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May 31, 2007

PA Media's Take on Israeli Fears

Palestinian Media Watch highlights the Hamas' Al-Risalah newspaper's gloating over Israelis' seeking shelter from Hamas-launched and/or fleeing Sderot.

The related article includes another photo of a crying Israeli woman in shock after a rocket attack, with the caption, "A settler cries in Sderot moments after a rocket strike by the resistance." Note that all Israelis, even within the 1967 borders, are presented as "settlers" – a term Palestinians use to denote illegitimacy of Israel's existence.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

Headline: "The resistance threatened for more: Al-Qassam rockets devastate settlements and force its residents to leave" "…dozens of the residents of Sderot city barged into the office of the mayor, Eli Moyal, requesting to be evacuated from the city, exposed to Palestinian rocket strikes…The Israeli ministry of war [sic] evacuated over a thousand people and transferred them from the city of Sderot to vacation resorts, which it [the ministry] rented for that purpose. This in spite of the government's official announcement of its refusal to evacuate the [residents of] the city…" [Al-Risalah, May 21, 2007]

May 29, 2007

An "African Marshall Plan"

CTA Board member Fred Stakelbeck writes in today’s Washington Times about a pressing strategic issue that – given the emphasis placed on all-things Iraq-Terrorism-Iran-North Korea – has received scant attention:

After years of intermittent engagement, China's 50-year relationship with the African continent has accelerated recently, with discussions on issues including energy, security and trade taking center stage. Over the past several years, Beijing's Communist government has invested billions of dollars in African projects, gaining favor with a number of fledgling governments. This change has occurred as Western influence has steadily declined, the result of inconsistent and often times ineffective policies related to important African concerns, such as poverty, disease, corruption and infrastructure development. The disjointed Western response to critical African needs has pushed the continent closer to China, providing a unique opportunity for Chinese President Hu Jintao to become Africa's newest savior.

While the Chinese invest tens of billions in trade, loan forgiveness and infrastructure improvements, they are also cutting lucrative arms and energy deals with oil and gas producing nations to help power the homeland. This includes dealing with troubled and troubling nations like Algeria, Libya and Sudan.

Fred continues:
All of this has occurred as U.S. influence on the continent has diminished, due in part to its involvement in the Middle East. This has allowed China to make substantial progress, nurturing deep economic, political and defense ties. Making matters worse for Washington, Beijing's progress comes as disagreements over China's military modernization, currency revaluation, trade practices and extra-regional aspirations have intensified.

Fred’s argument for an “African Marshall Plan” is a call to action, not simply as a counter to the Chinese as future near-peer competitor, but as a part of a broader approach to both national (energy, counterterrorism) and international (war, humanitarian crises) avoidance. Modest progress can be found in the Administration’s plans for a new Africa Command, though as some reports have indicated, enthusiasm for such an endeavor is lacking.

May 28, 2007

The Awakening: The Real 'Surge' In Iraq

At WRKO's Pundit Review Radio, Michael Yon spoke on The Awakening from Hit, Iraq. Led by Sheikh Abd al-Sattar from Ramadi, The Awakening is the national anti-al-Qaeda grassroots movement that sprang from the Anbar Salvation Council. Its significance for Iraq and Iraqis going forward is difficult to overstate. In the interview, Yon observed:

A new day is dawning and it looks like a real chance for some kind of success here in Iraq and I can tell you my spirits are substantially lifted just over the period of the last couple of months. I see 2007 is going to be a serious year for progress.

In Diyala province, now essentially al-Qaeda in Iraq's corporate headquarters having lost the initiative in Anbar, local tribal leaders have publicly announced the existence of the Diyala Salvation Council.

Go to Pundit Review and listen to the brief Podcast with Mike Yon. It is well worth your time today.

Chavez Targets Liberty, Speech In Venezuela

Hugo Chavez has exercised his power once again in Venezuela, shutting down a private television station and replacing it with a state-run outfit that will no doubt do a much better job of promoting the dictator's many good works.

Promotional material for the new station said programming will include news, sports, soap operas and documentaries aimed at embracing pluralism and cultural diversity in the nation.

