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July 31, 2006

48-Hours of the Condor

At OPFOR, John Noonan makes some good observations about why Israel decided to give a 48-hour reprieve from all-out aerial attacks on Hizballah targets.

Not that Hizballah (et al) need concern themselves with the Geneva Convention, but John's observation in regards to how the 48-window relates to Qana likely hits the nail squarely on the head.

Critical that the incident in Qana appear isolated and accidental, despite the fact that the Law of Armed Conflict and Geneva Convention place blame for the incident squarely on Hezbollah's shoulders. This move on Israel's part is as much of a language as it is a strategy, and the message to the Lebanese people is: "if you see Hezbollah fighters in your backyard, get out of Dodge. You've got two days."

...preferably to the north, for whatever that's worth.

Citizens of Hizballistan

Virtue or fault, I watch very little broadcast/cable news. However, about three days per week, 4 minutes or so will be watched in the early morning while inhaling some semblance of a breakfast before work. This morning was an on the ground report from Bint Jbail, most likely from Fox News, noting the absolute decimation of the village.

First to mind was a recollection of Israeli pamphlets dropped incessantly warning residents all over south Lebanon to head north of the Litani River.

What the scene showed was astonishing to these eyes. After the leaflets, after Qana, and hours after the IDF pulled back to their side of the border and left the rubble behind, mothers were walking up the streets and back into town - with their children in tow.

Women bringing their children back to Bint Jbail. Again, one day after Qana. Hours removed from fighting in the same town.

Maybe it's just me, but that stopped me in my tracks thinking what I would be doing with my own children...and watching other parents bringing theirs back.

Speaking of Qana, there appear to be at least some inconsistencies regarding the Qana site recovery, most compelling being the apparent unnatural rapid onset of rigor mortis.

Iranians Bound for Lebanon

Radio Free Europe reports that Iranian volunteers have left for Hizballah assistance in Lebanon.

Groups of Iranian volunteers left Tehran for Lebanon recently, despite government discouragement and denials of responsibility. The country's top clerics, meanwhile, have been unanimous in their support for Hizballah and in encouraging financial contributions and other forms of support for the organization.

It should be noted that no one leaves Iran under media spotlight without the mullahcracy's consent.

The Iranian government discourages their jihad like NAMBLA discourages degenerate behavior.

July 29, 2006

Hizballah-Lebanese Peace Plan?

From CNN comes word that the Lebanese government, weak as it is, and Hizballah, clearly battered as it is, have agreed to a cease fire plan.

The Lebanese cease-fire plan, reached at a meeting on Friday night, calls for an immediate cease-fire, the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails and the return of two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah.

[Commentary: No cease fire plan should include a prisoner swap that ammounts to rewarding terrorism, regardless of the toll exacted by Israeli strikes on Hizballah.]

The plan also calls for the return of displaced Lebanese to their homes, negotiations between Israel and Lebanon concerning the disputed Shebaa farms now under Israeli control, the disclosure of maps showing Israeli minefields near the Lebanese border, the deployment and strengthening of the Lebanese army and the expansion of the U.N. force in the south.

While Hezbollah agreed to a cease-fire with Israel and an increased international presence in southern Lebanon, the group objected to "a robust force" of international peacekeepers in the region, the sources said.

Perhaps a map of Hizballah minefields would be in order as well?

While Condoleezza Rice said that there needs to be 'some give and take' on this agreement, the one piece of the puzzle missing from this plan is Israel. Expect Israel to possibly put a nice public face on it but reject it out of hand.

Consider the points:

• No disarming of Hizballah.
• A weak and deeply segregated Lebanese army in the south w/o NATO force behind it.
• Hapless UN forces remain with a paper mission w/o tangible desire.
• Prisoner swap reward for terrorism.
• Land Reward - Shebaa Farms, regardless of whether Israel really wants it or not.

It appears that what Israel gets in return are their two soldiers (not unimportant by any means) and a healing period for Hizballah similar to that employed by Hamas during the unofficial ceasefire that was in place for just over one year.

It will take more than 'give and take' to make this plan a lasting solution. Otherwise, the fight is merely put off for another day.

When an attacked terrorist group wants a cease fire, press forward with determination.

For what it's worth, it should be noted that Israel has chosen to maintain the tougher fight thus far, that being against Hizballah. Removing Syria from the equation militarily is far easier to achieve than taking on Hizballah. Cutting off the oxygen line from neighboring Assad would cripple Hizballah in short order, making their defeat far easier than without doing so.

Hizballah's Nasrallah said that he wanted a war of attrition. He should be given his desires.

The above, of course, assumes that the true goal is to defeat Hizballah and reduce them to a non-threat in Lebanon. So long as Syria remains a Hizballah life-line of military and logistical support - ensuring Iran's flow of treasure and weaponry - Hizballah will continue to breathe and fight on.

To truly defeat Hizballah, Israel needs to 'give' it the language it understands in the form of an iron fist and 'take' away its oxygen supply to the east.

That's just the way it is. Otherwise, the terrorists are being managed, not defeated.

And therein lay the choice.

July 27, 2006

Understanding Inevitability in Lebanon

To begin to understand Lebanon is to begin to appreciate the latest from Michael Totten, the consummate inside outsider.

If one is not inclined to read Lebanon’s Premature Liberalism in its entirety, the last paragraph excerpted here is key (preceding four for at least minimal context).

Another Lebanese blogger quotes a radical Christian war criminal from the bad old days who says the civil war will resume a month after Israel cools its guns: "Christians, Sunnis and Druze will fight the '****er Shia', with arms from the US and France."

Israeli partisans may think this is terrific. The Lebanese may take care of Hezbollah at last! But democratic Lebanon cannot win a war against Hezbollah, not even after Hezbollah is weakened by IAF raids. Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided. The Israelis beat three Arab armies in six days in 1967, but a decade was not enough for the IDF to take down Hezbollah.

The majority of Lebanon’s people were wise and civilized enough to take the gun out of politics after the fifteen year war. Lebanon was the only Arab country to do this, the only Arab country that preferred dialogue, elections, compromise, and debate to the rule of the boot and the rifle. But Hezbollah remained outside that mainstream consensus and did everything it could, with backing from the Syrian Baath and the Iranian Jihad, to strangle Lebanon’s democracy in its cradle.

Disarming Hezbollah through persuasion and consensus was not possible in the first year of Lebanon’s independence. Disarming Hezbollah by force wasn’t possible either. The Lebanese people have been called irresponsible and cowardly by some of their friends in America for refusing to resume the civil war. Unlike Hezbollah, though, most Lebanese know better than to start unwinnable wars. This is wisdom, not cowardice, and it's sadly rare in the Arab world now. They are being punished entirely too much for what they have done and for what they can't do.

Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what. Their liberal democratic project could not withstand the threat from within and the assaults from the east, and it could not stave off another assault from the south. War, as it turned out, was inevitable even if the actual shape of it wasn’t. Peace was not in the cards for Lebanon. Its democracy turned out to be neither a strength nor a weakness. It was irrelevant.

For those who continue to deride Lebanon, pause once more to consider that "Hizballah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided."

Divided is key, thanks to the religious segregation at the scheming hand of occupying Syria. Consider this important fact when reading news of the IAF bombing the "Lebanese Army." The Shia units of the Lebanese army are rife with Hizballah collaborators and surely host to more than a few full fledged members.

The IDF/IAF are almost certainly following a trail of crumbs from the battlefield...a trail that democratic Lebanon beyond Hizballistan has been left largely incapable of dealing with.

War, to be sure, was inevitable inside Lebanon's borders, though the Cedar Revolution gave a comforting verneer of hope.

The exit of Hizballah's power will be the real entrance of hope. Ya Libnan.

Zawahiri's War on the World

The al-Jazeera clip of al-Zawahiri's statement has been archived and made available for download by Laura Mansfield today. Her analysis is ongoing (check for updates) and she summarizes:

In the message, Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri threatens the Israelis and the west in retaliation for the war in Lebanon.

Zawahiri’s key points are:

* The world is a battle field open in front of us.

* This war with Israel cannot be ended by ceasefires or treaties.

* This is a jihad and will continue until the religion of Allah rules the world.

* Everyone taking part in these attacks will pay the price.

Lest we forget who our enemies are, the al-Qaeda / al-Zawahiri message should restore any clarity lost.

It should also be noted that Zawahiri condemned Arab regimes who criticized Hizballah, effectively renewing calls for grassroots jihad against them as well.

With calls for jihad against Israel, the United States, Arab regimes, and the whole of the West, the hatred for the 'apostate' Shi'ites is seemingly shelved for the moment. But it cannot last forever. The Salafist al-Qaeda is truly in a war against the world.

Nasrallah in Damascus?

While speculation on the whereabouts of Hizballah political leader Hassan Nasrallah continues, news of the whereabouts of its elusive operational leader, Imad Mugniyeh, would surely be of infinitely more value. That said, according to a Kuwaiti newspaper "known for its opposition to the Syrian regime," Nasrallah is in Damascus.

A top Iranian envoy was in Syria on Thursday for talks on the Israeli-Hizballah conflict in a meeting that brought together the guerrilla organization's two key sponsors, according to Iranian news reports. A Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Hizballah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was taking part in the session.

...Kuwait's Al-Siyassah newspaper said it learned of the meeting from "well-informed Syrian sources" it did not identify. According to the newspaper, Nasrallah was moving through Damascus with Syrian guards in an intelligence agency car. He was dressed in civilian clothes, not his normal clerical garb.

While unconfirmed and no less (or more) speculative than earlier reports that he had been holed up at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, it is worth noting that both reports could be true. Or not. Both are plausible.

Nasrallah's voice is easily replaceable. Mugniyeh's mind, on the other hand, is not.

Gen. Abizaid Sees Parallels Between Mahdi Army and Hizballah

In a Multi-National Force - Iraq report, General John Abizaid makes a very apt comparison between the militia situation in Iraq and Lebanon (more precisely between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and Hizballah) that is worth noting.

"The sectarian violence that's taking place in the Baghdad area and up north towards Diyala province is probably the gravest threat to stability that there is in the country right now," Abizaid said.

Officials in Baghdad said there is a tit-for-tat response going on in Baghdad and its environs now, with several revenge killings taking place each day.

Abizaid said the government must demobilize militias.

