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Topic: WW3 (Read 193589 times)
Bekaa Valley Future Fun
Reply #150 on:
March 18, 2005, 12:43:54 PM »
This is the first time I've encountered this source--it looks like an organization seeking to compete with Stratfor--so can't vouch for its veracity. I note respected defense industry reporter Bill Gertz is bylined on the site, which is probably a good sign. Be that as it may, some interesting info that bodes future fun in the Bekaa Valley
Why Syria loves Lebanon: Billions in skimmed revenues, Bekaa Valley's drug paradise, top-secret WMD tunnels
President Bashar Assad loves little Lebanon because he and his cronies have been sucking their neighbor dry for years. Lebanon feeds billions of dollars into Assad's coffers that allows him to resist Western sanctions and maintain power.
Assad inherited this revenue stream, U.S. officials said. His late father, Hafez, created the system.
First, Lebanon has been a drug paradise for the Assad regime. The Bekaa Valley, heavily guarded by Iranian and Syrian troops, contains one of the largest drug operations in the world. Laboratories in Baalbek and other towns in the Bekaa take opium from Afghanistan and convert it into heroin. From there, the cut-grade heroin is shipped to Europe and Africa.
Assad junior also runs one of the largest counterfeiting operations in the world. Want a fake dollar bill? The Bekaa makes the best $50 and $100 bills ? perfect for crime syndicates and governments that can't afford real U.S. currency.
Lebanon has also been the haven for Arab investment, particularly from Saudi Arabia. For the Saudis, Lebanon represents a summer haven where they can rest on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean and live a secret Western lifestyle. Assad provides the security for the Saudis and he is handsomely rewarded.
Assad takes a hefty cut of virtually every government project in Lebanon. The cut involves cash for government concessions as well as guarantees that Syrian labor will be used. Assad also obtains a cut of the salary of each of the more than 1 million Syrians working in Lebanon.
The Syrian president also rents space in Lebanon to Iran and terrorist groups. Those needing to train in Lebanon or Syria, of course, pay a fee to use Lebanon for exercises ? whether in southern Lebanon or the Bekaa Valley. The result is that everybody from Chechens, Algerians and even Al Qaida operatives use this terrorist resort.
The Bekaa Valley also contains the darkest of Syria's secrets, including Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. More than a few U.S. officials are convinced that Iraq brought convoys of medium-range missiles and WMD warheads to Syria at the end of 2002 and early 2003 ? on the eve of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Some of the WMD stayed in Syria. Most was regarded as too hot to handle, even for Assad. The material was stored in tunnels in the Bekaa Valley.
Given this, it is clear why Syria wants advanced SA-18 anti-aircraft system from Russia. Syria wants low-signature surface-to-air missiles to prevent any Israeli or U.S. air raid over the Bekaa Valley. Damascus has heavy anti-aircraft systems for inside Syria. But to bring these Soviet-origin weapons into Lebanon would present a juicy target for any Western military.
Reply #151 on:
March 24, 2005, 08:29:25 AM »
Iran: The Military Force 'On The Table'
March 16, 2005 21 28 GMT
U.S. President George W. Bush said January he would not rule out the use of military force against Iran if Tehran refuses to cooperate regarding its nuclear program. The military option is unlikely to be executed while talks between Tehran, Washington and the EU on the subject exist. Although not likely any time soon, if talks lead nowhere, the United States could set Iran's nuclear program back years -- or possibly even eliminate it -- via airstrikes. Potential Iranian responses will naturally factor in any U.S. decision to attack.
While the Bush administration insists that a political solution to the issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program will be sought first and foremost, U.S. President George W. Bush said Jan. 17 that all options -- presumably including the military one -- remain "on the table."
So far, the United States remains committed to a nonmilitary solution. However, if the crisis drags on and no political settlement is reached, the United States possesses the means to inflict severe damage on Tehran's nuclear program. With U.S. forces spread thin around the world, should Washington decide to exercise the military option against Iran's nuclear program, such an action would consist of a limited campaign of airstrikes lasting a few days. The scope would probably be similar to the Desert Fox operation in 1998, when the United States attacked Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, and would not consist of an invasion like 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
One of the most likely Iranian targets will be the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. This facility is critical to the Iranian nuclear program because enriching uranium is the final step before production of nuclear weapons is possible. Despite being buried underground, the facility is still vulnerable to the types of "bunker buster" munitions that U.S. forces found effective in OIF. The loss of the enrichment facility would be the decisive, crippling blow to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Additionally, the heavy water plant and plutonium reactor at Arak could be targeted. The reactor at Bushehr is not as critical to the nuclear program, but it is the most vulnerable facility, so it could be attacked for good measure.
In addition to hitting critical sites associated with nuclear weapons development, Iran's capacity to resist and retaliate after the attacks must also be targeted. This would entail strikes against air defense sites, Silkworm anti-missile sites along the coast, commando units capable of attacking oil terminals and shipping in the Persian Gulf, Revolutionary Guard Pasdaran units and missile units.
Iran reportedly has the Russian-made S-300 missile -- a capable surface-to-air missile system that will complicate U.S. air operations over Iran. If the United States is to conduct airstrikes against Iran, this threat must be dealt with initially. The United States can identify these missiles' locations with electronic intelligence and jam their radar, or target them using Stealth aircraft. Once this threat is neutralized, non-stealth aircraft such as the U.S. Air Force's F-15E and U.S. Navy's F/A-18 would be able to deliver their own precision-guided munitions.
U.S. assets used in an attack against Iran likely will include the strike group from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which is currently supporting operations in Iraq. The Truman is about to be joined in the Persian Gulf by the USS Carl Vinson , which will add an additional 85 aircrafts to the U.S. order of battle. The United States can use cruise missiles launched from submarines, as well as F-117s flying out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, and B-1 and B-2 bombers flying out of Diego Garcia and possibly Thumrait Air Base in Oman. The United States also operates aircraft from bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that could be used to stage airstrikes into northern Iran. It is unlikely those Central Asian countries would give permission for the United States to attack Iran from their territory, so if necessary, the United States can operate out of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Before attacking Iran's nuclear program, more U.S. strike aircraft would have to be moved into the region to deliver an overwhelming blow. Since the end of major combat in OIF, the United States has redeployed much of its airpower, leaving relatively few strike and support aircraft in the region compared to 2003. Sufficient supplies already exist at several logistics hubs in the region to sustain the attack. Patriot batteries also will have to be in place to protect airbases, logistic hubs and -- possibly -- Iraqi cities from retaliatory Iranian missile strikes.
An Iranian response to a U.S. attack could include attacking Iraq with Scud missiles, Silkworm launches against shipping in the Persian Gulf and terrorist attacks against U.S. interests worldwide. Efforts should be made to mitigate these prior to any attack against Iran. Iran also could retaliate against U.S. allies in the region, notably Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait's significant U.S. troop presence means it can rely on the United States to augment Kuwait's own Patriot batteries used to defend Kuwaiti population centers and oil exporting facilities. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, will have to use its own Patriot batteries to protect its oil terminals and cities. British forces headquartered in Basra would, at the very least, provide a deterrent to any Iranian attempt to move across the Shatt al Arab into southern Iraq.
Much must happen between Tehran, the EU and Washington before the military option becomes more likely; but should the need arise, the United States can draw on a powerful arsenal to cause catastrophic damage to Iran's nuclear program.
Reply #152 on:
April 01, 2005, 09:36:04 PM »
An End to War?
March 31, 2005 23 59 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari
Although it is a very unconventional war, the U.S. war against al Qaeda -- like any other war -- eventually must come to an end. But because of its very nature, questions that have been posed since the Sept. 11 attacks have revolved around how to gauge the United States' military progress against a non-state actor, how we will know when the war actually has ended and what peace and security will mean in the post-9/11 age.
These are not easy questions to answer. The dynamics of this war are unlike any other, and Washington cannot gauge its progress (or lack thereof) by territories held or other conventional means. Nor can the means of ending the war shape future relations between the main actors.
However, there is now a real and growing sense that the Bush administration is working to bring closure to this war by directly targeting al Qaeda's core leadership -- Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- and that Washington is beginning to turn its attention to other matters, while acknowledging that the battle against militant Islamism likely will continue at some level for a long time.
Unlike most other observers, we believe the war is going in the United States' favor. Other than the Madrid train bombings a year ago, al Qaeda has not been able to stage significant attacks in the West, and none at all in the United States, since Sept. 11, 2001. It has confined its actions largely to the Muslim world -- its home region, where operations are easiest to mount -- but even there we see a weakening of militancy. The frequency of attacks in Iraq and other areas should not be mistaken for a surge in militancy, particularly if the attacks do not cause much damage and do not manage to alter the flow of political events.
Al Qaeda leaders, seeking to lay low in southwest Asia, have seen their offensive capabilities reduced to issuing communiques via audio and videotapes and press releases. The counterterrorism offensives launched by Southeast Asian states have prevented any major strikes from taking place, and militant activity in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia is negligible, even though many members of jihadist groups remain in this area.
Even in the Arab Middle East, transnational Islamist militants do not seem to be operating very effectively. This trend is particularly noteworthy in Saudi Arabia, where -- despite al Qaeda's shift toward striking government targets late last year -- the group's ability to stage attacks has declined markedly. The Saudi intelligence and security apparatus not only appears to have contained the militant phenomenon, but recently has taken the offensive.
Moreover, the kingdom's religious establishment -- long viewed as having divided loyalties and some sympathies for al Qaeda -- recently has spoken out vocally against the "jihadist" movement. This has forced al Qaeda's Saudi branch to attempt strikes in Kuwait and Qatar instead. It is possible that the militants could pull off small- to medium-sized attacks in the United Arab Emirates or Oman, and a surge in activity could even take place in al Qaeda's former stomping ground, Yemen. All the same, widening the sphere of operations will not, by itself, compensate for a decline in the effectiveness of attacks.
The only place where al Qaeda has been able to act with relative success has been Iraq -- though even that has required co-opting an existing group, al-Zarqawi's organization, which established itself in the mayhem following the ouster of the Hussein regime. Signaling a growing sense of the original al Qaeda's impotence, bin Laden is believed to have recently called on al-Zarqawi to concentrate on expanding beyond Iraq -- and if possible, to attempt strikes in the continental United States. The message, intercepted by U.S. intelligence, indicates that al Qaeda prime considers Iraq to be a lost cause.
Even al-Zarqawi has acknowledged that he faces a crisis: In one of his initial communiques to bin Laden, early last year, he warned that his fighters were in a race against time. The Sunnis' nationalist insurgency may linger on for some time after the consolidation of the new Shiite-led government in Baghdad, but transnational militants -- who have contributed only a small fraction of the overall daily attacks -- will probably not last long once a new Iraqi Constitution is drafted and a democratically elected government is in power. Therefore, if the most robust of all its units now sees the clock ticking for its eventual annihilation, we feel it is safe to view al Qaeda as a largely spent force.
This view is strengthened by the fact that Muslim regimes -- in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and now Iraq -- are finding it necessary to combat suicide bombers and other jihadist operations, prompted not only by U.S. pressure but also the threat to the regimes' own survival. Ultimately, the physical space in which the jihadists can sustain their movement, plan operations and execute strikes is shrinking -- and the likelihood of their own deaths or captures is growing.
For instance, the new government in Iraq has accelerated its efforts to arrest al-Zarqawi, having already captured a number of his key aides, and Pakistani forces have released information that indicates they are making progress in attempts to locate bin Laden and his deputy, al-Zawahiri. These include a March 25 statement by Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, head of the XI Corps in Peshawar and commander of counterterrorism operations in the northwestern tribal regions, who said that bin Laden's security detail consists of nearly 50 men, arranged in concentric circles of security, for which Pakistani forces now are on the lookout.
There also are signs that the U.S. military is preparing to carry out a (possibly final) offensive against the al Qaeda leaders, who are believed to be hiding in northwestern Pakistan. Among these is Washington's long-awaited decision March 25 to sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Islamabad -- a move that will give President Gen. Pervez Musharraf the political capital he needs to launch a joint offensive with the United States on Pakistani soil. U.S. forces also have relocated from western Afghanistan to areas along its border with Pakistan.
The capture or death of any of the three militant leaders would pose a significant setback for lower echelons of the jihadist movement, which would lose direction and a source of morale. Jihadist operatives are fueled not only by constant doses of ideology, but also by tangible proof of their own progress or success. With tempos of operations at their lowest ebb since the Sept. 11 strikes, the elimination of all or even one of the top three leaders could erode al Qaeda's capabilities to the point that attacks are regarded as mere nuisances -- a level that, though undesirable, is manageable.
Another point to consider is that a certain combination of circumstances gave rise to al Qaeda and created an environment that allowed it to nourish and grow -- domestic conditions within Muslim nation-states; regional forces within the Middle East and South Asia; and the international situation within the context of the Cold War. Even within that environment, however, it took bin Laden and his followers some 15 to 20 years to establish al Qaeda as a significant geopolitical threat.
The conditions that fostered al Qaeda's growth no longer exist, and the current global fight against Islamist militant movements will make it nearly impossible for the next generation of jihadists -- which potentially could emerge, though it would likely take more than 15 to 20 years -- to replace al Qaeda on an equal scale, once the group has been squelched out. In short, we do not believe the world faces a long-term threat from current jihadist elements -- and we might in fact be entering another cycle of relative security, until another generation of Islamist extremists can revive transnational militancy.
Essentially, we are entering another age in which global relationships are defined by alliances and tensions between nation-states.
Now, some have suggested that the war in Iraq, like the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan, has become a breeding ground for the next generation of Islamist militants. Though there certainly are similarities -- both situations involve warfare, a convergence of Arab and Muslim fighters and the presence of Islamist extremists -- there are significant differences as well. Perhaps the most important is that in Afghanistan, the majority of the populace opposed Soviet efforts to prop up an Afghan Marxist regime, which came to be viewed as a godless oppressor and legitimate target of jihad. In Baghdad, the new, U.S.-backed government -- made up of Shia and Kurds -- actually has the support of most Iraqi voters. Furthermore, the political process in Iraq is undercutting the insurgency by co-opting many of its leaders -- and there is no rival foreign power with its own proxies, seeking to contain U.S. efforts.
Among the Sunni elements, there also are differences: The Iraq conflict has not attracted nearly as many foreign Muslim fighters as did the war in Afghanistan, nor do the majority of Iraqi Sunnis subscribe to al Qaeda's extremist Wahhabi ideology.
It could be further argued that the Bush administration's push for democratization -- especially in the Arab Middle East and wider Muslim world -- is another factor that will reduce the attractiveness of militantism in the long term. Because the people of the region have no love for the existing authoritarian political structures, external demands for democracy will mesh with internal desires for greater freedoms and self-determination.
However, fears linger in the West that a truly democratic protest could allow radical anti-U.S. groups to gain power in the Middle East.
These apprehensions bear examination. At least in Iraq and Afghanistan, where political liberalization already is under way, there is empirical evidence to the contrary: We see conservative and even Islamist forces, which wield much greater influence than the militants, moderating their stances as nation-building efforts take root. Similar phenomena have occurred in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan -- states where democratic politics exist, to varying degrees.
In other words, democratization in states where significant Islamist movements make respectable showings in elections has had a moderating effect on Islamist ideologues -- albeit most of these forces are relatively moderate to begin with, compared to those with extremist transnational agendas. It is important to note, as well, that radical and militant Islamists oppose democracy; therefore, notions that radicalism and militancy will only spread with the collapse of autocracies and the onset of democracy carry no water.
The wild card that could sustain jihadism lies in the Chechen situation, where the militants' ethnic makeup makes it hard to detect them. Moreover, they are not facing a dragnet of the same intensity as that directed against al Qaeda. A weakening Russia could provide the circumstances under which the Chechen militants go transnational. But for this to occur, one of two conditions must exist. Either remnants of al Qaeda will have to move to the Caucasus, or the Chechen militants will have to subscribe to an anti-American and pan-Islamist enterprise.
Since the chances of either are slim, the current jihadist movement seems to have passed its peak as a serious geopolitical force -- at least for the next generation.
Reply #153 on:
April 08, 2005, 01:26:36 AM »
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
The Push for Democracy: Ending the 'Karzai Effect'
April 06, 2005 1411 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari
As we recently noted, Washington has moved beyond the military stage of the U.S.-jihadist war and is now in the phase of negotiated settlements. Historically, there has been a problem with such accommodations -- particularly where Islamist forces are involved. This is something we often refer to as "the Karzai effect."
However, the second Bush administration, in its push for democracy around the world, appears to have found a way to achieve its ends without necessarily undermining its Arab/Muslim counterpart. Not only is Washington willing to gamble on the outcome of "messy" democratization, but it also is willing to go where it consciously has avoided going before -- facilitating the rise of Islamist (albeit relatively moderate) forces to power in Muslim states.
It should be remembered that during the first of the Bush administrations, in June 1992, an assistant secretary of state, Edward Djerejian, caveated Washington's support for the spread of democracy, noting somewhat ironically that the United States opposed systems characterized by "one man, one vote, one time." Djerejian was, of course, not referring to the time-honored "one man, one vote" tradition of the United States, but to the landslide victory of Algeria's Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front) in first-round elections there. His remark -- which expressed U.S. fears that an Islamist group would use legitimate elections to take power and then slam and lock the door shut behind it -- came to be viewed as the cornerstone of U.S. policy toward Islamism.
Like so many other notions, that was shattered by the events of Sept. 11,
2001. The transnational threat posed by militant Islamists prompted the
search for moderate voices within the Muslim world. Of those that emerged -- from secularists, regimes and traditionalists -- it is the Islamists the Bush administration has chosen to work with.
This can be seen in several examples from the Middle East: First, Islamist
(Shiite) forces in Iraq and in Iran were the United States' principal allies
in facilitating the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Second, Washington needed
political partners in Iraq who could deliver on a deal -- not secular
leaders who had no control over the street. Third, U.S. policymakers have begun to understand the factionalization within the Islamist movement and how to exploit it to advantage.
In stark contrast to the position voiced during his father's presidency,
President George W. Bush's administration is issuing bold statements. In
April 2003, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the Bush administration wanted to see an Islamic democracy emerge in Iraq -- pointing to Turkey's quasi-Islamist Justice and Development Party regime as a model. And in October 2004, Bush said that though it wasn't his first choice, Washington would accept an Islamic government, if democratically elected.
In Afghanistan, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been
overseeing the integration of "moderate" Taliban forces into the political
process to boost President Hamid Karzai's standing within his own majority Pushtun community.
Now, the Bush administration has upped the ante. Not only has Bush set the spread of democracy as the cornerstone of his second-term foreign policy agenda, but the president in the State of the Union address called directly for Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- two of the United States' closest allies in the Middle East -- to democratize their authoritarian governments.
There is no doubt that the U.S. preference for democratic political systems, at least as applied in the West, is motivated by philosophy and ideology, but the push for democracy in other regions is thwarted by a host of structural and functional problems. Moreover, as with any country, national interest trumps altruism. Thus, the U.S. push for greater democratization in the world in general and in Arab/Muslim countries in particular is motivated primarily by the need and desire to safeguard U.S. national interests and its superpower status around the globe.
Over the long term, democratic processes conceivably could bring order to chaos. Autocratic structures breed social, political and economic
instability, especially in times of political transition. Because of this,
it is also more difficult to predict political turnovers and successions,
since any cracks in the structure can give hidden opposition forces a chance to explode onto the scene. As the world's sole superpower, the United States finds this problematic, since these situations can force it to intervene politically, economically and, of course, militarily.
In the longer term, democracies provide much greater stability, while
authoritarian systems are far superior at controlling disruptions in the
short term. By pushing for democracy -- even in the Middle East -- the
United States is tacitly signaling that the security crisis touched off by
the Sept. 11 attacks is over and that Washington feels sufficiently secure
and in control to weather short-term disruptions in political systems
In the case of the greater Middle East region, whose modern history is
replete with conflicts, Washington appears no longer interested in
short-term, patchwork solutions involving a strongman or proxy group. This is not to say the United States will be pulling its support from the
incumbent authoritarian regimes forthwith. Far from it. Washington is trying to strike a balance by pressuring current rulers to gradually open up the system and, meanwhile, to develop mechanisms whereby alternative and viable leadership can emerge as the autocrats depart the scene, avoiding chaos scenarios in which the United States must intervene on some level.
That explains the logic -- but what about the timing of this initiative? The
answer sheds important light on the future direction of the Middle East. We already have noted that the success in Afghanistan and even more so in Iraq has prompted the Bush administration to extend the democratic experiment to the entire region. Meanwhile, natural forces -- read, old age -- are making regime change inevitable in a number of Middle Eastern states in the near term.
This is most obvious in Egypt, where the failing health of President Hosni
Mubarak will force him to appoint a successor. Saudi King Fahd is monarch in name only; his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, runs affairs in Riyadh. But between them, the crown prince and three immediate princes -- Defense Minister Sultan, Interior Minister Nayef and Riyadh Gov. Salman, who are full brothers of the king and the elite of the Sudairi Seven -- range in age from 69 to 75. It is likely that they, along with Abdullah, could die in quick succession, opening up a power contest between other factions of the House of Saud.
While democratization in the Saudi kingdom is at best a very long-term hope, given the conservative Wahhabist culture and the deeply entrenched monarchical system, other areas, such as Jordan, Syria, Libya and the Persian Gulf states, are in similar situations: The existing autocratic system could be swept away should a wave of democratic fervor strike the region -- as it did in Eastern Central Europe and select areas of the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and more recently in the last year in the Caucuses and Central Asia.
Meanwhile, Washington faces the prospect that it could be forced to have
dealings with Islamist militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. As the Palestinian state begins to take shape -- with the Israeli withdrawals and Palestinian Legislative Council elections in July -- Hamas will be playing a greater role in daily life. In fact, it is expected to make a significant showing in the summer elections.
Officials in Washington understand that at some point -- sooner rather than later -- the Palestinian authority and eventually the state will be based on a power-sharing arrangement between the secular Fatah and the Islamists. Nonetheless, Washington continues to push for democratization of the Palestinian political landscape. In Lebanon, the Bush administration has dropped hints that it is willing to deal with the Shiite militant Islamist movement Hezbollah.
These cases are both a bit complicated, since neither Hamas nor Hezbollah has yet made the shift from being an armed resistance organization to a fully respectable political group. But the very fact that the Bush administration is willing to give these Islamist actors some space on the political stage is quite significant.
It is not just that Washington needs to work with political groups who
command grassroots support; Hamas and Hezbollah exist by default and must be dealt with somehow. The theory is that those who demonstrate some semblance of willingness to play by the rules of democratic politics can be given a stake in the system, which will eventually moderate and temper their radicalism -- which is fueled by exclusion and the need to engage in the politics of protest from the outside.
If successful, this shift on Washington's part could be highly effective in
establishing a bulwark against al Qaeda or other transnational Islamist
militants. In other words, it is Islamist -- not secular -- forces that not
only can stem the tide of the al Qaeda phenomenon but act as a buffer
against a possible jihadist resurgence. Of course, the Bush administration
would not have dared the attempt if it was clear that democratization would bring jihadist groups into power -- Djerejian's principle still stands. It was only after realizing that al Qaeda has been unable to topple any Muslim regimes, and that it is growing increasingly weak, that Washington could safely announce the democracy initiative.
Even with the moderate Islamists, Washington is moving cautiously -- making sure Islamists do not end up dominating the system. In Iraq, this was apparent with the tinkering of the electoral laws and the Transitional
Administrative Law -- the country's interim constitution -- by U.S. civilian
administrator Paul Bremer to make a mixed government unavoidable.
On a final note, it is interesting that democratization could, in a
significant way, stem the tide of anti-American sentiments in other parts of the world. If political forces backed by the masses come to power as a
result of the Bush administration's push for democracy, this will over time
improve the U.S. image in foreign eyes.
For this to happen, the Bush administration knows it needs to extend olive branches, which it has done by appointing new officials at the Pentagon and State Department -- and most obviously by removing some of the most hawkish neoconservatives from policymaking positions. The reshuffle is Washington's way of trying to prepare the ground for the growth of democracy, without making any new governments appear to be puppets or otherwise engineered pro-U.S. regimes. The appointment of Bush confidante Karen Hughes to lead the public diplomacy drive in the Middle East/Muslim world further exemplifies this trend.
In essence, Washington understands that if deals are going to be cut, the
United States first must create an environment conducive to deal making.
This means U.S. proposals must not be viewed as immediate threats to the survival of Arab or Muslim regimes that have assisted its war against al Qaeda, and that anti-Americanism within the region must be contained within acceptable levels.
If democratization and engaging moderate Islamists works, Washington just might be able to rid itself, for good, of the Karzai effect.
(c) 2005 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Review of the Silberman-Robb Commisssion Report
Reply #154 on:
April 08, 2005, 09:34:52 AM »
Perhaps this is misfiled; it's a review of a recent report on the state of US intelligence gathering. Think the most salient point the author raises here is that we'd be far better off greatly reducing the size of our intelligence community by dumping the dead weight and then rebuilding. As someone who has made a living over the years by walking into dysfunctional organizations and making them work--often times by firing all the boneheads first--I couldn't agree more.
April 07, 2005, 8:08 a.m.
Virtues and sins of commission.
Two cheers for the Silberman-Robb Commission Report, which for the first time raises some of the basic issues about the rot that has long festered within the intelligence community. Yes, it?s too long, (much too long), and unfortunately the authors are forever telling us ?we think, we recommend, we believe,? rather than just writing simple declarative English. But okay, that?s the way commissions work, and there is a lot here that makes it worth the heavy plowing to get through the 600 pages. Unfortunately, the entire argument ? one of the great merits of the enterprise is that there is actually a sustained and coherent argument from beginning to end ? rests on an unprovable assumption that is unnecessary and, alas, quite likely misleading.
The good things are very good, and the very best thing is that they recognize that intelligence is more an art than a science, and they therefore rightly insist that the success or failure of the intelligence community will ultimately depend on the quality of the people and how they are treated. I can?t remember the last time that was said in a public document, or even in the mounting pile of commentary on the report, and it?s really the most important thing. Silberman/Robb say it, say it often, and try to figure out how best to do it. They recognize that the culture of the community is rotten ? the results speak for themselves, after all ? and they suggest ways to retain talented people, ranging from attractive side benefits like travel, sabbaticals, and greater opportunities to mix with the outside intellectual world.
Changing the culture club
They recognize that the community will need both generalists and specialists, and they properly insist that there must be room for both. If an analyst wants to spend her career studying Yemen, and Yemen alone, it might be a good thing. If a case officer wants to spend decades in Central Asia, we should probably encourage him to do it. I agree entirely, but this requires a radical revision in the way promotions and awards are handed out, and it?s not going to be easy to find leaders with the confidence and courage necessary to do it. Which puts us back in front of the basic problem once again. How do you find good people, and how do you keep them once you?ve found them?
They are also alarmed at a recent brain drain that has left the community bottom-heavy with new arrivals, and they suggest the creation of an ?intelligence university? where the recruits can be properly trained. They hope that this, combined with their recommendations to make life in the community more attractive, will help solve the manpower problem. But here, too, the chickens and eggs often become indistinguishable from one another. We?re dealing with a failed culture, as the commission tells us over and over again. Who?s going to staff the university? If it?s the remaining ?experts? (that is, mostly the mediocre ones who didn?t or couldn?t join the brain drain), how can Intel U produce good graduates? It just becomes a method of perpetuating the failed culture, doesn?t it?
The commission vigorously endorses ?competitive analysis,? and is remarkably open-minded about the best way to accomplish this. I think they are right to recognize that this will often depends on the subject; sometimes it will be best to ask outside analysts to take a fresh look, other questions will be best addressed by ?Teams B? from inside the community. Their insistence on the urgency of intellectual conflict within the community is one of the most refreshing parts of the report, and one can only hope that Negroponte, Goss, and Jacoby take it to heart.
The report suffers from the community?s favorite conceit: that there is something called ?tradecraft? that distinguishes an intelligence analyst or case officer from every other scholar or investigator. In the case of analysis, this is nonsense; it?s one of the little clouds that intelligence officers use to dismiss conflicting views and criticism. Yes, those who analyze satellite images need special skills, but so does a sociologist analyzing urban turmoil. And the ?tradecraft? of the real spooks, the case officers and deep cover spies, has been perhaps the greatest community failure for at least a generation. Here, the commission identifies one of the prime reasons for that failure: The community rewards ?recruitments? rather than finding precious secrets from our enemies. This in turn puts a premium on getting ?assets? to accept money, so that the case officer can add a notch to his ?asset belt.? But there are many cases in which people with invaluable information won?t take money from CIA or DIA or the FBI; they?re willing to cooperate with us, but not work for us. Yet the community culture is famously bad at dealing with such people.
All of which leads to two conclusions that the commission could not reach, even though, reading between the lines, it seems pretty clear they would have if they could have: First, there must be accountability, and this means that lots of people should be fired (and should have been fired long since, especially after 9/11). And second, that, instead of expanding personnel ? as the president requested and Congress obliged after the terrorist attacks three and a half years ago, and as the president again requested and Congress again obliged following the dreadful recommendations of the 9/11 Commission just before last year?s elections ? we should drastically reduce manpower, and then, if necessary, slowly rebuild.
If talent and accountability are indeed the crucial issues ? and, to repeat, the great strength of the report is its recognition that these are the crux of the matter ? then it is impossible to get a good intelligence community by shuffling the failed bureaucrats around in new configurations, and then providing them with lots of new bodies to badly train and educate. It is a guaranteed formula for worse intelligence because it produces more and more bad analysts and ineffective case officers. The intelligence community needs a big-time purge, not a brainless expansion accompanied by a monster reshuffle of boxes, connections, and interagency groups.
The commission couldn?t say these things, because they were not part of its mandate. Instead, they occasionally hint at these conclusions ? I can?t imagine such a great talent as Larry Silberman (who should be sitting on the Supreme Court) submitting to total censorship on such an important matter ? and probably raised the matter, verbally, when they briefed the top congressional and executive-branch officials.
Finally, the unprovable assumption I started with: that there were no WMDs in Iraq. The report says, over and over, that the assessment that Saddam had an active WMD program, and that there were significant quantities of WMDs, was ?dead wrong.? But we don?t know that. Indeed, we can not possibly know it. All we know, at the moment, is that we didn?t find any, and the current wisdom has it that we didn?t find them because they weren?t there in the first place.
To which one must ask: Were all the intelligence services of the world ?dead wrong?? Were the others as bad as we were? Did Brits, French, Germans, Russians, Israelis, Italians, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Spaniards, to name a few, all come to the same wrong conclusion? What are the odds on that? Why should anyone believe that? Aging readers of NRO may recall that, months before the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I wrote that WMDs were being smuggled to Iran and Syria. Others, including people on the ground, have said the same or similar things. On what basis are those hypotheses dismissed?
They are dismissed by constant reference to the Iraq Survey Group. Without putting too fine an edge on it, the ISG comes from the same intelligence community that the commission savages for hundreds of pages. Why should this particular group?s findings (actually non-findings) be taken as canonical? It makes no sense to me.
I don?t think it would have weakened the commission?s critique one iota to have said, ?We do not know whether Saddam actually had these things. We only know that none has been found. If there were none, it is one kind of intelligence failure. If there were WMDs but don?t seem to be there now, it?s another kind of failure. Either way, we failed.?
The great advantage of taking that position ? aside from its logical superiority to the unprovable assumption ? is that it reminds us that the war against the terror masters is not a war in a single country, but a life-and-death struggle over a vast region, in which our enemies help one another in many ways. And our failure to recognize that, and plan accordingly, is truly the greatest intelligence failure of them all.
? Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.
Reply #155 on:
April 18, 2005, 11:07:49 PM »
Geopolitical Intelligence Report: From Islamism to Post Islamism
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
From Islamism to Post-Islamism
April 18, 2005 1424 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari
Amid continuing efforts to resolve its post-Sept. 11 security crisis, the
United States and European countries increasingly are dealing with what once
would have been an unlikely array of political partners in the Muslim and
Arab worlds: Islamist groups.
Because they advocate the imposition of Islamic law in national politics,
Islamists -- or what Westerners formerly have referred to as Islamic
fundamentalists -- might at first glance seem to have little, if any, role
in the Bush administration's second-term push for democratization throughout
the world. But they are, in fact, among the United States' most potent
potential partners as Washington and others seek to conclude the jihadist
war and lay a foundation for relations with the Muslim world.
These efforts, which mark a significant shift in Washington's own
approach -- particularly in the Middle East -- will impact what has been a
long-running competition within political Islam: the struggle of moderate
Islamists of many varieties, who make up the bulk of the Muslim world, to
attain power without sacrificing their religious ideals or credentials.
As a political ideology, Islamism achieved its first major victory with the
Iranian revolution in 1979. At that time, in the context of the Cold War, it
was not perceived as the next great challenge for the United States or the
West. That perception emerged only with the Sept. 11 attacks and ensuing
war. For the past three and a half years, media attention to the issue has
created a perception -- correctly or otherwise -- that Islamism is
proliferating and poses a growing security threat.
Islamists make up a significant portion of the Muslim political landscape --
supported by believers who are concerned about the fate of Islamic values
and culture in the modern age, when Western and particularly American ideals
and culture seem to permeate the globe. Nevertheless, Islamist groups have
had little success in translating their popularity into votes and actual
But that is slowly beginning to change.
Mechanics of Moderation
Though logic dictates that some forms of radical and militant beliefs will
persist, Islamism on the whole increasingly is moving toward moderation.
This is evident in many areas -- including Lebanon and the Palestinian
territories, where groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas are bidding to play a
part in mainstream politics.
This shift has little to do with any external factors. Instead, it is part
of a natural evolution for groups that thus far have been unable to capture
the imagination of the masses sufficiently to take political power. Turkey
is the only Muslim state in which an Islamist group of sorts -- the Justice
and Development Party (AK) -- controls the government, but even the AK can
be considered an "Islamist-lite" party, since it is a more pragmatic and
increasingly moderate version of its predecessors, the Virtue, Welfare,
National Salvation, and National Order parties going as far back as 1970.
As democracies around the world have shown before, ideology is important to
voters, but not more important than the material interests of the people.
Politically, ideology is a medium that allows a people to secure their
interests; if it does not succeed in doing that, it will remain a peripheral
For example, in the Middle East, Fatah has become an acceptable partner for
the United States and Israel at the peace talks table, but support among the
Palestinians is splintered because the government has not been able to build
sufficient infrastructure. Conversely, Hamas commands a great deal of local
support because of the social services it provides; but in order to achieve
power within the mainstream, the militant group ultimately will have to
compromise its ideological stance on the existence of a Jewish state.
Defining Islamist Movements
Though its intellectual roots stretch back to the social, economic and
political upheavals of the late 19th century, Islamism emerged as a
political movement in 1928, when the Ikhwan al Muslimeen (Muslim
Brotherhood) was founded in Egypt, and spread from there to British India,
where Jamiat-i-Islami (Islamic Group/Association) was launched in 1941. By
the 1950s and 1960s, when most of the Muslim countries had gained
independence from their European colonial rulers, these organizations and
their counterparts in other states became serious political entities.
Islamist groups distinguished themselves from others -- which included
secular, nationalist and Marxist Muslim groups, to name a few -- by seeking
to establish or re-establish what they argued was an Islamic state in their
home countries. In other words, they wanted the state to implement Islamic
law. Beyond that, however, there is no agreement even today on exactly what
an Islamic state is or should be.
Not only are the reasons for this disagreement too vast to be explored here,
they also are less important than the means by which the various brands of
Islamists seek to achieve their goals. Though it is their attitudes toward
their religion and modernity that makes Islamists "moderate," "radical" or
"militant," it is their approach toward establishing their political goals
that defines their relationships with other Muslim and non-Muslim entities.
A vast majority of Islamists in almost all Muslim states are moderates: They
pursue the establishment of an Islamic polity through democratic means. At
the other end of the Islamist spectrum are the militant groups who want to
fight the incumbent regimes to attain power. During the 1990s, the militants
went transnational and began fighting the United States -- the main support
behind the existing Muslim regimes -- as a tactic toward this end goal. Al
Qaeda and its allies around the world represent the transnational jihadists.
In the middle are several groups that can be viewed as nonviolent but that
espouse a radical agenda. For example, Hizb al-Tahrir -- founded in 1952 by
Palestinians living in Jordan and now present in many parts of the world --
rejects the use of armed struggle but seeks to overturn the political
nation-state structure in order to re-establish the caliphate.
While the moderate, radical and militant labels refer to political
attitudes, the behavior of various Islamist groups can be classified as
either "integrationist," "isolationist" or "interactionist."
Moderate Islamists are integrationists, in the sense that they embrace the
existing structure and function of the state -- they are willing to work
within constitutional bounds to establish their Islamic government.
Moreover, they engage society by organizing themselves into various civil
society groups and reaching out to the public. The Muslim Brotherhood,
Jamiat-i-Islami and its counterparts in South Asia are key examples.
Radical Islamists are interactionists -- they interact with society to
foment popular revolution that would destroy the state power structure they
reject as illegitimate. They also seek out sympathetic elements within
existing state structures to support their efforts to oust those regimes.
But most radical groups reject both democratic and the existing autocratic
forms of government as un-Islamic, because they are secular systems. They
seek instead to restore the old caliphal/emiratic forms of governance --
though with some modifications to fit current realities. However, they also
reject the use of violence to further their political interests.
Militant Islamists -- most of whom are jihadists -- are isolationists. Not
only do they want to fight the state, but their operational needs for
secrecy preclude them from engaging the masses. Moreover, militant Islamists
subscribe to a top-down approach: The idea is to capture power and then
Islamize the state and society, Taliban-style.
Now, there are some exceptions to these rules. For example, both the
Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite movement
Hezbollah maintain large militias and engage in violence, but they do not
direct their strikes at the Muslim state. Nor do they fit neatly into the
"jihadist" mold cast by al Qaeda, for various ideological, religious and
Their militant wings notwithstanding, neither Hamas nor Hezbollah seek to
establish an Islamic authority through armed struggle. They have routinely
acted as spoilers in the context of political developments from which they
were marginalized or excluded -- and as is now evident in the Middle East,
they seek to advance their position through electoral means.
Moderation Leading to Interface
Now, with the United States actively searching for political as well as
military solutions to its post-Sept.-11 security problems, the odds of
success for Islamists are greater than ever before. By adopting a more
democratic approach, it becomes possible for the Islamists not only to begin
working with other domestic groups, but to open up a channel of
communication with the United States as well. This already is occurring in
Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
The Bush administration's declarations that its war on terrorism does not
constitute a war against Islam or Muslims are much more than rhetoric.
Military action has been focused against transnational and local or regional
jihadists that have directly targeted the United States or its interests.
There is nothing in Bush doctrine per se that precludes Washington from
working with moderate Islamists -- but there are fears and uncertainty about
how to deal with nonviolent radical groups, which have evaded the spotlight
amid the manhunts for militants and political negotiations with others. The
fact that these radicals eschew violence but espouse revolutions that might
run counter to U.S. interests will complicate policymaking in this area for
Meanwhile, it is the moderate Islamists who present Washington's best option
for the future. As history has shown, non-Islamist moderates with whom the
United States initially thought to partner -- for example, Pakistani
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the Saudi monarchy -- do not necessarily
enjoy the support of the masses. Now, the strategy is to engage certain
types of Islamists in political dialogue, as Washington looks to use the
weight of the majority to counter the radical and militant fringes.
Toward a Post-Islamist Era?
Islamists always represented a small fraction of the more than 1 billion
Muslims worldwide, and militants are an even smaller subset. This situation
has been impacted, however, by the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent events.
Now, militant Islamists are on the run, and the search for viable
alternatives -- as well as democracy movements -- is lending itself to
dialogue between moderate Islamist actors and Washington.
At the intellectual and ideological level, integrationists, interactionists
and isolationists are all locked in a struggle for supremacy. The
integrationists have the upper hand, since the militants are busy trying to
save their skins and the radicals -- though heavy on diagnosis and dogma --
offer no tangible solutions to existing political problems.
However, the outcome of the struggle will depend, to a great extent, on
Washington, which is fast moving away from an emphasis on military
operations to one on calibrated negotiations. The U.S. contact with the
moderates does risk delegitimizing them, but concrete political results and
social improvements in the Arab/Muslim world would be the antidote.
The marginalization of the isolationists and the interactionists will allow
the integrationists to gain the upper hand within the Islamist camp. But
that does not necessarily mean that in the end the Islamist agenda will win
the day. Once they have made the transition from opposition to dominance,
these groups -- as we are seeing in Iraq -- likely will not be able to push
their religious agendas too far.
As a practical matter, Islamists now are undergoing an ideological
transformation. The heretofore heavy and rigid emphasis on doctrine is
giving way under concerns about how best to turn doctrine into action.
When the dust settles, the Islamists likely will come to terms with the fact
that the Quran and the Sunnah merely provide broad normative principles,
which are applicable only through broad-based discussions, debates and
negotiations -- a process facilitated by a democratic framework.
As belief in a specific and timeless Islamic polity crumbles, an age of
post-Islamism likely will emerge. In other words, the Muslim world is on the
verge of embracing a version of modernity that is in keeping with its
Islamic ethos. This would differ markedly from the periods of secularism and
Islamism that followed the death of the caliphal age.
In this post-Islamist age, Islamist and non-Islamist Muslim powerbrokers
will mingle. And in this environment, pragmatism will temper ideology.
(c) 2005 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Intelligence Gathering Piece
Reply #156 on:
April 20, 2005, 11:34:19 AM »
This is the first time I've encountered this blog so I'm hesitant to post this piece; for all I know this author should sport a tinfoil hat. Still, this is the best survey of DOD intelligence practices I've encountered, and all quotes are sourced (go to the URL at the end of the article; the original links to all citations).
The most compelling element here, IMO, is the argument for an intelligence apparatus that has both data gatherers and end users in the same chain of command. A simple conclusion, one, alas, that standard CIA practices prevent.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Spy Vs. Spy
Linda Robinson's compelling opening paragraph in US News and World Report is at once suggestive and accusatory. It is suggestive of what human intelligence gathering and analysis can achieve while subtly asking why it was not done before.
In the second week of December 2003, U.S. Special Forces captured an Iraqi man named Fawzi Rashid, a top insurgent leader in Baghdad. Rashid was carrying a letter from Saddam Hussein, U.S. News has learned, that was less than a week old. It would prove to be the key break in the 10-month manhunt for the Iraqi dictator. Military intelligence specialists, working with the Green Berets, persuaded Rashid to identify the courier who had delivered the letter. Two days later, the courier led U.S. forces to Saddam's grim spider hole. The lightning-fast sequence of events was the result of a decision to have intelligence analysts work side by side with soldiers, known in Pentagon-speak as "collectors." "Analysts were telling the collectors what they needed, and collectors were giving their collections right back to the analysts," says a senior Pentagon official, describing Saddam's capture. "What's new . . . is that you had analysts and collectors all under the same chain of command."
If the target in the story was Saddam Hussein, the target of the story was the Central Intelligence Agency. But the Washington Post describes the US military efforts to create a human intelligence gathering infrastructure in less glowing terms, depicting it as a Rumsfeldian dodge to conduct operations without Congressional oversight.
The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The previously undisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for what is known as human intelligence. Designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces. ... Pentagon officials emphasized their intention to remain accountable to Congress, but they also asserted that defense intelligence missions are subject to fewer legal constraints than Rumsfeld's predecessors believed. ... Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all "deployment orders," or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position U.S. forces for combat. But guidelines issued this month by Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone state that special operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations . . . before publication" of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the "war on terror" as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat.
At a Department of Defense briefing, an unnamed senior Defense official flatly denied these charges, emphasizing that these Strategic Support Teams were in fact lineal descendants of earlier units called "Human Augmentation Teams"; that they would operate directly under senior commanders -- but not the Secretary of Defense -- and that the tasks of the teams were coordinated with the Director of Central Intelligence. That hardly mollified some critics. AP writer Robert Burns reports "Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats called for hearings, but Republicans balked. According to The Washington Post, the Department of Defense is changing the guidelines with respect to oversight and notification of Congress by military intelligence. Is this true or false?" Feinstein wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld." One key difference, according to the IHT was that ""DOD is not looking to go develop strategic intelligence," said one senior adviser to Rumsfeld who has an intelligence background. "They're looking for information like, where's a good landing strip?"
It appears that they are looking for slightly more than that. Global Security reports that the Pentagon is building up a constellation of human intelligence support systems including:
J2X CONOPS -- a system for providing analytic support to HUMINT operations at the strategic, theater, and tactical echelons;
ROVER -- a geospatial Information System-Palmtop- Digital camera system;
FALCON, FORUM and SMINDS -- which are automatic translation systems enabling people of different languages to speak to each other simultaneously or interpet documents in foreign languages while in the field.
WMD1st and Digital RSTA -- WMD analysis and a targeting tool; and
a HUMINT laptop system to house all the relevant tools.
This looks very much like a closed-loop system in which intelligence leads can be prosecuted iteratively until they lead to action, with no discernible boundary in between. But it is not the philosophical abolition of the barrier between thought and deed that really rankles. It is also about turf. Linda Robinson asserts that the scale of the Pentagon effort effectively threatens the CIA monopoly on spying, whatever the Department of Defense says.
A key flashpoint has been the recruitment and handling of sources. For many years, all intelligence sources recruited by U.S. agencies, including the Pentagon, were registered and maintained through the CIA's InterSource Registry. Now the Pentagon has begun registering the human sources it uses for military purposes under a separate registry, called J2X.
Whether or not the Pentagon succeeds in its endeavors remains to be seen. What is less debatable is the need to improve human intelligence operations. Marc Ruel Gercht in a Weekly Standard article described the CIA's currently human intelligence system as seriously broken. He believed that as presently constituted the Agency had no chance of significantly penetrating the ranks of the terrorist enemy.
One can, however, grade intelligence services on whether they have established operational methods that would maximize the chances of success against less demanding targets--for example, against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, which is by definition an ecumenical organization constantly searching for holy-warrior recruits. It is by this standard that ... the CIA will continue to fail, assuming it maintains its current practices. ... It was in great part structurally foreordained: Not only the promotion system but also the decision to deploy the vast majority of case officers overseas under official cover--posing as U.S. diplomats, military officers, and so on--set in motion a counterproductive psychology and methods of operation that still dominate the CIA today. ... And there is simply no way that case officers--who still today are overwhelmingly deployed overseas under official cover or, worse, at home in ever-larger task forces--can possibly meet, recruit, or neutralize the most dangerous targets in a sensible, sustainable way.
It is into that gaping breach that the CIA's rivals will sail.
posted by wretchard at 11:34 AM
Reply #157 on:
April 20, 2005, 03:36:47 PM »
I just joined here after having been emailing with Marc for a couple of years with another group. It was your post that provided the impetus. I have read Belmont Club for a couple of years and it has tended to have very reliable analysis of the topics that he covers. The sources that he will quote are usually at the top of their game. Occasionally, he will also post from two State Dept overseas foreign service officer blogs who have very interesting takes on things. They tend to differ with the standard view of State, and more open to Condi.
The Art of WW III
Reply #158 on:
April 22, 2005, 05:22:47 PM »
April 22, 2005, 7:43 a.m.
Winning the War
But don?t forget the rules of this strange conflict!
Victor Davis Hanson
If we look back at the war that started on September 11, there have emerged some general rules that should guide us in the next treacherous round of the struggle against Islamic fascism, the autocracies that aid and abet it, and the method of terror that characterizes it.
1. Political promises must be kept. Had the United States postponed the scheduled January elections in Iraq ? once the hue and cry of Washington insiders ? the insurrection would have waxed rather than waned. Only the combination of U.S. arms, the training of indigenous forces, and real Iraqi sovereignty can eliminate the vestiges of hard-core jihadists and Saddamites.
Given our previous record ? allowing Saddam to survive in1991, restoring the Kuwaiti royals after the Gulf War, subsidies for the Mubbarak autocracy, and a moral pass given the Saudi royals ? we must bank carefully any good will that we accrue if support for democracy is going to be a credible alternative to the old realpolitik. Reformers with no power in Egypt or the Gulf, who oppose such ?moderate? autocracies, must, despite all the danger that such a policy entails, be seen in the same positive light as those dissidents in far more peril in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Consistency and principle are the keys, and they will be worth more than a division or an air wing in bringing this war to a close.
2. Any warnings to use force ? much less unfortunate unguarded braggadocio ? should be credible and followed through. The efforts of the terrorists are aimed at the psychological humiliation and loss of face of American power, not its actual military defeat. Appearance is as often important as reality, especially for those who live in the eighth rather than the 21st century.
After the horrific butchery of Americans in Fallujah in late March 2004, we promised to hunt down the perpetrators, only to pull back in April and May, and allow the city a subsequent half-year of Islamic terror, before retaking it in November. The initial hesitation almost derailed the slated elections; the subsequent siege ensured their success. Nothing has been more deleterious in this war than the promise of hard force to come, followed by temporization. Either silence about our intent or bold military action is required, though a combination of both is preferable.
3. Diplomatic solutions follow, not precede, military reality. Had we failed in Afghanistan, Musharraf would be an Islamic nationalist today, for the sake of his own survival. Withdrawing from Iraq in defeat would have meant no progress in Lebanon. Some hope followed in the Middle East only because the Intifada was crushed and Arafat is in paradise. The Muslims scholars of Iraq talk differently now than a year ago because thousands of their sympathetic terrorists have been killed in the Sunni Triangle. The would-be Great Mahdi Moqtada Sadr is more buffoon than Khomeini reborn since his militia was crushed last year.
A quarter century, from the Iranian hostage-taking to 9/11, should have taught us the wages of thinking that an Arafat, bin Laden, assorted hostage-takers, an Iranian mullah, Saddam, or Mullah Omar might listen to a reasoned diplomat in striped pants. Our mistake was not so much that appeasement and empty threats made no impression on such cutthroats. The real tragedy instead was that onlookers who wished to ally with us shuddered that the United States either would talk to, or keep its hands off, almost any monster or mass murderer in the Middle East ? if such accommodation meant sort of a continuation of the not so bothersome status quo. In contrast, that bin Laden and Mullah Omar are in hiding, Saddam in chains, Dr. Khan exposed, the young Assad panicking, and Colonel Khadafi on better behavior will slowly teach others the wages of their killing and terrorism and that the United States is as unpredictable in using force as it is constant in supporting democratic reformers.
4. The worst attitude toward the Europeans and the U.N. is publicly to deprecate their impotent machinations while enlisting their aid in extremis. After being slurred by both, we then asked for their military help, peace-keepers, and political intervention ? winning no aid of consequence except contempt in addition to inaction.
Praise the U.N. and Europe to the skies. Yet under no circumstances pressure them to do what they really don?t want to, which only leads to their gratuitous embarrassment and the logical need to get even in the most petty and superficial ways. The U.N. efforts to retard the American removal of Saddam interrupted the timetable of invasion. Its immediate flight after having its headquarters bombed emboldened the terrorists. And a viable U.S. coalition was caricatured by its failed obsequious efforts to lure in France and Germany. We should look to the U.N. and Old Europe only in times of post-bellum calm when it is in the national interest of the United States to give credit for the favorable results of our own daring to opportunistic others ? occasions that are not as rare as we might think.
5. Do not look for logic and consistency in the Middle East where they are not to be found. It makes no sense to be frustrated that Arab intellectuals and reformers damn us for removing Saddam and simultaneously praise democratic rumblings that followed his fall. We should accept that the only palatable scenario for the Arab Street was one equally fanciful: Brave demonstrators took to the barricades, forced Saddam?s departure, created a constitution, held elections, and then invited other Arab reformers into Baghdad to spread such indigenous reform ? all resulting in a society as sophisticated, wealthy, free, and modern as the West, but felt to be morally superior because of its allegiance to Islam. That is the dream that is preferable to the reality that the Americans alone took out the monster of the Middle East and that any peaceful protest against Saddam would have ended in another genocide.
Ever since the departure of the colonials, the United States, due to its power and principled support for democratic Israel, has served a Middle Eastern psychological need to account for its own self-created impotence and misery, a pathology abetted by our own past realpolitik and nurtured by the very autocrats that we sought to accommodate.
After all these years, do not expect praise or gratitude for billions poured into Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, or Palestine or thanks for the liberation of Kuwait, protection of Saudi Arabia in 1990, or the removal of Saddam ? much less for American concern for Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia, the Sudan, or Afghanistan. Our past sins always must be magnified as much as our more recent benefactions are slighted.
In response, American policy should be predicated not on friendship or the desire for appreciation, but on what is in our national interest and what is right ? whose symbiosis is possible only through the current policy of consistently promoting democracy. Constitutional government is not utopia ? only the proper antidote for the sickness in the Middle East, and the one medicine that hateful jihadists, dictators, kings, terrorists, and theocrats all agree that they alike hate.
The events that followed September 11 are the most complex in our history since the end of World War II, and require far more skill and intuition than even what American diplomats needed in the Cold War, when they contained a nuclear but far more predictable enemy. Since 9/11 we have endured a baffling array of shifting and expedient pronouncements and political alliances, both at home and abroad. So we now expect that most who profess support for democratization abroad do so only to the degree that ? and as long as ? the latest hourly news from Iraq is not too bad.
One of the most disheartening things about this war is the realization that on any given day, a number of once-stalwart supporters will suddenly hedge, demand someone?s resignation, or bail, citing all sorts of legitimate grievances without explaining that none of their complaints compares to past disappointments in prior successful wars ? and without worry that the only war in which America was defeated was lost more at home than abroad.
Yet if we get through all this with the extinction of Islamic-fascist terrorism and an end to the Middle East autocracy that spawned and nurtured it ? and I think we are making very good progress in doing just that and in less than four years ? it will only be because of the superb quality of the American military and the skilful diplomacy of those who have so temperately unleashed it.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
Reply #159 on:
May 04, 2005, 08:58:15 PM »
Capture in Pakistan: Tightening the Squeeze on Al Qaeda
Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said May 4 that Islamabad captured Abu Farj al-Libi, one of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's closest associates. Al-Libi, a Libyan national, is accused of two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. His arrest deals a serious blow to al Qaeda's operational capability -- and likely will increase U.S. pressure on Islamabad to get the final job done.
Pakistani security forces raiding a house in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier
Province have captured Abu Farj al-Libi and five other foreign al Qaeda
operatives, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said May 4. Al-Libi, a Libyan national accused of having masterminded two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is believed to be al Qaeda's third in command.
The capture in the town of Mardan of one of Osama bin Laden's top military commanders -- al-Libi replaced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the No. 3 post after the latter's capture in March 2003 -- likely puts al Qaeda's top leadership in a much more vulnerable position. Significantly, it also comes at a time when the global jihadist organization desperately needs to launch a major attack if it is to maintain its credibility, but is having trouble doing so.
Although Pakistani authorities appear to be closing in on the al Qaeda
leadership, al-Libi might be unable to divulge information on bin Laden's
location. Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- seen in a
September 2003 al Qaeda videotape walking in a remote mountainous area -- would want to limit their travel to avoid capture. Bin Laden, in fact,
likely is hiding somewhere in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal
Areas, with the help of locals.
A leading operational chief such as al-Libi (the name is a nom de guerre)
would probably not have access to information regarding bin Laden's exact location, since his duty to carry out operations puts him at greater risk of being caught. Bin Laden likely communicates with his operational leaders through intermediaries -- he would keep his location secret from al-Libi in order to avoid being tracked.
Al-Libi's capture comes at a time when Pakistani-U.S. relations are heating up over a planned joint operation against al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan. As Stratfor has said, the time is ripe for a final offensive to capture bin Laden and relieve U.S. forces in the region. Though the United States is eager to get the operation completed, Islamabad is doing all it can to delay it -- and to make it appear that Pakistani authorities have the situation under control. It is quite likely that U.S. forces played a significant role in al-Libi's capture, and allowed Islamabad to take credit for the operation to avoid upsetting local sensibilities.
Pakistan responded quickly after U.S. Lt. Gen. David Barno, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, recently said Musharraf plans to launch an operation against al Qaeda in North Waziristan. Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan rejected Barno's statement, saying only the Pakistani government and army would decide when and where it should launch the operation.
As Pakistan experiences increasing domestic turmoil, Musharraf will push his claim that dialogue with tribal chieftains in the region is the safest way
to tame his domestic constituency -- and to weaken al Qaeda. This claim,
however, probably will not relieve U.S. pressure on him to act. Regardless
of whether Musharraf likes it, this significant capture will increase
Washington's determination to execute its military plans -- and finish off
Reply #160 on:
May 05, 2005, 05:06:27 PM »
Peace Process in Crisis: Abbas' Dilemma
By George Friedman
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is now facing its first serious crisis since the death of Yasser Arafat. The process may not survive. The problem is the same that has plagued previous attempts at peace: Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is not able to guarantee that all Palestinian factions will honor an agreement.
The problem exists on both sides, obviously. There are Israelis who oppose the peace process as well as Palestinians. The Israeli opposition, however, is unlikely to derail the peace process so long as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remains committed to it. Sharon is a man of the Israeli Right, and in many ways, historically, has embodied it. Many of his fellow Rightists are appalled at what he is doing, but in the end, this can never be more than a relatively small faction. When you are as far to the right as Sharon, your right-wing opposition is going to be more noisy than significant. Sharon can deliver if he wants to.
Abbas has a different problem: There is no equivalent consensus among the Palestinians. Instead, they are divided into three factions.
First, there are those who are prepared to accept a Palestinian state as a permanent solution and are prepared both to recognize Israel's right to exist and to permanently abandon a military option against Israel.
Second, there is the faction that is prepared to accept a peace agreement as a temporary solution -- perhaps one lasting for several generations -- but not a permanent one. In other words, this faction sees peace in terms of an extended cease-fire rather than as a permanent solution.
Third, there is the faction that will not accept even an extended cease-fire. This faction intends to continue waging war against Israel until it achieves its political ends, which for most include the destruction of the state of Israel.
For Israel, accepting the existence of a Palestinian state rests on a single premise: that there will be a state structure in place that can impose an agreement with Israel on all factions of the Palestinians. Most important, the Israelis expect a Palestinian state to suppress the third faction, which intends to continue carrying out attacks against Israel regardless of any political settlements. For Israel, unless there is a cessation of violence, the creation of a Palestinian state has no validity.
Sharon has a problem with his right wing, but in the end, he can control them. Abbas has a problem with his militant wing, but it is not at all clear that he can control them. The question of control is not theoretical. It has a simple, essential characteristic: Abbas must be able to disarm the militants, and his security forces must be able to halt attacks against Israel without the presence of the Israeli army.
It is becoming clear that Abbas is in no position to disarm the militants. Earlier this week, he ordered security forces to use an "iron fist" in containing Palestinian militants, after two armed Hamas members who clashed with Palestinian police were detained in Gaza on May 2. According to a PNA Interior Ministry spokesman, the men had rockets that they planned to launch against Israeli targets. Hamas then successfully pressured the PNA, with the help of an Egyptian official in Gaza, to release the two militants on May 3.
On May 4, Abbas' Palestinian Authority stated that it had no intention of disarming militants. Rashid Abu Shbak, head of the PA's security service, told a news conference that "we have no intention of withdrawing arms of resistance." Now, this did not come from Abbas, but it came from his security chief. Abbas can back off, but the statement is pretty blunt.
The problem is not that Abbas doesn't want to disarm the militants; the problem is that he can't. He simply lacks the force within the Palestinian community to prevail. Pushing the issue would trigger a civil war, and it is not clear that Abbas would win. If Hamas gives up its weapons, it loses its leverage in Palestinian politics. That won't happen.
Which means that the Palestinians are back where they started. Abbas cannot negotiate with the Israelis, because he can't enforce any agreements. Since this is what Sharon's old friends on the Right said would happen, Sharon will now be under pressure to halt withdrawals from the occupied territories. That will suit Hamas just fine, as it will undermine Abbas. It will also suit the Israeli Right.
It comes down to this: There is no consensus among the Palestinians as to what should happen. There are three strands of thought -- all with some base of support, and all of which are mutually exclusive. Israel could live with some sort of deal that includes the "let's have peace for a generation and then start the war again" faction. A lot changes in a generation. But Israel cannot make peace with a government that can't disarm Hamas.
Things are getting dangerous again. Actually, they never really stopped being dangerous.
The Business of Terrorism
Reply #161 on:
May 17, 2005, 12:24:39 PM »
This piece is a lot to wade through, most may want to scroll down to to the Al-Qaida section. With that said, there is a lot to be gleaned here, and more can be found at the author's website:
One thread I note is that the two terrorist organizations examined here, the IRA and Al-Qaida, are both tied to the construction business. It appears this can lead to multiple funding avenues: in Ireland, for instance, it's deduced that a pro-IRA tavern might be blown up by the IRA, insurance collected, a non-licensed "safe" drinking establishment set up to fill the market void (with the funds going to the terror organization and the informal tavern serving as a recruitment ground), while an IRA established construction firm rebuilds the bombed tavern.
Next time I hear about some edifice being blown up for murky reasons, I'll be looking at it through a new lens.
This piece is well sourced and appears to be peer reviewed.
THE BUSINESS OF TERRORISM
Submitted for publication by the Centre for Strategic and Global Studies, Moscow.
Some of the argument is taken from an article previously published in the Journal of Money Laundering Control
Vol 1 No 4 pp.303-311
And two short articles published in Intersec :
"The Business of Terrorism"
Intersec, The journal of International security Vol 12
no 1 Jan 2002 pp 6-8
"The Business of Terrorism Part 2"
Intersec The Journal of International Security Vol 12 no 6 June 2002 pp 186-8
This article explores such information as exists with regard to funding firstly in relation to the IRA, and then to activities associated with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The purpose is to demonstrate the complexity of organizations that are called ?terrorist? and to examine whether it can be demonstrated that there is convergence with organized crime groups. It begins by discussing Gambetta?s work on organized crime as a business before recording the Financial Action Task Force?s statement on sources of terrorist financing. It then looks at the variety of funding mechanisms known to have been used, first by the IRA and secondly by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Any study of a terrorist organisation raises questions about the legitimacy of the state and the morality of challenging it by violent means. Although individual terrorists are charged before the courts with individual criminal acts, there is an acceptance that the phenomenon is primarily a political one and that a debate is possible over the relationship between a just cause and the employment of illegal means to achieve it. There is little study of terrorism as an economic phenomenon and the methods by which organisations fund themselves. Elsewhere, this author has argued that successful terrorist groups survive by resorting to funding methods copied from organised crime [Tupman 1998].
