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February 28, 2006

Sydney Morning Herald on the Iranian Hegemony

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an analytical article looking at the developing Iranian regional hemony in a timely echo of sorts to today's PrincipalAnalysis (Iran's Encroaching Regional Hegemony).

The threat that civil war in Iraq might inflame much of the Middle East is real, but for many in the region it pales against one of the more staggering consequences of what they see as America's policy failure in the area - the firming supremacy of non-Arab Iran.

The intrigues and conspiracies of the Arab world often defy Western comprehension. But in a visit to the Jordanian capital, en route to Baghdad, the rising tension over Iran's thrust into the affairs of the region was palpable.

While autocratic Sunni regimes, long propped up by Washington, have used Israel as a bogeyman to justify the oppression and poverty of their own people, Shiite Tehran has positioned itself as a powerbroker in Lebanon, Gaza, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and in Iraq, all on the back of Shiite loyalty and support for the Palestinian cause. [Emphasis added]

To be sure, Iran has long vowed to fight Israel right down to the last Lebanese and Palestinian. With the windfall influence found via a needy Hamas, the rising potential prospects of increased Hezbollah influence in Lebanon and the pledge by Muqtada al-Sadr to be at Iran & Syria's disposal, the Iranian regime is making many influential friends outside its borders.

Inside its borders, the mullah regime has few friends, but those Iranians not enamored with Ahmadinejad and crew are nearly powerless to affect any change. Perhaps if we had not ignored them for thirty years under the oppressive regime...

Washington's pledge to now fund and assist Iranian opposition groups to the tune of $75 million this year is decades too late, as there is not enough time for such slow developing strategies.

The new-found Washington commitment to Iranian opposition represents little more than a desperate grasp for a palatable internal Iranian solution where none exists.

Meanwhile, while Washington plans radio and television broadcasts too late in the game to be immediately effective, Iran solidifies its tangible influence throughout the region from week to week, sometimes from day to day.

February 27, 2006

What Motivates Russia?

With Iran claiming to have reached some sort of 'understanding' with Russia on the Russian Proposal, it is important to understand what motivates Russia. With Russia & Iran Save The Last Dance, James G. Poulos offers some insight to that end. He begins:

As the clock struck twelve on the last night of 2005, I wrote my second prediction for this year:

2. The Iran-nuke crisis goes pop. The Iranians will toy with the Russian proposal, embrace it again, demur again, raise questions, withhold answers, tinker furiously, and let their actions constitute a de facto rejection. By then the Security Council will pass an unenforceable resolution, unanimous but with the absention of the last country that can seriously abstain -- China.

We're well on our way. Iran has succeeded in toying, embracing, demuring, and now raises more questions than it answers in the latest agreement "in principle." The Washington Post reports that Russia's head nucleoid Kiriyenko says all the right things:

He continues with a thoughtful glimpse of the situation with Iran, Russia's involvement and the incredibly complex diplomatic minefield before us if the Iranian crisis is to be resolved sans overt military warfare, concluding, "Iran requires real statecraft. Our margin for error, so forgivingly vast in the Iraqi case, has narrowed down to a thin line indeed."

Recommended reading for today.

al-Sadr's Militia Going Underground

It is odd, isn't it? After Muqtada al-Sadr proclaimed from Damascus that he and his militia are 'at the service' of Syria and Iran, he now is calling for peace and tranquility in Iraq? Jed Babbin is on the money today:

Calls for calm in Iraq emanating from Moqtada al-Sadr last week are being viewed by some as good news. What they ignore is the fact that Sadr, while calling for peace, ordered his militia to stop wearing their trademark black getups. He sending his people underground, which may well mean the terror campaign we haven't seen from him before is about to start in earnest. Could mean other things as well, but this guy calling for peace is the rough equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde decrying lousy bank security.

Put Babbin's observations in context with the linked statement above about al-Sadr proclaiming his service to Syria & Iran, and you will share his concern.

Hit the AmSpec Blog main page and scroll up from the original comment for an interesting exchange there on al-Sadr and his possible motives.

Taiwan's National Unification Council disbanded

President Chen Shui-bian has announced that the National Unification Council will "cease operations" and no longer be funded. This despite US requests to maintain his pledge to maintain support for the organization and its Guildelines for National Unification. The Guidelines called for a three phased move toward reunification.

China has yet to make a statement following the announcement, although it is well known that the Chinese government is likely to see the move as a step toward an attempt at independence for Taiwan.

From the US perspective - our pragmatic policy of supporting Taiwan while not recognizing it as an independent nation, via the one-China policy, is likely to be tested in the coming months - particularly given Hu Jintao's April visit to Washington. As with many foreign policy positions, the US may now have to face how hamstrung we can be by our pragmatism and desire to maintain the status quo.

February 26, 2006

1993 WTC Bombing Anniversary

The Counterterrorism Blog reminds us that today is the 13th anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing and challenges all of us, NEVER FORGET.

A close friend of mine was present for both attacks, and was among the thousands running in vain to escape the ominous encroaching clouds of dust and debris as the first of the Twin Towers came crashing down.

Our circle of family and friends is lucky to be able to throw another burger on the grill for him rather than throw another flower...well, someplace else. We are lucky and we will never forget. Not 1993, not 2001.

None of us should.

Role of Human Rights in the War on Terror

Does the New York Times actually support US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton in his insistance on reform? That's how it appears in this morning's New York Times Editorial, The Shame of the United Nations.

When it comes to reforming the disgraceful United Nations Human Rights Commission, America's ambassador, John Bolton, is right; Secretary General Kofi Annan is wrong; and leading international human rights groups have unwisely put their preference for multilateral consensus ahead of their duty to fight for the strongest possible human rights protection. A once-promising reform proposal has been so watered down that it has become an ugly sham, offering cover to an unacceptable status quo. It should be renegotiated or rejected.

Marc Schulman at American Future asks, "When was the last time (if ever) that the Times called into question the wisdom of the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International?"

Well, Mr. Bolton (who similarly holds my disdain for 'nuance') did not escape without a swipe in closing.

Mr. Bolton, representing an administration whose record is stained by Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, is awkwardly placed to defend basic human rights principles. But he also represents the United States, with its long and proud human rights tradition. We hope that his refusal to go along with this shameful charade can produce something better.

Abu Ghraib was an anomaly created by individuals, not policy. How is Mr. Bolton somehow attached ownership? Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay is a prison where fabrications of abuse have been discredited yet conveniently ignored. In fact, it is a documented fact that many of the prisoners who were eventually released have been re-captured or killed firing yet again from the other direction. Yet, both are stains affixed to John Bolton's lapel, even in support.

The assertion that he is awkwardly placed to defend basic human rights principles is stunning. Is one of the central components of the War on Terror not also the recognition of basic human rights?

Was not the elimination of the Taliban's ritual of stadium executions as a national sport not an advancement of a basic human right? The inclusion of women (both as voters and elected officials) in successful elections in Afghanistan? Was the cessation of the torture and execution of thousands and thousands of Kurds and Shiia in Hussein's Iraq not the restoration of basic human rights? The mass graves continue to be unearthed in Iraq.

The New York Times editorial board's transparent belief that only those who think like them, politically and socially, can possibly stand for basic human rights is absurd, shallow, insulting, and very, very wrong.

February 25, 2006

DHS on Port Security and UAE Dubai Ports World

The Department of Homeland Security recently updated its site and offered a press release: DHS Fact Sheet: Securing U.S. Ports. In it, the release details, from DHS perspective, some aspects of the UAE-owned Dubai Ports World acquisition. Offered for your information and review without commentary:

UAE/Dubai Ports World Acquisition

DP World will not, nor will any other terminal operator, control, operate or manage any United States port. DP World will only operate and manage specific, individual terminals located within six ports.

  • The recent business transaction taken by DP World, a United Arab Emirates based company, to acquire British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) does not change the operations or security of keeping our nation’s ports safe. The people working on the docks also will not change as a result of this transaction.
  • This transaction is not an issue of controlling United States’ ports. It is an issue of operating some terminals within U.S. ports.
  • DP World will operate at the following terminals within the six United States’ ports currently operated by the United Kingdom company, P & O:
    • Baltimore - 2 of 14 total
    • Philadelphia - 1 of 5 (does not include the 1 cruise vessel terminal)
    • Miami - 1 of 3 (does not include the 7 cruise vessel terminals)
    • New Orleans - 2 of 5 (does not include the numerous chemical plant terminals up and down the Mississippi River, up to Baton Rouge)
    • Houston – 4 of 12 (P&O work alongside other stevedoring* contractors at the terminals)
    • Newark/Elizabeth – 1 of 4
    • (Note: also in Norfolk - Involved with stevedoring activities at all 5 terminals, but not managing a specific terminal.)
  • Stevedoring – provides labor, carries physical loading and unloading of cargo.
  • P&O and DP World made a commitment to comply with current security programs, regulations and partnerships to which P&O currently subscribes, including:
    • The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT);
    • The Container Security Initiative (CSI);
    • The Business Alliance on Smuggling and Counterfeiting (BASC); and,
    • The Megaports Initiative MOU with the Department of Energy.
  • All P&O security arrangements will remain intact, including cargo security cooperation with CBP, compliance with USCG regulations (ISPS and MTSA) regarding port facilities/terminals, and foreign terminal operations within CSI ports.
  • Dubai was the first Middle Eastern entity to join the Container Security Initiative (March 2005). As a result, CBP officer are working closely with Dubai Customs to screen containers destined for the U.S. Cooperation with Dubai officials has been outstanding and a model for other operation within CSI ports.

February 24, 2006

Iraq: Victory without Winning?

After outlining the three alternate asymmetrical strategies available to the terrorist fomenters in Iraq, Victor Davis Hanson observes the long-existing conditions that can be frustratingly termed 'victory without winning'.

