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April 30, 2006

Soon...Cuba

Eighty year old Castro is ailing. His named successor, his brother (74), is worse. And at the Strategy Page, a glimpse into the near future is offered, taking particular note of the younger generation of Cubans who will almost certainly lead a charge to supplant communist rule with a democratic system and the free-market economy that accompanies it.

But a new generation of Cubans have been exposed to many embarrassing truths. Most awkward was the fact that, half a century ago, Cuba was the most prosperous and socially advanced island in the Caribbean. Communist rule has changed all that. While the communist increased literacy, and trained a lot of doctors, Cuban reading habits are heavily censored, and the medical system is primitive because the feeble economy cannot afford medicine or equipment to deliver effective care. Cuba has become an economic basket case, when, without Castro and his communists, it could have become an economic powerhouse.

Young Cubans also know what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989, and what has happened there, politically and economically, since. Just to rub it in, the new tourism enterprises in Cuba are sometimes visited by newly affluent East Europeans, and the money earned tends to go to members and associates of the Castro family. There is growing anger and unrest. For half a century, the American invasion never came, and the scare story is wearing thin.

Surely there are young thinkers in Cuba writing amongst themselves and concluding nearly every effort with a trademark "Más rápidamente satisfaga."

Subterfuge over Iran's centrifuges

In an excellent commentary, the Christian Science Monitor hits the nail on the head with regards to the contradiction between Iran's stated peaceful intentions of their nuclear technology advances and Iran's agressive language regarding the regional security environment, including direct threats to Israel and strong-arm intimidation of its Gulf neighbors. The editors get there by examining the similarities between the UN-centric run-up to the war in Iraq and the current wrangling over Iran.

Parallels with the Bush administration's diplomatic build-up to the Iraq war cannot be ignored. But such a comparison is weakened by two other examples: the West persuading Libya to give up its nuclear program, and a patient three-year effort by the US and four Asian nations to talk North Korea out of its atomic bombs.

Both those examples suggest to some that the US talk directly to Iran. With Libya, such talks worked because it wanted economic benefits for its people. Talks with North Korea are failing because it prefers to brandish nuclear weapons as a way to wield power over its neighbors.

Iran, too, appears more interested in extending its regional and global power rather than lifting its people out of massive joblessness. If it wants nuclear weapons, then that goal doesn't appear to be defensive.

Indeed, Iran has a funny way of taking care of its people and conveying peace to its neighbors.

CEO Observations From Iraq

Have you ever heard of Business Executives for National Security (BENS)? One of those executives, Joseph E. Robert Jr., recently traveled to Iraq to see the situation for himself. His column in the Washington Post, Dedication and Danger in Iraq, is an important non-media observation. (Thanks Smash.)

I've had the opportunity to travel to Iraq three times, most recently last month, courtesy of the nonpartisan Business Executives for National Security. On every trip I'm struck by the difference between the Iraq I hear and read about back home and the Iraq I see in person. Iraq defies expectations and easy definition.

For me as a business executive, these visits provide a firsthand look at the largest U.S. reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan. As the father of a Marine who recently returned from a tour in Iraq, I find that these trips also offer a glimpse of our frontline troops that few military families ever see. Among my general impressions:

Read them here.

BENS is an incredible organization, offering leadership by example on how Americans can become involved and contribute to an ultimate victory in prosecuting the Global War on Terror. It is a generational war, requiring patience, steadfastness and perseverance. Many openly wonder where the 'Rosie the Riveter' spirit is today. That spirit is alive and well at BENS.

We at ThreatsWatch salute the members of Business Executives for National Security.

Closing in on Zarqawi?

The Marine Corps Times had an article noting that special forces units had come close to nabbing the bloodthirsty terrorist in mid-April.

Just nine days before al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released his latest video, a special operations raid killed five of his men, captured five others and apparently came within a couple of city blocks of nabbing Zarqawi himself.

Then, the day Zarqawi’s video debuted, special ops forces killed 12 more of his troops in a second raid in the same town.

The raids in Yusufiyah, 20 miles southwest of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, were the latest battles in a small, vicious war being waged largely in the shadows of the wider counterinsurgency effort.

The recent video release with Zarqawi was assuring all the he was alive and well & still on the warpath against Iraqis and Americans alike.

Today, consider the following from Reuters: US, Iraqi troops kill more than 20 foreign rebels

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 20 foreign insurgents, several of them wearing suicide vests, during raids south of Baghdad in the past few weeks, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

The raids took place in and around Yusifiya, a village 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, which insurgents have used as a staging area for suicide attacks in Baghdad, the military said in a statement. [snip]

U.S. and Iraqi forces captured seven wanted insurgents and detained more than 50 other suspects on Saturday during raids on locations believed to be safe houses for foreign fighters and al Qaeda-linked leaders, the military said.

Mixed Humor of Security Watchtower sent a heads up to that story this morning, forwarding a press release from Multi-National Force Iraq citing the same and almost certainly the source of the Reuters story. He normally has a quick reaction time, so be sure to add Security Watchtower to your list of monitored sites today (and going forward).

Also, see the Counterterrorism Blog for more on Zarqawi and Task Force 145, the Task Force hunting down the biggest and most dangerous enemy to the fledgling democracy that is Iraq.

One thing is for certain, if Zarqawi is not among the captured or killed on this day, the noose is tightening and that day may be close at hand.

France Chooses Wrong Side Of History

France's recent history regarding its foreign relations with the Middle East is stark indeed, and its continuing policies of appeasement have not given France the open-arm welcome it expected. In 2003, although France condemned Saddam's actions, France would not support military action against Iraq. As was later proven, France was actively violating UN sanctions by maintaining lucrative financial contacts with Saddam's regime. The fall of Iraq would highlight France's complicity in continuing to keep Saddam armed in the lead up to the war, which also put them on the wrong side of the war.

France's open immigration policy resulted in extensive unemployment for Muslim immigrants and first generation youth born to immigrants. They rioted extensively last fall - torching significant parts of France. The French government seemed surprised that the immigrants were not content with just being in France - they actually wanted much more. Standing as a beacon to the naive, France continues its resistance to history's lessons.

Why would France promote funding for the Palestinian Authority?

Standing aside Chirac was PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is on a European tour playing the role of the Palestinian moderate. "The international community should give this new government the opportunity to express itself, to adapt, to harmonize itself with international law," Abbas said. "Hamas is adapting. Hamas is today a government, a responsible government with ministers who are working with neighbors, with the Israelis and the world."

Excuse me? Hamas has expressed itself very clearly - the ultimate goal of Hamas is the complete removal of Israel. The only concession it has made to date has been to begin negotiations regarding Israel's surrender and a complete Jewish withdrawal, only if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders. As for complying with international law, the government has to do that from inception - there is no grace period. Hamas has been in the big chair now for exactly one month. In that time, there's been two suicide bombings, thirteen murdered Israeli civilians. And now nearly complete anarchy in Gaza.

Yes, there have been plenty of Palestinians killed in the past month, too. Violence begets violence - with Hamas declarations in open support of terrorism, Israel has no choice but to act against any perceived impending terrorist acts. The Palestinians will continue to die as long as their so-called legitimate government incites them to act against Israel. If Hamas renounced violence and began controlling its people, then it would be acting as a government should. Its current course is destructive, not only for itself, but for its people.

If France chooses this course of action, then Hamas would use the donations from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Russia for other purposes. France cannot see this? The U.S. and its allies who refuse to fund Hamas are using a UN-approved method of taking a peaceful approach in getting a rogue government to act within the boundaries of the civilized world. The funding that we're talking about is aid - we simply give it and expect a minimal level of gratitude in response. We have no contractual requirement to give away our money and morally, we cannot give it to one country so that it can be used against one of our allies. Is France so myopic?

And Hamas, for their part, appreciate France's efforts.

Hamas, which is not asked to make any compromise to its position in order to have the PA salaries paid – including those of tens of thousands of Hamas members and terrorists – did not object to the plan. "Any means that will maintain the authority of the government and the preservation of money and at the same time help the Palestinian people we will study and think about thoroughly," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said of the proposal.

It is considerate on the part of Hamas to study and think about free money from France so that it can continue its war against Israel. French foreign policy defies logic and will continue to put France on the wrong side of history..

April 29, 2006

Proud Crusaders: Zawahiri Transcript

Evan Kohlmann has published the transcript of Zawahiri's latest message at the Counterterrorism Blog. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is below:

"As for the second thing I wish to talk to you about, it is the dark fate towards which the traitor Musharraf is pushing Pakistan. Without a doubt, Pakistan is one of the most important of the countries targeted by this new colonialist Crusade which seeks to weaken Pakistan and fragment it into entities under the control of India, which is allied with the Americans and Jews."

al-Qaeda is calling for the overthrow of Musharraf. Not exactly news. We've been one bullet away from one less ally in the War on Terror since late 2001.

One thought echoed persistent while reading through Zawahiri's latest pearls of wisdom.

Why do Western analysts and media give any credence to or even repeat the folly put forth that America has declared War on Islam? Is there ever a communiqué, tape, video or text posting from our adversaries that does not mention, defame or threaten the evil 'Jews'?

Zawahiri names Americans, people of a specific nationality. He also names Jews...a people of a specific faith.

Often, the hatred and open warfare against this religious group is not even veiled thinly as to be referred to as 'Israel'.

And we are the crusaders?

Not hardly.

Russia Continues Daily Anti-American Propaganda

What will Pravda come up with next? The evil multi-culturalism of America is today's topic to attack America. And as I begin all commentary regarding a Pravda article, Pravda is the mouthpiece of the Russian government. Also note that Pravda is Russian for "truth." An oxymoron to minimize all other oxymorons within this world. I'll let quotes from the article speak for themselves - they are actually quite humorous:)

Not much logic to history. Big names in civilizations come and go, at the whim of unpredictable trends and processes. One of the ugly realities of modernity is that the world has become a junkyard of failed ideologies. To live in the present is like trying to relax on the comfortable porch of a home surrounded by unsightly putrid piles of garbage. (The upside of this situation is that the thinking person can identify the values which are worth cultivating, simply by noting what is missing in the failed ideologies). One ugly ideology of the present is what I call Americanism: the politics, culture, and morality of the United States since the mid-twentieth century.

The crude propaganda of the Soviet Union pales in comparison with the spin which America has produced. Clintons excelled at it (though to the point, finally, that no one believed Bill at all), but George W. is perhaps as good (thanks to his speechwriters and neoconservative mentors). A prime reserve of America’s current dishonesty, on the war, for example, is the mouth of W., rancher and former baseball magnate, who prides himself on his aloofness from world history, geography, and reality. W. claims publicly to be guided by his identification with American-style Christianity. (The Bush dynasty is diplomatically areligious. W. is a “born-again” Evangelical, though recently I saw an internet photo of W. toting a large Talmud. George Sr. attends Anglican worship. Jeb claims he’s Catholic. One envisions a scenario in which future Bushes enthusiastically embrace victorious Islam).