This raises several interesting theoretical and practical questions. If funding follows the organised crime model, how much effect has this had on the structure of the organisations concerned? Gambetta and others have argued that organised crime is increasingly a business [Fiorenti and Peltzman 1995]. It follows the successful contemporary business model characterised by networks, or loose associations of individuals and groups. It is no longer dominated by centralised , hierarchical organisation. If a group such as the IRA has gone down the same road then how ?terrorist? is it? An organisation may be called ?terrorist? because it engages in acts of paramilitary violence. Those organisations that survive for a significant period of time, however, do so by engaging in many activities other than paramilitary violence. Funding has already been mentioned, but they also have to recruit; they have to train; they have to engage in peaceful political activity and so on. The individuals that engage in these latter activities are much more loosely organised than the individuals that engage in the paramilitary violence, yet are associated with them in a non-hierarchical relationship.
Organised crime has also converged to some degree with "terrorist" organisation, copying the cellular structure. Increasingly it consists of networks of people who may only come together for a specific operation and the rest of the time may be engaged in completely different organisations and completely different and even legal work, especially where these individuals are lawyers or accountants. The same individuals engaged collectively in illegal activity may also simultaneously be engaged collectively in legal activity. This is equally true of the IRA. Post 1968 terrorism was based on 5 man cells, or Active Service Units [ASUs] in the Northern Ireland context. These are operationally autonomous and may have been engaged in their own fund raising as well as other activities quite independently of the central Army Council, the body that allegedly ?runs? the IRA. We need to know the degree to which these operations were audited by a central body, or whether the IRA has followed organised crime in becoming what Van Duyne has described as ?non-organised?. [Van Duyne 1993 p10]. This would also provide those attempting to control money-laundering in this area with some clues as to where to look.
Gambetta has also argued that violence is itself a business; that it is a service that can be bought and sold. Terrorist organizations are well placed to sell violence and to replace the traditional purveyors of violence to organized crime. Terrorists also need weapons. In the process they have to set up smuggling services. They thus have a second business activity from which they can sell spare capacity. It is only a small step from that realization to the linked idea that it makes sense to smuggle small volume, high value goods in order to obtain the funds necessary for the weapons themselves. Drugs and high value raw materials such as diamonds and other precious and semi-precious stones are obvious commodities.
There is a third relevant aspect of Gambetta?s analysis which began with a study of the Sicilian Mafia. Where the state is weak, it is difficult for suppliers and purchasers of goods to enforce contracts. Those who can sell violence can, in effect, become contract insures and enforcers. It is only a short step to becoming licensers of business activities. Organised crime, too, has a problem of contract enforcement. It is no good taking someone to court for failure to pay for a consignment of illegal narcotics. Terrorist movements that survive over a period of years can move into this role, particularly where they have effective control of neighbourhoods or regions.
The FATF Statement on terrorist Financing
In 2001, the Financial Action Task Force identified the following major sources of terrorist funding:
Extortion and kidnapping
Smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods
Direct sponsorship by states
Contributions and donations
Sale of publications [legal and illegal
Legitimate business activities
Their pre-September 11th discussions concluded that with the decline in state sponsorship of terrorism, terrorist groups increasingly resort to criminal activity to raise the funds required. The world moved on with the attack on the twin towers. Consequently, FATF decided to expand its mission to focus on combating terrorist financing as well as money-laundering.This makes redundant previous disagreement about funds raised by terrorist organisations from non-criminal activity and whether this could strictly be said to constitute money-laundering. There is still disagreement about the need for special legislation. Some of the FATF experts believed existing legislation adequate for dealing with terrorist money-laundering while others thought terrorist money-laundering to be a distinct variety of money-laundering that required special measures. The origin of terrorist funds is often quite legal, but the purposes to which they are put are not. They thus can behave differently from funds derived from illicit business in that they do not have to be moved around quite so quickly. They can be invested and accumulate before being diverted to illicit purposes. This has led to the growth of perfectly legal business enterprises that in effect wholly or partly belong to terrorist organisations.
When discussing terrorism, the definitional problem still remains central. What is a terrorist organisation and how is it to be distinguished from national liberation movements? It has become more acceptable to refer to ?the paramilitaries? in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process. This has the advantage of being value-neutral. The UN also continues to find this a political conundrum, especially where the Arab-israeli dispute is concerned. The US has followed British legal practice of listing proscribed movements and includes Hezbollah, Hamas and the PFLP, without whose consent a peace settlement in the Middle East is simply unachievable. Nevertheless executive order 13224 blocks their assets and property.
Only a small number of the hundreds of terrorist and paramilitary groups that have existed since the 1960s have survived into the third millennium. In Northern Ireland, there is the Irish Republican Army [IRA] and a number of Protestant paramilitaries: the Ulster Defence association [UDA] with which is associated the Ulster Freedom Fighters [UFF]; the Ulster Volunteer Force [UVF] and its breakaway movement, the Loyalist Volunteer Force [LVF]. Of these, the majority are supposed to be on cease-fire and involved in the ?peace process?, but all continue to maintain their organization and are alleged to be involved in various forms of violence.
In Spain, the Basque separatist movement, ETA [Euskadi ta Askatasuna ?Basque Fetherland and Liberty]
In Corsica, the FLNC [Front de Liberation Nationale de la Corse].
In Colombia, the FARC Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
In Asia, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka
In the Middle East, a number of paramilitary organizations associated with the PLO and Hezbollah.
And perhaps the first truly globalised group, the Afghan veterans association known to us as al Qaeda.
The article concentrates on the IRA and al Qaeda, because it is easier to document a variety of funding sources with which they have been involved. Later studies will examine the other groups.
Following the Gambetta school, I have attempted to produce an analysis of the finances of the IRA in the form of a business prospectus. Previous versions of the table that follows have appeared in the proceedings of International Symposium of Organised and Economic Crime and an analysis of the funding of all UK terrorist groups has been published elsewhere [Tupman 1998]. An updated version of the prospectus follows:
A small international company providing executive and leisure services in the British Isles and North West Europe. Overseas offices in the United States and Australia. Courier services available to various parts of he world.
Subsidiary companies provide construction and demolition services. IRA PLC also franchises clubs and a ?get you home? service. Private security services also provided for housing estates. Insurance quotations against bomb damage can also be brokered.
The company has recently secured a niche in the import-export market, particularly of livestock and CDs.
Statement of income
Contributions from overseas subsidiaries 1,500,000
Shebeen subsidiaries: bar and machines 4,275,000
Import-export business 2,250,000
Fire and Bomb Damage Insurance [Protection plc] 6,150,000
Involuntary bank and post office contributions 1,250,000
Total Cash 20,425,000
Demolition equipment and executive toys Too sporadic to quantify
Statement of expenditure
Executives in UK  Salaries 80,000
Warehouse and Support staff UK  Salaries 400,000
Transport and accommodation 200,000
Executives in Northern Ireland 400,000
Warehouse and Support staff 600,000
Pay-outs from executive family insurance fund 2,000,000
Semi-retired staff in Eire  1,000,000
Demolition equipment and executive toys [depreciation] 1,500,000
Petty cash fund 745,000
In discussing the income and expenditure of the IRA one is immediately involved in propaganda. It clearly suits the security forces to portray the IRA as no more than another organised crime group. This is of course to paint a distorted picture of the IRA, who are not primarily in business for the purposes of making money but who need to have ways of making money in order to stay in business. Indeed, although ?IRA-PLC? is a catchy title, it would be more correct to talk of ?Republican Movement PLC?. Irish commentators prefer to use this latter term. The former title gives the impression that the IRA controls all branches of the Republican Movement and this cannot safely be asserted. Sinn Fein, the women?s movement, social clubs, Gaelic Sports associations, the Catholic ex-Servicemen?s Association, prisoners' support organisations and various businesses are all organisations within a broader movement. Who controls whom, who interacts with whom and how are not only matters for research but occasionally matters disputed before the courts. The money-making ventures alluded to in the prospectus may or may not be under the control of the Army Council, may or may not pay a percentage to the Army Council and may or may not take place in areas considered to be under Republican Movement ?control?.
Related problems must appear frequently on the agenda of IRA Army Council meetings. How far should they engage in fundraising and how far in armed operations? Should the same personnel be involved in both? Should they be kept totally separate? How can they be used against the movement as propaganda? The essence of every act of terrorism is propaganda. Terrorism could be said simply to be armed propaganda. So fundraising in itself presumably should be used as a weapon to undermine British state. Fraud committed against the northern Ireland Housing Department would be legitimate, as would fraud against the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries, customs duties evasion or similar. Fraud against domestic Irish credit unions would presumably be unacceptable.
Equally dealing drugs in the UK might be acceptable where dealing drugs in Belfast would not be. In Dublin, however there are strong suspicions that IRA personnel are involved in trafficking in soft drugs, if not in street dealing. Certainly the IRA has taken a leaf out of the pages of their Basque colleagues, ETA, in gaining popular support by kneecapping or placing orders of exile on well known drug dealers in Belfast, Derry city and elsewhere. Equally what the British security forces would call protection rackets the IRA would say are in the nature of a revolutionary tax, following the Basque model again.
Another problem in discussing this subject is the nature of the sources. Various officers of the RUC and Garda Siochana have briefed study groups led by the author in the past, but where documentary material has been shown, it has been on a confidential basis. The figures given above have had to be justified by reference to press sources, and these are often dubious. At one stage the stories were all about security forces' successes against the IRA's financial network. At another the IRA?s links with the US were exaggerated to bring pressure to bear on visiting US politicians. At all times stories are exaggerated in order to sell newspapers and the Sunday Times clearly thinks IRA scare stories keep its readers interested. Nevertheless, it has received a number of major security forces leaks over the years and devotes more space and depth to Northern Ireland than its broadsheet rivals. The problem of verifiability needs to be borne in mind constantly when considering the pseudo data of which the IRA-PLC prospectus consists.
Returning to the prospectus: post office and bank raids throughout Ireland are used as acceptable ways of blooding recruits and finding out how serious their commitment may be. Unattributable briefings given the author allege that 50% of post office and bank raids in the south have some form of IRA connection. The figure in the Table above reflects the total amount stolen in post office and bank raids in Ireland and 50% of that total has been calculated and entered in the Table as income.[Unattrib 1995]
The figure of contributions from overseas subsidiaries reflects published statements of the North American organisation Noraid which vary annually from $160,000 to $800,000. [Bishop and Mallie 1988 p297. See also McKinley pp203-218.] Added to this are contributions from the UK, Australia and Canada [McKinley pp201-3 analyses the Canada connection in some detail]. Early in the 1970s contributions were also made by Libya. [Bishop and Mallie p305, McKinley p196 gives a figure of ?5million by 1977] This is generally presented as being money raised for the welfare of prisoners? families and is balanced in the statement of expenditure by an estimate that money to prisoners? families costs the republican movement as a whole ?2million. This illustrates the problem of distinguishing between legal and illegal aspects of the business of the republican movement. Noraid would presumably claim that to support the families of prisoners is legitimate business and in no way relevant to the IRA as an armed illegal organisation. These categories remain in my statement of income and expenditure because there have long been allegations that funds raised for prisoners' families have been used for other purposes. [McKinley p208 alleges that up to $4million per annum was actually being remitted from the US to Ireland.]
Contributions from overseas obviously fluctuate. When the British security forces have carried out high profile operations such as the killings in Gibraltar contributions tend to rise significantly. Collections are regularly made in various public houses in English and Scottish cities as well as the more formal fundraising organisations in the United States, Canada and Australia. One and a half milllion pounds is probably on the low side for these contributions. The point needs to be made however that very little of this money would have anything to do with weaponry or bombmaking equipment in the 1980s and perhaps the 1970s because of the amount of munitions smuggled in from Libya during this period. [unattrib. 1996] Libya apparently admitted to shipping 130 tonnes of weaponry between 1985 and 1987, of which about half has been used or found by security forces.[ Sunday Times, 24 Dec 1995 journalist's claim supported by unattributable briefings.] Iran has also been accused of maintaining a ?20million slush fund in the mid to late 80s, of which some went to the IRA.[Sunday Times 21 Aug 1994]. Taking clandestine contributions from states together with declared and undeclared contributions through individual sympathisers, ?1,500,000 seems a fairly conservative figure.
"Shebeen subsidiaries" refers to one of the curious consequences of "the Troubles". During the early 70s many pubs were bombed. As a result shebeens or illegal unlicensed drinking clubs grew up as places where the community could drink safely. In the 1970s it was very difficult to tell to what degree these were actually ?owned? by the paramilitaries on both sides. Whoever "owned" them, they certainly provided opportunities for fundraising or for money laundering. In 1989 new regulations were brought in by the authorities to try to estimate the income of gambling machines and so on and compare that with figures returned by the legal accounts of these businesses for taxation purposes. [Sunday Times 1st Aug 1993] Again in discussing this it is difficult to decide where the Republican Movement ends and the IRA begins. Where these bars are run by committees from the community and everything is done in a legal fashion they may simply be involved in the payment of "protection" to the IRA rather than being wholly owned businesses.
The heading "Import- Export Business" covers the increasing allegations that the "IRA? is involved in the import of counterfeit computer software, videos and music CDs. The security forces apparently attribute this to their ?success? in clamping down on the drinking clubs, which they estimate cost the IRA ?7million per annum [Sunday Times 1st Aug 1993}. If this is true, the figure given in the table for income from clubs and gaming machines is an under-estimate pre-1989 and an overestimate for post-1989. When discussing illegal imports, the problem is two-fold: the degree to which the IRA shades into Northern and Southern Irish organised crime groups and the degree to which the reports in the Sunday Times are propaganda aimed at discrediting the movement with the community. On the other hand, the community is hardly going to be antagonised by the provision of the above commodities at cheap rates, so if this is propaganda, it can't be terribly effective! Nevertheless an early attempt to estimate income from these activities alleged ?1million per annum from fraud and extortion, ?2million from smuggled goods and video piracy, ?750,000 from the black taxis, ?500,000 from fruit machines , ?250,000 from charities ,and ?250,000 from overseas sympathisers [Sunday Times 12 March 1995
UCLAF, the fraud investigation unit of the European Commission, has alleged that the IRA is also involved in the movement of cattle across the northern-southern Irish border and back again in order to attract import subsidies and evade various forms of duty.[Fight Against Fraud 1995] If this is being carried out by individual members of families normally associated with IRA membership, it may not necessarily follow that these individuals consider the activity to be IRA activity as opposed to private enterprise. Again our friends in the Sunday Times and the Times linked the ?IRA? to a South African fraud of ?41million,[Times 20 May 1995], a US heist of $7million, [Times 15 Nov 1993], a London bond robbery of ?292 million, and a US bank fraud of ?150 million [Sunday Times 22 May 1994]. If all this is true, then the IRA could probably buy Executive Outcomes to do its job for it! The table above gives a more sober figure.
The Sunday Times also has the IRA smuggling ?2million a year in stolen antiques to dealers in the British Midlands, selling illegal growth promoters for cattle to farmers, selling counterfeit designer jeans, computer games and videos and engaging in major building -site fraud. [ Sunday Times 1st August 1993] Again, these activities may be taking place, but the IRA cannot have the time or the personnel to run them all. Much more likely is that, as with legal businesses, illegal businesses pay a ?licence fee? to the IRA to operate. This is one way of explaining the different signals coming from the security forces on drugs. Indeed, there are suggestions, that, in the case of drugs, some of this licensing was freelance. During the ceasefire, the IRA turned to attacking drug dealers to keep its activists battle-hardened, but it was possible to pay local commanders to prevent one's name being put forward for approval as a target by the Army Council [Sunday Times 31st Dec 1995].
"Fire and bomb damage insurance" refers to the allegation that various businesses pay money to the IRA to protect themselves from a bombing campaign. The Sunday Times alleged that a major bakery chain for example paid ?2million a year to the IRA through an international security consultancy to prevent its bakeries being destroyed. In fact it appears that this was not an annual payment but related to the kidnapping of Don Tidey, an executive.[Coogan 1987, p 659.] A one-off payment of ?2million for one large business suggests that a total of ?6milllion for all businesses to insure against kidnapping and bombing is not actually that high and the income in this area may indeed be higher. Again the same paper, the Sunday Times, in one of its colour supplements, quoted a meeting of ?black taxi? drivers as being called on to raise their weekly contribution to ?8. [Sunday Times 1996] That would give a figure of ?400 per driver per year, which needs to be multiplied by the number of drivers. Similar calculations need to be made for other individual small and large businesses, legal and illegal, around Northern Ireland. But as already mentioned above, elsewhere, the same newspaper has quoted security forces sources as calculating an income of ?750,000 per annum from taxis.
The heading "Construction" refers to fraud carried out against the Northern Ireland Housing Office during the reconstruction of bombed buildings. An estimate of ?15million lost has been given in newspapers. [Times] There have also been allegations of IRA involvement in social security fraud on the British mainland. Again the problem is that anything with an Irish connection is going to be called ?IRA?.
Turning to the expenditure statement, the category of ?executives in the UK? is based on the assumption that the IRA have moved away from the totally independent 5 man cell [ASU] as their basic unit. They now use surveillance and intelligence teams whose job it is to set up particular operations. These are represented by the category ?20 warehouse and support staff?. Operatives tend to operate in pairs when actually carrying out a bombing or shooting. These are the ?4 executives?. The table is based on the assumptions that full time personnel would be provided with an income of ?20,000 per year and that the whole team would have access to a budget for hiring cars as well as stealing them and for obtaining legitimate accommodation.
These figures may be high and on the Northern Ireland side have been halved on the assumption that the individuals concerned are drawing unemployment benefit or obtaining incomes from legitimate sources. The total assumed by the security forces of full time genuinely IRA units is about 100. [?If the politicians would only let us take 100 of them out, this nonsense would all be over?]. [unattrib.]This table doubles that assumption to err deliberately on the expensive side. 50 are allocated to the South of Ireland, 24 to the UK and 100 to Northern Ireland, 40 in the executive role and 60 in the warehouse and support role. This may be a complete misunderstanding of the way the IRA operates and the idea that there genuinely are 100 full time personnel is probably be a security forces fantasy. Such an assumption leads to the conclusion that all that has to be done in Northern Ireland is to lock up 100 people and everything will stop.
As long as the Republican Movement remains as multi-faceted as it is at present, this is clearly not the case and the notion that there is such a thing as a full time IRA operative is not borne out by such memoirs as have been produced from within the organisation.[Collins 1997 ] In fact a survey produced in New Society in the late 1970s argued that something like three quarters of all the personnel in prison for IRA membership in the north of Ireland had actually been in work at the time of their imprisonment. [New Society 1976] The notion that the IRA consists of unemployed personnel hanging around street corners waiting for a bombing to be suggested is a newspaper fantasy rather than a security forces one.
The obvious point to be deduced from the Table is that the IRA is actually quite a cheap organisation to run. As the Libyan weapons and explosives cache is exhausted this will of course change. The second point is that it is a profitable operation. Somewhere those profits have been invested. The figures given are of course purely speculative, and other, more official sources would put the figure at ?10 million profit per annum [unattrib 1995], whereas this table estimates it as closer to ?15 million. To reiterate a word of caution, these figures probably refer to the Republican Movement as a whole, and it may or may not be mistaken to leave the reader with the impression that the IRA runs the whole Republican Movement.
Who taught whom what? Studying in the universities of crime
The IRA has a long history of involvement with various forms of what we now call money laundering and fraud. Back in the 1916-22 period money was raised for the independence of Ireland and according to Tim Pat Coogan?s biography of Eamonn de Valera a large proportion of it was siphoned off by de Valera to found a newspaper under his own control. Not only did it remain under his own political control but also, as the majority share holder, it became his family?s business and this lasted right through into the early 1960s. [T.P.Coogan 1993 pp417-21] Tim Pat Coogan discusses the legality and morality of this. He also discusses the role of the famous American fundraiser Joe McGarrity who kept the IRA going during the 30s and 40s.[Coogan 1993 pp193-4] There is further discussion of the role of members of the Irish government in the setting up, funding and arming of the IRA after 1968 in another of Tim Pat Coogan?s books.[ Coogan 1987 ]
Certainly the leaders of the Provisional IRA had mostly been in prison during the 1956-62 campaign and mostly held in English jails because of a refusal to treat them as political prisoners. [ Coogan 1987 }Without reading their memoirs, if they ever come out, it is impossible to know to what extent they formed links with English and Scottish criminals during that period. Joe Cahill, allegedly the IRA?s financial expert, was in jail during this period. [Sunday Times 28 March 1993]. It is more certain however that the members of the IRA and other republican groups arrested during the mainland campaign after 1973 and held in British and Irish jails rather than the H-blocks would have had the opportunity to make links with organised crime circles and to learn their techniques. The criminal spirit of the 70s and 80s was certainly entrepreneurship . Research may eventually demonstrate that the real intermediaries were the cannabis dealers of the early 1970s who saw themselves as part of an ideological commitment to change society rather than as simply involved in the process of making money. Howard Marks? autobiography suggests that such thoughts did motivate people like himself and entrepreneurs in the cities of Cork, Limerick, Dublin would almost certainly have been motivated similarly. His autobiography also describes a network of connections between himself, Jim McCann of the IRA and Dutch interests in the early 1970s. [Marks 1996 pp77-107]
He actually claims to have pointed out to McCann that , if you can smuggle arms you can smuggle drugs. The principle was reversed when the last four shipments of arms from Libya were brought in by a professional smuggler, who was paid a ?100,000 fee for arranging shipment. [Unattrib. 1995] The US fiasco alluded to above also involved an arrangement with an alleged professional arms dealer. [Bishop and Mallie] The arms trade is thus another source of contacts between terrorism and organised crime.
Increasingly in Dublin, Limerick and to a lesser extent other towns in Ireland the IRA finds itself having to take policy decisions about its relationship with domestically based organised crime. The shooting of Martin Cahill ?the General? in Dublin in 1994 by the IRA was a clear warning to organised crime that the true holders of the monopoly of violence were neither the state nor the ?state within the state? of nonpolitical organised crime but the provisional IRA. [Independent 12 May 1996]
In addition, although it was found by the courts to be a case of CIA entrapment, during a US trial links were claimed between the American end of the Republican Movement and a figure ?close to the Mafia? in a conspiracy to supply arms to the IRA. The USA is thus another possible place where connections to organised crime might have been created. [Bishop and Mallie 1988 p 298]
The role of IRA members in the drugs business needs more research. Marks suggests that members of the IRA were involved in smuggling marijuana, an "acceptable" drug. It is alleged that the Provisionals did briefly lose a lot of street credibility in the 70s when they were identified with heroin dealing in Belfast ghettoes and very quickly had to remove themselves from the trade. [unattrib ] That they were involved in heroin suggests that they had been involved in other drugs previously and certainly it has been alleged that they remain involved in trafficking and wholesaling but not in retailing and street dealing both south and north of the border. This has equally been alleged of Protestant paramilitaries. There have been further allegations that in the drug trade all the paramilitaries actually work together and have the turf well divided up in northern Ireland.[unattrib ] Protestant paramilitary organisation would presumably also reach into the west of Scotland just as IRA organisation reaches down into the south of Ireland. If the intelligence organisations of the paramilitaries are as efficient as they are supposed to be, it is hard to believe that drugs can be sold in the areas under their control without their knowledge. The introduction of Ecstasy as a youth drug of choice has created new opportunities for profit, not only from selling the drug but by providing secure venues for ?raves? to take place. Ecstasy has broader ideological acceptance in the community. It is seen as being in the same category as marijuana rather than heroin.
More recently there is evidence of the emergence of a network of different individuals specialising in different roles. To that extent the structure of the IRA appears to be converging with the changing structure of organised crime. A network of specialists is coordinated by a central planner for a one-off purpose or for a more long term enterprise. Just as organised crime has its ?enforcers?, its specialists in violence, so too do the IRA. Equally organised crime has its smuggling or transportation specialists. Here the IRA either has its own or buys in a specialist from organised crime, as it did to move the consignment of arms and explosives from Libya. [unattrib 1995]. This might point to a centralised laundering operation via a financial specialist employed for the purpose either in the USA or Caribbean.
There is, thus, some evidence that the IRA has moved into contract enforcement and licensing for those involved in illicit businesses in both Northern and Southern Ireland. There is evidence of organizational change, but changes in the organization of ?terrorist? incidents have more to do with security requirements than with the impact of fund-raising activities. One of the most interesting aspects of the IRA is the way in which it has succeeded in maintaining its political priorities despite its ventures into a variety of questionable fund-raising areas. The mechanisms by which it preserves a high degree of integrity and thereby legitimacy with significant sections of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and the United States require further study.
OSAMA BIN LADEN AND AL QAEDA
Al Qaida's funding and Osama bin Laden's business affairs are difficult to disentangle as they involve organizations which perform totally legitimate functions as well as being used as conduit for his activities. He has used the hawala system as well as Islamic banking. ?His? companies have made profits from legitimate business. Companies such as al Taqwa and al Barakat have been added to the list of proscribed organisations by the USA under suspicion that they are used by al Qaida for the movement of money and that they may even pay a proportion of their profits to bin-Laden?s central bankroll. Nevertheless, closing them down will harm their smaller customers, in particular the ability of the Somali overseas workforce to repatriate funds to their families.
Extortion from private individuals has taken place on a scale unimaginable in the West to the tune of over $1 million per individual. Wealthy individuals in the Islamic world now have to choose between risks: detection by the US or murder by al-Qaida. Equally charitable donations by governments to foundations which dole out money to Islamic causes will have to be more carefully monitored by the donors as will the performance of the charities themselves.
At first sight bin Laden has a complex track record. Honey traders, internet providers, hawala banking, cattle breeding, shrimp boats, construction, import-export, stock market trading and perhaps manipulation, even drug smuggling and other illegal businesses all had a place in his empire. He is alleged to have spent large sums on infrastructural projects for governments. Before his expulsion he carried out many philanthropic projects for the Sudanese government and more recently is alleged to have bankrolled the Taliban. He has run training camps and allegedly put armies into the field in Chechnya, Bosnia and Kosovo as well as Afghanistan. Individual terrorist cells seem to have been kept on a shoestring, resorting to credit card and cheque fraud to stay operational. Cells even repatriated money to the Middle East, the reverse of what might have been expected. The other organisations associated with al-Qaida have still to be investigated financially and may present a different picture. If anyone emerges from the caves around Jalalabad and Kandahar to employ lawyers to fight the confiscation of assets around the world, it will be a truly fascinating case. The business of terrorism appears to have been raised to a new plateau.
Al Qaida was formed in 1988. In 1998 Osama Bin Laden formed an umbrella organisation called "The Islamic World Front for the struggle against the Jews and the Crusaders" [ Al-Jabhah al-Islamiyyah al-'Alamiyah li-Qital al-Yahud wal-Salibiyyin]. This organisation included the Egyptian groups al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and al-Jihad, the Egyptian Armed Group, the Pakistan Scholars Society, the Partisans Movement in Kashmir, the Jihad movement in Bangladesh and the Afghan military wing of the "Advice and Reform" commission led by bin Laden himself. This represented a move from cooperation between organisations to a new level. A shura or consultative council was established led by Osama Bin Laden. An Arab security service has estimated that Al-Qaida has 2,830 members of which 594 are Egyptians, 410 Jordanians, 291 Yemenis, 255 Iraqis, 162 Syrians, 177 Algerians, 111 Sudanese, 63 Tunisians, 53 Moroccans and 32 Palestinians. The Centre for Non-proliferation Studies commenting on these figures says that they should be taken as an indication of the proportions of the origins of membership, not as an exact count. To these figures need to be added Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Chechens, and links with Bosnians, Albanians and Philipinos. Saudi Arabians are also absent. All in all a perfect network for laundering funds.
It needs to be borne in mind, therefore, that the wider structure of al-Qaida involves a number of pre-existing groups with their own sources of funding as well as Osama bin Laden's personal financial empire.
OSAMA BIN LADEN
In Saudi Arabia before Afghanistan
His family is rich. His father owned a major construction company. He is, however, only one of 52 siblings. The size of his personal fortune during the pre-Afghanistan period is a matter of dispute. Figures range from $30 million to $300 million.
In Afghanistan for the first time
He and his colleagues are alleged to have raised money both from his family and from other important Saudi families, and from others in the Gulf for the struggle against the USSR and the regime it had imposed after 1978. the Pakistan intelligence service was involved There are even alleged to have been donations from the US intelligence services. Funding from Islamic governments and charities continued into the 1990s with the war in Bosnia and in Chechnya and even Albania/Kosovo. Most of this money was channelled through either pre-existing Islamic humanitarian aid organisations or, one created specially for the purpose and controlled by himself and his associates. The struggle to create independent, and possibly Islamic states, from the states that succeeded Communism was seen by many as a legitimate cause.
He emerged from Afghanistan with an international network of veterans who had difficulty adapting to a peaceful existence.
In Saudi Arabia after Afghanistan and perhaps in Somalia
It was the American intervention in Somalia that turned bin Laden into an enemy of the USA. In Afghanistan, Chechnya and perhaps even Bosnia and Albania, his goals had been congruent either with mainstream US foreign policy or with that of individual American right-wingers. It is probably for this reason as well as the involvement of Gulf and other interests that it is fairly difficult to obtain hard information on funding before this period. Funding to the Balkans is alleged to have been funneled through the Albanian-Arab Islamic Bank and the Advisory and Reformation Committee, established London 1994.
In the Sudan 1991-6
The main source of information for this period is a tainted one: the supergrass Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl and the evidence he gave in the trial of bin Laden's associates in Manhattan in early 2001. It is tainted because he admits he had to flee al Qaida after he was discovered to have embezzled some of its funds. It also suffers the same problems as all defector testimony: the danger of repeating a story that his interrogators want to hear and the danger of exaggerating what he knows in order to increase his importance. Nevertheless, it is the most important published source for this period.
In 1991 bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia. He is alleged to have received anywhere between $30 and $300 million before being cut off by the family. Subsequent investigation has failed to demonstrate any further financial link to his family. He moved to Sudan and invested in commercial enterprises and infrastructural projects. He was highly valued by the regime and is unusual for a terrorist in that both in the Sudan and in Afghanistan he has a track record of subsidising governments in their political and economic programmes. In this period he was associated with:
? A Construction company: el-Hijrah for Construction and Development Ltd.
? Wadi al-Aqiq co. an export-import company
? Taba Investment Co. Ltd. Which dealt in global stock markets
? Part-owner of the el-Shamal Islamic Bank
? He also ran several farms, raising peanuts sunflowers etc., which were also used as training camps for terrorists. In addition, there were:
? Laden International Import-Export Company
? a Bakery
? a Furniture company
? Bank of Zoological Resource cattle-breeding programme
? International al-Ikhlar Co. making honey and other sweets
Because of sanctions against Sudan, his financial committee had to learn how to disguise the origin of his products routing them through various countries, including Cyprus. He claimed to have lost $150 million on farming and construction projects while in the Sudan. Nevertheless, there is evidence of a world-wide empire: ostrich farms and shrimp boats in Kenya, forests in Turkey, diamond mining in Africa, agriculture in Tajikistan. The minor enterprises were themselves used as cover for terrorist operations. All enterprises in Sudan were supposedly liquidated when he left [expelled] in 1996.
The picture that emerges from this period is one of a large diversified enterprise with highly-paid specialists at the top. The central bureaucracy expanded faster than the income and this may be why subsequent organisation has appeared to be more penny-pinching. It is worth noting that a construction company is, by chance, central to the operation. His father had founded such a company, and bin Laden?s original expertise was in that area. Construction work was also related to the Republican movement, again presumably because so many Irishmen went to Britain to do casual work in the building trade. Their return during the early years of Thatcher, when infrastructural programmes were choked off to cut government spending may simply have created a need to institute a job-creation programme. If you can plant bombs that can destroy buildings, you can create construction opportunities. You can also create insurance fraud for proprietors who would like a refurbishment programme.