The terrorists, whom I did not talk to, but whose bombs I heard, answer back that while they fear the Iraqization of their enemy and the progress of democracy, they can still kill enough Shiites, bomb enough mosques, and stop enough rebuilding to sink the country into sectarian war — or at least something like Lebanon of the 1980s or an Afghanistan under the Taliban.

It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.

If Iraq survives this deadly test thrust upon it by the camera magnets of al-Qaeda in Iraq, can anyone possibly deny that this has been a war on a steady - though not unhindered - path to victory without the public ever getting the sense that we and the Iraqi people are and have been winning?

Port Operators Do Not Run Security Operations

While certainly not a trivial matter by any stretch, a former lead US Customs official states clearly why the Dubai Ports World operation of US ports is not the acute security concern perceived by some and advertised by others.

Robert Bonner, the former US Customs commissioner who oversaw the tightening of port security following the 2001 terrorist attacks, believes critics have overestimated the influence that terminal operators have over ports. "The security concerns here are greatly exaggerated," he says. "The responsibility for the evaluation and inspection of anything coming into the US is not the responsibility of the port owner or the terminal operator. It's the responsibility of the federal Government."

This echoes precisely the logic which lead to the conclusions reached when it was simply asked, Slower, Please.

Also, from the same article:

But Rob Burton, director of security consultancy Blue Water Partners, says some concern is merited. "The Coast Guard and Customs may have oversight but it is the people on the ground handling the cargo that have most effect on security and that is usually the terminal operators."

He's is correct also, but remember that these cargo handlers are American longshoremen, not imported workers as seems to be part of the misconception among the most fearful in opposition.

Thankfully, it looks like this whole process will proceed slower. After 45 days of thorough review, the facts more clearly understood will almost certainly abate the fear that exists today.

Port Security Issue to Proceed Slower

Now, both The White House and Dubai Ports World have agreed to take this a little slower.

This is good. 45 days sounds about right.

Now it is up to the US Congress to not bend the review around their stated opinions, but rather to form more informed opinions around facts studied and shared during the review.

Some, justifiably, Thave their doubts about Congress' ability or desire to do this.

The American public needs to remain actively engaged throughout. It is the engagement which brought the issue this far. Now, see it through with diligence rather than simply handing it off to Congress.

February 23, 2006

Background: The United Arab Emirates

For those not entirely familiar with the United Arab Emirates, an excellent collection of informative links has been assembled for you, courtesy of John Little at Blogs of War. He has a video posted that gives you a good look at Dubai, the most western looking city in the Middle East, bar none.

Well done, John.

Speaking of videos at Blogs of War...

Sampling Arab Media on UAE Ports Issue

Marc Schulman has a small sampling of some English language Arab media columns reacting to the American fury over the DP World management of US ports at American Future. One of them is from Saudi Arabia's Arab News.

The attempt by a group of US Congressman to block the takeover of six US ports by an Arab company is wrong . . . this is bigoted nonsense that once again raises the deeply objectionable notion that all Muslims are terrorists . . . President Bush is right to say that if this deal is blocked, it will send entirely the wrong signal to the rest of the world about the even-handedness of US foreign policy. The suspicion must be that these US legislators are playing to the electoral gallery in advance of the November elections.

Iraq: The Day After

Mohammed makes first-hand observations of the atmosphere in and around Baghdad the day after the mosque attacks. While the potential for a civil war still exists in the front of everyone's minds, it appears a pensive day in Baghdad, but an improvement over yesterday.

Baghdad looks more alive today but in a very cautious way, traffic in the streets is heavier than it was yesterday but still way below normal.

There's some kind of shopping frenzy because people are trying to be prepared if the worst happens; people are stock-piling small reserves of food, cigarettes, bottled water…etc especially after they heard some of the roads to/from Baghdad are closed and vehicles were turned away.

The Sunni political leaders were invited to a meeting with the UIA suggested by president Talabani but they refused to join the meeting saying the government has to condemn attacks on their mosques as well before they consider ending the boycott.
Talabani responded positively to their demand and gave a short statement to the press half an hour ago and condemned all attacks on worshipping places of all kinds.

The situation is still very tense but the good thing is that the Sunni have not returned the attacks and I hope the Shia have satisfied their vengeance by now because I don't want to even think of what can happen if this situation lasts longer than this.

Read his full post at Iraq the Model.

February 22, 2006

Port Security: Remember to Breathe

There remains much hyperventilation over the UAE DP World acquisition of P & O Steam Navigation and its existing contract to manage port operations in the United States. If you are among those completely flabergasted at the appearance, breathe. Look at the issue logically and deeper than the surface and emotional association. Later today, I will offer a commentary explaining my position and illustrating the logical points that this opinion is based upon. Until then, the Port Security, Maritime Security, and Homeland Security Blog offers some of those points today with Issues to Consider about the Dubai Ports Deal, highlighting Keith Porter at About.com.

These ports have been operated by foreign companies for quite some time. The company that runs them now (P&O) is British (a great American friend). The company buying P&O is part of the United Arab Emirates (also a great American friend).

While I would not equate the UAE with Britain in terms of trust and friendship, the point remains valid.

Israel Thwarts Jerusalem Mortar Attack

Amid continued Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, a mortar attack on Jerusalem was averted when Israeli security forces acted on intelligence and apprehended a members of a Fatah terrorist cell who had military grade mortars, a launcher and, more troublingly, IDF uniforms and plans to launch the mortars into Israeli areas of Jerusalem. The number apprehended was not released nor was the name of the Fatah group, though the most active Fatah terrorist group is the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, there have been over 450 Kassam rocket launches from Gaza into Israel.

What, then, lies ahead if Israel meets further demands that they withdraw from the West Bank? What reward will Israel reap?

February 21, 2006

Weapons Caches Found

The Army News Service and the MNF-I PAO report significant weapons cache discoveries.

Near Kirkuk - the Iraqi Army's 2nd Brigade and the US Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division discovered a network of 15 weapons caches. The find was the result of a cordon and search operation in an area known to be a safe haven for insurgents. Four insurgents were arrested during the operation. The find included:

1 complete surface to air missile system, 450 mortar rounds, 12 rockets, 11 complete mortar systems, 31 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, 70 rocket propelled grenades, 30 grenades, 14 machine guns, 16 sniper rifles, more than 190 fuses, tens of thousands of rounds of small arms ammunition, multiple weapons parts, including scopes, 75 pounds of propellant, timers and parts used in making improvised explosive devices (IED’s), [and] 1 gas mask.

MNF-I reports that local citizens, near Rawah, Northwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates, alerted soldiers from 4th Squadron, 14th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, assigned to Regimental Combat Team-7 to a possible cache. More than 3000 rounds of munitions, including mortar rounds (60 to 125mm) and "various other projectile-type munitions."

While we all await a hopeful solution to the forming of a new Iraqi government - news of the removal of more of the enemy's weapons is significant and heartening - as is local support and Iraqi forces involvement.

Hugo: Hemispheric Hindrance

What do Iran and Hamas have in common aside from violent Islamist ideologies? The answer is closer to home than most Americans may want to think. Security Watchtower connects the dots that lead to South American dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in an excellent post in which C.S. Scott bulletpoints the last six years of Hugo Chavez' troublesome activities, including nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, Publius Pundit asks, is there really a Venezuela oil shortage?

Venezuela’s oil production has gone to hell and it’s not getting better. In 1998, Venezuela was the Number One exporter of imported oil to the U.S. Today, it ranks Number Six, and only sells the U.S. 10% of its oil - see the Energy Department site for proof, it’s not 15% as the news media lazily describes. Last year it was 15%, this year it’s since slid 10%.

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has driven his country’s oil company straight into the ground. Windfall profits on high oil prices that should have gone into reinvestment in order to ensure maximum production and maximum profits is instead being squandered on welfare handouts for immediate consumption.

Chavez has turned a hobby of instigation into a profession built around aligning himself with enemies and strategic competitors of the United States...and quite possibly has destroyed Venezuela's oil industry along the way.

February 20, 2006

Intel to Build Tech Education Center in Gaza

With all of the controversy surrounding foreign aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, American enterprise steps up to the plate to demonstrate precisely how to help the Palestinian people...and it isn't through grants to a governing body. Intel is setting up a technology training center in Gaza City. Not a charity. A for-profit business, seeking a mutually beneficial relationship with Palestinians willing and capable of learning new skills in exchange for helping Intel establish themselves in the Middle Eastern markets.

Most notably, there are no middlemen in government buildings to skim directly from the program before it ever reaches the people.

Now this is how an entity offers assistance to the Palestinian people. Don't give them scraps for standing in line or for being on government payrolls. Give them valuable skills which lead to careers rather than jobs. Give them reason to wake in the morning...unleash productivity and fulfilling endeavors.

Begin to create an employable workforce and watch businesses materialize to make use of that resource. At first, most will be foreign, but it will only be a matter of time before Palestinians leverage their local knowledge and begin building profitable Palestinian businesses employing a newly skilled talent pool, exchanging goods and services both domestically and abroad...even (or especially) with Israel.

It has always seemed rather arrogant to me how various governments, American or otherwise, always believed that the best way to assist the Palestinian people was to transfer raw dollars from one inefficient government to the other. This, in the long run, is nonsense. This creates nothing but further dependence.

Inspire them. Show them that they can do it. And then watch them do it.

Read anything on the root causes of terrorism and the central theme will not be the popularly trumpeted Islamic cause...it will be hopelessness. Plain and simple.

Intel shows the world how to give the Palestinians hope...by giving them skills, not cash from America or Kalashnikovs from Iran or Kassams from al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Cheer loudly for Intel and take note.

Terror, Bombs, Yachts and Money to Burn

In A Bomb-Builder, 'Out of the Shadows', the Washington Post's Karl Vick looks at Louai Sakka, the Syrian terrorist arrested in Turkey and found to ahve solid links to al-Qaeda. Sakka was living the jihadi high-life, with plastic surgery to alter his appearance, a yacht, a luxury appartment and apparently money to burn.

