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Barak Schmoozes with Iraqi President

By Israel Faxx News Services

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met the president of Iraq on the sidelines of a conference in Greece. Barak and Jalal Talabani shook hands and briefly exchanged pleasantries Tuesday during the Socialist International outside Athens.

They were introduced by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also spoke separately with Barak, a former Israeli prime minister. Since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, Israeli leaders have called on the new Iraqi administration to recognize the Jewish state. But Baghdad has been cool to the overtures pending a resolution to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Pentagon Official Warns of Israeli Attack on Iran

By ABC News & Reuters

Senior Pentagon officials are concerned that Israel could carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the year, an action that would have enormous security and economic repercussions for the United States and the rest of the world.

A senior defense official told ABC News there is an "increasing likelihood" that Israel will carry out such an attack, a move that likely would prompt Iranian retaliation against, not just Israel, but against the United States as well.

The official identified two "red lines" that could trigger an Israeli offensive. The first is tied to when Iran's Natanz nuclear facility produces enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. According to the latest U.S. and Israeli intelligence assessments, that is likely to happen sometime in 2009, and could happen by the end of this year. "The red line is not when they get to that point, but before they get to that point," the official said. "We are in the window of vulnerability."

The second red line is connected to when Iran acquires the SA-20 air defense system it is buying from Russia. The Israelis may want to strike before that system -- which would make an attack much more difficult -- is put in place.

Some Pentagon officials also worry that Israel may be determined to attack before a new U.S. president, who may be less supportive, is sworn in next January. Pentagon officials believe the massive Israeli air force exercise in early June, first reported by the New York Times, was done to prepare for a possible attack. A senior official called it "not a rehearsal, but basic, fundamental training" required to launch an operation against Iran.

"The Israeli air force has already conducted the basic exercise necessary to tell their senior leadership, 'We have the fundamentals down.' Might they need some more training and rehearsals? Yes. But have they done the fundamentals? I think that is what we saw," the official told ABC News, adding that if Israel moves closer to military action, he expects to see more exercises like the one conducted in early June.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was in Israel over the weekend for a series of meetings with senior Israeli military officials, including, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces. According to a military spokesman, Iran's nuclear program was "a major topic" of discussion.

The widely held view among Pentagon officials is that an Israeli attack would do only temporary damage to Iran's nuclear program, and that it would cause major problems in the region and beyond, prompting a wave of attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. As another senior defense official put it, "We'd be guilty by association."

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday criticized the comments above by a senior U.S. defense official. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in response to the report: "I have no information that would substantiate that, and I think it's rather foolish of people who often have no clue what they're talking about to assert things and not even have the courtesy to do so on the basis of their name."

Meanwhile Tuesday, an Israeli official said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secretly visited the site of Israel's main nuclear reactor, against the backdrop of speculation that Israel may soon attack Iran's nuclear facilities. The official would not say what the purpose of Olmert's visit was.

In a related story, Israeli President Shimon Peres said at the award ceremony for the Israel Security Prize that "Israel has concealed power and strength…if only the public knew what I knew; they would speak as I do."

Who Will Strike First - Israel or Iran?

By Ha'aretz (Analysis)

The belief that Israel will attack Iran before the year is out, and the major military drill over the Mediterranean last month, may indicate Israel's determination - even if it has to act alone - to defend against the strategic threat Iran has laid at its doorstep. However this message, along with the threats Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz has made against Iran, must also be analyzed in light of Iran's abilities to respond to such an attack with a preemptive strike against Israel.

For years Israel has warned against Iran's increased ballistic capabilities. Shihab 3 and Shihab 4 missiles were perceived until recently as Iran's clearest strategic menace. A few years ago, General Ahmed Wahid, head of Iran's aircraft industries, said Iran did not view the United States as the target of his country's missiles, but rather Israel.