The American experiment now has been taken to its logical conclusion. America functioned well under the system of the melting pot, according to which my ancestors in America were required to sacrifice their language and culture. America once had some sort of common system of values, but lost it after the 1960s, when America embraced moral and cultural relativism, political correctness, and sham multiculturalism. It’s true that periodically W. and other Americans publicly thump a leather-bound Bible, or even display tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, but that’s mainly for show and no longer signifies the deepest convictions of the majority of Americans.

True human multiculturalism is a marvelous thing. America’s multiculti is a lie, outrageous as the grossest piece of Soviet propaganda. The Soviet Union, ultimately, was consigned to the trash heap of human history. Without the Soviet threat, Americanism is now irrelevant. As with other once great civilizations, America and Americanism are perishing.

Interesting view of things and this author's diatribe contains just enough truthful elements to be convincing to the uninformed. The good news is that although Russians read Pravda, they are like American readers of the World Weekly News (this week's headline - Titanic never sank!) - they read it for entertainment value, not information. The new Socialist, yet Capitalist, Russian, yet Soviet, Communist, yet Democratic Republic continues its efforts to take over the world (visualize if you will, a cat, paws raised, an evil grin on its furry face)!

Terror Tax - Maybe Some Hope

Although gasoline prices would not normally be a topic for these pages, high oil prices benefit countries that we would prefer were not benefitted (Iran and Venezuela , for example). With Venezuela's diplomatic support of Iran (the enemy of my enemy) and Iran's open support for the likes of Hezbullah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda in Iraq, profits for Iran translate into the terror tax, direct funding for terrorism against Israel, the West, and surprisingly (or not to those who have studied the history of the Middle East) other Muslims!

The Republicans in the Senate actually wrote a bill that attempts to placate current concerns regarding high energy prices, without penalizing capitalism (no new taxes on oil profits), and recognizing that we must take full advantage of our own natural resources (proposed drilling in ANWR), and then address a longer term concern, vehicle fuel economy until alternatives can be engineered (like hydrogen fuel). Although market capitalism won't really be affected by this bill, the key element is recognizing that we must limit our foreign dependence.

Despite the jockeying for political advantage, economists and energy experts generally agreed that the government has few, if any, immediate powers to drive pump prices down from their $3-plus perch.

But the political wrangling, the back and forth gotcha-game that is defining 2006 continues.

"It's a bold package to help consumers ... to help ease the pain," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. He promised a vote on the measures by Tuesday.

"We are going to ease the burden," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats criticized the GOP proposal because it linked attempts at short-term relief with oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge; the exploration idea has divided the Senate for decades.

"It's designed to protect Big Oil while mistakenly believing that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will solve America's energy problems," said Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley.

I personally don't see how exploiting our own available resources is a mistake. The unspoken end of Reid's position is that "by not drilling in ANWR, we continue our dependence on foreign oil, which means we continue to pay the terror tax." I understand that the long-term solution is less dependence on oil - that much we all agree on. Oil is a limited commodity, but like all things, it can be replaced when there is sufficient need. Right now, the technology is not up to speed on delivering a technical alternative. Hydrogen may be the way, but then again, there might be something else - there are smart people working on this all over the world - we need to support and laud their efforts, encouraging those with promise (and not simply throwing money at the problem, which encourages sensationalism and corruption). Nuclear power for domestic electricity may be an answer. All alternatives need to be looked into. But in the very short term, we need to limit our dependence from overseas suppliers. The Democrats offer no near-term alternatives besides continued payment of the Terror Tax. This is the most unacceptable of all options.

Against Iran Conflict? Start Supporting Iraq

If one speaks to an anti-Iraq War activist (or inactivist complainer) and asks about conflict with Iran, the response is almost guaranteed to be anti-Iran Conflict as well. Yet, it has always amazed me that the so-called peace-loving leftists not only had no problem sentencing Iraqis to a dictatorship of torture, rape and oppression (nor have no problem with the same for Iranians), but that they somehow seemingly make a connection between the lack of US action of any type and a sudden outbreak of peace and harmony throughout the region. If an individual is of the position that American action on Iran is to be avoided, then that individual had better start supporting the government attempting to stand and hold together in Iraq.

So obsessed, it seems, with proving themselves right, they would sentence entire peoples to brutal dictatorships. So obsessed, it seems, with opposing their own president, they gain satisfaction with every bad news report from Iraq (essentially meaning nearly every dominant media assessment).

Driving to work today (and every day), the radio news opened with a one sentence report. "In Iraq, an American soldier was killed by an IED today." That was it. Just wanted to let you know that a man died. That Iraq is bad. No mention of his unit nor what they may have been doing. No mention of where the attack had taken place. No mention of where he was from or why he joined the military service he had chosen. No mention of anything other than Iraq = Dead. The media often claims that they cannot announce the name because it had not been released at the time.

Is there an off chance that tomorrow, for the first time, that same station will revisit the story and inform me of the man behind the sacrifice? Of course not.

That's Matt's job, not theirs.

Perhaps those who read, hear, see or make such reports to confirm their self-righteous correctness rather than mourn and/or respect the sacrifice made should consider the words of Victor Davis Hanson [Thanks, Bruce Kesler] from an interview with Hugh Hewitt Thursday (transcript courtesy Radio Blogger):

HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, then, how significant are the days in which we are living? Because the alternative to doing that, and you make it sound remote, and I have to agree if it was a different president, I would think it was remote. The prospect of a nuclear Iran is really extraordinary.

VDH: I think it is, and more importantly, this is a man who says that he's the biggest supporter of Hamas, and yet from his rhetoric, you understand he's willing, probably, to send a missile into East Jerusalem as if 50 kilotons can tell the difference between East and West Jerusalem. I mean, that's how he treats his friends like the Palestinians. He says I'll help you by nuking the people right next to you. I mean, it's crazy. He listens to a voice in a well. He thinks people can't blink, and we don't know to what degree this is staged or real. So we don't have a lot of options. It's bad and worse. Oddly enough, the people who don't want to use military force under any circumstances in Iran should be the biggest supporters of what's going on in Iraq. Because with this recent presidential change, there's a good chance that we could end up with a government that would prove very destabilizing to the theocracy in Iran. But to say you can't use force in Iran, and yet you're not for what we're doing in Iraq, then you really don't have any options that are peaceful.

But their point is not that they disagree with the Iraq War or even conflict with Iran as much as it is that they disagree with the man who defeated their candidates twice. Do not forget that even when Afghanistan was invaded, the opposition was one founded on quagmire and the Russian experience, which we were doomed to repeat at the hands of the invincible Islamic warriors. They predicted massive casualties...as if they cared about any one of them.

And that says a lot about what is wrong today with the Land of Happy Meals and the K-Mart Shoppers who inhabit it. They would rather lose a war and ignore a tyrannical state sponsor of terrorism racing toward nuclear weapons than be wrong in public.

Is there a Harry Truman alive today?

April 28, 2006

Sunnis, Shias & Soviets

Over at OPFOR, Charlie takes a look at a new Mid East Order comprised of a rising Shia Crescent, a rising Sunni Crescent and old Soviet client states (Syria, Egypt and Algeria).

We all know main story of what’s going on in the Middle East, but I want analyze a possible new direction: a Shia Crescent rising, a Sunni Crescent rising, and the secular, Soviet client state’s desperate fight against a)America, b)Extremism, and c)Israel. Things are (have been/will be/always have been) getting worse, and things are reaching a boiling point. Countries are arming themselves to the teeth for what they see as a coming war, Imams are preaching, nuclear weapons are being pursued, and in the middle of it all, the US military, along with the national interest and any hope for peace in the region hangs precariously. Let’s break down what we know:

For that, you'll have to go read.

Sneak Peek at IAEA Iran Report

With excellent sources, the good people at Vital Perspective are able to provide a sneak peek at the IAEA report on Iran, and it appears to be rather damning for Iran. [Note: This decidedly does not mean that anything concrete will come as a result.]

Vital Perspective noted an important segment of text which can be used to support the note above.

The report states that "gaps remain in the Agency's [IAEA] knowledge with respect to the scope and content of Iran's centrifuge programme. Because of this, and other gaps in the Agency's knowledge, including the role of the military in Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency is unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."

This is nothing new from the IAEA. They have maintained this throughout the crisis. It should be noted that the IAEA solution has always been more talks on more inspections. Expect this 'solution' to reappear as the answer again, ultimately with the same result.

At some point, it must be publicly (or even privately?) acknowledged that the IAEA - or anyone else for that matter - will see precisely what Iran wants to show them. No more and no less.

Ultimately, this futile process must be abandoned.

Denial of Service Attack

As you might have noticed, many sites - including ThreatsWatch - have been down this morning due to a denial of service attack on Hosting Matters.

At the moment, ThreatsWatch's dedicated server is available again - and the other sites hosted on it are up and running.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Annual Terrorism Report

A real short note here - expect a highly politicized attack on the Bush Administration starting at just after noon today. The State Department's annual terrorism report will show that terror attacks have risen sharply. My G-d! That's terrible! How could that have happened?

Because Congressional legislation changed how we count. So the rise is not attributable to a rise in attacks, but that man other types of violence are now included in the report. When you see the Democratic news conferences after noon today, expect that the rise in the number will be the primary talking point, with a follow-on that the Republicans are not stopping terrorism. Be prepared because it is coming.

Refer to the preview report from CNN. The key section that makes this year's number an apple and orange comparison to last year's number is as follows.

The official said the incidence of terrorist acts tallied in this year's report will be up significantly because of new congressional legislation mandating that domestic acts of terrorism be counted as well. For example, deaths as a result of sectarian attacks among Iraq's ethnic groups will be counted, as will around 30,000 kidnappings by Maoists in Nepal.

The important points for the warfighters in this report are that the terrorist groups are more decentralized and more lethal. Refer to my previous posts regarding the Global Jihad (here and here). The train is heading down the tracks and neither bin Laden, Zawahiri, or al Zarqawi can control it. Glick's article describes how the groups have expanded the war. Like a black hole of evil, everything nearby gets sucked in. The clash of civilizations is underway and this report will show that extremist Islam is everywhere.

Unfortunately, what I predict that you will hear on the news after the report is made official today is that Bush is failing - "Just look at the numbers!" "Look how bad the other guy is - vote for me!" And politics is the last thing we need if we are serious about fighting a war to keep civilization free.

Global Jihad Update

Refer to our primary article in the PrincipleAnalysis section, for the background and overview of the ongoing clash of civilizations. In today's Jewish World Review comes an analysis by Caroline Glick, who breaks down the links between the key terrorist personalities and groups, showing a tapestry of evil that includes Israel, Jordan, Egypt and others who had been on the outside of the Global Jihad.