Says Douglas Farah of The Counterterrorism Blog:

This clearly shows that, when they need to, al Qaeda operatives can gather the cash to carry out expensive, long-term plans to inflict damage. The cash pipeline, while perhaps not as freeflowing as before, exists and is able to pump out the money when needed.

The total cost of the operation, had Sakka been a better student in Iraq, would have only registered at a few thousand dollars. The real cost of setting him up, allowing him to live and gather the specific information he needed from visiting Israeli tourists, was far higher. This is the argument for keeping the heat on the terror finance front, despite resistence and lack of attention in much of the intelligence community.

February 19, 2006

Iraq's Jordanian Jihadis

With the obvious focus on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Nir Rosen has written an outstanding article for The New York Times with Iraq's Jordanian Jihadis. It's an excellent read.

Azzam was fiercely opposed to Zarqawi and his kind, who, he says, gave jihad a bad name: "We say to people who give funds: Don't give to Zarqawi. Give to Iraqis, give to the Association of Muslim Scholars. They are the right way; our school supports them." The association was founded in the summer of 2003 in Baghdad to unite Iraq's Sunnis and to increase their political leverage. It was led by Sheik Harith al-Dari, whose grandfather had been a leader of the rebellion against the British and whose son, according to insurgents I spoke with, organizes armed resistance. The association, according to members I interviewed, is affiliated with several Iraqi national resistance units, the most important being the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Iraqi Islamic Army. It also, on occasion, aided Shiites who were opposing the American and allied forces.

Azzam viewed his support for Iraqi resistance as consistent with his support of other indigenous Muslim movements fighting in what the jihadis consider self-defense. "Iraq is a defensive jihad," Azzam insisted. "Troops from abroad came to a Muslim country." He said that the Iraqi jihad was going very well. "Praise God, we were successful," he told me. "Everything is going much better. Much better than we were planning. It won't take like Afghanistan, nine years, to kick the U.S. out. It will be much faster. But we must know our aims and goals. Just exploding cars is not enough. We need a plan for the future. When the Americans leave, we will look for the next place."

February 18, 2006

Able Danger Hearings

With a good look at the latest in the Able Danger hearings, AJ Strata has put up an Able Danger Hearings summary.

In my review of the audio tapes I identified 54 news worthy items of interest. These are things that were previously speculation and now being confirmed, additional information that changes or expands what we believed to be the truth about Able Danger, and some new revelations. These items are contained in the three parts of the analysis I did as follows: my post on Part II covers items 1 - 15, Part III covers 16 - 35, and Part IV covers items 35-54. I will refer to these in this post so I do not have to repeat what is written already.

Fair warning: I am interpretting statements based on my knowledge of working in the Federal Government, extrapolating some comments as well, and speculating what it could mean. It is possible I read too much into a comment - though I have tried to check myself. I will do so again once the full transcript is out.

He's covered the Able Danger topic like a hawk and with insight and as much objectivity as he can muster. His detailed initial hearings summary is definitely worth your reading.

Good News from Iraq in The Advisor

On a regular weekly basis, a comprehensive roundup of positive developments in the progress of Iraqi Security Forces' evolution into a self-sustaining, independent force can be found in The Advisor (PDF), a publication provided by the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq.

It is easy to find out about bad news and setbacks. Hit any news organization's website for the latest IED attack or suicide bombing. CentCom has been making this resource of positive developments available for some time and with little fanfare.

This week, among the highlighted issues are new scuba gear and dive training for the Iraqi Police and the Baghdad Dive and Rescue Team; the Chief of Staff and Commanding General of the Iraqi Joint Forces, Iraqi Gen. Babakir Zibari, speaking to the Iraqi Military Academy about ethics; and the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division spearheading their second independent operation in Subiyhat in eastern al-Anbar province.

If you follow developments in Iraq, you know that an American withdrawal is directly tied to the development and self-sustaining capabilities level of the Iraqi Security Forces, whether Iraqi Army, police or Special Operations Units.

You can follow their development activities complete with successes through The Advisor. You can also subscribe to receive The Advisor every Saturday via e-mail in PDF format before it's even available online. All you need to do is enter your e-mail address.

It's a valuable resource we thought you might be interested in.

February 17, 2006

Magdi Khalil Takes On Islamist Rhetoric on al-Jazeera

ThreatsWatch recently featured Guest Commentary from Magdi Khalil, who appeared on al-Jazeera (video clip and translation courtesy of MEMRI TV) debating the forthrightness of Islmaists in democracy and overtures from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who had said that Hamas' issues with Israel are now political and not religious.

Democracy, Mr. Faysal, consists of values and procedures. The ballot box is only one of the procedures. As for democratic values – to this day, none of the Islamic movements believe in them.

[...]

If you read the column by Khaled Mash'al in today's Guardian, you will encounter something completely different from the old Hamas discourse. They used to swear, by the sword and the Koran, to annihilate Israel. But today he wrote things that are completely different. He wrote: "We have no problem with Israel, our conflict is not a religious one." Hamas was established on the basis of the idea that the conflict is religious. There is even a Hadith that says that Judgment Day will come only when the Muslims kill the Jews, and then every tree will says: There is a Jew behind me, Oh servant of Allah, come and kill him - except for the whatchamacallit tree, which is a tree of the Jews. This Hadith is popular among Islamists, and appears in all the Islamist literature. All the Islamist literature refers to the annihilation of Israel, and to the Islamists' divine promise to fight and annihilate the Jews, and to destroy Israel.

All of a sudden, they say: No, the conflict is [not] a religious one. Khaled Mash'al wrote this in The Guardian: "The conflict between us is not religious, but political." This is what we've been saying for a long time - that the conflict is political. All of a sudden you are saying this is a political conflict?

It should not be overlooked that it takes no small amount of courage to speak so openly of such things within the region. At ThreatsWatch, we tip our hats to Magdi Khalil.

One Port Industry Observation: 'Take a deep breath'

If the immediate emotion of the issue can be shelved long enough to read Mad Tea Party's On Ports and Terminal Operators, a clearer picture will emerge. Not, mind you, a more satisfying picture, but one that displays more logic than an (understandably) emotional outburst directed at the potential new proprietors of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation. After she explains the essential functions of port authorities, terminal operators and stevedoring companies, she offers a root cause of the problem...one that pre-dates the current security concerns.

But who would take over?

The sad fact is the U.S. Maritime Industry as a whole is in dire straits. There are no major U.S. flag carriers, with U.S. crews, in the TransPacific trade. No merchant ships are being built here. Most of the graduates from the six Merchant Marine Academies in the U.S. do not go to sea. Rather, they work in port operations for companies that are either completely foreign owned or are a joint U.S.-foreign company venture. (The foreign company--at least here on the West Coast--is often a foreign steamship line or maritime company.)

Huffing and puffing will not resolve these problems, which have their origins with the first oil crisis, back in the mid-1970's. And we will continue to have them until American companies decide that the rewards available in the maritime industry are worth the risk. Until then, we will have to depend on the "kindness of strangers" who are willing to take that risk.

She has, in short order, answered the first two questions I posed previously. She also seems far from favoring the DP World move, but does take an intelligent and logical look at the situation. Giver her post a read.

A Question of Port Security

The approval of transferring US port security to a UAE company, who purchased the current European contractor, Britain's Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, has caused a fair amount of fury over the past 48 hours. Michelle Malkin has a good roundup of the exaspiration being expressed around the web and in the media.

A few quick observations:

  • Why was a European firm ultimately responsible for American port security, especially post-9.11, in the first place?
  • How is it that there is not a worthy American organization that can be tasked with American security?
  • Why is the Department of the Treasury has the lead in making such a fundamental security decision that transcends any monetary concern?
  • Are the various local port authorities not worthy of consult regarding security matters of the ports they know intimately (let alone live near)?
  • While there is concern about special oversight of the potentially UAE-run operation, has anyone asked about the nature of oversight of the same function while outsourced to a European firm?
  • If the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. is 'an interagency panel headed by the Treasury Department that can block foreign acquisitions that threaten national security', doesn't it make sense that it is headed by a Department who is tasked with National Security with Treasury contributing rather than the other way around?

All that said, regardless of one's view on the matter at hand, the question of prior oversight seems a fair question in principle before jumping all over the UAE issue without fair and proper contrast. While the Middle Eastern issue is certainly a sensitive one, we should also remember to stop and ask the same of a firm that, at the end of the day, is/was equally non-American. And what about American-run security? Airport security did not initially fail because it was foreign-run. It has, however, proven effective and sufficiently deterrent since.

While I disagree with the decision and, more importantly, the process employed to arrive at that decision, to allow a UAE-owned outfit run American port security, the issue truly before us is not why a United Arab Emirate entity would be tasked as ultimately responsible for US Port Security.

It is, rather, a more fundamental question of why American leadership is not tasked with the ultimate responsibility of American security, ports or otherwise.

On Europe's Non-European Future

Interestingly juxtaposed with Bruce Bawyer's Hudson Review column contrasting an American in Europe's reassessment of his native home with a look forward at Europe, today Donald Sensing offers very interesting commentary on Europe’s non-European future.

Tony Blankley speculates that the coming years in Europe may be bloody as ethnic Europeans (my term, not his) realize that their governments are determined to surrender to the Islamists. The masses, he says, may suddenly decide not to stand for it and the prospect of open battles in the streets of major cities may become reality. Or maybe not, Blankley says, because it’s far from certain as well that the masses of Europe have that kind of energy or fight left in them.

But even if they do, they will still lose. The death spiral is real, not speculative. Unless the European masses decide to accept 20 years of a dramatically lower economy so that women can leave the work force to have 2-3 babies apiece, Europe, as a European continent, is done for. What do you think the odds of the masses deciding to do that are?

A Soldier's Dad Takes Issue with ICG Iraq Report

Soldier's Dad takes issue with an ICG report that asserts that the US Military still does not know the enemy it faces in Iraq. In Soldier's Dad: International Crisis Group Misses the Point, he reminds the slow, trudging nature of the fight being taken to an enemy that is certainly not misunderstood.

