Let States Divest From Iran

By Jonathan Schanzer and Howard Slugh
Baltimore Sun
July 26, 2007

Last month, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill ordering his state to divest its pension fund from businesses that work with Iran's energy sector. The legislation, led by Adam Hasner, Republican majority leader of Florida's House of Representatives, passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature.

Unfortunately, the state legislation is unconstitutional. Only new federal legislation can legally allow states to divest from Iran.

In 1996, Massachusetts restricted state businesses from working with companies that dealt with Myanmar, formerly called Burma. Massachusetts sought to press Myanmar's military junta to take steps toward democracy and provide better treatment for dissidents. In 2000, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Massachusetts law in Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council.

The problem was that the state legislation conflicted with a federal statute that enabled the president to impose sanctions on Myanmar. The court argued that the president "has less to offer and less economic and diplomatic leverage as a consequence" of the Massachusetts law. According to the Constitution's supremacy clause, federal sanctions must trump state law.

Florida's sanctions against Iran could face a similar fate. Under federal law, only Congress and the president can implement federal tools - such as the Iran Freedom Support Act - to deter Iran from nuclear proliferation and terrorism. As in the Myanmar case, the Florida divestment plan conflicts with federal sanctions.

Florida has attempted to distinguish its statute from Massachusetts' by adding wording claiming that the law aims to lower fiduciary risk, not create an alternate foreign policy. But just because a state claims its law doesn't conflict with federal law doesn't make it so. The Florida law could be struck down if challenged - unless Congress does the right thing.

The House and Senate are considering the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act to authorize states to pass divestment laws aimed at Iran's energy sector. The bill would cure any constitutional conflict. It would integrate the state sanctions as an element of congressional sanctions, rather than leaving them outside the congressional framework.

Broad bipartisan support of this bill is a sign that Congress sees sanctions - on both the state and federal levels - as an important tool to weaken Iran. It also shows that Congress understands that divestment is a tool that Americans broadly support. Indeed, the growing "terror-free investing" movement is gaining traction nationwide. It echoes grass-roots efforts to divest from South Africa in the 1980s, which eventually brought the apartheid regime to its knees.

Despite the bill's wide popularity, some in Washington oppose it. William Reinsch, former commerce undersecretary in the Clinton administration and current president of the National Foreign Trade Council, claims that "a unified U.S. foreign policy - not multiple state sanctions or divestment laws - is best suited to address" the Iran challenge. Those who join Mr. Reinsch in opposing the bill claim that divestment would create economic tensions with our allies, making it more difficult to act multilaterally.

Opponents of the bill fail to understand that the lack of enforcement of federal sanctions in the past is exactly why the American people have taken matters into their own hands. They have lobbied their state legislatures because they want to punish Iran. They do not care whether their states offend our allies who continue to do business with Iran.

A handful of states are considering their own divestment bills, including Maryland, where Del. Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican, has proposed legislation that would bar the state pension fund from investing in companies tied to Iran. Other states are weighing different divestment options. In Ohio, state Rep. Josh Mandel reports that he and his colleagues led an effort for "state pension funds to divest the retirement dollars of policemen, firefighters and teachers from an Iranian regime that is calling for the destruction of America and Israel."

The House and Senate have deliberated over the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act since May. It is imperative that Congress pass the bill quickly, to ensure that these state efforts are constitutional.

This is an effective way to push Iran to cease developing nuclear weapons and to encumber its efforts to support terrorism.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former intelligence analyst at the Treasury Department, is director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center. His e-mail is jschanzer@jewishpolicycenter.org. Howard Slugh is a law student at Hofstra University law school and a research assistant at the Jewish Policy Center. His e-mail is hslugh1@pride.hofstra.edu.


A Short History
by Augustus Richard Norton
Princeton University Press; 187 pages; $16.95

Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Jerusalem Post
July 20, 2007

Here we go again: yet another American "scholar" who apologizes for an Islamist terrorist group that exists first and foremost to murder, maim and destroy. With Hezbollah: A Short History, Augustus Richard Norton, a Boston University professor of international relations and anthropology, has joined the ranks of dozens of US academics who inexplicably teach the kinder and gentler side of terrorists.

