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November 30, 2006

Opposing the North American Union as a Threat to the Sovereignty of the United States

“Let us not deal with today’s reality or things as they are or as they seem to be, but look at things the way they may become.”

An article appearing in the San Antonio Express in April 2006 asked the question, A North America modeled on the EU?

Jorge Gonzalez is such a dreamer.

The Trinity University economics dean might have left his senses altogether.

Gonzalez suggests that it was time to stop talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement and to start talking about a European Union-style North America.

A unified North America could strengthen Mexico and thus the United States and Canada, too, Gonzalez says. A North American union would entail many aspects, but the one Gonzalez likes to discuss is the idea of the United States and Canada each setting aside 2 or 3 percent of their gross domestic product for investments in Mexico.

The “good professor” was not only a dreamer, but he was not being honest since the idea was not his, but had been posed nearly a year before by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Eighteen months ago, a large port ion of the American public missed or overlooked a report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations. It was then that the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America developed a roadmap to “promote North American security and advance the well-being of citizens of all three countries.” In many ways, this report, Building a North American Community brought concepts of unity between the United States, Canada and Mexico that had broad reaching implications.

The overriding question: In light of a united Europe, the European Union, despite some of the very real problems it has faced during its infancy, could quite well become, not only an economic, but a political unit of great power and force. Thus, should North America blend itself into a North American Union?

Of course it is interesting, looking back now, as the federal government wrestles with the issues of enhancing border security (shorthand for the “wall”) and immigration reform (shorthand for “guest worker” or “amnesty”), some of the recommendations and suggestions presented seem rather inane, if not only naïve.

Pointing to increased competition from the European Union and rising economic powers such as India and China in the eleven years since NAFTA took effect, co-chair Pedro C. Aspe, former Finance Minister of Mexico, said, "We need a vision for North America to address the new challenges." The Task Force establishes a blueprint for a powerhouse North American trading area that allows for the seamless movement of goods, increased labor mobility, and energy security.

"We are asking the leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada to be bold and adopt a vision of the future that is bigger than, and beyond, the immediate problems of the present," said co-chair John P. Manley, Former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. "They could be the architects of a new community of North America, not mere custodians of the status quo."

At a time of political transition in Canada and Mexico, the Task Force proposes new ideas to cope with continental challenges that should be the focus of debate in those two countries as well as the United States. To ensure a free, secure, just, and prosperous North America, the Task Force proposes a number of specific measures:

The Task Force’s central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff, and an outer security perimeter.

Make North America safer: Establish a common security perimeter by 2010

A common security perimeter? Run by who, supervised by who? Was it any less clear 18 months ago that the Mexican government had no interest in controlling illegal immigration to the United Stated? And yet, the longer-term implication of such a security perimeter would be a unification of security efforts.

Additionally, the Task Force recommended that a common North American Border Biometric Pass be created. Of course, if there was a common security perimeter, it would make sense that there would be a common ID. However, that would also raise another issue. Would a common ID card for Canadians, Mexicans and Americans also mean unfettered cross-border access for all? Actually, yes, that is what they meant, along with these provisions:

· Harmonize visa and asylum regulations, including convergence of the list of “visa waiver” countries;

· Harmonize entry screening and tracking procedures for people, goods, and vessels (including integration of name-based and biometric watch lists);

· Harmonize exit and export tracking procedures;

· Fully share data about the exit and entry of foreign nationals; and

· Jointly inspect container traffic entering North American ports, building on the Container Security Initiative.

Certainly this could not have been taken seriously? Could it possibly benefit the United States, despite the fact that the three countries of North America are each other’s largest trading partners. More than 80 percent of Canadian and Mexican trade is with its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners. Almost one-third of U.S. trade is with Canada and Mexico.

While the report stopped short of a recommendation to adoption of one currency for the three countries, one thing does usually lead to another. In thinking further about this topic, remember that more than $20 billion is now being sent back to Mexico by illegal aliens. Without illegal immigration or the possible “guest worker” program, some families will have no sustaining income.

Well, someone must have still be serious about the recommendation of the Task Force because three U.S. Representatives (U.S. Reps. Virgil Goode, Walter Jones, and Ron Paul) introduced legislation to stop it.

H. CON. RES. 487, Expressing the sense of Congress that the United States should not engage in the construction of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Superhighway System or enter into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.

We have entered a new period in World geo-politics. The creation of the European Union, despite its shortcomings was the first step toward geo-political consolidation. It is not out of the question that others will follow. Imagine the implications of a unified Asia with China, Japan and perhaps India as the triumvirate of power within it. Does that mean that of necessity, there must be a North American Union? Considering the internal turmoil being experienced daily in Mexico, it would seem that today, our best posture is to build the wall and tighten immigration rules, not relax them.

“Let us not deal with today’s reality or things as they are or as they seem to be, but look at things the way they may become.”

Al-Qaeda 'Nice and Comfy' in Somalia

Prior to today's car bombings in Baidoa, a number of reports (see here and here) have been released indicating that al-Qaeda is operating in Somalia. According to Jendayi Frazer, the head of the State Department's Africa bureau,

Al-Qaeda militants are operating with "great comfort" in Somalia, providing training and assistance to a radical military element loyal to the Islamic group that controls most of southern Somalia.

Although the ICU has continually denied allegations of foreign militants in Somalia, Frazer indicated that three al-Qaeda militants wanted for the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Dar-es-Salaam are hiding in Somalia. Frazer also emphasized that the al-Qaeda presence goes well beyond these three suspects. To that effect, I recently co-authored an article with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross entitled "The New Taliban" which details the extensive relationship that the Islamic Courts Union has with al-Qaeda.

In other news, as mentioned earlier, reports are indicating that three car bombs have been detonated at various police check points near Baidoa, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government. This is not the first instance of suicide car bombings near Baidoa. In September, President Abdullahi Yusuf escaped a suicide bomb attack outside of a government building in Baidoa. His brother and 11 others were killed in the incident.

UPDATE:

A senior official with the ICU has claimed responsibility for the car bombings that took place at the police check points. Mohamed Ibrahim Said Bilal, the Commander of the Al Bayun region's ICU militias, indicated that the blasts were perpetrated by "Islamic suicide bombers." As a result, 24 Ethiopian soldiers have been killed along with a number of civilians.

For more in-depth analysis on this situation, please read the blog posted by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross that I provided research for.

November 28, 2006

Lebanon: The Syrian Countdown

Whether by chronological measure or by counting the surviving anti-Syrian members of the Lebanese Cabinet, there is clearly a Syrian countdown to the fall of the Lebanese government underway.

David Schenker has written an excellent article for National Review Online that effectively summarizes the critical Lebanese situation and provides proper context for the recent murder of Lebanon's Minister of Industry, Perre Gemayel. Schenker's Pricey Cedar Politics is perhaps the best summary of events available to the average American observer yet in a single, brief read. Properly framed are Lebanese internal politics, Hizballah's power plays and the barely hidden Syrian involvement.

Then, when six pro-Syrian cabinet ministers resigned from the government last week, the Hezbollah-led bloc constitutionally needed only three more cabinet ministers to resign — or die — for the government to fall. For Hezbollah and Syria, Gemayel’s death put the magic number at two.

The context of Gemayel’s murder, of course, is the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. Shortly after Hariri’s death, the United Nations Security Council launched a comprehensive investigation in the killing. As the investigation progressed — and preliminary findings emerged — the Assad regime became increasingly concerned that it would be formally implicated in the crime.

The remaining 17 members of the Lebanese cabinet - those left after the resignation of the minority pro-Syrian bloc (largely Shi'a, including Hizballah seats) and the murder of the anti-Syrian Gemayel - have taken up residence at the Lebanese governmental saray (compound) for their own security.

Make no mistake, the goal of Syria is to have the Lebanese government toppled before an international tribunal to try the suspects of Rafik Hariri's 2005 murder (read: Syrian leadership) can be officially approved by Lebanese parliamentary vote. Hizballah has supplanted Syrian troops as their tool for policy enforcement in Lebanon.

The article is highly recommended as an excellent brief primer.

Mr, Schenker is Senior Fellow, Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and also among the members at the Counterterrorism Blog.

November 27, 2006

Khaled al-Masri: Coming To America

Suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Khaled al-Masri has been issued a waiver from the US Department of Homeland Security and awarded a visa by the State Department to enter America. So says a statement from an anonymous source at Foggy Bottom.

Concerning debate about whether the man at the center of the controversy should be considered suspect at all, in The CIA Rendition Controversy: Is Khaled Al-Masri Lying, The Transatlantic Intelligencer’s John Rosenthal makes a convincing and relatively detailed argument that the Khaled al-Masri in question is indeed the Khaled al-Masri with al-Qaeda involvement. To be sure, the US Department of State had itself denied a visa request previously on suspicions and German police had identified al-Masri in September 2001 as a ‘follower of bin Laden’ and a 'Partisan of Military Jihad'.