So that leaves a war of "exhaustion". In order to win a war of "Exhaustion", you need to make the price of surrender cheaper than the price of continuing fighting.

Publicly advertising the various subgroups and motivations of such sub groups, and the level of violence they may or may not have committed makes it difficult to offer palable surrender terms.

If one watches closely, the statements of MNF-Iraq. Terms of surrender are not going to be offered to AQIZ. The vast majority of the violence is publicly attributed to AQIZ. The violence of various other groups is consistantly "not accentuated". Which sub-group belongs to which broad category, Terrorist, Saddamist, Rejectionist is left undefined.

This leaves the cost of surrender, or "reconciliation" of the various sub-groups minimal, to both the sub-group, and the Iraqi Government.

Earlier in the day yesterday, he pointed to a chart showing Iraq attack distribution by province, and noted how attack frequencies have abated, a trend that, in part at least, also seems to fly in the face of the ICG report which claims the US ground forces do not understand the enemy they have been facing (and steadily defeating through adaptive tactics) since the summer of 2003.

February 16, 2006

Iraqi Kurds' Dream City in Pictures

As a follow-on to the previous, one would look at a few of the pictures that Michael Totten took and published and question whether they were looking at post-war (or mid-insurgency) Northern Iraq or Phoenix, Arizona. Note the new home. No wonder they call it a "Dream City".

When you think of what the Kurds are doing with their region, contrast that with the same opportunity lost upon the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, fully functional greenhouses in Gaza were rampaged and destroyed and not a single thing built. The things that can be done when a society decides to stop blowing each other to bits and, instead, prosper.

Totten on the Revival of Kurdistan

In an interview by Stephen Spruiell of NRO, Michael J. Totten discusses his two weeks in Iraq. Totten limited his vist to Kurdish areas and had this to say about their efforts to rebuild:

"Massive, and I mean massive, reconstruction. In Sulaymaniyah, there are 300,000 people living where three years ago there were only half as many. Like all massive urban immigration, most of the people are settling on the outskirts. But unlike in the most of the third world, the outskirts aren’t slums. They are so nice, in fact, that you might not believe you were in the Middle East. You would look at some of these pictures and swear that this wasn’t the Middle East at all."

It is well worth a read or two. And while Totten limited his trip to Kurdish areas of Iraq, for well explained reasons, and notes that the remainder of Iraq is quite a different story - it is heartening news to see that some, even if not for Iraq's cause, are finding the ways and means to constructively rebuild their society.

'Cartoon' Imam Ahmed Abu Laban's History of Protest

This is not the first time that the Danish Imam who sparked belated Middle East outrage over cartoons has led in demonstration. The Counterterrorism Blog's Evan Kohlmann reminds of Another Protest Led by Danish Imam Ahmed Abu Laban, back in 1995 when 'one of the most senior leaders of the notorious Egyptian terrorist organization Al-Gama`at al-Islamiyya', Talaat Fouad Qassem, was captured, much to the 'moderate' Abu Laban's displeasure.

The protest occurred as Al-Gama`at's spiritual leader Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman was nearing a conviction in the U.S. for his role in conspiring to wage a campaign of terrorism against civilian targets in the New York metropolitan area. For further information, see my book Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe, pages 26-27, 149-154.

Having forgotten those passages is a source of frustration. If you have not already read Kohlmann's book, it is highly recommended and should be considered required reading.

Go here: Amazon.com: Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe : The Afghan-Bosnian Network

Funding internal Iranian opposition will only make the mullahs mad?

This is the assertion made by 'sources' in several media reports on supporting internal Iranian opposition groups as we should have for the past 20+ years. Austin Bay notes part of a Los Angeles Times article on President Bush's supplemental request for $75 million in additional aid to Iranian opposition groups and their efforts in Taking Down Tehran’s Mullahs: Help the Iranians Do It

But Iranian officials, who are highly sensitive to signs of foreign influence, are likely to point to the effort as another example of U.S. meddling and try to use it to foster anti-Americanism and build support for the regime, analysts said.

Says Austin Bay:

Foster anti-Americanism? Pish. Yes, anti-Americanism is the mullahs agit-prop counter; what this does is scare the heck out of the thugs-in-robes.

Having noticed this in other reports as well, but failing to speak to them, allow me to carry Bay's observation a few steps further.

Iran is 'likely to point to the effort as another example of U.S. meddling'? You don't say. The US Secretary of State is publicly before the US Senate asking for $75 million to affect an internal regime change. You bet the mullahs are 'highly sensitive' to this. We are looking to end their regime.

What is additionally frustrating about the tone of the paraphrasing of the analysts' words is that it asserts that funding internal opposition will only make the mullahs mad and will fail. Imagine these same analysts' reactions to striking Iran's nuclear facilities or actually invading Iran.

Perhaps we should just close up shop and wait to see what the Iranians squeeze out of Natanz, Arak and Isfahan. If we just don't make them mad, we'll have nothing to worry about. Perhaps.

al-Qaeda in Lebanon: The Marines' New Tripoli?

al-Qaeda has been making every effort to secure Lebanon as a base of operations and, further, "to make in particular the area of Tripoli (in the north of Lebanon) a new Afghanistan since several of its bases are in this city," according to one source.

Be sure to read Olivier Guitta's latest column at Tech Central Station: Al Qaeda… in Lebanon.

Regarding the December rocket attacks against Israel from the south of the country that Zarqawi (Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq) claimed responsibility for, Fatfat [Ahmed Fatfat, the new incoming Lebanese Interior Minister] confirmed it was indeed the work of Al Qaeda. He added that it was an attack carried out by the Palestinian terror group FPLP-GC based out of Damascus, but financed directly by Al Qaeda. Finally Fatfat affirmed that FPLP-GC answers directly to Damascus and that a branch of Al Qaeda could be manipulated by Syrian security services.

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah of February 9 seconded Fatfat's assertions. Quoting an Iraqi source, the journalist stated that Al-Qaeda is leading a large infiltration operation inside Lebanon, where it already has sleeper cells.

It is not outside the realm of possiblity that the Marine Corps Hymn may one day have a more contemporary meaning and fresh coordinates for the opening lines:

From the Halls of Montezuma To the shores of Tripoli...

An Interview with al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade's Abu Nasser

John Batchelor recently interviewed Abu Nasser, the leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in the Northern West Bank. In it, Nasser paints the picture of the un-masking of Fatah, and the end of taqiyyah, with its loss to Hamas in the Palestinian polls.

"When we were in power, we were obliged to be more sensitive and more obedient to the instructions and policies of our leadership. Now that we lost the elections, why should we obey the leaders and just who do we obey? The Hamas?"

Rocket attacks will continue, he says, even (or especially) when Israel disengages from the West Bank as they did in Gaza.

John Batchelor has graciously made the audio files of the interview conducted by himself and Aaron Klein available in two parts:

There has been much talk lately of many Palestinians who regret their vote for Hamas, that they were only trying to chastize their own Fatah, not thinking Hamas would actually win.

If the Palestinians want their own state, one which can co-exist with Israel without unending bloodshed, they had better figure out a way to form and elect a third party that reflects as much, as it is clear that neither Hamas nor Fatah are either willing or capable of achieving this, in or out of power.

Afghanistan: A Ground-Level Strategic View

The 24-hour Question and Answer period has concluded at Global Guerillas, where John Robb shared a source with readers, a field-grade officer just back from a tour as a team chief at strategic level command in Afghanistan.

Both John and readers posed an array of questions that AR answered within the bounds of InfoSec. Scroll through the comment section for the excellent & insightful Q & A at Global Guerillas' Fourth Generation Warfare in Afghanistan:

John, the Taliban are very loosely organized, mostly in platoon sized or smaller organizations. Most of the Taliban activity is located in the south, in Helmund, Kandahar, Uruzgan (where the four soldiers were killed two days ago by a large IED) and Zabul provence. The Eastern border provinces of Paktika, Khost and Paktya also hold Taliban fighters or are used as transshipment points to other places in the country. Basically - anywhere along the border with Pakistan there will be some Taliban.

Also, still relatively early on in the conversation:

Infrastucture, or the lack there of, is a major, major problem with Afghanistan. It's mind bending to see how little infrastructure is in Afghanistan. Even in Kabul.

I'll break the infrastructure down into a few different categories - roads, power generation, construction, communications and water purification...

Read on. Thanks to AD for his time and insight and also to John Robb for sharing.

February 15, 2006

Iran's North Korean Plutonium Pipeline

Trent Tolenko writes on the coming nuclear test by Iran at Winds of Change with Count Down to Iran's Nuclear Test. He makes some great observations (Trent's eyes are always open). After he states his case that, in his long-held belief that an Iranian nuclear test is due this spring, he posits on the aftermath of an American (or other) series of strikes on its facilities.

What do we do if, after we bomb Iran’s known nuclear facilities flat, over the 4-6 week period needed to be really thorough, and ride out Iran’s expected retaliation – mining of the Straits of Hormuz, attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, uprisings by its covertly controlled militias in southern Iraq, etc., Iran then does a nuclear test anyway a few months later, with a nuke it has had all along?

And says that, if we attack again, it will nuke Kuwait and the oil ports of Saudi Arabia? Because it is still getting, from North Korea, everything it needs to build more nuclear weapons. Because we’re letting North Korea be an invulnerable sanctuary for Iran’s nuclear weapons enrichment, while Iran provides the sites for North Korean nuclear tests.

First, his observations on the role of North Korea in Iran's program are important to note. A question came to mind of how difficult it is to successfully transfer shipments of plutonium or HEU from NoKor to Iran (or anywhere else) without detection. That is, in part, a question of technicality that I would like to leave to my friends at Los Alamos and Idaho National Laboratories to weigh in on. The other side of the question is, how closely are we looking for this, regardless of technical (masking/shielding) transport issues. The answer to that will likely never go farther than those tasked with that responsibility, nor should it. When the quantities are measured in kilograms, this seems a daunting task to pursue with confidence.