Bin Laden, however, was, during his time in the Sudan, trading skills in upgrading infrastructure for a sanctuary from which operations can be planned and fighters trained. It could be argued that these businesses would not have been a primary focus of interest for his group. Skills learnt, however, would become useful in unexpected ways. In a globalised political system, many things other than weapons need to be transported: money, information, orders and potential soldiers. These required new businesses and created new business opportunities.
In Afghanistan for the second time1996-2001
By the time bin-Laden left the Sudan, his money was supposed to be scattered around Europe and Arab world. For example, the Ottawa Sun on the 8th November 2001 announced that the investigation into the activities of al Barakaat and al Taqwa in Canada had discovered Internet Service Providers linked to US companies alleged to have provided al-Qaida terrorists with Internet service, secure telephone communications and other ways of sharing information. The crash in IT-related companies may have affected the total assets of Al Qaida, but it is worth noting that owning an ISP is an excellent way to guarantee the security of internal communication. Al Barakaat and al Taqwa have a number of variants in a number of countries, and al Taqa in Lugano had changed its name to Nada Management early in 2001.
Al Qaida and the other groups in the Front have continued to tap various Islamic charitable and relief organisations for funds. Funding for Chehchen fighters is alleged by Al Fadl to have been $1500 per head. The Wafa Humanitarian Organisation has been identified by the US Treasury as one of the organisations supporting terrorism.
Private individuals have continued to donate money, either because they believe in the cause or to avoid unpleasant consequences [ie protection money]. This may well be the single largest source of funding for the movement and needs to be addressed. Such individuals will need to be guaranteed protection if they are both to come forward and give an account of the moneys passed to al Qaida and to feel safe enough to discontinue paying. Some of these people are victims of extortion, not necessarily zealots.
As with the IRA, there have been continuous whispers of al Qaida association with drug trafficking, mostly opium from Afghanistan. Al Qaida militants are alleged to have acted as smugglers or smugglers escorts. It is not yet known as to how high a degree opium has been used as a funding source, but there was no ideological problem with the Canadian and North American cell resorting to petty crime such as credit card fraud to fund itself during 2000. Al Qaida morality seems to be extremely flexible when it comes to Western-regarding behaviour.
AFTER AFGHANISTAN AND THE FALL OF THE TALIBAN
We must beware of turning Osama bin Laden into a Superman. Successful terrorist organisations have had to solve the funding problem. Analysis of the Republican movement suggested that it was making a profit of ?10-15 million per annum durin the 1990s. ETA still extracts a 10% levy on income from its supporters. Given the personal funds with which bin Laden and his associates started, they will have been able to achieve more. They have been more successful at using new businesses as cover for their activities and, so far, at obtaining safe havens in individual states. Whoever succeeds both bin Laden and Al Qaida will develop these strategies further and will learn from organised crime in their turn.
The major problem in discussing this period is a lack of knowledge of al Qaeda's aims, who is running it on a day to day basis and whether the Afghanistan theatre needs to be distinguished from other theatres around the world. Without a clear notion of the enemy's goals, it is rather difficult to measure the effectiveness of the response.
Al Qaeda's complex goals
It has been argued that bin Laden may actually want the USA to have a military presence in Afghanistan, Kirgizia, Turkmenstan, Georgia and other former Soviet republics, because he wishes to refight the war against the USSR that he considers he and his brethren won. He, or whoever is in charge, be it Mullah Omar [if the resistance in Afghanistan is a matter for the Taliban, rather than al Qaeda] or others, still possess whatever funds were in the Afghan Government Treasury when the Taliban left. These have presumably passed through one of Afghanistan's neighbours since then. Finance will come from and through the tribal areas of Pakistan.
But in addition to funding a guerilla war in Central Asia, it must be assumed that the individual groups comprising al Qaeda continue to require funding for their domestic causes, be these in North Africa, East Africa, South East Asia the Caucasus, the Balkans or the Indian sub-continent. Arms, training and subsistence all cost money, although many were already in place at the fall of the Afghan cities. It is unclear how many al Qaeda veterans made their way home and how many have stayed to fight in Afghanistan. Individual soldiers in individual conflicts were funded through the charitable foundations and expansion of these numbers should have been disrupted by the steps taken after September 11th.
Next, it must be assumed that funding is required for the cells that remain in Western Europe and the USA. Western Europe still remains a recruitment target and perhaps a target for a spectacular atrocity, as does the USA. The problem is predicting the nature of the planned atrocity and the funding that might be required to achieve it. Previous operations suggest a diversity of modus operandi, including petty fraud and the use of businesses as cover.
Although the war on terrorism seeks to identify and confiscate the assets of al Qaeda, it does not appear to be Osama bin Laden's assets that have been successfully identified and seized so far. Concentration has been on routes along which funds have travelled. In the process of blocking these, many innocent people have found themselves with frozen accounts. There was a global emergency in September 2001 which justified harsh measures. But by the middle of 2002 we should have moved to more sophisticated instruments so as to reduce potential pools of recruitment for terrorism.
The US Treasury, May 3rd 2002, summarised the blocking of assets of 210 alleged Terrorist-related entities and individuals in the US as amounting to $34 million and by its international partners as $82 million, totalling $116 million worldwide. So far, 161 countries and jurisdictions have been involved in this campaign. The UN at the end of March, estimated that 144 countries had been involved in blocking $103.8 million in assets of which approximately half represents assets connected with Osama bin laden and Al-Qaida. The majority of these funds had been blocked by December 2001. If there are new leads, then they are being kept very quiet. This may be because it has been realised that money trails provide intelligence and help to identify possible sleepers and cells.
The Underground banking connection
A large amount of the assets blocked belong to al Barakaat and al Taqwa. Al Barakaat is a Somali banking and telecommunications group. It may well be that al Qaeda took advantage of its services, but its closure has created wider problems for Somalis overseas, who used it to send funds home and to communicate with relatives. According to the BBC [12th March 2002], the transitional Somali government has proposed that an American Bank should take it over in order to unfreeze the thousands of accounts of individuals who have no link to al-Qaeda. According to the US Treasury's own News Release of March 11th, "disruption to al Barakaat's worldwide cash flows could be as high as $300 to 400 million per year. Of that?$15 to $20 million per year would have gone to terrorist organisations." There are several articles disputing this in the media. Colin Powell has claimed that 5% of turnover was going to Al Qaeda, but this would have left very little operating profit. Al Barakaat may simply be unfortunate in its Somali connection.
Al- Barakaat appears to be a legitimate business that has been used by terrorists for money-laundering. Al Taqwa, according to Lucy Komisar in an article in Salon, March 2002
is a more murky organisation and has been under investigation by the Italian secret Service and others since the mid-1990s. Its shareholders, however, include prominent figures from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait. With headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland and renamed the Nada Management Organisation after its president, it is or was primarily a hawala operation. But it is alleged to have handled funds for the PLO, Hamas, the Algerian GIA, and the Egyptian Gama'a al-Islamiya as well as former Afghan Mujahedin with a connection to bin Laden. This information was originally published in 1995 in the Swiss newsweekly Facts.
Other assets blocked belong to charities; in December 2001, the assets of "the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development" were frozen. This was linked to Hamas, not to al-Qaeda. In March 2002 the Somali and Bosnia-Herzegovina branches of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation were blocked jointly by the US and Saudi Arabia. These were linked, allegedly to al-Qaeda, the Somali group Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya and to the Egyptian group Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya. Suspicions were aroused from study of the accounts that money was being skimmed for the benefit of radical Islamic movements elsewhere.
The Benevolence International Foundation of Chicago has also been accused and is involved in a federal court case there with allegations of specific involvement in operations in Bosnia. Under Operation Green Quest a number of other organisations have been raided and evidence gathered that will result in a series of further prosecutions.
Commodity smuggling and money moving- the tanzanite saga
On November 16th the Wall Street Journal published a piece by Robert Block and Daniel Pearl ("Much-Smuggled Gem Called Tanzanite Helps Bin Laden Supporters)." It claimed that tanzanite, a rare gem that comes from a small area near the base of Mt. Kiliminjaro, has been used by operatives of the Bin Laden network as a means of raising funds. Its popularity stems from the fact that Kate Winslet wore a necklace of it in the film "Titanic". It is high value, and easily transportable, like diamonds or cocaine and can thus be used as a substitute currency to move purchasing power from one economy t another. It now has a $380 million annual market in the United States.
It is alleged, partly as a result of evidence from the diary of Wadi el Haga, on trial for the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, that a group of fundamentalist Muslim middlemen have taken control of a considerable share of the trade in tanzanite stones, which they channel through free trade zones in places like Dubai and Hong Kong, setting aside the profits for Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist Islamic networks and projects. The jewellry industry hotly denies that this is the case, presumably because the market would be badly hit if wearing tanzanite turned out to involve an unpatriotic act. Small miners in Tanzania have accused the South African company AfGem of leaking the stories in order to corner the market by insisting that all gems are branded for identification purposes, using technology that only it possesses. Pearl, of course, was later murdered in Pakistan by an al Qaeda associate.
It is difficult to know how to take the tanzanite story. It has the same ability to arouse incredulity as the allegation that Al Qaeda had a monopoly on the honey market in East Africa and the Gulf, or at least skimmed a percentage off the profits. But the victims of the embargo on sales of tanzanite by Tiffanys and the other big gemstone outlets of the US are small miners not Osama bin Laden.
Despite the tales told by defectors and other individuals turned State's evidence, al Qaeda seemed to adopt a policy post-Sudan of making each operation self-financing. On 23rd May, a UN group of experts warned that al_Qaeda appeared "to have diversified the base and security of their finances by acquiring valuable commodities and using the Internet to move money." We need to anticipate their methods, not simply respond to what they did in the past. Generals tend to fight the last war, which is a guaranteed way of losing the present one.
The IRA has had to follow the changing fashions of organised crime to continue raising money. At one time armed robbers were the aristocracy of organised crime and for a period the IRA obtained its funding by robberies. As mentioned above this still goes on, but like organised crime, the IRA flirted with drugs and now has followed organised crime into the much lower risk area of fraud, especially cross border fraud and the importing of counterfeit products. It has also been suggested that, in order to obtain guns, vehicles and forged documentation, IRA operatives on the British mainland have begun to pretend to be ?normal? criminals and have ?infiltrated the criminal infrastructure?. [Independent 4 Mar 1996] But an equal possibility is that organised crime has infiltrated the IRA. In a world of interpenetrating networks, it is difficult to know who controls whom. It will make an interesting court case.
On the other hand, the IRA has deliberately engaged in what it calls ?economic warfare? since the early 1970s. It may be that its ?profits? have been used to regenerate places like Derry and West Belfast and that ?one man?s construction fraud is another man?s job creation scheme. The relationship between business activities and organization is not a unideterminal one. The need to raise money can also produce opportunities to provide services where the state is failing. Contract reinforcement is not the only role played by the modern state. Security involves income now as well as freedom from violence. The picture is more complex than that of Nineteenth Century Italy.
Al Qaeda/ bin Laden has also made a virtue of economic necessity. For individual operations, companies have been set up to provide operational cover as well as income. Because the capital available has been greater, possibly more than any paramilitary group has ever had at its disposal, the businesses created have been more imaginative and wider-ranging in their technology and global scope. If the rumour of stock market movements ahead of 9/11 is true, then it may be possible to organize future operations, or even to threaten future operations, such as to make money out of the consequent movement in stock market prices. Just like the IRA, though, al Qaeda remains more than a business. Both are political organizations who require money but have managed to keep fund-raising subordinate to their political goals.
Such evidence as exists suggests that the form of organisation adopted by both organised crime and terrorism is also dictated by the nature of police response. The interest in cellular structure and network arrangements is partly to make prosecution on the basis of "shared purpose" difficult to prove. The nature of business will affect the organisational structures of organised crime as a whole, but only the fund-raising structures of terrorist-related movements. The structure of the coercive apparatus will be governed by the relationship between the number required to deliver a violent event and the requirements of internal security. The specialised nature of a paramilitary arm of a political movement may make it attractive for organised crime to employ such a group for the purpose of contract enforcement on an occasional basis. There is no evidence of this as yet, although there have occasionally been allegations that individuals have been used to provide armed escort for consignments. As well as violence, the IRA has available for hire a relatively large network of disciplined individuals who can launder small sums through a multitude of bank accounts without triggering the existing alert systems, which are oriented to noticing the movement of relatively large sums.
Obviously, a great deal of further research is required, and the information on which much of this article is based is both controversial and unreliable. That has not stopped the international law enforcement community responding to 9/11 with anti-terrorist legislation providing for the confiscation of assets related to terrorism. Where long-lived terrorist groups rely on wider popular movements to sustain and support them, a double duty of care lies upon a banker or accountant to assess the ultimate source of the funds passing through accounts. Relationships between the components of these groups, who may be families, associates or merely resident in the same area, are complex and non-hierarchical. Freezing and confiscating assets without distinguishing between the innocent user and the ?terrorist? will create more support for the terrorists in the long run.
A final area of interest for students of money-laundering is the question, how do the IRA and al Qaeda move their funds around? If they have set up independent systems are they available for use by other organisations, for a price. This is possibly yet another are where necessity has created another business opportunity. The lesson of Gambetta?s study of Sicily is that where the state cannot provide
Reply #162 on:
May 24, 2005, 01:18:09 PM »
Al Qaeda Arrests and the Hunt for Osama bin Laden
May 23, 2005 1852 GMT
The May 2 capture of senior al Qaeda leader Abu Farj al-Libi in Pakistan set off a chain reaction of militant arrests in the country -- suggesting the
net is closing in on al Qaeda's top leadership -- including Osama bin Laden.
Within days of al-Libi's arrest, Pakistani forces captured 14 other al Qaeda
suspects near the border with Afghanistan. Then, on May 18, Pakistani police in Lahore arrested Maulvi Mohammed Sadiq, who allegedly provided logistical and financial support for al Qaeda operations.
Meanwhile, as the al Qaeda network unravels in Pakistan, arrests also are
being made in the Middle East and Europe. Amar al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Abbas, a key aid to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was captured May 5 in Iraq. On May 18, authorities in northern Italy arrested three suspects with links to al Qaeda. Italian police said the suspects also are accused of dealing in false documents and drug trafficking.
Three days later, German police arrested a Palestinian living in Marburg.
The suspect, identified only as Ismail Abu S., reportedly is linked to al
Qaeda. He is the brother of Yasser Abu S., whose January arrest allegedly
foiled a plan for Yasser to fake his death in Germany and then travel to
Iraq to carry out a suicide attack against U.S. troops there. The insurance
payoff for the faked death was to be used to fund further al Qaeda
activities, according to German police.
Fraud investigations in the United States, Europe and Asia have led to the
arrest of several other al Qaeda members who allegedly have been using money laundering and document fraud to finance the network.
Several factors are working against al Qaeda at the moment. First, the close interpersonal relationships among the leadership -- which until now had spawned a loyalty that ensured operational security and personal protection-- are now becoming a detriment, as captured militants reveal details about others, as in al-Libi case has shown. Second, Pakistani intelligence officials cite a rift between al Qaeda's Arab and non-Arab members as a factor in many of the recent arrests. Captured Chechen, Uzbek and Tajik militants, officials say, have been giving up information about their Arab colleagues, which has enabled U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism forces to close in on them.
Also, Pakistan has been changing its tone about bin Laden. Some officials
are openly saying his capture is imminent -- and even are acknowledging
cooperating with the United States in hunting him. Pakistani military
spokesperson Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said May 22 on Dubai-based ARY
television that projectiles fired by the U.S. military in Afghanistan during
offensive operations against militants had landed in Pakistani territory.
Sultan clarified that the U.S. military command in Afghanistan had notified
Islamabad in advance of the operation and of the possibility that the
projectiles would end up on Pakistani soil. In the not-so-distant past,
Islamabad would have been reluctant to acknowledge the extent of its
cooperation with Washington for fear of agitating the sizable segment of its
population that sympathizes with al Qaeda.
Perhaps most significant in the hunt for bin Laden is the U.S. State
Department program Rewards for Justice. Many of the biggest names in
international terrorism have been arrested after being informed on under
this program. Bin Laden's capture likely will be a direct result of this
program, as more high-value targets are arrested and the concentric circles of confidants around him shrink.
Reply #163 on:
May 25, 2005, 02:36:33 PM »
Time to start a WWIV thread?
China ready to counter US space plans
Updated: 2005-05-23 09:56
China takes U.S. plans to boost its space military capabilities very seriously and is likely to respond with energetic counter-measures of her own, a leading expert on the Chinese space program told United Press International.
Chinese experts and leaders fear if the United States achieves absolute military and strategic superiority in space it could be used to intervene in China's affairs, such as the Taiwan issue, Hui Zhang, an expert on space weaponization and China's nuclear policy at the John F, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University told UPI.
He was discussing issues he had presented earlier this week in a paper to a conference on space weaponization at Airlie, Va., organized by the Washington-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
Chinese leaders have noted that the Taiwan issue was included as a hypothetical threat in the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission report on space weaponization. Also, in a January 2001 U.S. war-gaming exercise China was taken as an assumed enemy, Zhang said.
Hu Xiaodi, China's veteran senior negotiator on space weaponization, expressed Beijing's fears at a Committee on Peace and Disarmament panel on October 11, 2001.
"It is rather the attempt toward the domination of outer space, which is expected to serve to turn the absolute security and perpetual authority (many people call this hegemony) of one country on earth," he said. "The unilateralism and exceptionalism that are on the rise in recent months also mutually reinforce this."
Chinese strategists believe that U.S. missile-defense plans pose a great threat to China's national security, Zhang said. They believe such defenses could be used to neutralize China's nuclear deterrent and give the United States more freedom to encroach on China's sovereignty, including on Taiwan-related issues, he said.
Washington's readiness to conclude an agreement on cooperative research and the development of advanced Theater Missile Defense with Japan has fed such fears, he said.
The Chinese were also concerned about the Bush administration's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review that called for the United States to develop the ability to target mobile missiles. "A U.S. demonstration of the linkage between long-range precision strike weapons and real-time intelligence systems may dissuade a potential adversary from investing heavily in mobile ballistic missiles," it said.
Zhang said such weapons would pose a huge threat to China's future mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But China would not stand passively by and do nothing if the United States pushed ahead with its ambitious plans to develop new weapons for force projection from and through space, Zhang said.
"Historically, China's sole purpose for developing its nuclear weapons was to guard itself against the threat of nuclear blackmail," he said.
"China first (intends to) pursue an arms control agreement to ban space weaponization, as it is advocating now," Zhang said. However, "If this effort fails, and if what China perceives as its legitimate security concerns are ignored, China would very likely develop responses to neutralize such a threat."
These responses would depend on the specific infrastructure of the U.S. missile defense and space weaponization programs, Zhang said. But they could include producing as many as 14 or 15 times as many ICBMs with a range of more than 7,800 miles that are able to threaten the United States, he said.
Currently, China has about 20 liquid-fueled, silo-based ICBMs with single warheads. But if the United States deployed a Ground-Based Missile Defense system with 100 to 250 ground-based interceptor rockets, China would probably be willing to build and deploy anything from 100 to almost 300 more warheads and the missiles necessary to carry them, Zhang said.
Chinese scientists and engineers would also work on passive countermeasures against missile defense, Zhang said. These could include deploying decoys and anti-simulations and reducing the radar and infrared signatures of nuclear warheads during the midcourse phase of their flights.
"These cheaper and effective countermeasures are accessible to China," Zhang said.
China also had options to protect its ICBMs from interception and destruction during their first and most vulnerable boost phase of their flights, Zhang said. These include deploying fast-burn boosters, lofting or depressing the ICBM trajectories and spoofing the interceptor missiles' tracking sensors, he said.
China could also react to boost-phase interceptors by seeking to overwhelm them through the tactic of simultaneously launching several ICBMs from a compact area, Zhang said.
Another option would be to protect the missile's body with reflective or ablative coatings. Or the missile could also be rotated in flight, he said.
"Given the inherent vulnerability of space-based weapons systems (such as space-based interceptors or space-based lasers) to more cost-effective anti-satellite, or ASAT, attacks, China could resort to ASAT weapons as an asymmetrical (defense) measure," Zhang said.
Another option would be to develop ground-based kinetic-energy weapons such as miniature homing vehicles or pellet clouds," he said.
"China should be able to develop these low-cost and relatively low-technology ASATs," he said.
However, Zhang emphasized that China would only adopt these more aggressive counter-measures if the United States pushed ahead with its own ambitious missile defense and space weaponization plans first.
Beijing still adhered to the policy set out in its 2000 national defense white paper that continued nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space were preferable strategic options for both China and the United States, he said.
Reply #164 on:
May 25, 2005, 03:06:36 PM »
I don't see this one as a matter of WW3 or WW4 for that matter-- geopolitical matters certainly, but not war.
The amount of business between the US and China increases dramatically on a daily basis and I suspect that there will be a lot of people on BOTH sides of the Pacific who would regard war between us as a helluva silly way to screw up making money.
Not that this doesn't bear watching, but I am certainly not feeling apocalyptic about this one yet.
The High Ground
Reply #165 on:
May 25, 2005, 03:46:49 PM »
I'm not feeling particularly apocalyptic either, though various scents I'm picking up suggests the US military is looking at space as a tactical arena very seriously, my guess being that space warfare technology is at a place where stealth warfare technology was in the late '80s. The fact China's official news organ is taking notice suggests China is concerned about ceding the strategic high ground, though I doubt there is much they can currently do about it besides bang the gong and hope to stir up arms race fears ala the ?Star Wars? hand-wringing of the ?90s.
Reply #166 on:
May 28, 2005, 12:01:57 AM »
'No god but God': The War Within Islam
By MAX RODENBECK
THESE are rough times for Islam. It is not simply that frictions have intensified lately between Muslims and followers of other faiths. There is trouble, and perhaps even greater trouble, brewing inside the Abode of Peace itself, the notional Islamic ummah or nation that comprises a fifth of humanity.
News reports reveal glimpses of such trouble -- for instance, in the form of flaring strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in places like Iraq and Pakistan. Yet the greater tensions, while similarly rooted in the distant past, are less visible to the wider world. The rapid expansion of literacy among Muslims in the past half-century, and of access to new means of communication in the last decade, have created a tremendous momentum for change. Furious debates rage on the Internet, for example, about issues like the true meaning of jihad, or how to interpret and apply Islamic law, or how Muslim minorities should engage with the societies they live in.
What is unfolding, Reza Aslan argues in his wise and passionate book, ''No god but God,'' is nothing less than a struggle over who will ultimately define the sweeping ''Islamic Reformation'' that he believes is already well under way across much of the Muslim world. The West, he says, is ''merely a bystander -- an unwary yet complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam over who will write the next chapter in its story.''
Amid the surge of Western interest in Islam since 9/11, other quiet voices have argued similarly that the historical process we are witnessing is less a clash of civilizations than a working out of suppressed internal conflicts. Aslan's contribution to this line of thought is threefold. He traces the dogmatic splits in Islam to their historical origins. He provides a speculative but well-reasoned look at how Muslim beliefs are likely to evolve. And he does all this beautifully, in a book that manages to be both an incisive, scholarly primer in Muslim history and an engaging personal exploration.
Aslan does not shy from controversy. Conservative Muslims will certainly challenge some of his bold assertions -- among them, that there is scant support in authentic Islamic tradition for the veiling of women; that laws are created by people, not God; and that, as he puts it, ''the notion that historical context should play no role in the interpretation of the Koran -- that what applied to Muhammad's community applies to all Muslim communities for all time -- is simply an untenable position in every sense.''
Yet even the most hidebound traditionalists would find it hard to refute the main thrust of his argument, which is that the original message of Islam, egalitarian, inclusive, progressive and liberating, has been twisted and diminished over time. Aslan is at his best in trying to explain and recapture what was initially inspiring about Islam and what remains powerful -- things that can be hard for outsiders to see these days because of what some do in the name of their faith.
By carefully drawing in the social and political setting from which Islam emerged, Aslan presents a persuasive case for viewing the religion as very much a product of its age. He notes the appearance in the region of Mecca, during the prophet's youth, of religious fashions like iconoclasm and the fusing of faiths into one embracing doctrine, ideas that were to become central to Muhammad's message. Not just outsiders but Muslims themselves need reminding that during Islam's first centuries, the Torah was often read alongside the Koran. Both Muslims and their detractors also often forget that the Koran calls specifically on Jews, Christians and Muslims to ''come to an agreement on the things we hold in common.''
Aslan's wish to emphasize the tolerant, merciful side of Islam can lead to pitfalls. It is not particularly comforting to learn that when the prophet triumphantly returned to Mecca, the city of his birth that had rejected him, there were no forced conversions and ''only'' six men and four women were put to the sword. The killing and enslavement of Jewish tribes at Medina receives a similarly light gloss, although Aslan may be right to point out that their ''Jewishness'' may have been rather vaguely defined.
Whatever the case, he is clearly correct in stating that the more damaging influences on the faith were yet to come. Over the 14 centuries that followed Muhammad's 22 years of revelation, Muslim kings and scholars distorted its tenets to serve their own narrow interests, and then cast these accretions in stone. Not only were the words of the Koran reinterpreted, but so were the hundreds of thousands of traditions and sayings collected by the prophet's contemporaries. As one example, Muhammad's comment that the ''feebleminded'' should not inherit was taken by some to mean that women should be excluded from inheritance, despite the clear Koranic injunction to grant women half the portion of male inheritors.
Immediately after Islam's glorious early years of expansion, a great intellectual clash pitted rigid literalists against more rationalist interpreters. That the rationalists essentially lost is a subject of lament for Muslim modernists, particularly Western-educated intellectuals like Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar of comparative religion. His arguments for reintroducing rationalism, for accepting the utility of secularization and for contextualizing the historical understanding of the faith all put him in distinguished company among contemporary Muslims.
The Syrian reformist Muhammad Shahrour, for instance, proposes an elegant solution to the question of how to apply the controversial corporal punishments specified by most understandings of Islamic law, or Shariah. Instead of taking what some see as God's rules literally, he suggests that things like hand-chopping should be viewed as the maximum possible penalty. Anything more severe would contravene Islam, but it would be up to a secular, elected legislature to determine what lesser level of severity to apply.
Sadly, the dominant voices in Islam are still those that see the faith not simply as a path of moral guidance but as a rigidly prescriptive and exclusive rule book. Ferment is certainly in the air. If the Osama bin Ladens of the world have achieved one thing, it is to force Muslims to confront some of their demons. Even archconservative Saudi Arabia is slowly evolving. In April, its top religious authority declared that forcing a woman to marry against her will was an imprisonable offense. A full-blown ''reformation'' in the heartlands of Islam, however, is still a long way off.
Max Rodenbeck is the Middle East correspondent for The Economist.
Reply #167 on:
June 16, 2005, 07:22:21 AM »
Morning Intelligence Brief
Stratfor Morning Intelligence Brief - June 16, 2005
, , ,
Geopolitical Diary: Thursday, June 16, 2005
Media have been filled with stories that the United States is seriously considering an amnesty offer to Iraqi guerrillas. The media reports appear to have originated in Baghdad with Iraqi government officials and have not been denied by Washington, although there has been ample time for the White House to do so. The Iraqis have floated the idea of an amnesty in the past, stretching back to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in August 2004. However, in each case, the United States moved quickly to squelch the idea -- indicating that Washington now is seriously considering the move and is floating the idea to see how it plays politically in the United States and Iraq. The likely venue for the offer -- if one is made at all -- will be a conference on Iraq slated for June 22 in Brussels.
The origin of this particular offer appears to have been a Sunni politician, Ayham al-Samarie, who was previously Iraq's electricity minister. He said on June 7 that he had been in contact with the political leaders of major insurgent groups like the Mujahideen Army and Islamic Army, and had been told that they were ready to begin political talks with the Iraqi government.
Al-Samarie's claim is not outrageous. Sunni and government leaders have had public discussions over Sunni representation in the constitutional process. It has to be assumed, since the Sunni leaders have not been killed, that their actions are welcomed at least to some extent by the guerrillas. Al-Samarie's claim raises interesting questions as to whether some of the Sunni leaders involved in public negotiations might not also be covert leaders of the insurrection. If so, that would actually be good news for Washington -- or at least not the worst news heard out of Iraq in the past couple of years.
The insurgency will not end until the Sunnis reach a political accommodation with the government. What the Sunnis want is either a disproportionate voice in Iraqi politics or a constitution that gives them some sort of veto power. The insurgency gives the Sunni leaders leverage. Without it, they have nothing with which to bargain.
The insurgency is divided into two main strands. There are those who are fighting as a matter of principle, be it religious, patriotic or ornery. And there are those fighting for more immediate political reasons: They do not want to be a helpless minority in the new Iraq, subject to the power of their enemies -- the Shia and Kurds. They feel that if they don't fight, they face generations of oppression, which is what they dealt out when they had the chance.
The politicians are negotiating. But the key -- as in any civil war -- is amnesty. If the fighting forces are not given guarantees of safety, they will not stop fighting. That means that the agreements signed by the politicians are worthless, both because the agreements can't deliver the guerrillas and because the politicians who signed them are likely to be killed by the guerrillas.
Therefore, any serious political discussion must include an amnesty offer. This will stick in the craw of a lot of people on both sides, but there is no possibility of the situation ameliorating without one. That's why the proposal is now being floated seriously. It is a sign that the political negotiations have matured to such a degree that the blowback on the idea -- in the United States, among the guerrillas, among non-Sunni Iraqis -- has to be risked and endured. The administration would clearly rather endure the blowback now, and measure resistance, than to make a formal proposal only to have it explode. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and foreign jihadists were carefully excluded from the plan -- both to make it more palatable and to split the insurgents -- but the deal that is being explored still involves political co ncessions to the Sunnis in return for peace. That is how wars end.
Obviously, this will not end the war under the best of circumstances. Even if major groups accept the plan, there will be die-hards who will resist until the end, and that goes beyond al-Zarqawi's forces. But there will be a qualitative decline in the level of violence if the main forces make a deal. That is what appears to be the bet. There is, if one considers it, little to be lost with the offer. Even if it is accepted and most guerrillas fight on, the situation doesn't really get much worse.
Marcinko on the Terror War
Reply #168 on:
June 16, 2005, 09:08:52 AM »
There are a lot of folks out there who don't have a lot of use for Marcinko's showboating, but he usually has something interesting to say. I think his comments about how American and terrorist clocks ticking differently are well worth noting.
Beyond the DropZone
A biweekly column by W. Thomas Smith Jr.
posted 16 June 05
"Sharkman of the Delta"
An exclusive interview with retired Navy SEAL Commander Richard "Rogue Warrior" Marcinko
Commander Richard Marcinko (U.S. Navy ? ret.) is a mythical figure in Naval and military circles. Ask any sailor in the American Navy - or any special operations commando from any branch of service - and they will readily admit that Marcinko is one of the most influential SpecOps officers to have ever worn the uniform. Affectionately referred to as "the Sharkman of the Delta" (a throwback moniker to his days as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam), Marcinko is the founder and first commanding officer of two of the Navy's premier special operations units: SEAL Team Six (arguably the world's best-trained counterterrorist force, which has been reconstituted as Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) and RED CELL (a SEAL unit tasked with testing Navy and Marine Corps security forces throughout the world).
Marcinko, who retired after 30-years of service, is today a security consultant and CEO of SOS Temps, a private security firm that provides services to governments and corporations around the world. He has trained mercenaries, many of whom are currently contracted and serving around the globe. And when asked (during one of my previous interviews with him) if he himself had ever worked as a merc, he hesitated then laughingly replied, "I can't answer that."