In contrast with the more distant nuclear threat, Iran has proven ballistic capabilities to hit strategic and civilian targets in Israel, causing huge casualties and enormous damage. Since the nuclear issue burst into military-diplomatic discourse, it is as if the ballistic issue has been forgotten. Meanwhile, the single-minded perception that only the West and Israel can attack Iran and that Iran cannot launch a preemptive strike or a powerful response has settled in, at least in public discussions.

If the threat to attack Iran is meant to motivate the Iranian people to pressure their leadership, this goal is still far from attained. Ahmadinejad has a strong opposition in parliament and in some sectors of the public, but at the same time widespread consensus exists that the development of nuclear technology is a worthwhile national task. Thus while there is domestic criticism of failing economic policies, and next year's presidential election campaign has already begun, none of the potential candidates speak of halting nuclear development.

It is believed in Iran that continued threats, not to mention a direct attack, might only strengthen Ahmadinejad as the man who is standing strong against the West and Israel, and increases the feeling that nuclear armament is necessary.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Mohammed Ali Jafari warned this week that Iran would respond to an attack by closing the Strait of Hormuz, preventing the passage of oil from the Gulf States, which would spike world oil prices.

Israel, which had to extricate itself from accusations that it dragged the U.S. into war in Iraq, will find it difficult to withstand pressure that it, and not Iran, is responsible for another rise in oil prices, perhaps the most dramatic to date, and the subsequent damage to global economy. The hike in oil prices following Mofaz's statements may be proof of this scenario.

Iran's nuclear threat has created an interesting anti-Iranian coalition that includes Arab countries along with the U.S. and Israel. For the first time, Arab statesmen are saying that the Iranian nuclear threat against Arab countries is more concrete than the Israeli threat on them. However, this coalition will have difficulty tolerating an Israeli attack on Iran, especially if such an attack also brings about an Iranian attack on nearby Arab countries.

Olmert Warns of Military Response to Gaza Attacks

By VOA News &

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned Palestinian terrorists that Israel would respond with force if attacks from the Gaza Strip persist in violation of a recent truce. Olmert Tuesday said Israel's restraint thus far against the rocket attacks should not be interpreted as weakness. He said if the calm is not maintained, Israel could retaliate with "full force."

Earlier Tuesday, Israel again closed its border with the Gaza Strip after accusing Palestinians of firing another rocket into southern Israel on Monday. Gaza's Hamas rulers denied any rockets had been launched on Monday from the territory. No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket, which did not cause damage or casualties.

Palestinian militants have fired several rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory despite the Egyptian-brokered truce that took effect June 19 between Hamas and Israel. Egypt Tuesday opened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza to allow for the limited passage of Palestinians stranded in Egypt and others seeking medical treatment abroad.

Two small Gaza factions said they launched last week's rockets to protest Israeli military raids in the West Bank, which is not covered by the cease-fire. Hamas has warned that it would take action against anyone violating the truce.

In related news, the National Council of Young Israel has launched a new project encouraging people to send SMS text messages to Sderot residents following rocket attacks on the western Negev town. After the Color Red early warning system is sounded, subscribers to the new project will receive a message stating, "A Kassam has been launched at have 15 seconds" to recite Psalm 130, give charity, alert American politicians or take a moment and pray for the people of Sderot.

Following Israeli Report, Lebanon Villagers Fear Major Earthquake


Hundreds of villagers in southern Lebanon prepared to sleep outdoors on Tuesday amid rumors the region could be hit by a strong earthquake. The panic was apparently triggered by a letter from Israeli authorities to health officials in the north of the country, in the part bordering Lebanon, advising them to make preparations for such an event.

But the secretary-general of the National Scientific Research Center in Lebanon, Moeen Hamzeh, dismissed the idea. "Chances of having an earthquake are impossible," he said in a statement published by the state-run National News Agency.

Since February, abnormal seismic activity has been noted in southern Lebanon, which had suffered some 500 minor earthquakes in a three-month period. "The tremors increased significantly in May and June and this is what caused the worries and alerted us but no one can ever predict such earthquakes," Hamzeh added.