Norton, a former observer with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, states in his prologue that he seeks to provide "a more balanced and nuanced account" of Hizbullah, which he calls a "complex organization." Of course, there is little that is complex or nuanced about a group that receives an estimated $100 million a year from the radical Islamic regime in Iran to carry out violence, and has used violence as its raison d'etre dating back to the 1980s.

Indeed, Hizbullah exists to further the violent aims of Iran, to demonize and attack the US and to destroy Israel. Norton neglects to state this unequivocally and, for that reason, he should be publicly shamed.

To know Hizbullah's violent history is to know Hizbullah. The group was implicated in the 1983 bombings of the US Marine barracks (241 dead) and French paratrooper barracks (141 dead) in Beirut, as well as a string of kidnappings and bombings against Western targets in Lebanon and beyond in the 1980s. Hizbullah was also responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy (29 dead) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (95 dead) in Argentina. It later became known for hit and run attacks against IDF targets (killing or wounding dozens) in southern Lebanon. After Israel withdrew to the UN-recognized border in 2000, Hizbullah continued to attack Israel in the Shaba Farms region, even though the UN verified Israel's withdrawal as complete and legal, according to international law. Last summer, Hizbullah launched thousands of missiles indiscriminately into Israel, killing and wounding mostly civilians and causing billions of dollars in damage. The group launched its weapons from within heavily populated civilian areas in Lebanon, putting the local population in danger of reprisals.

Norton's book tries to explain away this violence. He writes that the term "terrorist" is a "rhetorical bludgeon" used to "dehumanize radical or revolutionary groups." Interestingly, he admits that Hizbullah was "deeply implicated" in the June 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight. He concedes that Hizbullah killed an American serviceman in that attack, which he admits was a "terrorist" operation. However, Norton attempts to explain that Hizbullah was attempting to free prisoners in Israeli jails who had "participated in resistance operations," while other prisoners "were merely suspects that Israel held hostage."

In ascribing logic to Hizbullah's terrorist violence, Norton exposes himself as an apologist. By using the word "resistance" instead of "terrorism," he indicates that he has adopted Hizbullah's parlance. By alleging that Israel was holding innocents in jail on a whim, he indicates that he is now complicit in spreading Hizbullah propaganda.

Norton cites one of Hizbullah's founding documents, which states that every Hizbullah fighter "is a combat soldier when the call of jihad demands it." He acknowledges that the "ultimate objective [for Hizbullah] is to destroy Israel," but when he discusses Hizbullah violence against Israel, that violence is described as "resistance." He writes admiringly of Hizbullah's "careful planning and well-practiced professionalism," and has the audacity to state that Hizbullah "usually" did not "intentionally target Israeli civilians." This seems to imply that the occasional Katyusha barrage on Israel's northern towns was acceptable. Moreover, he lauds Hizbullah restraint for killing only nine Israeli soldiers during the "six years of relative stability" from 2000 to 2006.

Norton also attempts to explain that whatever ordnance lands in Israeli civilian areas is the result of Hizbullah "firing anti-aircraft weapons at Israeli planes violating Lebanese airspace, but as they were firing southward, in the direction the planes were coming from, the spent ammunition rounds would land in Israel." Indeed, Norton seems to have a logical explanation for naked Hizbullah aggression.

Disturbing, also, is Norton's description of Hizbullah's reasons for violence against Israel after the 2000 withdrawal to UN-approved borders. He praises Hizbullah's "clever pretext" to continue "paramilitary operations against Israel," by attacking IDF patrols in the Shaba Farms region. Thus, while the UN condemns Hizbullah for its continued violation of international law, this Boston University professor finds it "clever." If one had any question as to how Norton views Hizbullah violence, page 86 sums it up. He claims that all 12 of Hizbullah's suicide attacks against the US, France and Israel were "legitimate resistance targets."

Tellingly, only 24 of the 159 pages of written text in this book deal with the question of Hizbullah's violence. That constitutes about 15 percent. The rest talks about the group's founding, political activities, social infrastructure and even its participation in Shi'ite Ashura ceremonies (mourning the death of Hussein, the prophet Muhammad's grandson, at the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE).