"If you don't do this, you end up with a situation like you have in Lebanon, where the militia becomes a state within a state," Abizaid said. "It makes the state impotent to be able to deal with security challenges."

Wee Willie Keeler and al-Qaeda in Africa

At Family Security Matters, Dr. J. Peter Pham reminds us that, while current attention spans are dominated by conflict in the Levant between Israel and Hizballah, al-Qaeda is making significant efforts (with some clear success) on the continent of Africa. As he clearly points out, these efforts extend well beyond Somalia.

For the purposes of brevity, consider his conclusion:

In short, even if some analysts inside the Beltway cannot or will not see it, our jihadi foes are already setting their sights on Africa as the venue of choice for future operational bases, especially as they continue to be rooted out of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arabian peninsula, and now, Gaza and Lebanon.

Over the long term, a terrorist foothold in Africa—whether among the Islamists in the Horn of Africa or in West Africa or both—may well prove to be an even greater threat to the interests of the United States and its allies than those in the current arenas of conflict.

We have been warned: al-Qaeda itself has served us notice.

No longer than many newspaper articles, Dr. Pham's writing should be read in full. That al-Qaeda is taking a page from Wee Willie Keeler to "hit 'em where they ain't" should not come as a surprise...nor go unnoticed.

Hizballah's Untouchable Launch Districts

In The Age's recent column Neighbourhood bombing 'against humanitarian law', the UN's Jan Egeland seems to have dismissed his earlier principle when he said of Hizballah's deep embedding among civilians, “Consistently, from the Hizballah heartland, my message was that Hizballah must stop this cowardly blending … among women and children. I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don’t think anyone should be proud of having many more women and children dead than armed men.”

Now, however, after seeing the destruction Hizballah has truly wrought upon its own civilians, he appears to have changed course. From The Age:

Israel's bombing of a crowded Beirut neighbourhood where Hezbollah had its headquarters has breached humanitarian law, a senior UN official has said, as reports emerged of heavy fighting on Lebanon's southern border.

"It is horrific. I did not know it was block after block of houses," Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator, told reporters as he toured the shattered Haret Hreik district. "It makes it a violation of humanitarian law."

Mr Egeland was visibly shocked by the devastation in the Shiite Muslim quarter where air raids have flattened a Hezbollah compound. He said it was hard to distinguish between military and civilian targets. [Emphasis added]

One wonders if it crosses Mr. Egeland's mind how the Israelis might feel observing precisely the same frustrating circumstance. It appears Mr. Egeland’s view – as well as others’ view – that it is the Israelis who are responsible. This view irresponsibly dismisses the fact that this reaction is the precise reason that Hizballah has embedded itself among its own civilians, sacrificing them knowingly and readily.

Tyre neighborhoods, for instance, are where many of the missiles striking Haifa daily are launched. From among its own civilians and intentionally targeting Israeli civilians with bearing-laden warheads. Is this not ‘against humanitarian law’?

Is Israel to cede Hizballah a Tyre (or Beirut) free-to-fire zone from which to rain unguided missiles purposely down upon Israeli cities and civilians?

Who is going to stop the launches within these civilian neighborhoods, UNIFIL? How does one propose any potential ‘international peacekeeping force’ effectively put an end to these apparent untouchable launch districts?

According to the rationale put forth, fighting them is clearly not possible in their perfect 'humanitarian' defensive firing positions. What is the UN going to do, impose sanctions on Hizballah?

Yet one more time, please consider:

The IDF is not in force in Haifa. The aim is clear: Kill Israeli civilians.

This intent is what separates the Israelis (and the West) from the terrorist enemy. Civilian casualties from Israeli attacks are because the enemy embeds himself among them.

To not engage him, even with as much precision as possible, is to cede him victory and condemn one’s own civilians to undefended slaughter.

This is unacceptable.

As the rockets rain on the general population of Israel, there is no free ‘Home Base’ safety zone for Hizballah to hide them in. The Israeli Defense Force is not playing tag.

July 26, 2006

Biometrics and Security

The use of biometrics is rapidly taking on an increasingly important role in national and international security. In an article published in the Asia Times, Fred Stakelbeck takes a look at the technology and at how Asia is actually leading the way in its development and implementation.

Looking ahead, the main driver for the adoption of biometric solutions in Asia will continue to be the government sector, specifically in the areas of immigration and security.

"Now that the concept has been proven in the public context, this will pave the way for the adoption of biometrics," noted Terry Hartmann, director of secure identification and biometrics at Unisys Corporation. "Government departments that need to verify identify will consider the technology initially, after which the private sector will be prompted to investigate how it can solve existing problems, such as building access control."

Starting next month, all passport holders in Singapore will be able to apply for new travel documents with additional security features designed in accordance with international standards. BioPass is a tamper-resistant biometric passport with an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, carrying the passport holder's facial and fingerprint biometric identifiers.

LeT: Why Americans Should Care

The recent coordinated train bombings in India have put the al-Qaeda-linked terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in the spotlight. Mark Eichenlaub has written an article published by The Washington Times' Insight Magazine that serves as a good introduction for the average American who may not be familiar with the LeT. Following his owm personal focus, mark details the links between the LeT and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

Why should the average American even care about a terrorist group operating primarily in Kashmir and India?

In fact, LET agents have been captured in the United States. In 2003, operatives were arrested in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania for conspiring to "[P]repare for and engage in violent jihad on behalf of Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, the Philippines and other countries."

The terror web is tangled and complex until reduced to a common denominator: Hatred for America< Israel, Jews and the West in general.

In that simple context, there are no groups Americans should be unconcerned about. They're quite concerned about us.

Baghdad Death Squad Taken Down

From CENTCOM:

BALAD – Iraqi Army forces conducted a pre-dawn raid in Baghdad on July 25, capturing six targeted insurgents, all of whom are believed to be involved in ‘death squad’ activities.

As coalition force advisers looked on, Iraqi forces raided an objective in southwest Baghdad consisting of four separate buildings and captured the cell leader and five other key members of an insurgent ‘punishment committee.’

Iraqi forces also seized two AK-47 assault rifles, one pistol, and one set of body armor.

The operation occurred without incident; there were no Iraqi or coalition force casualties.

An AP report in today's Chicago Tribune notes an important unknown, reporting "The six death squad suspects, including a cell leader, were detained during a predawn raid on four buildings in Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said. It was not clear whether those detained Tuesday were Sunnis or Shiites."

UNIFIL Post Strike in Perspective

In A Knife-Thrower at the Carnival, a closer look at events that led up to the UNIFIL post being struck in southern Lebanon puts the incident in proper perspective. Wretchard details other incidents since open hostilities began in an excellent day-by-day chart. His commentary is spot on in conclusion.

To recapitulate, the UNIFIL is running a kind of ambulance service on the Lebanese side of the border. That is not its official mission; it has failed in its official mission but its men are obviously performing with considerable perseverance and bravery. UNIFIL are able to run convoys in an area where the Hezbollah are shifting squads around while the IDF doing its best to kill the Hezbollah. Yet until July 26 the UNIFIL had not suffered any fatalities from IDF fire. Their sole serious injury to that date had actually been caused by the Hezbollah, and the injured UN trooper was evacuated by the IDF to an Israeli hospital.

The IDF has for its part avoided hitting UNIFIL or their civilian convoys despite its widely publicized use of artillery and air. Far from being random, the IDF is apparently able to create safe corridors in active battle zones through which UNIFIL can pass until the recent incident in Kiyam. There are probably very few military organizations in the world which can accomplish this. Nevertheless, the danger of friendly fire naturally remains.

The following sentence asks the proper question:

Considering the fact that UNIFIL peacekeeping mission was a dead-letter it should naturally be asked why Kofi Annan, as their ultimate commander, has seen fit to keep them in a position of danger where their only chance of safety actually depends on accurate targeting by the IDF.

July 25, 2006

Moral Equivalence and Terrorism

In Tuesday's Chicago Tribune, Alan Dershowitz takes aim at the harm done by the display of moral equivalence on the part of Kofi Annan in his commentary How the UN legitimizes terrorists. It should be considered required reading.

If anyone wonders why the UN has rendered itself worse than irrelevant in the Arab-Israeli conflict, all he or she need do is read UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's July 20 statement. Annan goes to great pains to suggest equal fault and moral equivalence between the rockets of Hezbollah and Hamas that specifically target innocent civilians and the self-defense efforts by Israel, which tries desperately, though not always successfully, to avoid causing civilian casualties. In his statement, Annan never condemns, or even mentions, terrorism, which is a root cause and precipitator of the conflict.

Even Annan was forced to acknowledge that "Hezbollah's provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis"; that Hezbollah is "deliberate[ly] targeting ... Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons"; and that Israel has the "right to defend itself under Article 51 of the UN charter." But he doesn't stop there. He goes out of his way to insist on equating Hezbollah's terrorists with Israeli military response, which he labels "disproportionate" and "collective punishment." He condemns both Hezbollah and Israel. He also criticizes Israel for its efforts at preventing Qassam rocket attacks against its civilian populations, noting that the Hamas rockets have produced no "casualties in the past month." (This, of course, is not for lack of trying.) He ignores Hamas' long history of terrorism against innocent civilians.

The key phrase is "This, of course, is not for lack of trying."

The difference between the two sides is intent and target selection. Their rockets and suicide bombers seek out civilians - the former by the cities, the latter by the busloads.

We ask yet one more time:

What if Hizballah or Hamas had Merkavas?

July 24, 2006

al-Sadr's Mahdi Army Joining Hizballah's Fight

The word out of Baghdad is that Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army appears ready to join fight, recruiting and training Iraqi men to fight alongside Hizballah in southern Lebanon.

"We are choosing the men right now," said Abu Mujtaba, who works in the loosely organized following of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We are preparing the right men for the job."

Mr. Mujtaba, who was interviewed in Baghdad, said some of the men have had special training but did not specify what kind.

Sheik al-Sadr's black-clad armed militia numbers in the thousands, operates throughout central and southern Iraq and is thought to be responsible for numerous killings of Sunnis.

But it appears that it is not only the Iranian-backed Shi'ite radical al-Sadr that is rushing to help fight Israel. His own Sunni competition in Iraq appears loathe to be outdone in that arena.

A rival Sunni cleric, Abdul Rahman al-Duleimi, said he knew about the militia's recruiting effort and that he had appealed to his own followers to fight Israel.