Of course, "pluralism and cultural diversity" is strictly viewed within the narrow confines of a Pro-Chavez prism. Chavez also accused CNN of broadcasting subversive subliminal messages.

With its broadcast license not renewed, RCTV (former) employees found themselves together with university students protesting in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

RCTV executives have condemned the decision to remove the private station from public airwaves and have vowed to challenge the move in the courts. Critics held marches late Sunday outside the National Telecommunications Commission to oppose the government's decision. Police said 11 officers were injured in clashes with protesters.

Apparently no protesters were injured, for surely the Venezuelan authorities would have reported such figures. The protesters must have been better equipped than the Venezuelan police, with more advanced helmets and body armor and larger batons and riot shields.

Already, the dictatorial South American regime has its sights set on closing a second Venezuela TV station, Globovision, accusing it of "inciting the assassination of President Hugo Chavez."

May 21, 2007

Dragon Skin Body Armor - What's Going on Here?

Conflicting and disputed claims surround the controversial use of Dragon Skin Body Armor. The Army claims that Dragon Skin experienced catastrophic failures in its tests. The makers and industry consultants claim that the Army is trying to protect other funded programs, and is having bout of "not invented here syndrome." One way or another, our troops deserve the absolute best protection when they are facing the sophisticated weaponry of al Qaeda and its allies.

Following a May 20th television report by NBC claiming that the Dragon Skin had passed independent ballistic tests, Brig. Gen. Mark Brown announced that they would meet with members of Congress this week in the wake of recent media reports that question whether soldiers are equipped with the best body armor available. The tests commissioned by NBC showed "...Level IV Dragon Skin vests outperforming Interceptor vests equipped with "ESAPI" plates in ballistic tests with various types of unnamed "armor piercing" ammunition."

General Brown's response:

- the Army has requested specific details of how the test were conducted from NBC, but so far has not received that information.

- he questions whether the "ESAPI" plates used in NBC's tests were "certified" Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts that the service issues to soldiers deploying to combat.

- the results of its tests performed at the National Institute of Justice-certified H.P. White labs near Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. that showed "four out the eight vests tested failed after suffering 13 first- or second-shot complete penetrations with 7.62mmx63mm APM2 Armor Piercing ammunition" according to Karl Masters, one of the Army's top ballistics experts. The Army's tests are summarized here.

Now, the contention of NBC, and the Dragon Skin manufacturer, Pinnacle Armor, is that the Army tests were "flawed" and that Army testers were unsure how to adequately evaluate his technology - which uses a series of small ceramic disk "scales" to cover the entire torso.

Pinnacles' president Murray Neal called Army claims that his vests failed "a bold-faced lie" and said the service is embarrassed to admit its current armor isn't the best out there.

This all relates to the March 2006 ban on store-purchased body armor. The Army approved body armor, the ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts) is a rigid ceramic plate about 12-inches high and six inches wide. Soldiers wear front and back plates and two smaller side plates, all of which are designed to stop armor piercing AK-47 rounds found in the war zone.

This controversy apparently relates to the flexibility of the Dragon Skin versus the rigid plate approach of the ESAPI. Further, according to the Army, their tests, performed under National Institute of Justice (NIJ) testing standards, also showed significant delamination of the Dragon Skin disks under Iraq-like environmental conditions (160-degree heat for six hours). The Army is also concerned about the weight of the Dragon Skin vest, 20 pounds more than the standard Army issue, ESAPI.

The NBC Program, Do U.S. soldiers have the best body armor? included interviews with Jim Magee, a retired Marine colonel who helped design Interceptor (the Army's current body armor version) a decade ago. His flat out statement was that "Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down. It's better than the Interceptor. It is state of the art. In some cases, it's two steps ahead of anything I've ever seen."

- more stopping power
- more coverage

According to the NBC report, the CIA also tested and passed the Dragon Skin for use by its operatives in Iraq. Further, the NBC Report interviewed Nevin Rupert, a mechanical engineer and ballistics expert, was for seven years the Army's leading authority on Dragon Skin who asserted that there was a not invented here syndrome aspect to the Army's claims of catastrophic failure.

This is clearly controversial. Equipment for our troops, including their body armor has been a subject of question ever since the beginning of the War in Iraq. That there are conflicted tests and reports in the media, makes this an even larger issue.

