October 20, 2009

“The dogs bark but the caravan moves on” is an old Arabic Proverb.

It was apparently first used to refer to caravans traveling through the desert climate regions of the vast Middle East. Dogs barked as the caravan slowly prodded toward its destination, but their bark was not enough to stop it from reaching the end of its journey.

“In most instances of this proverb, ‘caravan’ is in its original sense of ‘a company of people traveling together in the desert.’ The best form of the phrase is, ‘Though the dog may bark the caravan (kafila) moves on.’ [1891 J. L. Kipling Beast & Man in India ix. 252]” (Quote from

The dogs are barking now in Iran’s talks with the West, but God’s caravan will not be stopped by the barking of the dogs, it will inevitably reach the country and city God has prepared for its occupants.

Hebrews 11:13-16 – These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. [14] For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. [15] And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

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[16] But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Excerpt 1, which follows, is a good example of the Barking of the Dogs as the leader of the pack barks that talks with the West are ‘off to a good start.’

Excerpt 2 almost seems to be a reminder that while the dogs are barking at the large closed door meeting in Geneva, the ‘Middle East Caravan Moves On’ toward the close of the ‘Age of the Gentiles,’ and the ‘Barking of the Dogs’ will not prevent the Caravan from eventually reaching its Armageddon Destination at the 2nd Advent of Messiah. The Caravan’s fin al destin

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ation is a New Heavenly Jerusalem on the New Heavenly Earth. Not all its passengers will reach the final destination. And some who were indeed eternally saved by grace will remain in heaven forever, but will receive no outer robe as a reward for a life lived for Christ after salvation.

Isaiah 66:22 – For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.

Revelation 16:15,16 – Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. [16] And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

Revelation 20:15 – And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.


Begin Excerpt 1 from THE JERUSALEM POST

ElBaradei: Iran’s talks with the West ‘off to a good start’

October 19, 2009

Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Day one of talks meant to persuade Iran to send most of its enriched uranium abroad – delaying its potential ability to make a nuclear bomb – ended inconclusively Monday with Teheran remaining uncommitted, diplomats said.

The negotiations got off to a “good start,” the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Monhamed ElBaradei, said on emerging from Monday’s session. Diplomats suggested, however, that little was accomplished outside of both sides outlining their positions.

Iran had signaled going into the meeting that it would not meet Western dem ands

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for a deal under which it would ship most of its enriched material out of the country.

Teheran has said it needs enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. But the West fears it could be used to make weapons, and the US says Iran is now one to six years away from being able to do so.

Monday’s talks between Iran and the US, Russia and France were focused on a technical issue with huge strategic ramifications – whether Iran would be ready to farm out some of its uranium enrichment program to a foreign country.

ElBaradei appeared cautiously optimistic after the first day of closed meetings, saying most technical issues had been discussed and the parties would meet again Tuesday morning.

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“We have had this afternoon quite a constructive meeting,” ElBaradei told reporters. “We are off to a good start.”

The delegations said little as they left the meeting. The chief Iranian delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said only that he endorsed ElBaradei’s comments.

But three diplomats familiar with the discussions said Monday’s session was inconclusive.

Iran, they said, would not be drawn on whether it was ready to ship out its enriched material.

Instead it asked questions about the plan put forward by its interlocutors – the US Russia and France.

It also criticized France for withholding enriched uranium from that nation’s Eurodif nuclear plant, in which Teheran holds a 10-percent share, said the diplomats, who spoke to The Associated Press about the confidential meeting on condition of anonymity.

Areva, the state-run French nuclear company, has described Iran as a “sleeping partner” in Eurodif, which Teheran bought into more than three decades ago. Iran is under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions for defying council demands that it freeze enrichment – sanctions that include embargoes on all shipments of sensitive nuclear materials or technologies.

One of the diplomats described the talks as being “not as good as ElBaradei said but good enough to have them continue.” Another cautioned against qualifying the discussions, noting that they were in a very early stage.

Ahead of the meeting, Iran’s state-run Press TV had cited unnamed officials in Teheran as saying the Islamic Republic was looking to keep its low-enriched uranium and buy what it needed for the Teheran reactor abroad.

One source said Iran was looking to the US, Russia or France for such supplies – a stance that would likely doom the talks, with neither the US or France accepting anything short of an Iranian commitment to ship out its own material for further enrichment.

Teheran’s refusal to give up most of its enriched stock could also abort chances of a second round of broader negotiations between Teheran and six world powers.

Iran’s interlocutors were attempting Monday to implement what the West says Iran had agreed to during October 1 talks in Geneva – letting a foreign country, most likely Russia, turn most of its low-enriched uranium into higher grades to fuel its small research reactor in Teheran.

That would mean turning over more than 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium – as much as 75 percent of Iran’s declared stockpile. Tentative plans would be for further enrichment in Russia and then conversion in France into metal fuel rods

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for the Teheran reactor.

Iran agreeing to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad would be significant in easing Western fears about Iran’s nuclear program, as 1,000 kilograms is the commonly accepted threshold of the amount of low-enriched uranium needed for production of weapons-grade uranium enriched to levels above 90 percent.

Based on the present Iranian stockpile, the US has estimated that Teheran could produce a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015, an assessment that broadly jibes with those from Israel and other nations tracking Teheran’s nuclear program.

If most of Iran’s declared stock is taken out of the country, further enriched abroad and then turned into fuel for the Teheran reactor, any effort to make nuclear weapons would be delayed until Iran again has enriched enough material to turn into weapons-grade uranium.

