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Iran Arming Taliban

It was recently reported that coalition officials in Afghanistan had intercepted Iranian-made AK-47s, plastic explosives, mortars and at least one explosively formed penetrator – a weapon Iran has provided to insurgents in Iraq.

While a direct link between the weapons and Iran has not been firmly established, and Iran and the Taliban are far from fast friends, Iran has long been known to deal with allies and adversaries alike as long as the relationship furthers broader Iranian interests; in this case the slow-bleed of deployed US forces.

Taliban Kill Pakistani Forces; Car Bomb In Peshewar

As anti-Musharraf protests continue around Pakistan, the uncertainty of Pakistan's future grows. Tuesday, a car bomb was detonated 30 feet from the entrance gates of Peshewar's High Courts building in the North-West Frontier Province. At least seven were injured and took place soon after Peshewar's mayor, Haji Ghulam Ali, arrived in the area. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast as of this writing.

Further south on Tuesday, a Pakistani 'paramilitary' (loyal to the government) commander and fighter were killed in separate Taliban roadside ambushes in the Tank region. "Gunmen hiding on both sides of the road sprayed bullets at the vehicle of Mir Wali Wazir, the local commander of a paramilitary unit, in a morning attack," and fighting there continues as Taliban militants have taken positions along the roadsides for attacks on forces loyal to the Musharraf government and military. India's New Kerala reports that at least one of the attacks was initiated with a roadside bomb followed by small arms fire from Taliban waiting in the wings.

Al-Qaeda Command: Export Jihad From Iraq

In a letter reportedly intercepted by a Middle Eastern intelligence service, al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri urged al-Qaeda in Iraq's commander to export jihad from among his terrorist cadres in Iraq. Sent "in the past few weeks," the letter urged Abu Ayyub al-Masri (Abu Hamza al-Muhajer) to support al-Qaeda's emerging bases of terror in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.

A New York Times report highlights the path to jihad taken by Muhammad al-Darsi, released from a Libyan prison last year. Seeking to join the jihad in Iraq, his al-Qaeda recruiter diverted his endeavors to instead take part in an attack on Amman, Jordan. With the bomb attack on tourists at Queen Alia Airport in Amman thwarted and al-Darsi captured, his confession detailed his trek through Istanbul, Turkey, to Damascus, Syria, where he was shuffled through various al-Qaeda safe houses in preparation for his planned attack in Jordan. "The bomb maker, Saad Fakhri al-Naimi, 40, arrived on a commercial flight from Baghdad to prepare a suicide duffel bag for Mr. Darsi, using eight pounds of plastic explosives hidden in a child’s toy."

In Lebanon, al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Fatah al-Islam remains under siege by the Lebanese Army and internal security forces. In fact, London's Arabic language al-Hayah reported that Fatah al-Islam "believed that it was very close to announcing its emirate and that the security and political conditions were ripe [to do so] based on its assessment that the acute division in Lebanon makes the authorities unable to make a decision that provides a political cover for the army and the security forces to prevent it [Fatah al-Islam] from carrying out its plan to control Tripoli." Fatah al-Islam, however, failed to foresee the level to which the Lebanese authorities would forcefully react to the al-Qaeda threat.

In the Gaza Strip, a terrorist group called Jaish al-Islam kidnapped a BBC reporter. While the BBC describes the group as "Influenced by, but not affiliated with al-Qaeda," their key demand for the release of the BBC's Alan Johnston is the release of al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Qatada. Many view Jaish al-Islam as al-Qaeda's foothold in Gaza, drawing recruits unsatisfied with Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees.

There are certainly al-Qaeda endeavors throughout the region that would benefit from the export of seasoned and trained terrorists from the Iraqi theater of al-Qaeda's operations. With Zawahiri calling for the overthrow of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's regime and Fatah al-Islam's thwarted visions of an 'emirate' in Lebanon, al-Qaeda's regional endeavors are definitely ambitious and in need of an influx of human resources.

Israel To Press Hamas In Gaza

Hamas fired seven rockets Into Israel Sunday as fighting between Hamas and Fatah flared back up after a week of relative quiet between them.

The Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns coincided with the recent spike in Hamas-Fatah fighting in Gaza. Likewise, observers have looked to internal Hamas-Fatah ceasefires as potential indicators of Israeli operational tempo against Hamas terrorists. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Hamas-Fatah ceasefire agreements will not dictate Israeli operations in Gaza, saying that Israel will pursue Hamas in the future regardless of internal Palestinian ceasefires or subsiding attacks on Israel. "I will not commit to coordinating our behavior with Hamas actions, either it opens fire or halts its fire. Even if there were an internal cease-fire in Gaza, and if such an agreement held, it would apply to the [Palestinian] factions only," Olmert said.

Israeli operations in the West Bank recently have netted several key terrorists from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Operations against Hamas in Gaza - primarily airstrikes - have been more deadly. While Israel has approved IDF ground operations in Gaza, the Associated Press reported that "a major thrust into the densely populated coastal strip is not in the works."