This controversial subject has been discussed on Defense Tech, in their post, The Dragon Skin Show and also on ProfessionalSoldiers.com, Dragon Skin Testing and the Truth. After reading both posts, the conclusion has to be that not all testing is equal.

Objectively, the maintenance of a line in the Defense Appropriations budget cannot or should not compromise the safety and welfare of our troops in battle.

War, Cyber-Style

Tallinn, Estonia is one of the most wired societies in Europe and for the past several weeks has been subjected to massive and coordinated cyber attacks on Web sites of its government and critical infrastructure. By all accounts it is an unprecedented electronic assault on the public and private infrastructure of a state. Estonian officials accuse Russia of being the aggressor in response to Estonian efforts to relocate an old Soviet war memorial, a charge Russian officials deny.

This is not the first time two nations have taken their disputes into cyberspace; China and Taiwan have battled over the issue of Taiwanese independence and Israel and supporters of the Palestinian Authority have clashed in cyberspace off-and-on for years. Yet these previous efforts have been little more than petty hacker wars. The focus on "legitimate" targets - as a state would view them - strongly suggests state-sponsorship or at least the leveraging of formal strategic military expertise. And it is not like the Russians are newcomers to the use of cyberspace to further their interests.

This is just the sort of scenario that cyber-security experts and futurists have been theorizing about - and actors of varying levels of sophistication have been playing around the edges at - for years. If early reports are any indication, the success in Estonia is likely to result in more frequent use of digital weapons as a tools of national power. Viewed in the light of recent reports of weaknesses in our own critical infrastructure and the revelations from recent congressional hearings dealing with the dismal state of our national cyber-security it is clear that, despite our physical size and strength, we are not much more prepared to fend off a coordinated cyber-attack than Estonia.

ThreatsWatch Iraq Analysis At FrontPage

ThreatsWatch's Steve Schippert has recently written an article for FrontPage Magazine titled Turning The Corner In Iraq. Readers may be interested in reading the analysis to understand why he concludes the following:

But there is a corner being turned in Iraq by Sunni and Shi’a alike, and Americans currently engaged in the incessant debate on the Iraq War would do well to look up long enough to notice. To fail to do so would be to once again trade military victory for political defeat. We’ve been down this road before. When discussing withdrawal at this stage – just as the corner is being turned – would leave yet another population to the un-tender mercies of unabated terror and tyranny.

This is the generational test of our nation’s character. What we do or do not do will define us in the eyes of enemy and ally alike. Most importantly, our actions will lie at the feet of our own collective conscience.

We stand as a nation at the bank teller window, accessing our National Character account. The question remains: Will our balance reflect a deposit or a withdrawal?

May 20, 2007

Six Days And Forty Years

Far too few Americans realize (or remember) that what we now call the 'Palestinian Territories' was nothing of the sort merely four decades ago. The West Bank was precisely that, Jordanian territory on the western bank of the Jordan River. And the Gaza Strip was part of Egypt proper. But an ill-conceived plan to smash Israel on all fonts in 1967 resulted in Israel pushing back the her attackers and minimizing her border exposure to aggressors. Friday, Charles Krauthammer provided the public with an excellent three-minute history primer on the Six Days that Changed Everything.

It is hard to exaggerate what it was like for Israel in those three weeks [before the Six Day War]. Egypt, already in an alliance with Syria, formed an emergency military pact with Jordan. Iraq, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco began sending forces to join the coming fight. With troops and armor massing on Israel’s every frontier, jubilant broadcasts in every Arab capital hailed the imminent final war for the extermination of Israel. “We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” declared PLO head Ahmed Shuqayri, “and as for the survivors — if there are any — the boats are ready to deport them.”

In conclusion, he reminds as the 40th anniversary approaches this June:

The world will soon be awash with 40th-anniversary retrospectives on the war — and on the peace of the ages that awaits if Israel would only return to June 4, 1967. But Israelis are cautious. They remember the terror of that unbearable May when, with Israel possessing no occupied territories whatsoever, the entire Arab world was furiously preparing Israel’s imminent extinction. And the world did nothing.

