairman of the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, said. “I urge President Musseveni and the Ugandan Parliament, to reject this legislation outright and hope that they, along with the world at large, will rethink policies that institutionalize fear and bigotry.”
 
 
The full text of the letter is below.  


The Honorable Yoweri Museveni
President, Republic of Uganda
c/o of the Embassy of Uganda
5911 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
We write to express our deep concern regarding the anti-homosexuality bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament. 
 
This troubling legislation would sanction prejudice toward people in Uganda based solely on sexual orientation, or even HIV status. This is in great contrast to trends toward greater tolerance in the global community.  By creating harsh penalties for homosexuality, this bill not only codifies prejudice, but could also foster an increase in violence towards people simply based on sexual orientation.
 
The legislation also requires persons “in authority,” which could include government officials, employers, clergy, or others, to provide information about suspected violations of the Act. It further criminalizes the work done by human rights and health organizations that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, claiming those actions to be “homosexual promotion.” Certainly these are not the types of actions to be encouraged as the world strives to reverse violence, poverty, and human suffering caused by divisiveness and repression. 
 
While your nation has been a leader in Africa on many fronts, including the reduction of HIV infections, this proposed legislation will be a glaring setback in Uganda’s human rights standing. Unfortunately, even the mere threat of the new and severe penalties for homosexual behavior suggested in this bill, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, could easily add to an already intolerant atmosphere in Uganda based on sexual orientation. 
 
We understand you have recently raised concerns over the legislation and urge you to do to everything within your power to block its advancement. We look forward to continue the process of building a strong and long-lasting relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of Uganda.
 
Sincerely,
 
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Senator Richard J. Durbin
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Christopher Dodd
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Mark Udall
Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer

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Preceding provided by Senator Cardin

 

Feinstein seeks revision of terrorist watchlist rules

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on Wednesday sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to strengthen U.S. counterterrorism policies in the wake of the December 25 attack.
 
Following is the text of the letter sent by Chairman Feinstein to President Obama:
 
December 30, 2009

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
The failed December 25, 2009, plot by Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab is a reminder that attempts to attack the U.S. Homeland continue and that al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are searching for new ways to use explosive devices and operatives that will not arouse suspicion in order to carry out attacks in this country.  We must therefore adjust to meet these developments and stay ahead of them. 
 
It is clear that the U.S. Government was warned of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s radicalization more than a month before he flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit.  Yet apparently no action was taken other than to put Mr. Abdulmutallab in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).  He was not placed on a No Fly or Selectee List for additional scrutiny and screening, nor was action taken to revoke his visa.  I understand that no such action was taken because of a policy, established in 2008 and remaining in place today, that limits the circumstances under which the government adds an individual to the watchlist. 
 
I believe the 2008 standard is too restrictive and should be changed.  The U.S. Government should watchlist, and deny visas to, anyone who is reasonably believed to be affiliated with, part of, or acting on behalf of a terrorist organization. 
 
Intelligence collection, dissemination, and sharing has improved greatly since 9/11.  The immediate counterterrorism challenge we face is understanding the importance of information already available and acting urgently on that information.
 
I understand that increasing protective measures may lead to increased delay and hassle to many Americans.  But as you have said many times, and I strongly agree, our first priority must be to protect our nation from attack.  I appreciate your effort to begin a full review of U.S. policies and I look forward to working with you to implement the changes that are needed to protect our nation.
 
Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein

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Preceding provided by Senator Feinstein

Health Care compromise wins approval, reservations from Jewish officeholders and interest groups

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (Roundup)–Passage by the Senate on Thursday by a 60-39 vote of the Health Care Reform Act prompted the following commentary from Jewish officeholders and interest groups.

Senator Russell Feingold (Democrat-Wisconsin): The Senate health care bill is far from perfect.  I am deeply disappointed it does not include a public option to help keep down costs and I also don’t like the deal making that secured votes with unjustifiable provisions.  I will work to improve the bill, including restoring the public option, when the final version is drafted.