As a pop culture figure, Marcinko is best known as the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books, including The New York Times' bestseller, Rogue Warrior, and his latest work, Vengeance, said to be "a thriller ripped from tomorrow's headlines."
In an exclusive interview, Marcinko discusses his new book, the war in Iraq, current missions for special operations forces, weaknesses in Homeland Security, and the future of America's war on terror.
W. THOMAS SMITH JR: From a special operations standpoint, what are we doing right and what could we be doing better in Iraq?
RICHARD MARCINKO: Well, it's a new way of fighting for us. Basic training used to be focused on stopping or fighting a conventional war. This urban warfare we're now facing ? where the enemy wears no uniform and flies no flag ? is just nasty. Then, on top of being in combat, our soldiers have to be politically correct. That is just a complication that is not a normal thing in fighting a war. In a normal situation, there are good guys and bad guys, and you kick ass and survive. Now, we have to basically fight with one hand tied behind our backs, and that's a complication of urban warfare.
Look, we are taking 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds and telling them they can't go all out in a fight. Instead, they have to be as much a diplomat as [career diplomat, now Director of National Intelligence John D.] Negroponte was, and that they have to win the hearts and minds. That's a lot to put on a kid.
On the other hand, our special operations teams are comprised of older kids. Those are the ones who used to concern themselves with winning hearts and minds, because they had already found themselves.
So the youngsters today are finding themselves ? until the first bullet goes by with their name on it ? trying to identify who the hell the bad guys are, taking the risk everyday, and having to be mature enough to win the hearts and minds.
SMITH: So perhaps we should focus less on hearts and minds, and put more fight into it? What specifically, strategically, do we need to be doing better?
MARCINKO: We need to get out more on the borders. We need to keep a nucleus ? much like we did with the A Teams, B Teams, and C Teams of the Vietnam era ? in the cities in with the people, and stay there. Don't shift from city to city. But establish a rapport, and work on the hearts and minds in the inner city, and use the Iraqis to do the purging. They speak the language better, and they should clean up their own mess, because they are the ones who are going to have to live with it. That way, we'll truly end up as advisors, helping them and giving them the high-tech and the how-to, and providing the on-call fire support that they don't have.
SMITH: Aren't we essentially doing that now?
MARCINKO: Well, yeah, but we're doing it with line companies, not with the more senior, experienced guys. The problem is, Priority One is to stay alive. Winning hearts and minds is not. It is hard to send someone down the street and tell them to give gum and candy to kids and yet not be sure that they're not being lured out there by that kid for a sniper.
Insurgents are even now using suicide dogs, bombs strapped to dogs. They've been using [animal] carcasses to infiltrate tubes and rockets into cities. It's the old Trojan Horse thing.
Beyond that, you've got the fact that [Al Queda strongman Abu Musab al] Zarqawi can be wounded, receive treatment in town, then cross the border for more serious treatment.
All this means is that we need to get out there, seal up the borders, and simply raise havoc on the insurgent routes of egress and ingress. Nail them in the open. There you can be brutal. Take the Marines ? like we've done on the western sector and along the Syrian border ? and say, okay, have at it!
SMITH: You mention Zarqawi: With all of our technology and commandos like our SEALs and other SpecOps guys in the country, why haven't we been able to take out Zarqawi?
MARCINKO: Well, remember, we found Saddam in a hole. So, you need someone local who will trust you enough to tell you, hey, they're here. And that's hard, particularly when you are operating in an area where the locals' way of life has not really improved in all the time you've been there. So, we don't always, necessarily look like the winning ticket. And remember the last time we left the Shiites, Saddam took care of tens-of-thousands of them. They're not going to be very trusting of us, not to mention the fact that they know there is the potential of a civil war erupting among themselves.
SMITH: Americans have a perception of the training and missions of special operations forces that is formed mostly by what they see in pop culture kinds of things: Books, TV, movies. What about reality? Where else ? besides Iraq and Afghanistan ? are our special ops forces operating throughout the world, and what types of missions are they performing?
MARCINKO: Many of them are still heavy into training. They always are. Many are in the old satellite nations of the old Soviet Union, doing the old force-multiplier thing. They build a cadre. That cadre builds a cadre. They're in all the "stans" ? Pakistan, Uzbekistan, you name it. They're in those mountain passes. They're establishing forces in those areas, because there is still a lot of illicit trade ? drugs and weapons ? in those areas that will fuel any insurgency.
The issue between Pakistan and India is very dangerous. Both now have nuclear capabilities, and there is a history of friction between the two. Consequently, there are problem areas along the border. Now, of course, Iran is upset with Pakistan over recent statements about Iran's nuclear development. So there is hate-hate there.
Then take someone like Osama bin Laden: He's always operated in a small transit group. They move constantly. The group protects him. I know, he's only symbolic, but we would like to get him, kill him, and let everyone know we can. We don't want him to be the ghost who thumbs his nose at us every time.
But these places are rugged and vast and difficult to operate in. Look at Afghanistan, for instance: There are only two kinds of fields there ? minefields and poppy fields ? and until you can develop roads and create access for the general population, that's all they have to live with. No major world power has ever won in Afghanistan. The tribal warlords have simply worn out the invaders. Our clock and their clock simply tick differently. They're willing to wait, wait, wait. Whereas, we always want instant results.
So, this is not simply a military thing. It is very complex, and that's why our special operations forces are in these regions.
SMITH: Overall, what does the future hold for us and our deployed military forces?
MARCINKO: Our troops are certainly seasoned. We have a very experienced armed force, today, at least in terms of finding themselves. Now, they've got to find the enemy and nail him. And in Iraq, if we don't get some restoration there soon, that country is going to end up in a civil war that no one can control.
I can see us there in 2010 ? just for conversation's sake ? with two major installations that would basically be USA fortresses with infirmaries and Mickey D's and those kinds of things. And those fortresses would be built on something like ? in our language ? a Mason-Dixon line, and we would not allow certain groups to cross that line. And I don't long how long American taxpayers would be comfortable with that.
Iraq is certainly going to be a drumbeat for the 2008 elections. So we really need to get off our ass, focus, and get a lot done in a short time.
SMITH: You often talk about soldiers and sailors "finding themselves."
MARCINKO: Yes, for instance, SEAL training is intensive training. So a SEAL will come out of that and say, 'Okay, now I know I can do anything.' But that's training. You really don't know how you are going to respond in combat until that first bullet zings past your head. I've seen people who in training were taggers, but were pussies in war. I've also seen people who I wasn't sure why I was taking them to war, but when we got there, it was hard for me to keep them under control. It's the human factor.
After my first tour in Vietnam, the Navy behavioral sciences laboratory asked me to come in and tell them what makes a good SEAL. What is the prototype? Is it a broken home? Does he have brown hair? Is he six feet tall? Five foot eight? Anything that would give them a template to make screening for SEALs a lot easier. But that's not how it works.
I like to say, SEALs are basically a bunch of social misfits who make music together. They challenge systems. They've got to be challenged, or they get in trouble.
SMITH: Can we win the war on terror?
MARCINKO: It's not about winning or losing. It's about whether or nor we can survive the war. It's not something that's going to go away.
There was a recent piece in The Washington Post about reassessment and where-are-we-going. My take? Quit studying the damned problem, and let's attack it! Al Queda is a franchise organization. Yes, Osama bin Laden is a figurehead. He can raise money. But the real problem is the fact that we have these little monsters popping their heads out of caves around the world, and we'll be hunting them down forever. Right after 9-11, we said that Al Queda trainees were in 60 countries, worldwide. Now we know they are in far more. They're all dirty warriors. They don't wear uniforms. They don't fly flags. They can blend in wherever they are. They can outwait us. So this war is not something we can write an exit strategy on, or predict that in 2009 the last pistol shot will be fired.
SMITH: Let's look at your latest book for a moment: Is Vengeance a reflection of just how many holes or flaws can be found in our homeland defense? And if so, what can the ordinary American do?
MARCINKO: The whole series is to make people aware of what terrorists could do, would do, and might do. So you read the book and you start looking around your neighborhood and say, could it happen here? It's educating you to extend the neighborhood watch programs so that at least you are aware. After 9-11, people are less hesitant to call the police and say, 'Hey, I saw something odd down the street.' This book reinforces that.
Vengeance is certainly a play on demonstrating the holes that are apparent in homeland security. Now, is it fiction or prediction? I've predicted things that have happened in the past, including an airplane-run way ahead of 9-11. How? Because I know the terrorist mind. I think like a bad guy.
This new book does look at vulnerabilities. It does embarrass the bureaucratic system, but not the people in the field who are either not trained or not equipped.
In real terms, we've just now accepted the profiling of Middle Eastern men as possible terrorists. In Vengeance we have Bosnians who are round-eyed and look like you and me, but they are still Muslim. That's the wrinkle of reality. They can hate us just as much. They read the same Koran. They can be just as much a terrorist as a Middle Easterner, so we've get to stop putting our head in the sand.
SMITH: So, you're not satisfied with our current homeland defense.
MARCINKO: No. I'm not at all happy with homeland defense. I've talked with academia about this, and the fact that we don't have a good anti-terrorism program, which means informing the people.
SMITH: How do we do that?
MARCINKO: I've proposed an idea to several major universities ? near where I train other [institutions or companies] nearby. I'd like to see a two-hour block of instruction in every academically functional area where I will 'red cell' the learning curve. So, for instance, with engineering students, I could explain to them how, as a bad guy, I would break something. Then take them to the field and show them how I would do it. We would look at subways, and I would show them how I could turn that into something really nasty; and powergrids, where I would show them how I could shut those down. They would then go back and say, 'Okay, how might I design this system better?' More importantly, they would become aware of how easy it is to breakdown our infrastructure.
SMITH: Is [the department of] Homeland Security listening to you on this?
MARCINKO: I talk to the troops and the people I know who work in Homeland Security, but, officially, Homeland Security doesn't talk to me, so I don't know if they are listening.
Over a year ago, they hired some writers to think out of the box, to come up with funny scenarios so they could study them. Why hire them? They could have gotten the Rogue Warrior series of books out of the library and there would've been enough there to keep them busy for three years.
We're simply not focusing our efforts in the right direction. We're pouring money into things that are not effective. All they're doing is writing policy, then going to industry to implement it. Then it has to go to the board-of-directors and the stockholders, and, frankly, if there's no profit margin in it, there's no impetus to do it.
For instance, the aviation industry has been told to rig civilian airliners to defend against surface-to-air missiles, just like we do with our military. Well, they finally have one bird that is being so-configured, and they'll test it. But the industry is saying it will be 2007 before they can get anything up and ready, and it'll probably cost close to $1 million per plane. There's already no profit in the airline industry, so who's going to pick up that expense? And the bad guys are still going to come and get us, because 70 percent of our airports are still under construction, and not everyone working on those sites has a green card.
SMITH: Why aren't these problems taken more seriously?
MARCINKO: We have no staying power. 9-11 was a long time ago, and people are saying, 'They [the terrorists] are not coming.' So, all Homeland Security has been doing is color-coding alert systems, building command centers, and shifting assets. Now there are all these people working at Homeland Security, but the FBI's database is not up to speed. Immigration is not really working. I could go on and on.
What makes it worse, I don't even have to bring a weapons system into the United States. I can just break into someplace and steal something. It's simply the price we pay for being free.
SMITH: Thanks for your time, Dick.
MARCINKO: Thank you.
A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. writes about military issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans and on the West Bank. He is the author of four books, and his articles have appeared in USA Today, George, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, and National Review Online.
W. Thomas Smith Jr. can be reached at
Reply #169 on:
June 22, 2005, 12:30:20 AM »
The Downing Street Memo
By George Friedman
The "Downing Street Memo" of July 23, 2002, has become the controversy du jour in Washington and London. The memo clearly shows that the White House, in July 2002, was considering an invasion of Iraq. Given that many members of the Bush administration were discussing such an invasion publicly by the summer, we find the shock over the memorandum interesting but hardly enlightening. We recall that in August, only a month after the memo was issued, senior administration members -- including Vice President Dick Cheney -- were very publicly discussing the need for the invasion and were being publicly attacked by opponents of the war. What this memo shows was that London was privy to the thinking in Washington about a month before the Bush administration launched an intense public campaign.
The memorandum is not startling. It is extremely interesting, but far more for what it does not contain than what it does. Consider the following two, separate excerpts:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
Two points are present in both excerpts: first, that U.S. President George W. Bush had made up his mind to invade Iraq by the time the memo was written, and second, that links to terrorism and -- far more important -- the existence of a program to develop weapons of mass destruction would be the justification for the invasion. It is clear that British intelligence did not believe that the Iraqi program was as advanced as those of other countries; nevertheless, this was to be the justification for the war.
What is missing from this memo, the glaring omission, is why Bush was so eager to invade Iraq. Matthew Rycroft, the foreign policy aide who wrote this memo, demonstrates a remarkable lack of curiosity about this. C, the moniker hung on the head of British foreign intelligence, had visited the United States for routine consultations. It is extremely important to note that C is asserting that this -- invading Iraq -- is Bush's policy. Indeed, the second paragraph above quotes the British foreign minister as saying that it is Bush's policy. There is no mention here of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz or any of the others who analysts had thought were the real drivers behind the policy. So much for the belief that a cabal of neo-cons had taken control of the president's brain.
To the contrary, British intelligence is clearly reporting to the prime minister that it is George W. Bush who is making the decisions. The only other name mentioned in this memo is that of Colin Powell. Rumsfeld is mentioned only in the context of being briefed on the war plan, not on instigating it. That appears to us the single most important revelation in the document. Bush was president all along, and all the Washington gossips were wrong. The only other explanation is that C didn't know what he was talking about, or that he gave a superficial report. We doubt that either was the case.
If the document makes it clear that Bush was in control of U.S. decision-making, there is a glaring omission: Why did Bush want to invade Iraq? Our readers know that Stratfor began arguing by the summer of 2002 that an invasion of Iraq was inevitable, and I analyzed it in America's Secret War. Those arguments can be reviewed at the links below; we will summarize here simply by saying that there were no other options.
War Diary: Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002
War Diary: Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002
Smoke and Mirrors: The United States, Iraq and Deception
Bush's Crisis: Articulating a Strategy in Iraq and the Wider War
The Edge of the Razor
September 11: Three Years Later
Facing Realities in Iraq
U.S. officials believed at the time that al Qaeda was planning another strike, larger than the 9/11 strikes. The United States could not stop al Qaeda on the strength of its own intelligence; it needed the cooperation of intelligence services in the Muslim world. These services were reluctant to cooperate because their view of the United States -- after having watched 20 years of weak responses in warfare --was that it was unable to absorb the risks and casualties of war. Leaders in crucial parts of the Muslim world feared al Qaeda more than the United States. Since a covert strike against al Qaeda was not possible, the United States had no good options. Bush chose the best of a bad lot. He hoped for a change in Arab perception of the United States, from hatred and contempt to hatred and fear. He also wanted to occupy the most strategic territory in the Middle East, bringing pressure to bear on the Saudis.
The decision to justify the war by recourse to the weapons of mass destruction argument was conditioned by three things:
1. It was a persuasive justification. If Saddam Hussein was developing serious WMD, there would be support for a war.
2. The British clearly wanted a legal justification for the war, and the United States wanted the British in. One way to get that justification was a U.N. resolution, and one way to get that resolution was to convince the U.N. that the Iraqis had WMD.
3. The United States and Britain believed Hussein had these weapons. They knew Iraq's was an undeveloped program, but the United States believed that it was sufficiently developed to serve as casus belli for the war.
It was a bad decision. This was not because it was simply a lie -- it wasn't. The memo makes it clear that the British thought Iraq had a WMD program, less developed than those of other countries, but a program nonetheless. Indeed, in the section on military plans, the memo raises the concern about the Iraqis using WMD during the first phase of the war:
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
Contrary to what others have said after the memo, what it shows was that British intelligence -- and therefore U.S. intelligence -- really did believe the Iraqis might have had some serious capabilities.
Obviously, the fact that there were no WMD in Iraq -- theories that the weapons had been spirited away to Syria notwithstanding -- show retrospectively that this was a bad justification. But even if there had been WMD in Iraq, it was a bad justification even at that time. There was a sound, but complex, justification for the war that could have been provided, consisting of the following pieces:
1. Saddam Hussein might not have aided al Qaeda prior to 9/11, but given his attitude toward the United States, given his past record and given the risks involved, disposing of Hussein is a prudent and necessary action.
2. The Muslim world does not take American military power seriously. It does not think the United States has the will to fight. The United States cannot win the war unless that myth is destroyed by decisive action. If, in the course of that action, Saddam Hussein is destroyed, so much the better. It should be noted here that the United States' decision to fight in Korea, for example, was explicitly based on the theory that the Communists were testing American will - and that unless the United States demonstrated its will to fight, the Communists would take it as a sign of weakness and increase their pressure. There are worse reasons for fighting, and this one has precedent.
3. Iraq is a strategic country whose occupation would permit the United States to place pressure on regimes like Iran or Syria directly.
The mystery in the document, and the mystery since the summer of 2002, is why Bush almost never used these justifications but clung instead to the weapons of mass destruction rationale. Since it is clear that WMD was not his primary motivator, why did he not come forward with a clear explanation?
The obvious answer is that he did not have a better explanation. That would mean that he had no good reason for invading Iraq -- he simply wanted to do so and did. You can pile onto this theories that he wanted to avenge the attempted murder of his father by Iraqi agents, that he is a stupid man who doesn't think much, or that black helicopters took control of his brain. All of this may be possible. But in looking at Bush and reading this memo, there nowhere emerges an image of a man who thinks like this. There is a willful, unbending man. There is a decisive man who can make substantial mistakes and refuse to concede error. But it is hard to locate the stupid man of myth.
So why doesn't Bush come plain with his reasoning? Better still, why doesn't this memo -- which cries out for a paragraph in which C explains Bush's reasoning -- contain a word on that? Why isn't there even a mention that it is not clear what Bush is up to? Everyone in the room knows that WMD is a pretext for war, but the obvious next paragraph -- an analysis of Bush's real reasoning -- simply isn't there.
And not only isn't that discussion there, but no one in the room seemed to be even curious about it. Either they had the least curiosity of any group of men on earth, or they knew the answer.
We continue to believe the answer is Saudi Arabia. It was the elephant in the room. It was the world's largest oil producer, a close ally of both the United States and Britain, willfully uncooperative in the war against al Qaeda. We understand why the United States or Britain would not want to make this a public matter. Humiliating the Saudis was not in anyone's interest. But in the end, Bush and Tony Blair continue to pay the price of the great mistake of the war. They still haven't come up with a good justification for the invasion of Iraq, despite the fact that even we can think of several.
Here is a referenced prior piece from Strat:
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In any war, deception is a strategic necessity. However, the "bodyguard of lies" surrounding plans for a U.S. attack on Iraq -- vital to building an international coalition of support -- could be confusing the American public and endangering political support for the war effort. The operational and tactical levels of the war now appear to be clearer than the ultimate goal. That is because baldly stating the strategic necessity for an attack on Iraq -- the ability to station U.S. forces in the heart of the Middle East -- undoubtedly would endanger the fragile war coalition.
Surprise is essential to war, and deception is the foundation of surprise. During World War II, Allied planning was protected by what Winston Churchill referred to as "a bodyguard of lies."
Those lies, it could be persuasively argued, were what made Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, successful. That bodyguard of lies hid the basic operational plan from German eyes. The strategy was known to everyone: At some point, the Allies would carry out an amphibious assault on the French coast. The Germans also knew that an invasion could be expected at any time. What they did not know -- due to a plan called Operation Fortitude -- was that plans for a U.S. 3rd army attack at Pas de Calais were fictional. The real invasion was to take place at Normandy, involving other forces. Because of Operation Fortitude, the Germans knew that an invasion was coming and roughly when the invasion would occur -- but they were so wrong about where it would take place that they held their armor in reserve to protect the Pas de Calais, rather than hurl it at the attackers in Normandy.
Operation Fortitude offers two lessons. The first is to use all means necessary to confuse your enemy. The second, not nearly as frequently discussed, is that commanders must never allow themselves to become confused as to what the real plan is and -- just as important -- that the deception not extend so deeply and broadly that neither the troops nor the home audience is genuinely confused as to what is going on. At the broadest level, there was no confusion among the Allied troops and public as to the goal: unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. Many have criticized this goal, and others have said it was an unfortunate necessity designed to ensure Allied unity. It is frequently forgotten that the simplicity and the elegance of the goal kept Allied troops and the public from falling into cynical doubts about their leaders' true intentions. It was understood that the goal was unconditional surrender; the means were an invasion of France, an alliance with the Soviet Union and a strategic bombing campaign, and that the rest was best not discussed.
In Iraq, a very different "bodyguard of lies" has taken control of war planning. The operational and tactical levels of the war appear to be clearer than the war's strategic shape or even its purpose. It is unclear precisely why the war is being fought and what outcome is desired. There are two possible reasons for this confusion. The first is that the leaders might in fact be confused, but that is difficult to believe. The team around U.S. President George W. Bush not only is seasoned and skilled, but is haunted by Vietnam -- a war in which the strategic goal never was clearly defined. It is hard to believe that the Bush team would commit the error of the Johnson administration -- lack of clarity on strategic goals and, thus, inability to create operational congruence.
The second reason is more persuasive. The United States always has operated in the context of coalition warfare. In World War II, the coalition was strengthened by strategic clarity and the simplification of goals. At root, the one thing the Allies could agree on was the destruction of the Nazi regime and the occupation of Germany. U.S. grand strategy still is built on the idea of coalition warfare -- of burden sharing -- but the coalition the United States would like to construct for the upcoming war, something like what existed during Desert Storm, has such diverse and contradictory interests that there is no simple declaration of strategic goals that would unite the alliance. Quite the contrary, any such statement of goals would divide the allies dramatically -- indeed, it would make alliance impossible. Therefore, the United States is searching for a justification that is persuasive, not true. In the process, Washington is neither building the coalition nor maintaining popular and political support for the war at home.
In a strategic sense, there is a very good and clear explanation for the war: Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. There is no reason to believe there will not be additional and more intense attacks in the future. Fighting al Qaeda on a tactical level -- hunting down the network on its own turf, team by team -- is not only inefficient, it is probably ineffective. Certainly, given the geography of the Islamic world, even reaching in to the militants' networks has been impossible.
However, attacking and occupying Iraq achieves three things:
1. It takes out of the picture a potential ally for al Qaeda, one with sufficient resources to multiply the militant group's threat. Whether Iraq has been an ally in the past is immaterial -- it is the future that counts.
2. It places U.S. forces in the strategic heart of the Middle East, capable of striking al Qaeda forces whenever U.S. intelligence identifies them.
3. Most important, it allows the United States to bring its strength --conventional forces -- to bear on nation-states that are enablers or potential enablers of al Qaeda. This would undermine strategically one of the pillars of al Qaeda's capabilities: the willingness of established regimes to ignore al Qaeda operations within their borders.
From a U.S. standpoint, this is the strategic rationale for a war with Iraq. Or, to be more precise, if this is not the rationale, the purpose is the one thing a war's strategic goals should never be -- a baffling secret.
This is not the explanation that has been given for the war's strategy. The Bush administration's central problem has been that it has not been able to tie its Iraq strategy in with its al Qaeda strategy. At first, the United States tried to make the case that there had been collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq in the past, as if trying to prove that a crime had been committed that justified war. The justification, of course, was strategic -- not what might have happened, but to prevent what might happen in the future. The administration then settled into a justification concerning weapons of mass destruction, creating the current uproar over whether an empty rocket could be construed as a justification for war.
From the beginning, the administration fell into the trap of treating a war as a criminal investigation. Imagine that after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had made a speech declaring that he would hunt down every pilot who had attacked Pearl Harbor without warning and bring him to justice. In the ensuing insanity, the emphasis would have been on avoiding harm to innocent Japanese and others and implementing judicial procedures to make sure that only those directly involved in the attack were punished. When the United States made plans to land on Guadalcanal, it would be pointed out that the innocent people on Guadalcanal had done nothing to deserve the death and destruction that would rain down on them. Washington, rather than explaining the strategic rationale for the Guadalcanal operation, would charge the islanders with aiding the Japanese and then photograph a meeting between an islander and a Japanese agent in Prague. Officials then would claim that Guadalcanal possessed weapons that threatened the United States, and an inspection regime would be put in place.
The Guadalcanal islanders were infinitely less deserving of punishment than Saddam Hussein or the country he rules, but that completely misses the point. Wars are not about punishment; they are not legal proceedings. They are actions by nations against other nations designed to achieve national goals. The virtue of the Guadalcanal islanders was not the issue, nor the guilt of individual pilots at Pearl Harbor. Nor, indeed, was the war about whether the Japanese were the aggressors or, as they claimed, the victims of aggression. War is war, and is carried out by its own logic.
The Bush administration knows this, and it has excellent strategic reasons for wanting to conquer Iraq. The government has chosen not to enunciate those motives for a simple reason: If it did, many of the United States' allies would oppose the war. Washington's goal -- the occupation of Iraq -- would strengthen the United States enormously, and this is something that many inside Washington's coalition don't want to see happen. Therefore, rather than crisply stating the strategic goal, the government has tried to ensnare its allies in a web of pseudo-legalism. Rather than simply stating that Iraq, like Guadalcanal, is a strategic prize whose occupation will facilitate the war, it has tried to demonstrate that Hussein has violated some resolution or another. Hussein, no fool, has succeeded in confusing the issue endlessly. The point -- that invading Iraq is in the U.S. national interest regardless of whether Hussein has a single weapon of mass destruction, is lost. This is about strategy, not guilt or innocence.
This has led the United States to deal with the current problem: What if Hussein leaves under his own steam? As Washington has allowed the issue to be defined, that should go a long way toward satisfying U.S. goals. From a strategic standpoint, of course, it would achieve nothing unless the United States was allowed to enter Iraq and base substantial forces there under its own control, to be used as it wishes.
The downside of all of this for the United States is that American public opinion, rather than buying into a strategic vision that has not been expressed, has accepted the public justification offered by the Bush administration. As recent polls have shown, the overwhelming majority of the public opposes a war if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq. That, obviously, can change, but the price of building a coalition on a legal foundation is that it makes public support conditional as well.
There is an upside as well: The confusion over motives and intentions must baffle Iraq, too. Consider one example: The United States has indicated some interest in a settlement based on Hussein's resignation -- what else could Washington say? This also would indicate something that Hussein fundamentally believes -- that the United States is not eager for war. The more interest Washington shows in a deal, the less interested Baghdad will be, although he certainly will play it out for as long as possible.
Consider other examples from the operational level. U.S. officials said last week that they wanted five carriers in the Persian Gulf before beginning the war, yet only two are there now and it will take up to a month for the rest to arrive. British officials said recently that that the British 7 Brigade -- the Desert Rats -- would not be ready to participate in the war on time, although Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon later announced that nearly 30,000 troops, including the Desert Rats, would be deployed "over the days and weeks ahead." The United States is trying to survey Turkish air bases with which it already is familiar. From where we sit, the United States appears to be nowhere near ready to go to war. In fact, the entire buildup seems completely uncoordinated.
From Baghdad, Hussein sees all of this and might conclude that he has time -- time to delay, time to move forces back into Baghdad, time to launch pre-emptive chemical attacks. From where he sits, it might look as if U.S. strategy is not genuinely committed to war and U.S. operational capabilities are so out of kilter that a war cannot be launched before summer.
The deception campaign at the operational level well could be working perfectly. Hitler thought he knew where the attack was coming from but was utterly wrong. Hussein might think that he knows where the attack is coming, but it might be that he thinks he has more time than he has. Deception on the operational level is a vital weapon.
However, deception on the strategic level is a double-edged sword. Particularly in a democracy, where the von Metternichs must consult the public as well as the emperor, strategic deception can confuse the public as much as it confuses the enemy. Moreover, in coalition warfare, the inability to clearly state war goals because coalition partners don't share them might mean that the coalition is the problem, not the solution. Indeed, in creating illusory justification, the Bush administration might be denying the fundamental reality -- that the U.S. goal and those of the allies are incompatible, and that decisions need to be made.
If Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the only rational solution is the one the Israelis used in 1981 -- destroy them. To allow officials in Baghdad time during an inspection crisis to possibly complete their fabrication makes no sense. To have allowed the WMD issue to supplant U.S. strategic interests as the justification for war has created a crisis in U.S. strategy. Deception campaigns are designed to protect strategies, not to trap them. Ultimately, the foundation of U.S. grand strategy, coalitions and the need for clarity in military strategy have collided.
The discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will not solve the problem, nor will a coup in Baghdad. In a war that will last for years, maintaining one's conceptual footing is critical. If that footing cannot be maintained -- if the requirements of the war and the requirements of strategic clarity are incompatible -- there are more serious issues involved than the future of Iraq.
? Copyright 2005 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #170 on:
June 28, 2005, 07:14:53 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Tuesday, June 28, 2005
On June 26, Donald Rumsfeld said two important things. The first was that the war in Iraq could last another 12 years. The second was that the United States had engaged in negotiations with Iraqi insurgents. Of the two announcements, the one concerning negotiations was by far the most important, although the two were linked in certain ways.
We have asserted for a while that the United States was engaged in discussions with the Sunni leadership in Iraq. By the end of last year, the United States had faced the reality that it was not going to defeat the guerrillas in the Sunni Triangle. The guerrillas had to face the fact that their insurrection was not going to spread into the Shiite community. A stalemate had materialized. Neither side could knock out the other.
This was a classic situation for negotiations. Both logic and intelligence led us to conclude that discussions were under way. The discussions were fueled by another factor: The failure of the guerrillas to disrupt the elections and the government had left the Sunnis in a position where they were in danger of being permanently marginalized. Having boycotted the elections, the Sunnis had virtually no presence in the new government. Unless they made a deal with the Shiite-dominated government, the Sunni's historical enemies would dominate in controlling the levers of government.
The Sunni elders, who were the enablers of much of the insurrection, were trapped between two forces. On the one side, the Shia -- and the Americans -- were pressing them. On the other side, the jihadists, many of them from outside Iraq, were pressing them. They were in a trap from which they had to extricate themselves. On the one hand, they supported the insurrection. On the other hand, they opened lines of communication to the Americans, whom they paradoxically regarded as an honest broker with the mistrusted Shia.
The American reason for the negotiation was simple. It could not indefinitely fight a counterinsurgency among the Sunnis without some allies. The Shia could keep the lid on the majority of the country, but within the Sunni Triangle, they needed Sunnis. The insurrection had two major strands. One was jihadist, taking its bearings from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The other was more nationalist and Baathist. The United States started talking to the second strand.
The problem then became the Shia. The Sunni price was not merely a time line of American withdrawal. It was a constitution that would give the Sunnis veto power over Shiite decisions. The Sunnis could live with the Americans more easily than they could with majority rule. The Americans were prepared to give the Sunnis that sort of power. In the end, the government of Iraq is not a pressing concern for the United States. In fact, they liked a veto because it would limit Shiite power, creating an internal balance of power and limiting the Iranian influence in Iraq.
It was the Shia who would be the big losers in this deal. That is why Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari was in Washington last week. The Bush administration was leaning heavily on them with two choices: Either reach an accommodation with the Sunnis or take responsibility for the counterinsurgency. In effect, make the peace or fight a civil war. In either case, leave the United States out of it. The key was to convince the Shia that the Americans meant it when they privately threatened to abandon providing security in Iraq.
That is why Rumsfeld said that the war might last 12 years, but not for the United States. He was driving home the fact that the war was the Shia's war, not the Americans'. He was also pointing out that peace with the dominant strand in the Sunni community would reduce the level of violence dramatically. Better to face foreign jihadists than the entire Sunni Triangle.