If you missed it Friday, read it today.

May 19, 2007

Contactor Exodus A Canary In Iraqi Mine?

Reporting from Kuwait enroute to embedding with US forces in Iraq, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross' first report from theater notes that American contractors are already leaving Iraq in anticipation of the passing of a US withdrawal timetable.

They reported that a number of contractors are already leaving Iraq in anticipation of a timetable for withdrawal being set. The prevalent thinking among those who have chosen to leave is that there will be a mass exodus when a timetable is announced, and it’s better to return to the U.S. now. That way, those who leave can get good jobs back home before 20,000 or more contractors who were previously in Iraq return to the States looking for work.

The prevailing attitude among the contractors I spoke with was that there will indeed be a large exodus of workers if a timetable is set (they thought the number leaving could be as high as 50,000), but that the numbers leaving Iraq will level off over time because some people will want to stay to make money. Also, as contractors leave, the salary that can be earned in Iraq will correspondingly rise. But this isn't a simple case of diminishing supply and steady demand: there will still be a demand for contractors in Iraq as U.S. troops draw down, but demand won't stay even because a deteriorating security situation may cause some projects that otherwise may have been completed to shut down. Overall, the contractors' view was that the timetable would strike a major blow to reconstruction efforts.

It would also strike a major blow to the already struggling Iraqi economy. With thanks to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, ThreatsWatch had the opportunity to take part in a discussion with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation Paul Brinkley. Mr. Brinkley has been working in Iraq attempting to restore functionality to Iraq's industrial base, some factories previously state-owned and some private sector, in order to make a dent in Iraq's unemployment and under-employment levels. (See: Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations – Iraq.) At well above 50%, this economic blight feeds the insurgency with frustrated people who sense little economic hope.

This week, we will have a more in-depth report on the Iraqi economic situation and DoD efforts spearheaded by Paul Brinkley to address it.

May 17, 2007

North Korean Missile Test In Iran?

A curious report begs the question: Did North Korea test a long-range missile in Iran?

North Korea may have used a launch pad in Iran to test a new missile capable of hitting American bases in the Pacific island of Guam, according to reports from Japan and South Korea.

The missile, named after the Musudan testing range in North Korea, was recently shown off to the public at a vast military parade in the capital, Pyongyang, according to the reports. South Korean and American intelligence reports suggest that the weapon may then have been tested in Iran, with which North Korea is known to have military links.

The Musudan missile had not been previously recorded. North Korea has a known capacity to build short- and medium-range missiles, including the Taepodong-1 which it fired over Japan in 1998 to the alarm of Tokyo and its allies in Washington.

However, it has had less success with developing long-range missiles. It has been working for several years on a Taepodong-2, which would be targeted at America's western seaboard. But a test launch carried out last July ended in failure, with the missile landing in the sea not far from the border between North Korean and Russia.

The new missile is said have been identified by American military satellite pictures of the rally held in April to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army. The weapon is thought to be based on Soviet technology.

The report is anemic on details of the launch other than intelligence analysts' suspicions, which are quite plausible. After all, Iranian military officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were at the July missile test in North Korea cited above. And they were also known to be present at the October 2006 nuclear bomb test in North Korea.

The first question that came to mind was one of trajectory and impact zone. If it was launched and detected, how far did it travel and where did it strike land?

May 16, 2007

New FDA Legislation Could Impact RFIDs and the Safety of Medications

One of the very real issues facing people, especially older Americans, is the cost of prescription medications. To deal with these costs, many have turned to importing their pharmaceuticals from Canada or Mexico or to buying them over the Internet.

The question, then, is whether or not these products are real or counterfeit or perhaps outdated. It has been said that "Counterfeiters are the lowlife of bio-terrorism." The issue of counterfeit medicines is very much an issue of security and safety. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 10% of the pharmaceuticals in worldwide distribution are counterfeit, with value of counterfeits expected to reach $75 billion in 2010.

It was only a few years ago that it was hard to get anyone to admit that there was a problem with counterfeit pharamaceuticals. Then, the Food and Drug Administration convened a panel, the Counterfeit Drug Task Force (with the public meeting in October 2003) and as a result of its deliberations and public testimony, a Final Report was published. Since I had/have a vested interest in the Report, I'm not going to go into "chapter and verse" of its findings or implications (if anyone has a specific question, I'll try to respond).