Upon reading this book, one cannot help but be struck by the similarities between Norton and British author Patrick Seale, the "court biographer" of the Assad regime in Syria. In exchange for the unfettered access he has received over the years, Seale has produced numerous books and articles that heap praise on the autocratic and terrorist-sponsoring state of Syria. Norton, who explains in his acknowledgments that he was given "an unusually privileged, if fortuitous, entrée to local Shi'ite politics," appears to have had similar exposure to Hizbullah leaders and mouthpieces.

Seale, however, is not an academic. Norton is. As such, he has failed the academic community by trading access for objectivity, honesty and integrity. Knowing where Norton stands on Hizbullah, one can only wonder what he teaches his students.

The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.


Catch and Release Doesn't Work
Yemen's Failed Anti-Terrorist Policy

by Jonathan Schanzer
Weekly Standard
July 23, 2007

Nine people, including seven Spanish tourists, were killed in Yemen on July 2 when a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car barreled into a tourist vehicle convoy as it left an archaeological site. A new al Qaeda franchise calling itself "Al Qaeda of the Jihad in Yemen" claimed responsibility for the carnage, putting the lawless state of Yemen back on the list of "places to watch" in the war on terror. The bombing represents an unfortunate, but not unforeseen, turning of the tide in Yemen.

Four years ago, the government of strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh claimed to have successfully defeated al Qaeda in Yemen. With U.S. training and assistance, the government cracked down on the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan after a decade of violence culminating in the headline-grabbing USS Cole bombing of October 12, 2000, and the bombing of the French tanker Limburg on October 6, 2002.

After his officials heralded the defeat of the Aden-Abyan gang in 2003, Saleh boldly released dozens of suspects with links to al Qaeda to their families in exchange for promises that they would renounce violence. The government insisted that this unorthodox approach--the Yemeni approach--would be successful.

Unbelievably, three years of relative calm followed. Yemen's primary problem was not international jihadism, but rather an internal insurrection in the hinterlands of Yemen's Saada province led by Husayn al-Huthi, the leader of a Shiite sub-sect. Clashes over several months left more than 200 rebels and troops dead before al-Huthi's group was neutralized.

Then in 2006, authorities foiled two al Qaeda suicide attacks against Yemeni oil and gas installations. While tragedy was averted, it was an indication that Yemen was coming undone.

The unraveling was probably inevitable. Yemen has traditionally encountered challenges from jihad-supporting tribal leaders who effectively rule the lawless parts of the country that Yemeni authorities cannot reach. Supporters of Osama bin Laden, whose ancestral roots lie in Yemen, have sought shelter in these areas, which are also known to have copious amounts of weapons that can be easily bought in free-wheeling arms markets.

Yemen's final undoing, however, can be pinpointed to a 2006 prison break, when 28 accused terrorists escaped from a jail in the capital, Sanaa. Analysts openly wondered whether the government chose to look the other way. A prison break is a rare occurrence in an Arab police state. At the very least, the prisoners had help from the guards.

Now, according to the Yemen Observer, one of those 28 escapees, a man identifying himself as Abu Basir Nasir al-Wahishi (a.k.a. Abu Hureira al-Sanaani) claims responsibility for the attack on the tourists. He announced in an audio message that he is now the leader of Yemen's newest al Qaeda affiliate group, the successor to the Aden-Abyan gang.

One would think the government of Yemen would learn its lesson: no more "get out of jail free" cards for terrorists. Such leniency only leads to the rise of other al-Wahishi's.

But even as the Yemeni government rounded up 20 suspects and announced a $75,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the recent attackers, the government released at least three other convicted terrorists, including bin Laden's former bodyguard Fawzi al-Wajeh and Ali Mohammed al-Kurdi, who was sentenced to death for his role in suicide bombings in Iraq and a hotel bombing in Yemen's port city of Aden.

According to one Yemeni official who tried to justify amnesty for terrorists, "Fighting [terrorists] doesn't work in the longer term."

But Yemen is inconsistent on this front, too. Security officials shot and killed Egyptian national Ahmed Bassiouni Dewidar, a suspected al Qaeda operative and alleged plotter of the tourist site suicide bombing, when he resisted arrest.