The original UPI article citing the State Department source notes that obtaining a visa does not automatically mean the holder is granted entry into the United States. Admission into America “is granted at the port of entry by inspectors working for the Department of Homeland Security.”

That final layer of screening and scrutiny would be the same Department of Homeland Security which just issued the waiver, an action regarding a high-profile case that was surely taken with the scrutiny of the top echelons of DHS leadership. If the DHS has issued the waiver, it would be illogical for DHS screeners to then counter their own department’s directive.

For perspective, John Rosenthal quotes the German Der Spiegel article that looks closely at al-Masri to illustrate the potential threat he poses and his suspected level of al-Qaeda involvement.

Masri is supposed already before September 11 to have whispered that one "is going to hear something soon" and in conversation said that one "must inflict as much pain on the Americans as they would inflict on people of the Islamic faith."

Make no mistake, unless something changes in the state of affairs, Khaled al-Masri is coming to America, to be greeted triumphantly by his ACLU lawyers.

Rosenthal calls it "America's Innovative New Terrorist 'Waiver' Program" and Thomas Lifson rightly asks at The American Thinker, "Who's minding the store?"

Hamas' Human Shields Tactics

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies has an interesting look at the rising use of human shields in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By all accounts, it appears a tactic that will remain persistent so long as it remains successful, employing willing Palestinian civilians to surround and occupy rooftops of the homes and sanctuaries of Palestinian terrorists.

On November 19 Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya visited PRC operative Muhammad Barud and was warmly received by the civilians who were there as human shields. He was quoted by a radio commentator as saying, “I am certain that what happened [here] tonight will happen again…It is a good example for the Palestinian people and sends the message that aggression will not break our will…(Radio Sawt Al-Quds, November 19).

Sheik Nizar Rayan , who took part in “defending” Muhammad Barud's house, announced the beginning of a campaign to “defend jihad fighters' houses.” He said that “ from today on [jihad fighters] will not allow Israel to attack their houses …” In a different interview he said that men and women had gone to Muhammad Barud's house and were divided into daytime and nighttime shifts (Palestinian TV, November 19; Hamas's Pal-media Website, November 19 and 20).

Observers will recall the recent incident in Beit Hanun when Hamas called for and recieved dozens of Palestinian women who came running to shield a Gaza mosque from Israeli attack, allowing the pursued Hamas terrorists to flee under their cover. Two women were killed in that clash and the attempted spin characterized the Israelis as the killers of women and children rather than Palestinian civilians willfully putting themselves in the line of fire.

The tactic looks to be a trend that will continue, providing effective cover and protection for the terrorists when it wards off Israeli attack while supplying civilian attack propoganda against Israel when it does not.

So long as there are willing civilians to serve in such a role - in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere - it further blurs the distinction between the terrorists and the civilian populations they embed themselves within, thrusting upon Israel and others a moral quandary: Are the terrorists to be pursued in the name of security or are the repurcussions of harm to civilians (even those willing to inject themselves into the line of fire) too great a burden to bear for a nation already under persistent international media fire?

November 22, 2006

What Works: Iraqi Kurdistan

After laying out the violence in Iraq, a reader opined in a recent comment that a draft would end the war in Iraq because "it exposes everyone to the attrocities, and hardships of war, because THAT, Steve, is what we’ve given to the Iraqi people."

Energetically begging to differ, cited in response was the relative peace of the Kurds in the north and the insertion of violence among the Sunnis from al-Qaeda abroad as well as the insertion of violence among the Iraqi Shi'a from neighboring Iran (chiefly seeking to replace the moderate Sistani with revolutionary Iranian-style Shi'a clerics), with both parties requiring chaos and violence to achieve their aims.

After the lengthy response, stumbled upon was an incredible 11-minute 'flip-book' Kurdistan presentation:

Iraqi Kurdistan by Ed Kashi

Kashi is a photographer who shot the images while on assignment for National Geographic last year. The compelling Flash presentation is worthy of MSNBC's broadcast air, but will likely remain a lost gem on the news network's website. Many thanks to Ed Kashi for excellent work.

Watch it. Save the link and pass it along. It's that good. And that important.

The difference between the lives of Iraqi Kurds and the lives of Iraqi Sunnis is essentially al-Qaeda jihadis and allied insurgents and the sapping of safety and liberty.

The difference between the lives of Iraqi Kurds and the lives of the Iraqi Shi'a is essentially Iran, their supported militia thugs and the sapping of safety and liberty.

The difference between them is most certainly not America and American soldiers. Ask a Kurd.

November 20, 2006

Spiritual Warfare: Lt. A. Kinard

As Matt says, it's Time for Spiritual Warfare, ladies and gentlemen.

Three weeks ago, Marine Lieutenant Andrew Kinard was on patrol in Iraq and was hit by an IED (three other Marines were hit, too). Apparently, before shock set in, Kinard established security and asked about his men, then passed out. The damage to his body was extremely severe. I don't know who the hospital corpsman was who assisted Lt. Kinard, but I know that Kinard went into cardiac arrest twice and lost most of his blood - whoever that corpsman is, he is a miracle worker. Andrew was flown to Al Asad (by that time had used 67 units of blood), then Germany and now Bethesda. He has lost his right leg above the knee, the left leg at his pelvis, and he has lots of internal damage to his intestines, kidneys, etc. He's on a ventalator. He is fighting infections. He's been awake only a few times since his injury.

Once he recovers, he'll be moved to Walter Reed for rehabilitation.

So, if ever there was a case for your faith, prayers are needed for Lieutenant Kinard, especially that he may have strength in his kindneys and pulmonary system to survive long enough to have surgery to fix critical functions and survive a kidney transplant.

At the apex of his need, please keep Lt. Andrew Kinard in your daily prayers.

As we approach the holiday that is Thanksgiving, I will stand at my family's table and profess simply that I am thankful for men such as this. We are all indebted to his sacrifice and the sacrifices of those like him, not the least of which are the Navy corpsmen and their often unheralded service, first responders of the most heroic sort. (Video here.)

Semper Fi and Godspeed, Lt. Kinard.

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The Draft And Congressional Games

With the incoming new majority into the halls of the American Congress, talk of reinstating the draft has resurfaced.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York first called for a draft in January 2003, when Democrats were the minority party in both houses of Congress. Now that his party controls Capitol Hill, he was asked yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation" if he was still serious about the proposal.

"You bet your life. Underscore 'serious,' " he said.

"I don't see how anyone can support the [Iraq] war and not support the draft," said Mr. Rangel, alluding to Mr. McCain's call for increased troop levels in Iraq and to the need to combat threats elsewhere in the world. "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft."

If one wants to see the viewpoints of current and former members of America's all-volunteer military forces, the best place to start is by visiting MilBlogs, in particular Greyhawk's brief response, where he says:

Rangel's goal, of course, is to create a military that (he thinks) no one would dare ever use, and he believes he's got a compelling argument: "I don't see how anyone can support the war, and not support the draft."

Be sure to follow Greyhawk's links to previous commentary on the issue of the draft.

I happen to take a somewhat different interpretation from Congressman Rangel's words. Rangel is not trying to 'create a military' of any kind. It's Congressional gamesmanship and nothing more. In no way, shape or form does he support instituting a draft, just as he in no way supports actually taking any steps "to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then ... send more troops to Iraq."

What he is doing is proposing legislation he knows will fail in order to bolster the position that the war in Iraq cannot be won and therefore we must withdraw. Just as he said, you must support a draft if you support the war (following his own logic). Rangel does not support the war, therefore it is logical to conclude that he also does not support a draft.

Just as the Republicans forced the opposition to 'put your money where your mouth is' with an immediate vote on immediate withdrawal when many elected leaders began to voice wide support for such a move, Rangel's approach is no different. The weakness is his view that only a draft can provide for taking action against Iran and/or North Korea, a view that is in the minority among those who support unspecified action against the two.

And again, Congressman Rangel does not himself appear to support action, whatever form it may or may not take. He also, therefore, does not sincerely support a draft.

Iran: Victim of al-Qaeda?

The London-based Iran Mania, a news website run by Iranian dissidents, reports that Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations has written a letter to the US Department of Defense denying reports that Iran is harboring the man thought to be the #3 terrorist in al-Qaeda, Saif al-Adel, among the many that the Islamic Republic has already admitted to holding under 'house arrest.'

The network has recently aired a report claiming that Iran has harbored al-Qaeda No. 3 man, Saif al-Adel, in its territory in order to replace him by the terrorist group's ailing leader Osama Bin Laden as he was in a critical health condition.

Calling the report a 'blatant media fabrication and a mere lie', the mission said in its letter that as one of the primary victims of al-Qaeda terrorist acts in Afghanistan, Iran has repeatedly condemned the terrorist group.

