The murder of Israel's tourism minister this week was a disturbing escalation of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli democracy. It occurred at a particularly sensitive moment, with Washington trying to hold together a disparate coalition against international terrorism that includes Arab nations as well as Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, must now act firmly and responsibly to contain the consequences of the attack. Missteps by either could rapidly escalate the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and jeopardize the broader campaign against terror.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the group that claimed it shot the minister, Rehavam Zeevi, has a history of terrorism and opposition to the Oslo peace agreements. Despite this, it has remained part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Mr. Arafat runs. Yesterday the Palestinian Authority arrested a number of PFLP members. That will not be enough to defuse this crisis. Mr. Sharon has warned that unless Palestinian police promptly arrest and extradite Mr. Zeevi's killers, Israel will retaliate.
The implication of Mr. Sharon's ultimatum is that if his demands are not satisfied in the next few days, Israeli military forces could try to retake Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by force. That would be a terrible setback for Israelis and Palestinians as well as Washington. The primary responsibility for avoiding it belongs to Mr. Arafat, who must find and arrest all those involved in the murder. Given the Palestinian Authority's uneven record of prosecuting terrorists and keeping them behind bars, Mr. Sharon's insistence on extraditing the suspects to Israel is understandable.
Mr. Sharon also needs to exercise restraint. He is under enormous pressure to respond forcefully. Even before the latest events he faced criticism for withdrawing Israeli troops from areas of Hebron and easing travel restrictions on Palestinians, two steps Washington had encouraged him to take. Ironically, those steps had driven Mr. Zeevi to announce his resignation from the cabinet.
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War Israel wisely honored American requests for military restraint, even in the face of Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv. After this new killing, Israel must again summon the political strength to act wisely and carefully.
Time and again, moments of hope and progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are greeted by new and shocking acts of violence, meant to stop peacemaking in its tracks. This week it happened again: Just as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were taking baby steps toward ending a year of warfare, radical Palestinians assassinated Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi. For now, this terrible act has had exactly the intended effect: Mr. Sharon has angrily suspended a promised lifting of Israeli blockades in the West Bank and Gaza, sent the army on new invasions of Palestinian territory and threatened a major offensive against Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority. The execution of that offensive would deal another devastating blow to Israeli-Palestinian relations and threaten the U.S. coalition against terrorism. Quick and decisive action must be taken in the coming days to head off the escalation of violence.
The action must begin with Mr. Arafat, who made a start by condemning the assassination, banning the Palestinian organization involved and arresting several of its members. There is little reason to believe Mr. Arafat knew of or condoned the attack. On the contrary, the Palestinian leader had been moving toward responding to U.S. and Israeli demands that he force compliance with a cease-fire and break with radical groups supporting terrorism. But Mr. Arafat must go much farther: He must once and for all move against all the militants who plan and carry out terrorist attacks, and make clear to both Palestinians and Israelis that he has chosen the path of negotiation.
For his part, Mr. Sharon must leave room for a peaceful outcome. In the past two days, he and his spokesman have returned to the tactic of mimicking President Bush's words about Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, as if they applied equally to Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has also returned to its own practice of assassinating Palestinian militants, even though one of those killings, of the political leader of a small secular militant group, prompted the group to murder Mr. Zeevi in retaliation. The suggestion is that an Israeli campaign to destroy the Palestinian Authority would be as appropriate and justified as the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan.
But such an Israeli campaign would simply set back, possibly for years, any move toward the real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, as Mr. Sharon himself acknowledged last Sunday, is negotiation leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. Mr. Sharon threatens to mix a justified battle against terrorism with an effort to destroy the elected leadership of a legitimate national movement. If Mr. Arafat does not decisively break with Palestinian terrorists, he should be sanctioned and isolated; if Israel is attacked, it has a right to respond against those who attack it. But waging war against the Palestinian Authority because of the actions of a splinter group would be a terrible mistake, one with far-reaching consequences for both Israel and the United States.