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad was in London for talks on kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Hamad said that Hamas' PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had met several times with the journalist in Gaza recently. Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), and al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist cell in Gaza, is demanding the release of al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Qutada, imprisoned in Jordan for his involvement in a 2004 chemical bomb plot in Amman.

US, Iran Talk in Baghdad; Iran Claims 'Upper Hand'

American and Iranian diplomats met face to face in Baghdad for a four-hour talk on Iraq. At the meetings, Iran claimed to seek a stable and unified Iraqi state. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said, "They laid out aims and goals similar to our own policy. The problem lies with the Iranians not bringing behavior into line with their own policy.''

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed US diplomat present who also noted that Iran's goals as stated in the meeting were "very close to our own." He then added, "What we would obviously like to see, and the Iraqis would clearly like to see, is an action by Iran on the ground to bring what it's actually doing in line with its stated policy."

In an editorial published in Iran's state-run Tehran Times Monday, it is being touted by the regime domestically that Iran has gained the upper hand with regards to relations with the United States and American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Data Storm" Shuts Down Nuke Plant

Last August at Unit 3 of the Browns Ferry (AL) nuclear power plant, operators had to manually shut down the reactor after two water recirculation pumps failed. A subsequent investigation has found that water pump controllers had locked up following a "data storm" – a flood of data that overwhelmed computer processors - on the plant's internal control network.

A separate malfunctioning control device was found to be responsible for the storm, and the plant's internal network is not supposed to be connected to any outside network, but discussions held between the House Homeland Security Committee staff and Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives have suggested that it is possible that this incident could have come from outside the plant. If such a claim could be substantiated, it would become one of the first solid public cases of direct external manipulation of a critical infrastructure control system. In plain English: hackers and/or terrorists turning off the power.

Musharraf Bans Bhutto and Sharif

President Musharraf said on Pakistani television that former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif will not be permitted to return to Pakistan in advance of the elections expected for later this year. Ms. Bhutto, who faces corruption charges, has said that she will return.

Musharraf has been under fire by political opponents for his firing of Pakistan's chief judge, and has seen riots, 40 died in riots this past weekend, and an increase in challenges to his authority. Critics are doubtful of Musharraf's intentions with regard to the Pakistani constitution, and likewise he faces Islamists who support the Taliban now fortifying in Pakistan's western frontier.

China Increases Yuan Appreciation Allowance

In advance of meetings with Treasury Secretary Paulson next week, China has taken measures to permit faster appreciation for the yuan. The US and Europe have been critical of the Chinese maintaining the currency's artificially low value. This step, along with a rise in interest rates and a reduction in bank loans is aimed at slowing the pace of growth in the Chinese economy and, more importantly, quelling critics ahead of the meetings between Secretary Paulson and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi. Paulson is expected to press China on the currency issue, along with the trade imbalance and digital media piracy.

After the move was announced, the dollar fell against the Yen, Euro and British pound.

Israel Steps Into Gaza Amid Inter-party Violence

While Hamas and Fatah forces continue to face off in the Palestinian Territories, Israeli forces have moved against Hamas in an effort to end the string of rockets fired by Hamas members into Israeli civilian neighborhoods. Israeli forces have moved tanks into Gaza and have launched targeted air-strikes on Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam brigades.

The violence between Hamas and Fatah, now in its fifth day, is reported to have caused as many as 40 deaths between the two.

Second Life Facilitating Terror?

Legal experts claim that the lax operating and security environment in the virtual world of Second Life could serve as a haven for activity that could support terrorists.

Second Life is a “virtual online community” that allows individuals to move about and interact through avatars, or digital simulations of themselves (enhancements and alterations optional). Second Life has an estimated population of six million, though no real government, law enforcement system or other controls that might prevent illicit activity.

How illicit? German prosecutors are investigating a charge that someone is Second Life has been trading in child pornography; and Belgian law enforcement have launched an investigation to determine if one of it’s citizen’s avatars had been virtually “raped”.

Second Life also has its own currency and economy. Your “labor” in Second Life can be paid for in “Linden dollars” which in turn can be exchanged for real cash. It has been estimated that roughly $1 million dollars is exchanged in Second Life daily. At least one Second Lifer claims to have made over $1 million real dollars in selling virtual real estate.

Concern over Saudi Succession

There are reportedly concerns in the US intelligence community that the current US-Saudi Arabia relationship could come to an end within a decade if anti-American members of the royal family in the kingdom succeed the currently pro-US King Abdullah.

Intelligence sources indicate that King Abdullah has been grooming an anti-American prince - who could align Saudi Arabia with either Iran or Al Qaida - for succession.

Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, governor of Riyad Province and a half brother of Abdullah, has become a leading influence in the kingdom and is widely regarded as Abdullah's successor. He is viewed as sympathetic to al-Qaeda and one who may seek a deal with the terrorist group to keep the royal family in power, possibly by acquiescing to one of Bin Laden’s demands of expelling US troops from the peninsula.