"We know that the Mahdi militia is on this issue since the Lebanon-Israeli crisis started," said Sheik al-Duleimi, whose house in Baghdad contains a large portrait of former ruler Saddam Hussein. The cleric is not related to Adnan al-Dulaimi, also a Sunni cleric and leader of a major faction in parliament.

A sign that the war is already widening beyond Israel, Hizballah, Iran and Syria, the hatred of Israel runs deep and wide.

'No Safe Place' for Israeli Jews

At first glance it appeared - in a manner - confirming the report that Hizballah sleeper cells have been activated around the world when a Hizballah leader at a conference in Tehran said bluntly that Hizballah will leave 'no place' safe for Israelis, in or out of Israel.

But upon closer inspection (and without more context from him) it appears that Hossein Safiadeen is referring to Israel proper.

"We are going to make Israel not safe for Israelis. There will be no place they are safe," Hossein Safiadeen told a conference that included the Tehran-based representative of the Palestinian group Hamas and the ambassadors from Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

"You will see a new Middle East in the way of Hezbollah and Islam, not in the way of Rice and Israel," Safiadeen said.

Hizballah is not likely to infiltrate Israel with any regular success for bombing missions. Based upon such an assumption, the success of such a vision would either entail even longer-range weapons and/or the direct cooperation of terrorists firing from both Gaza and the West Bank.

The intent is to once and for all rid Israel of Jews.

"We will expand attacks," he said. "The people who came to Israel, (they) moved there to live, not to die. If we continue to attack, they will leave."

Echoing Ahmadinejad's threats in recent days, where he said that Israel had "reached its finishing line," Safiadeen added that "This war will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Israel."

Is there possibly any question about Iranian direction of Hizballah, including the attack that sparked the current hot conflict?

July 22, 2006

OBL Message: 'Not So Fast'

About that impending message from bin Laden, Andy Cochran says 'not so fast'. He notes Evan Kohlmann's experienced view on the word of a new message at the Counterterrorism Blog:

However, there has been no confirmation of an upcoming message from as-Sahab itself, and Evan Kohlmann warns, "The indicators that would suggest a new Bin Laden audio is coming out are more or less flat. There was one random message on the Internet posted by one random person, that's it. At least in my book, that's what you call an interesting but unsubstantiated rumor."

So perhaps the world's people can resume their normal daily lives again.

Andy also notes this possible significance of the Saudi Wahhabi cleric's fatwa against Shi'ite Hizballah. We noted at the time:

al-Qaeda has trained many men in Hizballah’s Bekaa Valley. Perhaps Sheik Abdullah bin Jabreen did not consult fellow Saudi Wahhabi, Osama bin Laden.

If word of a bin Laden message on Lebanon, Hizballah & Israel proves false, then perhaps he did consult our al-Qaeda friend.

Maritime Security: Pirates and 'Fishermen' with Submarines

Continuing his unending Maritime Security vigilance, EagleSpeak has another roundup of security events and concerns, including piracy in the Indian Ocean and 'fishermen' with a submarine full of cocaine. If it happens on the seas (or even the rivers of Romania), Eagle1 is on it.

Iran: Hizballah are Heroes

Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani praised Hizballah for the "great job" they are doing lobbing their anti-personnel projectile laden Iranian-made rockets and missiles into Israeli cities. Quotes abound from Mr. Rafsanjani in the Khaleej Times, but none more eye-catching than the following condemnation of Israel's counter-attack on Hizballah:

“Destroying a country is not proportionate to capturing two hostages.”

Interesting sound bite coming from a government that prefers to see Israel "wiped off the map." What might be proportionate to wiping Israel off the map, one wonders?

Come now, Mr. President. You can't have it both ways.

July 21, 2006

Hizballah: 'Special Forces Brigade of Iranian Army'

In today's InBrief, Ground Push Imminent as Hizballah Rockets Fly, we noted Hizballah's system of tunnels and use of villages as guerrilla defenses. As well, DNA cites Jane's Defense Weekly's article noting that Hizballah is using Viet Cong-style defenses, including tunnels and trenches near the Israeli border. From it, consider this quote from an 'unnamed senior [Israeli] defence source':

"We should consider that what we are facing in Lebanon is not a militia but rather a special forces brigade of the Iranian Army. They are extremely well trained and equipped and charged with high motivation to continue fighting."

And that they are indeed.

bin Laden Message Being Released

Word has it that another message from Osama bin Laden is coming soon, this time addressing the fighting in Lebanon in what surely will be an attempt to rally followers to take arms against Israel along with threats once more to the US and the West. From ABC News' The Blotter:

In his message, bin Laden will reportedly address events in Gaza and Lebanon. This message has been expected and is consistent with new efforts in 2006 by al Qaeda's senior leadership to be responsive in their messages to current developments.

July 20, 2006

Nasrallah Alive and Threatening

Appearing on al-Jazeera, Nasrallah finally confirmed that he has survived the Israeli airstrike that saw 23 tons of ordnance dropped on what IDF intelligence believed was a Hizballah command bunker.

Nasrallah said, "I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare, that we have not been harmed." The IDF believed that much of Hizballah leadership was in the bunker at the time.

Nasrallah continued, "Hizballah has so far stood fast, absorbed the strike and has retaken the initiative and made the surprises that it had promised, and there are more surprises."

One thing that has been surprising thus far is the apparent silence of Hizballah's shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. The Bekaa Valley has been called by some the most heavily defended air corridor on the planet, with the mountainsides teeming with shoulder-fires SAMs.

Perhaps one of Nasrallah's surprises is the repositioning of those assets and their introduction in waves to the battlefield.

With that in mind, there is word now that an Israeli helicopter has gone down with the crew of two dead and no word yet on the cause.

If Hizballah Had Merkavas

This PowerPoint slide show hosted by our friends at Vital Perspective gives a very revealing look at the nature of Hizballah's missile attacks on Haifa, as the warheads are packed with ball bearings and other anti-personnel projectiles. The IDF is not in force in Haifa. The aim is clear: Kill Israeli civilians.

This intent is what separates the Israelis (and the West) from the terrorist enemy. Civilian casualties from Israeli attacks are because the enemy embeds himself among them.

To not engage him, even with as much precision as possible, is to cede him victory and condemn one's own civilians to undefended slaughter.

This is unacceptable.

This recognition is also why so many of us have so little patience with the many screaming for cease-fire due to civilian losses. While we are branded warmongers and callous, the enemy relishes in his neighbor's home, launching rockets from another's backyard.

If the equipment and weapons available were to magically switch sides, finding the Israelis with AK's and Katyushas and the Hizballah with Merkava tanks, F-16's and 2000lb bombs, can there be any doubt - any - that hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians would be eclipsed, buried beneath the rubble that once was Haifa, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon?

Hold that image and take a closer look at Beirut today after over a week of fighting. Check that civilian number once more while at it.

This is certainly not to dismiss the losses as inconsequential. But consider the nature of civilian embedding Hizballah practices and a week of attacks from the Middle East's most fearsome military power. How is it not more?

Answer: Hizballah targets civilians while the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid them without ceding victory to a murderous enemy who employs his own as human shields.

Civilians are defended by Israel, while Hizballah and their Iranian masters employ their usefulness as both targets and shields.

Remember...If Hizballah had Merkavas and F-16's...

Update on Nasrallah, Apparently Alive

Unfortunately, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, seems to have survied the airstrike yesterday evening of a Hizbullah bunker. Watching Al-Jazeera just now, they showed a video clipping of an interview with Nasrallah and a live discussion with the journalist who conducted the interview. As usual, I cut in about in the middle of the show, so I didn't get the full context, but it certainly appeared that this interview was after yesterday's strike. The journalist was wearing the same shirt in the live interview as the video, suggesting that there wasn't too much time between them. I note that the Jerusalem Post has just now posted an article with a photo from the same video but limited information. Al-Jazeera's website does not as of right now have anything on this in either the Arabic or English version.

We will update as more information is available, but it looks like Nasrallah is alive.

Annan's Cease Fire Plan & Sheeba Farms

Vital Perspective has an extensive entry covering Kofi Annan's designs for a cease-fire in southern Lebanon. Said Annan, "Israel's disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of the Lebanese people must stop." It is at least arguable that Hizballah itself is responsible for any "collective punishment," launching missiles from Christian, Druze and Sunni neighborhoods in an attempt to draw Israeli fire on them which, in turn, lends propaganda value to support claims like those of Annan.

Points from Annan's plan:

1. The captured Israeli soldiers must be transferred to the legitimate Lebanese authorities under the auspices of the ICRC with a view to their repatriation to Israel and a cease-fire.

2. On the Lebanese side of the Blue Line, an expanded peacekeeping force would help stabilize the situation, working with the Lebanese government to help strengthen its army and deployed fully throughout the area.

3. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government would fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1680 to establish Lebanese sovereignty and control.

4. The prime minister of Lebanon would unequivocally confirm to the secretary general and the Security Council that the government of Lebanon will respect the Blue Line in its entirety until agreement on Lebanon's final international boundaries is reached.

5. A donor conference would be established with immediate effect -- sorry, a donor framework -- a donor framework would be established with immediate effect to secure funding for an urgent package of aid, reconstruction and development of Lebanon.

6. A mechanism would be established composed of key regional and international actors to monitor and guarantee the implementation of all aspects of the agreements.

7. An international conference should be organized with broad Lebanese and international participation to develop precise time lines for a speedy and full implementation of the Taif Agreement and further measures needed for Lebanon to comply with its international obligations under Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1680.

8. The conference would also endorse a delineation of Lebanon's international borders, including a final resolution on all disputed areas, especially the Shebaa Farms.

And there you have it. The Lebanese army will disarm and disband Hizballah with the aid of UNIFIL+. Defining the "+" will be key, but if under Blue Hats, little is likely to change.

The key here is the repeated reference to defining borders and Sheeba Farms. Expect Israel, regardless of the fate of this plan, to be pressured into ceding the Sheeba Farms.

Interesting math. Hizballah attacks the IDF, kills eight and abducts two. Israel responds in self defense and, in the end, will be painted as the aggressor and strong-armed into giving Lebanon Sheeba Farms.