As the White House is actively engaged countering a shadowy but deadly threat around the world, a significant remnant of the Cold War has finally been relegated to history. Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised much of the world on yesterday, when he announced the Kremlin was closing its Lourdes spy facility in Cuba.
Moscow's reaffirmation of this cooperative relationship is a foreign-policy coup for President Bush, who has forged a strategic relationship with Russia. "It's a clear indication of the strategic realignment with the West that Putin is trying to effect," said Ariel Cohen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Moscow is seeking to strengthen its security cooperation with the United States, and "having Russia in the tent and cooperating, rather than spoiling outside," is in the U.S. interest, he added. All the same, the United States' opposition to Russia's slaughter of Chechens and overzealous crackdown on the freedom of the press must continue to be a part of Washington's dialogue with the Kremlin.
The spy base, which was built by the Soviet Union and employs 1,500 people, had long been a source of contention aggravating U.S.-Russian relations. Through electronic surveillance out of Lourdes, the Russians may have even learned of U.S. battle plans for the Gulf War before they were executed, according to press reports, but the Kremlin apparently didn't pass this information on to Baghdad.
As Mr. Putin signaled his decision to close shop in Lourdes, he said he would redirect the $200 million it cost a year to operate the base to bolster terrorist surveillance capabilities along Russia's southern border. Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the Russian armed forces general staff, said the $200 million saved from the Lourdes withdrawal could be used to purchase about 100 of the most up-to-date radars.
Conversely, the base had long been a source of pride for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. After the demise of the Soviet Union, and therefore the flow of Soviet aid to Cuba, Russia's maintenance of the facility allowed Mr. Castro to continue touting his utility and ties to a geo-political power. Russia's exit plans are therefore "a tremendous blow to the Cubans," said Jose Cardenas, Washington director of the Cuban American National Foundation. The base "was really the last manifestation of the close Cuban-Soviet relationship during the Cold War," he added. Indeed, Mr. Castro stands today as an isolated relic of a past era, imposing an anachronistic, delegitimized and brutal dictatorship on a captive island.
America's strengthened strategic friendships are today a pivotal element of the president's terrorist-busting strategy. Although the challenges Washington is today confronting are indeed daunting, the defrosting of such Cold War hostilities is a welcomed change.
Right from the start, a critical element in the battle between the United States and its allies on one side and Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida and Taliban supporters on the other has been a war of words. For a while, it seemed that bin Laden was getting the better of the verbal combat with inflammatory allegations spewing out through the al-Jazeera TV network, which is based in Qatar in the Persian Gulf and is sometimes known as the Arab CNN.
The Bush White House was on the defensive, complaining to the American networks that had picked up the bin Laden remarks verbatim and rebroadcast them. The White House asserted that the terrorist's remarks were propaganda that might incite others to violence or could contain hidden messages to saboteurs and hijackers in this country. The networks were asked to "exercise judgment" in airing the broadcasts.
As Marvin Kalb, a respected former television correspondent, wrote in The New York Times, TV network executives quickly fell into line: "None wanted to be seen as refusing to cooperate with the administration's crusade against terrorism."
Now, however, the Bush administration has gone on the offensive, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed by al-Jazeera for broadcast to the Arab-speaking world. Rumsfeld's words were not nearly so fiery as bin Laden's but they had the same import, which is that the Afghan people should rise up and defy bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban regime.
Rumsfeld said the United States hoped that "the people who are against al Qaida and the people who are against the leadership of the Taliban will be successful in their efforts to stop terrorism and stop the people who have done so much damage in the world." Later in the broadcast, he said the United States was trying to help the Afghans "rid their country of foreign invaders who are fostering terrorism" to the detriment of their country.
Apparently, the irony of trying to shut down al-Jazeera and then turning to al-Jazeera to get a message to the Afghan people escaped Rumsfeld. Given the U.S. government's penchant for seeking to control the news, the danger, however remote now, is that the administration may try to censor the American press and TV and then use it for propaganda directed at the American public.
That would do no harm to the terrorists but could do great harm to Americans, depriving them of the information they need to be thinking and patriotic citizens.