The face of the enemy has changed. If in the past it was possible to say that the war being waged against Israel was unique and distinct from the global jihad, after the events of the past week, it is no longer possible to credibly make such a claim. Four events that occurred this week — the attacks in the Sinai; the release of Osama bin Laden's audiotape; the release of Abu Musab Zarqawi's videotape; and the arrest of Hamas terrorists by Jordan — all proved clearly that today it is impossible to separate the wars. The new situation has critical consequences for the character of the campaign that the IDF must fight to defend Israel and for the nature of the policies that the incoming government of Israel must adopt and advance.

The unsettling conclusion of Glick's article is the consensus we've reached at Threats Watch - the Islamist cause has united groups that have only one thing in common - hatred. The enemy of my enemy...

While al Qaida today is setting its sights on Israel and its neighbors, the arrests of Hamas terrorists this week in Jordan shows that for their part, the Palestinians are working to advance the global jihad. The Hamas attempt to carry out attacks in Jordan points to a change in Hamas's self-perception. They have gone from being local terrorists to being members of the Islamist axis, which is led by Iran and includes Syria, al Qaida and Hizbullah.

...

As the attacks in Egypt, the arrests in Jordan and the bin Laden and Zarqawi messages this week all indicated, we find ourselves today in a world war. The Palestinians are no longer the ones waging the war against us. The Islamist axis now wages the war against us through the Palestinians. The center of gravity, like the campaign rationale of the enemy, has moved away. Today, the decision-makers who determine the character and timing of the terror offensives are not sitting in Gaza and or Judea and Samaria. They are sitting in Tehran, Waziristan, Damascus, Beirut, Amman and Falujah. The considerations that guide those that order the trigger pulled are not local considerations, but regional considerations at best and considerations wholly cut off from local events at worst.

Take a look at the entire article - a lot of names, groups, and undeniable coordination. She makes her case so that the new Israeli government will refine its approach to dealing with terrorism and stop the plan for withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

April 27, 2006

Counterterrorism in African Failed States

The US Army's Strategic Studies Institute has published a new monograph by Colonel Thomas Dempsey that is well worth your time: Counterterrorism in African Failed States: Challenges and Potential Solutions. The monograph focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, principally the failed states of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Somalia.

Al Qaeda established terrorist hubs in Liberia and Sierra Leone to exploit the illegal diamond trade, laundering money, and building connections with organized crime and the illegal arms trade. In Somalia, Al Qaeda and Al Ittihad Al Islami established terrorist hubs that supported terrorist operations throughout East Africa. A new organization led by Aden Hashi ’Ayro recruited terrorist nodes that executed a series of attacks on Western nongovernment organization (NGO) employees and journalists within Somalia.

Analysis of these groups suggests that while the terrorist nodes in failed states pose little threat to the interests of the United States or its GWOT partners, terrorist hubs operating in the same states may be highly dangerous. The hubs observed in these three failed states were able to operate without attracting the attention or effective sanction of the United States or its allies. They funneled substantial financial resources, as well as sophisticated weaponry, to terrorist nodes operating outside the failed states in which the hubs were located. The threat posed by these hubs to U.S. national interests and to the interests of its partners is significant, and is made much more immediate by the growing risk that nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) will fall into terrorist hands.

The burgeoning proliferation of nuclear weapons and the poor security of some existing nuclear stockpiles make it more likely that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda will gain access to nuclear weapons. The accelerating Iranian covert nuclear weapons program, estimated to produce a nuclear capability within as little as one year, is especially disturbing in this context. A failed state terrorist hub that secures access to a nuclear weapon could very conceivably place that weapon in the hands of a terrorist node in a position to threaten vital American national interests.

Dempsey brings into the fold the loss of control over WMD assets in the former Soviet Union and the employment of their WMD scientists abroad in states such as Iran, North Korea and Syria.

More recent reporting on the situation is hardly more encouraging. A survey in 2002 of 602 Russian scientists working in the Russian WMD sector revealed that roughly 20 percent of the Russian scientists interviewed expressed a willingness to work for nations identified as WMD proliferators: Iran, North Korea or Syria. Most recently, Busch and Holmes have catalogued the efforts of rogue states and of Al Qaeda to acquire nuclear weapons capability from the inadequately controlled Russian nuclear sector, and have identified the human element of that sector as being especially vulnerable. When viewed in combination with the growing influence and reach of Russian organized crime, the lack of security in the Russian weaponized nuclear technology sector represents a significant risk of nuclear capability finding its way into the hands of terrorist hubs. Exacerbating this risk are the efforts of non-nuclear states that are seeking to develop a nuclear strike capability.

An excellent monograph and a pretty good primer on what may become the next major visible theater in the GWoT.

Demise of America

According to this editorial in Pravda, America's vices are now Russia's problems, thanks to America.

"That country is drowning in vices directly linked to the West’s concept of inherent rights and liberties: abortion; homosexuality; dissolution of traditional marriage; pornography; slavery, prostitution, and exploitation of the oppressed, etc."

Pravda remains the propaganda organ of the Russian Government. Who would this article be pandering to? Would it be a liberal expose, telling Russian society that its problems are not its fault? Or would it be a payback to Iran - this editorial seems eerily reminiscent of Extremist Islam's view of the West.

I focus here on similarities between America and the Soviet Union, two rival systems which have collapsed. Both systems boasted some admirable ideals. There was a period of several decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when America offered immigrants numerous opportunities, which many citizens took advantage of. The Soviet record is more spotted. It took me some time to understand the Soviets’ rabid anti-religiousness. Why did the Soviets work so tirelessly to destroy traditional Russian culture, much of which is, in fact, oriented towards biblical Christian socialism?

I don't even know where to begin in commenting on that last paragraph. Biblical Christian socialism? The Soviet Union? I must have missed something in a byline somewhere. The Soviets destroyed thousands of churches. The only thing "biblical" about the Soyuz was its attempt to enact Armageddon upon anyone professing faith in a higher being than the Chairman of the Central Committee.

Democracy for several generations now has not existed in America. The large corporations continue to increase their power, irregardless of the red or blue façade of the regime. The moral pedigree of a Clinton is as nasty as that of a Bush. As identified by a recent controversial study ignored by the American media, it is, indeed, a cabal of pro-Israeli groups which controls America’s purse-strings and foreign policy.

And now it becomes clear - yes, this is a payback to Iran. Mention the Jews and climb right into bed with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least since the author is a man, he can look upon another man's body, without shame or fear of reprisal. And here's the winning non-emotional, well-reasoned conclusion from Mr. O'Donnell (although I would say that he has a couple points in there).

It is the twenty-first century. America is rat-infested history. America will fall, overrun by fatwah-inspired Muslims; wild, dispossessed, self-identified Apache or Aztec guerillas; looting, reparations-deluded African-Americans; indignant Eskimos; flaming cross-dressers and advocates of every sort of politically correct nonsense. History doesn’t last forever, and anyway, America had a couple of good centuries before it turned to cr*p.

Free Speech Abused

Another attack on an institution that has kept this country strong - UNC Chapel Hill's ROTC Armory was violated by those who are obviously under a misperception that there is both a draft and a war where we send cannon fodder (conscripts) - h/t Michelle Malkin. A few points for the perpetrator(s).

Assuming that it is our war - so what? We're fighting it clearly without your help and without needing your help. You are free to go on about your life as you wish, without any interference from the military.

Your right to free speech is defended by the very souls behind these doors. And you have your rights to speak out in protest for any issue of your choice. But that right does not extend to breaking the law. Painting graffiti is a crime - a misdemeanor, mind you, but still a crime. And since this is ostensibly a federal facility (rent paid by federal funds), then you may have committed a federal crime. If that's how you want your curriculum vitae to read, more power to you. Generally, convicted criminals don't do to well in the job market. Maybe you intend to join the Peace Mom's hug-a-thugathon and you would be welcomed with open arms.

You also have the right to choose in North Carolina - you can choose any course of action you deem best for yourself. But then you must be willing to accept the consequences of your actions, the result of your decision. The men and women in ROTC will risk their lives at some point during their careers - they've been informed of this on the way in. And they agreed to it - they exercised their freedom to choose. If they have to kill people in the line of their future duty, they'll also have to live with that for the rest of their lives. And they are willing to do this because they believe in the freedom and liberty that Americans enjoy. And you also believe this, otherwise you would not freely protest your point of view that a world without war would be a great world indeed.

If only you could guarantee that all others would so readily accept peace, but you cannot. The argument that peace starts at home is fallacious. What did some 2700 civilians who worked in the Twin Towers have to do with Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan? Governments are bad - not people. The international cast working in the World Trade Centers on 9/11 did not deserve their fate. The argument over Iraq is a wash at this point - we are there. A reasonable debate is what is best for the people of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world as a whole.

What is the real issue that causes you to paint such things on the ROTC building? Did you lose your girlfriend to a ROTC guy because he was more manly? Or are you jealous? Not everyone is cut out for the military - many are in who should not be. That's really okay. You can make the world a better place in your own way, without resotring to trying to tear down those who are comfortable with themselves and their decisions. In order to maintain the very high standard of officers - those who will take responsibility for the lives of those in their charge, the government needs to continue recruiting. If you don't like the recruiting, ignore it. Don't talk with recruiters or military people. That's the free choice these folks have given you. Enjoy it without breaking the law, though.

I was enlisted for eight years. I was selected for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program and attended the University of Arizona as an active duty USMC Sergeant. We wore our uniforms every Wednesday. We were attached to the Naval ROTC unit. They wore their midshipmen uniforms. I was assailed on more than one occasion by anti-war students. One called me a baby killer. I retorted without thinking, "Too bad it wasn't you." I regretted it the second I said it. I confirmed his opinion of me and lost the intellectual battle. Later, I was spit on, in my USMC Charlie uniform. My response to this individual was much more thoroughly contemplated. "And I'll die for your right to do that." My personal experiences with these individuals was that they were not brave enough to be in the military, so they wanted to show how tough they were. The difference in maturity is that I knew who the enemy was - not these fresh-out-of-the-parent's home kids, but the enemies of America. At the time, it was still the Soviet Union, but the Soyuz was crumbling before our eyes. Saddam quickly rose to fill the void...

Recently at the University of Pittsburgh, I observed socialist youth preparing to march in support of Venezuela and Cuba. No problem - this is the way peaceful, law-abiding Americans demonstrate. But around the Pitt campus, there were also stickers dropping the F-bomb on the military recruiters. The gist was to keep the recruiters off "our" campuses. Excuse me, but these campuses receive significant funds from the U.S. Government - for those funds, the campuses agree to support Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, non-discrimination, etc. and to allow military recruiters on campus to ply their trade. The USG bought and paid for this right and the Supreme Court recently supported it. If you don't want to see military recruiters, go to a completely private school. If you can't afford that, then you have to deal with what the USG has paid to help you with. Most disconcerting was an organization titled "Militant Labor" that seemed to be a bit more than just a socialist youth group. Another group supported the militaryfreezone.com (won't link to these folks - communist socialists. Their ignorance doesn't deserve a hit on their web page).