Saudi Wahhabi's Fatwa on Shi'ite Hizballah

Via Captain's Quarters, ever vigilant, comes word that a leading Saudi sheik's fatwa against Hizballah, forbidding any measure of support for Hizballah, including joining, funding or even prayers.

al-Qaeda has trained many men in Hizballah's Bekaa Valley. Perhaps Sheik Abdullah bin Jabreen did not consult fellow Saudi Wahhabi, Osama bin Laden.

Page two offers some interesting background on the Wahhabi fatwa against the Shi'ite terrorist group.

The division between Sunnis and Shiites goes back to the Koran. Mohammed's son in law, Ali, claimed that he had been chosen as his successor, and to this day Shiites believe that Ali held the true claim to the Caliphate. Sunnis believe the prophet made no such choice and recognize the line of Caliphs that began with Abu Bakr, the choice of the prophet's companions after his death.

One can pick up some of this history in Mr. Jebreen's fatwa. In it he refers to Shiite Hezbollah as "rafidhis," meaning rejecters. In his religious edict, Mr. Jebreen writes, "Our advice to the Sunnis is to denounce them and shun those who join them to show their hostility to Islam and to the Muslims."

"Three years ago, I have not been seeing chatter along such lines.This became more prevalent following [the dead Al Qaeda leader in Iraq] Zarqawi's declarations against Shia. Iraq has a lot to do with this," Ms. Katz said yesterday. A week before Zarqawi was killed in June, he gave a four hour sermon entitled, "Did you get the message of the Shiites," where Ms. Katz says he portrayed the Shiites as the enemies of Sunni Muslims.

Evidence that, absent a US or Israeli target, certain sects of both the Sunni and Shia would likely simply redirect and consume each other instead.

Will there ever be an end?

A Window of Opportunity in the War on Terror

While so many clamor for a cease-fire and the de facto preservation of Iran's Hizballah terror proxies, Michael Ledeen recognizes this as A Window of Opportunity:

And so they struck, first in Gaza, then in northern Israel, and, as always, in Iraq and Afghanistan and India. They imagined, just as Osama had prophesied five years earlier (almost to the Muslim day; according to their calendar Wednesday the 19th was the anniversary of our 9/11), that the regional assault would bring our allies and us to our knees. We would lose our will to fight, and abandon the battlefield to the army of Allah, and Hamas, and Moqtada, and the Badr brigades, and all the others.

It’s the same misunderestimation as before, for tyrants have always been unable to imagine the remarkable ability of free people to respond to challenge, and to organize quickly, voluntarily, and effectively to fight their enemies. Hizballah now risks rout, and Assad, sensing his peril, is whispering promises of betrayal in order to ensure his own survival. The Iranians still threaten Armageddon, but, so far at least, have been unable to demonstrate the capacity to provoke it....

When dealing with the epicenter of global terrorism, letting up just as the beast shows signs of squirming defies the logic of victory.

...Now is the time to tell our soldiers in Iraq that “hot pursuit” is okay, that the terrorist training camps on both sides of Iraq are legitimate targets, to be attacked in self-defense. Now is the time to tell the Iraqi government to come forward with the abundant evidence of Iranian evil-doing, and that we will support a fight against the mullahs’ foot soldiers in Iraq. These actions will signal the next stage of the war against the terror masters, which is the vigorous support of the pro-democracy forces in Syria and Iran...

It is a wondrous window of opportunity. As so often in our history, it was opened by our enemies. Let’s go for it.

Now, please. It may not open again for quite a while.

It is a war neither declared nor started by us, executed at the initiative of the Islamist terrorists. We cannot continue to ignore the terror masters and refuse to annihilate their Hizballah terror machine. Enacting a cease-fire and ignoring Iran is to force Israel and the entire West to accept the wolf's menacing bite today, only to wake up another more frightful day with the wolf consuming its prey.

Guitta's Missed Facts on Lebanon Conflict

Olivier Guitta offers more important missed facts on the Hezbollah/Iran/Syria-Israel war, including how Syria maintains a presence via Lebanese appointments, the three month planning of the Hizballah abduction operation, and perhaps most significantly, the following:

But the Arabic version of the piece is, as usual, much more detailed: the 200 Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been stationed in Lebanon since 1990. They have married Shia Lebanese women, mostly "Hezbollah widows" and have changed their names to Lebanese names. They installed over twenty fixed rocket bases in the Bekaa Valley and provided Hezbollah with mobile bases to launch rockets. Furthermore a secret elite force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard composed of about twenty men is watching the Israel Defense Forces' every move with very sophisticated high-tech material and then deciding on the targets to hit inside Israel.

5- Hezbollah is purposefully using Christian, Sunni and Druze villages to fire rockets at Israel. In fact, they count on Israel retaliating in these places, killing non-Shia civilians who then in turn might become hostile to Israel and side with Hezbollah.

Again, the use of civilians as shields and sacrificial propaganda tools, post-mortem. Now, in addition to embedding themselves among their own civilian population (Hizballah's Shia in the south), but now clearly look to sacrifice their Christian, Sunni and Druze Lebanese internal competitors. This clearly defines the line of moral demarcation between us and our Islamist terrorist enemies.

July 19, 2006

UN Working on 'Lebanese' Deal?

The headline reads: UN working on new deal between Israel and Lebanon. It opens:

The United Nations is working toward a new diplomatic arrangement between Israel and Lebanon that will be based on implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty, and the deployment of the Lebanese army to southern Lebanon.

No diplomatic deal between Israel and the Lebanese government is going to disarm Hizballah. Period.

The "restoration of Lebanese sovereignty" would necessarily include the defeat of Hizballah - in place - and the return of the land of Hizballistan to the Lebanese people.

There is no way that the Lebanese Army is going to deploy and disarm Hizballah. Quite the opposite would be the more likely outcome.

If it is truly desired by the UN that Hizballah be disarmed, they would abandon designs on a ceasefire and move their reams of paper from the path of IDF Merkavas.

Even then, without a blocking force, much of Hizballah would merely be pushed from the south into Syria only to await another day, re-armed.

That's just the way it is. There are no easy answers.

July 17, 2006

Olmert Levels Cease-Fire Conditions

The Jerusalem Post reports that, in "an impassioned speech to the Knesset" today, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leveled Israel’s three demands for a cease fire:

1) Hizballah's return of kidnapped soldiers.
2) Cessation of rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
3) Deployment of Lebanese Army along its southern border.

The third is clearly the most difficult to achieve, for a multitude of reasons. It is, however, not an unreasonable demand. This clearly displays that, while Israel 'holds the Lebanese government responsible' for Hizballah's actions in southern Lebanon, Israel is clearly not at war with the State of Lebanon. Clearly, they want the Lebanese government to be in control vice Hizballah, whom they are at war with.

"When missiles are launched at our residents and our towns, our answer will be war waged at full strength, with all determination, courage and sacrifice," he [PM Olmert] said.

"We are not looking for war or direct conflict, but if necessary we will not be frightened by it," added the prime minister.

Lebanon is reluctant to deploy its army to the south for fear of rekindling a paused but yet-unsettled civil war, sparking a bloodbath between Shi'ite Hizballah in the south and Sunnis from northern Lebanon.

It appears quite necessary for the IDF to 'soften' Hizballah significantly before the Lebanese army would make such a move, with or without the 2004 UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (PDF: Resolution 1559 Text here), which called for the Lebanese Army to disarm the terrorist organization.

Nasrallah, Palestinian Hero

Much has been made by Hamas and Hizballah of "women and children" in Israeli prisons, playing disingenuously to international sensibilities seeking Israeli condemnation. Below, calculate for yourself the age of Abu Omar's son when he joined the PFLP and note the heroic status which Shi'ite terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah has been anointed with by the largely Sunni Palestinian public, at least those the Haaretz journalist has come into contact with. From Haaretz:

Abu Omar's neighbors in the market next to the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem say they haven't seen him this happy in a long time. His eldest son, Omar, about to complete his high-school studies, joined an underground cell of the Popular Front three years ago. According to the charge sheet drawn up against him, he and his fellow movement members were planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Somebody turned informer, and Omar was arrested. He is now awaiting trial - a trial that is taking time to get under way.

Abu Omar has been running around for the past two years between police officers and lawyers, and even asked this journalist for help in devising a plea bargain, so that his son will not sit for a prolonged perid [sic] in prison. Now, for the first time, there is a glimmer of hope for him: Sheik Hassan Nasrallah will bring about his son's release.

The clear impression that one gets from the mood in the street is that Nasrallah is now the unchallenged hero of the Palestinians. He is running a one-man show. Unlike the gaggle of Palestinian leaders - Mahmoud Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Meshal, Mahmoud al-Zahar, Mohammed Dahlan and many others - who compete with, gossip about and plot against one another, Nasrallah is serving in all of the posts: president, prime minister, foreign minister, ideologue. He has no competitors; he is the sole spokesman. In a brilliant move - according to the Damascus Gate pundits - he has succeeded not only in kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but even more importantly, he "kidnapped" the entire Palestinian problem and wrested control over it.

July 15, 2006

The Hizballah, Hamas & Fatah Alliance

Arutz Sheva reports an anonymous Palestinian Authority source stating that Palestinian terror groups are allied with Hizballah. The source said that the connection 'is not new.'

This connection and cooperation, however, was publicly disclosed by Zakariya Zubeidi, the West Bank's Jenin leader of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Consider referencing a March 2006 InBrief titled Hezbollah, al-Aqsa and Islamic Jihad Coordinating Attacks:

It has been noted by many that, while Hamas remains in power, the burden of Israeli attacks will shift squarely to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Zubeidi confirmed this point blank, saying, “Hamas will not carry out military operations in Israel during the next weeks and months. We, the Brigades and Jihad, will take over this role.” He also noted his plans to tighten the alliance between the long-time Iranian-backed PIJ and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and proclaimed that, contrary to recent statements denying such, al-Aqsa is receiving material support from Iran via arms, money and training from Hezbollah. The denial may have come from the PIJ, but can there be any doubt that, if al-Aqsa is receiving training, money, and arms from Iran’s Hezbollah, that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad most certainly is? In fact, Zubeidi went so far as to confirm that al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades coordinates terror operations with Hezbollah. “Without the help of our brothers in Hezbollah we could not have continued our struggle. They give us money and weapons. We coordinate our military operations.”[Emphasis added]

Arutz Sheva reports an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade spokesman as saying today that Hizballah's rocket and missile attacks are a "message and a mortal blow to Israel."