Is Iran harboring (or, holding under 'house arrest') Saif al-Adel? The US Intelligence Community has reason to be rather convinced, it appears. However, that specific detail is not the issue. What is important is to understand and discount the nature of the Iranian denial, itself the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

The letter went on to say that "neither the acts of terrorism nor the terrorist group of al-Qaeda are considered as Islamic." Perhaps it is implied here that the "acts of terrorism [and] the terrorist group of" the Shi'a Hizballah are Islamic?

Further, if this is to be taken at face value, how does Iran explain the Hizballah/al-Qaeda cooperation that lead to the Khobar Towers attack in the late 1990's?

While the Sunni al-Qaeda and the Shi'a Islamic Republic of Iran are indeed theologically opposed to each other, their cooperation in facing down their common enemies (the 'Great' and 'Little Satan' of America and Israel) is also clear.

Consider, for example, this year's Iranian arms shipments to al-Qaeda's Islamic Courts Union 'franchise' in Somalia. It serves Iran's needs to do so in exchange for uranium ore. Therefore, Iran does as Iran chooses and cannot claim otherwise and be taken seriously.

For those who still believe that American foreign policy is the source of conflict in the Middle East and terrorism from al-Qaeda and Iran (et al), the differences that indeed do exist between Sunni terrorists such as al-Qaeda and Shi'a terrorists such as Iran's Lebanese Hizballah will pit them one against the other in the absence of America at the cost of all Middle Eastern societies. If America were to pull all assets and embassies from the Middle East, the two sides would not declare 'victory' and live in 'Islamic peace' but rather commence to ripping each other to shreds.

Just consider the news out of Lebanon over the weekend that Lebanon's Sunnis are being warned of Iran-sponsored Hizballah death squads that have been dispatched to kill Sunni Lebanese figures.

Iran and al-Qaeda will cooperate against a common enemy and then turn to slaughter each other in the absence of such a unifying force. Make no mistake.

November 17, 2006

Rendition Investigations Looming in Congress

John Rosenthal writes the following introduction to The CIA Rendition Controversy: Is Khaled Al-Masri Lying?...

Rumor has it that Democrats are eager to use their newly acquired power in Congress to "investigate" a variety of "uninvestigated scandals" linked to the Bush Administration: among them, the use of "CIA secret prisons" in the war on Islamic terror organizations. If an inquiry is opened into this latter question, one can expect a Democrat-led congressional panel to follow the pattern of investigations that have already been undertaken by the Council of Europe and the EU Parliament. It is indeed the latter investigations that are largely responsible for having converted a practice of detaining enemy operatives that might otherwise seem banal in a time of war into the "scandal" that it has become -- for the European public, at any rate. As has occurred in European investigations, one can likewise expect the case of Khaled Al-Masri to take center stage.

As a result of broad -- though, as we shall see, remarkably superficial -- media coverage, the story of Khaled Al-Masri is well known. A German citizen of Lebanese origins, Masri claims to have been "kidnapped" by the CIA while on a trip to Macedonia and then "rendered" to Afghanistan. There he is supposed to have been subjected to five months of depravations and torture in a secret CIA prison. Whatever consequences a congressional investigation of the Masri case might eventually have for the pursuit of American counter-terrorism operations, Masri's saga is already undermining -- or, more exactly, being vigorously exploited to undermine -- America's claim to cooperation from its nominal allies.

What follows can be considered and in-depth investigative look at Khaled al-Masri and his actions in Europe before detention. One hopes that, as Rosenthal also asks in conclusion, if the United States Congressional leadership is going to delve into an investigation of "secret prisons" in Europe, perhaps they may spend equal energy in uncovering and understanding just what the inhabitants of those facilities were doing that landed them there.

Unfortunately, the surface appearance of present ambitions indicates that what will result is another excoriation of American global 'badness' for the underlying purpose of persecuting a sitting President in the opposition's party. For a fleeting moment late in 2001, al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorist Islamists were the opposition.

November 16, 2006

Liberty and the Future of Iraq

The numbers of captured, killed and released in the recent mass kidnapping at a Baghdad university is still in dispute, with differences between Shi'a and Sunni estimates still unresolved. While citing of Ralph Peters' latest column in Rigorous Imposition of Public Order, we noted a report that claimed all but two of the kidnapped men had been released. That appears an unlikely low-end tally.

The Iraq Minister for Higher Education, Abd Dhiab, maintains still that 150 were kidnapped and that 70 have been released. He also said that according to the testimony of the released men, some of the kidnap victims were tortured and killed by their captors. With 55 unidentified bodies showing up on the streets of Baghdad overnight, there is likely validity to his claim.

To the detriment of all Iraqis, Shi'a and Sunni, President Nouri al-Maliki is giving every appearance of minimizing the situation, leaving the impression among the Iraqi public that he is misrepresenting either known facts or suspicions or both. This highlights a greater issue for the Iraqi political leadership going forward, with consequences paid by the Iraqi general public. If Maliki continues to refuse to challenge Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army and all other bands of terrorist thugs - Sunni or Shi'a - the Iraqi general public stands little chance of realizing liberty.

That, however, is easy to say from the comfort of the continental United States. Action taken will certainly result in the peril of grave danger for the families of the brave at the hands of retaliatory animals. Unfortunately, there is no other path to liberty for Iraq and its citizens. Forget the elections for a moment. Think of the liberty lost (or yet to be attained) when one is fearful for his life to simply walk the streets or go to a university. Without liberty, democracy serves little purpose.

Liberty and liberty alone will transform the Middle East. Liberty does not necessarily require democracy, but it absolutely dies under the weight of brutal dictatorship or unyielding theocracy. Consider, for example, Jordan under King Abdullah.

There is an unfortunate reality of a required enormous sacrifice in order to attain such liberty. Many Iraqis in uniform live with this sacrifice and threats daily. Time will tell if Iraq can produce a political leadership with the required courage. As with the fathers of our own American revolution in the face of the mighty British, the personal cost for Iraq’s leaders will surely be extremely high. The dividends realized by untold generations are the reward for their selfless sacrifice.

While there are many measuring sticks in a complex situation, one truth will remain constant:

The degree to which Iraq survives as a free nation at peace will directly parallel the degree to which its citizens - Shi'a, Sunni or Kurd - enjoy personal liberty.

November 15, 2006

Rigorous Imposition of Public Order

The term 'ruthless' in describing the enemy has sprung onto the pages for at least the second time this week in a significant column. Having missed it earlier in the day, Glenn rightly directs readers to Ralph Peters, who rightly employs the language regarding the animals roaming the range in Iraq. Using yesterday's major kidnapping operation in Baghdad as a backdrop to illustrate the situation, Mr. Peters minces no words.

The students probably will be executed and dumped somewhere. Partly for the crime of wanting to study and build a future, but primarily just to step up the level of terror yet again.

Apart from highlighting the type of regime of which both Shia and Sunni Arab extremists dream - a land of disciplined ignorance and slavish devotion - the mass kidnapping also highlights the feebleness of our attempts to overcome ruthless enemies with generosity and good manners.

With Iraqi society decomposing - or, at best, reverting to a medieval state with cell phones - the debate in Washington over whether to try to save the day by deploying more troops or withdrawing some is of secondary relevance.

What really matters is what our forces are ordered - and permitted - to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.

That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them.

It should be noted that between the time Mr. Peters wrote his column and its publishing, the Iraqi kidnappers had set free all but two of the Iraqi hostages, surely due in no small part to the arrest of the entire top echelon of the Iraqi police responsible for security in the area of the university attacked.

Iran Lodges UN Complaint Against Israel

Iran has written a formal complaint to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan demanding the Security Council condemn Israel for its repeated threats made against Iran.

The threats were "matters of extreme gravity" and the U.N. Security Council should condemn them and demand that Israel "cease and desist immediately from the threat of the use of force against members of the United Nations," Iranian U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif said.

His comments came in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan dated November 10 and circulated at the United Nations on Wednesday.

Perhaps looking to ride the current wave of requests to the Security Council seeking Israeli condemnation, this from a country whose president as recently as this week said that Israel "is destined for destruction and it will disappear soon.”

Of course, the man who said with conviction that Israel should be "wiped off the map" also plans to celebrate Iran's full nuclear capabilities in February.

At ThreatsWatch, we do not utilize a 'Comedy' category, but the Iranian complaint of Israeli verbal threats against it would have certainly qualified. Perhaps if Israel had simply used a proxy to verbally threaten Iran just as the Central Banker of Terrorism uses Hizballah to kill and maim Israelis, then the matter may have been sufficiently obscured as to undermine the Iranian idea of complaint.

Around The Horn on Lebanon

Several recent writings provide excellent analysis and commentary on the situation in Lebanon pertaining to Hizballah's political power grab which, as Dr. Walid Phares has been saying, was Hizballah's reason for sparking the Israeli war over the summer. While excerpts are provided here, readers concerned about the situation in Lebanon would find it well worth their time investment to read each in full.