Lebanese radios quoted the Israeli Health Ministry as warning Monday of an increased likelihood of a powerful earthquake originating in Lebanon and being felt by neighboring Israel. Some seismologists in Israel said that strong quakes have historically rocked the region every eight decades, and the last one was nearly 81 years ago.

About 300 people were killed in Jerusalem and nearby Jericho by the July 11, 1927 temblor. A powerful quake in 1837 that hit the Houla Valley near the border with northern Israel devastated the town of Safed and killed some 4,000 people.

Jewish Agency: All Falashmura Eligible for Aliyah Already in Israel

By Ha'aretz

The Jewish Agency presented the Prime Minister's Office with a report a few days ago showing that all the Falashmura deemed eligible for aliyah in 1999 have either arrived in Israel or have been declared ineligible by the Interior Ministry. About 2,000 people on the 1999 list were never checked for eligibility because no request was ever made to bring them to Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ordered his office to conduct a re-examination of the Falashmura issue, and the check is underway. According to a 2005 cabinet decision, the aliyah of all the Falashmura from Ethiopia was supposed to have been completed two months ago, but because of Olmert's request, the Jewish Agency has not yet finished its work in Ethiopia, and the last 290 people are still waiting to come to Israel.

The Jewish organizations acting on behalf of the Falashmura say there are another 8,700 people in Gondar in northern Ethiopia whose eligibility to immigrate to Israel has yet to be determined. Olmert ordered the re-examination of the Falashmura issue under pressure from Shas and Jewish organizations.

The Falashmura, descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, want to return to Judaism and come to Israel. After they were not allowed to immigrate in the 1991 Operation Solomon airlift, the Falashmura and various Jewish organizations have put pressure on the Israeli government to take in the prospective immigrants.

The 1999 census of eligible Falashmura was held as a result. The census determined that there were 28,951 eligible in three locations in Addis Ababa, Gondar and in a number of other scattered villages.

Falashmura advocates say the Jewish Agency and Interior Ministry ignored another list of 11,376 Falashmura in villages. They also say the 8,700 in Gondar meet Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar's criteria for aliyah, but the Interior Ministry refuses to examine their eligibility.

Obama Web Site Urges 'Revolution' Against U.S. 'Oppressive' Regime


Marxists, socialists and communists have created a safe space online to congregate, exchange ideas – including a stated revolution against the U.S. "oppressive" regime – and support their favored presidential candidate. Their meeting spot? Sen. Barack Obama's official campaign web site, which allows registered users to form groups and post content in online "community" blogs.

One popular community group on the Illinois senator's official MyObama web site calls itself "Marxists/Socialists/Communists for Obama."

"This group is for self-proclaimed Marxists/Communists/Socialists for the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency. By no means is he a true Marxist, but under Karl Marx's writings we are to support the party with the best interests of the mobilization of the proletariat," states the groups charter. "We support Barack Obama because he knows what is best for the people!" exclaims the group's online creed.

In a posting titled "The Nature of the Proletariat," one group member calls for revolution against the U.S. "oppressive" regime. According to Marxist doctrine, the proletariat is the only class that can overpower and vanquish the oppressive bourgeoisie. ... In America, the 'peasantry' is not scattered from each other but rather seem (sic) to be isolated in certain high-population areas. This then leaves the Petty-Bourgeoisie. Are they a possible force of a Revolution? I believe so. Not because I think that they could on there own, but because of the fact that they seemed to have assimilated with the Proletariat.

The middle class is now made up of the laborers who must face the grueling task of providing the bourgeoisie with power and capital. This assimilation only proves that the Revolution is inevitable. "Eventually, the bourgeoisie controlled government will fail to keep the ever growing masses at bay, and the Revolution will occur," adds the posting. The user argues Obama will help advance the "revolution," which he says can be a physical revolt or massive governmental reform:

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