The issue is now in the hands of the Shia and to a lesser extent the Kurds. The Shia want to dominate the new Iraq. They can have that if they are prepared to carry the burden of security in the Sunni Triangle. If they don't want that burden, they will have to make a political arrangement that the United States is prepared to broker. The fighting might last 12 years -- although where Rumsfeld got that exact number is not clear to us -- but the level of fighting is variable.
In any case, the United States is negotiating, if not an exit strategy, at least a mitigation strategy.
Reply #171 on:
June 29, 2005, 12:31:30 AM »
My second post today.
This strikes me as a deep, serious, sober and fair assessment of the current situation.
Signing up recommended in the highest terms!
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT06.28.2005
By George Friedman
U.S. President George W. Bush made a prime-time, nationally televised speech June 28, maintaining the position he has taken from the beginning: The invasion of Iraq was essential to U.S. interests. Though the publicly stated rationale has shifted, the commitment has remained constant. Bush's speech -- and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's revelation earlier this week that the United States has been negotiating with insurgents -- represent an important milestone in the history of the war and require a consideration of the strategic situation.
The issue of why the United States got into Iraq is not trivial by any means. The reasons for its involvement are an indicator of the end-state the United States wishes to achieve. Understanding the goal, in turn, allows us to measure whether the United States is succeeding and how the various forces in Iraq might want to accommodate to that policy or act to thwart it. In other words, if you don't understand why the United States decided to go into Iraq, you cannot figure out how it is faring there at any given stage.
Last week, this column addressed the "Downing Street memo" from the standpoint of what it reveals about U.S. motivations. The memorandum confirms that the United States was not interested in WMD and was using the argument that Saddam Hussein was developing WMD as a covering justification for invasion. It does not address the question of why the United States did invade -- an omission that opens the door to speculation, ranging from the belief that George W. Bush was just being mean, to others involving complex strategies.
Readers familiar with our analysis know that we tend toward the strategic view. The United States invaded Iraq for two reasons, in our view:
1. Seize the single most strategic country in the region in order to pressure neighboring countries to provide intelligence on al Qaeda.
2. Demonstrate American military might -- and will -- for a region that held the latter in particularly low regard.
From our point of view, given the options at the time, the strategy was understandable and defensible. Washington, however, committed a series of fundamental mistakes, which we discussed at the time:
1. The Bush administration failed to provide a coherent explanation for the war.
2. The administration planned for virtually no opposition from Iraqi forces, either during the conventional war or afterward.
3. Given the failure of planning, the United States did not create a force in Iraq appropriate to the mission. The force was not only too small, but inappropriately configured for counterinsurgency operations.
4. The United States did not restructure its military force as a whole to take into account the need for a long-term occupation in the face of resistance. As a result, the U.S. Army in particular not only is being strained, but has limited operational flexibility should other theaters of operation become active.
Because of these failures, the United States has not decisively achieved its strategic goals in invading Iraq. We say "decisively" because some of these goals, such as shifts in Saudi Arabia's policy, have occurred. But because of the inconclusive situation in Iraq, the full value of occupying Iraq and the full psychological effect have evaded the United States. This, combined with consistent inability to provide clear explanations for the administration's goals, has raised the price of establishing a U.S. presence in Iraq while diminishing the value.
The Current Situation
In December 2004, Stratfor argued that the United States had lost the war against the guerrillas in the Sunni Triangle -- that it would be impossible to defeat the guerrillas with the force the United States could bring to bear. At the same time, we have argued that the situation is evolving toward a satisfactory outcome for the United States.
These appear to be contradictory statements. They are not. But they do point out the central difficulty of understanding the war.
The guerrillas have failed in their two strategic goals:
1. They have not been able to spread the rising beyond the Sunni population and area. That means that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi population are not engaged in the rising. Indeed, they are actively hostile to it.
2. The guerrillas have not been able to prevent the initiation of a political process leading to the establishment of an Iraqi government. Forces representing the Shia and the Kurds -- together, about 80 percent of the Iraqi population -- have engaged in regime-building within the general boundaries created by the U.S. occupying forces. At least, for now.
At the same time, the United States has failed to suppress militarily the guerrilla rising within the Sunni region. Within that region, the guerrilla forces have cyclically maintained their tempo of operations. They have occasionally slowed the operational tempo, but consistently returned to levels equal to or higher than before. In spite of the fact that the United States has thrown two excellent divisions at a time against the guerrillas, the insurrection has continued unabated. The involvement of jihadists, who do not share the political goals of Sunni guerrillas, has only added to the noise, the violence and the perceptions of U.S. failure.
Neither side has achieved its goals. The United States has not defeated the guerrillas. The guerrillas have not triggered a general rising. But the situation is not equal, because this is not simply a war that pits the Sunni guerrillas against the United States. Rather, it pits the Sunni guerrillas against the United States and against the Shiite and Kurdish majority. It is this political reality that continues to give the United States a massive advantage in the war.
It must be remembered that the guerrillas' primary target has not been American forces, but the forces and leaders of the Iraqi government. The primary strategy has been to attack the emerging government and infrastructure -- both to intimidate participants and to disrupt the process. However, what many observers systematically ignore is that it is a misnomer to speak of an "Iraqi" government or army. Both of those represent a coalition of Shia and Kurds. Therefore, the guerrillas are engaged in a strategy of attacks against the Shiite and Kurdish communities.
This is what puts the guerrillas at a massive disadvantage, and what makes their strategic failure so much more serious than that of the Americans. Were the guerrillas to defeat the United States, in the sense that the United States chose to withdraw from Iraq, it would create an historic catastrophe for the Iraqi Sunnis, whom the guerrillas represent. Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish communities were the historical victims of the Sunni-dominated Baathist regime, particularly when Saddam Hussein was in control of it. If the United States were to withdraw, the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds would have to make their own peace without outside arbitration. One of the very real outcomes of this would be a bloodbath within the Sunni community -- with Shia and Kurds both repaying the Sunnis for their own previous bloodbaths and protecting themselves from the re-emergence of Sunni power.
There is, therefore, a fundamental ambivalence within the Sunni community. Certainly, the Sunnis are overwhelmingly anti-American -- as indeed are the Shia. The jihadist fighters -- who, after all, celebrate suicide tactics -- are also indifferent to the potential catastrophes. In some ways, they would find a bloodbath by Shia and Kurds helpful in clarifying the situation. But the jihadist fighters -- many of them Sunnis from outside of Iraq -- do not represent the Iraqi Sunnis. The Iraqi Sunnis are represented by the elders from towns and villages, who are certainly not indifferent to a blood bath.
This is the key group, the real battleground in Iraq.
The Political Calculus
The Sunni leadership is aware that the current course is not in their interest. If U.S. forces remain in Iraq, the Sunnis will be excluded from the government and marginalized. If the United States leaves, they will be the victims of repression by the Shia and Kurds. The failure of the guerrillas to disrupt the political process in Iraq puts the Sunni leadership in a difficult position. They supported the insurrection based on expectations that have not borne fruit -- the political process was not aborted. They now must adjust to a reality they did not anticipate. In effect, they bet on the guerrillas, and they lost. The guerrillas have not been defeated, but they have not won. More to the point, there is no scenario now under which the guerrillas can do more than hold in the Sunni regions. The rising cannot turn into a national rising, because there is no Kurdish or Shiite force even flirting with that possibility anymore. The guerrillas' failure to win has forced a choice on the Sunnis.
That choice is whether to pull the insurgents' base of support out from underneath them. The guerrillas are able to operate because the Sunni elders have permitted them to do so. Guerrillas do not float in the air. As Mao and Giap taught, a guerrilla force must have a base among the people. In the Sunni regions of Iraq, the key to the people are the elders. If the elders decide to withhold support, the guerrillas cannot operate. They can operate by intimidation, but that is not a sufficient basis for guerrilla operations.
The United States is trying now to exploit this potential breach. The elders find the guerrillas useful: They are the Sunnis' only bargaining chip. But they are a dangerous chip. The guerrillas are not fighting and dying simply to be a bargaining chip in the hands of the Sunni leaders.
For their part, neither the Shia nor the Kurds have wanted to give the Sunnis guarantees of any sort. They distrust the Sunnis and want to keep them weak and on the defensive. The United States, therefore, has had to play a two-sided game. On the one hand, the Americans have had to assure the Sunnis that they would have a significant place in any Iraqi government. To achieve this, the United States must convince the Shia of two things: First, that an Iraqi regime including the Sunnis is a better alternative to an ongoing civil war, and second, that the United States is, in the final analysis, prepared to abandon Iraq -- leaving it to the Shia and Kurds to deal with Iranian demands and Sunni violence.
Thus, Washington has a very complicated negotiating position. On the one hand, it is negotiating and making promises to the Sunnis and some guerrillas. On the other hand, U.S. officials are projecting a sense of weariness to the Shia, increasing the pressure on them to make concessions. Donald Rumsfeld's statements on Sunday -- confirming meetings between U.S. and Iraqi Shiite leaders with insurgent groups -- were designed to try to hit the right notes, a difficult task. So too were recent offers of amnesty for the insurgents.
But in fact, it is not negotiations but the reality on the ground that drives these moves. The Shia have shown no appetite for a civil war with the Sunnis. That might change, which is a concern for the Sunnis, but they are in a bargaining mode. The Sunnis understand that even were the United States defeated, they would have to deal with the Shia, who outnumber them and are not likely to knuckle under. Simply defeating the United States is in the interests of the jihadists -- particularly the foreigners -- but those who live in Iraq face a more complex reality: An American withdrawal would open the door to disaster, not pave the way for victory. This is not Saigon in 1975. Defeating the United States is not the same thing as winning the war -- not by a long shot. The Sunni leaders know that they can defeat the United States and still be massacred by their real enemies.
Therefore, an American departure is not in the interest of any of the combatants -- except for the jihadists -- at this moment. This is an odd thing to assert, since the insurgents have placed U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as a primary agenda item. Nevertheless, the internal political configuration makes the United States useful, for the moment, to most players. The non-jihadist insurgents want the United States as not only a target, but also as a buffer. The Iraqi Shia, concerned about domination by the Iranians, use the Americans as a counterweight. The Kurds are dependent on U.S. patronage on a more permanent basis. The paradox is this: Everyone in Iraq hates the Americans. Everybody wants the Americans to leave, but not until they achieve their own political goals. This should not be considered support for U.S. domination of Iraq; it is simply the calculus of the moment. But it opens a window of opportunity for the United States to pursue a new strategy.
The United States cannot defeat the guerrillas in combat. It could, however, potentially split the guerrilla movement, dividing the guerrillas controlled by the Sunni leadership from the hard-core jihadists -- whom Bush designated in his June 28 speech as the true enemy in Iraq. If that were to happen, the insurrection would not disappear, but it would decline. Even if the Sunnis were not prepared to engage the jihadists directly, the simple withdrawal of a degree of sanctuary would undermine their operations. The violence would continue, but not at its current level.
From the jihadists' standpoint, this would be an intolerable outcome. They must do everything possible to keep this from happening. Therefore, they must make a maximum effort to deflect the Sunni leadership from its course, harden the position of the Shia, and deny the United States both room to maneuver in Iraq and credibility at home. An increase of violence is, in fact, built into this scenario, and the United States cannot defeat it. Violence frequently increases as a war moves into its political phase.
For this reason, then, our view is that (a) the United States has lost control of the military situation and (b) that the political situation in Iraq remains promising. That would appear to be a paradoxical statement, but in fact, it points to the reality of this war: Massive failures by the administration have led it into a situation where there is no military solution; nevertheless, the configuration of forces in Iraq provide the United States with a very real political solution. All evidence is that the United States is in the process of attempting to move on this political plan. It will not eliminate violence in Iraq. It can, however, reduce the scope.
But before that is possible, the violence will continue to rise.
Reply #172 on:
June 29, 2005, 10:37:45 PM »
A friend writes:
In 2002, after 9/11 and the fear engendered by the anthrax-in-the-mail
letters, this administration decided to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime
because the risk of permitting him to continue in power outweighed the risk
of expelling him.
What was that risk?
-- SH gives secretly to Islamist terrorists chemical, biological or dirty
nuclear weapons for use against the US and other countries in the West.
Why was that risk real?
-- SH had them in the past and had used them.
-- SH expelled UNSCOM inspectors in 1998 before they could verify the
absence of ALL of those weapons.
-- After Gulf War I, SH falsely denied that he did not have biological
weapons. This deception was discovered only after the defection of his
sons-in-law to Jordan in 1995.
-- The consensus analysis of all major intelligence agencies was that SH
still was concealing large quantities of the components of chem-bio weapons
and that he was attempting to restart his nuclear program.
-- Iraqi intelligence had regular contacts with members of al Qaida and
other Islamist terror groups.
What were our options?
-- Do nothing and trust that Iraqi intelligence operatives will not assist
al Qaida and other terror groups in the construction and use of small WMD's.
-- Eliminate the risk by overthrowing SH and severing the connections
between the terrorists and Iraqi intelligence controlled by SH.
What did we discover about WMD's after we overthrew SH?
-- That SH did not have any large stockpiles of militarized WMD's in Iraq
when he was overthrown.
-- That Iraqi intelligence had maintained a small, covert biological weapons
program up to the overthrow.
-- That SH had not reconstituted his chemical weapons program after 1998,
but had planned to do so after lifting of the UN sanctions.
-- That SH had not reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, but intended
to do so after the lifting of the UN sanctions.
-- That Iraqi intelligence under SH maintained regular liason and contact
with al Qaida and other Islamist terror groups including sponsoring and
funding Ansar al Islam, now known as "Al Qaida in Iraq."
Were there other probable benefits to overthrowing SH?
-- Geopolitically, a pro-US Iraq would occupy the center of the Middle East
from which the US could inlfuence and contain Iran and Syria. Also, the US
could exercise more direct influence over Saudi Arabia.
-- Geographically, the US could induce many Islamist terrorists to fight the
US armed forces in Iraq istead of committing terrorist acts on US soil.
Has the US made mistakes in the conduct of this war?
-- Yes. What President has presided over a mistake-free war? FDR? Truman?
JFK? LBJ? Wilson? Lincoln? Madison? Jefferson? Polk? Cleveland?
Was it worth it?
The Swedish Front
Reply #173 on:
June 30, 2005, 04:52:25 PM »
One way to keep the kidnappers looking over their shoulders. . . .
- Billy (Stockholm, Sweden)@ 8:24 pm
Yesterday we noted that Ulf Hjertstr?m, the sexagenarian Swede who survived a 67-day kidnapping ordeal in Baghdad, reportedly was paying professional bounty hunters a handsome fee to track down his erstwhile captors. Expressen, a Swedish tabloid, picked up the story and got in touch with Hjertstr?m to get the lowdown.
Hjertstr?m, an oil broker whose career took him to Iraq 25 years ago, makes no bones about the decision to exact revenge on his abductors. ?I?ve lived [in Iraq] for a long time. This is how things are done there. It?s nothing new to me,? he says.
Hearty Hjertstr?m ?doesn?t want to go into detail? about the bounty hunters, but assures Expressen that they are ?the best money can buy.?
?They?re not twiddling their thumbs,? declares Hjertstr?m, revealing that he has ?received confirmation that two of [the kidnappers] have already been taken care of.? When asked to elaborate on the fate of the purportedly captured men, the Swede says he ?hasn?t inquired? but has his ?suspicions.?
Many in Sweden have expressed shock and dismay at Hjertstr?m?s eye-for-an-eye approach. But the plucky pensioner claims that revenge is not his primary motive. ?I just want the people of Baghdad to feel safe on the streets.?
Giuliana Sgrena could not be reached for comment.
- Billy McCormac
Reply #174 on:
July 11, 2005, 05:44:54 PM »
Report: Radical Kuwaiti Imams Drowned Out in Pro-American Protests by Local Worshippers
From the Al-Siyasah newspaper (received June 6):
"The Imam of al-Jabiriyah preached against the Americans and the Worshippers shouted 'O' Allah, make America stronger!"
"The Al-Siyasah newspaper has received news that several mosques in Kuwait have begun to exhibit a new phenomenon manifested in the rejection by worshippers of extremist prayers expressed by some of the Imams during their Khutbah [friday prayer]. These prayers included invitations to fight the Americans and to become more hostile towards them. An example of this [phenomenon] was when Nabil al-Awadi, who is an Imam at one of the mosques in the southern region of Al-Surrah, began preaching against the Americans in his last Friday Khutbah. As a result, the people at prayer cut off his speech and demanded that he stop talking. Additionally, the worshippers at the mosque of Aisha Shabib in the Al-Jabiriyah neighborhood shouted, 'O' Allah, make Islam and America stronger' in response to what the Imam of that mosque had said during friday prayer about America and the current war [in Iraq]."
Reply #175 on:
July 12, 2005, 12:30:15 PM »
July 12, 2005
The Iraqi Wars
Our 15-year conflict with Iraq.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
Iraq is a blur now. Everyone from Norman Schwarzkopf and General Zinni to Tommy Franks and General Abezaid is mixed up in our memories. The public can't quite separate Baathists from jihadists, Shiite from Sunni, or one coalition from another. Mostly the confusion arises because we have compressed four separate wars of two decades into some vague continuum.
War I (January 17 to March 3, 1991)
The First Iraqi War ("The Gulf War," "Persian Gulf War," "Gulf War I," "The Four-Day War," or "Iraqi-Kuwaiti War") started over Saddam Hussein's August 2, 1990, invasion of Kuwait. His occupation precipitated the American-led coalition's efforts to reclaim Kuwait through land and air attacks. Saddam's complete capitulation was seen as satisfying the war's professed claim of restoring the sovereignty of Kuwait.
But despite retreating from Kuwait and suffering terrible damage to his armed forces, Saddam, like the Germans in 1918, claimed that his armies had been repelled while on the offensive. So he passed off a setback as a draw against the world's superpower ? and thus a win by virtue of his own survival against overwhelming odds.
In any case, we called off our forces before the destruction of the Republican Guard. We also refused to go to Baghdad; we let rebellious Shiites and Kurds be tragically butchered; and we failed to enforce all the surrender agreements. Apparently the U.S. wished to bow to the U.N. mandates only to expel Saddam from Kuwait, or was worried about our Sunni partners who wanted a lid on Kurdish tribalism and Shiite fervor inside Iraq.
War I was a response to years of appeasement of Iraq, American mixed signals during the Iran-Iraq War, and clumsy diplomacy. All may have given Saddam the message that his invasion of Kuwait was outside the realm of American interest.
War II (March 1991 to March 2003)
A rather different 13-year Second Iraqi War followed. Despite its length, the nebulous effort was not a mere "cold war."
Indeed, there was far more direct engagement with our adversary than was true during our half-century conflict with the Soviet Union. For example, after the December 1998 "Desert Fox" campaign ? aimed at suspected WMD depots following Saddam's expulsion of the U.N. inspectors ? General Zinni speculated that perhaps thousands of Iraqi soldiers had been killed in a few hours.
So-called "no-fly zones" took away two-thirds of Iraq's airspace, requiring more than a third of a million allied air sorties. In many years, about every third day, allied aircraft fired missiles or conducted bomb attacks against Iraqi planes or batteries.
A U.N. trade embargo, coupled with the scandalous Oil-for-Food program, starved thousands of Iraqi civilians. Saddam, with foreign help, siphoned off cash and food for his own Baathist cronies.
Despite U.N. inspectors, bombs, cruise missiles, embargos, and boycotts, the second war, like the first, ended with Saddam still in power. He remained defiant, insisting that he had taken on the world and survived every conceivable coercive measure with his petrodollar income and rigid control over the country intact.
War II was a response to the failure to remove Saddam in War I.
War III (March 20 to April 9, 2003)
The Third Iraqi War ? variously known as "Gulf War II" or "The Three-Week War" ? was a conventional conflict. It began with the bombing of Baghdad and ended with the toppling of Saddam's statue. Its purpose, unlike Wars I and II, was the removal of Saddam and his Baathist regime, with replacement by a consensual government.
Controversy surrounds this third war's aims and causes, given the administration's fixation with weapons of mass destruction. Yet the U.S. Senate in October 2002 wisely listed 23 writs for regime change, ranging from fears of WMD, past violations of armistice and U.N. agreements, genocide, attacks on neighboring countries, and attempts to assassinate a former president of the United States.
War III was a response to the failure to remove Saddam in War II.
War IV. (April 2003 to present)
The Fourth Iraqi War ("The Insurrection," "The Occupation") began immediately after the end of the conventional fighting and continues today. It was framed by the fact that the United States would not simply leave after toppling Saddam yet had never really gone into the Sunni Triangle in force during the three-week victory. War IV was waged by a loose alliance of Wahhabi fundamentalists, foreign jihadists, and former Baathists against the American efforts to fashion an indigenous Iraqi democratic government.
So far this fourth war has taken more American lives (roughly 1750 combat dead) than Wars I-III combined, though probably not as many Iraqis have been killed as the tens of thousands lost in the first three conflicts. The aim of the terrorists was either the expulsion of the American occupying forces, the restoration of Saddam Hussein's Baathists, the creation of a Sunni Islamic theocracy, or at least a return to the subjugation of the Kurdish-Shiite majority.
In response, the United States is conducting a multifaceted war to isolate the terrorists in Iraq: empower the Kurds and Shiites; warn Iraqi Sunnis that theirs is a choice between legitimate politics and endless violence and defeat; and promote democracy from the Gulf to Egypt and Lebanon in order to dry up the fonts of al Qaeda that flow into Iraq.
War IV was an effort to ensure there would not be another Saddam and thus more wars like I-III.
What lessons can we learn, other than that Iraq is a Westerner's nightmare ? in the heart of the ancient caliphate, next door to lunocracies in Syria and Iran, with petrodollars to spare for sophisticated weaponry, and with a history of dictatorship as the only alternative to tribal and religious bloodletting?
For all the pundits' talk of "clearly defined objectives" and "exit strategies," in the first three wars we articulated concrete methods and achieved limited aims. Saddam got out of Kuwait (I); Saddam was not able subsequently to attack his neighbors (II); and Saddam was removed (III).
The fourth war is not over, so we are not sure of the eventual outcome of its most ambitious goal, the establishment of democracy. Still, contrary to popular opinion, there have always been clear-cut intentions in these wars, which have been spelled out in advance and until now have been met.
Indeed, the problem has not been meeting the objective, but the objective itself. War I was unfortunately limited to the restoration of Kuwait. Yet the real crux was Saddam's regime itself, which invaded Kuwait, attacked Israel and Saudi Arabia, and threatened to restart banned weapons programs.
War II, in some ways the longest and most costly of the four conflicts in terms of human misery on the ground, likewise failed to address the real issue. The nature of Saddam's despotism ? not just broken agreements, mockery of the U.N., or subsequent plots ? was the source of the problem.
War III sought to remedy the failings of Wars I and II, and did so in the sense of removing Saddam and his Baathist regime. But it too was na?ve in thinking Saddam's rule was limited to a few Baathist henchmen rather than being composed of a large fascist infrastructure ? with alliances of convenience with jihadist terrorists ? that suffered comparatively little during the three weeks of fighting other than worry over a loss of its pride.
If we are victorious in War IV, Iraq will be analogous to a Germany, Japan, or Panama and pose no further problem. If we fail, it will be similar to Vietnam or Lebanon. In our defeat we will give up, go home, and probably not return.
There were always problems with public support that limited American options in these four wars and thus explained why we didn't go to Baghdad, turned to a cold war, and are now facing insurgents from Syria and Iran after a relatively quick conventional victory that mostly bypassed the Sunni Triangle.
During War I, the U.S. Senate almost voted to cut off funding while troops were stationed on the front lines. In the latter stages of War II, President Clinton's critics alleged its hot phases were a planned distraction from his impeachment, while our allies undermined sanctions and embargoes, leaving the U.S. and Britain alone to enforce the no-fly zones. The country was torn apart over the March 2003 start of War III, and has been even more divided over War IV. Critics either said we were na?ve in our half-hearted efforts or too bloodthirsty in unleashing violence against the blameless "Iraqi people."
War IV is now unpopular, but that is understandable because it is the costliest in terms of American lives ? and the only one of the four that was not just punitive and thus not fought in a solely conventional manner.
Creating consensual government has proven much harder than freeing Kuwait, taking over Saddam's skies, and toppling his regime ? especially since all of those previous efforts did not really defeat and humble the fascists, and were confined only to our forte of conventional fighting.
In sum, after 15 years we are nearing a showdown with Iraq, since we finally chose to confront the real problem of a fascist autocracy ? the result of Soviet-style Baathism imposed on a tribal society ? recycling petrodollars to wage modern war at the heart of the world's oil reserves and international terrorism.
Just as there was no third war with Germany or second war with Vietnam, there will probably be no fifth war with Iraq. We have finally learned our lesson: Victory or defeat and a change of circumstances ? not breathing spells with dictators, U.N. resolutions, realpolitik truces, no-fly zones, or cruise missiles ? finally end most wars.
Either the conditions that start a war ? in the modern era usually some sort of autocracy that creates mythical grievances and is appeased in its desire for cheap victory ? are resolved or they are not. Iraq War IV will prove that there will be no more Saddams ? or that there will be plenty of them and the United States can't do much about it.
But at least this final war in its ambitious goal to end the cycle is honest, and so will be decisive in the way the other three were not. If War IV is now the costliest for the U.S. and the most controversial of the series, it is because it is for all the marbles and offers a lasting and humane solution ? and every enemy of the United States in the Middle East seems to grasp that far better than we do.
?2005 Victor Davis Hanson
Reply #176 on:
July 14, 2005, 01:40:47 AM »
The Mail Memo: A Glimpse into U.S. Strategic Thinking
By George Friedman
The Mail on Sunday, a British newspaper, recently published a memo that
editors claimed had been leaked by a British official. The document, titled
"Options for future UK force posture in Iraq" is dated 9 July 2005 and is
marked "Secret-UK Eyes Only." The document was a working paper prepared for
the Cabinet. What makes the memo extraordinarily important is that it
contains a discussion of a substantial drawdown of British and American
troops in Iraq, beginning in early 2006. Given the July 7 bombings in
London, the memo has not attracted as much notice as normally would be
expected. That is unfortunate because, if genuine, it provides a glimpse
into U.S. strategic thinking and indicates a break point in the war.
It is always difficult to know whether documents such as this are genuine.
In Britain, a steady trickle of classified documents has been leaked to the
press during the past month, all of which appear to have been validated as
authentic. That means that the idea of a classified document on this subject
being leaked to the press is far from unprecedented. There has been ample
time for Prime Minister Tony Blair or his government to deny the story, but
they haven't. Finally, the document coheres with our analysis of the current
situation on the ground in Iraq and the thinking in Washington. It makes
sense. That's certainly the most dangerous way to validate a document;
nevertheless, with the other indicators, we are comfortable with its
The document printed by the Mail contains the following lines:
a.. Emerging US plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed
over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in overall MNF-I
from 176,000 down to 66,000.
b.. There is, however, a debate between the Pentagon/Centcom who favour a
relatively bold reduction in force numbers, and MNF-I whose approach is more
c.. The next MNF-I review of campaign progress due in late June may help
clarify thinking and provide an agreed framework for the way ahead.
According to this document, the strategic view of the United States is that
the insurrection in Iraq either never existed or has been brought under
control in most of the country. Therefore, security in these areas can be
turned over to Iraqis -- and, in some cases, already has been turned over.
The memo states that the insurrection has not been brought under control in
four provinces -- obviously, the hard-core Sunni provinces in central Iraq.
Given this strategic reality, the MNF-I (Multinational Force-Iraq) could be
reduced from 176,000 to 66,000. The implication here is that the reductions
would begin in early 2006 and proceed through the year.
The memo also says there is a debate going on between the Pentagon and
Central Command on the one side, and the command in Iraq on the other. The
Iraq command feels that withdrawal would be premature. They logically want
more boots on the ground for a longer period of time, because they are
responsible for the reality in Iraq. The Pentagon, CENTCOM and, by
implication, the White House, see, from a distance, a more hopeful
situation. Therefore, a debate has broken out between the most senior
command and the theater command. The report appears to have been written in
the spring, as it speaks of a review by MNF-I in June. Certainly, no
fundamental shift in the reality has taken place since then, and it would be
reasonable to assume that the same intentions hold -- and that the command
in Iraq still has serious reservations but that the president and secretary
of defense probably have a good chance of prevailing.
It has been our view that the White House is not kidding when officials say
they are optimistic about the situation in Iraq. What they see is a
containment of the insurgency to a relatively small area of Iraq. They also
see the guerrillas as split by inducements to the Sunni leadership to join
the political process. The White House does not believe it has the situation
under control in the four provinces, and the memo is quite frank in saying
that Iraqi forces will not be able to take over security there.
Nevertheless, the total number of troops needed to attempt to control the
insurrection in those provinces is a small subset of the total number of
forces deployed right now.
Behind this optimistic forecast, which appears reasonable to us, there lurks
a more gloomy reality. The United States simply doesn't have the troops to
maintain this level of commitment. The United States is rotating divisions
in on a one-year-on, one-year-off basis. The ranks of the National Guard and
reserves -- which, by the way, make up an increasingly large proportion of
the active force -- are particularly thin, as commitments run out and older
men and women with families choose not to re-enlist. Another couple of years
of this, and the ranks of the regular forces would start emptying out.
Even more serious, the United States does not have the ability to deal with
other crises. Within the geopolitical system, Washington reacts to crises.
But should another theater of operations open up, the country would not have
forces needed to deploy. Washington has acknowledged this by dropping the
two-war doctrine, which argues that the United States should be able to
fight two Iraq-size wars simultaneously. That doctrine has been fiction for
a long time, but this is more than just a Pentagon debate over the obvious.
No one would have imagined in the summer of 2001 that U.S. forces would be
fighting a war in Afghanistan, and be deployed in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.
The United States fights not only with the army it has, but in the theaters
that geopolitics gives it.
The fact is that the United States bit off more than it could chew
militarily in Iraq. The administration did not anticipate the length and
size of the deployment and took no steps to expand the force. That means
that at the current level of commitment, the United States would be wide
open elsewhere if a major war were to break out. The problem is not only
troops -- although that isn't a trivial problem. The problem is the
logistical support system, which has been strained to the limits supporting
forces in Iraq. Many of the anecdotal failures, such as the lack of armoring
for Hummers, happen in all wars. But the frequency of the problems and the
length of time it took to fix them point out the fact that the pipe from the
factory to the battlefield in Iraq was not sufficiently robust. Supporting
two widely separated, large-scale operations would have been beyond U.S.
That fact is of overriding concern to the United States. U.S. grand strategy
assumes that the United States is capable of projecting force into Eurasia,
as a deterrent to regional hegemons. At this point, that capability simply
doesn't exist. The United States can sustain operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and maybe squeeze out a few brigades for operations
elsewhere -- but that's all she wrote.
That puts the United States in the most dangerous position it has been in
since before World War II. During Korea and Vietnam, the United States was
able to deploy a substantial force in Europe as well as capabilities in the
continental United States. Iraq, a smaller war than Vietnam, has, along with
Afghanistan, essentially absorbed U.S. force projection capability. It
cannot deploy a multi-divisional force elsewhere should it be needed. Should
the unexpected happen in Asia or Europe, the United States would lack
military and therefore diplomatic options.
The reason for this is not solely the Bush administration. The forces
created during the 1990s were predicated on assumptions that proved not to
be true. It was assumed that operations other than war, or peacekeeping
operations, would be the dominant type of action. Multi-divisional,
multi-theater operations were not anticipated. The force was shaped to
reflect this belief.