But David Albright of the Washington-based IISS, which has closely tracked Iran for signs of any covert proliferation said that any such deal would buy only a limited amount of time, noting that Teheran could replace even 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium “in little over a year.” Iran now has more than 4,000 centrifuges producing low-enriched uranium, and its capacities are increasing.

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Teheran, if it agrees to ship out the enriched uranium, could also resist pressure to hand over most of its stock in one batch, and instead seek to send small amounts at a time. Iran has enough fuel for the Teheran reactor to last until mid-2011.

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The six powers at the Geneva talks – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – have tentatively scheduled a follow-up meeting by the end of this month aimed at starting negotiations that will ultimately place strict controls on Iran’s enrichment activities.



The Region: Round and round we go

October 18, 2009


Every day, dreadful things happen in the Middle East and in the echoes of that region – diplomacy, news coverage – in the West. Yet things are by no means as bad as they seem. Precisely because a lot of what happens simply doesn’t reflect reality, ultimately the material effect is minimized.

Let’s examine two aspects: Israel-Palestinian (and Arab-Israeli) along with the effort of Islamists to seize power in Muslim majority countries. The second – not the first – of those two is by far the most important issue in the Middle East, arguably the most important issue for our entire era. Then, a few words about US President Barack Obama’s learning opportunity.

Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Despite all the noise, absolutely nothing has changed on this issue since the end of the Gaza war in January. The Palestinian side is intransigent and has no interest in serious negotiations. Hamas has been intimidated into virtually stopping its attacks on Israel. (Note to Western leaders: Force still works at achieving reasonable goals.) Israel’s morale and national unity is relatively high and the economy continues to do well, especially in light of the international recession.

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A potential crisis in relations with the US has been brilliantly defused by the government. The Obama administration has still not taken, despite a lot of questionable verbiage, any material step against Israel.

Therefore, all this talk of freezing construction, final-status negotiations, Western pressure, Palestinian threats and so on has amounted to absolutely nothing in practice.

What is the long-term prospect? On one hand, there will be decades more – an entire generation at least – without formal peace. That doesn’t mean war either, but rather a status quo punctuated by sporadic low- to medium-level violence. The biggest danger, a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been pushed back. Israel’s defensive capacity gains strength. Life will go on.

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Again, please note that there is possibly no issue in the world which generates as much media coverage, academic publication and debate, peace plans and conferences and Western officials’ speeches as much as the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict.

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And yet nothing really changes.

Islamists Seizing Power

Islamist governments now rule in Iran, the Gaza Strip and to some extent in Sudan. In every other country (including Israel) in the region (including Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan), radical Islamists pose the main opposition to the status quo.

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With every ounce of energy and a great deal of innovation, they are trying to seize state power. Will they succeed and if so, where? Are they really the wave of the future?

While the Islamists have a lot going for them, they also face many problems. First, don’t underestimate the incumbent regimes. Arab nationalism still appeals to a majority of Arabic-speakers. The rulers have many resources at their disposal, including money and repressive power. The Islamists have not taken over any state since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago.

They are often divided. While they have definitely picked up speed, they are still saying and doing many things which most Muslims deem to contradict traditional Islam.

And the Islamists also make a lot of mistakes.

Within their own countries, confessional differences among Muslims often matter a great deal. In Lebanon, for example, Shi’ite Islamists led by Hizbullah have unnecessarily antagonized Sunni Muslims, while in Iraq the revolutionary Sunni Islamists are rejected by the Shi’ite Arab majority and ethnic Kurds.

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In North Africa, the large ethnic Berber minority opposes Islamism.

At home and internationally, the intransigence of radical regimes (Iran, Syria and Hamas) and movements alienates potential allies. By making such huge demands and refusing to make small concessions, they throw away opportunities and virtually force the West to confront them despite the preference of many for appeasement. Similarly, the constant aggression forces Western public opinion to reject concessions.

Nor can the Middle Eastern dictatorships, whether Islamist or nationalist, defeat the West or Israel. The centralization used to preserve the dictators’ power inhibits prosperity. In the longer-term, the oil-producing countries will run out of petroleum and the rest of the world might even develop alternative and more efficient energy use.

US Policy

Something very big – but predictable – is starting to happen: The Palestinians, and no doubt soon a lot of the Arab world, are turning against Obama. He will find shortly that unless he gives everything and asks for nothing, they will soon be calling him

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another Bush.

The fact that Obama is perceived as weak doesn’t help him any.

Cairo speech, UN speech, distancing from Israel, engaging radicals? All these things will get him nowhere. Help him on Iran? Well they weren’t going to do that any way. The hostility is partly due, of course, to the interests of the Arab rulers, partly to the radicalism of the opinion makers there, partly to the Islamists who always outbid their incumbent rivals and need anti-Americanism as one of their main tools to stir passions.

This is how the Middle East works. But many in the mass media, academia and Western governments (especially the Obama administration) have absolutely no idea. They basically accept the concept that if you are nice enough, give enough and bash Israel enough, the Arabic-speaking political forces – and maybe even Iran – will love you and be nice to you, or at least leave you alone.

When this proves wrong, as it does periodically (1990-1991, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; 2000, failure of Camp David followed by September 11), there is a period of comprehension when policies get better.

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Might this be a stage coming next year?

All the silly articles in Western newspapers, wrong-headed speeches by Western leaders, threats of mass murder by Islamist clerics and all the other things that could be added to this list do not change the material realities of the Middle East. Or, to use a supposed Arab saying, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.



Psalm 2:1-5 – Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? [2] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, [3] Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. [4] He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. [5] Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.


Psalm 2:6-12 – Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. [7] I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. [8] Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. [9] Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. [10] Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. [11] Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. [12] Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

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