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August 31, 2006

Liquid Bombs and Airline Security - Fear as a Force Multiplier

Ever since the disruption of the liquid bomb plot in Great Britain, the stress on airline security is clear. As the airlines and TSA implement new security measures, lines have gotten longer and delays at the airports have increased.

In a USA Today article last week titled Checked Luggage Strains Security, it became clear that the system is being overwhelmed by the 20% increase in checked bags since the TSA banned liquids from carry-ons August 10th. The result of the liquid ban has been more than 500,000 new bags each day requiring scanning. That alone would stress the system. But when you realize that the increased volume places a time pressure on the process of scanning luggage, there are concerns about security gaps.

Baggage Facts - CHECKED BAGS 1 billion Annual number on domestic flights, before recent surge
3.6 million Number lost, damaged
120-180 bags an hour Speed of bomb-detection machines
$1 billion Cost of luggage screening Sources: Air Transport Association, Government Accountability Office, Department of Transportation

What are the implications of this, and what is really happening here. Since August 10th, there have also been 17 or more airline incidents reported in the U.S. and Britain, with many requiring emergency landings and very visible baggage inspections on the tarmac by bomb sniffing dogs.

Stratfor’s most recent article provides a revealing analysis of the airline liquid bomb plot, raising the spectre that we are watching a “misdirection play here.”

Airline Incidents: Fear as Force Multiplier
A Google link to the Stratfor article

The following are highlights of this article:

Given the asymmetric nature of the war we are fighting with al Qaeda, its important to understand the propaganda aspect of the attempt at airline terror in Britain, the thinking that may be behind it all, and the real possibility that we are witnessing a misdirection play.

As we fast approach the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, we may well be advised to remember that misdirection and deception are long practiced tactics of war. Our opponent, al Qaeda is as capable of such deception and misdirection as any other adversary, at any other time in history.

The spate of incidents -- each of which rings up significant financial costs to the airline company and governments involved and causes inconvenience and delays for travelers -- is a reminder that terrorism, philosophically, is not confined to the goal of filling body bags or destroying buildings. At a deeper level, it is about psychology and the "propaganda of the deed." And as far as al Qaeda is concerned, it is also about economic warfare: Osama bin Laden personally has stated that one of the group's strategic objectives is to "bleed America to the point of bankruptcy."

If among the strategies of al Qaeda is to create havoc, cause the airline industry to spend excessive money in search of the next solution, and perhaps, divert attention from another form of attack, is that strategy not succeeding?

These new security measures already have had a financial impact on the airline industry. On Aug. 25, Irish discount airline Ryanair filed the lawsuit it had previously threatened against the British Department for Transport --- Ryanair officials have publicly called the new restrictions "nonsensical and ineffective" and have called for "a return to common sense" regarding airline security. The company claims it has lost 3.3 million pounds (nearly $5.9 million) in earnings as a result of the new measures.
As discussed in the USA Today article (above) the strain on the system has already been seen, costs mount, and the effect on the airline industry and the flying public is apparent. The Stratfor article talks about the impact of fear.

With that psychological component in mind, terrorist acts do not have to be tremendously successful (in terms of physical casualties or damage) in order to be terribly effective.
Remembering that one of the strategies of al Qaeda is to "bleed America to the point of bankruptcy," the effect of the events post-September 11th have clearly been costly, despite the gains. The sacrifices being made by the American public in the expense of the War on Terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan, the removal of Hussein in Iraq and in whatever theater of operation that comes next, are all consistent with this strategy.

"It's the economy, stupid!" Bin Laden outlined this very clearly in his October 29, 2004, message to the American people. In that recording, he estimated that it cost al Qaeda only $500,000 to carry out the 9/11 attacks, whereas the estimated cost to the United States from the event and its aftermath was measured at $500 billion.
The government has no choice but to respond to the threats as they are presented. So airline baggage rules are changed and adapted to fit the newest apparent threat. In response to the terrorist threats, the U.S. and other governments have stepped up surveillance and interception of suspected terrorist funding. Every threat must be treated as a real threat. There is no choice but to do so. All too many people point to raised threat levels and laugh. When the threat passes, the public questions the validity of the alert and the expenses incurred. Does the government have any other options?

To avoid the finger-pointing, governments have begun shifting the way they investigate potential terrorist acts from an approach based on waiting until a strike is about to be carried out -- and then "making the big case" -- to an approach based on disruption and pre-emption (or, in other words, taking action at the earliest possible stage).

The tactic of misdirection raises the question of whether, as the U.S., the U.K. and other countries scurry to prevent an attack with liquid explosives on transcontinental airlines, a different form of attack is being planned.

Obviously, the United States and its allies cannot conceivably protect everything, and attempts to do so take great tolls on human resources and finances. Viewed through this lens, the responses to the disrupted airlines plot may, in fact, be a form of success for al Qaeda, despite the failure of the actual plot.

This is not a matter of flag waving or chicken little exclaiming that “the sky is falling.” This is not an “either or” situation or a debate. What this represents is the very nature of the threat faced by our country today. Despite the robes and living in caves and the camels, we are dealing with a sophisticated enemy as embodied in al Qaeda. And they are schooled in tactics and strategies. So, is misdirection afoot here? With the attention being paid to airline security, and to the contents of baggage, is the real threat something else? Hopefully we will not see the evolution of this threat. But the very nature of asymmetric warfare suggests that we may be looking in the wrong place, and if that is true, then at least for this point in the match, it could be "advantage al Qaeda."

August 30, 2006

In the Air and On the Ground

Over at OPFOR, John Noonan makes note that Israel Prepares for War, Again.

Calling it the Iran "front" is accurate, as action against Iran would simply be a different battlefield in Israel's current war in southern Lebanon. Lebanon is to Normandy as Tehran is to Berlin, if you want the World War II/SAT comparison to engaging the same enemy on different fields of battle.

Such is the tragic reality of being a "one bomb state," where one nuclear bomb can negate your ability to continue as a functioning nation. Law of the jungle applies in the Middle East, kill or be killed.

The Israelis are being understandably tight lipped on their plans. But their appointment of an Air Force commander indicates that airpower will be a primary actor in any Iranian theater.

Expect 5-6 primary targets, with roughly 5 major aimpoints per targets. Iran has certain "must-hit facilities," which will be defended by Iran's newly acquired, state of the art Russian surface to air missiles and the Iranian Air Force.

Also at OPFOR, Major P shares a personal note from a fellow Marine officer currently on the Jordanian border, sharing some experiences with Iraqis there.

One of the few things I am confident of is that none of them see any correlation between what they’re doing (or allowing someone else to do) and the problems their country faces. I did my best to walk them through it step by step – You have to get water from the shepherds because your government can’t get you water… It can’t get it to you because it can’t afford to fix the water trucks it owns (and that you’ve broken) or dig wells...It’s the same reason they can’t get you food or gas for your patrol vehicles on anything approaching a regular basis…They can’t afford it because, 1) they have to spend a fortune cleaning up the messes the “dangerous criminals” (insurgents) keep making and 2) they have no income because the people that should be collecting taxes and customs duties – not to mention the people who are supposed to make sure things actually go through the proper ports of entry instead of across the border – aren’t doing their jobs. I got mostly blank stares, at least from those who hadn’t already gone back to watching Egyptian music videos on TV.

Guess Who's Hosting Khatami's US Visit...

When the representative from the State Sponsor of Terrorism visits America, most will recognize his host...without much surprise.

August 29, 2006

'Hizballah Bridge' in Bangladesh

In case anyone ever wondered why the Israelis would do such a thing in rejecting Bangladeshi troops as part of the UNIFIL bolstering, perhaps the recent naming of a new bridge the 'Hizballah Bridge' by the Bangladesh government may have had something to do with it.

A new bridge in southern Bangladesh called Hezbollah after the Lebanese group fighting Israel in a month-long war has been renamed, a highway official said Tuesday.

A junior minister, who named the bridge earlier this month to honour the party, has ordered the highways department drop the name, the official said.

"We have now changed its name to Hazrat Omar Faruq bridge," said Mofizul Islam, an executive engineer with the roads and highways department which constructed the bridge.

Such impartiality would have been perfect for impartial UNIFIL observation posts.

August 28, 2006

Video: Hizballah Bunker Next to UNIFIL Position

Just as Judith Klinghoffer says, "You do not need to know French to get the gist of this France 2 showing what Hezbollah bunkers looked like or that they were just a stone throw from a Unifil position."

Watch the France 2 Video.

Just a stone's throw indeed. With such detailed observance and publishing of IDF troop movements, surely Hizballah did not construct such elaborate bunkers without UNIFIL noticing, let alone reporting or publishing its location.

Kofi Annan may think Hizballah can be disarmed through negotiations rather than force, Hizballah surely laughs at the thought and the UN - as this bunker's quiet presence clearly indicates - has no interest in pressing the issue, even through negotiations.

So while the LA Times' headline reads that Nasrallah "Indicates Regret for Kidnappings," he does not regret it enough to set them free.

And why should he? Counterterrorism expert and international negotiator Jesse Jackson, after all, has at last arrived to negotiate a prisoner swap on Nasrallah's behalf, meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hamas' Khaled Meshaal.

It's difficult to imagine even making this stuff up sometimes.

On A Post-Proliferation World

Stanley Kurtz ponders Our Fallout-Shelter Future...

American politics is about to undergo a sea change. Our lives are going to be transformed on a more personal level as well. Sometime between now and five-to-ten years from now we’re going to be forced to choose between preemptive war with Iran, and living in a post-proliferation world. War with Iran will probably mean casualties on American soil. Iran has likely placed terrorist agents in the United States, with instructions to retaliate against civilian targets in the event of war. We’ll also likely see attacks on Persian Gulf oil shipments, and therefore a huge spike in the price of gasoline, with major economic consequences.

But what if there is no preemptive strike? What if Iran gets the bomb?

Go finish reading Our Fallout-Shelter Future.

'al-Qaeda Rejects' Kidnapped Centanni & Wiig in Gaza

A report from Olaf Wiig's native New Zealand states that 'Al Qaeda rejects' held the FOX News journalists in Gaza.

Kiwi cameraman Olaf Wiig's captors were al Qaeda rejects facing a backlash from their own people for the kidnapping, his family have been told.

He said the Archbishop of Canterbury's peace envoy, Canon Andrew White, who has helped to rescue hostages in the Middle East before, alerted [Wiig's father] on Sunday morning of the pair's imminent release.

Mr White had told the family the kidnappers were members of Hamas who broke away and tried unsuccessfully to form links with al Qaeda.

Mr White's group had helped the kidnappers' families to rebuild their houses. "That would have given some goodwill," Mr Wiig said.

The family had been told that the pair's claim to have converted to Islam was an attempt to keep themselves safe.

"Once they declared themselves as Muslim, their kidnappers had a responsibility to look after them," Mr Wiig said. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps this is why it was earlier reported that Palestinian officials (read: Hamas officials) knew who the captors were all along. Perhaps it is worth repeating a section of our earlier report on Centalnni & Wiig's release:

Disturbingly, Haaretz reports that “senior Palestinian security officials said Sunday the name [Holy Jihad Brigades] was a front for local militants, and that Palestinian authorities had known the identity of the kidnappers from the start.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went one step further, suggesting that not only were the kidnappers local Palestinians, but that al-Qaeda has zero presence in Gaza or the West Bank. Said Haniyeh, “The kidnappers have no link to al-Qaeda or any other organization or faction. al-Qaeda as an organization does not exist in the Gaza Strip.”

While the terrorists who abducted Wiig and Centanni may well have been local Palestinians, the position that there is zero al-Qaeda presence in Gaza or the West Bank runs counter to both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian intelligence statements earlier in the year.

Ballistic Missile Defense: Necessity, Not Fantasy

In Hit or Missile, Austin Bay brings due attention to the necessity to continue developing various missile defense capabilities.

The rise of rogue states and fanatic, "suicide" terrorist organizations, combined with the proliferation of ballistic missiles and WMDs, turned MAD into utter madness.

A suicide bomber cannot be deterred by the threat of "mutual destruction."

Hezbollah's rocket rain offers a chilling example. Hezbollah demonstrated it is quite willing to sacrifice its own people and neighborhoods. Remember, Hezbollah is Iran's puppet, and Iran is led by a clique that believes the destruction of Israel will accelerate their version of apocalyptic end times. North Korea has already sacrificed its own people (via starvation) to finance its missile and nuclear programs.

In February 2003, I wrote a column titled, "The Hell Formula for the 21st Century." The formula: terrorists plus rogue states plus WMD. Breaking the Hell formula requires offensive action against terrorists and rogue states -- and we've taken that, in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I also wrote that "breaking down the Hell Formula will take time."

A more robust missile defense system buys time and blunts the political effects of "fear us" campaigns waged by North Korean and Iranian despots.

At present, ballistic missiles are employed as psychological weapons against their psychologically targeted enemies. It is wise to develop and perfect missile defenses while our enemies remain deterred from actually using chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.

For, when the day arrives that Iran's theocracy (or another actor) determines that they are willing to sacrifice their population as martyrs in order to "pave the way for the return of the Mahdi," will the West be able to defeat a missile-launched weapon intent on killing our own civilians?

Should that day ever arrive, what will the 'Star Wars' crowd of missile defense detractors have to say?

Perhaps the best public resource on both missile threats and Ballistic Missile Defense concepts is The Claremont Institute's MissileThreat.com. They work hard to increase public awareness and maintain an incredibly informative and valuable site.

Update Note: Judith Klinghoffer is not impressed with South Korea's own perception of the North Korean missile threat, going so far as to call the South Korean perception "self-medicated."