The manner in which Bush chose to fight the war against the jihadists
involved the invasion of Iraq using a conventional, multi-divisional thrust.
The Bush administration took a calculated risk that this concentration of
force could deal with the Iraq situation before another theater opened up.
So far, the administration has been lucky. Despite having miscalculated the
length of time of the war, no other theater except Afghanistan has become
active enough to require forces to deploy.
But a lucky gambler should not stay at the table indefinitely. What the Mail
memo is saying is that the administration is going to take some chips off
the table in 2006 -- more than 100,000 chips. The importance of the drawdown
is that it will allow the force some rest. But it still assumes that there
will be no threats in Eurasia that the United States would have to respond
to until 2007 at the earliest, and ideally not before 2008. That may be
true, but given the history of the second half of the twentieth century, it
is pushing the odds.
The strategic analysis about Iraq may well be sound. However, the MNF-I is
fighting the drawdowns because it knows how fragile the political situation
behind this analysis is. The debate will be framed in terms of the
conditions in Iraq. But that is not, in our view, the primary driver behind
plans for withdrawal. The driver is this: The United States simply cannot
sustain the level of commitment it has made in Iraq without stripping itself
of force-projection capabilities.
Given the fact that it is now obvious that the Bush administration is not
going to undertake a substantial military buildup, it really has only two
choices: Maintain its current posture and hope for the best, or draw down
the forces in Iraq and hope for the best. The Iraq command, viewing Iraq,
has chosen the first course. The Pentagon, looking at the world, is looking
at the second. There are dangers inherent in both, but at this point, Iraq
is becoming the lesser threat.
Pulling some Plugs
Reply #177 on:
August 03, 2005, 02:35:28 PM »
The Web: Silencing jihadi Web sites
By Gene J. Koprowski
Published 8/3/2005 7:40 AM
CHICAGO, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The online communications channel between al-Qaida's shadowy leaders and its terrorist operatives has been severely disrupted in recent weeks -- since the July 7, 2005, jihadi attacks on London -- apparently by British intelligence.
Though the Internet is a recent and universal resource, legal and military experts told UPI's The Web there is ample precedent for a government, in time of war, to attempt to deny the enemy the ability to communicate.
Recent reports in the foreign press, including the Sunday Times of London, indicate a number of jihadi sites, such as mojihedun.com in Pakistan -- which apparently contained detailed plans for terrorists on how to strike a European city and "tens" of other sites and provided information on making weapons, including biologicals -- have been stealthily shuttered.
Intelligence agents are thought to be working with Internet service providers to disable the inflammatory Web sites, experts said.
"There is technology that allows you to 'spider' Web sites for content -- that is a tool being used by ISPs," said Chris Boring, vice president of marketing at Aplus.Net, a Web-hosting and content development firm in San Diego. "It is similar to a Google search. You use it to red-flag content. Since the content sometimes changes continuously, it is a daunting task to monitor these sites."
Aplus.Net and other service providers have been working with law enforcement and other government agencies to track thousands of sites. Whenever terrorist or criminal content is located, the government is alerted. If the content is deemed risky, the online link can be quickly disabled by an ISP.
Every Web-site producer that posts content on the Internet via a commercial Internet Service Provider signs an agreement to abide by the terms of service of the ISP. Most of these contracts contain provisions that indicate the posting of criminal or terrorist content is prohibited, so removing the content is well within the contractual rights of the ISPs.
"They have agreed not to post offensive content," said Boring.
The pursuit of these sites also is well within the law for the government.
"I think the British actions against the terrorist Web sites are entirely legitimate," said Dave Kopel, an associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute, the think tank in Washington, D.C.
During the American Civil War in the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln ordered that newspapers that sympathized with the rebel cause be shut down.
"Controversial as such measures against domestic dissent may rightly be in a constitutional democracy, however, they are not the yardstick by which acts taken to silence an enemy's voice should be measured in wartime," said Joseph A. Morris, partner in the law firm of Morris & De La Rosa, with offices in London and Chicago. "Although the fanatic Islamist jihadists of the 21st Century generally are not nation states or government belligerents in the traditional understanding of international law, they are belligerents nonetheless, waging war on peoples who have legally recognized rights of self-defense. The right of self-defense unquestionably extends to interdiction of the enemy's channels of public and clandestine communication."
Morris also served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, and is a former director of the U.S. Department of Justice's office of liaison services, in charge of international affairs for the attorney general.
"Whether al-Qaida Web sites are being used to stir up terror's supporters, demoralize its enemies, or give instructions to its 'soldiers,' the allies have every right to shut them down," he added.
The Web sites might expect some free speech protection, were they not thought to be part of a coordinated campaign of terror, experts said. The same could be said of U.S. Internet publishers.
"To the extent that a U.S. publisher intended to promote actual terrorism, he could be criminally prosecuted," Kopel said.
At present, ISPs and law enforcement and intelligence agents are mostly reacting to terrorist content found online. Though technologies exist to scan for inflammatory materials, many actions are initiated "usually when someone calls to complain," Boring said. His firm is working on a new technology, in the conceptual stage, which could more efficiently scan Web sites for terror content, and place the government in a "proactive, rather than reactive mode" in fighting online terror, he said.
Gene Koprowski is a 2005 Lilly Endowment Award Winner for his columns for United Press International. He covers networking and telecommunications for UPI Science News. E-mail:
The ABCs of IEDs
Reply #178 on:
August 11, 2005, 06:16:48 PM »
Thursday, August 11, 2005
The Unstoppable IED
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are more than physical objects, they are symbols of asymmetrical warfare, along with the suicide bomb and the sniper. They are exemplars of 'insoluble' threats against which resistance is supposedly futile and to which surrender is the only viable response. In times past, the submarine and bombing aircraft occupied the same psychological space. In the late 19th century, Alfred Thayer Mahan theorized that sea control, exercised through battlefleets, would be the arbiters of maritime power. But rival theorists believed weaker nations using motor torpedo boats and above all, the submarine, could neutralize battlefleets. The way to checkmate global superpower Britain, so the theory went, was through asymmetrical naval warfare.
In the early days of World War 1, three British armored cruisers HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were patrolling the North Sea making no attempt to zigzag. The German U-9 fired a single torpedo into the Aboukir which promptly sank. HMS Hogue gallantly raced up to rescue survivors, believing the Aboukir was mined and came right into the U-9's sights. She was sunk in turn. The HMS Cressy, believing both were mined, sped like a clay pigeon in a shooting gallery into another one of the U-9s torpedoes. In under an hour the asymmetrical weapon had killed 1,459 British sailors and sunk three cruisers.
In the 1930s the bomber airplane took the place of the U-boat as the unstoppable weapon in the public's imagination. Fired by the concepts of Italian airpower theorist Giulio Douhet, many interwar policymakers believed that bomber aircraft alone could bring a nation to its knees. The destructive capacity ascribed to the biplane bombers of the day approached that later attributed to nuclear weapons during the Cold War and so terrified politicians that it fueled the policy of appeasement. According to Wikipedia:
The calculations which were performed on the number of dead to the weight of bombs dropped would have a profound effect on the attitudes of the British authorities and population in the interwar years, because as bombers became larger it was fully expected that deaths from aerial bombardment would approach those anticipated in the Cold War from the use of nuclear weapons. The fear of aerial attack on such a scale was one of the fundamental driving forces of British appeasement in the 1930s.
Stanley Baldwin told the House of Commons in words calculated to convey the futility of war that "the bomber will always get through. The only defense is in offense, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves." From there, as with those who ascribe the same irresistibility to the suicide bomber, it was natural to turn to appeasement. And that was what Baldwin did. Yet in an ironic twist of history, it was not the 'weaker' nations which successfully turned the submarine and the bombing airplane into decisive weapons but their intended victims. The USN presided over the only ultimately triumphant submarine blockade in history against Japan, while the Army Air Corps fielded the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. One possible reason for this reversal of fortunes is that neither the submarine nor the bombing aircraft existed in a state of ultimate perfection, invincible per se. Rather, they were effective relative to the countermeasures that could be deployed against them. They were one thread of an arms race spiral and their advocates found these weapons neutralized and ultimately turned against them by the very nations they sought to destroy.
IEDs have grown from relatively weak and simple devices into sophisticated demolitions weighing several hundred pounds in response to American countermeasures which began with uparmoring vehicles to monitoring patrol routes for disturbances in the roadway. As American countermeasures have improved, so has the IED, but not to the same degree. Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force said that while the incident rate of IED attacks has gone up, the probability of death per attack has declined from 50% in 2003 to about 18% in early 2005. The Iraqi insurgency may be detonating more IEDs than ever but their yield per attack is not what it used to be. USA Today reported: "While IED attacks have increased, U.S. casualties from them have gone down. From April 2004 to April 2005, task force spokesman Dick Bridges said, the number of casualties from IED attacks had decreased 45%."
To regain effectiveness, the enemy has turned bigger explosives and better triggering devices and aimed them at more lucrative targets. David Cloud of the New York Times describes what this means.
The explosion that killed 14 Marines in Haditha, Iraq, on Wednesday was powerful enough to flip the 25-ton amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, in keeping with an increasingly deadly trend, American military officers said. ... on July 23 ... a huge bomb buried on a road southwest of Baghdad Airport detonated an hour before dark underneath a Humvee carrying four American soldiers. The explosive device was constructed from a bomb weighing 500 pounds or more that was meant to be dropped from an aircraft, according to military explosives experts, and was probably Russian in origin. The blast left a crater 6 feet deep and nearly 17 feet wide. All that remained of the armored vehicle afterward was the twisted wreckage of the front end, a photograph taken by American officers at the scene showed. The four soldiers were killed.
In response, USA Today reports the deployment of more (and presumably better) electronic jammers and new directed energy weapons.
The Pentagon now has about 4,200 portable electronic jamming devices in Iraq and more are on the way, Bridges said. The military is about to test a new device at its Yuma, Ariz., proving ground that is capable of exploding bombs by sending an electrical charge through the ground. That device, called a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Neutralizer (JIN), could be deployed to Iraq sometime this year if tests prove successful, Bridges said.
Many bomb jammers work by preventing the triggerman from sending his detonation signal to the explosive device. Other equipment relies on detecting the electronic components of bombs, which echo a signal from a sniffer. The JIN neutralizer, now being test fielded to Iraq is an interesting application of directed energy weaponry. It works by using lasers to create a momentary pathway through which an electrical charge can travel and sending a literal bolt of lightning along the channel. A link to a Fox News video report on the manufacturer's website shows a vehicle equipped with a strange-looking rod detonating hidden charges at varying distances, some out to quite a ways.
Just as the enemy has resorted to bigger bombs to defeat better armor, so too will they seek ways to defeat the new American countermeasures. Yet it seems clear that the IED, like the submarine and bombing airplane before it, is not some mystically invincible device, but simply a weapon like any other caught up in a technological race with countermeasures arrayed against it. One consequence of this development is that while the enemy may employ larger numbers of IEDs against Americans, the number of effective IEDs -- the bigger and better ones -- available to them may actually have declined. The penalty for raising weaponry to a higher standard is making existing stock somewhat obsolete.
Yet a more fundamental problem may be in store for the enemy. By engaging America in a technological arms race of sorts they are playing to its strengths. The relative decline in IED effectivity suggests the enemy, while improving, has not kept up. The move to bigger bombs may temporarily restore his lost combat power, but the advent of new American countermeasures plus increasing pressure on the bombmakers, means he must improve yet again. It is far from clear whether the insurgents can stay in the battle for innovation indefinitely. The logic of asymmetric warfare suggests the enemy will at some point abandon the direct technological weapons race and find a new paradigm of attack entirely. That is essentially what they did when they abandoned the Republican Guard tank formation in favor of the roadside bomb in the first place.
One way to achieve this (and they have been perfecting their skills by attacks against Iraqi civilians) is to switch to other targets. In this way, they can find employment for weapons and skills which are no longer effective against American combat forces. The other is to invent some other surpassingly vicious method of attack; to create the successor to the IED. Whatever that new paradigm turns out to be, it will be probably be regarded as an unanswerable weapon, like the biplane bombers of the 1930s.
Interview with a British Jihadist
Reply #179 on:
August 15, 2005, 12:11:50 PM »
A very long, very telling interview with a self-proffessed "British jihadist."
Issue 113 / August 2005
A British jihadist
Hassan Butt, a 25 year old from Manchester, helped recruit Muslims to fight in Afghanistan. Like most of the London bombers, he is a British Pakistani who journeyed from rootlessness to radical Islam
Aatish Taseer is a former "Time" reporter. He is now a freelance journalist
It is not hard to imagine what the Leeds suburb of Beeston was like before it became known that three of London's tube bombers worked or lived there. For someone like me? a Punjabi with parents from each side of the India/Pakistan border?the streets of Beeston reveal a pre-partition mixture of Punjabi Muslims and Sikhs. Despite the commotion caused by half the world's media, men in shalwar kurta (traditional dress from the subcontinent) stand around on street corners chatting as if in a bazaar in Lahore. They oppose Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, they "hate" America, they might even think that the west has united in a fight against Muslims, but these are not the faces of extremism. Their involvement in 7/7 is a generational one: they have raised the people who are the genus of Islamic extremism in this country?the second-generation British Pakistanis.
One appears next to his father on the street corner. Unlike his father, there is nothing about his appearance that indicates he is a Punjabi Muslim. He is wearing long Arab robes and keeps a beard cut to Islamic specifications. I ask him why he is dressed the way he is. "It's my traditional dress," he says in English. "Isn't your father in traditional dress?" I ask. "Yes, but this is Islamic dress," he clarifies. His father looks embarrassed. A man standing next to me jokes of how he complained to his neighbour that his son never did any work, and the neighbour said, "You think that's bad, mine's grown a beard and become a bloody maulvi [priest]."
As a half-Indian, half-Pakistani with a strong connection to this country, I have observed the gulf between what it means to be British Pakistani and British Indian. To be Indian is to come from a safe, ancient country and, more recently, from an emerging power. In contrast, to be Pakistani is to begin with a depleted idea of nationhood. In the 55 years that Pakistan has been a country, it has been a dangerous, violent place, defined by hatred of the other?India.
For young British Muslims, if Pakistan was not the place to look for an identity, being second-generation British was still less inspiring. While their parents were pioneers, leaving Pakistan in search of economic opportunities, enduring the initial challenges of a strange land, the second generation's experience has been one of drudgery and confusion. Mohammad, who owns a convenience store on Stratford Street in Beeston and who knew all the local bombers, says, "They were born and raised here, we did the work? and these kids grew up and they haven't had a day's worry. They're bored, they don't do any work, they have no sense of honour or belonging."
Britishness is the most nominal aspect of identity to many young British Pakistanis. The thinking in Britain's political class has at last begun to move on this front, but when our tube bombers were growing up, any notion that an idea of Britishness should be imposed on minorities was seen as offensive. Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness. If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of your newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere. So far afield in this case, that for many second-generation British Pakistanis, the desert culture of the Arabs held more appeal than either British or subcontinental culture. Three times removed from a durable sense of identity, the energised extra-national worldview of radical Islam became one available identity for second-generation Pakistanis. The few who took it did so with the convert's zeal: plus Arabe que les Arabes.
The older generation of Beeston is mystified as to where some of their children found this identity. By all accounts it was not in the mosque. I met Maulana Munir of the Stratford Street mosque, which, according to some newspapers, was attended by some of the London bombers. Munir, a small, soft-spoken man, said he had never known them. "This younger generation," he says, "are owners of their own will, they come when they like, they don't when they don't like. The mosque is not responsible for these people." Munir, like the others of the older generation, is a man cut off from the youth movements around him. He has not faced their loss of identity and meaning.
Hassan Butt, the young British Pakistani who was a spokesman for the extremist group al-Muhajiroun, and active in recruiting people to fight against the coalition forces in Afghanistan, embodies this journey from frustration and rootlessness to radical Islam. The world he describes before he was first approached, aged 17, by members of the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), was a disordered one. When I interviewed him last year, he described HT as showing him an Islam that could bring order to his life. Accepting Islam meant the creation of a social equilibrium that had been absent before. Islam was playing the role it had in 7th-century Arabia of bringing law and structure to decaying communities.
Butt parted ways with al-Muhajiroun (itself a breakaway from HT) and its founder Omar Sheikh Bakri because they supported the Islamic idea of a "covenant of security," by which Muslims in Britain are forbidden from any type of military action in Britain. Butt believed that military action against Britain would be unwise for the practical reason that it would jeopardise the protection "Londonistan" was offering radical Muslims, but he could not tolerate the position that such action was un-Islamic.
I was reminded of Butt's cold hatred for Britain when a colleague of mine said that Beeston's younger generation were saying to her, a week after the London bombs, "Well what's the difference between al Qaeda and MI5 anyway?" and "It's sad people died, but what about the ones who died in Iraq?"
There it is again, the extra-national sentiment, in which no nation matters save the Islamic nation and its Arab culture. Butt spoke passionately about Arabia and wants to go there. "I believe the Arabic language will give me that key to have access to those things I don't have access to at the moment." Again, that yearning for Islam to fill the gaps in his own identity.
And yet, on the one occasion he came close to having a national identity, he seemed to love it. From the way he described his two years in Lahore, it sounded like the only place he ever felt a sense of belonging. "I've never had a better two years in my life. I see Pakistan as the only country having the potential to lead the Muslim world out of the disarray it is in."
Butt is an ardent supporter of "martyrdom actions." Whether he will achieve the martyrdom he desires remains to be seen. But during our interview, he did say something very interesting in the light of the London bombs. "If someone were to attack Britain, they would be a completely and utterly loose cannon. It would be someone who wasn't involved in the network." What worried me when I went to Beeston and met some of its youth, many as full of vitriol as Butt, was that maybe the London bombings had been such a "loose cannon" operation. The bombers certainly had outside support, but there seemed to be a frighteningly independent quality about the operation, a cottage-industry terrorism growing in Hamara youth centres.
Radical Islam draws recruits from many walks of life, but in Britain its agents are of a type?second-generation British Pakistanis. Somehow they have been worst hit by the populations shifts of the last 50 years and the alienation that came with them. A few have rallied under a banner which brings an intense sense of grievance. And when they are done chasing absurd dreams of caliphates, there is always martyrdom. "For me there's nothing bigger," said Butt. I met many in Beeston with his makings: small, rootless lives, seeking bigger things.
Butt briefly became a minor celebrity of British Muslim extremism when he returned from his recruitment activities in Lahore in December 2002. He was arrested, had his passport revoked, and remains under surveillance. This interview took place last year in his home town, Manchester. Butt is short but powerfully built and was wearing robes. He has an Islamic beard and a pleasant, friendly face. He collected me at the station and we went to Sanam, a restaurant in Manchester's curry mile which does not serve alcohol. Everyone there knew him and greeted him like a celebrity.
Butt: I used to be part of al-Muhajiroun, but we parted because of differences? They have this idea?derived from the Koran, a valid Islamic opinion but not one I believe is applicable to British citizens?of a ?covenant of security.? This means Muslims in Britain are forbidden from any military action in Britain. Now, I am not in favour of military action in Britain, but if somebody did do it who was British, I would not have any trouble with that either. Islamically, it would be my duty to support and praise their action. It wouldn?t necessarily be the wisest thing to do, but it wouldn't be un-Islamic, as al-Muhajiroun said.
This, I believe, is a compromise when it comes to representing certain key concepts of Islam. I've always had a policy that if you're going to come to the media, either speak the truth or don't speak at all. Don't come to the media if the heat is too hot for you.
Taseer: Where do you think the covenant of security idea comes from? I spoke to an imam who said that you cannot strike against your host country. If you want to support Iraqis, go there and support them.
Butt: Most imams, as you know, have come here not as British citizens. There is a difference between a citizen who is born in a country and someone who is here on a visa or a permit. Islamically, I agree that someone who runs from the middle east?where people like me are persecuted?and says, ?Britain, I want you to protect me? has entered a covenant of security. They say, ?Look, protect my life and as a result I won't do any harm to you.? That I agree with 100 per cent, but most of our people, especially the youth, are British citizens. They owe nothing to the government. They did not ask to be born here; neither did they ask to be protected by Britain.
Taseer: So they've entered no covenant?
Butt: They have no covenant. As far as I'm concerned, the Islamic hukum (order) that I follow, says that a person has no covenant whatsoever with the country in which they were born.
Taseer: Do they have an allegiance to the country?
Butt: No, none whatsoever. Even the person who has a covenant has no allegiance, he just agrees not to threaten the life, honour, wealth, property, mind, and so on, of the citizens around him.
Taseer: Your argument is based on these people being ?British,? so don't they necessarily have some loyalty to Britain?
Butt: No, that's what I'm saying. They have no loyalty whatsoever; they have no allegiance to the government.
Taseer: Perhaps not the government, but to the country?
Butt: To the country, no.
Taseer: Do you feel some?
Butt: I feel absolutely nothing for this country. I have no problem with the British people? but if someone attacks them, I have no problem with that either.
Taseer: Who do you have allegiance to?
Butt: My allegiance is to Allah, his Shari?a, his way of life. Whatever he dictates as good is good, whatever as bad is bad.
Taseer: Has it always been this way for you?
Butt: Always? No. I grew up in a very open-minded family; there are only four of us. My parents never made us pray, never sent us to the mosque, which was very different from your average Pakistani family who would make sure that the child learned something. I learned absolutely nothing.
Taseer: So how did you discover Islam, or rediscover it?
Butt: Well, being Kashmiri, I'm hot-headed by nature, and so are my brothers. Even before I was a practising Muslim, I was very hot-headed. That hot-headedness was leading us down a path of destruction. A lot of the people I grew up among were on drugs, were involved in crime, prostitution, at very young ages. I remember when I came across the first Muslim who talked to me about Islam in a language I understood. He pointed out that I had a lot of anger and frustration that I should direct in a more productive manner. It was from there that I got discussing Islam seriously?even though we were hotheads, me and my brothers always had brains, we weren't thugs. We were still excelling in our studies and getting top grades in our exams.
Taseer: How old were you when you changed?
Butt: I was 17 when I really started practising.
Taseer: Was it through a mosque?
Butt: No. It was through individuals whom I met, who started speaking a language that I understood, who went beyond just the prayer. I understand the huge importance of that.
Taseer: How did they approach you?
Butt: My elder brother was in college, I was still at secondary school. The college being a bit more open to Islamic activities than high school, we met some members of Hizb ut-Tahrir inside a masjid (mosque) and got talking. At that time the masjid was full anyway, since it was Ramadan. They showed me that beyond the recitation of the Koran, the praying, the fasting, the hajj?that Islam is a complete system, a complete way of life, and how that applied to us and our place in society.
Taseer: What is the philosophy of Hizb ut-Tahrir?
Butt: The idea is that Muslims in Britain need to keep to their Islamic identity and work for the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate, or khalifah as they would say, based upon the first four caliphates of Islam.
Butt: In the Muslim countries. That is one of the differences I had with them.
Taseer: You would like to see the caliphate here too?
Butt: Absolutely. How could we restrict something that initially started in Medina but then spread through the entire Muslim world?
Taseer: Would everyone have to be a Muslim, or would it work within our existing society?
Butt: No, it?s a structure of law and order?
Taseer: A central authority?
Butt: A central Islamic authority. Whether the people are Muslim or not is irrelevant. But even orientalist authors like Gilles Keppel agree that Islam was so powerful that it was the only way of life that both the conquered and the conqueror embraced. When the Mongols attacked Islam, they became Muslims; the same happened with the Turks. Even the people Islam conquered, they themselves embraced the way of life. People say it was forced by the sword, but if so, when the sword was removed, why did these people not revert back? Simply because it was never actually forced upon them. The inherent beauty of Islam made people want to embrace it.
Taseer: There are places it didn't happen, like India.
Butt: For me, the subcontinent was a tragedy; it never had the Islam that was introduced in Spain, for example, or north Africa. Very early on, the Mughals took power and India distanced itself from central Islam. The Arab Muslims never concentrated on these people enough, which is why the majority of Muslims there never embraced it.
Taseer: You said that you were once hot-headed; are you calmer today?
Butt: I find myself just as emotional as I was then, but more able to express that emotion in an Islamic manner. I would hate to be an emotionless person. You hear this a lot in the Muslim world today, from certain intellectuals: ?Don't be emotional about it, think rationally, think logically.? I guess it's an imperial complex from being under British rule for so long. British people are seen as being very cool-headed, calm and collected, but if your sister has been raped, your mother tortured and your father is being brutalised, how could you stay without emotion? Having no emotion is like being a brick. Now I can channel my emotion in an Islamic way rather than an un-Islamic way.
Taseer: Tell me a bit about your daily life. Do you read books and see movies?
Butt: No, no, no. (He laughs)
Taseer: How do you pass the day?
Butt: Daily routine would be getting up to pray the fajr without failure, staying awake for as long as I can, for at least an hour, an hour and a half, reciting the Koran, purely in Arabic?
Taseer: Is your Arabic good?
Butt: My Arabic, unfortunately, is not the best and I guess I have my parents to blame for that. But I do plan, once they give me back my passport, to go to an Arab country. I think it's the key to everything.
Taseer: Do you work?
Butt: I don't want to go into specifics. I do have business partners, but they don't like me coming out publicly and saying that they're affiliated with me. I do various different trading things. I don't have a normal nine-to-five type of job. Whenever I have applied for a job in the past, they have found out who I am and the views I hold, and as a result they don?t want me. But wherever I go, I will always be involved in Islamic work.
Taseer: At work?
Butt: Even at work. I?m always trying to help my colleagues, as Muslims, to have a more Islamic way of life.
Taseer: How would you describe yourself as a Muslim, given that there are so many labels bring thrown about??moderate,? ?extremist? and so on?
Butt: I would agree to being called a radical and one day I may even be called a terrorist, if Allah permits me. That is something it would be an honour to be called.
Taseer: Surely, even in an Islamic context, that can't be a positive label?
Butt: There is a speech by the Prophet in which he says: Allah gave me five things. One of them was the power to strike fear, to strike terror into the heart of the enemy from a mile's distance, and this was a reference to a battle he had commenced. The way the warriors had prepared themselves was so terrifying that the enemy didn?t even turn up to the battle. Besides that, in the Koran the word irhab is the root word for terror in Islam, and irhabiyun is the word for terrorist. Allah mentions the word in the Koran many times?the one who strikes terror into their hearts is an irhabiyun. If I could have that title Islamically then I would be more than happy to take it and be proud of it. But unfortunately, I haven't reached that level yet.
Taseer: Why not?
Butt: Because I am stuck in this country. It would be unwise to carry out military operations here.
Butt: It would harm a lot of people. Britain is a very liberal country in comparison to America where Muslims don't have many rights. This is the type of country where you do have a lot more rights. Now with Afghanistan gone, the Muslims don't really have a place where they can come back to and regroup, have time to think and relax, without the authorities breathing down your neck.
Taseer: Was it difficult growing up here as a Muslim? Did you sense an anti-Islamic feeling?
Butt: The British establishment has always hated Islam. Look at the crusades. I watched that programme on the BBC, The Secret Policeman (an undercover report on trainee policemen) and one of the police officers had the honesty to admit what he felt: he said he would kill a Muslim if he could get away with it. What he said briefly is that he represents the majority, the only difference being that he has the courage to articulate it. And I do believe in my heart of hearts that the majority of British people?the majority being outside of London?would do that if they had the opportunity. Historically speaking, there has always been an enmity. I experienced it as I was growing up, going into majority white schools and having a problem trying to be a Muslim.
Taseer: Would you try to leave?
Butt: If they give me my passport, I will fly straight out of here. I won?t be here a day longer than I have to.
Taseer: And never come back?
Butt: And never come back unless absolutely necessary.
Taseer: Until they give you your passport back, you can?t leave?
Butt: There's no point in my leaving. I could leave if I wanted to, but it would be illegal and it wouldn't be very hard for them to start taking criminal proceedings against me.
Taseer: In the past you have demonstrated the failures of British security. Has it improved?
Butt: It's funny you asked me that. I have been reading a book?Jihad by Gilles Keppel?not for the sake of learning anything, but to see whether these people have understood us. In the past, and I'm talking 100, 200 years ago, the reason the British were successful in destroying Islamic government or the Ottoman caliph is that they actually lived among them and they made an effort to understand what they wanted to destroy. Now they're trying to understand something that is a theory. It's in my mind, it's in peoples' minds, but it's not a practical manifestation of the system that we aspire towards, so it's very hard for them to contain it. As a result of that, the security services have lost their ability to analyse how Muslims think?I mean real Muslims, the ones who are not ashamed to talk about their opinions and to express them in public. That is why they will lose this war on terror, because guys like Keppel don?t understand us.
Taseer: Do many Muslims in Britain feel like you do?
Butt: I would say the majority of Muslims in this country care about neither moderate nor radical Islam; they care about living their day-to-day life. They're happy with that. But of those people who are practising, the majority of them hold my views. The difference is that some people come out publicly and others keep quiet.
Taseer: What would you say the size of this latter group is?
Butt: Official figures say there are 3m Muslims here. [There are in fact 1.6m.] Out of that, I would say there are 750,000 who have an interest in Islam and about 80 per cent of those were over the moon about 9/11.
Butt: The motivation is the pleasure of Allah, first and foremost. Allah says in the Koran ?We have sent you,??the Muslims??the best nation in the world, to mankind.? But there are conditions attached to that because you must enjoy goodness and forbid evil. As long as Muslims do this, they will see themselves as the best nation. And the reason why the majority of Muslims feel this inspiration is because we understand that Islam is by its nature beautiful; it is not a backward, medieval-type way of life as a lot of westerners believe. That's why, historically, even after Islam had left these areas as a political force, people still held on to its way of life. Even in the crusades you had Muslims and Jews fighting alongside one another in order avoid Roman rule because they said Islam was just towards them; Islam gave them rights. In the 15th century, during the Spanish inquisition, where did the Jews run to? To the Ottoman caliphate, Islam was an inspiration. All human rights are based on Islam, to ensure peace and security in the world.
Taseer: So given the situation in the world today, what is the duty of the Muslim?
Butt: Every Muslim must work for the Shari?a to be implemented as a political way of life. They can do that physically, by involving themselves in revolutionary coups, or through political means. As long as they don't attack or compromise other Muslims who are doing something different from them, I have no problem with any of these ways of establishing the Shari?a.
Taseer: Is it going to be possible for Muslims to live alongside non-Muslims?
Butt: We did it in the past, why can't we do it now?
Taseer: Would it have to be a Muslim polity?
Taseer: Or could it be like England?
Butt: No, it couldn't be like England. The so-called liberal countries in the world, France for example, boast about liberty and their so-called revolution, but they are banning headscarves. Where have the rights of the Muslims gone there? Where are the rights of Muslims in Britain to be able to support their brothers who are being attacked in Kashmir? So many of the organisations proscribed by the British government are Kashmiri freedom fighters, or terrorists as you would call them.
Taseer: Why is it that an attack on Muslims in another part of the world affects British Muslims?
Butt: Because Allah is the way of love. Racism has infiltrated Christianity and Judaism. It is inbred in the people. Christians never see themselves as one brotherhood, but rather many dominions, whereas Muslims, no matter what colour they are, no matter what race they are, no matter what nationality they are, see themselves as one brotherhood. Ultimately this is what Islam teaches; that black, white, brown, red, green?if there were aliens in Mars?these people are brothers. Poor or rich, it has no effect on how we should treat one another. It doesn't mean that we should divide. And that is why when Muslims are being attacked, the majority of Muslims kick up a fuss, because these are their brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, there are Muslims today whose only reason to pick up a cause is for political support or their personal ambitions. Ultimately, if your brothers and sisters were being killed in any part of the world, you would make your utmost effort to try to help them.