It also quotes the Palestine News Network (PNN) as broadcasting, "The Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbullah, and now its General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, have affirmed commitment to aiding the Palestinians against Israeli attacks."

Wherever Hizballah is, Iran must be considered present as well (direct Iranian contact with Palestinian terror groups notwithstanding). For, without Iran, Hizballah decays rather than builds. With Hizballah's natural decay, the coming onslaught in southern Lebanon would not be on the radar.

So, while headlines are dominated by the Iranian nuclear crisis, it should be crystal clear that it is not so much the nuclear weapons that give rise to the urgency. If it were the weapons that were feared, why the (relative) calm with regard to Indian, Chinese or even Pakistani nukes? No, it's the people that would wield them that determine the level of fear. China's communist rulers, for all their obvious faults, are rational. It would be hard to imagine them seeking suicide by initiating a nuclear strike. The same can be said of India and, under the current regime at least, Pakistan.

But in Iran, with a fascist theocratic mullahcracy clearly bent on the destruction of Israel, one can not say the same. Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer and exporter complete with an over $75 per-barrel windfall, is led by men who forged it into the centerpiece of international terrorism.

Their purse strings and weapons supply have been opened to terrorists worldwide, including al-Qaeda. This money and arms has bought them influence and power to varying degrees within all of them, leading to concerted direction.

This cannot be made any clearer than the coordination and cooperation among Iran's child, Hizballah, and the Palestinian terrorists.

This current conflict, recall, was precipitated by nearly identical attacks from first Hamas' attack and abduction of one IDF soldier followed by exactly the same by Hizballah in the north, opening a second front.

No, it's not the nuclear weapons that should be the focus with Iran.

It’s the Terrorism, Stupid.

July 14, 2006

Lebanese Army to Confront Hizballah?

An interesting post at Hyscience points to The Big Pharaoh who asks, "Will the Lebanese government finally wake up and end the fear that has crippled them from confronting Hizbollah?"

Interestingly, he refers to a Washington Post article titled Attacks Could Erode Faction's Support, where Anthony Shadid writes:

Lebanese critics as well as allies of Hezbollah insist that the Israeli response was disproportionate. But at the same time, in meetings Thursday, Lebanese officials began to lay the groundwork for an extension of government control to southern Lebanon. Hezbollah largely controls southern Lebanon, where it has built up a network of schools, hospitals and charities.

"To declare war and to make military action must be a decision made by the state and not by a party," said Nabil de Freige, a parliament member. He belongs to the bloc headed by Saad Hariri, whose father, Rafiq, a former prime minister and wealthy businessman, was assassinated in 2005, setting off a sequence of events that forced the Syrian withdrawal. "It's a very simple equation: You have to be a state." [Emphasis added.]

This is interesting on its own merit.

But consider an article from Britain's Telegraph today. We used it to reference a quote today from Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador. But the headline (Israel claims Beirut 'secretly backs' its actions) seemed quite sensational considering the textual content that lay beneath it.

But in light of at least some members of the Lebanese government planning to take control of Hizballah's domain in the south, to make such a move without communicating (and coordinating and potentially cooperating...even with passivity) with an angry army coiled along that border with intentions of rolling over the same turf is simply impossible to imagine.

This communication would have to take place well before any publicly disclosed meetings about troop movements and taking territory, which means it has already occurred, or at least begun.

Suddenly, the British Telegraph's headline may not have been as sensational in fact as it appeared in original print context.

Did Pakistani Intelligence Plan India Bombings?

That's the question asked by Ed at Captain's Quarters. The HindustanTimes reports that "[Indian] Intelligence agencies on Thursday confirmed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the “mastermind” of the blasts that killed about 200 people."

The same 'hallmarks of the ISI' that Indian intelligence notes about the attacks are also hallmarks of al-Qaeda, as Ed reminds. Let's not forget the tangled web of support and cooperation between the Pakistani ISI and bin Laden's al-Qaeda, from bin Laden's arrival during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to present, which logically leads Ed to ask some hard to answer questions:

This could lead to a chicken-egg argument. Did the Mumbai attacks come from AQ or the ISI? Did the ISI teach these tactics to al-Qaeda -- or do they still assist AQ in operational planning of such attacks? Does Pervez Musharraf have control over his own intel service, or does the ISI have a rogue element that supports international Islamist terrorism?

If India comes to firmly believe the ISI direction in the Mumbai attacks, difficult times lie ahead not too far south of Kabul.

Nasrallah Alive and...

Well. Well doesn't sound right. But he is alive it appears.

FNC and Reuters have reported that he called in to a Beirut TV station and said:

"You wanted open war. We are going to open war,"

And...

"You have chosen an all-out war with a nation which ... has the capability, the experience and the courage."

Nasrallah also claimed an Israeli vessel was hit by rockets off the coast of Beirut. More as it becomes available.

RE: Has Israel Taken Out Hizballah Leader?

It doesn't look like it. FNC is now saying that Hassam Nasrallah was seen on television - or was reportedly seen on TV.

Has Israel Taken Out Hizballah Leader?

In curently breaking news, FOX News is reporting that Israel may have killed Hizballah leader Hassam Nasrallah in an airstrike on the Hizballah headquarters building in the southern end of Beirut.

The reports are unconfirmed and developing at current, but Israeli intelligence believed Nasrallah to be in the building at the time of the strike, likely the initiating factor if so.

If Nasrallah was indeed in the building, regardless of death or survival, this marks the first departure from the Gaza model that also included the kidnapping of an IDF soldier, initial Israeli airstrikes and the destruction of Hamas buildings (including the PA Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior).

Unlike Nasrallah's Gaza-based Hamas peers who vacated the buildings and went underground, Nasrallah inexplicably may have chosen to boldly remain at his known post.

Whether born of boldness, confidence, arrogance or doubt of Israeli resolve, it may prove to be a mistake that cost him his life and seriously damaged his own terrorist organization.

Israel clearly means business.

Bullies, Milk Money and a Change of Course

The headline from Haaretz reads "Ahmadinejad: Israel would not dare to move against Iran". Up to this point, perhaps Ahmadinejad is the only leader to offer a position free of unambiguous couching and nuance. Even the Israeli leadership, until now, had managed to send mixed signals. But Ahmadinejad can be trusted to be clear.

"The Zionist regime does not dare to cast a look with bad intentions at Iran," the president was quoted as saying by state television.

That Ahmadinejad ("...wiped off the map...") and his mullah superiors in the Guardian Council do precisely that to Israel on a regular basis is simply a matter of course. That's what bullies do.

Israel now exudes the same clarity offered by Ahmadinejad, undaunted by world opinion and resolved to smash those who continue to fire rockets indiscriminately into its cities, clearly with civilians as the primary target and terror as the primary aim.

Hizballah is and has always been Iran’s surrogate army, intended to wage war on Israel in their stead. Israel has clearly decided to tell the bully and his cheerleaders that it intends to keep its milk money today.

July 13, 2006

Getting Serious With Syria

With a detailed chronology of US diplomatic inconsistency, Jeffrey Azarva suggests the US should be Getting Serious About Syria. His conclusion:

As the Syrian regime thumbs its nose at the White House, a State Department official recently said that few levers exist for influencing Syria. But the U.S. can tighten the noose by sending the Syrian regime unequivocal messages.

Absent a cogent strategy, Assad's antics will continue. Sending his regime mixed messages will not only undermine the efficacy of the Syria Accountability Act, but also U.S. national security.

The natural conflict and separation between terrorism and diplomacy is almost always exemplified by inconsistency, as diplomatic efforts to affect the latter are usually fruitless and, thus, constantly changing.

It Already Is a Regional Conflict, Mr. Abbas

In the Jerusalem Post is an AP story from Ramallah in the West Bank with the headline "Abbas: Situation raises fears of regional war." In it, Abbas is quoted as saying after a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister that "The expansion of the military action to the neighbor, Lebanon, is raising our fears of a new regional war."

It should be recognized openly that it already is and always has been a regional war, with the conflict managed and tensions instigated from Damascus and Tehran, as today's Boston Globe editorial attempts to convey, almost in exasperation.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had just disclosed publicly that he had worked out a prisoner swap with Israel and Hamas, but that "other parties" he would not name forced Hamas to sabotage the deal. It can be assumed that Syria and Iran are the other parties, the two countries having signed a military cooperation agreement last month that Syria's defense minister described as establishing "a joint front against Israel."

The difference is that this "joint front" plans and executes the strategy using surrogates like Hizballah and Hamas. These surrogate terrorists intentionally seek cover within their own civilian populations and provide the regimes commanding them an arm's-length separation from attacks.

But this separation is only as valuable as the public's willingness to ignore the terror masters, the state sponsors of Hizballah and Hamas.

Unlike Hizballah and Hamas (et al), Israel's IDF does not retreat into their civilian populations, banking on world condemnation of their ensuing civilian losses. They openly press forward, clearly identifiable, distinguished from civilians and unapologetic in their self-defense.

It is time for the public - and their elected representatives - to end the charade and openly recognize the truly regional nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The terror masters in Tehran and their quasi-client state Syria continue to stoke the flames of conflict.

Yet, Israel continues to be described as the aggressor, if only because a Merkava tank, an F-16 and an IDF general are more readily identifiable tools of warfare than a terrorist resting in his sister's apartment, awaiting further orders from Tehran.

Pay attention.

It's free.

July 12, 2006

Poles Snag Iraqi Terrorist

Polish intelligence agents have captured Salas Khabbas, "a former member of the Baath party and closely linked with al-Qaeda, specialized in attacking convoys and kidnapping." Apparently, he made the mistake of killing a Polish television reporter and his assistant in one of those attacks.

The Poles don't get a whole lot of attention for the work they do fighting the War on Terror, but if you're going to throw a war party in some desert somewhere, don't forget to invite GROM.

Israel Strikes Top Hamas Commander

In a Gaza airstrike, Israel bombed a house where Izz al-Din Qassam's top commander, Mohammed Deif, was staying.

A Hamas militant leader who has topped Israel's most-wanted list for a decade was badly wounded and underwent four hours of spinal surgery Wednesday after being wounded in an Israeli airstrike, security officials said.