First among the notable efforts is from Rick Moran with Hezbollah's End Game In Lebanon Taking Shape.

What it comes down to is what has always been the greatest threat to Lebanon’s democracy; Hezb’allah and their guns. Faling to disarm the militia as they were required to do under UN Security Council resolution 1559, the March 14th Forces paid for their inability to rally enough popular support to suppress Hezb’allah first with the Israeli War and now with an existential threat to the existence of a free and independent Lebanon. Perhaps it was inevitable given the enormous difficulty in governing a country so riven with factional and sectarian divisions. But history’s judgement will be no less severe if the small group of brave democrats cannot find a way to stop Nasrallah from carrying through with his plans.

As for the United States, there is very little we can do to assist. Siniora is already battling charges that he is Washington’s stooge – charges that ring true with many ordinary Lebanese thanks to effective Hezb’allah propaganda spewed forth from Al-Manar, the terrorist media organ in Lebanon. And as Dr. Phares points out, Nasrallah’s push for power has not taken place in a political vacuum; both he and his patrons in Tehran and Syria know how to read US election results.

Rick refers to Dr. Phares' analysis at The Counterterrorism Blog titled Hezbollah's offensive in Lebanon has begun. In his analysis, he details the likely steps Hizballah will take in relatively short order in order for the Islamists to wrest control of the government from the March 14 coalition.

5. The projected scenario is as follows: Hezbollah and Amal movement ministers will resign from the Government calling for the resignation of the Government. The next move is to have Hezbollah, Amal, and their allies in the Parliament also resign, thus creating "conditions" for what they will coin as new elections and a collapse of the cabinet. Most of these moves have already been accomplished or are on the eve of being implemented. The pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will declare the Government and the Parliament as "illegitimate," and call for early legislative elections. The latter, if they take place will be under the smashing influence of Hezbollah's weapons (a show of force was performed in the summer) and of the cohorts of militias and security agencies. Result: a pro-Syrian-Iranian majority in parliament, followed by the formation of an "axis" government in Lebanon. The rest is easy to predict: A terrorism victory.

The question today is, how to stop this from happening?

No look at Lebanon would be complete without including Michael Totten, who possesses the inate ability to communicate his informed observations in a naturally flowing and readable style that is truly rare, especially considering the topics often discussed. In A Perfect Storm?, Totten draws upon his personal experiences and knowledge of both Lebanese society, Beirut politics, personal friends on the ground and his own face-to-face experiences with Hizballah.

The Lebanese government says Syria and Iran aim to overthrow the elected government in Beirut and reconquer the country. Whether they are actually trying to do this right now or not is unknown. There should be no doubt, though, that if they don’t have a plan to execute now it’s because they want to do it later instead.

Meanwhile, a group that calls itself “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” appeared from Lord-only-knows-where and directly threatened to destroy the March 14 government. “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” may or may not exist as a wing of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. If they do, they’re serious. If they don’t, they’re a Syrian proxy. Either way, it doesn’t look good. This is not a prank phone call.

These threats to Beirut’s elected government are concurrent with Hezbollah’s and Amal’s resignation from the Lebanese cabinet. Hezbollah and Amal quit for two reasons. The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government. The second is because it was time for the cabinet to move ahead on the Hariri tribunal. Hezbollah will not tolerate the prosecution of their patron in Damascus.

Both Rick Moran and Michael Totten refer to Charles Malik and his observation that the apparently coming Lebanese internal violence just may take place without much participation from the Christians, divided as they are in their support for the given factions. Malik asks at the Lebanese Political Journal, Will the Assassinations Prompt Sectarian Clashes This Time?

Rumors are running rampant that sectarian clashes began immediately after the Shia ministers resigned from the government. A friend in the Future Youth Organization said that young people no longer feel safe going out in the evening, and that the FYO was expecting bombs to go off the night the Shia ministers resigned. This, obviously, did not occur, but people are preparing themselves for the worst. Sadly, preparing oneself for violence, like stockpiling weapons, often makes one too quick to respond aggressively when violence is not necessary.

There has been much discussion (including on this blog) about the divisions within the Christian community. Interestingly, this division might make the Christians safer. The Christians proved last year that they would not respond to violence with violence. With the Lebanese Forces in 14 March and Michel Aoun aligned with 8 March, the Christian community will not be at the center of any sectarian clashes for, perhaps, the first time in modern Lebanese history.

While there is much to be considered, each of the above writers are a tremendous resource with their observations, comment and analysis...not to mention readable styles. I for one appreciate the way they reference each other's ideas, considering and incorporating them into their own writing. Readers here would be well served by checking in on each of the above as they look to make sense of the Lebanese situation.

Will and Ruthlessness: On Ceding A Month To Jihad

It has been a dire month of troubling developments in the War on Terror. Michael Scheuer offers a sobering accounting of the past month in A Rewarding Month for Al-Qaeda and its Allies. After noting developments in Afghanistan, Yemen and Great Britain, he concludes with a reality check of sorts for the new American Congressional leadership.

United States: Beyond these positive developments, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, their lieutenants and other jihadi leaders believe that they are on the brink of far greater good fortune—the much-talked-about "new direction" of U.S. policy in Iraq which may yield a near-term, phased withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition's forces. Quite simply, that decision would allow bin Laden to score, in the perception of most Muslims, an unprecedented hat-trick of successes; U.S. withdrawal would: (1) Allow the redeployment of many Iraq-based foreign fighters to the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, the Levant and the Horn of Africa; (2) Dramatically increase bin Laden's stature as a leader—and almost a prophet—by disproving the Islamist leaders who damned him for bringing down the "unbeatable military wrath" of the United States on Muslims via the 9/11 attack and validating his contention that Washington lacked the will and ruthlessness to defeat Islamist forces; and, by far the most important, (3) Exponentially surpass the motivational power of the Afghan-Islamist defeat of the Soviet Union via the Arab-Islamist defeat of the United States, the world's second and last superpower.

Though the decision to 'redeploy' US forces from Iraq is yet to have been made, what is presented above is the concise prospectus. And Scheuer didn't even get around to Pakistan, where al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) bound closer to an assassination of Musharraf, a coup and control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons each day.

November 14, 2006

The Hizballah Night Shift

In the event that readers were wondering precisely how Iran and Syria could have doubled Hizballah's pre-war rocket and missile capacity (yes, that's pre -war...before the hundreds per day fired during the 34-day Hizballah war with Israel), Dr. Steve Carol offers an explanation that is as stunning as it is militarily surreal.

If ever there were a paper tiger, UNIFIL is it. Fully 6,000 international troops 'strong' and still projecting to be fully equipped and manned with expected levels of 12,000 men, UNIFIL has a gaping hole that will surely make your jaw drop. So how did the mighty UNIFIL allow Hizballah to double its missile stores and re-take every position along the Israeli border and elsewhere? It's simple.

UNIFIL does not conduct night operations.

Just as the earlier UNOGIL [UN Observation Group In Lebanon, 1958] did not patrol at night, so too has the current UNIFIL force conducted no patrols at night. Quoting Spanish UNIFIL official Richard Ortax, as reported in the German publication Der Spiegel, this is "because of the danger involved." UNIFIL commanders said their function is to “observe changes in the behavior of the local population.”

What happened to the mandate to UNIFIL in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (UNSC 1701)? It states: "The establishment between the [international border] and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL." Thus, the resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, a reference to Hizbullah, but it does not specify how this should be done. In addition, UNSC 1701, by focusing only on southern Lebanon, indicates its recognition of Hizbullah’s right to continue to deploy missiles north of the Litani River, thus continuing to threaten Israel's citizenry at any time with longer-ranged missiles. Lebanese leaders have stated openly that the Lebanese army would not attempt to take away the terrorists' weapons. Additionally, they would not even confiscate weapons caches it stumbled upon. So again, as was the case in 1958, weapons smuggling from Syria has continued unabated.

It's simply too dangerous for 'blue helmets' to conduct operations at night.

There was but one force willing, ready and able to reduce the Hizballah terrorist organization and the threat it poses to stature of simple thugs, and that was Israel. The world simply needed to Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way.

The UNIFIL incompetence illustrates that, under the guise of 'multi-national leadership,' the UN and the rest of the world could do none of the above. UNIFIL has proven itself to be the manifestation of the Coalition of the Unwilling, and the return of war between Hizballah and Israel will thus become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Somewhere in this space, I once asked of the then-proposed UNIFIL force enhancements, "Who among the UNIFIL commanders is going to issue orders to actually use force against Hizballah terrorists?"

Perhaps I was a bit ahead of myself, as today the question is even more biting. "Who among the UNIFIL commanders is going to issue orders to actually conduct operations is the spooky dark of night?"

Imagine the New York Police Department retreated for the various precinct headquarters buildings at sunset because it's just too dangerous at night.