Just the first "finding" is relevent right now:

Implementation of new technologies to better protect our drug supply. Because the capabilities of counterfeiters continue to evolve rapidly, there is no single "magic bullet" technology that provides any long-term assurance of drug security. However, a combination of rapidly improving "track and trace" technologies and product authentication technologies should provide a much greater level of security for drug products in the years ahead. Similar anti-counterfeiting technologies are being used in other industries, and FDA intends to facilitate their rapid development and use to keep drugs secure against counterfeits.

Last week, a new piece of legislation was passed by the U.S. Senate that could impact the RFID industry's application for pharmaceuticals (New Law Serves as Warning to RFID Industry). Specifically it relates to the sale of prescription drugs over the Internet, and mandates (if also passed by the House and signed by the President) that such products carry a visual, anti-counterfeiting key (something that you can see without aide of a machine) to allow the consumer to recognize the product as real and not counterfeit. The important point here is that the legislation "explicitly excludes technology like RFID or barcodes that require a supporting infrastructure of readers, antennas, etc."

Interesting in the article is the position of the editors that "engaging with Washington in the formation of public policy can further adoption of RFID; conversely, neglecting Washington can be harmful." As noted by Doug Farry, managing director of the government affairs practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, a Washington-based law firm:

While advocates of a particular technology generally recognize the benefit of having that technology required by law for a given application, they are less aware of the possibility that their technology could be legislated against. "The RFID industry might have made the case that the mandated technology be RFID," said Farry, "but at minimum they could have fought to keep the door open to RFID." If the law passes as is, that door will close.

Now, as an "interested party" I have wondered for some time now how there was continued justification for RFIDs as the "preferred" track and trace modality (given the possible vulnerabilities), along with the misperception that RFIDs provided anti-counterfeit benefits. But now, even more, with the mandate that Internet purchased pharmaceutical products carry "a visual technology similar to what is used in paper currency...and that the technology be visible to the naked eye and not require separate readers or scanners for verification" questions should be raised. One question, especially should be whether the imported pharmaceutical products are really being protected, and in turn, are consumers being protected against not only counterfeit medications, but also out of date products.

May 14, 2007

Second Life: Elevating Terrorism Training

A Daily Brief item today pointed out some disturbing developments in the virtual world of Second Life. While at first glance one might be dismissive of developments in the “fake” world, a closer look indicates that Second Life has the potential to enhance the terrorist threat.

The FBI and others recently began pointing out their shift in thinking that terrorist threats to the homeland will come from al-Qaeda sleeper cells such as the 9/11 hijackers and instead will come from self-radicalized individuals and groups. The so-called “Ft. Dix Six” are such a group, having allegedly used (at least in part) various terrorist resources online for motivation and training. Anti-terror raids in the UK and elsewhere note that those arrested are often in possession of computers that contain radical Islamic literature as well as information on how to perform pre-operational planning, use small arms, and conduct small unit tactics.

There are those who dismiss self-radicalized, self-trained groups as amateurs who are unlikely to ever conduct a successful terrorist operation, though events of so-called “sudden Jihad syndrome” over the past five years suggest that even self-taught sad-sacks can kill or maim. Still, there is a big difference between someone who has actually trained to fight an armed conflict or conduct intelligence operations and someone who has merely read about how it is done.

Second Life bridges that gap.

In Second Life you can practice intelligence tradecraft; you can test your elicitation skills, pass off (hopefully unnoticed) notes and packages, and meet in private with co-conspirators. You can sit down in a classroom and learn how to field-strip a rifle or pistol, conduct fire-and-maneuver drills, or run through an urban combat scenario. You can send and receive money to help fund your operation and you can conduct “legitimate” business that ends up funding terrorism. Static online training materials or even interactive-but-text-based Jihadist discussion forums cannot match the rich and substantial – if one may be excused for adopting a marketer’s language – content.

Second Life has the potential to elevate the professionalism of terrorism training. It is not real-life, but it isn’t reading comic books either.