The top fugitive, Mohammed Deif, could end up paralyzed, Palestinian security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his condition. Wednesday's blast marked the army's fourth attempt to kill Deif, held responsible for suicide bombings in Israel. In a 2002 missile strike, he lost an eye.

Dief took over command of Hamas' 'terror operations unit' for Saleh Shehada after he was killed in a 2002 Israeli bombing, and mentor was none other than Yehya "The Engineer" Ayyash, killed in 1995 by Israel.

Made in China

If there will ever be a solution to the North Korean nuclear missile crisis, it will heavily involve China. For that matter, for as long as the crisis continues, it will be because China chooses not to address it.

John J. Tkacik, Jr. of The Heritage Foundation is one of the best China analysts around and he gets right to the heart of the matter with China’s Army Yawns at Pyongyang’s Missiles.

After initially expressing “concern” over North Korea’s July 4th missile launches, China’s unwillingness to work towards serious sanctions on North Korea provides further proof that Beijing has little interest in restraining Pyongyang. What are we to make of the disconnect between Chinese rhetoric and action? In many ways, it reflects a disconnect between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—which almost certainly does not share any real concerns about North Korea’s missile provocations—and Chinese diplomats, who have largely been kept out of the loop. At the end of the day, Washington needs to face the fact that without any Chinese interest in disarming North Korea there is no viable solution to the North Korean nuclear problem.

No sanctions for North Korea, as China has said point blank that the current UN Security Council draft that calls for them "will fail." No sanctions either for Iran, itself racing down the nuclear arms road, as China has vowed to veto any sanctions on their Persian clients as well.

It has always seemed worth consideration that Iran was - at the very least - encouraging the North Koreans in their recent missile tests and the accompanying international banter. It served both well. It took the Iranians at least a bit off center stage, potentially aiding their waiting game while allowing North Korea to gleefully take their place in the matinee, furthering their extortion ploys. One wants more time, the other much less.

Consider the following paragraphs from Tkacik:

Just days before the July 4 missile tests, Beijing is reported to have been the transit point for ten Iranian missile scientists who visited North Korea with the mission, according to Japanese government sources quoted in Tokyo’s Sankei Shimbun, “to confirm the performance of missile-related equipment introduced by China” during launch preparations for North Korea’s Taepodong 2 missile.7

It is likely that those ten Iranians were at North Korea’s Musudanri launch base when the KPA launched the Taepodong 2 missile to mark the July Fourth celebrations, and at least some of the Iranians may have been at the Kitdaeryong base for the tests of North Korean Scuds and Nodong missiles. After all, there is no better way to “confirm the performance” of Chinese components in North Korean missiles than to observe several test firings.

News of the Iranian engineers’ presence was followed up by a Wall Street Journal report detailing North Korea’s sale of its newest missiles to Iran.8 On July 6, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, when asked about the Teheran-Pyongyang missile nexus, simply acknowledged that “one of [North Korea’s] only exports aside from counterfeit bills is weapons and weapons technology. That’s what they deal in. The bazaar is open as far as they are concerned.”

Everywhere you turn in today's crises, China remains in clear view, aiding regimes that starve or stone their populations while thrusting ballistic thorns in the American side.

July 11, 2006

Putin Cracks Opposition

From The Independent, "Russian police crack down on anti-Putin conference":

President Vladimir Putin's fiercest domestic critics and political challengers have defied the Kremlin and held an alternative G8 summit in Moscow, four days before the real thing.

The "anti-summit" was an attempt to persuade the West to get tough with the Russian leader. Speaker after speaker complained about the state of democracy and urged G8 leaders to stop treating Mr Putin as a democrat.

The event was marred by heavy-handed policing, with the venue, a hotel in central Moscow, flanked by 13 busloads of riot police including special forces and plain clothes FSB security service agents [Read: KGB].

Some things never change. Our friends, the Russians.

July 10, 2006

Russia Eliminates Beslan Attack Mastermind

Russia’s Most Wanted Terrorist, Shamil Basayev, has been killed by a truck explosion in his convoy in Ingushetia, which is Russian territory in the south bordering Chechnya. Shamil BasayevA Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operation eliminated the terrorist.

Basayev was the founder of Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB) and the mastermind behind the Beslan School massacre, which is chronicled from the inside by C.J. Chivers in The School, a truly gripping account of the horrors experienced by the 1,100 Russian students and parents held hostage on the first day of school in the North Ossetia town. 344 civilians were killed during the three-day ordeal, among them 186 children. Not only did Basayev plan the Beslan attack, he had also personally recruited the shahidkas (female suicide bombers) used.

The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism has an interesting perspective in their online biography brief of the Chechen terrorist.

Although now known as an Islamic terrorist, sources close to Basayev describe him as a man who adopted fundamentalist Islam simply as a reason to exercise his long-time love of fighting. Some analysts believe that his continued adherence to fundamentalist Islam is a way of ensuring funding from the Islamist movement in the Middle East and that he has moved among the different regions of the Caucuses because of a loss of popular support in Chechnya. Despite these allegations, Basayev claims that he has never received money from Osama bin Laden.

Beslan 2004

Counterterrorism Blog details the carnage that Basayev was responsible for in some detail, including informative links to detailed work by Lorenzo Vidino, Dan Darling and Evan Kohlmann.

The Associated Press also timelines the major attacks linked to Basayev.

As always, Gateway Pundit offers link- and image-rich coverage, including numerous links to his previous coverage of Shamil Basayev.

Adam Gadahn: Just a Tool

Today, ABC News published an article about al-Qaeda's beloved Amriki (American), Adam Gadahn, titled The Making of an American Jihadist. For whatever the merits of the article are or are not, getting past the first paragraph is a struggle.

Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda's English-speaking spokesman who calls himself Azzam al-Amriki, or Adam the America[n], has become a powerful propaganda tool for the terror organization.

Perhaps a propaganda tool, but a powerful propaganda tool?

Perhaps it's because he does not speak with a menacing thick Arabic accent. Perhaps it's because his persona on camera comes off to American-Idol-obsessed Americans as somewhat of a theatrical effort rather than a pure passion. Perhaps its because we have all seen his pictures and he looks like "that one kid" from high school.

But for whatever the reason may be for any particular American, his staged diatribes do not have nearly the gripping effect of conveying terror that the message(s) is designed to impart unequivocally.

He may be valued highly by his handlers on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border as an American who can condemn his own country, and he may well relish in that stature. And perhaps he is a "powerful propaganda tool" among al-Qaeda supporters and sympathizers in the Middle Eastern region.

But it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the Americans (and Brits, for that matter) he addresses see him for the tool that he is. In fact, the thaught has likely crossed the minds of many that it is better that he is likely in the foothills of Pakistan creating English media banter rather than roaming California with something to prove to those same handlers.

The value of propaganda is the manner in which it is received by the target audience, not the number of times the message is repeated. Bearing that in mind, just because broadcast media outlets worldwide cyclically run his English language footage does not make him a powerful propaganda tool.

Propaganda tool? Yes. Clearly.

Powerful propaganda tool? Hardly.

July 9, 2006

ElBaradei Silence Puts Credibility on Charlier's Side

With regards to the report that IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei fired the IAEA's lead inspector, Chris Charlier, at Iranian request in April, please allow for a few additional observations.

The earlier InBrief entry on the issue in part concludes:

The same UN officials acknowledged and confirmed to the Washington Post that Chris Charlier had not been back to Iran since April “because of Iranian displeasure with his work,” confirming also that it was, by timing, the April visit to Tehran that initiated the move. All that remains at issue is whether Charlier still has access to the IAEA’s Iranian nuclear dossier. In the Die Welt story, it is reported that he has none and is, in essence, “counting paper clips in Vienna till he eventually retires.”

Regardless of whether or not Charlier has access to the IAEA’s Iranian nuclear dossier, ElBaradei and Tehran have clearly blocked the lead inspector’s access Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Consider that ElBaradei and IAEA spokesmen may soon claim that it is simply Tehran that has cut Charlier’s access since April. But if this were so, why has neither ElBaradei nor any IAEA spokesmen condemned such a move or released any statement even acknowledging such Iranian defiance? Perhaps there is more truth to the Die Welt story than the IAEA and ElBaradei would like to acknowledge.

Consider also that the IAEA is already powerless to enforce a single measure, reliant solely upon the United Nations Security Council for action. That same Security Council is populated by two veto-wielding members (China and Russia) who currently oppose any form of even the first level of enforcement: Sanctions. That the IAEA further renders itself moot by allowing the inspected to dictate the staff of inspectors is palpable.

Concerning denials by 'unnamed UN officials, what possible motivation would a lead IAEA inspector have for claiming he had been cut off from Iran by Tehran and cut off from documents by his direct supervisor, Mohamed ElBaradei, if he had not experienced precisely that?

Within the context of ElBaradei's silence to-date on the Iranian demand that Charlier be fired, credibility tends to tip towards Charlier's account.

Ask yourself: What if Iraq had made this demand of the UN with regard to Hans Blix?

How long would it take for a public condemnation of the inspected dictating the inspectors?

Beslan: A View From Within

A gripping account, as detailed by survivors, of what happened inside the school in Beslan, Russia, as over 1,100 hostages were taken, purposely targeting children. 344 civilians were killed, among them 186 children.

Now his mind worked methodically. He wanted no one to see what he planned to do. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, his hand moved over the floor to the blue wire. Kazbek was forty-three. He had been a Soviet sapper as a younger man. He knew how bombs worked. He also knew how to disable them. The bomb overhead was part of a simple system, an open electric circuit rigged to a motor-vehicle battery. If the terrorists closed the circuit, current would flow from the battery through the wires and detonate the bombs. But if Kazbek pulled apart the wire inside its insulation, no current could flow. Then, he knew, if the circuit snapped closed, the bomb above his family would not explode. Kazbek had spent much of the day folding the wire back and forth, making a crimp. It was only a matter of time.

He lifted the wire. Back and forth he folded the notch, working it, looking directly at the men who would kill him if they knew what he was doing. He would disconnect this bomb. It was a step. Every step counted. His mind kept working. How does my family get out?

C.J. Chivers' The School is a must read.

July 8, 2006

On The Saddam - bin Laden Connections

Published by FrontPage Magazine Friday is an incredibly detailed article by Mark Eichenlaub titled The Saddam-Osama Connection: The Terrorist Testimony. In it, Eichenlaub offers up over thirty items (some with multiple references), each either a terrorist and/or an Iraqi officer detailing the connections they have known.