Why self medicated? [B]ecause they apparently convinced themselves that the North Korean missiles pose greater danger to the US than to South Korea. Their attitude is so reminiscent of the recently proven disastrous Israeli one, that it is pathetic. I suspect that they will learn the lesson as Israel did, the hard way. Iran did not attack the US. It used Hezbollah to attack Israel. It did not use its most sophisticated missiles, it got Hezbollah to use its least sophisticated but most difficult to stop ones.

Some may consider her passionate choice of words as over the top, but her point remains quite valid regardless.

Somalia's ICU: The New Taliban

Somalia now represents for al-Qaeda a more user-friendly environment with the establishment of the Islamic Courts Union's rule over much of the country at the tip of the Horn of Africa. In The New Taliban, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi chronicle in brief the most recent events in the rise of the ICU, the terrorist training camps that are being created under their care and the coming explosion of terrorism that may well result as al-Qaeda takes root with an eye toward further expansion.

Americans and other Westerners frequently have trouble comprehending why they should care about events occurring half a world away in Africa. One reason we should care is that the ICU's expansion may escalate into interstate warfare.

Ethiopia views the Islamic militia's rise as a matter of great concern, and has expressed its solidarity with Somalia's transitional government. Ethiopian information minister Berhan Hailu has said, "We will use all means at our disposal to crush the Islamist group if they attempt to attack Baidoa."

Ethiopian troops have reportedly been in Somalia since late July. Just as the Ethiopian government has threatened to use military force against the ICU, the ICU has vowed to attack Ethiopian soldiers in Somali territory. Thus far there haven't been any clashes, but both sides are clearly ready to fight. Each seems to be waiting for the other to strike first.

And there is an even more presing reason why Westerners should care about the ICU's rise: the striking similarity between its ascendance in Somalia and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The 'striking similarity' is not a coincidence.

North Korea's 'Big Ben Strategy'

North Korea is warning the United States against talk of sanctions on the heels of US concerns that North Korea is possibly preparing a nuclear bomb test. A NoKor spokesman said that the DPRK would take “all necessary counter-measures” if the US persists in attempting to shut down North Korean bank accounts overseas. “It is the height of folly for the US to think that it can solve any issue by means of sanctions and pressure.”

The United States has actually been actively pursuing North Korean accounts and transactions over counterfeiting, drug trafficking and money laundering for some time, not simply since suspicions of a North Korean nuclear bomb test.

At risk of making light of the situation, the psychology behind the North Korean response is indeed intriguing, especially considering the fact that North Korea has long relied upon US aid gained through threats in both word and actions, such as firing missiles over the Japanese mainland.

The psychological unraveling continued further.

The warning came as a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said North Korea - which declared it had nuclear weapons in February 2005 - could carry out a nuclear test unless the US stops attempts to “stifle and destroy” the communist state.

Now, the situation is serious. But, nonetheless, the above statement is amusing.

The whole threat of a nuclear test seems akin to the Pittsburgh Steelers threatening to bring out star quarterback Ben Roethlisburger to taunt the Indianapolis Colts with a pre-game warm-up display.

August 27, 2006

Prelude to Apocalypse

From IDF Captain Dan Gordon's Prelude to Apocalypse, a lengthy excerpt from an article that should absolutely be read in full...

From a military prospective there can be absolutely no doubt as to the results of Hezb’allah and Iran’s offensive against Israel. It was a defeat. Every part of their war plan except the manipulation of the media failed.

Hezb’allah expected and planned for a massive charge of Israeli armor into Southern Lebanon. The amounts and type of anti-tank weapons they acquired and had operationally deployed in their forward positions as well as their secondary and tertiary bands of fortresses and strongholds through Southern Lebanon attest to this fact.

They intended to do in mountainous terrain what Egypt had so effectively done in the Sinai desert in the Yom Kippur war. In that war, Sinai indeed became a graveyard for Israeli armor. Hundereds of tanks were destroyed. Whole brigades were decimated in single battles by the Egyptians’ highly effective anti-tank missile ambushes. In that war almost three thousand Israeli soldiers were killed. That was Hezb’allah’s plan. It was a good one. And it failed.

Far from the prevailing impression in the media, the IDF was not “badly bloodied” nor “fought to a stand still,” much less “handed a defeat.” Just prior to the cease fire, Israel suffered twenty nine tanks hit. Of those, twenty five were back in service within twenty four hours. Israel suffered one hundred and seventeen soldiers killed in four weeks of combat. As painful as those individual losses were to their families and to the Israeli collective psyche which views all its soldiers as their biological sons and daughters, those numbers in fact represent the fewest casualties suffered by Israel in any of its major conflicts. In 1948, Israel suffered six thousand killed. In 1967, in what was regarded as its most decisive victory, Israel lost almost seven hundred killed in six days. In 1973, Israel lost two thousand seven hundred killed and in the first week of the first war in Lebanon, Israel suffered one hundred seventy six soldiers killed....

...Were I, as an Israeli officer in the Military Spokesperson’s Unit, to have made a statement to the Israeli press about the actual lightness of Israel’s casualties, I would at the least have been relieved of duties, if not also of rank. Indeed, members of my unit volunteered to a man to go into Lebanon under fire to help retrieve the bodies of four fallen soldiers and make sure that reporters (who by that time were reported to be simply driving into Lebanon) could not broadcast pictures before the families were notified. We provided an additional covering force as well against Hezb’allah while medics and a Rabbi safeguarded the sanctity of the remains of four kids, younger than my twenty two year old son. We did so not only not under orders, but in violation of orders, because we were all of us fathers as well as soldiers, and these were not only our comrades in arms, but our sons. We were there to bring them home.

That is the emotion. But the numbers are different. They are the lightest casualties suffered by the IDF in all of its wars. Military historians will spend years deciphering why exactly this was so. Was Israel’s government and its general staff, by its refusal to commit large numbers of forces for the first three weeks of combat, in fact making a highly intelligent strategic choice? Possibly.

Possibly it was dumb luck or devine intervention. Either way it meant three things:

Read it in its entirety to see Gordon's 'Three Conclusions' and understand how he comes to his final concluding thought.

If through appeasement the West fails to take action to prevent the conflagration which looms on the horizon, then let there be no doubt that its flames will engulf us all. For its part, this time Israel must be ready, and it must entrust its fate into no one’s hands but its own.

Baluchistan Eruption

The intractability of the situation in Pakistan was underlined by today's violent demnostrations which erupted in the wake of the government killing of a tribal leader and at least 24 others in Baluchistan, in the west of Pakistan. The conflict between the Pakistani government and the Baluch is not related to the global war; it in fact predates the existence of al-Qaeda, and is based on a long-standing fight for autonomy by the Baluch tribe.

Yet the fact that government forces are engaged in a low-level civil war with a significant section of the country may help explain the fact of de facto toleration for the Taliban in other sections of the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands. While operations against al-Qaeda continue, their Taliban partners are tolerated and allowed to operate against Afghan targets from within Pakistani territory with impunity, making life difficult for the elected government in Afghanistan and the international coalition there. And it should be noted that there are indications that anti-Indian jihadist groups are not merely tolerated but have received active assistance from the government.

This is from the Washington Post:

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Hundreds of rioters angered by the killing of a rebel tribal leader rampaged through a southwestern Pakistani city Sunday, burning dozens of shops, banks and police vehicles. Police arrested hundreds on the second day of violent protests against the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, in a raid on his mountain hide-out. Authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.

Nine policemen suffered minor wounds in a clash with about 70 protesters, some firing pistols, who tried to loot a bank and several shops in northern Quetta, said police inspector Zahir Shah. Police fired tear gas to disperse the mob. A bomb blast damaged a government building and arsonists set fire to a telephone exchange in Kalat, a town about 155 miles south of Quetta, said local police official Ghulam Farid Jamali. There were no casualties...

Read the rest of the article.

August 26, 2006

United at the United Nations on Iran?

From AP Diplomatic Writer, Anne Gearan: Analysis: Bully Role Won't Help With Iran...

The Bush administration may be on the verge of getting what it has long sought: United Nations sanctions on a defiant Iran over its accelerated nuclear program. That may not be much of a victory.

The U.N. Security Council isn't likely to approve tough sanctions anytime soon, analysts said, and Iran can easily shake off light punishments. The United States risks shattering an international coalition it fought hard to build if it plays the bully now.

Perhaps emboldened by what it views as a proxy victory over the West during the monthlong Israeli war with Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants, Tehran is testing the unity of the international front against it.

Ms. Gearan's relatively light analysis makes some good observations of the week's events as it continues.

Nonetheless, two things to consider.

First, begging forgiveness for the self-reference, Exploitation Week was indeed put into full swing by Tehran as predicted, beginning this Tuesday past and culminating next Thursday, 31Aug06. From Gearan's own article:

"If their strategy was to divide the Security Council it seems to be working,"Levi said, citing Friday's remarks from the Russian Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov that talk of sanctions is premature.

Secondly, and far more importantly, a fundamental question must be asked as Anne Gearan notes that the "United States risks shattering an international coalition it fought hard to build if it plays the bully now."

If that coalition is unable to affect the Iranian program, what value is there to be had in holding it together? This is not to suggest that there is no value. Clearly there is. But what is that value, exactly?

Is that value worth the cost if the so-called coalition is unwiling to come to consensus on meaningful sanctions?

Within days of August 31 (next Thursday), we will know precisely the value of that coalition. The cost may well be ceding nuclear weapons technology openly to the world's premier state sponsor of terrorism...all in the name of international unity.

For what it's worth, the similarities between the Pakistani path to a nuclear weapon and Iran's current trek are uncanny and underappreciated.

Chemical Spill Causes Partial Evacuation in Dover, Del.

If you're familiar with the corridor running up and down the East Coast from New York City down to Baltimore, I-95, you know that its dotted with chemical processing plants and manufacturing facilities. Soft targets perhaps. Certainly, the concentration of these plants in areas of high population density makes them a serious risk, whether because of a terrorist attack or due to an accidental release of toxic materials. The lack of security at chemical plants has continued to be an issue with local politicians like Senator Charles Schumer.

On Friday, a leak of the chemical styrene caused a partial evacuation of areas surrounding Reichhold Chemical, a latex manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Cheswold Delaware.

- Witnesses initially reported a fog hovering on the ground near the plant and then a foul odor. At least 23 people were treated at Kent General Hospital in Dover. Two still were being treated at 1 a.m.

- State police said the spill originated from a rail car carrying styrene monomer, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

- The leak involved a tanker containing 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of the colorless, oily liquid. Heavy or long-term exposure to styrene can cause respiratory, neurological and reproductive problems, according to federal health and industry reports.

40 homes and businesses were evacuated

The advisory for residents living within a five-mile radius of the Reichhold Chemical plant to stay indoors because of a chemical spill there Friday evening has been lifted.

However, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources today announced a mandatory evacuation of about 40 homes and businesses within a 1,500-foot radius of the plant on the outskirts of Cheswold.

State officials described the mandatory evacuation as a “precautionary measure” but said it’s necessary “to ensure the safety of people in the vicinity of the plant site.”

DNREC said it expects that the mandatory evacuation could last for up to 12 hours, but added that the time frame could change.


Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex

Delaware Department of Transportation road closure report

The "after action" reporting on this incident should be interesting to see in the context of how we might respond to an attack on a chemical facility. This incident also supports the contention of many small(er) area politicians that their areas deserve to receive anti-terrorism funding from the DHS (thinking of smaller towns and states where chemical plants like this one exist).

Iran's Heavy Water Plant Moves Forward

With little more than cable news reports and behind-the-curve newspaper reporting during a week of vacation disconnected from the internet, much has transpired in the Iranian nuclear crisis. Yet, on first glance as I become reconnected, little has been covered with proper context. (Naturally, the good men at Vital Perspective stayed on top of things.)

So, before the first word is scribed into commentary and/or analysis, what is the first piece of information about Iran on this busy Saturday?

That for Iran, ready for negotiations over all things non-nuclear, construction at the Arak heavy water reactor continues, which would give Iran the ability to produce plutonium for smaller, more effective (and more easily missile deliverable) nuclear weapons.

Iran's president launched a new phase in the Arak heavy-water reactor project on Saturday, saying Tehran would not give up its right to nuclear technology despite Western fears it aims to make atomic bombs.

It should be noted that, in their pursuit of nuclear weapons, both Pakistan and North Korea preferred the heavy water plant production of plutonium but shelved it because light water uranium enrichment could more readily be slipped beneath the proliferation radar, disguised as nuclear power research.

Iran rightly concludes – by feckless world ‘strongly worded’ reaction – that they need not be concerned with such trivial matters as world reaction.

As we noted on August 21 in Exploitation Week: The August 22 Iranian Kickoff, Iran was likely to further pursue a ‘divide and conquer’ diplomatic approach with their much-anticipated August 22 official response to the West’s nuclear incentives package and UN demands.

That Russia – as well as the EU’s Javier Solana - have both announced their desire to renew direct talks with Iran, Iran is maximizing Exploitation Week.

Much more on this and other Iran Nuclear Development issues to come shortly.

August 24, 2006

Disaster Preparedness and Homeland Security

If the Katrina and Rita disasters last year proved nothing else, it was that our Nation’s medical and communications infrastructure ran the risk of being overwhelmed if a major CBRN attack occurred. At the same time, the question of how well we are prepared for a repeat of the Katrina and Rita situations remains.

A report from the Partnership for Public Service in 2003 highlighted our inability to respond to a chemical or biological attack because of a shortage of science and medical experts.

Delving deeper into the actual report, among the conclusions were:

· Bio-terror threat growing & represents a security threat

· Response capacity shrinking…1/2 of the federal scientific and medical personnel in bio-defense to be eligible to retire by 2008

· Threat from biological weapons grows larger and more pressing as scientific and technological advances in biology expand.