Military professionals worldwide are surely laughing at the brave leadership offered by UNIFIL commanders. I assure you, neither the Lebanese nor the Israelis are laughing, save of course for the busy bees of Hizballah. They're laughing all the way to the central Iranian bank.

China's Accelerated Taiwan Plan

In an analysis published at Monsters & Critics, I noted that "recent U.S. intelligence reports indicate that communist China has accelerated preparations for a possible invasion of Taiwan." While the United States remains engaged in the War on Terror, China's grand strategy - which includes the retaking of Taiwan - remains unchanged and even aided by America's engagement elsewhere. As Taiwan's American protector focuses on the Middle East and terrorism, Taiwan and China tensions continue apace.

Offered are three primary pro-active military steps aimed at enhancing Taiwan's defense and deterring China from offensive military operations against the island.

First, the Bush administration must convince its allies, the American public and in many ways itself, that a growing body of evidence – from the construction of enormous underground bunkers near the city of Shanghai to the development of offensive nuclear weapons – proves without question that China has become a “clear and present” danger to U.S. global interests and world peace.

Second, U.S. force posture in the western Pacific, already being reinforced, should continue, with the addition of another aircraft carrier to the Pacific fleet, amphibious landing ships and support vessels, long-range bombers, attack submarines and fighter aircraft. Existing assets located on the islands of Guam, Japan and Hawaii should be strengthened with the introduction of land-based anti-missile defense batteries and sea-based Aegis ships, creating a “tiered-defense umbrella” to protect against any Chinese aggression.

Third, during the first few hours of any conflict with China, it will be critical for U.S. armed forces to not only withstand an attack, but also to organize an effective counter-offensive – projecting concentrated power at multiple points to eliminate any immediate or latent threats. To achieve this objective, U.S. forces dispersed throughout Asia and the western Pacific must be given the ability to quickly consolidate, making any offensive military operations undertaken by China’s newly christened combat forces extremely difficult.

China increasingly believes it can undertake a lightening strike on Taiwan, occupying the island using a strategy of overwhelming, intense and concentrated force, making the potential costs of island defense and reclamation far too costly for Washington. By making adjustments to improve overall force strength, diversity and rapid-strike capabilities, the U.S can keep Beijing tactically off-balance, making any first strike by China’s military a catastrophic proposition. Finally, with the assistance of our allies in Asia, a new collective defense strategy must be put in place that assures Taiwan’s sovereignty, independent of Beijing’s communist influence.

How the United States responds to the Chinese military posture towards Taiwan will have significant influence over the Chinese communist leadership's decision making process with regards to military action against Taiwan.

As I asked at the conclusion of the analysis offered, could Washington live with a communist controlled Taiwan, or will it defend Taiwan against unwarranted aggression? We may soon find out.

November 13, 2006

Faces of Courage - Juan M. Rubio

MSNBC has released the fourth video to honor the men and women who are defending that which we value so much.

This segment is on Petty Officer 2nd Class Juan M. Rubio, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

To view this video, or the first two, visit our Faces of Courage section - or click the image above.

Help us to encourage MSNBC to produce and release more of these by emailing MSNBC at heroes (at) msnbc (dot) com.

November 10, 2006

From The River To The Sea...Still

The world is gathered once again in condemnation of Israel following the errant artillery strike in Beit Hanun that saw 19 Palestinians killed in their homes. This can be seen as a continuation of the criticism levied at Israel during the summer conflict sparked by Hizballah's cross-border attack into Israel. Yet, while Qassam rockets continue to rain on Israeli villages and towns - no fewer than 14 on Thursday alone - criticism of the terrorist attacks ongoing that prompt Israeli military action is rarely heard.

And the calls continue for Israel to rein in their forces and talk to the Palestinians. Yet, Israel talks regularly with Mahmoud Abbas. In fact, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said yesterday that he speaks to Abbas even more than he speaks to any Israeli. But that is not enough, apparently, as the world seemingly seeks Israel's acceptance of the Hamas terrorist organization as statesmen.

Statesmen, perhaps, like Hamas' PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, whose son-in-law, Ahmed Awad, was the chief of Hamas' rocket manufacturing operations. With Operation Autumn Clouds designed specifically to halt the Qassams raining down on Israeli civilians, an Israeli airstrike yesterday 'liquidated' the Qassam-making son-in-law of Hamas' PA Foreign Minister.

Lest anyone lose sight of Hamas' sworn intent to destroy the state of Israel and kill or drive off all Jews from the Levant, MEMRI has gathered Hamas leadership quotes from just the last two months, demonstrating clearly that - Unity government or none - Palestine remains defined by Hamas as "From the River to the Sea." PA foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar removes any doubt whatsoever.

"We [aim to liberate] all our lands… If we have the option, we will establish a state on every inch of land within the 1967 [borders], but this does not by any means imply that we will relinquish our right to all the Palestinian lands. We want all of Palestine from [Ras] Naqura to Rafah, and from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."

Khaled Meshaal from the comfort of his Damascus protectorate:

"Why am I required to [recognize] the legitimacy of an occupying [entity] that is sitting on my land when there are millions of Palestinians who come from the land on which this entity is sitting? It is true that there is an entity called Israel, but I do not wish to recognize it."

From another statesman, PA Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh:

"We [derive our] legitimacy from the legitimacy of the jihad. We are a government born from the womb of the resistance, from the womb of the martyrs... We are a government that comes out of resistance and jihad, and out of the desire for resistance and jihad against the Zionist occupation..."

Hamas continues to draw strong support from Iran, the linchpin of international terrorism, both in arms and cash as well as moral support. Its terrorist leaders are provided safe haven and refuge inside the Syrian captrial of Damascus. Its terrorists have coordinated attacks with and drawn training, arms and financial support from Iran's Lebanese Hizballah, whose leader this week called upon Arab states to send arms to the Palestinians.

There can be little doubt that Israel's war is our war, for the enemy has chosen to intertwine amongst themselves to the point that distinguishing one from another is both difficult and, increasingly, unnecessary.

Civilian casualties are impossible to avoid when the enemy on attack intentionally targeting Israeli civilians embeds himself among his own. Hamas’ leaders are not statesmen and its fighters not soldiers. They are terrorists who openly hate Israel for its Judaism.

While Mel Gibson is branded a racist anti-Semite, somehow Meshaal, Haniyeh and al-Zahar are regarded as statesmen. Someone will need to please explain the incongruence of these portrayals.

November 9, 2006

Iran-Bound North Korean Ship Detained

A North Korean ship bound for Iran has been detained and inspected in India according to the Mumbai Mirror. Having run into mechanical problems and become disabled, the North Korean freighter apparently drifted into Indian waters where it was boarded and then towed to Bombay docks. The ship, however, was empty when Indian crews reached it.

“What is most suspicious is the fact that though it is a cargo ship, they are not carrying any consignment or goods,” said a Coast Guard officer. The authorities are now examining the freighter to find if any contraband is hidden somewhere.

Some immediate observations:
  • The ship likely had its cargo tossed overboard once the ship became disabled. The testing explanation is wholly unrealistic. Cargo ships do not sail empty, certainly not from a cash-strapped North Korea.
  • Another possibility is that the North Korean ship was sailing to Bandar Abbas to pick up cargo and serve as a mule to transport Iranian weapons/equipment elsewhere under a non-Iranian flag. But a North Korean flag is no less a magnet for Western suspicion than an Iranian flag.
  • Even considering the less likely latter possible scenario, what does this say of the PSI-led inspections of North Korean shipping enabled by the latest UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea?
  • There is no mention in any report of a distress signal or call for help from the North Korean ship. It apparently simply drifted into Indian waters in silence. This is an important contributing factor that goes unmentioned.
  • Indicating a lack of quality control attributing to the mechanical failure, as well as lack of concern for crew, the Times of Oman reported Indian officials saying that "documents for the new 45-meter vessel were in order, although life-saving equipment was found to be deficient."

North Korea is not in the business of wasting money it does not have, including on its expendable crews. This was certainly not a long-range 'test' as claimed by the crew. Note once more that this was not from the North Korean government, who has apparently maintained ‘radio silence’ on the controversy. This was a money-maker, and the lack of an explanation in over a week’s time is a clear indicator of nefarious dealings between North Korea and Iran.

Also note that this incident occurred originally October 29. If this were simply a test, the 'official' North Korean silence thus far is nothing short of curious.

An Indian official said of the crew, “They don’t understand English at all. But we are trying our best to find out the purpose of their visit to Iran since there is no conspicuous cargo onboard.” Why has North Korea not sent a translator in the week that has passed since the Indian Coast Guard first took control of the ship?

If the Titanic can be found on the ocean’s floor, perhaps a more curious payload now lies on the floor of the Indian Ocean near where this ship broke down. It’s likely a matter of the will to discover it.