As to Trent's conclusion of the aftermath, while the possible Iranian reaction he states is wholly plausible and not unreasoned, it is at this time, after strikes, that the only way to stare them down from the precipice they have climbed to is to, well, stare them down from the precipice.

If Iran's purpose, under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, is truly to bring about cataclysmic horror to 'pave the way' for the return of the 12th Imam, they will know that there will no longer be any building of an arsenal and that the best time to 'pave the way' is to use what they have on hand. They will know that everything they build will be knocked down (or in). If a strike has already been made, they will never have more than they have at the time of the strike and therefor not bother with threats. If they recognize this and are not therefor, in this scenario at least, vying for a future arsenal, there is no purpose that a threat serves. They will act without such announcement.

If there is not time to fund and surge an internal regime change, bargaining with the current Iranian regime at this or future points should be considered a fool's game. If there is time, then any further negotiations will be flipping the tables with the West now wanting 'talks about talks' in search of time while the internal opposition gathers its long-awaited steam.

But, by nearly all accounts, there is no time, regardless of chirpings about the suddenly-respected intelligence community's 10-year estimate.

The West now has what it has in Iran after years of not knowing what the West did not want to know.

There are no palatable options with the current regime. There are only varying degrees of horror.

More on Foreign Language Skills

Stanley Kurtz at NRO offers a detailed look into how academia is responding to the President's recently announced National Security Language Initiative. As Kurtz notes, the anti-military establishment in MESA and throughout the higher halls of academia are once again ready to prevent a program of vital need from reaching success.

February 13, 2006

Only 10 of 34,000...

A ratio of 1:3,400. Anything measured by that ratio is a stunning comparison to make. But that 10 of 34,000 is precisely the number of fluent Arabic-speakers at the US Department of State dwarfs 'stunning' and it's use as the appropriate adjective.

From Athena at Terrorism Unveiled in The Critical Language Need:

Here's the real kicker:

At the State Department, for instance, only 10 of 34,000 employees are rated fully fluent in Arabic.

I'm guessing this is fluency on a 1-5 scale. Native speakers who maybe spoke Arabic until they enrolled at school in the US would even have a hard time attaining a level 5 fluency, so around a level 4 is well enough to communicate effectively.

Yet still...only ten? No wonder we're having such problems projecting our image (I'm an avid opponent to the argument that we have such a bad public image mostly as a result of our policies; in my view we simply cannot communicate them effectively because we fundamentally misunderstand our audience.)

There are far more than 10 Arabic-speaking nations in the world. That means our own State Department has less than 1 fully fluent Arabic speaker for each of them.

Most would conclude that maybe, just maybe, Athena's onto something here.

A Unit Full of People You Should Know

1st Leutenant Robert C.J. Parry of the California Army National Guard's 1-184th Infantry, now home from his tour in Iraq, wrote of the honor and valor he witnessed among his brothers-in-arms. It has been published in the Los Angeles Times' Sunday Edition. In The war you didn't see, 1LT Parry expresses frustration that these were not (and are not) the stories reported of his unit and others.

You might also ask anyone from our ranks about Staff Sgt. Steve Nunez. Broken and bloodied by an IED, he was ordered home to recuperate after refusing to go voluntarily. He rejoined us to carry the fight forward, refusing the chance to stay home.

There were no front-page headlines for Kruger, Nunez or even Sgt. 1st Class Tom Stone, who covered a wounded subordinate's body with his own to protect that soldier from a secondary attack that could have come at any moment...

...Our unit — supposedly just a band of weekend warriors from the National Guard — was selected by the Army's renowned 3rd Infantry Division to take on its primary challenge: taking control of a sector of south Baghdad that was home to leading Baathists and Al Qaeda fanatics. In that capacity, we conducted more than 7,000 combat patrols totaling nearly half a million man-hours. We captured more insurgents in one month than did whole brigades. We stand nominated (with the rest of our brigade) for a Valorous Unit Award.

But instead, people who didn't know the first thing about us trumpeted the misdeeds of a handful of young men who scoffed at the concepts of honor and duty that our commander invoked.

(Thanks to The Barnyard for the tip.)

It is indeed a shame that the honor and valor of so many is obscured by the more scandalous story of a few. The question that begs is: Had the abuse scandal never occurred, would those stories of valor been told by those who instead ran with scandal?

Who knows, but we are lucky to have people like Matt at BlackFive who work tirelessly to make sure you are aware of Someone You Should Know.

EU and WTO Continue Trade Attack

The WTO has ruled that the U.S. has not sufficiently removed the 'unfair' tax breaks provided to exporters of American goods. The EU in response has reaffirmed, although most likely only in diplomatic bluster, that sanctions remain an option if Congress doesn't act to fully abolish the no longer utilized FSC and ETI laws.

The ruling of the WTO's appelate board gives Congress 60 days to act. The paleo-conservative notions that the U.S. is forfeiting sovereignty (through agreements with the WTO and other international bodies) are surely not altogether off target here. Free trade should not preclude incentive tax structures in the U.S. where we compete against markets supported by collectivist governments such as those in Europe. At the same time, if we aren't offering the tax advantage, then there is no harm in removing it from the books - so long as the benefits of prior years are remain as is.

Protests in London: A Photoessay

Samizdata has an outstanding collection of photos from a London demostration against the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad. What is most interesting, however, is the collection of assorted non-Muslim groups who have joined the fray, including signs supporting a fascist Syria, a communist Cuba and an Iranian theocracy. Also note the difference between British security at the Danish Embassy in London and the level of recent Syrian security for the Danish embassy in Damascus.

The 2006 Counterterrorism Calendar

From the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) comes a fantastic unclassified resource for the public, the 2006 Counterterrorism Calendar.

The calendar not only lists significant terrorist events and attacks on appropriate days of the year, but also includes very useful inserts interspersed throughout the document, including informative one-sheets on key at-large terrorists, various terrorist organizations and valuable information such as "Bomb Threat Stand-Off Distances" and "Indicators of Suspicious Financial Activity".

The entry for today, February 13:

2000 - Colombia: FARC, ELN stage series of attacks; kill 12 and kidnap at least 16

Download and make good use of the 2006 Counterterrorism Calendar.

We appreciate and acknowledge the diligent work of the men and women of the National Counterterrorism Center, created in 2004, including but certainly not limited to this outstanding new resource made freely available to the public.

We should all tip our hats in appreciation of the work they do daily on our behalf.

Unreported History in Baghdad: Comentary from a deployed Army LTC

As if to suggest that good news just isn't worth the effort to cover, US Army Lieutenant Colonel John M. Kanaley pens Unreported History in Baghdad, describing his frustrated observations that seem indicative of the coverage of nearly the whole of the Iraq War. It is today's must-read commentary.

The silence was deafening and the seats were empty. The western press was nowhere to be found. The location was Baghdad and the event was a February 10th, 2006 press conference announcing the final verification of December's election results. Although the final allocation of parliamentary seats did not change from last month's tentative reports, the conference was nonetheless significant for American and Iraqi history. What was equally significant was the absence of members of the western press.

... It is said that success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. In the pessimistic world of the western press and the anti-war left, they continually turn their backs on momentous accomplishments while simultaneously failing to acknowledge this turning point in the defense of freedom. The press never hesitates to report on the so-called surges of attacks in Iraq. Logically speaking, if there is a surge at any given point, then there must have been a previous decrease in attacks as well, yet, that is never reported.

February 12, 2006

Headaches for Hamas

We missed this Friday. Be sure to read the Chicago Tribune editorial, Headaches for Hamas.

Hamas is getting a good lesson in the vicissitudes of democracy. One day, they're basking in a stunning upset victory in parliamentary elections. A few days later they're squirming, berating as "blackmail" the world's demands that they set aside violence, scurrying to find other countries to fund their terrorists.

But listen to what Egypt's powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, said last week. Hamas, he declared, should "One, stop the violence. Two, it should become doctrine with them to be committed to all the agreements signed with Israel. Three, they have to recognize Israel."

That's excellent advice, which Hamas is not likely to take.

Hamas is surely not going to take such advice genuinely. But whether or not they now, finding themselves with the burden of governing, go the way of Fatah and practice taqiyyah in exchange for $1 billion in annual gifts...well, that remains to be seen.

Denmark Evacuates Staff from Iran, Syria and Indonesia

The Danes have evacuated their embassy staff from Syria, Iran and Indonesia over fears for their safety. From the Washington Post:

The Foreign Ministry said it withdrew all Danish staff from its embassy in Tehran, Iran, because of "serious and concrete threats" against the ambassador.

Threats also were directed at the embassy personnel in Indonesia, the ministry said, without giving details. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country...

...Earlier Saturday, the ministry announced it had temporarily pulled back its ambassador and other Danish staff from Syria because they were not getting enough protection from authorities.

As has been noted before, massive angry demonstrations just don't happen in Syria without a nod from the regime, and Friday prayers in Tehran included a call for continued protest at the Danish embassy there.

In the NewsBriefs section, it was noted (with irony) that Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, said in Malaysia, "After about two centuries of dispute between tradition and modernity in the world of Islam (there is) a high level of mental preparation for the acceptance of a major transformation in the mind and lives of Muslims."

It appears as if those delivering sermons in Tehran disagree.

February 11, 2006

Loose Lips Sink Spies - Porter Goss

The New York Times has published an OpEd by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency concerning leaks of classified information, which is in no small measure ironic. From Porter Goss' Loose Lips Sink Spies:

At the Central Intelligence Agency, we are more than holding our own in the global war on terrorism, but we are at risk of losing a key battle: the battle to protect our classified information.

