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>JN May 24, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 90

Middle East: Is a Full Scale War Imminent?

By Ed Warner (VOA-Washington)

As the violence between Israelis and Palestinians increases, some observers are expressing fears it could erupt into a wider war involving other Middle Eastern countries. Wars do not always happen for rational reasons, says former United Press International head Arnaud deBorchgrave, and there is a lot of irrationality in the Middle East today.

He writes in the Washington Times that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has aroused fierce emotions. Moderates are radicalized and talk about a coming war, that even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seems reconciled to it, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatens a fight beyond imagining.

How can Arab countries challenge an incontestably more powerful Israel? That was the question deborchgrave says he asked Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1973. Sadat replied that you can win by losing, and then launched the attack that began the Yom Kippur war and the crippling oil embargo against the west.

A former chief of counter-terrorism operations at the CIA, Vincent Cannistraro, says a similar scenario is possible today. There is no questioning Israel's military power and Sharon's willingness to use it. "I do not think he sees value in anything other than the use of maximum force. Clearly, the radicals are hoping that he does widen the war."

"They believe that the peace process has been sabotaged permanently, and it is probably not possible to be resurrected. Both the radicals and the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side share this same joint hope and vision."

Russia and North Korea have provided Iran with ballistic missile technology and components. In turn, Iran has passed these along to the Hizbullah. Cannistraro says Iranians might offer other kinds of support in a clash with Israel. "Now they cannot respond in terms of a physical presence because they do not have a continuous border [with Israel], but they can respond through their surrogates in Lebanon, using possibly weapons of mass destruction."

Cannistraro added: "In any event, I think you will see the introduction of short and medium range missiles that can strike inside Israel in urban centers, and that is certainly alarming and a major escalation."


Taleban Edict Recalls Nazi Badges for Jews

By Ayaz Gul (VOA-Islamabad, Pakistan)
Afghanistan's ruling Taleban Islamic movement has decided that Afghan non-Muslims must wear a yellow badge to distinguish them from the overwhelmingly Muslim majority of the country. The controversial move has triggered international outrage and evoked memories of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

Defending the order, a Taleban spokesman, Abdul Hannan Himat, said that it is meant to protect Hindus and other minorities from questioning by the Taleban religious police. Under the order, the Hindus must wear a yellow badge on their chests, which can easily identify them.

The Taleban has introduced a strict version of Islamic laws in more than 90 percent of Afghanistan. Its religious police has the task of ensuring that Muslims in Afghanistan conform to the Islamic code, which requires men to have beards and pray five times a day. It also requires women to wear veils covering them from head to toe. The spokesman said a formal order to enforce the decree has not yet been issued.

The Taleban religious ministry said the new edict will soon be implemented and will also require Jewish, Christian and Hindu women in the country to veil themselves like other Afghan women.


German Industry to Pay $4.5 Billion to Nazi-Era Slaves

By Jonathan Braude (VOA-Berlin)

After months of delay and legal wrangling, German industry has indicated it is now ready to pay out its share of a $4.5 billion compensation fund for the victims of Nazi era forced labor programs.

For months, German businesses have insisted they will be ready to pay compensation to up to about 1.5 million elderly victims of Hitler's forced and slave labor programs only after they are satisfied U.S. courts will dismiss all legal actions against them.

So when U.S. Judge Shirley Kram dismissed a suit against Germany's Deutsche Bank and other German companies Monday, it took German industry just one day to give the green light.

There are still a few cases outstanding, including one now in the California courts. But German industry spokesman Wolfgang Gibowski said payments could now go ahead, as soon as the German parliament passes a compensation bill into law.

That process is now expected to begin on May 30. Once the bill is passed, German government and business will contribute about $2.25 million each and the first payments can start.

For the victims, all of them now elderly and many living in poverty in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, it will be the end of a long and bitter wait.

But there are difficulties ahead. For many victims, it has been impossible so far to provide documentary proof they were among the millions of Eastern Europeans shipped to Germany to work in industry or agriculture, or even for churches, while Germans fought at the war front. And a large number of German records are either incomplete or lost. After all those years of waiting, many still could be turned away empty handed.


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