· al Qaeda has been pursuing plans and materials to develop biological weapons…the possibility of a bio-terrorist attack even more deadly than September 11

· Shortage of scientific and medical personnel jeopardizes federal bio-defense agencies to counter a BW attack

· Local first responders, regional vaccine stockpiling, and bio-weapon monitors in big cities have attracted funding Fed. resources needed to respond to a wide-spread terror attack, such as aerosolized/weaponized anthrax

· Conduct an audit of US bio-defense work force and create a single point of accountability to monitor federal bio-defense staffing.

Why is this important? How is preparedness for a chemical or biological attack related to disaster preparedness? Our medical infrastructure needs to be able to react and respond to a devastating natural disaster just like it needs to be prepared for a mass casualty terrorist attack.

According to a survey of U.S. Gulf Coast emergency rooms indicates that they would be overwhelmed in the event of a repeat of Katrina. While the hurricane season to date seems quite tame by last year’s standard, it appears that if another natural disaster of the proportion of Katrina or Rita occurred, we are simply not prepared.

Key points:

· About 50 million U.S. residents live in hurricane-prone coastal communities, according to the National Hurricane Center

· About 43 percent of all hospital visits begin in the ER, according to national data, but Gulf Coast facilities are overtaxed. Two-thirds of the Gulf Coast doctors surveyed feel patient care is being harmed by overcrowding and lack of resources

· Two of the area's public hospitals have not yet re-opened, pushing more uninsured patients to emergency rooms. Seven of 22 hospitals remain closed.

· "The whole system is on life support," said James Moises, an emergency room doctor at Tulane University hospital, one of the only hospitals open in downtown New Orleans.

· The survey also polled doctors in the hurricane-hit Biloxi, Mississippi, region, where most hospitals have re-opened, but a shortage of doctors is leading care to be diverted 60 miles (97 km) across the state to a trauma center.

It doesn't seem like we're ready.

August 21, 2006

Turkey Halted Even More Iranian Missile Shipments

The interception of Iranian (and Syrian) airlifted missile shipments to Hizballah may have been even more pervasive than acknowledged to date. An Israeli website, Israel Today, is quoting a Turkish newspaper that reported 5 Iranian cargo jets and 1 Syrian cargo jet filled with missiles and bound for Hizballah at the height fo the Israeli campaign against the terrorist group in Lebanon. From Israel Today's "Turks intercept Iranian missile shipment to Hizballah":

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet is reporting today that Turkish authorities intercepted five Iranian cargo aircraft and one Syrian aircraft carrying missiles to Hizballah.

According to the report the aircraft were forced to land at Diyarbakir Airport in southeastern Turkey. The aircraft were not allowed to take off after US intelligence sources found there were three missile launchers and crates of C-802 missiles on board the planes which were identical to the missile that struck the Israeli Navy Ship “Hanit” during the war.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel will continue to prevent weapons from reaching Hizballah from Syria and Iran. “I will not allow the situation that happened before the war to return,” said Peretz during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. He also asked Gul that Turkey send troops to the international force deploying in Lebanon.

Security Concerns at Russian Spaceport

James Oberg, veteran space shuttle Mission Control specialist the and renowned expert on Russian space program, reports trouble on the horizon as the Russian Baikonur spaceport faces future insecurity without a military presence.

Early last month, Lenin Square in Baikonur echoed again to the sound of marching military feet celebrating the 61st anniversary of the victorious end of the war against Hitler’s Germany. Russia’s famous space center was built by Soviet military forces fifty years ago, and since then they have operated launch pads, managed the infrastructure, and provided security. However, with the nearing of the end of the military withdrawal from the space center, this most recent parade will probably be the last ever: the soldiers, both technical troops and guards, are marching back to Russia.

Although they are to be replaced by civilian contractors, these military units leave behind a space center much more vulnerable to accidents by inexperienced replacements and to theft by the local population and by officials. More ominously, the declining physical security opens opportunities for malicious, even hostile actions by a native population with large segments growing more resentful of the presence of the Russian rocket center in the middle of their own country...

...Nor is the cultural landscape as featureless and benign as it also may first appear. Two years ago, Russian military security forces placed the cosmodrome on the top of its list of potential terrorism targets in Kazakhstan, and local government authorities have made several arrests of members of the Hizb-al-Tahrir “caliphate party”: fundamentalist Moslems whose influence has been growing in the area. Chechen rebel fighters, hiding out among their ethnic kin in Kazakhstan, have also been captured, but how many remain undetected is unknown.

As America's own space program relies in part upon the Baikonur spaceport, we have a vested interest in its security.

For more information about the author and space program-related news and topics, pay a visit to Jim Oberg's Pioneering Space.

Hizballah's Anti-Tank Missiles Find MoreThan Tanks

Last week The Jamestown Foundation took a look at the creative ways in which hizballah leveraged it's most important new weapon, the anti-tank missile. They leveraged it for far more than just killing tanks, including successful shots on buildings, IDF troop formations and even a possible helicopter shoot down.

The primary target of Hezbollah's battlefield missiles is the Israeli-made Merkava tank. The Merkava was designed for the maximum protection of its crews, with heavy armor and a rear escape hatch. The emphasis on crew survival is not simply a humanitarian gesture; the small country of Israel cannot provide an endless number of trained, combat-ready tank crews if casualties begin to mount. The tank is also designed to be easily and quickly repaired, a specialty of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The modular armor plating can be easily replaced if damaged, or replaced entirely with upgraded materials when available. The first generation of Merkavas was built in the 1970s and was soon deployed in Lebanon in 1982. The much-improved Merkava Mk 4 has been Israel's main battle-tank since its introduction in 2004.

Current battlefield reports suggest that Hezbollah fighters are well-trained in aiming at the Merkava's most vulnerable points, resulting in as many as one-quarter of their missiles successfully piercing the armor (Yediot Aharonot, August 10). Hezbollah attacks on Merkava tanks during the November 2005 raid on the border town of Ghajar were videotaped and closely examined to find points where the armor was susceptible to missile attack. While some of their missiles have impressive ranges (up to three kilometers), the guerrillas prefer to fire from close range to maximize their chances of hitting weak points on the Merkava. Operating in two- or three-man teams, the insurgents typically try to gain the high ground in the hilly terrain before selecting targets, using well-concealed missile stockpiles that allow them to operate behind Israeli lines (Jerusalem Post, August 3).

Without artillery, Hezbollah has adapted its use of anti-tank missiles for mobile fire support against Israeli troops taking cover in buildings. There are numerous reports of such use, the most devastating being on August 9, when an anti-tank missile collapsed an entire building, claiming the lives of nine Israeli reservists (Y-net, August 10). Four soldiers from Israel's Egoz (an elite reconnaissance unit) were killed in a Bint Jbail house when it was struck by a Sagger missile (Haaretz, August 6). TOW missiles were used effectively in 2000 against IDF outposts in south Lebanon before the Israeli withdrawal. There are also recent instances of anti-tank weapons being used against Israeli infantry in the field, a costly means of warfare but one that meets two important Hezbollah criteria: the creation of Israeli casualties and the preservation of highly-outnumbered Hezbollah guerrillas who can fire the weapons from a relatively safe distance.

It was suggested that the IDF helicopter brought down by Hezbollah fire on August 12 was hit by an anti-tank missile. Hezbollah claimed to have used a new missile called the Wa'ad (Promise), although the organization occasionally renames existing missiles (Jerusalem Post, August 12). At least one of Israel's ubiquitous armored bulldozers has also fallen prey to Hezbollah's missiles.

The Syrian-made RPG-29 was previously used with some success against Israeli tanks in Gaza. Hezbollah also uses this weapon, with a dual-warhead that allows it to penetrate armor. On August 6, the Israeli press reported that IDF intelligence sources claimed that an improved Russian-made version of the RPG-29 was being sold to Syria before transfer to the Islamic Resistance (Haaretz, August 6). In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry denied any involvement in supplying anti-tank weapons to Hezbollah (RIA Novosti, August 10). The IDF reports that anti-tank missiles and rockets continue to cross the border into Lebanon from Syria, despite the destruction of roads and bridges in the area (Haaretz, August 13).

For a photo that includes the Iranian inscription on the trigger mechanism and more information, see Iran Defense: New Doctrine, Old Doctrine.

Hizballah, Heroism and Mortal Danger

In Now, The Fallout, Lee Smith makes a critically important observation about the various Lebanese figures touting Hizballah - though often not using the name - as national heroes of resistance.

Here in Israel the reckoning has been underway at least since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire started Monday morning. The papers are loaded with detailed analysis of varying opinion, but much of the criticism of the military and political leadership has nothing to do with how they waged war against Hezbollah. Among other scandals brewing, it has been reported that IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz sold nearly $26,000 worth of stock right after the kidnapping of the two soldiers that sparked the conflict, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to have gotten a sweetheart deal on a luxury Jerusalem apartment last year.

My Lebanese friends are curious to know if all this means that Israel is tearing itself apart at the seams. They know better, but the man who is de facto leader of their country, Hassan Nasrallah, believes that a free press and dissent are signs of weakness.

Of course, it is very dangerous in Lebanon to disagree with Nasrallah, which might be why future MP Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, says he is so proud of Lebanon's "victory," which he credits to the arms of the resistance. Perhaps Saad means to preserve Lebanon's illusory "national unity," a fiction that may only serve to make it easier for IDF planners during the next round of fighting, which many believe to be inevitable. [Emphasis Added.]

As Ehud Yaari pointed out, one of Hizballah's ideal conditions is to be recognized officially as an arm of the Lebanese armed forces by pushing a measure through parliament under threat of breaking the current coalition government - of which Sa'ad Hariri is a part.

This would surely be a more costly move for Lebanon than resisting it in the face of Hizballah's threat. As Lee Smith points out, their verbal support is likely dangerous enough...a danger perhaps not worth the peace of mind (and body) that conflict avoidance with Iran's Hizballah terrorists entices.

To be sure, Hariri, Jumblatt and others in the Lebanese government are in a very tough spot. But at some point, the difficult choice will have to be explicitly made: Does Lebanon support Hizballah or do they want to rid themselves of Hizballah?

As it is for nearly the entire region, none of the choices are free from mortal danger or long term implications. Many hope that Hariri, Jumblatt & Company will make the principled choice...especially the many of us separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

A funny thing, principle, when the immediate safety of one's family is at stake. Unfortunate predicament, but a fact nonetheless.

This is not a criticism of Lee Smith at all. He simply brings up the issue. It is a criticism of our own actions.

With the Cedar Revolution, Lebanon made the brave principled choice in the face of an occupying Syrian intimidation machine largely because they sensed the support of the world behind them following the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Now, with the world buckling to a non-state entity - a terrorist Hizballah organization - what have we done to encourage them to once again make the principled choice? On one hand, we have demanded that Hizballah be disengaged from, while on the other we are going to criticize the rest of Lebanon for fearing personal retribution from the most heavily armed terrorist organization in the world right in their own backyard?

We could have done much more to help them, even if they publicly railed against the manner in which it was being done. But there is no other way to disarm Hizballah, regardless of who is making the attempt. And we are back to that principled choice before the Lebanese.

Sadly, the world is full of glass houses and stone throwers and we all take our turns, intentionally or not.

War is War

At The Washington Institute, Ehud Yaari describes how the Israeli leadership, political and military, put itself in the position of a perceived draw with Hizballah. He then posits with undeniable clarity:

But the mediocrity and lack of sophistication in some of the army’s upper echelons was not the problem so much as the decision-making process at the highest political levels. War is not just another operation, not a large incursion, and not a pressure tactic. War is war.

With Hizballah effectively in the driver's seat, Yaari briefly describes the choice before Nasrallah and Hizballah: Either play along with the UN Ceasefire and re-arm before averted eyes or make a political move within the Lebanese parliament to officially make Hizballah an arm of the Lebanese armed forces.

Either way, Round 2 is likely coming in short order. Better for Lebanon to reject Option B.

August 20, 2006

Yemen as Terrorist Recruiting Ground

Armies of Liberation links to a report on Yemen's failed attempts to prevent Yemenis from joining terrorist groups in Iraq. After a Yemeni man blew himself up in the course of executing a suicide attack, Yemeni officials noted that men under the age of 35 were prohibited from traveling to Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Syria (I suspect that Jordan patrols its border as well as possible, but one can get into Syria from Jordan). I wonder how hard they have been trying. Perhaps not real hard, since Interpol complains that after terrorists recently escaped from prison, Yemeni authorities failed to provide the international organization with fingerprints. And of course, some officials are simply pro-terrorist - remember the court that acquited 19 al-Qaeda members, saying that it was legitimate jihad.

And apparently some Yemeni men are also going to Afghanistan to fight on the side of the Taliban. Does this sound familiar? I haven't seen any reports of Yemenis traveling to Afghanistan to fight on behalf of the elected government there.

Survey: Indians Divided but Negative on Pakistan Relations

With Indian intelligence blaming Pakistani intelligence for direct involvement with anti-Indian terrorist groups - the most prominent being Lashkir-e-Toiba (a.k.a. Dawa) - and the international consensus being that Pakistan at least tolerates them, it is perhaps not surprising that Indians are not feeling charitable toward Pakistan. According to a recent survey, they favor a fairly hardline approach to the issue, but are divided over precise tactics. These were two questions with responses:

Is Pakistan the real force behind terrorist activities in India?
Agree - 54%
Disagree - 10%
Can't Say - 36%

Since the survey also shows that while 33% of Indian Muslims disagreed with blaming Pakistan, and only 6% of Hindus did so, there is a clear underlying religious divide. About an equal number were unsure.