And a final note - the folks who love war the least are the ones who have to fight in it. But the bravery and yes, honor of this next generation of officers deserves your tolerance at the very least, if not your respect.

The Colonel Hunt Welcome Mat

There is likely not much doubt that Colonel David Hunt's welcome mat on his front doorstep says "Go Away". But, as Murdoc notes, this is precisely why we like him. It's his job and he's a master at it.

There was a lot of griping going on after the ultimate alpha male, Colonel David Hunt, challenged the panelists during the Blogging from Theater session at the MilBlog Conference. To be sure, he seemed even antagonizing, eliciting spirited responses from both panel and audience alike. But, there was a method to his madness that needs to be acknowledged, and has been quite well by Murdoc Online with 'Tainted' Embeds and the role of MilBloggers

Murdoc doesn't think that MilBlogs are ever going to replace Legacy Media or DoD press releases. Though a valuable fact-checking service will be provided, and little glimpses into things otherwise unseen will be available, the majority of Americans are not going to be getting their news from MilBlogs any time soon. And if they were, you can bet that anti-war MilBlog-ish sites would be popping up like weeds to counteract the perception of "good news" offered by a substantial number of MilBlogs.

This, Murdoc thinks, is part of what Col. Hunt was getting at. He wanted to know if we thought the American public was ready to get their news from unfiltered blogs. If the military should bypass Legacy Media and just stream the goodies down to those in pajamas.

Murdoc makes outstanding points, including the following:

Even most of the sites that aspire to more than general diary-like personal reporting do not have the means and resources to get across what needs to be communicated. Not in a way that's understandable by John Q Public. "An Army of Davids" MilBloggers might be, but no one is going to be able to keep up with enough of the Davids to really be able to understand what they need to understand about Iraq and the military. And don't kid yourself that, even if some of the MilBlogs get "big" enough to actually do this, they won't be facing some of the same issues (pressure from advertisers and other sources of funding, for instance) currently faced by Legacy Media. Are MilBloggers valuable? Yes. Very. But they're not a full-on replacement for traditional journalism.

Craig and I agree that Murdoc makes great points, and Craig notes further that he wishes Murdoc would have concluded stronger, reasserting the importance of MilBlogs. I think we probably agree for the most part there, too.

Regardless, Col. Hunt challenged the panel and evoked at times heated discussion. What he was getting at, in pure Hunt fashion, cannot be overlooked. Murdoc does well to point that out.

Colonel Hunt is a Marine's Marine, and might well eat tree bark and kittens. Get over it. But what was he trying to drive towards (or stick our noses into) while we were busy patting ourselves on the back, as Murdoc aptly notes?

Pro Cuba/Venezuela Rally Planning Meeting

On my Strategic Outlook Institute blog (in the before-time), I published a piece on a pro Cuba/Venezuela march to be conducted in D.C. on May 20th. Somebody at the University of Pittsburgh had posted many flyers conspicuously, inviting anyone interested to a planning meeting on April 27th. I surreptitiously observed the planning meeting that happened last night. Here's what I found.

These kids are harmless. There were six of them - three men and three women. They were individually unremarkable, probably not in the "popular" circles at their high schools, continuing this trend into college. I was never a fan of those circles myself, by the way. However, these youth are "socialists" only because it is a group they can relate to and be accepted whole-heartedly into. I will boldly state - we need kids like these, but please, allow me to explain.

The best lessons are ones learned first hand. How much do you really learn from a lecture? These kids are undoubtedly intelligent, but idealists. The freedoms that support their right to protest for a system that would not give them that freedom seems self explanatory. Yet it is not. Their only argument in support of socialism and Stalinist communism is that if they were under that utopian system, then there would be no need to protest. Reality says that no one ever agrees 100% with another. Without the right to protest, how could the chosen government understand what policies or programs are not acceptable to the people?

Sidenote: They used the Cartman (South Park) school of thought regarding getting people to attend the meeting - "free punch and pie." Although the pie was lacking, there were jugs of some beverage available for the attendees.

This group from the University of Pittsburgh will learn that lesson at some point in life. They will become born-again capitalists as they see the strength in the economic system and that a democratic government gave the economy the foundation from which to thrive. I understand that socialism is an economic system and communism is a political system, but this group is going to D.C. on May 20th to march in support of Venezuela and Cuba - they have chosen politics. The head of the planning committee, Ryan on the flyer, is also as I've discovered, is the leader of the Young Socialists. So the two are intertwined in this case.

The rights to free speech and to assemble are critical for our democracy to remain strong. This group is a testament to the strength of our system of liberties. They will not change anything with their protest, but they will also not be arrested for protesting peacefully or harassed in any way. Welcome to the free and protected society that you are not fully supporting. But if you feel there is an injustice, let your voice be heard!

And as the Geico commercial points out (from a caveman's perspective) - "Next time, do a little research." Venezuela has been hijacked by Hugo Chavez under the guise of a better life. He has taken power, limited democracy, and removed freedoms from the people. He is in power to stay. The people are gaining a new level of equality - they are all becoming equally poor, but above the poverty line (for Venezuela). That is the real-world result of Stalinist communism. Visit what was East Germany, go to Russia and get outside of Moscow - what you'll see is gray. Gray buildings and seemingly lifeless people. More than 15 years after the fall of Communism in Russia, they are still trying to dig themselves out of the gray lives that were created for them. Go to Cuba - you'll see much of the same.

This socialist students group needs to search for the truth. The U.S. has a responsibility to the world to keep everything working smoothly. If Venezuela halts oil sales to the U.S., it would affect the entire world. Yes, we like our lifestyles, but the rest of the world likes theirs, too. This group will eventually learn the right lessons the hard way and they will be harshly welcomed into the real world. We need these kids - they will be our strongest advocates once they have learned the truth.

April 26, 2006

Kinder, Gentler Marines

Between Craig's Chernobyl Remembered and my own Stolen Honor Reclaimed, has anyone ever heard of more Marines crying? I mean really, this is not good for our image or testosterone levels, though former President George H. W. Bush may be proud of the kinder, gentler Marines.

So long as no one tells Captain B or Taco, I think we'll be alright. B's a man's man and Taco is like his alter ego. Taco lacks for nothing manly, mind you. But, after sitting with them for lunch Saturday, it occurred to me that these two friends have different approaches to problem solving. Captain B's likely to unscrew your head while Taco is likely to negotiate a 'fair' settlement (Marine style of course), both arriving at the same ultimate final resolution.

I think it's time to refocus on Iran ASAP. All of this commentary is devastating to our image and my own ego. I prefer to keep the knuckle-dragging illiterate persona astutely noted by John of OpFor. This introspective sensitivity nonsense just has to stop.

United 93 Follow-Up

Steve posted on this a week ago, but as more reviews come out, I'd like to offer an update from Michael Smerconish on his review of the movie.

United 93 is a must. And nothing you hear or read about it, including this, will fully prepare you for the experience. Go see this movie. It's two hours that will strengthen our constitution as a nation at any crossroads that we may confront in the war on terror. And exactly what we all need to watch on a regular basis to stay focused on eradicating those who threaten our freedom.

I was in D.C., not far from the Pentagon on 9/11 - as nearly all of you, I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing when reports of the attack came. We were quickly ushered out of work - to minimize the profile of congregated military personnel at vulnerable facilities. On the way home, that fateful day, I not only saw the oily smoke rising from the Pentagon, and smelled the burning of jet fuel, an unmistakable odor to a Marine aviation Weapons and Tactics Instructor. There was an eery silence as no aircraft flew overhead - strange for the nation's capitol. I retired after Afghanistan was liberated from evil and moved to the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, not far from Shanksville.

In arguably the most politically charged environment in our nation's history, he made a movie about a historical event in a manner devoid of politics. This is not a movie for only red or blue state America, nor a picture for either Fox News or CNN viewers, but for all Americans. That is not to say that issues of ineptitude or un-preparedness are swept under the rug. While the movie does not point fingers, it documents plenty of ill-equipped government actors and an abundance of chaos. United 93 is incredibly well filmed and scored. The jerky nature of the footage befits the events, and the sound that accompanies the imagery is just right. The reality that comes from the replica aircraft and actual locations used in filming is simply awesome.

The United 93 memorial has had some rocky times, but is finally gelling into something that America will be proud to stand and say that this is where America first fought back in the War on Terror. This is your average American, gave his life for the lives of others - the highest honor that one can bestow upon another. This is not from the Marine Corps handbook, but from the bible (Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13).

This is a movie where we all know the ending. And yet, the climax is still a suspenseful moment. Nothing can prepare you for actually seeing the events... Go watch this weekend, while a portion of your admission will go to the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville. And prepare for an unusual movie experience. In my case it was a surreal moment when I realized that in my theatre was a local woman who bears the emotional scars of what happened that day. Ellen Saracini, the widow of UA Flight 175 pilot Victor Saracini, whose flight was referenced time and again by the traffic controllers in United 93, screened the movie the same night as me.

This is a must-see. Perspective must be maintained. Take pride in your America and understand clearly that the freedoms we enjoy were bought by the sacrifices of others.

Craig Martelle Joins ThreatsWatch

Please welcome the newest member to ThreatsWatch, Craig Martelle. Craig comes to ThreatsWatch from The Strategic Outlook Institute and is a retired Marine Corps intel officer (and a mustang, which is just how we like our officers).

Craig’s career has had quite an interesting path. After 7 months at the Air Force Academy, the high school valedictorian left because he says he “was not there for the right reasons.” Still in his AFA uniform, Craig wasted no time enlisting in the Marine Corps, where he attended the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian. As a Russian linguist, he was selected for the Marine Enlisted Commission Education Program and later graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arizona with a BA in Russian Language in 1990.

In 2002, Craig retired as a Major in Military Intelligence and served tours in Russia at the US Embassy supporting arms control, in Japan and Korea as an intelligence officer and three years at CENTCOM working Middle East issues.

Upon retirement, Craig took a management post at the Transportation Security Administration focusing on airport screening operations. He left the TSA in 2005 and has been a law student at William Howard Taft since.

Readers will surely appreciate the rich background, broad experience and intelligent, reasoned approach to issues and events that Craig Martelle will bring to the table. We find those qualities to be self-evident in his work and believe his analytical skills to be superb.

His first ‘official’ offering at ThreatsWatch, PrincipalAnalysis: Constitutionally Protected Blogging, takes a look at the legal aspects of blogging and at the responsibility that must be embraced by ‘bloggers and policy analysts’ if credibility is to be established and maintained. While somewhat outside the traditional scope of ThreatsWatch content, on the heels of the MilBlog Conference 2006 and considering the important issues confronted there, it is quite pertinent and timely considering ThreatsWatch’s primary medium.

Craig’s coverage at ThreatsWatch will have a primary focus on Russia and the former Soviet Republics, but will certainly not be limited to them. Readers can expect him to provide contextualized news coverage and analysis on other areas as well.