November 8, 2006

Tattered Shoes of the Iraqi Shi'a

The sudden resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld clears the way for former CIA Director Robert Gates to chart a course at the Pentagon and, most notably and obviously, in Iraq.

What course might that be at first glance appears unclear. However, Robert Gates is a current member of the Baker Commission, which many suspect is about to throw in the towel on the 'democracy experiment' in Iraq, including this 'Pessimistic Hawk' who wrote Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's The Corner before the surprise Rumsfeld resignation announcement:

Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better. The truly ironic thing is that Iraq is likely to be held up as an example of why "Arabs/Muslims can't handle democracy," because to believe otherwise would be to admit that we should have done more, fought harder, and worked better to save them.

The nomination of Gates likely telegraphs President Bush's intent to implement one of the Baker Commission's options (formally known as the Iraq Study Group) for the future of Iraq. After having been read at least one of the options considered over the phone, The New York Sun's Eli Lake concluded that "making Iraq a stable democracy" is most certainly not a near-term priority. From Lake's October 12 report Baker's Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory:

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.

They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should "make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are." It also says America's top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

The outlook for Jihadis just got decidedly better. The outlook for Iraqis is frightening.

To that end, it is worth noting that at the end of the Gulf War, Iraq’s Shi’a were encouraged to revolt against Saddam Hussein and promised American support. When they did, the political decision was later made (in the interest of ‘regional stability’ – Iran) to not extend the support that provided them the courage to act. This left the Iraqi Shi’a of southern Iraq at the brutal hands of Saddam Hussein’s vengeful henchmen for over a decade.

This is not to disparage the decision to withhold tangible support for and defense of the Iraqi Shi’a at the time, for it most surely would have lead to unacceptable Iranian encroachment and expansion, possibly sparking another Iran-Iraq War. It is rather a rebuke of inspiring a revolt by the under-armed against a brutal tyrant in the first place without the clear decision beforehand to follow through without waver on promises made.

Perhaps the Iraqis are sensing a bit of déjà vu. The recommendations that look to be put in place – and put them at great risk in the face of a new terror - come from an American group headed by the man who was the US Secretary of State when America averted her eyes from the ensuing slaughter in 1991. Considering also that Saddam Hussein’s legal defense team has been headed in part by a former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, is it any wonder if the Iraqi Shi’a neither embrace nor trust the United States of America?

Disregarding the Iranian-empowered Muqtada al-Sadr and his band of terrorist thugs altogether, walk a dangerous mile in the tattered shoes of the Iraqi Shi'a.

November 7, 2006

Iran Admits North Korean Missile Purchases

While it is suspected that Iran and North Korea continue to exchange cash for missile and nuclear technology, as reported in the Korea Times, Iran admitted to buying missiles from North Korea during the Iran-Iraq war.

"The truth is that during the war, we had Scud B and Scud C missiles,” Yahya Rahim Safavi, chief commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, told Al Alam TV.

“We received these from foreign countries like North Korea, but 17 years after the war, we were able to design all of these pieces and even their fuel,” the commander said.

Some may respond, "No big deal. That was long ago." But the relationship has grown, not disappeared. Consider intelligence reports that place senior IRGC officers at both this summer's North Korean missile launch and October's North Korean nuclear test. And consider the following report from Pakistan's Daily Times.

Iran is ready to share its missile systems with friends and neighbours, said the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, after he showed off missiles including some he said had cluster warheads.

Revolutionary Guards Commander-in-Chief Yahya Rahim Safavi said on Sunday that the Guards had thousands of troops trained for suicide missions in case Iran was threatened, although “a US attack is unlikely”. “We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighbouring countries,” Safavi told Al-Alam. ...

“Tehran also considers this as its duty to help friendly countries that are exposed to invasion of the Zionist regime (Israel),” Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Reza Sheibani was quoted as saying.

Translation: Lebanon, home of the IRGC's Hizballah.

That places into proper context the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar's report that focused on Iran's desire to provide anti-aircraft missiles to the Lebanese Army for the purposes of shooting down Israeli IAF jets.

Hizbullah backer Iran has said it was ready to equip the Lebanese army with anti-aircraft weaponry following Israel's devastating offensive on Lebanon.

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad-Reza Sheybani as telling Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman that his country would "supply modern anti-aircraft arms to Lebanon."

But pay close attention to the next quote from the Islamic Republic News Agency.

"Sheybani also called for promotion of joint cooperation in the field of defense and implementation of agreements previously signed in this regard," according to IRNA.

"Joint cooperation in the field of defense" translates into anything and everything else beyond anti-aircraft missiles, including ballistic missiles. Naturally, this will never come to pass, as Israel will destroy any such ballistic missile assets Iran were to ever supply Lebanon, with or without Lebanon's equipment request and no matter where they were placed. If the missiles were deployed next to hospitals and orphanages, they would be destroyed in place regardless.

It should also be noted that these are Iranian words and Iranian desires, not necessarily the desires of the Lebanese government.

November 6, 2006

Vladimir Putin: Kingmaker

The democracy experiment in Russia might well be considered officially dead by those who have not already judged it so. Vladimir Putin first changed Russian law to allow him to run for a third term as president. Recently, he has said that he will not seek a third term (yet) but seeks rather to 'maintain his influence.' Consider the recent report Alexander Voloshin Goes to America from Moscow's Kommersant newspaper.

Nonetheless, Kommersant was able to find out that he presented his point of view on that topic at a closed dinner at the Carnegie Institute. That meeting lasted about three hours. The Kommersant correspondent was able to see through the window of the first-floor hall that there were about 20 people present, including the former ambassadors to Russia and Ukraine Jim Collins and Steven Pifer. Fiona Hill, who was recently named CIA national intelligence officer for Russia, was also at that meeting.

Andy Kuchins, director of the Russian program at the Carnegie Center, asked Voloshin about the presidential successor. According to a Kommersant source, his answer was that “Putin is trying to find a composite model, something between Medvedev and Ivanov. But since there is no one like that at hand, there is a likelihood that one of them will advance to the presidency and the other will become prime minister.”

Another source said that Voloshin also noted that “Putin is looking for a fairly young successor, one who is smart and well acquainted with military questions who will take his advice, giving the current president the opportunity to maintain his influence and maybe return after four years.”

Calling him 'Kingmaker' may be a bit strong. Should he place his choice as president, there can be little doubt that Putin would remain 'king' while the robes would be simply worn by another.

Bomb Blasts: Terror Visits Mexico City

With the backdrop of an election in which the defeated leftist opposition maintains the elections were stolen in a corrupt system, as well as the current violence in Oaxaca, multiple bombs exploded in Mexico City, including the Federal Electoral Tribunal and the PRI party headquarters.

Homemade bombs exploded early Monday at the Federal Electoral Tribunal, a bank branch and the headquarters of the former ruling party in the country's capital.

Police deactivated a fourth explosive before it went off at a second bank branch and were inspecting a backpack found outside an outlet of the Mexican restaurant chain Sanborns.

There were no injuries and no immediate claims of responsibility for the bombs, which were widely dispersed across the city. Emergency officials received two telephone calls shortly after midnight warning that bombs were about to be detonated.

The explosions shortly afterward damaged an auditorium at the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. They also shattered windows and caused minor damage at the bank, electoral court and nearby businesses and residences - rattling nerves in Mexico, which has been besieged by protests since its polarizing July 2 presidential elections.

While no group has yet claimed direct responsibility, Stratfor reported that the local leftist group heading up the current crisis in Oaxaca disavowed responsibility for the blasts.

The leader of the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), Flavio Sosa, announced in a radio interview Nov. 6 that his group is not responsible for three explosions that occurred at banks in Mexico City.

More resembling the IRA than al-Qaeda, homegrown terror has nonetheless reared its ugly head in Mexico, seemingly independent of the terror wielded by the beheading drug cartels that reach up to and beyond the US-Mexico border.

The Fading Durand Line

When the British Empire crumbled, remnants of its rule remained. Among other things, one of the legacies of the demise of the Empire was the arbitrary border lines drawn on maps of various regions of the World, often dividing tribes and peoples who were, and had been, linked for centuries, if not for all time.

After losing two wars with Afghanistan, the British, established one of those borders, the Durand Line, drawn between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1893, this demarcation line was disputed from the beginning.

The Durand Line, the western border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was delineated in 1893 as the boundary between then British India and Afghanistan. The international community recognizes the Durand line as the Pak-Afghan border since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, but successive Afghan rulers have repudiated its legitimacy. This dispute has caused turbulence in relations between these countries and instigates greater problems with regard to the Pashtun nationalism. The Durand Line has remained porous due to the nature of tribal cultures and the socio-economic compulsions of the people living along the Durand line. The Durand Line was exploited to launch the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. The GWOT in Afghanistan has once again brought misperceptions regarding alignment, and the porous nature of the Durand Line to the lime light.