What should the government do about Pakistan's involvement in terrorist activities?
Attack terrorist bases - 40%
Negotiations - 31%
Pressure tactics - 19%
Can't say - 10%

The original source makes clear that this last question was asked only to those who responded that they thought that Pakistan was involved directly, so only about 25% of Indians favor war with Pakistan, which is what "Attack terrorist bases" would mean.

So overall, while about a third of Indians are unsure about what to think or do about the situation, the vast majority of the rest blame the Pakistani government, although they themselves seem divided on how exactly the situation should be handled. The tilt, however, favors a hardline in America's most important south Asian democratic ally against America's most important south Asian Muslim ally. This, not Palestine, involves the greatest danger to American interests from a foreign conflict.

Note on Iraqi Geographic Nomenclature

In commenting on a recent InBrief of mine (Second Battle of Baghdad Underway), "Soldier's Dad" made an important point, but aside from the substantive issue, it raised an issue nomenclature that may need some clarification. During the course of the article I referred to six provinces which the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat indicated were under Iraqi security control. Soldier's Dad responded, in part: "The August Battlespace Map shows Dohuk, Sallahadin, Sulimaniya, Najaf, Babil, Wasit, Qadisiyah and Muthana under either IA or Provincial Iraqi control."

Part of the problem is that there is significant inconsistency between his source and mine, and I've addressed that issue in the comment. But this also emphasizes the problem of inconsistent spellings and transliterations. I've provided a standardized spelling list for Iraqi provinces and capitals below, but bear in mind that the diversity of spellings means that this list will never match exactly those used in maps or other sources elsewhere. As a helpful guide for non-Arabic proficient readers, I've developed some guidelines:

1) As a general rule, here at ThreatsWatch we usually spell names as closely to their Arabic pronunciation as possible except where a literal translation would be awkward. Thus An-Najaf becomes Al-Najaf, because the doubling of the 'n' depends upon an Arabic grammar rule irrelevant for our purposes here. But we write Muqtada rather than the more commonly used Moqtada, since it is pronounced with an 'u' in the first syllable.

2) There is no standardized spelling for many Arab names, and so while the grandson of Muhammad who was killed in the 7th century is usually called "Husayn," and the former Iraqi dictator "Hussein," these names are identical. The inconsistency can be seen in the first names of - as we spell them - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as currently used in some prominent news sources:

Washington Post - Moqtada/Nuri
New York Times - Moktada/Nuri [note that it is a 'q' in Arabic, not a 'k']
Wall Street Journal - Moqtada/Nouri [note that in Arabic the 'u' in "Nuri" is a short not a long vowel]

We drop the definite article after first mention, so "al-Maliki" becomes simply "Maliki."

3) Many place names are spelled with an "-ah" at the end where we drop the "h" (see our spelling of "Sulaymaniya", etc.). This is because in those names this last sound is the ta marbuta, which sounds just like an "a" in English with no "h." There is a hard "h" that may appear at the end of a name, but this is a different letter, and has no equivalent in English. An example of this "hard 'h'" is the Iraqi newspaper Al-Sabah (although note that they use inconsistent spellings for their own name in the website's url and the English version of their homepage).

4) We do use the ' diacritic mark to indicate the 'ayn sound, which has no equivalent in English. This is to indicate that there is a difference between, say, the first syllable in "Ba'quba" and that in "Baghdad."

5) Where there is a long vowel and some publications double the vowel in English, we do not do so, except where there is an established transliteration for a proper name, as in the famous/infamous satellite channel Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar. (Note that there is also a Saudi newspaper called Al-Jazirah, but the two have the same Arabic spelling.)

I'll probably link back to this post in the future as a reference whenever I sense a discussion may induce confusion. Below are all the provinces and their capitals; here is a link to some maps of Iraq. The province is first, then the capital (some are the same); typically we include the definite article ("al-") for provinces and personal names (e.g. Nuri al-Maliki) where relevant (not all have it), but not individual cities. Also, if we decide to change our style sheet on these spellings, I'll come back and amend this post.

So here is the province/capital list, with some brief comments to tie them to common references in the news (I've indicated the predominant ethnic/sectarian group in each, but also bear in mind that a smaller Turkmen minority of 2-3 million people stretches across Ninawa, Arbil, al-Tamim and Diyala):

1. Baghdad/ Baghdad (mixed Sunni/Shi'a)

2. Al-Anbar/ Ramadi (center of the native Iraqi insurgency)

3. Salah al-Din/ Samarra (top point in the "Sunni Triangle")

4. Diyala/ Ba'quba (mixed Sunni/Shi'a)

5. Al-Sulaymaniya/ Sulaymaniya (Sunni)

6. Al-Tamim/ Kirkuk (mixed Kurd/Sunni Arab, oil-rich flashpoint)

7. Arbil/ Arbil (Kurd-dominated)

8. Ninawa/ Mosul (mixed Kurd/Sunni Arab)

9. Dahuk/ Dahuk (Kurd-dominated)

10. Karbala/ Karbala (one of two most holy Shi'a cities, site of Husayn's martyrdom)

11. Babil/ Hilla (predominately Shi'a)

12. Wasit/ Kut (predominately Shi'a)

13. Al-Najaf/ Najaf (one of two most holy Shi'a cities, residence of most Iraqi Shi'a religious authorities)

14. Al-Muthanna/ Samawa (predominately Shi'a)

15. Al-Basra/Basra (key port city, most populous Shi'a-dominated city)

16. Maysan/ Amara (predominately Shi'a)

17. Dhiqar/ Nasiriya (predominately Shi'a)

18. Al-Qadisiya/ Diwaniya (predominately Shi'a)

August 19, 2006

RE: "Fear" (Is Good)

My good friend Jay concludes his last (“Fear” - A Nation on Edge):

We also know from reports that our security is lacking when it comes to the detection of these purported liquid explosive bombs.

From this perspective, the terrorists (and if it is al-Qaeda), in my opinion, are winning right now. They have us on edge, or at least "off guard."

"On edge" is agreeable. But, with proper perspective, it just may be demonstrated that al-Qaeda (and their fellow ideological travelers) are not "winning right now."

Sleeping in consciously blind comfort while 9-11 hijackers trained to fly (not land) jetliners on our own soil embodies terrorists winning.

An economy - and entire industries - frozen or in freefall after terrorist attacks embodies terrorists winning.

A national psyche paralyzed by fear, afraid of shadows, embodies terrorists winning.

But an aircraft and airport cleared after suspicious activity says to me that we are a nation alert, not defeated by fear.

I believe it was a mean, crusty Force Recon Marine that once said:

Pain is God's way of telling you that you are still alive.
Fear is God's way of telling you to pay attention.
Embrace them both.

We are not losing. We are simply paying attention. What if we had possessed this alertness five years ago...or sooner?

So some air travelers are potentially inconvenienced by an event that may end as a ‘false alarm.’ A petty – and recoverable – experience.

It would be difficult for me to look Todd Beamer, Chic Burlingame, and nearly three thousand other slain Americans (and their families) in the eye and explain the importance of convenience.

Now, in fairness, I know this is not exactly what Jay was thinking when he wrote the above. But perhaps we should all pause to consider the value of fear rather than simply the cost.

There is an infinite difference between harnessing and embracing fear – a natural, important and useful phenomenon – and submitting to it, frozen and incapable. Ask any Marine.

“Fear” - A Nation on Edge

This is developing news.

As I write this, the San Antonio airport is paralyzed because a flight attendant considered that a passenger was spending too much time in the bathroom on a flight from Atlanta. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in and they have found “something of interest” in the bathroom.

This could be a real incident, or yet, it could be another "fire drill." I certainly don’t know, and at this moment, the authorities don’t know either.

I am not suggesting that our increased diligence is unwarranted, because it is! But what I am saying is that ever since the disclosure of the liquid bomb plot in London last week, we have been a nation on edge. We are approaching the fifth anniversary of what many consider the worst and most devastating day in our Nation’s history. We have heard that the London bomb plot was a plan. And we have heard that August 22 could be a day of significance with Iran. And we have witnessed a succession of incidents in West Virginia, in Seattle and now in San Antonio, all reacting to the specter of an impending terrorist attack.

We also know from reports that our security is lacking when it comes to the detection of these purported liquid explosive bombs.

From this perspective, the terrorists (and if it is al-Qaeda), in my opinion, are winning right now. They have us on edge, or at least "off guard."

Sacrifice & Initiative

In The Need for Sacrifice, Marc Schulman highlights the latest from Caroline Glick (The coming wars), where she writes:

We [Israel] are not a "normal" nation and we are not going to get peace in the coming years. We are an abnormal nation in our neighborhood and in the world and will always remain so, as is our right. Our people must be ready to sacrifice for the survival of the state and the defense of our freedom to be abnormal. We need leadership that will tell the Israeli people that a struggle awaits us but that our democracy, our freedom, and our values give us the power of creative thought that will allow us to beat the dull forces of jihad that surround us.

On that note of sacrifice, Marc Schulman writes in criticism of the Bush Administration.

There's no better example of this compartmentalization than today's news that Hezbollah, armed with a massive infusion of cash from Iran, is distributing $12,000 to each Lebanese that lost a home to Israel's bombs. Without Iran's largess, this wouldn't be possible. Without a bloated treasury resulting from $70 oil, Iran couldn't afford to fund the reconstruction, through Hezbollah, of gutted Lebanese property. What has our government done to reduce demand for oil—and, therefore, oil's price? Nothing. To do otherwise would require sacrifice. And this no American politician is willing to ask for.

From a personal viewpoint, perhaps the greatest virtue of America - and the most identifiable American trait resulting from our unparalleled freedom and liberty - is a distinctly American sense of entrepreneurship and individual initiative.

Considering this, why would Americans wait for its oversized government for direction? We do not require its direction in other endeavors. We should not require it now.

By the People, Of the People, For the People.

Not 'To the People.'

Though difficult to ponder, perhaps it is time to shed my beloved 360 cubic inches of pure American rumbling masculinity. Not because feeding her appetite is expensive (trust me, it is), nor because my government does or does not encourage it. Perhaps simply because, in keeping with the finest of American traditions and virtues, it is my initiative to do so.

August 18, 2006

Friday Night Radio: Talking Iran

At Midnight EDT / 9PM PDT I will be appearing once more on Wide Awakes Radio's Seeing Red…With Kit and Heidi, taking a look at the latest from Iran, the coming announcement of their decision on the West's nuclear offer and related events. Many thanks to Kit & Heidi for another invitation.

As an aside, there have been previous radio appearances, including Into the Night with Jack Riccardi on CBS Radio/KTSA San Antonio and Hoppy Kercheval's West Virginia MetroNews TalkLine.

Previous appearances were not mentioned here for fear of appearing somewhat self-serving and gratuitous. However, the hosts were gracious enough to ask ThreatsWatch to share some thoughts on various subjects with their listeners - from Iran to the Israeli conflict with Hizballah to the UK airline bombing plot. The least we could do is live up to their performance expectations and provide a link to their programs.

With both thanks and apologies to Jack Riccardi, Hoppy Kercheval and Kit & Heidi, we will alert our readers to appearances as possible going forward (some are breaking news driven and last minute).

Airline Threat? What Airline Threat?

The UK's Telegraph reports that British airline Ryanair has given the UK government a seven-day ultimatum over security. Not too little security, but too much.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: "The best way to defeat terrorists and extremists is for ordinary people to continue to live their lives as normal.

"Because of the additional security restrictions imposed by the Government last Thursday, the shambles at the London airports has been anything but normal.

"The UK Government successfully led the return to normality of the London Underground within two days of the July 7 terrorist attacks. It is important that they now restore security at the London airports to normality and remove some of these nonsensical, and (from a security perspective) totally ineffective restrictions which were introduced last week."

To be sure, the added security is an inconvenience to passengers and operators alike. But for Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary to say that people - and thus airline security - should "continue to live their lives as normal" in the middle of a bomb threat that several governments have determined has not been completely averted is not only irresponsible, but it is frighteningly illogical with regards to security measures at Heathrow.

Yes, we are not afraid. But we are also not idiots. Most of us anyway.

Perhaps if he were asked to examine the bomb kit British authorities found in a wooded area near the plotters' homes, O'Leary would reconsider.

On the other hand, perhaps Michael O'Leary has retained the legal services of the Honorable Anna Diggs-Taylor to represent Ryanair in the coming lawsuit against the British government.

British air travelers should give Ryanair a seven-day ultimatum...or import the standard-setting services of El Al and be done with it. El Al manages to arrive and depart on time, which is really Ryanair's principal complaint.

When you absolutely, positively have to be there overnight...without exploding mid-flight...El Al.

No C-802s For You

Hats off to US SatInt personnel for detecting a fresh shipment of C-802 anti-ship missiles from Iran to Hizballah during the Israeli campaign against Hizballah last month. John Diamond does some excellent reporting for USA Today in bringing the story of how US diplomats took that intelligence and persuaded both Iraq and Turkey to deny the Iranian cargo jet entry into their airspace.

Last night, Diamond published an article that could be called Missile Spotting that detailed how the SatIntel crew arrived at their conclusion.

In the closed world of spy satellite photo analysis, it's called "crate-ology": the science of identifying a weapon or some other key component by the size and shape of its box.

The technique came into play last month when a U.S. spy satellite, looking down on an Iranian air base, captured images of military crews loading what U.S. intelligence analysts concluded were eight C-802 Noor anti-ship cruise missiles on board a transport plane, according to intelligence officials.

The episode was detailed by one U.S. intelligence official who saw a report on the incident. It was confirmed by a U.S. official from a second intelligence agency and by a diplomat with a foreign government. They did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The ability of U.S. analysts to say with confidence what was in the boxes set off a chain of events that blocked the shipment to Syria, the U.S. intelligence officials said. They said the weapons were to be forwarded to Hezbollah guerrillas fighting Israeli forces in Lebanon.