Judge Laurence Silberman, a chairman of President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said he was "stunned" by the damage done to our critical intelligence assets by leaked information. The commission reported last March that in monetary terms, unauthorized disclosures have cost America hundreds of millions of dollars; in security terms, of course, the cost has been much higher. Part of the problem is that the term "whistleblower" has been misappropriated. The sharp distinction between a whistleblower and someone who breaks the law by willfully compromising classified information has been muddied.

Many will remember when the New York Times exposed secret CIA air operations in May 2005, with a little help from a friend...a CIA pilot who leaked it to them.

Loose lips sink ships, spies and entire counter-terrorism operations. That there is American opposition to nearly every American effort in the War on Terror remains dumbfounding.

Again, from Director Goss:

Last month, a news article in this newspaper described a "secret meeting" to discuss "highly classified" techniques to detect efforts by other countries to build nuclear weapons. This information was attributed to unnamed intelligence officials who "spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the effort's secrecy." Whether accurate or not, this is a direct acknowledgment that these unnamed officials apparently know the importance of secrecy.

Recently, I noticed renewed debate in the news media over press reports in 1998 that Osama bin Laden's satellite phone was being tracked by United States intelligence officials. In the recent debate, it was taken for granted that the original reports did not hurt our national security efforts, and any suggestions that they did cause damage were dismissed as urban myth. But the reality is that the revelation of the phone tracking was, without question, one of the most egregious examples of an unauthorized criminal disclosure of classified national defense information in recent years. It served no public interest. Ultimately, the bin Laden phone went silent.

Zawahiri's Son-in-Law Killed in US Strike in Pakistan

The January airstrike by US Predator drones in Pakistan may not have killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the intended target, but it hit close to home for him.

Pakistani intelligence (ISI) has said that one of the dead is Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi, who is possibly Zawahiri's son-in-law.

Musharraf did not offer the names of the two militants killed in the Jan. 13 attack, which officials also said killed about a dozen civilians, including women and children.

But Pakistani intelligence officials have told The Associated Press that they were Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar and Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi.

Al-Maghribi was a Moroccan and relative of al-Zawahiri, possibly his son-in-law.

Conversion Underway Again

The Telegraph reports today that within the last few days "Iranian nuclear scientists have reportedly restarted four of the centrifuges required to produce weapons-grade uranium, and have begun feeding them with uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas." IAEA inspectors are blocked from these facilities and cameras monitoring them have been disabled.

As if that weren't uplifting enough news - Ahmadinejad, clearly a man of faith and no doubt peace, had this to say today:

"We ask the West to remove what they created sixty years ago and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them,"

and also:

"Do the removal of Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations,"

With that good news... we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Ayatollah Calls for More Protests at Friday Prayers

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami called for more protests against Denmark during his sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran. But he also said that embassies should not be damaged.

“The fury by the people is holy and protests should indeed be continued ... but the protesters should seriously refrain from attacking the embassies,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an ultraconservative unrelated to former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, said during Friday prayers in Teheran.

Iranian Muslims had in recent days attacked the embassies of Denmark, Norway, Britain and even Austria as rotating president of the European Union. Police and anti-riot forces allowed protests but used tear gas against protesters who wanted to invade the embassy compounds.

However, the Monday cartoon contest for the best Holocaust cartoon in a Tehran paper is still on...and many will be interested to learn who used to run the Iranian daily Hamshahri newspaper.

Although not officially confirmed by the paper itself, the cartoons are to printed on Monday in the daily which was once run by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was still mayor of Teheran.

February 10, 2006

A Long War

From Neptunus Lex: A long war.

We cannot submit. But the more we fight this, this slow attempt at the strangling of our freedoms, the very things that define us, the more radicalized become our adversaries. In that radicalization, young men – and it is men, very few “protest babes” are observed in any of this – men who have been denied many of the simpler pleasures of this life but promised Hefneresque obscenities afterwards bring in their after draft an increasing number of passive co-religionists. People of a generally non-violent bent who fear to be labeled “apostate” - a death penalty offense under the sharia - and who grow increasingly persuaded that the war against terror is not against terror at all, as we have framed it, but against their faith. They grow convinced that this is a war being fought against their very selves.
They are been dragged towards the fringes by an Islamist information campaign that we have clearly underestimated. The jihadis are organized, intelligent and committed – where do you think the villagers in rural Pakistan or in Gaza found Danish flags to burn? Why do you think these protests explode into the streets only now, when the cartoons were printed in September?
As the Islamists carefully craft their message to appeal to Muslim sensibilities, the perception of the war in the minds of the great, undecided middle shifts gradually away from modernity and towards reaction.

Read it all. There is nothing that need be added to it here.

What then when the phone stops ringing?

There are hours of new reading daily on the NSA wiretaps issue. It all comes down to a basic principle which has nothing to do with overhearing a call placed to schedule an appointment or order Chinese for dinner.

Austin Bay points out the obvious, referencing Daniel Henninger on the NSA doing its job.

Let's start with the one thing we know for sure about the Bush administration's program to listen to al Qaeda's phone calls into and out of the United States: It's dead.

After all the publicity of the past two weeks, does anyone think that the boys working on plans for Boston Harbor, the Golden Gate Bridge or Chicago's Loop are still chatting by phone? If the purpose of the public exposure was to pull the plug on the pre-emptive surveillance program, mission accomplished. Be safe, Times Square...

...And those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Having watched one passenger-filled airliner fly into a skyscraper on a peaceful morning in lower Manhattan more than four years ago, I'd just as soon not repeat the experience. If the question on the table is whether it is legal for the executive branch to listen without warrants to phone calls between people who repeatedly chant "Death to America," then I guess I'm for declaring it respectful of our laws and getting on with it.

Col. Steven Davis: Western Anbar on the Right Track

The Iraqi-Syrian border is more secure by the day, as described by US Marine Corps' Col. Steven Davis.

U.S. Marines recently took an important step in making the area more prohibitive to insurgents by enclosing the city of Rutbah in berms and establishing entry-control points, Marine Col. Stephen Davis, commander of Regimental Combat Team 2, said at a news conference. Rutbah, which sits astride two major supply routes, was the object of Operation Western Shield, Davis said.

"This town had the unfortunate occurrence of being strategically placed there -- very convenient for smugglers, terrorists, insurgents to operate in and out of there," he said. "And we've been gratified to find most all of the people the live in the town thanking the Marines and the Iraqi soldiers that are working these tactical control points, coming in and out -- thanking them for ridding the town of the bad guys, in their words."

Operations along the Syrian border continue to progress, and the villages along the border now are getting consistent power, clean water, and new schools and hospitals, Davis said. Border forts are established, and terrorists do not have freedom to move between the two countries, he said.

Iran's Larijani Denies Nuclear Weapons Program

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary-General Ali Larijani used a short memory and an inflated portrayal of the IAEA's true effectiveness to deny the existance of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

From MEMRI's translation transcript:

"All Iran's nuclear activity is subject to the supervision of the IAEA and its inspectors, and no reasonable person would say that it is possible to manufacture nuclear weapons under such inspection."

Perhaps Mr. Larijani has forgotten about North Korea.

Perhaps not, as Iran's latest actions seem to pattern themselves in mirror image of North Korea's.

February 9, 2006

Poland Likely in Iraq Through 2007

With 3,700 troops deployed in hot spots internationally, Poland has assigned roughly one-third of them to missions in Iraq. Poland's foreign policy adviser, Andrzej Krawczyk, has forshadowed that Poland will most likely remain part of the international presence in Iraq through 2007.

Security Watchtower has the details.

Remember Southeast Asia?

Terrorism Unveiled's Minerva wisely suggests Don't Forget Southeast Asia.

Second is the continued importance of Southeast Asia. Al-Qaida senior leadership arguably saw Southeast Asia as a second front in the global jihad. Iraq obviously has supplanted Southeast Asia as a region of concern, but with al-Qaida, historical interest usually means a future interest, when the time is right. One only has to look at Oplan Bojinka to note not only the importance of Southeast Asia but also al-Qaida's tendency to revisit and adapt old plots.

February 8, 2006

Palestinian Riots and International Abandonment in Hebron

Palestinian cartoon rioters have caused the complete abandonment of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, with over 60 leaving today. From The Guardian UK:

In Hebron, hundreds of rioters, most of them youths, overpowered a Palestinian police detail at the compound of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH The police were stationed at the building after the Danish cartoons began sparking protests across the Muslim world more than a week ago.

Some protesters threw bottles and stones at TIPH's office building and tried to set it on fire. A few forced themselves inside, where unarmed observers waved clubs in an attempt to drive them off. After reinforcements were called in, Palestinian police pushed back the crowd - but not before protesters had smashed nearly all of the windows in the mission's three-story office building, and damaged three TIPH cars.

Eleven Danish members of TIPH left Hebron more than a week ago, but after the attack Wednesday, all 60 members of the mission's foreign staff who were inside the building decided to leave for their own safety, mission spokeswoman Gunhild Forselv said.

If the election of Hamas into leadership were not enough, actions like this only serve to cement Palestinian isolation. Not a good move for a people completely dependent on international generosity.

Inside the Bubble: Warlock vs. IED's

Troops try and stay 'inside the bubble' of the Warlock radio jammers, the latest defense against IED's. They don't defeat the bomb, but defeat the RF devices (usually wireless phones or cell phones) used to trigger them.

On a patrol near the town of Balad this morning with 1-8 Infantry, the driver of the Humvee I was in appeared to be tailgating the Humvee in front of ours. Later he confessed that he was trying to stay in what he called the "bubble", the effective range of the Humvee's Warlock radio jammer.

Warlock is a family of systems designed to counter improvised explosive devices, many of which are triggered remotely by radio.

Iran, Silkworms and the Strait of Hormuz

As a reminder that Iran holds tanker passage through the Strait of Hormuz as a trump card to conflict, Eagle1 at EagleSpeak gives readers a look at the threat from Iran.