Los Angeles Times
The Palestinian assassination of an Israeli Cabinet member is unprecedented, even in the sad history of Middle East violence. The killing threatens regional stability. It could also marginalize Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat unless he arrests the murderers and brings them to trial.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for Wednesday's killing of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in a Jerusalem hotel. The group, a part of Arafat's own Palestine Liberation Organization, said the shooting was in retaliation for Israel's assassination in August of the Popular Front's leader, Mustafa Zibri.
It should have been clear to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government that killing Zibri would inflame the Palestinians. It should have been clear to the Palestinians that the killing of Zeevi could push Israel into more violent reprisals. Israel has demanded the extradition of Zeevi's killers; such a step has never been taken by the Palestinian Authority and indeed was rejected by Palestinian leaders Thursday. Many Palestinians hated the right-wing Zeevi, who wanted Arabs moved from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The authority's credibility has been eroded by its many broken vows to stop the fighting, now 13 months old, but if extradition is out of the question the authority must promise to bring the murderers to justice. Then it must do so.
The United Nations' special Mideast envoy, after meeting with Arafat, rightly said the Palestinian leader's denunciation of the Zeevi assassination was not enough, that the statement "has to be followed by deeds." Arafat, who foolishly rejected proposals for Palestinian independence offered by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak two years ago, now has to deal with greatly changed circumstances.
The Bush administration has become energetic in trying to persuade both Israelis and Palestinians to stop the mayhem, lest attacks on Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank increase the perception that the U.S. anti-terror campaign is anti-Muslim. But there are limits to what outsiders can do in the Middle East, especially after a Cabinet minister is slain.
Arafat does have a hard task in corralling Palestinian extremists. That said, leaders do what needs doing if they want to retain power and be credible. Arafat runs the risk of being pushed aside as a figure not worth dealing with. More than a year of renewed Palestinian violence against Israel has produced little but death. Arafat's ability to rein in the killers of Israelis is in doubt. The Palestinian Authority police force did crack down on pro-Osama bin Laden demonstrations in Gaza, and Arafat had a good meeting in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But the assassination of Zeevi threatens that progress and more.
Sharon faces Israeli cries for retaliation, and indeed there was a burst of violence Thursday, with deaths on both sides. Enforcing a cease-fire will be even more difficult now for all parties, but it is even more necessary. Continued retaliatory assassinations when global tensions are at their highest level in decades threaten to escalate into an all-out war that could easily explode beyond the region.
Cuba's dictatorship is miffed that Russia is pulling the plug on its massive spy station south of Havana. The only question is what hurts worse: Cuba's loss of $200 million in yearly rent or the clear sign that Fidel Castro and his regime are increasingly irrelevant -- to Russia as well as to most of the rest of the world.
Built in 1964, the military intelligence base in Lourdes was a key Soviet asset during the Cold War. Like Castro, it is now a relic of once-antagonistic relations between the Kremlin and the White House. The facility was designed to eavesdrop on U.S. telephone, fax and computer communications transmitted via satellite or microwave towers. But increasing use of fiber-optic cable, which it is not equipped to monitor, was turning Lourdes obsolete. Once the 1,500 Russian technicians and troops now at Lourdes are withdrawn, the last vestige of the Soviet military presence, which dominated the island for three decades, will be gone.
Not that Cuba will miss the Russians. Castro's regime long had a love-hate relationship with the Soviet Union, bolstered by Cold War politics of convenience. The two governments united against their mutual enemy -- the United States -- but had plenty of bitter rifts, too.
Cuba, though, certainly will miss Russia's money: the yearly $200 million rent for Lourdes and another $100 million its maintenance. Worse, this comes after the Sept. 11 attacks have further weakened tourism and remittances, Cuba's primary sources of hard currency. Sadly, life will become more desperate for Cuba's people as a result.
Displeasure at Russia rang clear in a Cuban government statement. To retire Lourdes was ``a concession to the U.S. government that constitutes a grave danger for Cuba's security.'' A reference to the ``damage'' caused to Cuba's economy by the Soviet Union's collapse suggests that Castro hasn't forgiven Russia for ending yearly subsidies of $4-$6 billion in 1991. Never mind Cuba's unwillingness to recognize as much as $20 billion owed Russia in Soviet-era debt.