When authorities subsequently searched Dewidar's home, they found weapons, explosives, and forged passports allegedly used by al Qaeda to travel to Iraq and other Arab countries. The state-controlled Yemeni press has yet to release any further information about these findings, or about Dewidar's links to other jihadists in Yemen. Indeed, it is inconceivable to think that Dewidar acted alone.

The recent news coming out of Yemen is conflicting, but mostly bad. U.S. authorities are now reportedly on the ground in Yemen, looking for signs of cooperation between Yemeni terrorists and insurgents in Iraq. More important, they should be looking for signs that Yemen is ready to take its jihadist problem more seriously. Saleh's amnesty experiment appears to have failed.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror. He conducted research in Yemen in 2003.


Why the Threat of War Doesn't Scare Iran
by Jonathan Schanzer
inFocus Quarterly
Summer 2007

In February, British press reported, "U.S. preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage." In March, journalist Seymour Hirsh claimed Washington was "closer to an open confrontation with Iran." The Bush administration has warned
Iran repeatedly to halt its nuclear program and cease funding terror. With talk of war increasing, why won't Iran back down?

The simplest answer is that Iran embraces a radical interpretation of Islam. However, other nations have embraced such ideologies. These include Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Somalia. No country, with the possible exception of Libya, has so boldly challenged America.

Another answer could be framed around the dangerous delusions of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only, Iran is also ruled by a powerful Supreme Leader (rahbar) and a parliament (majlis). Thus, Iran is not steered by one man.

Why Iran is undaunted by war is directly linked to Washington's behavior over time. Indeed, America's consistently weak responses over nearly three decades have created an emboldened Iran. Nearly every instance in which Iran provoked America, Washington responded weakly.

Caught Off-Guard

In 1979, Iran became the first modern Islamic republic when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a spellbinding cleric, overthrew Iran's secular Pahlavi dynasty, which ruled Iran since the 1920s. Caught off-guard, the Carter administration attempted to keep channels of communication open, despite a spike in anti-American vitriol. In so doing, President Ronald Reagan wrote in his memoirs, "the Carter administration had sown the seeds of the foreign policy disaster that would later engulf it." On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy.

For 444 days, the radicals held 52 Americans hostage. Disinclined to confront Iran, Washington pleaded with the new regime. Representative George Hansen (R-ID) asked Iranian leaders during a visit to Tehran whether congressional hearings might allow Iran to air its grievances against America. Subsequently, 187 U.S. representatives wrote to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's speaker of the Majlis, urging Iran to resolve the crisis. Representatives Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and Lee Hamilton (D-IN) sent a similar missive in August. Carter's most decisive action was to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to freeze Iran's assets. After a botched helicopter rescue attempt, America released nearly $8 billion in Iranian assets to free the hostages. America paid ransom.

The next confrontation took place in war-torn Lebanon. When American soldiers arrived for a 1983 peacekeeping mission, they were bloodied by two Iran-sponsored attacks. The first was the April 18 bombing of America's embassy in Beirut. Six months later came a suicide attack on the U.S. Marine barracks on October 23 that killed 241.

This was America's first suicide bomb experience. The attack was tied to the Iran-backed Hizbullah. The group's spiritual guide, Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, contended that "oppressed nations do not have the technology and destructive weapons America and Europe have. They must thus fight with special means of their own." These means overwhelmed America. Thanks to a skittish Congress, U.S. forces left Lebanon several months later.

A rash of Islamist violence ensued. America's embassy in Beirut was bombed on September 20, 1984. Hizbullah was again involved. In December 1984, on a hijacked plane in Tehran, Islamic extremists tortured and murdered two Americans. Radicals abducted more than a dozen Americans in Beirut between March 1984 and January 1985. Finally, in June 1985, Islamic militants hijacked another flight with more than 100 Americans aboard, killing one of them. America did not respond, other than to place Iran on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1984.

Admittedly, the listing enabled Washington to punish Iran with sanctions. Congress banned arms sales to Iran, which desperately needed supplies during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). The punishment of sanctions was offset, however, by the "Iran-Contra Affair" in which Washington sent Iran weapons via Israel in exchange for released hostages. The deal was also designed to reach out to Iranian moderates, including Rafsanjani, to establish ties with Iran's possible future leaders. At best, America's policy was one of mixed signals.