Craig shares our vision, core values, and belief in the ThreatsWatch mission. We proudly welcome him as a teammate and hope you will too.

April 25, 2006

Is the Press Covering Iraq On the Cheap?

Bruce Kesler of Democracy Project thinks so, and has a timely article published by Editor & Publisher. Just days after the MilBlog Conference 2006, the Vietnam veteran offers Is the Press Covering Iraq On the Cheap?

“I hope we keep out of the post-Vietnam thing that the press lost the war,” Joe Galloway, soon to retire military editor for Knight Ridder, recently told me in an interview. But discrepancies in what’s reported, or an imbalance, are daily highlighted by military bloggers in Iraq and conservative commentators here at home.

If truth is journalism’s goal, cheapness within journalism undermines it. Embedded reporter Paul McLeary wrote in Columbia Journalism Review not long ago, “In Iraq, the untold stories pile up, one by one by one,” because “there just aren’t enough of them [journalists] to give the conflict its due.”

Galloway also notes a resistance toward journalists 'unfriendly' to the military and the war, something military officials have routinely denied. In fact, when the question has arisen regarding journalists' lack of embedding outside the 'Thin Green Line' of Baghdad, this reasoning has never been offered.

Rather, most often either increased danger or costs associated with increased numbers of reporters is cited (apparently suggesting that the media companies cannot function with smaller numbers of journalists within Baghdad and would thus have to increase numbers to directly embed).

For what it's worth, at a 5April06 Reuters event in New York City called Iraq: Is the media telling the real story?, I asked the esteemed panel directly about the lack of embedding outside the 'Thin Green Line', suggesting it is far safer to be among armed Marines and soldiers in the field rather than on the streets amidst frequent and unpredictable car bombings in Baghdad.

Panelists from that event who may be reading this, you may remember the question. It was ignored and went unanswered. Feel free to chime in any time.

The event barely touched upon the self-titled theme, though some finally took it on. But for the most part it was a self-congratulatory media event praising their collective performances under the duress of war.

Forgive a Marine for being rather unimpressed.

Now, go finish reading Bruce Kesler's article.

Archie and Jughead, U.S. Envoys

We're beginning to get caught up at ThreatsWatch from a '72' that turned into a '96' by pure medical (or dental) necessity. Thanks go to John Batchelor for the text of the normally firewalled text and the WSJ article, Archie and Jughead, U.S. Envoys. I found it interesting enough to share in the sprint to become current in other developments.

Zealots do not laugh. The closest they come is to grin while they stand in profile staring into the distance. Laughter undermines zealotry. Hitler smiled early on, but rarely after he became Der Fuhrer. Ayatollah Khomeini smiled, but since he never made eye contact with his audience, his sinister smiles alluded to a wisdom too great to be shared with mere disciples. Laughter could unhinge a person, loosening him into defiance against submission. It's no wonder why all things stern -- flags, weapons, uniforms and street marches -- abound in a zealot's universe. He may promote seriousness as prime virtue, but to the perpetuation of his rule it is dire necessity.

This is why the impending release of Archie Comics in the Arab world is quite revolutionary, albeit the only revolution Archie Andrews has ever known is that of a lovely girl's hips. By 2007, Archie and friends will be available in Arabic. ....

We'll be back to normal visible operations by sunrise, including an exciting announcement that ThreatsWatch readers will definitely appreciate.

April 23, 2006

A 72 for ThreatsWatch

The Army calls it a 'Three Day Pass'. The Marines call it a '72'. Regardless...

Apologies to readers for 3 days of radio silence. The past 72 hours have been away from a PC. Participation in and travel to and from the MilBlog Conference 2006 in Washington, DC consumed most of it. A long procrastinated root canal reared its ugly head in waves Saturday, got progressively more acute, and I could not stay past the early afternoon, unfortunately. No final session and no pub crawl...though at times I did feel like crawling.

The experience of the MilBlog Conference 2006 was simply outstanding. The pleasure of meeting and speaking to so many people you have read and respected for several years cannot be overstated. More on that later.

There are many events and developments to catch up on and attempt to put into proper context. That process will begin shortly.

In the meantime, follow a direct order from Sgt. Hook and Meet the Persians.

April 21, 2006

MilBlog Conference 2006: Streaming Video

I will be leaving shortly for the drive down to Washington DC for tomorrow's MilBlog Conference 2006, where I was invited to represent ThreatsWatch and participate as a panelist in the opening session, MilBlogs: Past, Present and Future, which will be moderated by Buzz Patterson.

The panelists for this session are extraordinary, ground-breaking, long-time MilBloggers who are held in the highest regard throughout the 'Blogosphere', not simply by other MilBloggers like myself and Marvin. Consider the importance and impact of the panelists (myself clearly excluded):

CJ from A Soldier's Perspective

Smash from The Indepundit

Matt from BlackFive

John Noonan from OpFor (Formerly The Officers Club)

The impact of these men and their blogs is clear. In ways they may not fully even appreciate, they have guided other MilBloggers just by setting clear examples for us all. Whatever the future holds for MilBloggers and MilBlogging, it will clearly bear the mark of their pioneering efforts, integrity and high standards.

If you care to follow the Conference, there will be a Live Video Feed available at the link below. (NOTE: The Video Link will not appear on the page below until about 8AM Saturday morning.)

Live Video Feed: MilBlogging Conference 2006

If I am to be able to join them tonight saluting the troops from Walter Reed at Fran O's, I had better pack up shop and get rolling.

Please be sure to stop by Andi's World as well and thank her for her truly monumental months-long effort to pull this conference together. It would not exist without her tireless persistence.

April 20, 2006

United 93: “Too Soon?” ...Absolutely Not

The movie United 93 forces us to face our enemies. So says Deroy Murdock at National Review Online.

“Too soon!” some New York filmgoers recently yelled after seeing the trailer for United 93, the new movie about the Boeing 757 that crashed September 11, 2001, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. When this heart-pounding, gut-twisting picture opens April 28, four years, seven months, and 17 days will have elapsed since 9/11. Is that too soon?

Islamofascists do not know the words “too soon.”

And he's quite correct. If we remain deemed too sensitive to see images of the events and carnage of that day in news coverage - let alone a theatrical movie - then we will remain doomed to being too weak to recognize the enemy determined to destroy us and predetermined to submit to him.

New Yorkers are the last who should be crying, "Too soon!" and the first to declare their resolve and identify the enemy.

Living in New York City's New Jersey suburbs and witnessing that sickening plume of the WTC's dust and smoke rise above our trees, accompanied by the hauntingly disturbing silence in our normally busy skies, I have a 'close-but-not-touching' personal connection to the destruction wrought that day.

I have friends who were among the many caked with the pulverized dust of the remains of the structures and their occupants. A close friend's father survived by a chance re-scheduled meeting away from his company's offices above the impact zone. His co-workers and closest friends of many years were not so fortunate. He struggles to this day with the burden of guilt that so unjustly yokes survivors.

I do not pretend to speak for them.

I do, however, being relatively and comfortably detached from the first hand horror, guilt and pain, recognize that they were coming to kill me. They came to kill my friends and family. They nearly succeeded.

They came to kill you. They came to kill your friends and family. Perhaps they succeeded.

Are you among the numbers who cry out, "Too soon!"?

If so, you must find it within yourself to muster the strength to watch. To listen. To feel. To embrace the pain.

The same sounds and images you would bury in pained sensitivity are embraced, cheered and praised by those who would be next to visit your friends and family with death and carnage in tow. They are not swayed by reasoned sensitivity nor reactive to the compassionate responses of the well intended but misguided.

The enemy understands but one language: the language of violence he spoke with the day we lost so many. We are speaking to him in his language in battlefields known and unknown, traditional and new. We have lost fewer lives in nearly five years of effectively speaking this language than were stolen from us on that clear September day. Is it all for naught?

If you, the savagely attacked, cannot harness the resolve to recognize and face down an enemy who has already slaughtered within your own eyesight, then we are destined to a defeat at the hands of madmen who murder with religious conviction.

If we, the savagely attacked, cannot harness that resolve now, we are sentencing ourselves repeated slaughters reminiscent of that fateful day. Again. And again. And Again.

Sun Tzu, Hu Jintao & George Bush

On the heels of Chinese President Hu Jintao's meeting with President Bush today, WSJ's Opinion Journal offers a timely OpEd: The Long China View: How to manage an emerging power without a crisis.

The larger strategic bet here is that sooner or later China's economic progress will create the internal conditions for a more democratic regime that will be more stable and less of a potential global rival. This may take many more years, but the seeds of political change are already evident. Rural protests numbered more than 87,000 last year, journalists are staging walkouts to protest censorship and more ordinary Chinese citizens are demanding that the Communist Party uphold their legal rights and respect their right to worship.

Mr. Bush can help that process by prodding Mr. Hu to improve China's disgraceful human rights record. But the changes aren't taking place because the U.S. demands it. China's burgeoning middle class, created and buoyed by economic growth, will drive internal change.

That's why Congressional threats to impose tariffs or brand China a "currency manipulator" are so dangerous. They damage American business interests, and they could also endanger the prosperity that will drive China's political change. For their part, China's leaders believe they can maintain one-party political control even amid all of this dynamic economic growth. History, as Sun Tzu might argue, would suggest they are wrong.

April 18, 2006

Peaceful Army Day in Iran

It's Army Day in Iran, and just in case there are any new superty-duper new weapons the IRGC Command forgot to roll out during the Persian Gulf Great Prophet dog & pony show, there's a parade to show & tell the latest Chinese/Russian technology. Meanwhile, the Ahmadinejad Stage Show continues as well, as he touts the peaceful nature of Iran's army, which is only logical. Since it was turned over to military control after Ahmadinejad's election, this explains why their nuclear program is 'peaceful', too.

"Islamic Republic of Iran's Army is today one of the most powerful armies of the world. The power, progress and development of the Iranian nation are dedicated to the service of human welfare and global peace and tranquility. The Islamic Republic of Iran is no threat to any nation," Ahmadinejad further declared.

Well, except for that one nation that should be "wiped off the map". But, then Israel "legally and legitimately has no right of existence", so it doesn't count.

What a great day of peace-loving Islamist advances. Iran (and its army) is now officially peaceful and Sami al-Arian is announced to soon be free to continue his generous work for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad charities.

Deporting al-Arian is Mindless Folly

America can hardly deport an illegal immigrant, yet after Sami al-Arian confessed and pleaded guilty of supporting and funding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that is precisely what awaits him. A confessed terror fund-raising enabler is set to be freed from prison.

Wizbang shows the face of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad al-Arian supported and funded by appropriately displaying graphic pictures of yesterday's bloody PIJ bombing of Israeli civilians at a Tel Aviv restaurant.

Iran and Syria also fund the PIJ, as well as Hamas, who in their governance sanctioned the murder of the nine Israeli civilians as legitimate resistance.