Russia, however, made it clear that the Cuban nation -- and its economy -- aren't priorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin framed it as a financial decision. The money invested at Lourdes will be better spent on military training and weapons for the fight against terrorism.
The geopolitical landscape has shifted considerably since Sept. 11. The new war on terrorism has dealt the final blow to the Cold War. Russia is not a U.S. enemy now. And Cuba's anachronistic regime, along with its outdated rhetoric, will continue to fade until it is buried in the graveyard of cruel and failed ideologies.
Many Muslims continue to call for the United States to produce evidence linking Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida network to the events of Sept. 11. Only in this way, they say, can the Americans justify their military campaign against the ruling Taliban and bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The British government has published information connecting bin Laden and his operatives to the Sept. 11 murderers, and the United States has suggested that it will do likewise at a time it considers appropriate. Bin Laden and an aide, in the videotapes delivered to an Arabic-language TV station for worldwide broadcast, haven't acknowledged complicity. But they have come close, gloating openly about the "good deed," as bin Laden's aide put it, done by the hijackers.
Taliban leaders and others demanding proof might read an indictment already handed up in a U.S. court. Bin Laden and several others were indicted in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania three years ago that killed 231 people, including 12 Americans. The fugitive Saudi terrorist never stood trial, of course, but others did.
On Thursday in New York, four men convicted in the bombing case, including a former personal secretary to bin Laden, were sentenced to life in prison without parole. The four could have received death sentences, but a jury -- apparently unwilling to permit them to be martyred by al-Qaida and other radical groups -- mandated the life terms instead.
Compared with the embassy bombings, the crimes committed Sept. 11 on American soil were vastly more horrific in kind and in degree, and if bin Laden ever turns up alive and in American custody, he will be brought to justice as President Bush has promised. But people looking for proof now should know that this terrorist who bends the truth and insults Islam would long since have appeared in the dock had American authorities been able to track him down.
New York Newsday
It may seem odd at first blush for President George W. Bush to attend an Asian economic summit in Shanghai while this nation is in the midst of a war on terrorism. But trade is being overshadowed there by the terror attacks on the United States, and the gathering is giving Bush a unique opportunity to lobby for a strong international coalition against terrorism.
The summit comes at a good time for another reason: It is providing Bush with a chance to repair his relationships with Russia and China by establishing a common bond against the threat of terrorism. But Bush must be careful that in soliciting China's and Russia's pledge of solidarity he doesn't imply U.S. approval for their treatment of their separatist minorities. The implicit quid pro quo that Beijing and Moscow expect for their strong rhetorical support of the anti-terror fight is for the United States to turn a blind eye to Moscow's repression of Chechens and Beijing's incipient crackdown on Muslim Uighurs.
There is no question that Chechen guerrillas have used terror tactics in their move for independence, but Russia's reaction has been grotesquely disproportionate in punishing all of Chechnya. In China, the Taliban has infiltrated the Muslim separatist movement in the westernmost provinces and has recruited Chinese Islamic fighters. Bush cannot condone a brutal wholesale crackdown, Tibet-style.
Still, Bush should use the summit to soften the sharp edges left in U.S. relations with China and Russia by his obsession with a national missile defense system and the adversarial stance he has taken with both nations. He can also make a strong appeal to Asia's large Muslim nations, Indonesia and Malaysia, not to allow the growth of Islamic fanaticism to infect their populations. There are troubling signs that the leaders of both of those nations are backing away from their initial support of the U.S. air war in Afghanistan. Bush must do all he can to buttress the nascent coalition and re-ignite the international outrage that flared so spontaneously after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Though every poll shows overwhelming support among Americans for U.S. military action in Afghanistan, opponents on the home-front have been anything but hushed. Their objections have become a familiar mantra that goes something like this:
The terrorists did wrong on Sept. 11 and must be punished.