The C-802 is "the size of a small truck," says Robert Hewson, a missile expert with Jane's, an authoritative military reference service. Information about the crate, proximity to the place of manufacture and shipping route would enable an analyst to identify it with near certainty as a C-802, he says.

Not normally a big fan of USA Today (beyond the national Sports Page, when such luxury presents itself), John Diamond's work is excellent here, and the accompanying graphics that were compiled for the report are simple yet informative.

At a time when much of the established media is rightly taking many hits square on the jaw from many different directions, it is great to see this in the USA Today...today. Readers want to hear about what we do right and well, too, sometimes. Kudos to both John Diamond and his newspaper.

Secure ID Coalition Launched

Smart cards and electronic passports seem to be on the immediate horizon. Consider an article from GovExec.com, Firms launch security card coalition.

From the Homeland Security Daily Wire on the issue:

More and more, government agencies on the federal and state level contemplate, or even mandate, the incorporation of RFID technology into various IDs and documents. Privacy advocates are trying to push back, arguing that the new technology poses a threat to privacy. It is thus a good time for a group of identification card and computer chip manufacturers to form a new industry coalition dedicated to educating lawmakers about secure card technologies.

The Secure ID Coalition will promote contact-less smart cards instead of those relying on radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, and will focus on state-level issues. One major goal is to prevent state lawmakers from prohibiting technologies sold or relied on by coalition members. Pending bills in California, for instance, would outlaw the use or RFIDs in driver's licenses and school ID cards.

There is a question though. At the recent Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas, hackers demonstrated how to clone one of these RFID chips. How important is this? Apparently not too important at all since the government is starting the rollout of the electronic passport this month. Besides, based on other information, cloning does not permit modification of the information.

However, the ability to clone these highly secure RFID chips does raise questions of the security of other RFIDs being used and mandated for tracking products such as pharmaceuticals where modifying the information is not an issue in substituting counterfeit drugs in the supply chain.

RE: Kinder, Gentler

Dr. Sanity says, "Yeah, but..."

Without disagreeing too much with Baker, I think its important to keep in mind several things:

First, we have not had an attack on this country since 9/11. That is the bottom line, and I think it counts for something.

And that it does. Pat Santy goes on to make a few good points for consideration, while not arguing much with Mr. Baker's critique, which is a cogent analysis of the state of American Foreign Policy. Her asides are certainly worth noting.

Kinder, Gentler Nation - Part II

John O'Sullivan writes:

Baker is not a European appeaser complaining about U.S. unilateralism.

Quite the contrary. He was and is a supporter of the Iraq intervention and a defender of a strong U.S. role in the world—as readers of his work in the Times, The Weekly Standard, and The National Interest know.

But he is not a self-deceiver either. And it is plain that Bush, Condi, and the administration have lost their way and perhaps their self-confidence too.

So what did Gerard Baker write that the respected O'Sullivan felt compelled to supply such a qualifier?

As he says, 'Read it' and weep. And make sure you read the whole thing.

Eighteen years ago, nearing the end of the Cold War, George W. Bush's father began his presidency seeking a "Kinder, gentler nation." Today, still in the beginning of an even longer and clearly more violent and deadly war, President Geroge W. Bush appears to be ending his presidency seeking the same.

But rather than waxing poetic about "10,000 points of light" and pursuing the illusory 'Peace Dividend,' we are instead facing 10,000 points of attack and desperately need to assume a War Footing.

Mr. Baker's concluding words beg repeating.

It’s unpleasant when people stop respecting you, but it’s positively terrifying when they stop fearing you.

What we have now is a situation in which the world’s only superpower, with the largest economic and military advantage any country has ever enjoyed on Earth, is pinned down like Gulliver, tormented by an army of fundamentalist Lilliputians.

Some will say that the US’s ineffectiveness is a direct result of the loss of its “soft” power. Alienating the rest of the world has weakened its ability to achieve its objectives. Idiocies such as Abu Ghraib and the brief flirtation with torture as a legitimate instrument undoubtedly hurt America’s image. But I don’t truly see how the failings in the Middle East could have been avoided by Washington’s being nicer to foreigners. What’s been missing is resolute leadership.

It is hard for me to recall a time when the world was such a scary place. No one should rejoice at America’s weakness. The world is scarier still because of it.

August 17, 2006

Peace In Lebanon

The Sydney Morning Herald headline: "Hezbollah out, army in as peace takes hold."

But then, of course, one needs to read the text.

At several points, soldiers crossed the Litani River, 25 kilometres north of the Israeli border, into the domain of Hezbollah. A column of more than 100 trucks, troop carriers and jeeps, flying Lebanese flags, streamed across a makeshift bridge over the river to the town of Merj 'Uyun.

Hezbollah fighters were not expected to resist the soldiers, nor to hand over their weapons. Instead, it was thought they would simply hide their weapons and melt away into the civilian population.

The Hezbollah field commander in the south, Sheik Nabil Qaouk, said: "Just like in the past, Hezbollah had no visible military presence and there will not be any presence now." He praised the army's deployment south of the Litani, but said Hezbollah would maintain its presence without publicly displaying its arms.

Did you catch that? Melt away into the civilian population... "Just like in the past."

And the past's future lead to...well...you know the routine.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

One need not exercise much cerebral might to recall the endless criticism laid at the doorstep of the American leadership for allowing the defeated in Iraq to "melt away into the population" in 2003.

Taking a page right out of the 'Lessons Learned' textbook. Not to read it, apparently. Just to...well...take it out of the book.

Remember Somalia?

Somalia continues to sink deeper into al-Qaeda's hands.

Water Bottle in WV Airport Positive for Explosives

Breaking News: Explosive Substances Believed to be Found at West Virginia Airport

The Transportation Security Administration reports that a passenger's water bottle screened positive for an explosive material around 9:15 this morning. A second test was confirmed at 11:25. TSA is waiting for further testing to determine the exact substance.

NBC News reports that federal screeners found four containers of liquids inside a woman's carry-on bag during the screening process this morning. Larry Salyers, Tri-State Airport Director, tells WSAZ the woman is of Pakistani origin, lived in Jackson, Michigan and most recently lived in the Huntington area. She is being detained for questioning.

The flight in which the woman was going to board was on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina with a final destination of Detroit, Michigan.

A bomb-sniffing dog reacted to her water bottle, which also tested positive on an explosives detection machine. She is a Pakistani with a one way ticket. We are hearing about this as many as 6+ hours after the fact.

Conjecture: After last week's exposure of the UK airline terror plot and the high-profile security in place since, a direct attack would seem illogical for a risk-averse organization like al-Qaeda and their ilk.

It is possible that her bottle, while testing positive for explosives, indeed contained simply water. If this proves to be the case, it means that where she came from, either her home or from among friends, there is possibly an explosives lab / bomb assembly operation running - somewhere in or near Huntington, West Virginia.

In the approximately 6 hours since the initial detection (9:15am) and the time the story was reported (3:30pm), the Pakistani woman's background was most certainly traced and her home and those of her connections paid an unceremonious visit at both ends of her flight (Final Destination: Detroit, Michigan).

First reaction to this event, if indeed the dog and machine are not giving simultaneous false positives, is that it likely may simply be sloppiness on the part of a group with sinister intent, but that this plane may not have been an intended target.

ThreatsWatch will have more coverage as the story develops.

Update: This AP report notes that not one but two bottles belonging to the Pakistani woman tested positive twice, reducing the likelihood of false positives.

See also Charlotte Observer and Wizbang


While working very hard to restrain the anger at the latest news, consider the the insanity that surely inspired the latest self-restraint in pursuit of the unrestrained:

Judge Bars Warrantless Anti-Terrorism Surveillance

The ruling is "the latest example of how the Bush administration has jeopardized our efforts in the war on terror,'' Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement. "It is time for the administration to work with the Congress to develop effective tools to defeat terrorists.''

Saying nothing of the judge, the day Harry Reid develops a single 'tool to defeat terrorists,' I will be all ears. Until such time, I strongly encourage the credit-hungry and process-obsessed in the US Congress to please kindly get out of the way of those who would do the hard work of protecting this nation against terrorist attacks.

This is not about politics. I could scarcely care less what letter follows Harry Reid's name nor what color jersey he wears. Yet, it cannot be denied that the War on Terror has been warped into a political football and kicked around at the high cost of our own security.

As frustration becomes replaced by anguish at watching America tie her hands behind her back as she averts her eyes from an enemy that seeks to behead her, I refrain from writing.

Instead, I offer below in-full the text I had written on a similar day months ago and posted at MilBlogs. It became known among peers as The MilBlogger Manifesto and is sincerely meant from the very core of my being.

With apologies to both valued readers and my respected ThreatsWatch teammates, this will not be very 'Rapid' by RapidRecon standards, but it needs to be said. Now. Here.


The American Political War on Terror

Something has happened to this country that my grandfathers would scarcely recognize and certainly struggle to fathom. That this requires discussion disgusts me daily.

While it can be traced back to before the 60's (though blossoming then), what really happened was the galvanization of self-loathing using Vietnam as a social catalyst. But the face of this nation changed most significantly when the election of the greatest true conservative leader on a chilly 1980 November evening forced a barely contained media into open rooting for a specific political party. The degeneration of policy discussion and political leadership since has been palpable, fueled by the successes of anti-military media coverage developed during the Vietnam era and skillfully maintained and nearly perfected since then.

And such is the nature of the degeneration of American politics. That this repulsive decay also consumes the very defense of the world's one true beacon of freedom causes true physical discomfort. For we do not own that freedom but are tasked with her defense and care by default.

That we must defend her from ourselves is heartbreaking. That we dare not pause to rest lest we lose her from within is enraging.

And so it is with this ever-present disgust that I read Restarting the Clock of History from Wretchard at Belmont Club, as he paints the portrait of our own mindless internal struggle while the wolves circle, darting between trees and shadows, laughing as we argue amongst ourselves in self-defeat over whether the wolves' teeth or our own defense against them are the greater threat.

The West was supposed to die; slowly and comfortably but ineluctably. And we were supposed to buy off the Islamists until we could finish the job ourselves. Bush declaring his intention to fight for the survival of the West was just as logical as Chomsky's pilgrimage to Hezbollah and just as infuriating to his enemies. Until September 11 it was possible for the more "enlightened" segments of society to regard patriotism, religion and similar sentiments with the kind of amused tolerance that one might reserve for simpletons. Nothing that a little institutionalization and spare change couldn't straighten out. The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Great Polite Silence is over. People like Chomsky and President Bush have stopped being hypothetical and become all too real. Bring it on.

United we stood. At least for a few days, as the union was fleeting and superficial. The union was little more than an uncharacteristic measure of quiet among those who merely waited patiently to finally cry out "Not in our name!"

Why is the defense of this nation a political issue at all? There are those who will argue that it is the manner in which we defend ourselves that is at issue.

That, my friends, is a convoluted disingenuous sheen of reason upon the unreasonable.

A former Attorney General currently vociferously defends a mass murdering dictator deposed by our own forces. An icon of the self-loathing anti-American academic Left, Noam Chomsky, embraces Hizballah, the chief beneficiary of Iran's terror export, and condemns the War on Terror as bigotry wrapped in fiction. A former Vice President travels to the home of fifteen 9/11 hijackers and professes that Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" by America and its sitting president and held in "unforgivable" conditions.

These are not arguments of the manner in which to defend America. These are sycophantic rantings of whether to defend her. The flood of emotions in disbelieving reaction range from anger and rage to depression and grief.

We dare not rest as the most important front of the War on Terror - a war for the very survival of Western Civilization - lies not upon the sands of distant shores, but in our own common discourse. The most important battlegrounds are around our dinner tables and in intelligent and persuasive common sense discussion among our peers, seeking the discomfort of battle and the very defense of defense rather than the comfort and unproductive endeavor of agreement among friends.

The line has been clearly drawn. Tire not. Engage.

Swinging From Cedars

Define "Understatement"...

Lebanon's Cedar Revolution Hangs In The Balance

The fears expressed in the article from various sources spring from very, very real and present dangers.

In part, it is the result of the artificial ending of a civil war, with 'peace' dictated and administered under Syrian terms and physical control. However, the ceasefire recently imposed by the world via the UN - and the resulting preservation of the Hizballah terrorist organization that dominates 1/3 of Lebanese territory - is no less artificial. If Lebanon descends into chaos - the preferred working environment of terrorist entities - there can be little doubt that Hizballah will dominate.

In such a case, the Cedar Revolution will be relegated to distant memory...an opportunity for freedom and independence lost that will have become too painful to remember.

It may seem too ironic for critics to grasp, but truly only Israel and the IDF can save Lebanon from a steep descent into the darkness of an Islamic 'Republic,' and client status to the mullahcracy of the messianic Iranian regime.

The Lebanese Army is far too weak, segregated and infiltrated. It is incapable of saving itself or its countrymen from the ambitions of the Iranian Foreign Legion of Hizballistan.

The victory voluntarily ceded to them has emboldened Islamists of every stripe throughout the region and, yes, the world.

Rather than loose the dogs on those that prefer us dead and on those who openly wage war in God's name ('Crusade', anyone?), we have beaten ourselves with the fists of self-loathing and thrown our bloody selves into the shark tank for a blind swim.

We have already fed them the appetizers. They want a meal.

The sharks are circling. Watching. Stalking. Smelling blood and sensing weakness.

Have you noticed?

Top al-Qaeda Commander Under Wraps

From ABC News' The Blotter, word that Pakistani intel & security forces have arrested Matiur Rehman, known to have frequent contact with al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri an involved in the recent UK plot to bomb 10 US-bound airliners from London's Heathrow airport.

A senior al Qaeda commander allegedly tied to the London airplane bomb plot has been arrested in Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement officials have told ABC News. Matiur Rehman, one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, is known to have met with the alleged plot ringleader Rashid Rauf, according to the officials.