Two questions remain:

1. To what nation does the federal government propose al-Arian be deported? Iran? Syria? Perhaps the West Bank?

2. Why deport a terrorism middleman rather than imprison him, essentially allowing him to simply continue his terror funding from the soil of another nation?

The Counterterrorism Blog has links to the pertinent legal documents, including the Plea Deal. In the entry, Steven Emerson quotes Bill West's important observation regarding deporting al-Arian:

One possible difficulty in the deportation agreement: Since al-Arian is a stateless Palestinian convicted of a terrorism-support felony, deporting him may become particularly difficult. Toss in the reality of 'Hamas-stan,' assuming the goal is to send him to the Territories, and things become very dicey. Hopefully, ICE, DOJ, and the State Department have been working feverishly behind the scenes to make something work in all this and will be able to boot him soon. If not, and he languishes in ICE detention like Al-Najjar did, notwithstanding the terrorism conviction, it could become another PR nightmare for the federal government. [Emphasis added.]

Americans should be less concerned about a 'PR nightmare' and more concerned that al-Arian is not welcomed into Hamas-stan, either as a first or second stop after deportation, where he can continue his jihad.

Deporting terrorists and terrorist enablers while they are in positive custody is not ‘brilliant’. It is dangerous, ill-advised and detrimental to the security served by detaining them in the first place.

Many Guantanamo detainees have been killed or captured again in Afghanistan after their release. Is there any doubt that the same fate of resumption awaits not only al-Arian, but also Israelis who have the audacity to eat at restaurants and are therefore apparently guilty of engaging in Warfare By Dining?

With all due respect to Mr. West, there is nothing 'brilliant' about this legal paperwork if the guilty party walks free to resume his activities. Is simply 'knowing' that al-Arian admitted guilt serving security more or is preventing his activities?

Mosques, Marines and the Media

In another example of why the military holds the media in such disdain, consider the latest headline from CNN leading a story in which US Marines in Ramadi were taking fire from an insurgent/terrorist sniper from a mosque minaret:

Marines fire on mosque to repel attacks

Here's the story: Insurgents used three car bombs, mortars and at least one sniper from atop a mosque minaret across the street as well as RPG fire from the mosque grounds to attack the Marines. Yet, the insurgents were properly liquidated with only one reported Marine Casualty. An outstanding defense. Furthermore, this was the fourth time in less than a month that Marines have come under fire from that mosque, according to Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Now, go read CNN's account. Barely mentioned is the fact that the Marines intercepted two of the three car bombs before they could reach their marks. The entire article focuses on Marines firing into a mosque and has them printed in the defensive position...not from the attack, but regarding whether or not they were justified in firing into the mosque.

A sniper's den, be it a mosque or a mud hut, is always a marked target by choice of the man pulling the sniper rifle's trigger. Yet, CNN persists.

"The Marines returned fire but continued to be attacked from the mosque's minaret," the military statement said. "The Marines fired one 120 mm tank round and several 7.62 mm machine-gun rounds into the minaret, after which fire from the mosque ceased."

CNN correspondent Arwa Damon said she saw two tank rounds fired into the mosque.

And? What if it were five? What is the point being made here? When viewed in context with CNN's body of text and it's chosen headline, it seems rather clear.

Why is the headline not "Insurgents fire on Marines from Mosque in Attack"?

Why is the headline not "Marines Repel Three Car Bomb Attack"?

No. Instead CNN leads "Marines fire on Mosque..."

Hats go off to the rest of the media for at least selecting an appropriate headline:

USA Today - U.S. troops fend off coordinated attacks on sites in Ramadi
CBS News - U.S. Marines Repel Coordinated Assault
Newark Star Ledger - Marines parry insurgents' assault in Ramadi
The Tribune Democrat - U.S. Marines Repel Coordinated Assault
Dallas Morning News - Marines repel bombers from Iraq government building
Arizona Reporter - Marines Repel Attacks in Ramadi
Canada.com - American troops repel co-ordinated insurgent assault in Ramadi
Forbes - U.S. Marines Repel Coordinated Assault
Bloomberg - Marines Repel Large Attack in Ramadi, Iraq, U.S. Military Says
San Diego Union Tribune - U.S. Marines repel coordinated insurgent assault in Ramadi

April 17, 2006

Iran Appointed to UN Commission on Disarmament

Catching up after a weekend away from news, events and turmoil, I browsed through Ettela'at International, which refers to itself as "The Only International Persian Daily Newspaper". Scanning through the PDF version of the Ettela'at 13April06 front page, a curious bit in the upper right hand corner:

UN Commission on Disarmament elects Iran as deputy for Asian nations

Instantly, the ears perked up and the digging began in earnest with memories of Libya chairing the UN Human Rights Commission in 2003. With a writing task of a much closer look in the works, I ran across Partners in Evil by Joseph Klein, which had been posted 13 minutes into the 'dig'. There is no need to duplicate the work. Klein's on target and offers a scathing rebuke of Kofi Annan in the process.

Annan is living in a fantasy world if he thinks Ahmadinejad and the fanatical mullahs who run Iran can be dealt with reasonably as rational human beings. It is reminiscent of Annan’s quote about Saddam Hussein during the 1990’s that “Saddam Hussein is a man I can do business with.” It is only in such a fantasy world that a country which had threatened to wipe a neighboring member state off the map still merits the UN’s respect as a fair-minded negotiating partner -- even after its president also told the rest of the world that Iran’s destiny as a nuclear power was irreversible and that those who were angry about Iran’s future as a “nuclear country” will “die of this anger.”

Iran acting in any capacity within a UN Nuclear Disarmament committee is beyond the laughable appointment of Libya to the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission. It's downright freightening and goes to further illustrate that there is little united at the United Nations. There is yet again another stench emanating from Turtle Bay.

Kofi Annan says that it is not his job to deal with Iran’s threat to international peace and security, his partnership rhetoric notwithstanding. He says that it is up to the Security Council to deal with the problem. This is a complete dereliction of duty.

Klein obviously holds little back and, sadly, is absolutely right.

April 14, 2006

A Vietnam Vet on Losing After Winning in Iraq

Bruce Kesler is not simply a Vietnam veteran, he is a leader among them. And no one knows about trading a military victory for political defeat like a Vietnam veteran. At Democracy Project, he laments that possibility with regards to Iraq.

Nixon’s plan would have worked, indeed did, except for his Watergate downfall leading to the left’s surge in Congress undercutting it all fatally. We won in Vietnam, only to lose it.

President Bush may not suffer a Watergate, and his term be completed. But, absent a refocus of Americans’ and Washington’s attention on the victory we’ve already won, some slip can lead to losing it, again.

Forgive for leading with his conclusion, but those two paragraphs are powerful and important.

He calls for a timetable, which is certain to ruffle the feathers of more than a few. In Bruce's eyes, he sees the advantage that the terrorists and insurgents may gain from it as somewhat less in impact than the drive it would produce among Iraqis to speed up the solidification of their own security forces.

Agree or disagree with the way he looks at a timetable at this point, there's no arguing his lesson on trading military victory for political defeat.

Eliminated by one storm?

Not trying to beat this to death, but another translation of Ahmadinejad's latest unmasking of the Iranian regime via Canada's CBC is interesting.

"The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

One storm. How might Ahmadinejad envision a single storm that annihilates Israel? Quick. Three guesses.

The Financial Times uses an interpretation that reads “a dry and rotten tree that can be destroyed by a storm.” Either way, the point is made. Again.

Without doubt, the mullahs wish this loose cannon would shut his mouth. Not that they disagree with him, mind you. But rather because every time he shoots off like this, he is confirming Iran's true nuclear ambitions. They have worked hard to achieve first secrecy, then ambiguity, in the interests of preserving the progressive march toward nuclear capability. Surely they fear Ahmadinejad, not a statesman by trade, is going to blow the whole thing.

April 13, 2006

Iran's Race to Beat UN Action

There are no new conclusions or really much new to add to the understanding of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis, but the title of Bronwen Maddox's Times Online editorial says it all and is itself worthy of repeating here.

Iran is racing down nuclear route before UN can put up roadblock.

Maddox concludes a good editorial commentary with the following:

European officials believe that the best chance for diplomacy may be to force Iran into the position of rejecting an offer that all members of the Security Council regard as self- evidently reasonable.

One version of this has been mooted by British officials — that the five permanent members of the council, plus Germany, offer a return to talks provided that Iran freezes its enrichment and submits to all IAEA inspections.

Iran’s move this week appears designed to make even that attempt look out of date.

The West engages in diplomacy with talks and UN-centric (and often heated) debate. Iran engages in diplomacy with further nuclear enrichment.

Consider the commentary written by the Iranian Ambassador to the UN published in the New York Times. In it he claimed, among other things, that Iran had voluntarily "Refrain[ed] from reprocessing or producing plutonium".

We responded to that statement directly, asking, "Then why the continued construction of the Arak heavy water plant? It has one solitary purpose: Plutonium production."

Iran refraining [present tense noted] from plutonium production is no different from Brazil refraining from launching a man to the moon. They're not refraining. They can't yet. Refraining [present tense again noted] would entail ceasing Arak heavy water plant construction. But, of course, they have not.

Along similar lines, we rebutted teh Ambassador on his insistance that Iran seeks to strengthen the IAEA and the NPT (which they completely ignored in their acquisition of technology).

Ambassador Zarif opens, stating that ”Lost amid the rhetoric is this: Iran has a strong interest in enhancing the integrity and authority of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” Iran has had a funny way of demonstrating this interest. Namely kicking out inspectors, removing observation cameras and breaking IAEA seals on equipment under direct protest of observing IAEA officials.

Maddox may be correct that some in Iran see the public persuit of enrichment as a powerful negotiating tool. At least one would hope. But to those that matter in the Iranian regime (Ayatollah Khameini, Ahmadinejad and the senior clerics who have issued or agreed with a fatwa declaring nuclear weapons as accceptable) it is as it appears: A duty to produce and a quest to achieve nuclear weapons for the furthering of the Islamic revolution and for ushering in the return of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam.

Terror Polytech

  • Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: Engineer
  • Mohamed Atta: Engineer
  • Ramzi Ahmed Yousef: Engineer

Terrorist organizations are looking, with some success, to universities for sympathetic students and faculty to assist them in perfecting their deadly craft. From an excellent article appearing in today's Los Angeles Times, Terrorists Seen Turning to Campuses for Skills:

With Chraibi, a computer engineering major, allegedly in a lead role, the students plunged into the clandestine world of the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat. At the urging of Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, investigators say, the network has broadened across North Africa and concentrated on sending fighters to Iraq and plotting strikes on Europe.

The students allegedly planned their course work to gather information and materials for the network. Expertise in electronics and telecommunications helped them develop sophisticated long-range detonators for bomb attacks, police say. In addition, they landed one-month paid internships with companies that gave them access to labs and the opportunity to order components in the name of their employers, investigators say.