May 13, 2007

Accessing First Responder Technologies – In Search of Interoperability

Almost from the moment of the attacks on September 11, 2001 it was apparent that interoperability of equipment and communications systems was needed. As we sit here, now approaching six years post-attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has made significant strides toward accomplishing what some people might have considered a daunting task.

Developed through the Office of Grants and Training of the DHS (and co-sponsored by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism), the Responder Knowledge Base went public on the web. The RKB is intended to give first responder agencies a place to find specialized equipment and resources that users can search by keyword to bring up related entries, browse all available entries through an expandable outline, and explore each of its two main lists by category.

The database is a compilation of information on all manner of equipment and training programs for first responders. Most entries are organized into two essential lists-the Authorized Equipment List (AEL) from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Grants & Training and the Standardized Equipment List (SEL) from the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability.

In a way, you can think of the RKB as a “consumer reports” for first responders. The RKB also provides a resources for identifying grant opportunities. Items on the Authorized Equipment List are eligible for purchase using grant funding. The database mentions qualified grants in each entry and provides links to specific grant programs. The links take you to entries on available grants with application information and other specifics. Each grant page includes contact information to get more details or to apply for the grant.

In addition to the RKB, DHS has also announced an $8 million program through which first responders (fire, police, emergency medical services and other first responders) can submit a question, problem, challenge or technology to address mission capability gaps, and then actually receive the service or technologies. This Technology Solutions Portal is a program of the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security.

“We must have direct communications with our customers because they understand their problems and challenges,” Cohen said today after a speech at DHS’ Office of Interoperability and Compatibility Conference in Washington. “If they want us to do research or do more testing of their solutions, anything that would help them.”

This Technology Solutions Portal is a one percent set-aside from the S&T budget for programs that can be accomplished within a year for under $1 million. These are much needed programs that hopefully will be continued into the future and not defunded.

May 8, 2007

Energy Squeeze

Serving as an excellent primer on the outlook for challenges to American energy security - rooted in foreign dependence - Fred Stakelbeck has written an excellent article aptly titled Energy Squeeze.

The international energy market of the twenty-first century is witnessing an unprecedented period of turmoil and instability, an indication of an indisputable global power shift that holds serious, long-term implications for U.S. national security interests throughout the world.

Acting in silent unison, energy-rich governments in the Middle East, Eurasia and South America, in particular, populist dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela; Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad; China’s stoic President Hu Jintao, and Russia’s enigmatic President Vladimir Putin, have demonstrated a growing penchant for energy-related controversy and confrontation. No longer satisfied with Western-defined progress, these countries have become emboldened players on the world stage, using commodities such as crude oil, natural gas and mineral deposits as weapons against perceived U.S. hegemony.

The ultimate goal of this new energy alliance is to eventually humble the U.S. as the world’s undisputed political, economic and military power forcing it’s withdraw from the world stage by using energy as a sledgehammer for international change. Acting independently, these countries can attain, at best, only marginal influence and power. Acting together, however, they become formidable adversaries.

The power of energy as a weapon for capitulation was demonstrated in late 2005 when Russian oil conglomerate Gazprom used the “energy weapon” against former Soviet republic Ukraine. By temporarily cutting off natural gas supplies to the western-leaning government of Viktor Yushchenko and ignoring standing contractual obligations, Moscow gave an early glimpse of how its new energy-based foreign policy could be used to persuade and punish.

As a direct result of the Russia-Ukraine dispute, alleged energy distribution “difficulties” were reported by Moscow which resulted in natural gas supplies to Europe being substantially cut, raising the ire of European leaders such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. In hindsight, Chancellor Merkel’s reaction is understandable. Europe’s reliance on Russian crude exports has risen from 9 percent of total crude imports in 1995 to 29 percent in 2006. Energy industry experts predict the EU will import 90 percent of its oil and 80 percent of its natural gas within 20 years as onshore and offshore fields become mature. Although the Russia-EU crisis was eventually resolved, it provided a “dry run” exercise for Moscow and proved once again what most of Europe’s leaders knew all along – that energy is the EU’s “Achilles heel.”

Regarding the energy "Achilles heel," Fred goes on to explain why the EU is not its sole proprietor, and the actors driving toward an economic confrontation.