Chinese Espionage Case: Guilty

Chi Mak, a Chinese-American engineer was found guilty of conspiracy to smuggle sensitive US submarine technology to China. Five other members of his family, including his wife, son, brother and sister-in-law are awaiting trial on similar charges.

Mak was convicted on two counts of attempting to send sensitive material to China, acting as a foreign agent without notifying the US government and making false statements to federal agents. He faces up to 35 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for September 10th.

Latest Prewar Iraq Intelligence Report Awaits Approval

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing to release a report on the intelligence community’s pre-war assessment of what would happen to Iraq post-war today. Public dissemination of the report could occur within the next few weeks.

This latest Senate report is one part of the committee’s work into intelligence community performance and how said intelligence was used by the administration. There are still two additional reports pending; one related to the potential politicization of intelligence by the administration, and one addressing what role the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans played.

Study: Insurgencies Like Iraq's Usually Fail

A study commissioned by the Pentagon reports that insurgencies like the one taking place in Iraq have about a 10-year life-span before eventually failing.

The study’s authors suggest that the best-case scenario has the Iraqi insurgency going strong for at least three more years, though based on precedence five years is probably the more realistic time-frame.

Of the over 60 post-WWII insurgencies evaluated for the report, it was noted that insurgent movements only succeeded 41% of the time. The balance of the conflicts resulted in defeat for the insurgents, produced an inconclusive outcome, or continues to this day.

Chinese Espionage Case Goes to Jury

The espionage case against Chi Mak, a naturalized U.S. citizen, went to the jury yesterday after prosecutors claimed he took material from PowerParagon – a defense contractor - and gave it to his brother to pass along to Chinese authorities. Mak’s wife, brother and other relatives have been indicted as co-conspirators in a Chinese espionage ring.

Mak’s defense has focused on his apparent “absent-minded professor” persona, his excessive trust in a duplicitous brother, and his being a victim of an overly-zealous Navy investigator. Additionally, the information Mak was alleged to have stolen was also freely available to the Chinese via other, open sources and was insufficiently valuable enough to actually improve Chinese naval capabilities.

Mak was arrested in 2005 after FBI agents stopped his brother and sister-in-law as they were attempting to leave the country for Hong Kong. The investigators testified that they had found three encrypted CDs in the Mak’s luggage that contained sensitive submarine data.

Plot to Attack Soldiers at Fort Dix

The FBI has arrested six men in New Jersey on charges of plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix. The complaint against them states that the six took part in fire-arms training for the attack, conducted surveillance at Fort Dix (and other bases prior to selecting Fort Dix as their target), collected weapons for the attack (including shotguns, hand-guns and semi-automatic assault weapons), reviewed terrorists training videos, took part in tactical training, and attempted to acquire fully automatic Kalashnikov rifles.

Three of the six are alleged to be illegally residing in the US. The six are described as Islamic militants with no direct ties to international terror organizations.

After Talks, Iran Refuses Enrichment Suspension

The Associated Press reported that Iran was 'weighing compromise' at the EU-Iran nuclear talks in Vienna. The EU's Javier Solana described the talks as "very difficult" because they were "demanding from Iran is the suspension of activities as long as the negotiations take place ... For the moment this is very difficult to obtain." The Associated Press report cited an official describing the "decision by the chairman of the meeting to skirt the issue at least until Tuesday came after Iran asked for an extra day of consultations with its capital."

The consultations are complete with Tehran and the response is consistent with past Iranian approaches to negotiating on its nuclear program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki affirmed once again that Tehran will not suspend its uranium enrichment. Mottaki said, "We are having our legal enrichment, and suspension is not on our agenda." It has never been on Iran's agenda and has even been described by President Ahmadinejad and Iranian security council chief Ali Larijani as "non-negotiable."

Meanwhile, Iran's sponsorship of terrorism continues as more Iranian EFPs are found in the hands of Sunni Iraqi insurgents and terrorists. The commanding general of the American 3rd Infantry Division, Major General Lynch, said more Iranian EFPs have been found under his watch just south of Baghdad. The Chicago Tribune reported that "[o]f the 13 soldiers under his command killed since he deployed to Iraq on April 1, more than half were killed by EFPs."

Sarkozy Wins, French Riots Ensue

A near-record French voter turnout resulted in a decisive victory for conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, which comes at a time when Washington looks to lose its closest ally in the War on Terror when Britain's Tony Blair steps down. Sarkozy is decidedly pro-American and looks to address the French 'welfare state,' promising to "restore the value of work, authority, merit and respect for the nation."

Sarkozy's defeated bitter rival, Socialist Segolene Royal, said, “Something has risen which will not stop. Let us keep intact the energy and joy . . . of this campaign.” But as she spoke those words, riots ensued in Paris and cities throughout France. The rioters, described mostly as youths, had burned over 730 vehicles and injured 78 police officers. Nearly 600 were reportedly arrested. The violence spilled over into a second night.

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