Rehman’s capture could provide the most important leads in months to the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s top two leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Rehman was believed to be in frequent contact with Zawahiri.

Rehman was taken into custody in the southern Punjab city of Bawalpur, the same town where alleged London plot ringleader Rashid Rauf was arrested last week. ABC News saw a copy of the police report on Rehman, with an attached copy of his photo.

This is an incredibly important development and may lead to information on the whereabouts of Usama bin Laden and Zawahiri, among others atop al-Qaeda's thriving command structure.

Many will likely believe it better that he is in the hands of Pakistani interrogators than Americans, assuming their will to rid themselves of bin Laden and his ilk is equal to ours.

August 16, 2006

Gulf Oil: If America Won't, China Will

China has reached a new international agreement that enables them to drill for oil directly in the Gulf. No, not the Persian Gulf....the Gulf of Mexico.

A new agreement between China and Cuba has put Chinese rigs just 50 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida. As Fred Stakelbeck notes in Monsters & Critics, Sino-Cuba energy relations are raising concern in Washington.

The presence of Chinese state-owned oil rigs operating less than 50 miles from the Florida Keys has raised alarm among some members of Congress who view Beijing’s actions in the area as a veiled attempt to reduce America’s dominant role in the Western Hemisphere. “China is trying to lock up resources around the world, and they are locking up resources in our own backyard,” noted Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig. “This is simply wrong. I’ve had enough, and I believe the American people have had enough,” he said.

Following the mandates of a treaty made during the Carter administration that ceded oil rights to a significant portion of the Florida Straits to Cuba, the small island nation has since divided its offshore oil fields into 59 blocks of which 16 have been leased to various countries such as China, India, Canada and Norway. In 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush renewed the controversial treaty for an additional two years, angering U.S. energy companies and the Republican Congress.

Consider that the use of slant drilling techniques will allow Chinese, Cuban and/or other countries' rigs to draw resources from even within the 50-mile territorial lines.

When it comes to Energy Security and thus Economic Security, if America won't drill for oil reserves off its coastlines, China most certainly will.

For all of the beating America takes for so-called aggression world-wide, the astute observer will not argue against the fact that America is - for many reasons and to a fault - conflict averse.

If one disagrees with that conclusion, consider how Fred's closing question should be answered:

One final question: Since China is drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico; can we expect U.S. energy companies to one day drill for oil in the South China Sea?

Don’t hold your breath.

No Explosives in Seattle Port Containers

Following up an earlier report on the two containers from Pakistan via Hong Kong that were held when gamma ray screening showed a density discrepancy between the cargo and the manifest, Reuters reports that there were no explosives inside them.

Seattle Police determined there were no explosives in the container, but officials are still checking for hazardous materials and are not prepared to give an all-clear, said port spokesman David Schaefer.

Authorities set up a 2,000-foot (610-metre) perimeter around Terminal 18, just south of downtown Seattle, Schaefer said. The U.S Coast Guard also established a 300-yard (274.3 metre) perimeter in the water.

"We've determined that there are no explosives," said Schaefer.

Not completely clear, but it's looking positive. Two good developments here:

1. No apparent bomb.
2. Port Security Vigilance on clear display.

Number two is particularly important and good to see. When it comes to security, we are far better safe than sorry.

Hats off to the men and women at the Port of Seattle. They make it happen without the fanfare that should equate the importance of their duties.

When you applaud your favorite athlete, actor or musician this week, squeeze in a round or two for those who truly deserve far more than they receive.

Seattle Port Terminal Evacuated

Update: No Explosives in Seattle Port Containers

Seattle Port Terminal 18 was evacuated after bomb-sniffing dogs alerted authorites to questionable content in two containers, believed to be from Pakistan, which arrived in the Seattle Port via Hong Kong.

After the dog's alert - authorities had questions as to the validity of the manifest and removed the containers for further searching.

Seattle Port Authority Bomb Squad members have reportedly opened the containers - using small explosives to pop the doors - and the contents are undergoing further scrutiny.

It appears that the evacuation is limited in scale - causing around 75 longshoremen to be moved out of the terminal.

We'll have more if the situation warrants.

Promoting the Charade

The rolling Reuters headline, once reading "Israel to halt pullout unless Lebanon army deploys" (Update 4 version), has now been currently amended to aptly read "Lebanon approves troop move to south".

This move by Lebanon - and its hollow army - should not be read with relief as a sign that the IDF can now pull back into Israel with the 'bases covered.'

The question should be not whether or not the Lebanese army will deploy to southern Lebanon, but rather what they will do - or more aptly, will not do - once they get there.

The Lebanese Army will not seek to disarm Hizballah.

Already seeking to defy the UN ceasefire agreement, the Lebanese government is working on arrangements to avoid disarming Hizballah by allowing the terrorists to keep their arms so long as they do not display them in public. For its part, the Lebanese army is incapable of standing up to Hizballah alone, a condition engineered long ago by Iran and long-occupying Syria.

But as Lebanon’s UN Ambassador Nahoud Mahmoud made clear Monday, the Lebanese government never intended to use force to disarm Hizballah regardless of the agreed-upon UN ceasefire plan, saying, “Hizballah will just leave the area as armed elements as I understand it, and the Lebanese army will take over the whole region along with the United Nations forces.”

It should be viewed with concern that Israel would play into the charade that Lebanon hopes to promote: That of Lebanese government control of Hizballistan while terrorists are asked to cooperate by simply keeping their tools of war hidden from view.

Power Line today directs to a piece by Arthur Herman that may have otherwise gone unoticed in this space. In The Mideast's Munich, Herman poses that war with the Iranian mullahs is unavoidable, and that the UN Resolution 1701 ceasefire - and the charade it promotes - favors and emboldens the terrorists and their supporting regimes.

Resolution 1701 shows that, for the time being at least, the balance has likewise shifted to the terrorists and their state sponsors. Like Munich, it marks the triumph of the principle of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Like Munich, it will mean not peace in our time, but a bigger war in our future.

In that sense, the cease-fire may be even more momentous than Munich, and a greater blunder. In 1938 Chamberlain and other appeasers had the excuse that they were trying to prevent an armed conflict no one wanted. Today, of course, that conflict is already here. Historians will conclude that by supporting U.N. Resolution 1701 and getting Israel to agree, the Bush administration has in effect declared that its global war on terror is over. We have reverted to the pre-9/11 box of tools, if not necessarily the pre-9/11 mindset. From now on, the worst Iran, Syria, and North Korea will have to worry about are serial resolutions in the United Nations. Terrorists will be busy dodging Justice Department subpoenas, not Tomahawk missiles.

Our enemies know better. They know the war is only entering a new stage, and they know who the winners and losers were last weekend.

There are many comparisons of the West and the situation today to pre-World War II European events and the mindset from the same period. Judging by last weekend's events, Arthur Herman's observations may prove the most prescient.

To be certain, the charade of control in southern Lebanon and the permitted reprieve and recovery it affords Iran's Hizballah foreign legion certainly lends itself to support Herman’s conclusions.

August 15, 2006

Ahmadinejad's Victory Dance

Rightly confident that Iran's Hizballah foreign legion has "hoisted the banner of victory," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks to parlay that shared victory into Iranian Nuclear Gambit gains, with unshakable confidence that "God's promises have come true."

A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a UN Security Council resolution that demands Tehran halt sensitive nuclear work, and called for a Middle East free from the presence of the United States and Israel.

"If they think they can use a resolution as a stick against us, they should know that Iranian people do not bend to language of force," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech to a vast crowd in the northwest province of Ardebil.

But, true to form, the newest 60 Minutes icon couched his rantings within a bed of reason, playing to a Western audience seemingly eager to believe that the world's foremost state sponsor of international terrorism just might actually be pursuing Three Mile Island vice the Manhattan Project.

Ahmadinejad said he had spoken to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan by telephone and "told him that we are willing to resolve the problem through negotiations... but by this resolution, we have lost our confidence in them."

Negotiations. What a novel idea.

Has anyone noticed that Iran's nuclear program is not on the table and non-negotiable?

"We will give our response on the announced date [Rajab 27 - August 21 or 22], and our reply will be based on defending the absolute rights of the Iranian people," he said, amid chants of "nuclear energy is our undeniable right".

Any questions?

Meanwhile, ever-sensitive to the divisive nature of religious depictions in cartoons, the Iranian regime sponsored and displayed entries for a Holocaust cartoon contest in Tehran.

It has always struck me ironic how the American media mentions Ahmadinejad's religious hatred for Jews and Israel so matter-of-factly, if at all. He is not portrayed as a religious fanatic. No, he is far, far more often referred to as a 'devout' Shi'a Muslim, or a man of pious upbringing or simply a Shi'a.

Yet, on a regular basis we are reminded of the dangerous fanaticism of a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell.

Please forgive me, but while I have no real opinion of either Robertson or Falwell, did I miss something?

August 14, 2006

Biometric Pistols Could Improve Airline Security

Although the thought makes some experts and airline industry security insiders uncomfortable, one way to improve airline security is to have more armed air marshals on board. The fear is that weapons would be on board with the possibility that would-be hijackers would develop tactics to identify and overpower the marshals and take away their weapons. As things stand, this tactic woud be considered easier than smuggling weapons through check points equipped with sophisticated technology.

What to do? The U.S. government gave the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) $2 million to develop a commercially viable smart gun. These new firearms would recognize its owner's grip. If the gun was seized by an unauthorized person (or an unrecognized hand) – the gun would lock its shooting mechanism. The gun relies on Dynamic Grip Recognition (DGR), a biometric technology embedded in the gun's handle. With DGR, sensors and microprocessors analyze the interplay of bones and muscles involved in pulling the trigger, all in a fraction of a second.

Donald Sebastian, vice president for research and development at NJIT, says: "The way you hold a gun, curl your fingers, contract your hand muscles as you pull the trigger -- all of those measurements are unique." The current failure rate of the smart gun is 1 in 100 trigger pulls (not encouraging, but early in the process). The NJIT team aims to improve this rate to 1 in 10,000 by increasing the number of grip sensors from thirty-two to "hundreds" and further refining the pattern-recognition software. A commercial version is expected by 2008.

India Braces for Terror Attacks

Following a Sunday threat that a nuclear plant faced a terrorist missile threat, Mumbai security forces created a 'fortress' effect ahead of planned celebrations marking India's 59th anniversary of independence as a nation.

Mumbai is India’s financial capital and the site of the July 11 synchronized bombings of commuter trains that killed over 200 and injured four times that number. Lashar-e-Taiba has been suspected by Indian authorities of planning and executing the attacks. India Defence reports that two Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba were arrested in Mumbai Monday.

Last week, the founder of the LeT, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan in connection to the latest UK terror plot to blow up as may as ten US-bound airliners in-flight.

Just as Hizballah is granted victory by the UN ceasefire - representing the world's unwillingness to confront terrorists - there is a convergence of darkness afoot.

The West would do well to pay attention.

August 13, 2006

RE: Warm Up War

In response to The Warm Up War, Kirk...Yes, we (the West and Israel) will be here again. I would not characterize this as a 'warm up war,' however. It was the 'Bungled War.' Olmert's inconsistencies throughout doomed the campaign to failure and the aversion to casualties - the same aversion that created the Clinton-led Somalia debacle, which also emboldened terrorists (al-Qaeda, in that instance) - netted indecision. This indecision led to the UN 'negotiation path' rather than the 'attack and defeat Hizballah' path.

Note Caroline Glick's concluding words from the same commentary referenced before:

Many sources in Washington told this writer over the weekend that the US decision to seek a cease-fire was the result of Israel's amateurish bungling of the first three weeks of the war. The Bush administration, they argued, was being blamed for the Olmert government's incompetence and so preferred to cut its losses and sue for a cease-fire.

There is no doubt much truth to this assertion. The government's prosecution of this war has been unforgivably inept. At the same time it should be noted that the short-term political gain accrued by the US by forging the cease-fire agreement will come back to haunt the US, Israel and all forces fighting the forces of global jihad in the coming weeks and months.

That today Olmert declares of the UN 'plan,' “Hizbullah will no longer exist as a state within a state,” is too sad to be comical. By what force? Hizballah will not lay down its arms, nor will any command to engage them come from any 'international force' commander.

Hizballah was definitely on the ropes. Israel - under Olmert's leadership - allowed them to survive the bell and recover for the next round.

In Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way, I suggested that the world (and the UN) "needs to get out of the IDF’s way and allow them to loose the dogs in pursuit of Hizballah." I was wrong. Very wrong.

It was Olmert that needed to get out of the IDF's way. That much is clear. By his design, he has limitted the IDF's ground operation to clear the 18 difficult mile deep swath into Lebanon to a 48-hour sprint. Truly...what can be accomplished with any thoroughness in 48 hours against a determined enemy committed to martyrdom?

Has Olmert not risked (and lost) the lives of IDF soldiers over that 48-hour period to simply hold hilltops and await an as yet undetermined and un-formed international force? An international force that will lack the proper motivation that is inspired when one is fighting for one's own country's survival? Olmert has traded the IDF's motivation for unknown international forces whose primary motivation - from private to colonel - will be simply to survive and go back home. Far down the list will be engaging and disarming Hizballah terrorists on their own turf, paper 'mandate' or none. Their various countries' survival - or even defense - is not at stake. Do the math.

Israelis had a stronger will than their political leader. They will replace him in short order.

The clock that once ticked for Hizballah now ticks for Olmert.