Today, with the events and unfolding politics in that area, one should wonder if that line is being erased. Short and sweet, the mountainous border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan quite a dangerous neighborhood and remains an area influenced by the Pashtun tribe.

Despite the recent (suspected) drone bombing of the madrasa by Pakistan (with the seemingly not so covert help of the U.S.), Pakistan's intentions seem duplicitous.

"...Islamist politicians stoked anti-Western and anti-Musharraf sentiment among ethnic Pashtuns in several towns around North West Frontier Province. Nowhere is Musharraf's alliance with the United States more unpopular than in the Pashtun tribal belt straddling the Pakistan-Afghan border..."

Further, as expressed in a recent Jane's article:

"Afghans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the performance of Hamed Karzai's government and as the country slides into ever more instability, Pakistan's ultimate game plan in Afghanistan has begun to unfold."

Add to that the increasing instability in Baluchistan and the previous ceding of Waziristan to the Taliban, it may not be a “stretch” to conclude that both Karzai and Musharraf are walking a thin line on a razor blade. Disputable? Maybe. Musharraf and Pakistan had their arms twisted really hard after September 11th to cooperate with the War on Terror, and yet Musharraf has given in to Talibani pressures.

While NATO isn't the real problem, it doesn't appear to be the answer. As this conflict plays out, watch as the Taliban continue to re-emerge in Afghanistan, and watch how the influence of the Pashtun tribe expands.

"There was a blunt, if understated admission this week from General David Richards, the British commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan: "There is a Taliban problem in Pakistan," he said at a news conference in Kabul. "Without close co-operation with Pakistan, there can be no long-term solution (in Afghanistan)." NATO has been unwilling, until recently, to publicly admit that success or failure in Afghanistan rests largely in the hands of the Pakistan regime of President Pervez Musharraf."

And finally consider carefully this observation made by my colleague Steve Schippert in his post last week, US Cities Were London Plotters' Targets: Pakistan is a nuclear power.

When Musharraf falls, it will be generals loyal to the ISI & al-Qaeda that will assert regional control.

Following September 11th, when we attacked Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance (---see comments---) ran head long into Kabul, against U.S. wishes. Underestimating the influence of the Pakistani and Afghan tribes may underlie today's situation. Pakistan has ceded Waziristan to the Taliban. Terrorist activity in Baluchistan continues. Karzai and Musharaff may have at least one thing in common. It may be that they both live at the pleasure of the Taliban and the warlords. Afghanistan, left to NATO, may have been unfinished business. The implication as yet, is to be determined.

Can Israel Save Lebanon From Hizballah?

Those in Lebanon who publicly supported Hizballah, criticized Israel or both in the summer's Israeli-Hizballah conflict are about to pay the price for such decisions, as an emboldened Hizballah has been threatening to overthrow the current Lebanese government seeking its own control over Lebanese affairs.

Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria, has been emboldened. The U.S.-backed coalition in control of the government is on the defensive. The outcome of the tug- of-war could have lasting impact on the international order - boosting or slowing Iran's ascent in the region, buttressing or undermining Syria's leadership.

"We are now calling for unity and accord, not for score-settling and vengefulness," Hezbollah's general secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a recent appearance on his party's Al Manar television. "We are suggesting a national unity government in a positive spirit."

But his call has not been received that way. It has been described by the governing coalition as a "coup d'騁at" and has raised fears of possible violence.

"They are making a profit from the strength of their guerrilla force to come into the capital and to pressure the political apparatus, to impose their will on the government," said Amine Gemayel, a former president and leader of the small Christian Phalange party, part of the governing coalition. "I am quite anxious about this meeting."

The Iranian-supported terrorists ultimately seek to assert a Shi'a Islamist theocracy over Lebanon modeled after their Iranian masters. As they are permitted to rebuild their southern infrastructure - including tunnels, rockets and other arms - they are ever more prepared to threaten inwards as outwards.

The Hizballah power play is not subtle, as they have threatened to 'take to the streets' of Lebanon if they do not get their way. But some in Lebanon remain firm, as Saad Hariri criticized Hizballah's latest move and rejected it, proffered by a co-opted Christian leader Michel Auoun. Auoun, a surprising Hizballah ally, called for the entire government to be reshuffled in order to 'broaden representation' in Beirut.

But while the Lebanese government has long under-represented the Shi'a, relying on old census numbers, to adjust now means an influx of Hizballah terrorist leadership among the Lebanese government, the end of the Lebanese Cedar Revolution and the beginning of the imposition of an Iranian-style Islamic 'Republic.'

With the Hizballah threats no longer directed solely at Israel, those within Lebanon who chose to support Hizballah and condemn Israel over the summer may be about to reap the fruits of their labor.

It is with no small measure of irony that perhaps only Israel can save the Lebanese from themselves and the menace they preserved.

November 5, 2006

Islamic Courts Union Moves Northward

In a strategically peculiar move, the Islamic Courts Union has moved its militias northward towards the semi-autonomous Puntland region.

The Islamist militia, in an armored convoy of more than 30 battlewagons, are believed to be heading for the southern part of Galkayo, the capital of Mudug region, to establish an Islamic Court there.
Galkayo is currently under the control of allied anti-Islamist forces: Puntland, a semiautonomous state in northern Somalia, and militias loyal to government-allied Col. Abdi Qeibdid, one of Mogadishu’s defeated warlords.

In August, the ICU advanced towards the town of Galkayo, inducing a response from the region’s militias. At the time, Puntland Police Commander Yusef Ahmed Kheyr indicated that “we hear that militiamen want to expand their authority throughout Somalia, but we will never accept such expansion.” Until now, the ICU has been denied any real presence close to the Puntland border, save for Galkayo. Yet, with increased numbers and a more established presence in the south, the ICU may have better luck advancing this time around.

However, this is a strategically anomalous move by the Islamic Courts Union. The impending war between the ICU and the Transitional Federal Government will most certainly take place in the south near Baidoa. By advancing towards the Puntland region, it is increasingly possible that a second front will be opened between the ICU and Colonel Abdi Qeibdid’s militias. In any battle, fighting a two front war is something to avoid. If there is an engagement in the north, it’s plausible that ICU fighters may be called away from Baidoa, diminishing the force attacking the TFG. This would undoubtedly be a welcome scenario in the eyes of the government and could provide the TFG with an opportunity to counter the ICU’s advance.

The Scenic Route To Islamabad

Last week's strike on the Bajur madrassa continues to be misinterpreted. Some misinterpretation is intentional misinformation from Islamists in Pakistan that the facility was merely a place of religious learning for Pakistani young men when it was, in fact, an al-Qaeda/Taliban terrorist training facility.

Some of the misinterpretation is less sinister, such as western media accounts that still take at face value the Pakistani government claims that it was a Pakistani strike. It was most certainly a US strike with American assets, just as was the strike in Damadola
earlier in the year that sought to take out Ayman al-Zawahiri. Left without much option after the fact, it is less painful for the Pakistani government to claim the strike their own than to admit that it was either assisting the United States in al-Qaeda/Taliban strikes inside Pakistan or unable to prevent them.

Consider an analysis from Newsweek titled Pakistan's Troublesome Borders.

Musharraf has switched tactics in trying to deal with the Islamists along the border, alternating from military action to peace deals and now, apparently, back to armed force. Neither approach has worked. At the heart of Musharraf's predicament is the failure of his plan to pacify pro-Taliban tribesmen in Waziristan with a peace accord.

But even though the Newsweek analysis is based on the false premise that the attack was a change in tactics for Musharraf (back to attacking the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance), it nonetheless arrives at the proper conclusion.

The ICG's Ahmed says Musharraf's policy swings are "counterproductive." What might work? Maybe nothing, say experts. Any further military operation in the border areas could split the Army. And left alone, the Islamists continue to pursue jihad. Caught between the almost medieval religious fanaticism of the Islamists, a disenchanted Army and the pressing Americans, Musharraf is in a very tight spot indeed.

While the 'policy swing' was not his, Musharraf is in an unimaginably difficult position and his days are likely numbered. While his alliance in the War on Terror has been checkered, the day Musharraf falls will be a huge victory for Islamist terrorists worldwide, as the levers of true power will have the Islamist hands of the ISI/Taliban/al-Qaeda on them.

And Pakistan's power is nuclear in nature.

The Unfinished Business of Hizballah

Regardless of yet another UN mandate and an increased UNIFIL presence, Hizballah is not being disarmed in Lebanon. To the contrary. Hizballah is not only re-arming via Iran through Syria, it is retaking its south Lebanon positions and repairing and refortifying its tunnel systems right under the unwilling noses of the UN forces in place. This is why John Keegan of the UK's Telegraph suggests that this summer's war will flare up again in short order. With thanks to Regime Change Iran, the following from Why Israel will go to war again - soon:

Since Israel's reason for existence is to provide a secure base for the Jewish people, and that of the IDF is to act as their shield and safeguard – functions that have been carried out with high success since 1948 – it is obvious that neither can tolerate a zone of invulnerability occupied by a sworn enemy located directly on Israel's northern border.