U.S. policy was also ambivalent in 1989 during the furor over Salman Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses. Khomeini was enraged by several passages, including one that mocked Islamic laws "about every damn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one's behind… sodomy and the missionary position were approved of by the arch-angel, whereas the forbidden postures included all those in which the female was on top."

Rather than merely condemning the book, Khomeini sentenced Rushdie to death for blasphemy. "In the name of Allah," he proclaimed, "the author of the book Satanic Verses... and those publishers who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them..."

Khomeini's decree (fatwa) sparked a wave of Islamist violence. Book agents were stabbed, newspaper offices were bombed, and demonstrations turned bloody. Though Rushdie was British, Iranian leaders called the book a "provocative American deed." As author Daniel Pipes notes, Washington first reacted with "retreat and confusion," adopting a harder line only when "it became clear that concessions would win nothing in return." Pipes also notes that President George H.W. Bush dubbed both the book and the fatwa "offensive," placing both on an equal plane.

Once Rushdie went underground, the early 1990s were relatively quiet. Iran remained neutral during the 1991 Iraq War, while "moderates" such as Rafsanjani ruled Iran, and overt violence against the U.S. was down. Still, anti-Israel terrorism was up, thanks to Iran's funding of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah. Further, Iran supported Sudan, a country that supported and trained numerous terrorist groups, and provided safe haven to Carlos the Jackal and a relatively unknown Usama bin Laden.

The Clinton Years

Iran policy in the early 1990s was opaque. Despite the sanctions, the United States was the eighth largest exporter to Iran in 1993. American oil companies were also buying approximately 30 percent of Iran's oil exports. Concurrently, President Bill Clinton adopted his 1993 "Dual Containment" strategy against Iran and Iraq, thereby blocking Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and funding to terrorists. Two years later he signed an executive order banning trade with Iran. Republicans charged that Clinton did not take the threat of Iran seriously enough. The "Contract with America," however, gave Iran little thought. It merely affirmed a commitment to defend against "missile attacks from terrorist states," including Iran.

In 1996, Iran renewed its attacks against the United States. On June 25, a truck bomb exploded at the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring more than 500. The Saudi Hizbullah, an Iran proxy, was responsible. Washington's response was a five-year legal probe. The following year, Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). But the legislation would never have been passed without the America Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC was instrumental in crafting the Iran portion, which levied sanctions against companies that invested $40 million or more in Iranian oil or gas.

Beginning in 1997, relations thawed as Iran elected by a landslide Mohammed Khatami, a self-styled moderate, which Clinton touted as a "hopeful sign." Hailed as "Ayatollah Gorbachev," Khatami called for "civilizational dialogue." Unfortunately, while Secretary of State Madeline Albright proudly cheered "signs of change," Khatami's Iran continued to openly fund Hizbullah, assassinated Iranian dissidents, and developed long-range missiles. Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, still regarded America as an "enemy of [Iran's] Islamic government."

According to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Khatami admitted the Khobar attack had been executed on Khamenei's orders. Clinton's memoirs also noted "the possibility of Iran's support for the [Khobar] terrorists." Still, the President pushed for rapprochement. In 1998, he waived sanctions against the French firm Total when its investment in Iranian oil should have triggered ILSA sanctions. As Freeh stated, the administration "miserably failed to seek any redress," while Iran believed America "lacked the fortitude to fight a real war."

Policy Shifts

Iran policy began to shift in the George W. Bush administration. In 2001, when investigations confirmed Iran's senior leaders, intelligence apparatus, and Revolutionary Guards were behind the Khobar attacks, Congress extended ILSA for five years. After 9/11, during his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush named Iran part of the Axis of Evil, a triumvirate of terrorist nations including Iraq and North Korea. Indeed, Washington finally recognized Iran as an enemy.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, Tehran quickly ensured that the U.S. would be so overwhelmed in Iraq that it wouldn't consider war with Iran. Iran spends untold millions of dollars per month to destabilize Iraq and undermine U.S. efforts. Iran infiltrated Iraq's Shi'ite south, funneling funds and support to militias, including Muqtada al-Sadr's radical "Mahdi Army." Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) offices and Hizbullah installations also sprung up in Najaf, Karbala, and other southern cities.