The Warm Up War

It is becoming ever more clear that while Israel may be winning its war against Hizballah tactically, it is losing strategically. That is to say, it is gaining ground and inflicting more damage than it takes - the definition of a tactical victory - but due to time and operational constraints, when the firing stops, it looks like Hizballah and its sponsors in Tehran and Damascus will have won this round. Aside from the fact that Israel is always condemned more for accidentally killing civilians on the other side than its enemies are for intentionally killing Israelis, the primary problem here is timing - this war was initiated at a time of our enemies' choosing, and under the conditions they most felt conducive to the fight. When Iran instructed its proxy, Hizballah, to initiate this war, (1) Iran was facing a united front in its nuclear negotiations, (2) in Iraq the U.S. was preparing for intense operations against Sunni jihadists in Baghdad and likely the Shi'a Mahdi Army as well, and (3) Israel was in the middle of a conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza. From Tehran's point of view, it was a really good time for a Hizballah-Israeli war.

As a result, Israel has been forced to operate under constraints - temporal and otherwise - which made decisive victory impossible, yet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went ahead and declared that this was the goal anyway. This misunderstanding of the nature of the challenge Israel faced made a difficult situation worse. And now it appears that Israel is going to accept a ceasefire which is more or less favorable to Hizballah.

This is from the always insightful Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post, "An Unmitigated Disaster":

There is a good reason that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has accepted UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which sets the terms for a cease-fire between his jihad army and the State of Israel.

The resolution represents a near-total victory for Hizbullah and its state sponsors Iran and Syria, and an unprecedented defeat for Israel and its ally the United States...

This is the case first of all because the resolution places responsibility for determining compliance in the hands of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan has distinguished himself as a man capable only of condemning Israel for its acts of self-defense while ignoring the fact that in attacking Israel, its enemies are guilty of war crimes. By empowering Annan to evaluate compliance, the resolution all but ensures that Hizbullah will not be forced to disarm and that Israel will be forced to give up the right to defend itself.

The resolution makes absolutely no mention of either Syria or Iran, without whose support Hizbullah could neither exist nor wage an illegal war against Israel. In so ignoring Hizbullah's sponsors, it ignores the regional aspect of the current war and sends the message to these two states that they may continue to equip terrorist armies in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq with the latest weaponry without paying a price for their aggression...

...all of which ensures that we will be doing this again. This war was just a warm up. Hopefully next time it will be at a time of our choosing, and Israel's political leadership will have its wits about it a little more.

August 12, 2006

Secret? What Secret?

This is from an article in the Washington Post on Wednesday:

...The Pentagon has clashed repeatedly with the CIA and the State Department as it has sought to expand its counterterrorism mission. Last year, both protested a secret Pentagon program that sends Special Forces units in plain clothes on intelligence-gathering missions to countries where no war is in progress and with which the United States has friendly diplomatic relations...

Now when this issue is reported upon in the future, it should be rephrased, "a then-secret Pentagon program..."

The U.S. intelligence community does indeed have its weak points, and the Post article pointed to some real problems. But this doesn't help. Maybe someone ought to try and figure out who the leaker at Langely or Foggy Bottom was this time.

August 11, 2006

Why I Won’t See The Movie “World Trade Center”

The movie World Trade Center opened recently (See: ‘World Trade Center’ a waiting game - MSNBC). I am sure that a lot of people will flock to see it. I expect that it will be a success at the box office.

I will not go to see it. And I will not watch whenever it reaches cable television.

September 11th remains indelibly etched in my mind. There are certain psychological cues that will simply reduce me to a sobbing bundle of mush. There is a visceral reaction to the Star Spangled Banner or Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” that needs no reminder.

I have heard quotes from some people who saw the previews. One that sticks in my mind is that the movie “brought them back to the reality of that day.” The person quoted doesn’t live anywhere near New York City or Washington DC. I don’t need to be reminded. I saw the smoke rising in the Western sky that morning after the first tower crumbled. I don’t need a movie to bring back those memories.

And yet, there are people who have asked me, “What was it like that morning?” I don’t need a movie to remind me.

I have heard people say that they hope all of America sees the movie because they fear that some Americans have forgotten what happened on September 11th and forget that it could happen again. Maybe that is true of some sections of the country. I do not believe people who lived through the emotions and the terror of September 11, 2001 need to be reminded.

I will not go to see it. And I will not watch whenever it reaches cable television.

Usher in the Iranian Jihad

James Lewis at The American Thinker has cut straight to the chase and hit the proverbial nail on the head. As Mike Wallace interviews Ahmadinejad, those who laughed at suggestions that his earlier letter to President Bush was an invitation to Islam, as required before killing an infidel or waging holy war, should perhaps reconsider. Ahmadinejad, quoted below:

There has been some debate about the meaning of the letter. Now we know. Think again:

“We are all free to choose. But please give him [President Bush] this message, sir: Those who refuse to accept an invitation will not have a good ending or fate.”

And Olivier Guitta reminds us that Iran is still threatening terror attacks against the West.

Fulfilling the religious requirements and making threats.

As the IDF tanks begin to roll into southern Lebanon in force today, Mr. Guitta reminds all, "Western nations should be fully aware that the Hezbollah war on Israel is just the beginning..."

US Bojinka II Connections Being Probed

How long will it take to get word on NYC/NJ links to Bojinka II? Perhaps not long at all. From ABC News' The Blotter:

U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News the FBI is investigating new leads that involve a possible connection between people in the United States, in major east coast cities, and the London bomb plotters.

In an interview with ABC News this morning, White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend said while there is currently no indication of any plotting in the United States, she confirmed, "There are leads that the FBI is running."

Do not be surprised to see connections to the New York branch of the al-Muhajiroun, known in New York City under the ubiquitous name of The Islamic Thinkers Society.

Steve Emerson detailed their April 2006 demonstration in NYC, where it was chanted, among other things:

Israeli Zionists, What do you say?
How many women have you raped today?
Israeli Zionists, What do you say?
How many children have you killed today?

Zionists, Zionists You will pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
Israeli Zionists You shall pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
The mushroom cloud is on its way! The real Holocaust is on its way!

We are not your average Muslims, We are the Muslims of Was al Sunnah.

No, they are definitely not your average Muslims.

When Will NYC/NJ Connections Surface?

Pardon the thinking aloud, but terror attacks on the United States have almost always had a New York City and/or New Jersey connection. At some point, Bojinka II surely must lead back to that region.

Whether it was the terrorists of September 11, 2001 moving into a Paterson, NJ apartment or Abdul Rahman Yasin, Ramzi Yousef and blind shiekh Omar Abdel-Rahman and the infamous Jersey City mosque, New Jersey seems to be a comfortable location for terrorist congregation and New York City an obvious target-rich environment.

Whether it's hours or days, the links to New York City and New Jersey are sure to eventually come. Ask yourself, if the terrorist plane bombers were preparing for 'dry runs' from London to the United States - reportedly including New York, Los Angeles and Miami - where were they going to be staying? While a Motel 6 is surely possible, there are al-Qaeda-friendly contacts galore in New Jersey, from Jersey City to Newark to Paterson.

That much has been made clear, including within the 9/11 Report by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

The only question that remains is when we will learn of the Bojinka II connections to “young, longtime residents or citizens, inspired by al Qaeda and perhaps loosely linked to the old hierarchical terror group” right here in the United States.

August 10, 2006

Iran's Prelude to War

Asking difficult questions in The New York Sun, a pointed opinion piece by John Batchelor peels the verneer from the current war between Israel and Hizballah, exposing it as a prelude to a much wider war.

Why is America waiting to be attacked by Iran? Why do we sit on the sidelines while Tehran makes war on our ally Israel in order to provoke America to join the fighting, first against Syria and then against Tehran itself? Why do we listen to the European appeasers as they pretend the Lebanon front is a regional conflict, a national liberation contest, when it is demonstrably the prelude to the wider war — the Spain 1936 to the continental war of 1939? What is the explanation for America's willful fiction that the United Nations Security Council can engineer an accommodation in Lebanon, when it is vivid to every member state that this is a replay of September 1938, when Europe fed Hitler the Sudetenland as the U.N. now wants to feed the jihadists the sovereignty of Israel?

The most threatening answer is that America waits to be bloodied because it has lost its will to defend itself after five years of chasing rogue-state-sponsored gangsters and after three years of occupation in failed-state Iraq against Tehran- and Damascus-backed agents. A grave possibility is that America is now drained, bowed, ready to surrender to the tyrants of Tehran.

or...perhaps not.

If you missed it yesterday, it is today's required reading.

Read it all.

August 9, 2006

Iran and August 22

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Bernard Lewis in his commentary, August 22: Does Iran have something in store?

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time--Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

A passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, is revealing. "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."

In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead--hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

NOTE: For more background on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his apocalyptic religious views, please consider: PrincipalAnalysis: Understanding Ahmadinejad.

Hurry Up and Wait

The Israeli body-politic indeed seems to convulse between action and inaction with regards to an all-out offensive ground operation to clear south Lebanon of Hizballah. At Winds of Change, Donald Sensing notes that today's vacillation took merely 90 minutes to complete, quoting the Wall Street Journal's Middle East Crisis Tracker:

11:45 a.m.: The Israeli military will hold off on a wider ground offensive for two or three days to allow the U.N. Security Council to continue its debate for a cease-fire resolution.

10:15 a.m.: Israel's Olmert told a cabinet meeting a new diplomatic process would begin simultaneous to the military operation in southern Lebanon, a cabinet minister said. Olmert made the announcement after a telephone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rice. Olmert also said a new resolution to end the fighting would be drafted to try to address Lebanon's concerns.

This led to the following comment from Tom Holsinger:

The Olmert government and Olmert himself (Israel's Dan Quayle) just can't let go of the old paradigm about Arab-Israeli conflicts. The Israel people know full well that their existence depends on eliminating Hezbollah and are prodding their government into incremental, spasmodic, action.

So Israeli ground forces will creep incrementally into Lebanon. The MSM and almost everyone think the Olmert government is calling the shots. It isn't. The Israeli people are. No one but me and those who read my posts have considered that Israel is having its first populist revolt against clueless elites, and that this results in otherwise inexplicable inconsistent statements actions by the Israeli government.

The IDF's desire for caution and the air-power-enforced 're-supply starvation' of Hizballah plays hand-in-hand with Israeli politicians' reluctance to truly engage the fight.

Waiting "two or three days to allow the U.N. Security Council to continue its debate for a cease-fire resolution" is akin to waiting for the checkered flag to put the pedal to the metal.

Nothing good for Israel can come from the UN. In theory, the US can veto anything bad from the Security Council, but little if anything that resembles improving Israeli security will ever pass the muster of the rest.

No one wants to fight Hizballah. Better that they just magically disappear. But short of that, who besides the IDF is willing to fight Hizballah?

Has anyone noticed that Hizballah's goal is to destroy Israel? Just asking.

Perhaps if Hizballah vowed to destroy France by name, the French would not have withdrawn troop support for southern Lebanon. Perhaps, but there is - of course - no guarantee of that, either.

That Israeli politicians - even under constant rocket attack by those who seek to destroy them - cannot seem to muster "You're either with us or with the terrorists" is a troubling sign.

With Hizballah on the ropes, some even within Israel seem determined to let the terrorists come to and catch their breath for another round later.

No one can question the IDF's initial caution.

But at some point, if you are going to win, Israel needs to drop the leash and loose the dogs.

Otherwise, call a unilateral ceasefire, bring the boys home and resettle northern Israel to other parts of the country beyond Hizballah's reach, to which victory will have been ceded.

There is no nuance in the choice before Israel.

What is being executed at present is "Hurry up and wait," leaving the fight for another day, perhaps not soon and perhaps a day when Hizballah fights with a nuclear-armed Iran behind it.

What then?

Lifson on Journalism and Information Warfare

At The American Thinker, Thomas Lifson offers an excellent view of the changed face of journalism - and Information Warfare - as the speed of information flow seems to overwhelm long-standing traditional media outlets.

News organizations such as Reuters are now learning lessons provided by a connected world with subject matter experts (SMEs) abound. These organizations, once sole arbiters of the flow of information, are now adapting to the reality that the information they publish is now scrutinized (and often debunked) in less time (and often with more topical authority) than the publishing organization required to produce it.

Note: For instance, to media outlets, a picture is often a picture and bodies simply bodies. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, one of those words is "Possum"...

Lifson is absolutely correct: "Journalism has changed forever."

And this is good. Very good.

August 8, 2006

Guess Who Supports Israel?

Bet you didn’t see this in your local newspaper.

Who Could Envy Siniora?

The Lebanese Prime Minister is a man between a rock and a hard place. Truly.

On one hand, he heads a government that is powerless to control the span of its own borders with an inherited military that is both weak and segregated along religious lines, thanks to years of Syrian occupation and control. Hizballah has more firepower, training and motivated fighters than the whole of the Lebanese Army.

Yet, his country now hosts not only the Iranian proxy Hizballah, but also a revisiting Israeli military in pursuit of the Islamist cancer that plagues the south and east of Lebanon. The Lebanese people he leads, who surely would be happy to see the exit of Hizballah, have little love for the Israelis who once occupied a large part of Lebanon themselves.

Perhaps one hand applauds the work Israel is doing, knocking Hizballah down several notches. But, considering the cost, the other hand surely claps for anyone resisting another potential Israeli occupation, even if from a Hizballah source.

It is within this context that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s seemingly schizophrenic comments today should be considered.

In New York, Arab envoys and U.N. Security Council members tried to hammer out a compromise.

Lebanon put its offers on the table: pledging up to 15,000 troops to a possible peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon and saying Hezbollah's days of running a state within a state would end. The military plan had added significance since it was backed by the two Hezbollah members on Lebanon's Cabinet apparently showing a willingness for a lasting pact by the Islamic militants and their main sponsors, Iran and Syria.

Saniora on Tuesday praised Hizballah's resistance, but said it was time for Lebanon to "impose its full control, authority and presence" over the war-weary country.