Read the rest here.

May 7, 2007

Pak Intel Accused Of 'Playing Dangerous Game' With Jihadis

India's The Economic Times reported that Pakistani clerics issued a fatwa on April 17 declaring suicide bombings 'haram' (against Islam). One Pakistani member of parliament accused Pakistani intelligence of stoking the fires of jihad.

Pakistani clerics have accused the intelligence agencies in the country of supporting 'jehadi' organisations whose actions now cannot be checked even by religious decrees.

Lawmaker Qazi Fayyaz-ur-Rehman Alvi of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) said numerous jehadi organisations and people were terrorising the country and some of them had the support of the intelligence agencies.

"The agencies are playing a dangerous game in the country," he said.

Qazi Fayyaz-ur-Rehman Alvi was one of 2,000 clerics who issued the fatwa that has gone ignored by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance in Pakistan's tribal regions.

However, the Charsadda suicide bomb attack recently in North West Frontier Region in which at least 31 people were killed and Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao was critically injured seems to indicate that the clerics decree had been ignored. "Fatwas dont work in troubled regions. The situation has progressed beyond them," Qazi Alvi, JUI-F central deputy general secretary was quoted as saying by the Daily Times.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Supreme Court suspended proceedings against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as the Associated Press reported that "an estimated 20,000 people, most of them lawyers and opposition party supporters, gathered in downtown Lahore, Pakistan's main eastern city, to greet Chaudhry who had traveled 280 kilometers (170 miles) in a grand convoy from Islamabad."

The situation in Pakistan appears holding at 'uncertain' going forward.

More Details of Iran Aiding Sunnis In Iraq

Yet more evidence of Iran supporting both Shi’a and Sunni insurgents and terrorists in Iraq. From the Chicago Tribune, 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch reveals what his troops have been learning.

Further complicating the battle ahead, Lynch said, is evidence uncovered in the area under his command, south of Baghdad, that Sunni insurgents possess the sophisticated bomb-making devices known as explosively formed penetrators that the U.S. believes are being supplied by Iran.

"We're seeing Iranian EFPs in the hands of Sunni extremists," he said, offering a further indication that Iran may be supporting both sides in Iraq's sectarian conflict. "Iranian influence is evident both with Shiite extremists and with Sunni extremists."

EFPs are a particularly lethal form of roadside bombs that typically kill or injure more soldiers than the other improvised explosive devices that have long been responsible for the majority of U.S. casualties.

Of the 13 soldiers under his command killed since he deployed to Iraq on April 1, more than half were killed by EFPs, Lynch said.

To those paying attention, the frustration builds. Comments from officials are consistently ‘cautious,’ spending most of their time confirming that they indeed do not have the memo from Supreme Leader Khameini or President Ahmadinejad ordering IRGC Commanding General Suleimani to kill Americans. Yet, the weapons persist, the attacks persist and the Americans are indeed ‘confirmed’ quite dead.

Critics look at such frustration and roundly opine, “Well what do you want, a war with Iran?” If you have not yet noticed, there already is a war with Iran. Iran is prosecuting an undeclared war. And it is angering that our boys are the only ones dying while we seek the blessed memo for CYA purposes. At some point, KIA must supersede CYA.

Of course there is the nuclear crisis, which gets largely the same treatment.

A 130-nation nuclear meeting stalled for its sixth consecutive day Monday after Iran refused to commit itself to a compromise meant to break a deadlock over Tehran's opposition to language of the agenda.

Diplomats at the conference — meant to work on strengthening the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty — told The Associated Press that the decision by the chairman of the meeting to skirt the issue at least until Tuesday came after Iran asked for an extra day of consultations with its capital.

But the diplomats, who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential issues, suggested that Iran's request was nothing more than a delaying tactic, noting it had already had three days since the meeting was adjourned on Friday to come up with a decision.

Ion case you missed it, the story’s headline is “Iran Weighs Compromise at Nuke Conference.”

Oh, really? Iran says “No” once again. And the diplomats say, “OK, we’ll wait. Go get clarification, please.” Now that’s what I call ‘weighing compromise.’ Not sure what the Vegas line is on the clarification being “No.”