They begin:

· “Abu Mohammed,” a former colonel of Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen fighters, told reporters long ago that Iraq was training terrorists, including al-Qaeda. Gwynne Roberts, Sunday Times, July 14, 2002

· Iraqi soldiers, captured during the early phases of the war on Iraq in 2003, revealed that al-Qaeda terrorists were present inside Iraq fighting alongside Iraqi troops Gethin Chamberlain, The Scotsman, 10-28-03

· Hamsiraji Sali, Commander of the al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf, admitted receiving $20,000 dollars a year from Iraq. Marc Lerner, Washington Times, 3-4-03

· Salah Suleiman, revealed that he was a former Iraqi Intelligence officer, captured on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border shuttling between Iraq and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Janes Foreign Report, 9-19-01

· Jamal al-Qurairy, a former General in Iraq’s Mukhabarat, who defected years ago, said “that [is] ours” immediately after seeing 9/11 attacks.
David Rose, Vanity Fair, Feb. 2003, and David Rose, The Observer, 3-16-03

· Abbas al-Janabai, a personal assistant to Uday Hussein for 15 years, has repeatedly stated that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that included training terrorists at various camps in Iraq.
CNN, 7-23-2003
Gwynne Roberts, Sunday Times, July 14,2002
Richard Miniter, TechCentralStation, 9-25-03

· Two Moroccan associates of Osama bin Laden, arrested in Rabat in Nov 98, confirmed that Col Khairallah al-Tikriti, the brother of Iraq’s top Intelligence official (Mukhabarat), was the case officer in charge of operations with al-Qaeda in Kashmir and Manila
Jacquard, Roland, In the Name of Osama Bin Laden, Duke University Press, 2002, pg.112

There are many more listed by Mark Eichenlaub. Those who remain steadfast that there was no connection between the Hussein regime and al-Qaeda should consider the multitude of known links detailed in open source. And while Mark openly does not attest to their truthfulness, he asks, "[I]f their testimony is going to admitted, shouldn’t critics also hear the testimony of those in custody who tell a different story?"

There is much more information from testimonies that remain classified. But even considering no more than the connections claimed and available through open source The Saddam-Osama Connection: The Terrorist Testimonylisted in the FrontPage Magazine article, the critic must conclude that they are all lying in order to maintain his or her position.

Short of that, the critic must then be maintaining that any possible connections between the Hussein regime and al-Qaeda are simply not important.

Jenin Terrorist Leaders Nearly Nabbed by IDF Raid

According to an Israeli IBA news broadcast, a Thursday IDF raid into Jenin in the West Bank nearly netted al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades' Jenin leader, Zakariya Zubeidi and Jenin's Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Sheikh Mahmoud Saddai. (In March 2006, we took a closer look at the relatively young Zakariya Zubeidi here.)

The raid was organized after intelligence suggested that the two prominent leaders were at a mourning tent outside of the house of a killed Palestinian. Both leaders managed to evade capture by the IDF. Rumors spread that Zubeidi had been killed, but an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader later said that he was "in a safe location."

Had Zubeidi and Saddai been nabbed, this had the potential to be one of the most successful and significant counterterror operations in some time for Israel.

July 7, 2006

Taheri on the Six Layers of Layers of Hostility in Britain

Amir Taheri may be the world's best Middle East columnist. I certainly believe that he is. In Friday's Wall Street Journal, Taheri, who usually writes for Al-Sharq al-Awsat (contains bio in English), writes on the sad state of British society on the first anniversity of the "7/7 attacks" that killed 52 people last year in London, and the frightening state of a minority of British Muslims who sympathize with Islamic terrorism as well as British Muslim leaders who condemn the attacks but blame Britain anyway.

While the distaste of so many British Muslims for Britain is disconcerting, especially since Britain has been more open and tolerant of Muslim minorities than most European countries, more depressing is the degree to which British society at large seems thoroughly demoralized in the face of the greatest threat the country has seen since 1940. This attitude of defeatism and "Blame Britain First" has its analogy in the United States, albeit to a lesser degree. That this state of affairs is discouraging, of course, is no reason to ignore it. Indeed, it is of deep concern to Americans that our closest friends and allies (along side the Aussies) are so down on themselves. So now to Taheri, who dissects the six layers of hostility, self-loathing and disenchantment which haunts this great nation.

Amir Taheri, The Wall Street Journal
July 7, 2006; A12
Muslim Matryushka

LONDON -- Set within Regent's Park, the Queen Mary's Garden is home to the world's largest collection of roses. Today, the garden will serve as the stage for a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the underground and bus services here, in which 52 people died and more than 700 were injured.

Originally envisaged as a grand event with the queen and government leaders present, the ceremony has been rescripted as "a simple, sober event" to please a multicultural elite gripped by self-loathing. The queen has been advised to stay away, along with Tony Blair and other leading political figures. There will be no mention of the fact that the four suicide bombers involved in the 7/7 tragedy were British-born Muslims. Nor will the grieving families invited to the ceremony be told that their loved ones were victims of a global Islamofascist movement.

The rose garden is a few hundred yards from Regent's Park Mosque, Britain's largest. However, the idea for a 7/7 ceremony at the mosque, aired in January, was dropped when Muslim leaders said such a move could be exploited by "the enemies of Islam." Some leaders have gone further, calling on their coreligionists not to break their noontime prayer (salat) to observe a two-minute silence on Friday, decreed by the government in remembrance of the 7/7 victims.

Rather than using the occasion to combat Islamofascism as the enemy of both Western democracies and Muslims everywhere...

Read the rest of the article (registration required).

Reporting and Responsibility: Holland Tunnel Story in a Security Context

In our age of digital media and instantaneous sharing of information, a story such as the disruption of a plot to bomb the Holland Tunnel is sure to make headlines. When this happens before the completion of the important task of rounding up the suspected terrorists, it makes that mission much more challenging.

While ThreatsWatch was not in a position to break the story - we do believe that once it is public, media sources are free to report on and share in the discussion.

With that in mind, we have joined the discussion - and yet we must be concerned that the challenge before those defending us has once again been raised to a higher level.

This was the case with the leaking and then reporting of secret intelligence initiatives such as the NSA’s international communications monitoring and the Treasury Department/CIA program monitoring and investigating international bank records tracking and attacking terrorist financing.

In today’s now wide reporting on the Holland Tunnel threat, individuals involved but potentially unaware of the probe, from Lebanon to Jordan and elsewhere, surely are aware now and taking measures to ensure evasion.

Americans – and, more importantly, American editors and journalists with knowledge of such engagements in the War on Terror – must ask themselves fundamental questions when weighing whether to report or not:

Does the American (and international) public need to know this information?

Does public knowledge – and therefore the enemy’s knowledge – of such sensitive and/or secret engagements add to American security or adversely affect it?

Clearly, the threat to the Holland Tunnel was not imminent. What security gain was enhanced by public knowledge of its investigation at this point?

In fact, the investigation and counterterrorism operations thwarting it were and are still ongoing. Participants were and are still at large. Does the public reporting help or hinder that effort? Does it help or hinder the enemy, for that matter?

Surely most view the answers to those fundamental questions as both obvious and clear. Yet, those in the very powerful position of information disclosure either profoundly disagreed with or fundamentally disregarded those conclusions.

Those with first-knowledge of undisclosed operational information are in a unique position of responsibility. The decision made on public disclosure has a profound impact on security.

These decisions should be recognized as such and be treated with far more care and responsibility by those in such a position.

July 6, 2006

The Hizballah Nexus - Beneath the Radar

At ThreatsWatch, we often refer to Hizballah as the Foreign Policy Arm of the Iranian mullahcracy. This is for good reason. ThreatsWatch readers are regularly reminded that Hizballah is both a 1980 creation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regarded by many as both more capable and more dangerous than al-Qaeda, which is perceived by most Americans as the preeminent international terrorist group.

With this in mind, we encourage readers to read an article written by J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss titled "The Hezbollah Nexus?". It opens:

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has enjoyed a respite in Western news of late, even though it continues to augment its considerable weapons stockpile despite being required to disarm by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 and by anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon. The United States, the driving force (along with France) behind 1559, is preoccupied with Iraq and with Iran's nuclear program. Israel, whose northern border remains vulnerable to Hezbollah "kill an Israeli soldier" incursions, has its hands full dealing with the elected Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and with its own political debate about the determination of borders. But there is reason to believe that all these issues -- the insurgency in Iraq (which is certainly being fanned by Iranian meddling), Iran's nuclear ambitions, Palestinian terrorism, and Israeli security -- are interrelated, and that their nexus is in fact Hezbollah.

They go on to explain why there is reason to believe such. Their supporting information is factual and their conclusion nails it.

We had mentioned earlier that Iran has been relatively quiet as well, particularly the normally acerbic Ahmadinejad, further demonstrating that, as goes Iran, so goes Hizballah, their Foreign Policy Arm.

It is indeed "high time to bring Hezbollah back into the international limelight." Beneath the radar is an uncomfortable place to find the world's most dangerous terrorist organization - well funded, well trained and well supplied by their Tehran terror masters.

(Pham and Krauss are both adjunct fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a visit worth your valuable time.)

Australia Supplants China in East Timor Interests

From The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief released today is an informative look at China's interests in East Timor, and East Timor's own interests going forward. From Ian Storey's China and East Timor: Good, But Not Best Friends:

Since the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (more commonly referred to as East Timor) achieved formal independence on May 20, 2002, the PRC has worked hard to cultivate a close relationship with the world’s youngest nation. China’s interests in East Timor are threefold: to expand its influence in the Southeast Asian region, to restrict Taiwan’s international space and to gain access to the country’s natural resources. Yet, the resignation on June 26 of East Timor’s Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in the wake of several months of violence and the insertion of Australian-led peacekeepers to restore order highlights the limits to Beijing’s ambitions. The departure of Alkatiri, a strong supporter of closer links to the PRC, comes as a blow to China’s agenda. Moreover, Australia’s leading role in the peacekeeping force underscores its primary position in the hierarchy of East Timor’s foreign relations. While China is a good friend of East Timor, it is not, nor is it likely to become Dili’s closest friend. [Emphasis added.]

So what of East Timor's own interests?