“But, while this bill could and should have been much stronger, it includes very important provisions for Wisconsin that I worked to include.  The bill will bring more Medicare dollars to Wisconsin by improving the unfair reimbursement formula that has siphoned money away from the state for years, and by rewarding the high-quality, low-cost care practiced at places like Gundersen Lutheran and the Marshfield Clinic.  Wisconsin taxpayers also win because we will see a boost in Medicaid funding, so our state isn’t harshly penalized for its leadership in expanding coverage.  The bill also ends discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, expands coverage to 30 million more Americans and reduces the deficit by an estimated $132 billion.  Despite the bill’s flaws, it does meet the test of real reform, and the cost of inaction was much too high.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat-California): “I voted in support of this bill because I believe it remains our best chance at reforming our broken health care system. With this bill, health care transitions from a privilege to a right for all Americans.

“We tried in 1993 and 1994, and failed. More than 15 years have passed since our last effort. This may be our last, best opportunity before we are forced to wait another 15 years for real reform. And our country cannot afford to wait any longer. Our nation’s health care system is unsustainable.

“This bill is not perfect. There are provisions in it that I would like to change. It is a work in progress, and I will continue to push for necessary improvements to lessen any fiscal impact to California.

“However, this bill accomplishes several important objectives:

“It is incremental. There will be time to make needed adjustments before it is fully effective.

“The bill expands insurance coverage and provides new consumer protections from insurance company abuses.

“It is fiscally responsible. This bill will reduce the deficit and prolong the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund.

“It covers 31 million Americans who have no coverage today.

“This legislation leaves the best of our health care system in place. It prohibits insurance companies from denying care based on pre-existing conditions. And it offers tax credits to small businesses to help cover the costs of health insurance policies for their employees.

“To lack health insurance is not just an inconvenience, it also can be deadly. Expanding health coverage is a moral issue which I believe reflects the character of our nation. In the richest country in the world, no one should die because they cannot afford health coverage. For all of the bill’s imperfections, I am convinced that it will mean the difference between life and death for some people. And it is not every day that we can say that about a piece of legislation.”

Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey): “This historic Senate action brings us a step closer to providing affordable, quality health care to millions of Americans who are struggling to pay their medical bills and stay healthy.  In addition to making health care more accessible, this bill will reduce the federal budget deficit, strengthen Medicare and ensure that health care is about people instead of insurance company profits.  I worked hard to include a provision that will help families in high cost of living states like New Jersey have fair access to affordable care. I also fought to include a requirement that will stop insurance companies’ outrageous practice of denying coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions.  This bill is a win for America and a win for New Jersey.  I was proud to support it and will continue working to ensure a strong health care reform measure reaches the President’s desk.” 

Senator Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan): “The road to health care reform has been long and difficult. This legislation is not perfect; no legislation on so complicated an issue could be. But it would make important reforms to our health care system that will curb insurance-company abuses, begin to control costs, and reduce inefficiency and waste.

“For those who have insurance, it will reduce the uncertainties as to whether their insurance will really be there for them if they develop serious health problems. For tens of millions of working Americans with no insurance at all, or for those who have pre-existing conditions and are denied coverage, it would provide much-needed help.

“Significant challenges remain in resolving the different approaches of the House and Senate, but the Senate today took a major historic step toward providing secure health care for all Americans.”

Senator Arlen Specter (Democrat, Pennsylvania):  “The Senate took a historic step today in seeing to it that quality health care becomes a right in America and not a privilege. While I would have preferred inclusion of a public option, this bill may be improved in conference and is a significant step forward for incremental reform. It took the initial steps of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964 to set the stage for the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. That precedent could be followed by future healthcare legislation.

“The bill includes many important advances: covering 31 million more Americans, providing insurance reforms, and preventing someone from being denied healthcare because of a preexisting condition. It also includes two key provisions I urged: funding clinical trials to bring NIH research to practical application and tougher penalties to deter Medicare and Medicaid fraud.”

Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon): “We’ve always known that the path to reforming the nation’s health care system was going to be long and it wasn’t going to be easy, but this legislation takes a significant step in the right direction. So while it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come, let’s remember this is only a start.  This legislation creates exchanges that we must expand access to.  It puts in place insurance market reforms that we have to make certain get enforced and it gives choice and competition a new foothold that we will build on until every American has the power to choose the health insurance that works best for them and their family.  I pledge to continue this effort in the days ahead as we work to reconcile this legislation with the House and in the months and years ahead as our legislative effort continues.”

B’nai B’rith International: “This bill is certainly not ideal, and we hope some vital missing elements will be restored in conference. The lack of a public option, or any mechanism which would guarantee insurance competition and access to affordable premiums in all states, is especially troubling. But the inclusion of the CLASS Act, which would create a voluntary insurance system to cover long-term healthcare costs that neither current health insurance nor Medicare cover, is welcome news. The elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions will also make lifelong access to healthcare possible for many, but age-rating still requires older Americans to pay too much simply because of their age. Again, this is something we hope will be reconsidered in conference committee.

“With a long and solid record on advocacy for seniors, B’nai B’rith is deeply concerned with healthy aging, which can only be achieved by making sure people have lifelong access to healthcare including prevention, diagnostic, and chronic condition maintenance. Ensuring everyone is covered is a vital aging issue.

“’For decades, reforming our shattered healthcare system has been unacceptably out of reach,’” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “‘This bill—as with the House version—takes historic steps toward truly reforming our healthcare system, and it should be applauded as such. However, it should be seen as the beginning of a process that will make more meaningful changes in our healthcare system. Healthcare is not a privilege just for the wealthy or the employed. Every American deserves preventive medical care.’

“B’nai B’rith has long been an advocate for comprehensive healthcare reform. It is unacceptable that nearly 47 million Americans are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. And far too many Americans are ‘uninsurable’ in the private market tying their healthcare to their jobs—creating a potential double whammy in an unstable economy should employment or benefits be cut.

“’This monumental undertaking no doubt has resulted in some concessions in the construction of the bill,’ B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. ‘There are just too many moving parts for everyone to be satisfied. But the Senate bill provides insurance where none existed before. Improvements can come later. What’s crucial now for the millions of Americans without insurance is that they may soon be covered, paving the way for lifelong access to care which, combined with a healthier Medicare, will mean healthy aging becomes a reality.’

“B’nai B’rith urges the House and Senate to work quickly to reconcile their bills.”

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: “The Union for Reform Judaism applauds the Senate’s approval of landmark health insurance reform legislation, as the time is long past due to repair our broken system that leaves over 47 million people uninsured and millions more underinsured each year. We commend our nation’s senators who have been working tirelessly to bring us to this historic moment.

“This crucial legislation would insure an additional 30 million Americans, make health insurance more affordable by increasing federal subsidies for low-income Americans and limiting out of pocket costs and also improve Medicaid and Medicare. While we are pleased to see a commitment to increased access to health insurance, we remain disappointed with key pieces of the legislation. The bill lacks a government-run public insurance option, which would control costs to further improve affordability and accessibility of care. We are also concerned about severe limitations to women’s access to reproductive health services. We must work efficiently to pass health reform swiftly but we cannot allow expediency to overshadow women’s rights avowed in Roe v. Wade or eliminate the essential public option. Conferees must not sacrifice these elements for the sake of political expediency.

“As the bill moves to conference, we remain committed to our vision of comprehensive health insurance reform: coverage must be affordable, accessible and quality and reform must include a public insurance option, rest on a financially sustainable foundation and protect women’s access to reproductive health care. Americans have a right to health care, and we look forward to working with members of Congress toward a healthy future for all Americans.”

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Preceding article incorporates press releases from the aforementioned  Jewish senators and Jewish  public interest groups.