"They had completed at least one device and were building others," the French anti-terrorism official said. "There was travel to training facilities in the south of Algeria to share their knowledge and to receive instruction."

The students have confessed to preparing detonators for networks based in Algeria, where the government has fought a bloody war with militants. But investigators think there may have been targets in Europe, the official said. Arrests in France last year and in Italy last month indicated that the network was developing plans for attacks in Bologna and Paris, French and Italian authorities say.

During the psychotic celebration in Fallujah after the murder and mutilation of the four Blackwater security personel, a Fallujah cell leader phoned Chraibi's terrorist recruiter, Moroccan Hamza Safi, near the French university campus. This call led to troubling but not unexpected discoveries of GSPC and al-Qaeda cooperative recruiting of technical ability. al-Qaeda R&D via Terror Polytech.

An Iranian Bomb in 16 Days?

Well, that's what the Bloomberg headline says: Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says.

Why do otherwise respectable news agencies insist on doing this? Bloomberg knows full well that a reader will see that headline and think Iran is 16 days from a nuclear weapon. That's not what Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said. What he said was:

"Natanz was constructed to house 50,000 centrifuges. Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days."

Iran is not 16 days from building a nuclear weapon. No, they are 49,836 successfully cascaded centrifuges and 16 days away from a nuclear weapon.

The situation is dire enough. Do we need the sensationalism?

What Iran is 16 days away from is a Hizballah attack(s) virtually anywhere on the planet. The Middle East, Asia, South America, North America, Europe... But that threat seems to have lost it's ability to survive attention spans as dangerously brief as Bloomberg's latest headline.

April 12, 2006

US Army Recruiting: All You Need to Know

...is in a single Mudville Gazette post.

Washington Post story: "In March, the Army got 5,396 new recruits, topping its goal of 5,200, the 10th month in a row it has exceeded its monthly target."

Washington Post headline: Army recruiting below last year's levels

Greyhawk goes on at length detailing the good news about the Army's recruiting success (not to mention the character of our young men and women). His headline, unlike the Washington Post's, actually matches the piece: Recruit and Retain.

There is a dark side to recruiting, however, and it's not about falling "below last year's levels". It has nothing to do with 'numbers' and everything to do with anti-war activists on the college campus violently protesting recruiters at university job fairs.

Security Watchtower also has an excellent 10-month Overview on Military Recruiting. Put the Washington Post's translation down and go see the numbers for yourself, which include totals, goals and percentages for the branches from June 05 to March 06.

Cyber Security and the Bloated Work Order

What do they have in common? Well, have you ever been a government employee?

You should find out why Michael Tanji says Sleep tight, America.

The Coming Transition and Tangles in Afghanistan

In New Attacks Foment Fear in Afghanistan, Pamela Constable of the Washington Post includes two key paragraphs that spell out a simple reality for the spring and summer in Afghanistan, aside from the Taliban's repeated threats of a new offensive and great carnage.

Over the next several months, more than 6,000 troops from Britain and other NATO countries are slated to take over security in the southern region, and analysts are predicting a bloody debut.

"Transitions are a time of testing, and both sides will have something to prove -- the NATO forces to show they are tough, their opponents to show they won't run," said Joanna Nathan, who heads the Kabul office of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a nonprofit advocacy and research group. "There will be more troops and more targets. It will be a pretty messy summer." [Emphasis added.]

Joanna Nathan just nailed it.

Flight 93 Cockpit Transcript

The Counterterrorism Blog has posted a link to the transcript of the Flight 93 cockpit tape, played in a Virginia court today during the penalty phase of tte Moussaoui trial. It is a chilling read.

(The transcript is courtesy of FindLaw.com.)

Sustained Israeli Artillery Response Nets Gaza Plea

According to the Jerusalem Post, residents of northern Gaza have made an urgent appeal to the PA to stop the Kassam rocket attacks on Israel that are drawing the recent barrages of Israeli artillery fire in response.

In the wake of Israel's escalated response, Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip have appealed to the new Palestinian Authority government to take immediate action to prevent gunmen from firing Kassam rockets from their neighborhoods at Israel, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday.

He said the appeal was made in an urgent letter sent to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh by scores of Palestinians living in Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and other areas that have been targeted by Israeli artillery over the past few weeks.

"They are demanding that we issue instructions to the security forces to prevent the rocket attacks," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "But how can we stop the rockets when we don't have control over most of these forces?" he asked.

Chances are that we would have never heard of this had Mahmoud Abbas not taken control of the PA security forces, as Hanas uses the appeal now to deflect blame to Fatah and Abbas.

Of course, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are a Fatah entity, responsible for many of the attacks. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking Hamas minds much what they are doing.

April 11, 2006

39 Years Later, ElBaredei's War?

1967 was not so long ago. In fact, to many the memories of that year are still fresh, especially to a historian. At History News Network, Dr. Judith Klinghoffer recalls the event that defined the year, wondering if history is simply repeating itself.

Then, Nasser challenged the UN by demanding that it withdraw the UNEF forces positions between Israel and Egypt as part of the UN negotiated deal which led to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the Sinai after the 1956 war. The Security Council responded by sending Secretary General U Thant to discuss the Egyptian demands. While U Thant was on his way to Cairo, Nasser escalated the crisis by announcing the closure of the Straits of Tiran.

Instead of turning around U Thant not only went, agreed immediately to withdraw all the UNEF forces from Egypt and issued an appeal for a cooling off period on terms which, the horrified Ralph Bunch complained, placed him "in position of effectively endorsing the blockade and fully implementing it without any further effort by Nasser." The Six Day War became known as U Thant's War.

Today...

Her post is recommended reading today.

(Dr. Judith A. Klinghoffer is a senior research associate in the department of Political Science at Rutgers University, Camden. She is the co-author of International Citizens' Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights and the author of Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences.)

Wars Are Imperfect Arbiters

Referencing Tom Paine, Hitler, Vietnam, Iraq and Iran, Bruce Kesler looks at the political aspect of war at The Democracy Project in Wars Are Imperfect Arbiters:

If war is the failure of diplomacy to mediate, wars themselves are imperfect arbiters. Seldom are the results near maximal, to either side. Most often, the results contain seeds of future troubles. ...

...Iran is now moving to the front burner. The threat to the region, reaching via missile intimidation to Europe, is real. This would have happened if there were no Iraq war. It’s part of the region’s problems, but not of the Iraq war’s making. And, those irresolute about Iraq were and are similarly irresolute about Iran. Unfolding currents within Iran or diplomacy may avoid a blow-up there, or not. But, it is less likely if the U.S. retains sufficient credibility for resoluteness in Iraq, at the very least to not bug out, and at the most to be realistically expected to maintain an ongoing reduced intense training and guidance program in Iraq.

It may be a blood-stained glass of war that we toast with, but it’s better than the blood-filled one that was the alternative. ...

April 10, 2006

All Options Are On The Table

Seymour Hersch has created yet another small dust storm beneath the shoes of those energetically willing to buy the hype he so often is selling. His latest in The New Yorker, The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?, is breathless conjecture placed beneath a New Yorker section heading called, amusingly, "Fact".

Austin Bay takes Hersch to task without pulling puches.

Sy Hersh is a provacateur, not a reporter. StrategyPage has covered all of the options Hersh mentions – without the breathless hype and fearmongering.

After referring to a portion of Hersch's lengthy collumn where he writes "One military planner told me that White House criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and clandestine activities amount to a campaign of “coercion” aimed at Iran," Bay retorts.

Campaign of coercion — well, duh. Or rational preparations. Or military prepatory actions to support diplomatic initiatives. This is news? No, this is schtick.

Schtick indeed. Hamid Reza Asefi, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, reacted to Hersch's story and essentially agreed claiming the US is engaged in an 'psychological war' with Iran. In a NewsBrief link to that story over the weekend, we included a TW Note that said, "Of course we are."

In contrast to Hersch, the latest from Ralph Peters is excellent. He asks, Does Iran Want War?

The most dangerous error we could make in our sharpening confrontation with Iran is to convince ourselves that its leaders will act rationally. Few wars are rooted in dispassionate analysis. Self-delusion sparks most such catastrophes.

The power brokers in Tehran may be on the verge of misjudging America's will and resources as profoundly as did the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, or al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001.

Stalin misread America's will when he acquiesced in the Korean Communist invasion of the south. So did Castro, when he imagined that he could impose a tyrannical regime on Grenada.

Saddam Hussein misread America, too. Twice. First, when he convinced himself that he could grab Kuwait with impunity, and, second, when he did his weapons-of-mass-destruction fan dance. (Bulletin for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: Don't play the I've-got-weapons-you'd-better-be-afraid-of card.)

Without doubt, the regime is not rational, it is messianic. All options had better be on the table, whether Sy Hersch likes it or not. As Peters concludes, if we eventually find ourselves in a military conflict with Iran, "we should make the conflict so devastating and painful that even our allies are stunned."

April 8, 2006

An Active 2007 for American Foreign Policy

Following political (and Clausewitzian) logic, an Iraq/US Treaty is seen as a centerpiece of American Foreign Policy in 2007 at The Adventures of Chester:

My guess is that if the Bush team wants to enshrine some sort of aggressive US transformational policy in the Middle East, 2007 will be the year to make it happen, and a treaty, or other similar agreement, might be the means . . .

. . . A principle of grand strategy is to ensure that one's policies live longer than one's own administration -- for if they are the correct course, then they should not be limited in the timeframe of their execution.

Gitmo Detainee Wants to Become ....An American Soldier

What do three Afghan boys think of Camp X-Ray? Cuba? It was great, say boys freed from US prison camp.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

Asadullah is even more sure of this. "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," he said, when found at his elder brother's tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. "Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer _ or an American soldier."

This might seem to jar with the prevailing opinion of Guantanamo among human rights groups. [....]

Loitering in Kabul this week, Asadullah came across an American soldier. "I asked him, 'How are you, sir?'," he recalled, grinning shyly. The soldier said he was well, and asked the boy what he wanted. Asadullah replied: "Nothing, I was just asking," as the American walked away.

Just asking. Just being friendly. Imagine that. No hatred towards his 'torturers'. Go figure. How can this possibly be?

Thanks to Irish Pennants and Little Green Footballs.

(Mis)Understanding What Iran Wants

"But what does Iran want?" This is the question currently being posed, and Amir Taheri responds in Misunderstanding Iran, looking at several of the answers being offered by various circles.

One answer, echoing the views of the Council on Foreign Relations, is that the Islamic republic is, in fact, crying out for attention. The Tehran leadership resents being shut out of the regional geopolitics at a time of upheavals prompted by regime changes in Kabul and Baghdad.

But how credible is such an analysis?