Where does the PRC fit into East Timor’s foreign policy? Dili [East Timor's capital city] has three foreign policy priorities. The first is to establish cooperative and constructive relations with its two large neighbors Indonesia and Australia. With Jakarta, Dili has adopted a conciliatory policy that is forward looking and does not dwell on Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation. With regards to Australia, Dili looks to Canberra to help preserve its hard-won sovereignty. Australia played the lead role in INTERFET and since 1999, has been the primary provider of equipment and training for the Timor-Leste Defense Force. During the current political crisis, President Gusmão and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta turned to Australia first, and Canberra responded quickly with 1,300 troops (Malaysia and New Zealand have provided smaller numbers of troops, and Portugal paramilitary police). Australia also plays a vital role in securing the fledgling country’s financial future.

Following the violence and upheaval in East Timor recently that regularly occupied headlines, Storey's article gives a fairly good look at where the new nation was and where it looks to go, particularly regarding foreign policy decisions.

July 5, 2006

Speaking of the Muslim Brotherhood

In Egypt, the MB is predicting: Mubarak to Relay Power to Son 'Within a Year'.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is predicting that President Hosni Mubarak, 78, will relay power to his son Gamal within a year. "The matter will not go on for more than a year," Muslim Brotherhood deputy secretary-general Mohammed Habib said. "Perhaps less than a year."

Habib said he expected an increase in restrictions on democracy, free speech as well as thousands of arrests of opponents of the regime.

And in Algeria, on Monday:

Algeria's Muslim Brotherhood has joined other Arab Islamists in slamming Israel's military operation in Gaza, which it warned will lead to international chaos.

The Algerian Peace Society, the Brotherhood's political arm, said in a statement Monday "the movement strongly condemns such (Israeli) violations pushing towards chaos worldwide."

The group, which participates in the ruling coalition, called on the international community to act immediately "to strip the Zionist government from its nuclear arsenal and stop the machines of mass destruction and deter this (Israeli) administration, which does not recognize international legitimacy but works on fuelling international terrorism, with practices that can only be considered as official terrorism."

Curiously, no statement condemning the indiscriminate rocket attacks on the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Sderot or noting the contributions Hamas' kidnapping and execution of a teenage Israeli civilian play in "violations pushing towards chaos worldwide."

While North Koreans Starve, Missiles Plummet

Austin Bay takes a look at the context of the North Korean missile radar blips from yesterday, and does it by returning to 1998. He calls it The Missiles Behind the Elvis Summit.

The six North Korean missiles on Tuesday are big news, but they aren't the strategic shocker. The shocker occurred in August 1998, when Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile. That launch revitalized the United States-Japanese alliance and blew away any legitimate arguments that the United States could wait to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses.

Pyongyang's 1998 test shot demonstrated that Japan and the United States -- and for that matter, Europe -- are vulnerable to rogue missile attack, and it's utterly false to argue otherwise. It meant U.S. diplomacy and the world economy are potential hostages to missile blackmail by regional tinpots.

Japan got North Korea's message. The Japanese also observed China's steady military modernization and concluded the logical, most impressive and most reliable "strategic balance" to China is the United States.

Kim Jong-Il plows millions and millions of dollars into failed splashes in the Sea of Japan. Meanwhile, millions and millions of destitute North Koreans face starvation on their own soil, sacrificed by Dear Leader in ill-advised attempts to rescue them through international extortion rather than applied marketable technology and prosperity.

North Korea is a dark, bleak, seemingly hopeless mass of land, imprisoned by the dictatorship of a deranged man.

NoKor's Failed Launch: An Alternative Cause

Via The Belmont Club, an alternative version explaining NoKor's Taepodong-2 failure has been officially logged. From a Wikipedia entry on the Boeing YAL-1 system, here is a graphic displaying this possible cause of Kim's early stage ICBM failure.

July 4, 2006

Fallen British Muslim Soldier Defamed

As a contrast to an earlier RapidRecon entry (7% of British Muslims Support More Bombings), is this story of a British Muslim soldier who gave his life serving his country in the British Army's Intelligence Corps. 24-year old Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi was killed in the Helmand province of Afghanistan alongside fellow Brit, Corporal Peter Thorpe.

LCpl Hashmi was clearly not part of the 7% of British Muslims who support further attacks in Britain. For this, a terrorist website labeled him a terrorist. Even other British Muslims defamed the fallen.

In Birmingham, near the Hashmi family's home in Bordesley Green, some young Muslim men also spoke out.

"I don't see how any Muslim can be in the British army, not with all the **** that's happening in Muslim countries. It doesn't make sense. It's not right. There's no space for Muslims in the army," said a 25-year-old who would only give his name as Saleem. "Of course it's a tragedy and I feel for them [his family]. But what was he doing over there? He was an Asian dude fighting a white man's war. Basically, we can't be like the goreh [white people] and they can't be like us."

There is plenty of room for Muslims in the army. What there is no room for in the army is those who hate their host country. Those like Saleem will never assimilate and become British. Certainly there are Brits who would kindly invite Saleem (and those like him) to repatriate to where he can be like other 'Asian dudes'. He clearly has no love for Britain or its goreh.

LCpl Hashmi was clearly a cut above.

Godspeed, LCpl Hashmi and Cpl Thorpe, from a grateful nation across the pond.

Iranians to Face Gasoline Rationing

Mark September on your calendars. In September, the Iranian government is set to begin gasoline rationing for Iranian motorists...drivers who are used to paying pennies per gallon in abundant supply.

Cheap fuel is regarded as a national right in the world's fourth biggest producer of crude oil and OPEC's number two exporter.

But such days of petroleum largesse are set to end. Iran is due to start rationing fuel in September in a move that risks provoking social discontent. While Iran is a major oil producer, its refineries have a capacity of just 40 million litres of petrol a day: demand is close to 70 million litres.

The mullahcracy has long sold the nuclear weapons program as peaceful externally and a matter of national pride internally. This will be the point at which the Iranian people possibly more loudly question the cost of the clandestine nuclear program.

This weakness was considered among the top possible sanctions against Iran, as it must import nearly as much refined gasoline as it produces internally.

Curious that Iran intends to announce their position on the P-5+1 nuclear proposal in mid August, and are announcing September gasoline rationing now. "Slashing the budget" for gasoline imports now is a clear sign Iran has already decided to thumb the P-5+1 proposal, as an attempt to mute any possible sanction's effect.

How much can national pride be championed when a government atop OPEC's #2 oil producer must begin rationing gasoline? Do not underestimate the resonating effects of this issue internally in Iran.

This will be a blow to the regime when it takes effect. In effect, Iran essentially just sanctioned itself...or rather, its citizens.

7% of British Muslims Support More Bombings

On the heels of the first anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, a British Times poll of Muslims in Britain indicated that 16% of British Muslims saw "a just cause" in the 7/7 bombers' motivations. Further, 13% view the bombers as martyrs and 7% of British Muslims see justification for more bombings in Britain. (See: Muslim Britain split over 'martyrs' of 7/7.)

Populus interviewed 1,131 Muslim adults aged 18+ by telephone and online between June 1-16 for the poll.

Charlie at OPFOR is astonished by the percentages and asks, "How can you be a citizen of a nation, and support attacks against it in any fashion?"

But take it a step further and look at the raw numbers.

BBC News puts the estimate of the number of Muslims in Britain at 1.5 million and cites that "some community groups suggest it could be nearer two million." (The Times clearly uses a much smaller estimate of the number of Muslims in Britain. We will use more conservative of the BBC's numbers here, 1.5 million.)

Extrapolating the numbers, the poll indicates that, regarding the 7/7 London Bombings that killed 52 civilians, potentially:

240,000 British Muslims see "a just cause."

195,000 British Muslims view the bombers as martyrs.

105,000 British Muslims justify more bombings in Britain.

Charlie said before, "Scary stuff…"

Indeed, and even more scary when you get beyond the percentages.

Potentially 105,000 British Muslims justify more bombings in Britain.

It took 19 to turn a sunny September day into an event that would change the course of history.

105,000.

Is a Shalit Deal Close?

The Jerusalem Post reports that London's al-Hayat is running a story that there is a deal in the works for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, involving a prisoner swap for Shalit and a Palestinian agreement to halt rocket attacks.

Reportedly, the soldier would be returned to Israel, via Egyptian or French mediators, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Additionally, in exchange for the IDF halting its operations in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian organizations would apparently agree to stop rocket attacks on Israel.

First, can any Palestinian signatories actually prevent rocket attacks? It was made clear in the past week that the Hamas-run PA could be effectively circumvented by direction from the Damascus-based Hamas headquarters.

Second, would the exchange of prisoners for Shalit, as welcome as his return would surely be, not simply encourage yet more kidnappings in exchange for favorable negotiations?

Consider that Vital Perspective reported that Shalit was not the first attempt by the PRC to abduct an Israeli soldier for this purpose.

On June 11, two PRC terrorists, Ibrahim Jamal Mahmad Magdoub, 22, of Gaza and Mahmad Ali Omar Atzar, 20, also of Gaza, were arrested as they attemped to infiltrate Israel via the Israeli - Egyptian border in the Negev. They were acting under the instructions of Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was killed by Israeli forces on June 9, to shoot civilians and kidnap an IDF soldier in order to negotiate for the release of terrorists in Israeli prisons.

During questioning by police, Magdoub said that he infiltrated Israel in order to transport Atzar to a location where he would shoot civilians while he would kidnap an IDF soldier. The negotiation for the release of the soldier was to be led by the PRC leadership, headed by Samhadana.

What might Hamas and the Hamas-dominated PRC want with freed terrorists?

July 1, 2006

A Simple Choice

Charlie from OPFOR reduces the equation to its basic components.

If we are at war, terrorism can be defeated. If we aren’t, terrorism can be managed.

It's really no more complicated than that. I, for one, would prefer that my children and grandchildren not be relegated to 'managing' between 9/11's.

Lions and Tigers and Israel, Oh My!

Thank goodness for the UN's new (and improved) Human Rights Council. Finally the UN is dedicated to investigating, exposing and changing the human rights violations in Iran, China, Myanmar, and Cuba. Ooops. Our mistake.

As highlighted by Captain's Quarters, the 'new' UN Human Rights Council has not changed course at all. Merely presses the accelerator.

The resolution requires UN investigators to report at each council session "on the Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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