But military force isn't the answer.
They should be apprehended and brought to justice in a court of law.
The exasperating flaw in that reasoning virtually cried out for the world's attention Thursday in a New York courtroom, just a few blocks from the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. There, in a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, four Osama bin Laden disciples were sentenced to life without parole for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
In what seems like a nightmare ago, on Aug. 7, 1998, America's embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were simultaneously blown to bits, killing 231 people and maiming more than 5,500. Bin Laden and his al Qaida network were quickly identified as the perpetrators.
And then there was President Bill Clinton's steely response, which sounds hauntingly hollow today:
"We will not yield to this threat," he told the nation. "We will meet it no matter how long it may take. This will be a long, ongoing struggle."
It was tough talk, but only talk. Remember what happened after those grisly 1998 attacks:
The U.S. military lobbed several cruise missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan, destroying some terrorist targets but also a Khartoum building that the Sudanese government claimed was a only a pharmaceutical factory. Civilians apparently were killed, as well.
American peace activists (abetted by anti-Clinton conservatives) raised an outcry, the bombing quickly stopped, and the Clinton administration opted for the activists' justice-through- the-courts alternative.
Through painstaking diplomacy and superb international police work, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Mohamed Rashed Al-'Owhai, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh and Wadih El-Hage were tracked down and apprehended.
After a 6-month trial, they were convicted of plotting and executing the embassy bombings, and on Thursday they received the harshest possible punishment short of execution.
Justice done, right?
Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans don't accept that narrow view of what this country faces. The trial in New York represented everything peace activists had demanded, yet it did nothing to protect the nation from the horrors yet to come.
Fight back against al Qaida without military action? Clearly, we tried that in 1998. Within hours of the embassy bombings, bin Laden and his top henchmen were indicted. What were U.S. officials expected to do? Send over a couple of sheriff's deputies with arrest warrants?
It's not as if the United States just rolled over. In 1995, Clinton froze the U.S. financial assets of bin Laden and his top conspirators. And after the 1998 embassy bombings Clinton reportedly even created a special operations task force to go after bin Laden, but the force never got a solid fix on him in the canyons and caves of Afghanistan.
These terrorists who have declared war on the United States are entrenched, organized and heavily armed. Nothing short of military force -- complementing the criminal justice system that inflicted a mere dent in al-Qaida on Thursday -- will put a lasting end to their heinous attacks.
Christian Science Monitor
Just 10 years ago this December, the Soviet Union collapsed, ending a hot-and-cold clash of ideologies. But it created uncertainty over how the world should work and America's role in it.
Now Sept. 11 has done the same.
The pace of change in U.S. statecraft has been as rapid in the past five weeks as the period after the hammer-and-sickle flag fell from atop the Kremlin. Coalition-building has become the singular U.S. focus for the foreseeable future.
Such a transformation will become clearer this weekend, when President Bush meets with a dozen or more leaders of Asia-Pacific nations in Shanghai, China. Suddenly, all sorts of irritating issues such as missile defense and trade disputes have been marginalized by a great willingness of nations to assist the US in beating international terrorists. Unlike the cold-war strategy to contain communism, this new goal has a long list of friends.
China and Russia set up their own regional antiterrorist alliance with Central Asian nations in 1999. They're ready to help the US with intelligence. Japan is moving quickly to overturn its pacifist past and provide non-combat military assistance. A few Southeast Asian nations who have their own problems with militant Islamists are working with the United States. Even Iran has offered to help the United States a bit in the war in Afghanistan.
But these are the early days of this new era. Many nations are still wondering what Mr. Bush meant when he said to Congress on Sept. 20: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." That's too broad a mandate, and needs refining.
Each nation's contribution can be varied and different, Bush said this week: "We're not going to ask nations to contribute in ways that their people won't understand or accept ... just so long as we're all focused on the goal of ridding the world of terrorism. And we must make that decision now."
The give-and-take of this coalition-building will define U.S. relations with the world for years to come, until terrorism fades away and a new era begins.
(Compiled by United Press International.)
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