Complicating the issue is Iran's play for nuclear power. U.S., U.K., French, German and Israeli intelligence have all warned that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. Though the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) stated in November 2003 there was "no evidence" of a weapons program, traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium were found. Recent studies assert that Iran is still years from a nuclear weapon, but Iran could achieve a crude bomb much sooner. Moreover, Ahmadinejad insists on Iran's "inalienable right" to produce nuclear fuel. In late March 2007, the U.N. passed more severe sanctions against Iran, but Iran remains defiant.

Looking Forward

Today, as America challenges Iran to cease its nuclear program, and to quit sponsoring terror, Tehran is undaunted. It believes that Washington will only penalize Iran with tough words and economic sanctions. The mullahs also know they can offset sanctions by creating a minor crisis, such as the kidnapping of British soldiers in March 2007, or a major crisis, such as letting loose Hizbullah to attack Israel in the summer of 2006. Those events sent oil prices soaring, thereby padding Tehran's pockets.

Washington's challenge is now a daunting one. America must finally establish deterrence vis-à-vis Iran, after 28 years. It must accomplish this when its allies will not help, either due to fear of military confrontation or economic backlash. Further, Washington's military options are limited while U.S. forces are already spread thin in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that U.S. servicemen are stationed on either side of Iran – in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps it lies in even more painful sanctions that could lay waste to Iran's already-hobbled economy. Sadly, diplomacy is not likely to yield results until the next Iranian election in 2009. In the end, only tougher policies will re-establish the deterrence America lost over the course of three decades. Failure to do so will only invite more violence from Tehran.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is Director of Policy for the Jewish Policy Center, and author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.

Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh Sham
by Jonathan Schanzer
Philadelphia Bulletin
June 26, 2007

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosted Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday in an attempt to shore up beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and to jumpstart peace talks between Israel and the Fatah government that clings to power in the West Bank.

Egypt's move, lauded by Washington, is also an attempt to isolate the violent Hamas terrorist organization, one week after its takeover of the Gaza Strip. This gives the appearance that Egypt is a leading voice of moderation in the region and a pivotal U.S. ally in the war against radical Islam in the region.

But Egypt is largely to blame for the current Gaza crisis, the arming of Hamas and the deaths of hundreds of people, Israelis and Palestinians alike.

For years, Cairo has turned a blind eye to Hamas' weapon smuggling activities on the Gaza-Sinai border in an area known as the Philadelphi Corridor. Hamas has amassed a deadly arsenal by importing copious amounts of weapons through tunnels that run from Egypt into Gaza.

Cairo yawned when this arsenal spilled the blood of hundreds of Israelis in recent years. This was Egypt's conception of "Cold Peace" with Israel. Mubarak lent half-hearted rhetorical support to Arab-Israeli peace while allowing Sudanese, Libyan and Egyptian weapons to travel underground to terrorists. Egypt continued to take aid from the United States (more than $28 billion over three decades) while simultaneously and indirectly inflicting pain upon Israel.

Now, Mubarak is suddenly alarmed by the fact that Hamas used these weapons to kill dozens of Palestinians, that the region is ablaze and that a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Islamist proto-state now sits on its border.

Over the last decade, Israel has found and destroyed dozens of tunnels that originated in Egypt and led right into Gaza. Israel's Engineer Corps destroyed them with explosives or filled them with cement. But Gaza's tunnels are built as fast as they are found, thanks to financing from the mullahs of Iran.

According to one estimate, Gazans smuggled no less than 30 tons of explosives from Egypt in 2006. The goods typically include automatic rifles, mines, armor-piercing weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and even the explosives used in suicide belts. Also coming through are the raw materials necessary to build the increasingly accurate Qassam rockets that pummel the southern Israeli town of Sderot on a daily basis.

The interrogation of one militant in 2003 revealed to Israeli intelligence that anti-aircraft missiles had been smuggled through these tunnels to counter Israeli attack helicopters, or even to target commercial airliners. Recently, Israeli officials have expressed concerns that long-range missiles may have made their way to Gaza, too.