It just never ends. No one wants war with Iran. But for crying out loud, let’s acknowledge that they are killing us on the battlefield and playing the UN like a fiddle in pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

May 4, 2007

Open Letter: My Burden of Conscience

I have struggled to write anything of significance since This Is Counterterrorism, Senator was published at National Review Online. For days, I have thought that it was due to being tired. It was, however, the fact that parts of that article re-opened a personal wound, a burden of conscience that I have carried since 1991. I will always carry it, for the consequences of America's actions that year are irreversible. But the prospects of repeating those actions have blocked me from writing and thinking on anything else of significance until my mind had properly addressed what has weighed so heavily. Sitting in "quiet solitude," what spilled forth was not simply the expressions of the powerless, but rather a plea to those who hold the power to act.

Fittingly published at the same venue where I had unwittingly re-opened my own wounds, at National Review is an open letter to Senators Reid and Schumer (et al). In part:

...Yet your very public words convey to those Sunni Iraqis that they may have made the same monumental and lethal mistake the Shi'a in Southern Iraq made in 1991. Recall - as they do - that it was American political leadership that betrayed their trust once their American-encouraged revolt against a murderous tyrant was irrevocably under way.

On what principles of conscience are we to base a repeat of such national behavior?

Just seven short months ago, an Assyrian priest, Father Paulos Iskander, was kidnapped and beheaded. A 14-year old child and parishioner was crucified. Their crime? Christianity. What unspeakable horrors then await the families of those who are now openly betraying al-Qaeda in Iraq if we abandon them now?

One is left - outside the Beltway - with the firm and undeniable sense that the burden of conscience would be borne far more greatly in the hearts and minds of men like me, with little power beyond the conviction of principle, than upon the hearts and minds of those in Washington attempting to abandon the Iraqi people while astoundingly calling it "counterterrorism." ...

We dare not avert our eyes once again.

In writing that letter, the personal burden is not lighter. Nor is it in recess. But it has returned to a form that is productive going forward, not debilitating.

What happened in 1991 cannot be changed, nor the lives brought back or the families restored. The burden itself, after all, is caused by the violation of core principles.

Acknowledging these facts, carrying that burden is, in a difficult way to explain, comforting.

For which is truly the greater burden, the absence of a sense of collective guilt or the absence of the principles which inspire it?

May 2, 2007

Hamas Threat Fatigue Peaks

Surely there must be others that have about had enough of the deluge of Hamas threats to the entire planet. The world had better utterly reject the use of blackmail as official governmental discourse from the Hamas wing of the elected Palestinian government. And with unequivocal clarity and resolve.

For the past several days, Hamas' brazen demands have been absolutely astonishing. Threatening to attack Israel if Europe and the United States do not restore their economic assistance, essentially governmental welfare checks?

Consider the headlines (just a short sampling) over the past 48-72 hours:

But of course...

And then there are other defensive maneuvers...

Oh yes, and there are other reasons to kill the Jews...

"While we're at it, let's just kill everybody..."

"...Even our own if they try to save themselves..."

Is it any wonder then that...

RECOMMENDATION: American and European leaders should advise Hamas to have at it, in language as equally plain and undiplomatic as their own chosen discourse. They should also be advised in no uncertain terms that they will then live with the unrestrained consequences of their blackmail and barbarism. Their actions, should they enact them as threatened, will not be met with the standard calls from American and European leadership for restraint and talks. The time for talks is now, not after such wild threats followed by attacks on civilian populations, be they Israeli or others.

It is, of course, a pipe dream to envision that Hamas would consider paying the salaries of civil employees with Iran's generous stop-gap stipends rather than build weapons stockpiles and fund indiscriminate Qassam rocket attacks into Israeli cities.

Threaten the United States and Europe that they will commence killing Israelis if we do not restore gifted money? Think about that for a second.

This isn't a hostage negotiation with the LAPD SWAT team, Mr. Meshaal. Have a go at it if you are resolved so. There's not much anyone can do to stop your orders or those of others in Hamas' leadership. But don't come crying when Israel returns fire.

But then, why would he, safely tucked away in Damascus?

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