It is therefore an easy prediction to foresee that the IDF will – at some time in the near future – reopen its offensive against Hizbollah in south Lebanon and will not cease until it has destroyed the underground system, even if, in the process, it inflicts heavy damage on the towns and villages of the region.

It is likely that it will also move against the underground system being constructed in the Gaza Strip. Hamas resupplies itself with arms and munitions brought from Egypt through those channels. Gaza is a softer target than south Lebanon, since it is an enclave that Israel easily dominates.

Americans must always understand that Israel fights for its very survival. A tiny, flourishing nation, its enemies are not oceans away with the occasional attack on the homeland. Israel is immediately surrounded by enemies dedicated to her destruction.

November 2, 2006

Somalia FM: al-Qaeda Pouring In Terrorists

With the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) essentially under siege, surrounded by the Islamic Courts Union in Baidoa, the Foreign Minister said that al-Qaeda is feeding the war in the Horn of Africa. From the UK's Independent:

As peace talks between the fragile transitional government and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) broke down, Ismael Mohamoud Hurreh told The Independent that war would break out in the Horn of Africa if the Islamic Courts "are not checked definitively".

He accused the Islamic Courts, which control the capital, Mogadishu, plus large swaths of southern Somalia, of bringing radical Islamist fighters into the country. "They are coming by ship. Look who is coming through Mogadishu port - al-Qai'da, people from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Yemen and Chechnya."

Chechen 'rebels' find that most of the action now lies beyond their own territory. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are common human resource centers. bin Laden's native Yemen is largely untamed 'wild west' territory rife with al-Qaeda & al-Qaeda supporters, and is a stone's throw across the water from Somali shores and therefore the final leg in the journey to jihad in Africa.

Just as Jordan's King Abdullah has spoke of a forming Shi'a crescent from Iran to Lebanon in the Middle East, there is also sought after a Sunni Crescent in Africa. al-Qaeda- through the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) - is squeezing westward from the coast of Somalia while Sudan is already reaching toward the east into Chad.

Pakistan Crumbles as al-Qaeda Marches

The fear: Will al-Qaeda command nuclear weapons before Iran develops them?

What was apparently struck by an American armed Predator drone(s) as well as helicopters that Pakistan had claimed were their own was no ‘madrassa’ serving simply as a school to educate the youth of Pakistan. It was most certainly an al-Qaeda/Taliban terrorist training center. How else to explain the narrow escape of Bajur al-Qaeda commander Faqir Mohammed, who granted an immediate interview on the scene as one of his chief terrorist lieutenants lay dead beneath the rubble?

While the demonstrations against the killing of ‘teenage students of the Quran’ – as put forth by one Pakistani Islamist member of parliament – continue apace and with much fury, it is important to note that the Bajur district of Pakistan was days away from becoming the next al-Qaeda-owned province of Usamastan. The ceremony was planned to take place in similar fashion, with similar parties and with similar conditions as those that were seen in the handover of North Waziristan.

Within this context, the Taliban-al-Qaeda line that 'Bajaur elders were ready to rein in militants' as put forth by a Pakistani news service should be dismissed.

The five conditions listed in the draft would have tied the hands of the tribal militants in Mamond area and made their Maliks and other elders accountable for any violations of the undertaking. Issues such as existence of military training camps run by militants, misuse of Madrassas or presence of wanted foreigners in the area would have been effectively tackled had the undertaking been signed on the day of the aerial strike on the Madrassa in Chenagai village. There would have been no need for such missile attacks and bombings, which invariably cause collateral damage and contribute to the intensity of hatred against the attackers.

The article cedes "misuse of Madrassas or presence of wanted foreigners in the area," and that the attack would have had no purpose had the peace accords been allowed to go through. We are left to believe then that the 'tribal elders' would have expelled al-Qaeda and the Taliban and returned the madrassas to their role of educating ‘teenage students of the Quran.’

But it was not ‘tribal elders’ who made the North Waziristan ‘peace agreement’ with Musharraf, and it was not going to be tribal elders seizing the next piece of al-Qaeda’s strategic Pakistani puzzle in Bajur.

General Musharraf’s hold on power is inextricably tied to his influence within and over the Pakistani military. The significance of the fact that it was a Pakistani Air Force general involved in the last al-Qaeda assassination attempt on Musharraf can hardly be understated.

Musharraf is in fear as the al-Qaeda-Taliban Alliance is clearly winning with increasing alacrity in Pakistan.

Once more it bears repeating: Volatile Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

US Cities Were London Plotters' Targets

From the Washington Post, a report quoting the head of the FBI's New York field office saying that the London airline plot was not to blow the planes up over the ocean, as first reported, but rather over US cities.

A group of alleged terrorists arrested in London in August planned to blow up airliners over U.S. cities to maximize casualties, rather than over the Atlantic Ocean as many intelligence officials originally thought, according to recent remarks by a senior FBI official.

The comments by Mark Mershon, head of the FBI's New York field office, indicate that U.S. and British intelligence officials now think that the airliner plot was aimed at maximizing the potential loss of life and economic impact.

"The plan was bring them down over U.S. cities, not over the ocean," Mershon said Oct. 24 at the Infosecurity 2006 conference in New York, according to Government Security News, which first reported the remarks this week.

US cities remain al-Qaeda's prime targets. This should be kept soberly in mind as Pakistan edges closer and closer to falling into the hands of Islamists, one tribal area at a time. Consider that it was one of Musharraf's own generals involved in the latest al-Qaeda attempt to assassinate him.

Again: Pakistan is a nuclear power.

When Musharraf falls, it will be generals loyal to the ISI & al-Qaeda that will assert regional control.

Please pause to consider.

November 1, 2006

Somali Peace Talks Fail

Any hope of averting the now-imminent war in Somalia has been quelled by news that the Khartoum peace talks between the Islamic Courts Union and the Transitional Federal Government have been indefinitely postponed. The BBC reports:

The talks have been placed on indefinite hold after the two sides refused to meet face-to-face, a statement said.

The mediators called for restraint and said further consultations were needed to move the dialogue forward.

Observers now fear a conflict which could engulf the entire region.

The foreign minister of Somalia's transitional government, Ismael Mohamoud Hurreh, told the BBC that there was a danger of all-out conflict in the Horn of Africa.

Mr Hurreh said his government hoped to avoid war but warned that conflict would become inevitable if Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) continued on their current path.

The minister said countries in the region were deeply concearned about the UIC's declaration of jihad on their neighbours...

Before arriving in Khartoum, the Islamist delegation said they would not take part in the talks unless Ethiopian troops left Somalia.

Although recent maneuvers taken by both sides in Somalia have all pointed to an eventual clash between the ICU and the TFG, the Khartoum peace talks had previously served as a potential diplomatic solution to the conflict. Prior to this third round of talks, the ICU and TFG had in fact drawn up and implemented a cease-fire. However, that cease-fire was never really followed, rendering the first two rounds of talks null. Now that the third round of talks have been postponed indefintely, there isn't much more to keep the ICU and TFG from engaging in an "all-out" war.

Harder Line From North Korea At Talks?

A column in Japan's Daily Yomiuri asserts that North Korea's return to the Six Party Talks is a carefully calculated decision, post-nuclear test, and that Kim Jong-Il will likely take a much harder line now that he has demonstrated the production of a nuclear weapon.

Although North Korea has agreed to return to the table for the six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions, negotiations will surely be hard going if they actually resume after a hiatus of about a year.

This is because North Korea, which claims it has become a nuclear power after its nuclear test last month, will raise the bar on conditions for every concession it makes. Diplomats from the other five countries involved in the talks are highly suspicious over whether Pyongyang seriously intends to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The North Korean nuclear problem may be further complicated if the going gets tough during the talks, as this would allow Pyongyang more time to develop its nuclear weapons.

A source in Seoul said North Korea's agreement to resume the talks was "a calculated action." Pyongyang knew the Oct. 9 nuclear test would shock the international community, and has been waiting for the United States, which has been tied up handling Middle East affairs, to offer a diplomatic solution.

The Seoul source believes the United States has been taken in by North Korea's tactics. Once North Korea returns to the six-nation talks, it will mean it has accepted a demand in the U.N. Security Council's resolution for sanctions against the country.

This conclusion holds much merit. Furthermore, it demonstrates the indispensable importance of the multi-lateral nature of the talks, with more than just the United States at the table for the North Koreans to argue with. China's pressence at the table is crucial, lending critical influence missing in the failed direct talks of the 1990's. The one-on-one talks that failed saw North Korea often successfully put the US and China at odds on the subject. This is something that the six-party talks have effectively diminished beyond North Korean usefulness.

This will be discussed at length in a ThreatsWatch analytical commentary to be published soon.

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