Israel repeatedly pleaded with their "peace partner," Egypt, to do more to stop the smuggling in recent years. Cairo responded with complaints that it needed more policemen to deploy along the border. This response was curious, coming from a police state.

True, Egyptian policemen occasionally destroyed tunnels. But, their efforts were well shy of rigorous. According to Israeli officials, in some cases, Egyptian police received "bribes or other incentives for keeping the tunnels open." When Israel destroyed tunnels with explosives, they witnessed smoke and debris clouds coming out of tunnel entrances in areas that were well within the patrol areas of Egypt's border guards.

Cairo traditionally dismissed these allegations as "old and silly" but now appears to be properly alarmed. Egypt heightened its alert level along the Philadelphi corridor in the wake of the Hamas victory. Mubarak reportedly upped the number of police on the border to 750.

Egypt could take further measures, in light of a U.S. House of Representatives vote on Friday to withhold $200 million in military aid until Cairo shows it is serious about stopping the smuggling.

Regardless of how many Egyptian police are now deployed to the border, there can be no masking the fact that Egypt was responsible, in part, for the arming of Hamas. It was therefore responsible, in part, for the Hamas takeover in Gaza.

Mubarak's peace summit in Sharm el-Sheikh is a fig leaf, designed to obscure the fact that he allowed Hamas to arm.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.

Middle East Corleones

The Truth About Syria
by Barry Rubin
Palgrave Macmillan, 304 Pages, $24.95

Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
New York Post
June 24, 2007

Which Middle Eastern country is like a Mafia family with a seat at the United Nations? It might seem like there could be multiple answers but there's really only one: Syria.

Now we have "The Truth about Syria," by Barry Rubin, to explain how the ruling Assad family is not only a mafia but bears a remarkable resemblance to the Corleones of Mario Puzo's "The Godfather."

As Rubin writes, the Assads, like the Corleones, have dispatched their enemies with brutality, "making sure they slept with the fishes." The list includes Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed with a car bomb embedded beneath a street planted by Syrian operatives. It also includes the 1982 massacre of some 10,000 people in Hama, the third-largest Syrian town.

Syria's President Bashar al Assad is the incarnation of Michael Corleone. When Bashar's father, President Hafez al Assad, died in 2000, Bashar was plucked from his career as an eye doctor and quickly groomed to take over as president. Like Bashar, Michael Corleone was not a Mafioso until his father was shot. Both Bashar and Michael both went on to become brutal dons.

There are other mafia similarities. The recent congressional visits to Syria, for example, look like the result of the Syrian protection racket. Bashar created havoc by supporting the Iraq insurgency (resulting in hundreds of killed and injured U.S. servicemen), and by providing Hezbollah with rockets to attack Israel (as they did last summer, causing civilian casualties and millions of dollars in damages).

Now, several prominent members of Congress are so scared they seek to offer Syria positive reinforcement for so-called cooperation, even though the violence is Syria's fault in the first place. Assad is looking for a payout.

Syria's presence in Lebanon is also a racket. Though the occupation of Lebanon has officially ended, Syria still manipulates the country through intelligence operatives and illegal businesses. And Assad has Lebanese politicians paid-off, while Hezbollah terrorists and Syrian spies work as his enforcer thugs. Syria continues to pilfer Lebanon and pad its own pockets.

Rubin's book is a breath of fresh air, compared with analysis from other Syria "experts" like the University of Oklahoma's Joshua Landis, Flynt Leverett at the New America Foundation and Patrick Seale, the Syrian regime's court biographer. These other analysts stubbornly insist that Syria can be a U.S. ally. Rubin, however, explains the futility in reaching out to Syria, just as one cannot simply ask a Mafia to stop its criminal activity.

"The Truth About Syria" is relentless and unapologetic. It shows how Syria is backing Palestinian terrorism and the Iraqi insurgency, murdering Lebanese patriots, lying to American diplomats and committing a host of other offenses that Americans should learn about if they are to prevent their elected representatives from further missions of folly.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, directs policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He wrote "Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror."

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