Hormuz Silkworm

At its narrowest point the Strait of Hormuz is only 21 miles wide, two 1-mile-wide channels for inbound and outbound tanker traffic, as well as a 2-mile-wide buffer zone. Iran has deployed Chinese HY-2 'Silkworm' anti-ship missiles along its Persian Gulf coast and its Abu Musa, Qeshm and Sirri islands. Over 14 million barrels of oil pass through the Strait of Hormuz each day....

Read the whole thing.

February 7, 2006

Ritter: Iran Only Wants Peaceful Nuclear Power

Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, promoting his book in New Mexico, said that Iran simply wants peaceful nuclear power, not nuclear weapons, and that US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, already has a speech written for the coming US nuclear bombing of Iran.

“We just don’t know when, but it’s going to happen,” Scott Ritter said to a crowd of about 150 at the James A. Little Theater on Sunday night.

Ritter described how the U.S. government might justify war with Iran in a scenario similar to the buildup to the Iraq invasion. He also argued that Iran wants a nuclear energy program, and not nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration, he said, refuses to believe Iran is telling the truth.

He predicted the matter will wind up before the U.N. Security Council, which will determine there is no evidence of a weapons program. Then, he said, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “will deliver a speech that has already been written. It says America cannot allow Iran to threaten the United States and we must unilaterally defend ourselves.”

“How do I know this? I’ve talked to Bolton’s speechwriter,” Ritter said.

Remember that Ritter also declared early in 2005 that the US would invade Iran in June of that year.

How is it that Ritter understands the intentions of Iran's government, Rafsanjani, Khatamei, and Ahmadinejad so well? From where does he gain an insight that eludes expert analysts who have paid so much attention to the words and deeds of those men who've vowed to see the destruction of Israel and the coming of judgement day?

Muqtada al-Sadr 'at the service' of Syria and Iran

In response to any conflict with Iran, the Iranians can be expected to stir up as much dust as possible in Iraq, significantly more than they are already stirring up there. Any such move will almost certainly mean the employ of Iraqi radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, already badly defeated once in Iraq.

With that potential in mind, it is interesting that al-Sadr said while meeting Bashar Assad in Damascus that he is 'at the service' of Syria and the Iran.

Firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr vowed to help defend Syria and Iran after a meeting in Damascus with President Bashar Assad. "I am at the service of Syria and Iran. I will defend all Muslim countries with all means," he told reporters. "I am at the service of all those whose aim is to rebuild Iraq, the Middle East and Muslim and Arab states."

Sadr accused "Israel, the United States and Britain, which are enemies of Iraq and Syria, of sowing dissent between the Syrian and Iraqi peoples."

Birds of a feather flock together.

Super Sunday Weapons Cache

MNF-West reports that the Iraqi soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division and the U.S. soldiers of Task Force Panther 1-110th Infantry set out to disrupt insurgent operations via their logistics base along the southern banks of the Euphrates River in Bidimnah, Iraq. Task Force Panther Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Loris Lepri said this about the success of the mission and the Iraqi forces involved:

“This mission served as an excellent opportunity to further the Iraqi Army’s know-how on proper handling and processing of munitions caches. Many times these caches are booby-trapped. Searching for mines and other dangers associated with cache sweeps is first and foremost. The Iraqi Soldiers performed courageously, employing the proper search techniques while maintaining security throughout the long mission. Mission success is the single most important element in any Army’s doctrine.”

Super Sunday Weapons Cache

The list of items recovered included: "41 improvised explosive device remote detonators, 5 mortar tube systems, 3 rocket launcher systems, 34 high explosive projectiles, 35 rockets, 95 fuses/primers and assorted IED-making materials. Additionally, various types of insurgent propaganda were found in the caches to include 75 propaganda cassette tapes and video recording devices."

Super Sunday Weapons Cache

Iran 'has capability to develop nuclear weapons'

Robert G. Joseph, the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control flatly stated as such in a press conference.

President Bush, approving of a decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, said in a statement Saturday that Iran was "continuing to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons."

Joseph took it a step further. "I would say that Iran does have the capability to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them," he said in a response to a question.

While this is getting a lot of coverage, Joseph stated nothing new. That Iran has the 'capability' to produce nuclear weapons was never questioned. The matter has been whether or not they are going down that road.

What should be noted from this report is that Joseph himself stated that it was the 'democratic process' that bought Iran the time to develop this capability, sold to it by a world unwilling to confront them and stop them.

Yet, even after this recognition, the Undersecretary of State of Arms Control reaffirmed his support for the process of buying and selling time.

With the Europeans having declared two years of negotiations with Iran at a dead-end, Joseph said "there is no end of diplomacy" and that taking Iran to the Security Council was "moving diplomacy to the next level."

"We are giving every chance to diplomacy to work," Joseph said.

Just like the growing support for properly funding and supporting internal Iranian dissident groups, the referal to the UN Security Council, while a positive step, will have proven to have come far too late.

The West seems to perpetually insist on lagging behind the time curve of influence.

Abu Hamza al-Masri Convicted

Finsbury Park mosque fixture and radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has been convicted in the UK on 11 counts, including inciting followers to kill non-Muslims and possession of a terrorist document.

Also see: ABC News: Jury Convicts Radical Muslim Cleric

Was the Hamas victory a Bush failure?

That is a popular assertion these days: That the electoral victory of a terrorist organization is a failure of Bush specifically or the West's approach generally. The popular phrase is "Be careful what you wish for..."

But that Hamas, or any other group, was able to be freely and fairly elected is a democratic success and at least partially a natural spill-over of the wave of democracy spreading throughout the Middle East since the removal of the ruling dictatorial regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and the free elections that followed in each.

The failure that Hamas' election represents is not that of the wave brought on largely by the current Bush Administration policies, regardless of one's opinion of those policies, but rather the maturation of the failures that preceded them. So too is it noted today by Max Boot:

Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections last week is widely seen as discrediting President Bush's desire to spread democracy. Actually, the electoral triumph of this pro-terrorist, anti-Western movement offers more evidence for the failure of the cynical approach that the United States pursued before Mr. Bush came into office - a pseudo-realistic policy of using supposedly benign dictators to repress Islamic extremists.

That, after all, was the rationale behind the Oslo process: Israel and the US would support Yasser Arafat in the hope that he would deliver peace and crack down on the crazies. Fat chance. Instead, his Fatah Party gave birth to the suicide bombers of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, and he tolerated terrorists affiliated with competing groups as a cudgel to pressure Israel into greater concessions. Palestinian television and radio stations, newspapers, and schools never ceased to glorify suicide bombers ("shahids," or martyrs) and to revile Jews and Americans.

As is the case with Iran, there simply are no palatable choices on the table.

February 5, 2006

Pentagon QDR sees China as greatest potential rival

The Financial Times takes a look at the Quadrennial Defense Review's view on China.

Defeating terror networks and preventing the spread of unconventional weapons remain top military priorities. But the QDR also states that “shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads” – including China, Russia and India - is just as important to US security. It devotes by far the most detailed discussion to China, saying it is the power most likely to “field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional US military advantages”.

Although the Pentagon made similar warnings in its annual report on the Chinese military last year, the prominent mention in the QDR - essentially a statement to Congress of how it will structure the US military to meet international threats - underscores the Bush administration view that China represents its biggest long-term conventional military rival.

The report is careful to state that US policy remains focused on encouraging China to work with other Asian countries as partners to develop regional security structures and deal with common threats, such as terrorism, proliferation and piracy.

“US policy seeks to encourage China to choose a path of peaceful economic growth and political liberalisation, rather than military threat and intimidation,” the review states.

The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (PDF) can be read in its entirety here.

Free-Markets Approach to Fighting Terrorism

If a young man is gainfully and engagingly employed, perhaps he has too much to look forward to and work for to concern himself with death and mayhem.

John at Crossroads Arabia has just 'criss-crossed' Arabia. His first of several more reports to come is profoundly encouraging. He observed that "the Saudi stock market is insanely active", and gave observations that indicate that Saudi Arabia just might be the economic anti-terrorism model to follow. Arabia the Model?

I met with young Saudi women in Jeddah, all of whom were happily employed in jobs they wanted to do, though they had some ideas about how things could be improved.

I also met with some young male Saudi bloggers in Riyadh. They, too, were gainfully employed, happy with the jobs and prospects.

Meeting with a former religious extremist–now an analyst of Islamic fundamentalism–I learned that because of the opening of the economy, many would-be extremists are now too busy making money to bother with the philosophical side of things.

At the US Embassy, I heard that American officials working the issues of Saudi cooperation in fighting terrorism–and the funding of terrorism–are on the whole very happy with the level of cooperation. They do not understand criticisms of Saudi cooperation because they believe there are very few areas in which the Saudis are not cooperating fully. Where there is less than 100% cooperation, there are compelling reasons why not. They also note that the USG holds Saudi Arabia as the model to which other Arab Gulf States should aspire in their own controls.

The Phoney War Revisited

The parallels between 1930's Europe and today's Europe are explored in The Belmont Club's Re-reading William Manchester's "Alone". It is classic Wretchard: Intelligent, insightful and thought provoking.

It is an old and familiar story which bears repeating because it illustrates how far leaders can be trapped by webs of their own making. Like the politicians of the 1930s the leaders of the West after September 11 each made their own calculation. In America's case it took the shape of thinking that it could make common cause with the most enlightened elements of Islamic civilization against fundamentalist extremists who were vying for Islam's soul.

February 3, 2006

Tehran Preparing for Conflict

From Amir Taheri, Iran: Macho Talk and Reality.

The Tehran leadership under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, appears confident that it can take on the UN and win.
• It has completed “emergency plans to face aggression” and is busy building a network of logistical support facilities in the western and southern provinces.

• Some $3 billion has been added to the regular defense budget in the form of a “supplement for emergency exigencies” under the direct control of the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.

• The “Supreme Guide” has also created a “High Council of Military Planning” under former Defense Minister Adm. Ali Shamkhani.

• A list of “high priority” sites that might be attacked has been established and their protection against air strikes or ground sabotage operations beefed up.