Not much. Tehran was given a place at the table when the future of Afghanistan was shaped in Bonn in 2002. But that did not prevent it from doing its bit of mischief on the side. Tehran’s influence has also been present in post-Saddam Iraq from day one, in the shape of Shiite groups and personalities close to the Iranians by blood, marriage, and political affinity. And, yet, that has not prevented Tehran from financing and arming maverick groups, including the one led by Moqtada Sadr, against Iran’s long-time friends in the new Iraqi leadership.

He revisits the CFR mentality (not monopolized by them by any means) near the conclusion of his column:

The Council on Foreign Relations cannot liberate itself from the typical deal maker’s mentality. It cannot conceive of a regime and a movement that put their messianic mission above conjectural maneuvers and compromises. They do not understand movements and regimes that, given something, would demand more because they believe that they should have it all.

So...what does Iran want?

Read in full to understand Taheri's answer. No shortcuts.

April 7, 2006

Lavizan: On ElBaredei's Iran Itinerary?

From the Arms Control Association, a Fact Sheet titled Unresolved IAEA Questions Regarding Iran's Nuclear Program. An intersting portion dealing with the razed Lavizan facility:

Iran razed the site in late 2003 and early 2004 - a move that raised suspicions that Tehran might be trying to cover up evidence of undeclared nuclear activities. However, ElBaradei reported in September that Iran provided information consistent with the government's explanation for this action.Lavizan Before & After

ElBaradei reported in November that the IAEA wishes to take samples from a trailer that had been located at the site and contained dual-use nuclear equipment. The agency also wants to interview Iranian officials who had been involved in the center's efforts to obtain equipment related to uranium enrichment, he reported.

According to Heinonen, Iran provided IAEA inspectors with some previously-requested information Jan. 26 regarding Tehran's efforts to acquire equipment with potential uranium enrichment applications. The inspectors, however were not allowed to interview a key official involved in these procurement efforts.

Iran did provide the IAEA with information regarding other dual-use acquisition efforts and allowed the inspectors to take environmental samples of some dual-use equipment, Heinonen reported. The report says nothing about the trailer discussed in ElBaradei's report, however.

The IAEA learns of the site. Iran razes the site (including trees). ElBaredei questions the facility on paper. Iran explains on paper. ElBaredei accepts on paper. ElBaredei requests inspection on paper. Iran ignores altogether. The End.

The document is a pretty good summation of the outstanding issues between the IAEA and Iran. Not sure, though, what the Vegas line is on ElBaredei actually satisfactorily resolving any of them with his reported trip to Tehran next week. The over-under should start at 'Zero'.

Hezbollah Beefing Up Borders

Hezbollah has been and will continue to be referred to here as Iran's Long Arm of Foreign Policy. Consider 'Iran's Front Line'? from Nicholas Blanford:

South Lebanon is a long way from Iran, but if the United States or Israel decides to mount an attack against Iran's nascent nuclear industry, part of Tehran's retaliation may well come along this volatile 70-mile frontier. ...

Hizbullah has been busy along the border too, bolstering its series of observation posts and bunkers spanning the frontier.

"There has been a lot of construction activity recently. They are reinforcing and expanding their positions all along the Blue Line," says a United Nations peacekeeper in south Lebanon referring to the UN's name for the boundary corresponding to the Lebanon-Israel border.

Note: Listen carefully as Walid Phares asks bluntly, Are You Ready for Hizbollah's Pre-emptive Terror?

April 6, 2006

Will Senate Go Softer on Hamas?

Judith Apter Klinghoffer wonders, Will the House Anti-Hamas Bill be watered down by the Senate? She says that today's approval by the House International Relations Committee of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act is good news. But...what are the chances of it clearing Senate muster without being partially stripped?

Unfortunately, at least some of the teeth included in this act will be pulled out in the parallel Senate bill. For according to Tikkun email, S 2370 includes the following exceptions:
The President of the United States may "waive the limitation" for "administrative and personal security costs of the President of the Palestinian Authority to promote democracy and the rule of law if it in the US's national security interests.

There is the same exception as in the House bill for assistance for basic human needs such as those for food, water, medicine, or sanitation. It would make an additional exception for assistance to promote democracy: human rights, press freedom and non-violence

There is also no provision in S 2370 to withhold US United Nations dues proportional to UN assistance to the PA.

The UN exception is critical, especially when considering Europe's not unexpected wavering.

Hamas may well end up with more outside funding than the previous PA by year's end, with Europe potentially buckling, the UN persisting, Arab nations adding a trifle more and Iran bellying up to the Hamas table, funding Hamas in exchange for reciprocal influence and control.

April 5, 2006

Reuters Webcast at 6PM EDT on Media Coverage of Iraq

Reuters is hosting a panel discussion and open debate on the media's coverage of the Iraq War and there are some distinguished names participating. Join in and see the Webcast at the link below tonight at 6:00 EDT:

Reuters Webcast--> Iraq: Is the media telling the real story?

Welcome to the web coverage of the Reuters Iraq Newsmaker debate. This multimedia package includes a live webcast of the panel discussion, real-time blogging from around the world, a live chat, and related news. Please explore the entire experience as the panel addresses these issues: How accurately does the media tell the Iraq story? Can the media reflect reality, given the dangers and constraints? Is the agenda dominated by bad news? Do the Arab and Western media tell different stories?

Panelists include:

  • James Taranto, OpinionJournal.com, Editor
  • Roger Cohen, New York Times, Writer
  • LTC Steven A. Boylan, US Army, Strategic Communications Chief
  • Alastair Macdonald, Reuters, Iraq Bureau Chief
  • Paul Holmes, Reuters, Editor
  • Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, Photojournalist
  • Zaki Chehab, Al Hayat, Political Editor

Hopefully, there will be an open Q&A session between the panel and the floor. It will be an interesting exchange regardless, and perhaps enlightening.

Less is More: Iran's Information War (Games)

Via New Wars comes an outstanding article called The Iranians are upping the ante.

Oil money is financing Iran’s military build-up at an astounding rate. And their latest series of operations with paratroopers, warships, helicopters, interceptors and ground attack planes, and electronic countermeasures indicate this sophistication as no other activity can.

Iran is rapidly becoming the Middle Eastern power house with something that its larger neighbors - Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan — appear to lack, the will to fight.

The Iranians are also hoping that the credible lack of Western resolve can be further hindered by these war games and the revelations of new and more highly potent offensive weapon systems.

Iran may be coming to terms with the fact that the longer their 'war games' in the Gulf go on, the less effective they are psychologically on the West. The 'flying boat' was the tipping point.

As CDR Salamander said of the Iranian 'Stealth' flying boat, "I want the Iranians to build hundreds of these. Spend lots of money on them. Please. For the children."

Note with some distinction that the latest 'great leap' was called 'Top Secret' today, yet still covered by Iran's state media, albeit without the usual plethora of ominous detail present with the prior missile launches or the 'flying boat' debacle. As was seen with last Friday's speculation storm after the vague Iranian 'MIRV' announcement, the West's imagination can often be more imposing and effective in an information war than Iran's provided details.

Less is more.

Not So 'Top Secret' Missile Tested by Iran

One more example of why the Iranian exercise is a Dog & Pony Show for the West and an IRGC Defense Trade Show for Iran: Iran Test-Fires 'Top Secret' Missile:

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran said Wednesday it has successfully test-fired a "top secret" missile, the third in a week, state-run television reported.

The report called the missile an "ultra-horizon" weapon and said it could be fired from all military helicopters and jet fighters.

If it's 'Top Secret', it isn't announced on State Television.

The details of Iranian harboring of and co-operation with al-Qaeda...now that's 'Top Secret'.

No matter how great this missile may or may not be, the fact that the platform that carries it has a post-take-off life expectancy of under twenty minutes in a conflict with American air power should put the latest paraded item into perspective.

They tell us about their 'Top Secret' conventional arms. Very mum about the details of their nuclear program.

April 4, 2006

From Russia With Love

Most blogs generated by media outlets leave much to be desired. Perhaps there is an exception. It Shines For All is the New York Sun's blog, and today it offers up a gem.

"Iran has unveiled with great fanfare a series of what it portrays as sophisticated, homegrown weapons -- flying boats and missiles invisible to radar, torpedoes too fast to elude," the AP reports.
But experts said Tuesday it appears much of the technology came from Russia and questioned Iran's claims about the weapons' capabilities.
The big news here, which the AP just mentions in a passing sentence, is that Russia is building up the Iranian military. Not that this is surprising, as the two states are close allies. But such a blatant exhibition of these ties makes it all that harder for anyone to insist -- with a straight face at least -- that America work through the United Nations -- where Russia has a veto -- to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Which, incidentally, the Russians are also building.

Precisely.

Perhaps because It Shines For All is written by one dedicated blogger. Perhaps because it is not a media blog populated with self-promoting and show-promoting posts by columnists and anchors for precisely that purpose (visit the 'blogs' of the cable news networks).

Whatever the cause, The New York Sun's blog, much like those at National Review Online for instance, stands on its own 'blog' merits and follows the character of the publication, and without much direct promotion of the Mother Ship (KLO's self-termed 'shameless' Cruise promotions hardly count) or sacrificing the conversational attribute of a good blog.

US to Fly Solo in War on Terror?

With Tony Blair's days coming to an end and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi trailing in the Italian polls, America could soon find itself without a significant European ally. Both men look to be replaced with men unfriendly to America. The American Thinker is not optimistic about the outlook.

In the relatively near future, then, we could have a situation where the governments of nearly all of Europe’s major powers – Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and France – are in the hands of leftwing politicians intrinsically unfriendly to the United States (I include Chirac among the left-wingers because that’s what he really is).

This would leave only Angela Merkel, the moderately right-of-center German Chancellor as America’s natural ally among the principal European players. Merkel’s position, however, is weak, leading as she is a fragile coalition with social democrats who hold eight seats in her sixteen-seat cabinet....

There is potential trouble brewing for the United States on the European horizon.

Solo is too strong a term. Australian Prime Minister Howard's victory is even more important today than it was the day he was re-elected. Canada's new leadership is very encouraging. And nations like Poland and others are still resolute. But Europe leaves little room for optimism.

April 3, 2006

Who Pays for 'The Last Helicopter'?

Amir Taheri's important article, 'The Last Helicopter', is required reading that most here likely have already consumed. Add to that Judith Apter Klinghoffer's Who Pays When the Last Helicopter Leaves?.

The new strategy adopted by the Middle Eastern powers that be is to wait out the presidency of George W. Bush in the expectation that his successor will follow the examples of his predecessors, i.e., pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan just the way the US did from Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon and Somalia. The real question is who will lose the most when that last helicopter leaves? If the history is our guide, it would not be the US but those countries left behind. Future American president may figure out a different way to fight and win the war on terror just as they figured out a different way to fight and win the Cold War. But the same cannot be said about the places left behind. Each one of them paid an enormous price which is further magnified by comparing them to countries which enjoyed the benefits of decades of American presence.

Let us start with South Vietnam....

Continue...

(And for those who noticed...Yes, The History News Network is from that George Mason University. ...Oh... and more importantly this George Mason University, too.)

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