"There will be no authority, no one in command, no weapons other than those of the Lebanese state," he said on Al-Arabiya television.

Especially considering the segregation of his army, this is a tall, tall order he has summoned. To put the Shi’a units in the south (and east, remember…the Bekaa Valley is a Hizballah fortress) is to likely assure Hizballah collaboration or a blind eye to their redeployment in the south. To put Sunni or Christian dominated units in key areas is likely to spark civil conflict.

Regardless of where international troops may come from, including Lebanon itself, the most capable and motivated force to assure that one day Lebanon can "impose its full control, authority and presence" is already deployed and the vast majority of it still on the Israeli side of the border.

August 7, 2006

Houla 'Massacre' and Information Warfare

Earlier today, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora made a claim that echoed worldwide, proclaiming a “massacre” by the Israelis in the city of Houla in southern Lebanon, claiming that 40 were slaughtered. His words, founded in error, traveled fast and can be seen as an example of Information Warfare, though less likely on the part of PM Siniora and more on the part of those who fed him information from Houla.

Immediately, his claims spanned the globe.

Reuters via The Washington Post
Bahrain News Agency
Islamic Republic News Agency
The Daily Telegraph

Mr. Siniora’s claims even made it to the pages of ThreatsWatch today as we cautiously noted "Lebanon’s Prime Minister Siniora called today’s Israeli airstrike in the southern village of Houla a “massacre” and said that 40 were killed."

With such a rapid outcry followed by the immediate dissemination of the words of a head of state, news outlets like The Daily Telegraph and ThreatsWatch are forced to ammend their coverage.

"The massacre in Houla, it turned out that there was one person killed," Mr Siniora said.

"They thought that the whole building smashed on the heads of about 40 people ... thank God they have been saved."

But, as is the aim in Information Warfare, the damage is done in the minds of the public, as statements of revision do not travel with nearly the amount of zeal as the original sensational words and claims.

It’s not just doctored pictures that do harm in the war against Hizballah. Words are a far more longstanding tool and their use and consumption should both be exercised with care.

Obsession: NYC Docu-Movie Screening

Monday and Tuesday nights, the new documentary/movie Obsession will be screened. It is a film that takes a look at the deadly quest of radical Islam, its various sects and the threat it poses to the Western civilized world.

Says Monica Crowley:

"This is the film the enemy doesn't want you to see. Obsession lays bare the true nature of the threat from radical Islam, and the true intentions of those who embrace it: expansion of their heinous ideology by the sword. This film takes an unblinking look at their past, current, and even more frightening, future actions. For your security and the security of the country, Obsession is a must-see. "

Frank Gaffney, founder of The Center for Security Policy and tonight's post-screening speaker, says that "The full dimensions of that War for the Free World are laid bare in Obsession from an extraordinary array of sources."

If readers are interested, the full events listing and tickets are available online and include visits to Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and Montreal, among others. For those outside those areas, a DVD can be pre-ordered online as well.

ThreatsWatch will provide a review of the film in short order.

August 6, 2006

Update: Iraqi Newspaper Casts Doubt on Reported Meeting

Yesterday ThreatsWatch published a report (Sadr's Ties with Sunni Militants Go Sour) in which we discussed a purported mediation by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in which he purportedly had arranged a meeting between the leaders of the most influential Shia and Sunni political factions. This meeting, were it to go forward, would be of some importance for reasons explained in our report. Our report was based on an article in the respected international Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, which sourced the story to unnamed sources close to the president.

Today, however, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Rafidayn (Arabic) has reported comments from Talabani denying any involvement in arranging the purported meeting. We have not come across comments from either of the leaders who were to be involved. Other information we reported based on the same article was quoted to named individuals, and we have no reason to believe that it was inaccurate.

ThreatsWatch has contacted Al-Hayat seeking confirmation or retraction of the original story, and will provide an update when more information is available.

Not So Fast, Dr. Zawahiri

Earlier I posted a RapidRecon note on media reports that the Egyptian militant group Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya had joined al-Qaeda. These reports were relying on a new video tape release by al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian whose own Egyptian Islamic Jihad joined al-Qaeda in 1998. In the video, a recording of which I have viewed on Al-Jazeera, Zawahiri announces that the Gamaa has agreed for unite its organization with al-Qaeda, and he mentions the names of specific prominent Gamaa leaders who have joined al-Qaeda.

Yet according to comments made on Al-Jazeera's popular talk show In-Depth (ma wara al-khabr) today, Zawahiri seems to have gotten ahead of himself here, either fabricating the story entirely or perhaps exaggerating some recent coordination by Gamaa members with Al-Qaeda. Al-Jazeera interviewed two Egyptian analysts, one of whom claimed that he personally knew the leadership of the Gamaa, including those whose names Zawahiri mentioned. Both of them suggested that the claim was implausible, that the Gamaa was intact and one made the point that the rationale behind the ceasefire - that the Gamaa was unable to change the Egyptian government by force - was still believed to be valid. They then interviewed a man named Karim Zahdi, who Al-Jazeera claimed to be a Gamaa leader in Egypt. He flatly denied Zawahiri's claim, and twice stated that video was made up of "lies."

It is hard to see why Zawahiri would have simply fabricated a story like this out of nothing. The Gamaa has been splintered - despite denials to the contrary - so perhaps some of their members have joined al-Qaeda. That would not be surprising. But it does seem that there is more to this story than Dr. Zawahiri's recent video suggests. At the present time, the Arabic-language news sources that we normally access have not yet published reports on this controversy (Al-Jazeera's English site has a report from last night, but it contains no more information than other initial reports). ThreatsWatch will provide updated information as more becomes available.

(A historical note: The Gamaa was founded in the late 1970s and achieved its claim to fame with the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. The militant group went on to fight an unsuccessful war against the Egyptian state until in 1997 some members decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire, a declaration which led to the reported splintering of the group.)

Mohatashemi: Hizballah 'Main Element' of Iran's Military

Al-Sharq al-Awsat (English) has an article on recent comments by Ali Akbar Mohatashemi, a former Iranian diplomat and "founding father" of Hizballah which may add something to public understanding of the precise relationship between Iran and the Lebanese terrorist organization. While Iran's sponsorship of Hizballah is widely known, it appears that these recent comments may shine additional light on exactly how intertwined Hizballah is with the remainder of Iran's military complex:

...The issue remained a mystery until this week, when Ali Akbar Mohatashemi, the former Iranian ambassador to Syria and the founding father of Hezbollah, revealed that members of the Party of God participated in the Iran-Iraq war side by side with the Revolutionary Guards. He described the relationship between Hezbollah and the Iranian regime as much more than the one linking a revolutionary regime with a foreign organization. Hezbollah, he indicated, is one of the institutions of the ruling regime in Tehran and a main element of its military.

Mohtashemi, one of Ayatollah Khomeini’s students, told the Iranian Sharq newspaper on Wednesday, in a discussion about the ongoing conflict in Lebanon, “Hezbollah has a huge arsenal of heavy artillery rockets and missiles, including Katyusha and Zelzal. Israel is 200km long which means that a Zelzal-1 missile, which has a range of 250km, is capable of targeting all of Israel...”

The full article has more details.

Egyptian Terror Group Joins al-Qaeda

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, is putting out the news that Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, an Egyptian radical Islamist group, is joining al-Qaeda. Aside from some good press (from their point of view), the significance of this is probably minimal. Zawahiri's more significant Egyptian Islamic Jihad joined al-Qaeda in 1998, making him the number two man under bin Laden. This is partially why al-Qaeda has so many Egyptian members. The Muslim Brotherhood has moderated its tactics in recent years because of the ruthless brutality of Egypt's security services in cutting down terrorists (domestic ones, anyway; this is probably Mubarak's sole achievement in 25 years). There simply aren't that many radical Islamists left alive and breathing non-prison air who aren't hibernating inside the Brotherhood. This may give al-Qaeda a bit more logistical ability in Egypt, thus potentially making Sinai bombings more likely, but probably not by much.

August 4, 2006

Peacekeeping or Peacemaking?

There is an excellent look at Peacemaking & Peacekeeping over at OPFOR by 'Major P' that considers what any international force placed in southern Lebanon should look like. With any immediate ceasefire, they will necessarily be 'peacemakers' vice 'peacekeepers' and the forceshould be constituted as such.

Among the aspects considered by Major P are Size, Composition, Command Relationships and Mission.

Composition: it needs to be made up of units from countries that have solid military capabilities but do not have a dog in the fight. Given those two criteria, the list grows real short, real fast. Take out the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. Take out any Arab country. Take out Turkey. Take out France (too close to the problem). Take out Russia and China.

I suggest these countries be invited to step up and assume some responsibility: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Chile, India. Those are responsible nations with professional militaries, and they have some experience with these sorts of efforts.

His suggestions are reasonable though surely he is in a decided minority (among the thinking of those tasked with actually forming such a force).

I would add to his observations one more category: Motivation.

Any force from any nations absolutely must possess the motivation and willingness to enter into battle with and engage Hizballah in order to achieve the stated mission of disarmament. Period.

While that is precisely what Major P implied by the aggregate of his other points, it is sufficiently important to warrant explicit consideration.

For without the motivation/willingness to engage, all other points are meaningless and of little value. No sense skirting the issue. Step up or step off.

Why Someone Has to Win

With all and sundry calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon, or perhaps a "sustainable ceasefire" if you prefer that, I came across a satire written by "Curzon" at Coming Anarchy which distills the pure inanity of most discussion of the current conflict between Israel and Hizballah. This is really hilarious, but there is a serious point to be made:

Talks Between Confederacy and Union Collapse; Sherman Reissues State of Emergency
The London Times
May 22, 1889

Representatives of the Confederate States of America walked out of London peace talks yesterday after the United States negotiator refused to guarantee that Washington would recognize the legality of slavery in any new federation. The talks, the first of their kind in more than two decades, were considered by many to be the last best hope for a permanent peace solution in the continent in a standoff which is now approaching its fourth decade...

Read the post in full.

August 2, 2006

French Boycott UN Meeting on International Force

In a comment by 'blackspeare' on Hizballah Is On The Ropes, the reader noted that the UN is working to step in before Israel can complete the job.

Not so fast Mr. Schippert….

On Wednesday the UN Security Council will vote to approve a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that will mandate a cease-fire and the establishment and deployment of a multinational force to Lebanon. The tasks of the proposed force will be to man a buffer zone in southern Lebanon; enable the deployment of the Lebanese army along the border with Israel; and control Lebanon’s international border with Syria.

It was an excellent observation. However...

Today, the very author of the draft resolution in question -- France -- has backed out of the UN meeting 'blackspeare' refers readers to.

Dealing a blow to a U.S.-backed strategy for Lebanon, France has refused to participate in a meeting of nations that could send troops to help monitor a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, even though it may join -- and possibly even lead -- such a force.

The French refusal to take part in the meeting, set to take place at the U.N. on Thursday, reflects a wide divergence in views between Washington and Paris about how to impose a lasting peace after three weeks of war between Israel and Hezbollah.

France doesn't even want to talk about sending peacekeepers until fighting halts and the U.N. Security Council agrees to a wider framework for lasting peace.

First, characterizing this development as a "blow to a U.S.-backed strategy" is not entirely accurate. As President Bush and his administration has made clear, Israel should be allowed to ensure Hizballah is no longer a threat. Surely the unspoken thinking is, more to the point, that Israel should be allowed to break Hizballah.

France's boycott of the meeting underscores (on a rhetorical level) a US/Israeli desire to see a ceasefire only after the IDF has at least reduced Hizballah to a non-threat to Israeli cities.

However, boycotting the meeting in effect is equal to abstaining from any vote that may still proceed rather than vetoing it, which leaves the UN plan on the table, at least officially.

Yet, with French troops expected to serve as the backbone of any international force that would be constituted for insertion into southern Lebanon apparently no longer on the table in the current timeframe, any eventual passage would be hollow, even by UN standards.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of the UN resolution process, "I think we are making good progress."

The French boycott should be viewed as 'good progress,' tipping the hands of the ticking clock in favor of Israel and against the health and well-being of Hizballah.

August 1, 2006

Even Former Presidents Should Do Their Homework

My colleague Steve describes the beating that Hizballah is taking right now from Israel's south Lebanon offensive, but never fear, Jimmy Carter has decided to bring his moral authority to bear and save the situation. In addition to a ceasefire throwing Hizballah a lifeline, Carter's Washington Post op-ed doesn't get straight what Israel is doing:

...it is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified...

Israel has specifically targeted areas sensitive to Hizballah and Hamas, and this happens to include some civilian population areas since both groups use these areas as bases for attacks. If Israel were to intentionally bomb civilians, knowing the intended target was non-military, that would be unacceptable. But Carter here says that Israel is intentionally killing civilians to turn them against Hizballah. This wouldn't make any sense, and Carter gives no reason for believing that this was the intention. He just assumes the worst of Israel.

Carter also mischaracterizes public opinion on both sides. He continues: "Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist-led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus." This statement bears no relation to reality. A strong majority of the Israeli public supports the Lebanon campaign, and recent polls suggest that Olmert is actually going slower than most Israelis would prefer. Most Israelis seem to support peace with those who want it, and war until victory with those who don't. On the Arab side, most Lebanese do want peace and resent both Israel and Hizballah for catching them in the crossfire of a war they didn't want. Yet there is little indication of that craving for peace among Palestinians.

It should also be noted that the kind of pro-Hizballah reaction we are seeing the in Arab world is a given. Anyone who follows Palestinian politics would know that every time Israel kills an operative for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for planning marketplace suicide bombs, Palestinians march in the street in protest and the mainstream Arab media calls him a martyr. Trying to understand the societies about which one writes usually helps.

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