• Import of “sensitive goods” has been increased to build up stocks to face sanctions.

• The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has transferred some $8 billion of its assets from the European Union to Asia to forestall the possibility of its accounts being frozen by the EU.

The international network of radical organizations created and supported by Iran has been put on full alert.

Text of EU Draft Resolution on Iran

The IAEA Board of Governors is debating the language of the Draft Resolution on Iran, which can be read in its entirety at the link below:

Text: European Draft Resolution on Iran

The epicenter of the document is as follows:

4. Deeply regrets that, despite repeated calls from the Board for the maintaining of the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities which the Board has declared essential to addressing outstanding issues, Iran resumed uranium conversion activities at its Isafahan facility on 8 August 2205 and took steps to resume enrichment activities on 10 January 2006;

5. Calls on Iran to understand that the Board lacks confidence in its intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capability against the background of Iran's record on safeguards as recorded in previous Resolutions, and unresolved questions; and to consider its position both in relation to confidence-building measures and in relation to negotiations that can result in increased confidence;

6. Requests Iran to extend full and prompt cooperation to the Agency, which the Director General deems indispensable and overdue, and in particular to help the agency clarify possible activities which could have a military nuclear dimension;

IAEA Stalls, Iran Referral Delayed

True to historical UN/IAEA form, the IAEA meeting to refer Iran is being stalled, even after the Permanent 5 of the UN Security Council have effctively demanded a referral.

The delay was due to continuing haggling between European Union powers and developing states on the text of an EU-sponsored resolution to notify the council of Iran's case, diplomats said.

This should not surprise. ElBaredei said himself yesterday that the Iranian nuclear crisis is “reaching a critical phase but it is not a crisis.”

This will develop throughout the day. Check here for the latest reports.

An Intolerable Threat

"Now that Saddam Hussein is in jail, the Iranian bomb is the gravest threat in the world to U.S. interests."

So reads the heart a column by the Opinion Journal editors as they lay out precisely why in clear and concise language.

The most immediate threat in the region would be to Israel, an ally that only this week President Bush said we would defend against Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly mused that the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map," and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said that "the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground whereas it will only damage the world of Islam." Why should we assume they don't mean this?

All the more so because Iran's current leaders seem possessed of an apocalyptic Islamist vision that wouldn't mind an episode of pan-global martyrdom. "We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return" of the Mahdi (Shiite Messiah), says Mr. Ahmadinejad.

February 2, 2006

A New Direction for China’s Defense Industry

That's the title of a new RAND publication that looks ahead at China's defense industrial complex, considering implemented improvements and advancements expected, rather than it's past inferiority.

Over the past 25 years, a prominent and consistent conclusion of Western research on China’s defense-industrial complex has been that it is rife with weaknesses and limitations. This study argues for an alternative approach. From the vantage point of 2005, it is time to shift the focus of research to the gradual improvements in and the future potential of China’s defense-industrial complex, rather than concentrating on its past and persistent weaknesses. Certain Chinese defense-industrial enterprises are designing and producing a wide range of increasingly advanced weapons that, in the short term, will enhance China’s military capabilities in a possible conflict over the future of Taiwan and, in the long term, China’s military position in Asia.

China observers may want to sit with this one for an evening. A nice companion to it is The Military Potential of China’s Commercial Technology of a few years ago. It's a fascinating read.

On the Radio... The World Tonight

I will be on the radio tonight with Rob Breakenridge, host of The World Tonight, at 10:05 PM Eastern. To listen online visit AM 770 CHQR and click LISTEN LIVE.

Iran: Always was ready to remove ambiguity?

According to Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran has "always been ready to remove ambiguities about its nuclear activities."

"Iran has always been ready to remove ambiguities about its nuclear activities. If, however, a historical mistake is made (involving the Security Council), Iran has to implement a law to suspend all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA," Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, said in a statement.

If that were the case, Iran would not have waited until the 11th hour to turn over a document detailing the molding of fissile material for a nuclear warhead, nor would they have underground facilities known to the West only through intelligence sharing from the MEK. That comment just leapt out of the article.

Sharansky: The price of ignoring Palestinians' needs

When Natan Sharansky speaks on the Palestinian issue and opines on the price of ignoring the Palestinian people's needs, it should be noted and read.

When Arafat died, I had hopes that perhaps a new path to peace would be taken. But it was not too be. Abbas was not told unequivocally that without serious reforms, he would receive no support from the free world. On the contrary, he was given a pass when he blatantly refused to confront terror groups...

...With the vote being a choice between corrupt terrorists dedicated only to themselves and honest terrorists who are also dedicated to others, is it any surprise that Hamas won by a landslide?

The Long Road Home

In a reversal of travel plans, some terrorists are leaving Iraq and coming to Afghanistan, MSNBC.com gets the headline backwards.

Al-Qaida militants are coming from Iraq to fight in the insurgency in Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Thursday after interrogating an Iraqi caught sneaking into the country illegally.

Meanwhile, police said a suicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up at an army checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing five Afghans, including three soldiers.

“There is a big group coming from Iraq,” Nimroz provincial Gov. Ghulam Dusthaqir Azad said. “They’re linked to al-Qaida and fought against U.S. forces in Iraq. They have been ordered to come here. Many are suicide attackers.”

UK to Iran: Stop Making Threats

A British official notes that Iran should give "some pause for thought" before continuing along the oft repeated path of threats, according to a VOA News report. Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Tony Blair suggested that Iran take note of the rare unity among the Permanent 5.

"It is important surely, at this moment, above all else that we say that they have to come back into compliance with their international obligations and we all support the action necessary to do so," he said. "Now we are pursing that, as I say, in front of the U.N. Security Council but its important that they understand from this House, I hope, that we are united in determining that they should not be able to carry on flouting their international obligations."

While the same montra from Iran has been repeated after every Western move since December ("Stop, or else we are going to resume enrichment!"), it seems as if Tony Blair and the unnamed 'senior British official' are saying in response, "We heard you. We got it. Now be quiet already."

February 1, 2006

US Navy in Indian Ocean Targeting Piracy, Terrorists

The US Navy has captured and boarded a suspected pirate ship in the Indian Ocean. EagleSpeak has the details.

In ordering a U.S. Navy destroyer to capture and board a suspected pirate ship on the high seas in the Indian Ocean, the United States has fired a warning shot across the bow of would-be terrorists who might lash up with pirates in the Asia-Pacific region...

If you want to follow maritime terrorism and piracy, EagleSpeak is like one-stop-shopping and should therefor be your daily first read for related news.

Taqiyya or Consequences: A Game Show Ahmadinejad Does Not Play

Taqiyya: Concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury.

Taqiyya has been practiced successfully in Iran, from Khomeini to Rafsanjani. But Ahmadinejad is different. And this is our blessing. It is important that the American (and European) public understand why.

Reuel Marc Gerecht explains why perfectly in Coming Soon: Nuclear Theocrats? in The Weekly Standard.

Even if Ahmadinejad understands, as Rafsanjani does, the tactical advantages of trying to drag out negotiations with the Europeans--stall and try to advance as much as possible all aspects of the nuclear-weapons program not under seal by United Nations inspectors--he must find the whole process morally revolting. These are men whom Western secularists, especially spiritually inert "realists," barely understand. Western foreign-policy experts hunt for rational calculations and geostrategic designs where what is staring them in the face is faith, defining, for warriors like Ahmadinejad, both right and wrong and the decisive contours of politics and strategic maps. Westerners firmly believe that corruption, omnipresent in Iran, means a loss of religious virtue and zeal. In fact, in clerical Iran there is relatively little friction between violent faith and graft.

Also, a very troubling yet honest observation regarding the Administration's probable approach to the Iranian crisis:

The State Department diplomats who devised this strategy probably knew in their hearts that they were seeing possibilities in the Europeans that did not exist. Foreign-service officers working France, Germany, and NATO in 2003 and 2004 knew the depth of the anti-Americanism in Berlin and the cynicism about a nuclear Iran in Paris. But nobody wanted to replace hope with reality, which would lead one to the inexorable conclusion that preventive military strikes were the only way of significantly delaying or derailing Tehran's nuclear program. It's a very good bet that the U.S. officials now running America's Iran policy would rather see the clerics go nuclear than deal with the world the day after Washington begins bombing Iran's atomic-weapons and ballistic-missile facilities.

Reuel Marc Gerecht has penned a Must Read.

MEK Calls for Sanctions to Boost Internal Overthrow of Mullah Regime

Maryam Rajavi of the Mujahedin el-Khalq held a press conference asking the West to resist appeasing or attacking Iran's mullah regime in the nuclear crisis, suggesting instead that sanctions, strong sanctions, would cause enough internal pain to inspire opposition groups (such as the MEK) into action. She spoke from the MEK's Paris headquarters.

Rajavi, 52, called for the West to avoid responding to Iran's nuclear ambitions with appeasement or a military invasion. Instead, she said political and economic sanctions would fortify democratic resistance among Iranians, with her group, whose name translates as People's Holy Warriors, serving as a vanguard.

"The Iranian resistance has a capacity to bring about change," Rajavi said. "Knowing this, the mullahs have always in their dealings with their foreign counterparts demanded the imposition of harsh restrictions on the resistance, branding it as terrorist and a sect."

Despite Rajavi's contention that she is a moderate Muslim espousing a peaceful, democratic Iran, her initiative seems a longshot at best.

Update/Note: It is difficult to discern what the LA Times' writer meant with the last quoted paragraph above, or precisely how he linked (with the word "Despite") her religeous/political beliefs with any conclusion of the likelihood of success of an internal regime change in Iran. It reads as a personal swipe, and the rest of the article goes on to criticize the MEK in one form or another rather than provide additional information supporting his assertion that an internal overthrow is unlikely. The challenges such an endeavor faces can be easily listed out.

While I do agree that, with every passing day, an internal overthrow is dauntingly more difficult (though not impossible), I fail to understand the logic of the last quoted paragraph above.

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