Taseer: Where do you see Muslims under attack?
Butt: Everywhere. It's not limited to just one place. Wherever Muslims are they are under attack and until they start viewing themselves like that, they will always remain an inferior nation.
Taseer: And why are they under attack?
Butt: If they're not being attacked physically, they are being attacked mentally. They are being told that their way of life is backward, they?re being told that for women to cover themselves is against human rights, they're being told that to cut the hand of the thief, which Allah ordains in the Koran, is outdated. They're being told that their way of life is inferior and bad and should not be followed. And they're often stripped of their identity, as they were in Bosnia: Muslim by name only, no culture whatsoever. That is still a war as a far as I'm concerned.
Taseer: Why is there a "Muslim problem? today? Ten or 15 years ago there wasn't the sort of movement you see today. What changed?
Butt: I don't agree with you. Ten to 15 years ago the Muslims had just experienced their first victory of the 20th century, against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The belief that this was due to American support is ridiculous. Muslims, especially from the middle east, financed the jihad just as much, if not more. This is well documented. With that victory under their belt, the Muslims began to realise that they could control their own political destiny, whether by revolution or other violent means. To be honest with you, I don't think the Americans, British or French are the best lecturers on how to change a society, simply because they have themselves experienced revolution to attain the way of life they believe in. So why, when we do it, are we so different from them? Muslims woke up. You then had Iraq being attacked, you had Chechnya, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Algeria, you had all these Muslim areas being attacked and you had Muslims waking up and saying, ?Hang on, this isn't a coincidence.?
Taseer: Why do you think that is?
Butt: Because after the fall of communism, America began to realise that Islam was a threat.
Taseer: The larger fall of communism wasn't the result of Islam even if you think that that may be the case in Afghanistan...
Butt: That's what I'm saying; it was a catalyst for collapse in Afghanistan.
Butt: Because Islam is a way of life, a way of life superior to communism and capitalism. Christianity is a mere religion and can?t cater for people?s way of life, but Islam can. With the fall of the Soviet Union, people started turning to Islam as a way of life, whereas America wanted to spread capitalism across the world. That's why Islam became the enemy.
Taseer: Yes, but why are Muslims the only enemy? Are they the only ones fighting American colonialism?
Butt: No, you have your South American states that are involved in the struggle. But with the exception of them and a few African nations, the majority of the people fighting against American colonialism are not Muslim nations, but Muslim people. Muslim governments are more than happy to embrace the other way of life in order to stay powerful.
Taseer: Do you consider yourself a religious teacher of sorts? Do you speak to people in the community?
Butt: I speak to a lot of people in the community. I have a gym in my house where I invite people to come back and exercise and we have regular study circles at my house.
Taseer: What sort of people are these?
Butt: A lot of them are youth because I believe that when Islam is being practised by youth, Islam will be alive. If it's practised by the older generation, it will always remain old, slow.
Taseer: Are they receptive to your views or do they resist and say, ?No, we want to go out with girls and drink? and so on?
Butt: A lot of people will say that to me, but when it comes to their absolute happiness, a lot of people realise that Islam is their way of life.
Taseer: What do you say to them?
Butt: One of the first questions I ask them is: why do you celebrate Eid? If you like their way of life, celebrate Christmas. That provokes thought in their head that the reason they celebrate Eid is because they are different. It's not just Eid or Christmas, it's their whole way of life being different. How they speak to their people, how they speak to their fellow brothers and sisters, how they speak to their teachers, how they progress in their education: they have different ways. Ultimately, if someone believes in Allah and his messenger, he will always have at the back of his mind the notion that he?ll go back to Allah when he dies. And I'll ask people, ?Don't lie for the sake of me, you don't have to say something to please me, but do you believe in Allah? Ask yourself that question, do you really, really believe in Allah? Do you really believe that there is hellfire, do you really believe that there is heaven and hell, or not?? And if someone believes that, there is no reason why they won't realise that, ?Yes, our life does belong to us.? And from there, we'll go further. To those brothers who say, ?I pray all the time,? I reply, ?That's not enough: give your life for Allah, that's what he wants, he wants you to live and die for him, that is the ultimate sacrifice, he gave you that life, give it back to him.?
Taseer: Given that the Koran is incontestable to the letter, and that it is unique because there is no another religion in which there is a text so pure, handed down from God to man, can there be a moderate Muslim?
Butt: No. You've hit the nail on the head. If someone believes that it's the incontestable word of Allah, how can he take a moderate view? We must fight if it is the will of Allah. I don?t want to say that Muslims don?t believe in Allah, but what I will say is that their faith in Allah is weak. They fear man the same way that the Jews feared the pharaoh, who they feared more than Allah and that's why they were afraid to do anything against him, until Moses came and liberated them. The lack of leadership in the Muslim community is simply because they are too afraid to stand up against this so-called undefeatable giant of the United States.
Taseer: Coming back to the youth, are they angry?
Butt: Many are from quite wealthy families, as I am.
Taseer: So you don't see this rise of extremism among British Muslims as rooted in economic disadvantage?
Butt: I think that's a myth, pushed forward by so-called moderate Muslims. If you look at the 19 hijackers on 9/11, which one of them didn't have a degree? Muhammad Atta was an engineer [he was actually an architect and town planner] at the highest level. His Hamburg lecturer said, ?I didn't have a student like him.? These people are not deprived or uneducated; they are the peak of society. They've seen everything there is to see and they are rejecting it outright because there is nothing for them. Most of the people I sit with are in fact university students, they come from wealthy families. Islam caters for everybody: the economically deprived and the most educated person. It doesn't make any difference: the message will still be the same. But this myth?that the only reason these people go for Islam is because they have nothing else to do?is a lie and a fabrication. People who say that should be very careful. Even Osama himself, Sheikh Osama, came from wealth that I could never dream of and he gave it all up because it had no value to him. Who can say he came from an economically deprived condition? It's rubbish.
Taseer: Clearly you have a sense of an enemy. What is the face of this enemy? Is it America?
Butt: At the moment, America.
Taseer: Who else is part of it?
Butt: You have an apparent enemy and a hidden enemy.
Taseer: The apparent enemy?
Butt: The American enemy. As far as I'm concerned, you have America spearheading the attack, followed by Britain, France, the EU, the UN, the World Bank, the IMF?
Butt: Thailand, especially after what happened recently. [Attacks on Muslim rebels in the south of the country]
Taseer: What does it take to join the enemy?
Butt: To support them. The Japanese only have 500 troops in Iraq; as a result they've declared war on Islam. China from day one has been testing its nuclear missiles in the Xinjiang province; it's a Muslim province, so China is another enemy of Islam. As far as we're concerned, until an Islamic government makes treaties with these people, the world, for me, is an enemy. But there will be people who we prioritise, so I won't start attacking the South American states. I have bigger and more important enemies to deal with, those who are having direct influence in the Muslim world, like America.
Taseer: In your capacity as a teacher and leader, what is your wish for the British Muslim?
Butt: I would say every Muslim needs to be proud of Islam, without feeling inferior, and to read a book by Mohammad Assad, a convert from Germany in the 1930s. As far as I'm concerned, the British are still ruling the subcontinent, and the way they're doing that is by the inferiority complex. They instil this idea that people have to follow the western design in order for them to progress. It was such a clever ploy by the British. 100 or 200 years ago, their security services were much more intelligent than they are today. My advice to Muslims is start to get out of this inferiority complex, start to realise that Islam is beautiful, don't be ashamed of it. If someone says jihad, don't be ashamed; if someone says hijab, don't be ashamed. What Allah says is good is good, what he says is bad is bad, don't be ashamed of saying what is good and bad. This is my advice, be proud of being a Muslim, not only be proud, be loud about that. If you watch a really good movie, you'll go out and tell the whole world: ?That movie was just so brilliant, you've got to watch that movie, you've got to see it.? It?s the same way with Islam. If you believe it is the truth, if you believe it is the most beautiful way of life, if you believe it is the divine word of Allah, don't keep it to yourself, tell the whole world about it and don't be ashamed of it. British Muslims, especially, have this platform, because something said in London or Britain can reach the whole world. The Muslims in the middle east don't have that benefit or the liberty we have. We must take advantage of it.
Taseer: Is military action part of the plan?
Butt: If someone wants to go into military action, I would encourage them, because Allah says in Surah Taubah, ?From the believers I ask for their wealth and their life and the best among you are the ones who fight and kill and be killed for me.? This is the promise that Allah makes. These people are the ones that gain the supreme success. For me there is nothing bigger if somebody goes out there and kills for the sake of Allah or is killed for the sake of Allah.
Taseer: Why suicide bombing?
Butt: There is a difference between suicide and martyrdom. Suicide is about unhappiness, depression. That's not what these people are. These people have an urge to be with Allah, to be with the Prophet, live among him, to be close to him. They are happy before committing these actions. They are probably at the highest level any human being can be before doing this. They are the most peaceful and content. There is a complete and utter difference between martyrdom operations and suicide operations: with the former, you want to do it not because you are fed up, but because you are happy to enter the next step of life, which is the afterlife. With the latter, you are completely and utterly fed up with life.
Taseer: You've claimed in the past to recruit British people for martyrdom operations. Who are they?
Butt: The majority of people who, after 9/11, went to Afghanistan like myself were educated. They understood the reality of this war, and many came from secure family backgrounds. They had wives, children; they had no reason to leave. But they had a call within themselves that was urging them to go forward.
Taseer: What?s the position of the radical Islamic movement in Britain today? Is it growing or declining?
Butt: I do believe that support is growing. In the public eye it seems as though only a tiny number of Muslims are making this noise, but the fact is that only a tiny number have the courage to speak out. The rest won't, simply because they're worried about being persecuted by the government.
Taseer: What about the imams? Are they helping?
Butt: There are many brilliant imams in this country, and then a lot who are not so brilliant. My main grievance with the imams is that they are not public enough. Maybe they know better than me because they're older and more experienced. But I?ll give you an example: the letter that was sent out publicly by the Muslim Council of Britain to the mosques saying that we should be spying on one another. I spoke to ten different imams?from London, Birmingham and London?in ten different masjids; all ten disagreed with the letter, but they never publicly said so. The letter said that you should spy on Muslims and report them if they were involved in any Islamic activities. Even when the IRA was being attacked in Britain, many priests had their anonymity protected by law because they were religious people. They were under no obligation to inform the police about any potential terrorist attacks by the IRA. So why the hell would we as Muslims go around spying on one another?
If the MCB letter had been a private thing then fine, but this was public and these people need to be corrected publicly. In Islam, for example, if somebody is a homosexual under an Islamic government, but practices it within his own home, Islamically he won't be punishable because he's not coming out with it publicly. So in that sense homosexuality is fine for him. The moment he comes out publicly with it, it becomes an issue for the public. My grievance with these imams is that they aren't saying these things publicly?why does it take someone like me, who is 24 years old, who has no Islamic credentials except with the youth I speak to who look up to me? Why are you imams, you people who have gone through the Islamic disciplines, not coming out and saying that this is haram? This is completely and utterly unacceptable in Islam.
Taseer: What about your future?
Butt: I believe I have a bigger and bigger role to play. Yesterday I was talking to five or six senior brothers about our different roles. I was saying that if I had a passport, I wouldn't be in this country, and I kept saying to these guys, you've all got passports, you don't have any problem, why are you not leaving the country? But then one of the brothers made a very beautiful point. He said, ?Every decade or century Allah makes somebody different, so initially you had political thinkers like Hassan al-Banna, Maududi, Sayeed Qutb. But now we have reached the more militant side of Islam, so you have Osama, Zawahiri, and Emir Khatab and Baseyev in Chechnya. Throughout time, each will have their own role to play.? And I do believe that I've got a bigger role to play and when that time comes, I will make my preparations to play that role.
Taseer: It's martyrdom, isn't it?
Butt: Absolutely. It's something that makes me really depressed being stuck in this country because I know I'm so far away from it. I know that if I was to pass away in my sleep, then I would not have the mercy of Allah upon me because I have been such a bad person. And I don't see myself in any way as getting into heaven that easily, except through martyrdom.
Taseer: Where would you go if you got your passport back?
Butt: Probably Yemen and Syria initially, because at the moment I?m wanted in Pakistan for supposed involvement in an assassination plot on Musharraf,
Taseer: After Yemen and Syria? The enemy that you would finally confront would be the US, right?
Butt: Yes. Maybe America will be destroyed in my time, maybe I'll have something completely different to do. But I need to learn Arabic. As an English/Urdu-speaking person, I can see the beauty of Islam from the outside, but I really can't have access without Arabic. It's like having a beautiful house and only being able to see through the windows how beautiful it is inside. That is how I view Arabic. I believe the Arabic language will give me that key to access those things I don't have access to at the moment. Once I learn Arabic, inshallah, I will get myself militarily trained. It's like the Jews in Israel: conscription is incumbent upon every male and female.
Taseer: Why do you see it as something that ends in death? There are a lot of soldiers who don?t see their fight as necessarily ending in death.
Butt: Because death for us signifies the next stage of life. It signifies the beginning of eternal life. That's something we cannot understand, comprehend or really appreciate. For me, it's like when you say to a child, ?Don't open the cupboard? and curiosity gets the better of him and he wants to know what's there. Only this time it's not curiosity; I'm sure that the next stage of life is going to far exceed the pleasure of this life.
Taseer: You're looking forward to death?
Butt: Absolutely. As long as it's done properly. I'm terrified of dying normally, growing old, grey.
Taseer: You don't see that as a selfish impulse, to care for nothing but your own salvation?
Butt: Ultimately, that's everybody's. The mother loves the child more than anybody. But even she, on the day of reckoning, will not look at the child; Allah says she will think of herself, solely of herself. Ultimately, that is what it's about: I'm going into my grave, you're going into your grave, everyone is ultimately going into their grave. In this duniya (world), we have as much as we can want, but ultimately it is for the benefit of your soul. It is the only point in Islam where an individual is actually allowed to be selfish.
Taseer: You've asked for martyrdom in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya: what do these causes have in common?
Butt: They're all just causes in which Muslims are being attacked by a foreign occupier.
Taseer: But why isn't an un-Islamic government just as much a problem, Pakistan for instance?
Butt: Absolutely. I pray that Allah accepts the man who made the second attempt on Musharraf?s life a few months ago. He did it as a martyr. The common thing for everyone around the world is jihad but the places you talked about?Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan?are occupied. Then you've got unoccupied ones: Riyadh, Bali?
Taseer: What kind of psychological strength or make-up do you need to be a martyr?
Butt: It takes a hell of a lot. You have to be at peace with yourself and have that comprehension. It is such a difficult thing to actually do. It's a level I'm not at, at the moment, without a shadow of doubt. Omar Sheikh [The LSE-educated killer of Daniel Pearl] is the only British Muslim I've met who is at that level? I think Mohammad Hanif and Omar Sharif [the two British Muslims who travelled to Israel as suicide bombers in 2003] were at that level too. Did you watch the video Hamas released of them? They looked so happy, and here I am, sitting here depressed, aggravated, frustrated and I look at them looking so happy and so at peace with what they're going to do, that I can only begin to imagine what kind of piety they are at to be able to say, ?Allah here I am. This is what you've given me and this is what I'm giving back in return.? That's what the spiritual side of the training is there for, and many of the camps?which have now been dismantled?concentrated on that spiritual aspect, on making sure you know why you're doing this. Like I said, it can't be curiosity: you have to know that you will get to heaven.
Taseer: Do you think killing Daniel Pearl was part of Omar Sheikh?s fight for Islam?
Butt: Whether he killed Daniel Pearl or not, I don't know to be honest with you.
Taseer: If he did?
Butt: If he did, I'm sure Islamically he knew what he was doing.
Taseer: Would you approve of it if he did?
Butt: Absolutely?journalists have always been used as spies. Even Lawrence of Arabia, who was a spy, was initially a journalist. I believe Pearl was a spy: he deserved everything he got.
Taseer: What about Kashmir, have you been involved in the fight there?
Butt: I have lectured there twice to English students in the Pakistani-controlled area. I lectured in Islamabad in one of the hotels, with someone from Kashmir, I can't remember the brother's name now. He then invited me to give two separate lectures in English, to English students about how I think they should be focusing their lives. It was very productive. Kashmir is a place that has been forgotten by the world media. It's a shame. Personally I'm not the biggest supporter of the Kashmiri jihad, because I believe a lot of it is political gaming rather than pure jihad. I see a lot of innocent lives being wasted for political motives.
Taseer: For the motives of the Pakistani government?
Butt: Yes, forcing the Indian government to keep 750,000 troops in such a small area places it under massive economic pressure.
Taseer: Is Lashkar doing good work?
Butt: I'm not a supporter of Lashkar-e-Toiba, I see them as very government-backed. I think this is a general problem in the Pakistani organisations. The minute they start attacking the government, they fear losing everything they have built up and that is a weakness in every group I see. For me, the key concept of being a separatist is that if I ask you to sacrifice your life, your wealth, your health, then you do. Ultimately, the aim is to achieve what I would say is the goal for Islam, for example to liberate Kashmir. I think Kashmir has always been a proxy war for Pakistan, and they've never really wanted to liberate it. I even remember speaking to General Zahir Abbassi and Hamid Gul: both of them said, ?Really, if we want to liberate Kashmir, we could do so very easily.? Lashkar has 200,000 followers, we only allow in 8,000 mujahedin at a time in that area. Why? Because if we sent everyone in there it would become unoccupied, and India wouldn?t have the economic burden of having to station 750,000 troops there. It's really disappointing.
Taseer: Why have the predicted terrorist attacks on the US and Britain following the Iraq war not happened?
Butt: If someone was to attack Britain, they would be a completely and utterly loose cannon. It would be someone who wasn't involved in the network? I mean the jihad network. A bomb in London would be strategically damaging to Muslims here. Immigration is lax in Britain?you know as well as I do that London has more radical Muslims than anywhere in the Muslim world. A bomb would jeopardise everyone?s position. There has to be a place we can come.
Taseer: So there is general agreement among the different groups not to attack Britain for strategic reasons?
Butt: Definitely, there is a central sense that we will not damage something for a bigger picture, but we will concentrate on our own areas.
Taseer: Why not more attacks in America?
Butt: America is much more difficult to get into than Britain?it's so far from the rest of the world.
Taseer: Do you see future attacks there?
Butt: Definitely, I can't see it stopping. As they say, cut the devil's head off. I believe that the head is America, and one of the arms is Britain. Cutting the arm off won't have an effect; cutting the head off will, so that's why I say attacks look more likely in America.
Taseer: What does it take to get past the various screenings that you have in your own group?
Butt: It's very hard, especially in Britain, where all of a sudden you've got the MI5 openly saying they are recruiting?
Taseer: Trying to infiltrate the groups?
Butt: Yeah, it's very difficult. For all you know I could be working for them. Things are working a hell of a lot slower than they used to. I'm of the philosophy more of Ramzi Yousef: take precautions, but keep them to a minimum because otherwise you're not going to get anywhere. I'm of the opinion that if somebody's a spy, he?s a spy, and he can only do what Allah has planned for them. So I'm not really going to be concerned for myself. I will carry out the very minimum checks.
Taseer: What kind of checks?
Butt: If it's somebody I brought in myself, I would get to know them and culture them. I would hope that, even if he were a spy, by the end of his time with me he would be converted anyway. He'd say, ?I can't do this.? Assuming he is not a spy, I'd make sure I know where he's come from, who he knows. If he knew nobody, he would start right at the bottom and we would have to go through all of the procedures. But if he says I'm affiliated with X, Y and Z, I could take up references with those people, I'd make sure he'd done the things he'd claimed to have done. You always have references in the radical Muslim world, that?s how it works. You can go to Pakistan and reference me from such and such a place and they'd say yeah, we know him. Then I'd go back to the person and ask if he'd gone under a different name than the one he's giving me, and if there's a slip halfway down the line, I'd say I'm sorry we can't help you, inshallah there's somebody else who can.
Taseer: So there are very few who come in clean with no record?
Butt: No, very few. On Saturday evenings on this very road, we used to have Islamic stalls and we would actually recruit people from the stalls, take their contact details, and start building up a relationship with them, meeting them, and giving them the necessary Islamic culture for them to have the Islamic identity. But I would not push anyone to do anything unless they came to me. I would never tell anyone, ?I think you should do military training.? I will never say that to anybody because it's something that has to come from the person's heart.
Taseer: Are there a disproportionate number of Pakistanis who want to take part in this sort of thing?
Butt: In Britain, the majority I know are of Pakistani descent and really are fed up with the British way of life, British standards; they are even fed up with un-Islamic Pakistani culture and traditions.
Taseer: Like what?
Butt: This issue of obeying your elders even if they're wrong, remaining silent at their mistakes. Forcing women to cook and clean and do nothing else. They're fed up with these stigmas.
Taseer: So would women have a stronger role in an Islamic society?
Butt: Oh yeah, I believe that women are the forefront of this war. If our women were correct in their minds, my job would not be necessary. If our sisters were teaching the children from a very young age to love jihad, to love Allah, to live for Allah, to die for Allah? I think they have the biggest the role to play.
Taseer: And it's not the economic conditions of the Pakistanis that make them well suited.
Butt: Not any more. The majority of the Pakistanis here are well established, they own their own homes, they're not on mortgages any more, many have gone to university, they don't have any problems, The Muslims who have the problems are the Somalis and the Bangladeshis, these are the economically deprived ones. But the Pakistanis have really got to grips with why they came here. Initially it was for economic reasons. I guess that's why the youth is a lot more responsive. The elders came here for economic benefit, so they were a lot less willing to come out publicly with their opinions, whereas the youth now are more disillusioned with what's going on around them. They've had everything they needed and they're rejecting it.
Taseer: You've had your passport revoked, right? What has the government told you?
Butt: Yeah, the official answer is that I am under investigation for links to terrorist activities and organisations and until these are cleared my passport is being held so that I don?t leave the country. They told my solicitor that the moment I leave this country I will be considered a threat to national security; as a result they bind me to Britain. This is now becoming a breach of my human rights. I am supposed to be able to travel freely to any country I want.
Taseer: Are you under constant surveillance?
Butt: As far as I understand, yes.
Taseer: Do you think they're watching our interview now?
Butt: I wouldn't be surprised if they knew about it, but whether they were watching it, I have no idea. I know my phones are most likely tapped. That's why I was quite surprised when you rang me because that number is very private, and only very few individuals have it. The other numbers keep changing, but that one I keep.
Taseer: When you were arrested, why couldn't they build a case?
Butt: They had nothing. The whole basis for my arrest was probably the information that you gathered off the internet. That's what made me realise at that point that I'd never been under observation until that day.
Taseer: Do you feel any guilt about using a country's freedoms to strike against it? If you were in any of the Muslim countries, you would be in jail.
Butt: I guess it's the British blood inside me. The British have been known for centuries to abuse everyone's resources. When they took over my father's homeland, the subcontinent, they reaped the resources, they raped the lands, even now the Queen's crown is made from jewels that don't belong to Britain. I'll hold my Islamic beliefs. I'm just continuing a trait of the British people.
Taseer: A tradition of deceit?
Taseer: You do see it as deceit?
Butt: Yeah, war is deceit.
Taseer: This is a war isn't it?
Butt: I don't see it any other way.
Taseer: Then how do you feel about a group like al-Muhajiroun which seems to say it's a war, but refuses to recruit?
Butt: It's their get-out-of-jail card. And this was one of my biggest concerns. I can understand they see war as deceit and they say it's not the aim behind the organisation and perhaps they do it behind closed doors, but I say you shouldn't be such big articulators of the war if you aren't willing to carry it out. This was our big difference. I'm not saying what they're doing is un-Islamic, but it's something I was feeling uneasy about as a Muslim. I could do it no longer, I was feeling hypocritical.
Taseer: If it's a war, you need soldiers, right?
Butt: Yeah. I'm not a soldier. My role is someone who tries to use the western media to get our message across. I remember speaking to one maulana (master) who I look up to a lot. At that point I was saying, ?I really want to go and fight.? And he said, ?Look, you have access to many things we don't. Go and utilise it, the war has many different fronts. We can't come to Britain. You think we have a lack of mujahedin waiting there? We've got hundreds and thousands of them. You're from Britain, you can use the media, you speak their language, you're an educated person, you have the passport, go there and utilise it. When the time comes for you to fight, if Allah wants that, you're going to do that. Don't worry about it.? So the war has many different fronts, and in the meantime that selfishness you were originally talking about is suspended until I get to an age where I can say: ?I've done my best now, I have to think of my individual soul,? and then, inshallah, I will go and fight.
Taseer: And Omar Sheikh Bakri?
Butt: I have respect for him. He's an aalim (scholar), and he's much older than me, but I have my differences with him as well. It came to a point where I could no longer keep myself affiliated with his group, not because I disrespect them in any way, but because it would have been hypocritical to be with them and hold these views. I need to break loose because the views I was going to give would not be the views of the organisation al-Muhajiroun.
Taseer: Was the parting peaceable?
Butt: With any organisation I've been with, the parting is like a divorce. It's quite messy. But we're Islamic-minded people and we're still in contact, and I have a lot of respect for them. They're still more vocal than the majority of the Muslims in this country.
Taseer: What was the route to Afghanistan?
Butt: Just through Pakistan. It really amazed me that anyone could do it. You could get anything you like across the border and at that time with the Pakistani government being very friendly, it was never guarded as it is today.
Taseer: That fight still continues?
Butt: Yes?the sad thing is that while the world media focuses on Iraq, a lot is happening in Afghanistan.
Taseer: Are people still going?
Butt: Yes, though not as many from Britain. The doors have been closed. They need people who are already trained. They don't have time to start training people and sending them over.
Taseer: What was your university experience like?
Butt: Until we got there [Wolverhampton], there had never been any Islamic activity. There was a group of 15 of us and we all decided to go to the same university and we recruited another ten to 15 in the next couple of months and we came out very explosively. We had Islamic awareness weeks, we demanded a prayer room, washing facilities.
Taseer: Was it radical?
Butt: It was absolutely radical and I think the university authorities felt really, really threatened. I even remember having visits from the so-called community leaders of the Muslims asking, ?What are you doing?? Wolverhampton is only a small city, but we were sticking posters all over it. It was a really good experience, we radicalised the university a lot.
Taseer: You were expelled. What for?
Butt: I was accused of getting Muslims to assault a homosexual student. Now I don't hide my views about homosexuality: in Islam it's forbidden. If someone wants to do it privately, go ahead and do it privately, don't come out publicly with it. At the time, we were the largest society on campus because all the Muslims had joined us. Our grant was ?500 and there was another society, I think the music society, which had fewer than 100 members and they had ?5,000-6,000. I was really pushing this; I went to the racial equality person. I wasn't as radical as I am today, but just as active and aggressive. But I got rejected. I realised that the racial equality board didn't see Muslims as a race, hence we didn't have equal rights.
Anyway, with the assault case, they eventually got some ?witnesses? to come forward. It was the most bizarre case?here I was in my final six months of university. I had spent two and a half years studying for a law and politics degree, and they were refusing to give not only the names of these witnesses, but not even their statements.
Taseer: But you didn't do it?
Butt: No, I did not do that at all. If I had done it, I would have come out openly. I would have acknowledged it. At that time, I believed more in political Islam, arguing, debating, having dialogues?this militant side of Islam came later. I was so surprised by the case. I wanted to say, ?How do I know you haven't just made this whole thing up?? Fair enough, the witnesses couldn't be present, but at least give us their statements, their names, just so we know they are not made-up people. By the time we got the solicitor involved, my year had collapsed and it would have taken me another two years to graduate. It was enough for me.
Taseer: Did you like being in Pakistan?
Butt: I loved it, I've never had a better two years in my life. I see Pakistan as the only country having the potential to lead the Muslims out of the disarray they are in today. I see Pakistan as that nation.
Taseer: But the government isn't to your taste?
Butt: Obviously the government is the problem. I think the people are the most amazing I have seen in my life: people who experience hardship every day, and still have faith that Allah will give them something. The problem is that you have this very tiny minority that is always portrayed as the majority of the opinion in Pakistan.
Taseer: Who rules Pakistan?
Butt: The elite, you know how it is.
Taseer: I know it's a big question, but what's your wish for the global order, how would you like to see it readjusted?
Butt: I don't see it happening in my lifetime. 1,400 years ago you had a small city-state in Medina, and within ten years of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Islam had spread to Egypt and all the way into Persia. I don't see why the rest of the world, the White House, 10 Downing Street, shouldn't come under the banner of Islam. And
Reply #180 on:
August 16, 2005, 12:28:54 AM »
Quite a remarkable read-- thank you.
Reply #181 on:
August 22, 2005, 09:11:31 AM »
MORNING INTELLIGENCE BRIEF08.22.2005
Geopolitical Diary: Monday, Aug. 22, 2005
Monday, Aug. 22, is the current deadline for the Iraqis to reach agreement on a new constitution. As one would expect with the deadline looming, it appears that the likelihood of any agreement is declining. And as in any good negotiation, the final gut-check is under way: Each side is trying to determine whether it has miscalculated and left something on the table that it could have taken. The problem with this final phase is, of course, that everyone starts reading the other side the wrong way and the entire negotiation runs the risk of collapsing -- or, in this case, getting extended yet again.
The latest issue involves the Kurds and the Shia. The formal issue was the extent to which Sharia, or Islamic law, would serve as the fundamental law of Iraq -- the basis from which all other law would derive. The Sunnis and Shia are in agreement here, but the Sharia issue intersects with one of the Kurds' core interests: federalism. If Iraq were to have a central, transcendent principle of any kind, federal autonomy would be undermined. The Kurds have one interest in this negotiation -- maximizing the amount of autonomy they will have. If Baghdad determines the basis of law, then it follows that there must be legal authorities in Baghdad to define, at least at some level, what the law is. The Shia have another interest: maximizing Shiite control over the state apparatus. They want Islamic law but also wiggle room on how much and how to apply it.
The signs at the moment are that the Kurds and Shia will work out their problems. The Kurds will accept the primacy of Sharia in principle -- and in practice, the Shia will limit the scope of its application to certain areas, such as family law, and will not create a central, Shiite bureaucracy for administering it. There will be, if you will, a federally administered Sharia. This has been the focus of negotiations for the past few days.
It is not, however, the final phase of the negotiations. Now the Sunnis have to buy into this. In a purely technical sense, the Shia and Kurds have the ability to jam through the new constitution without Sunni support, at least at this stage. However, ultimately, the Sunnis can block the constitution under the current rules -- and, more important, excluding the Sunnis will solve nothing. There has always been Shiite-Kurdish cooperation. The entire problem is finding a mode for including the Sunnis.
The United States is particularly urgent on this score and has, in effect, become the advocate for the Sunnis. The U.S. hope is that a commitment by the Sunni leadership to the constitution will rein in the nationalist Sunni guerrillas and undermine the jihadists. If the Sunnis are left out in the cold, the entire exercise becomes pointless. That is why the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said this weekend that the United States accepts the idea of an Islamic state in Iraq. Washington urgently wants to give the Shia what they want on this issue -- or as much as the Kurds will permit -- so that the Shia will move on to a final deal with the Sunnis.
In effect, the United States punted one of the ideological aims of the war in favor of U.S. national interest -- keeping U.S. troops in a relatively peaceful Iraq. Hence the recent announcement by the U.S. Army that it was prepared to stay in Iraq for up to nine years.
And now we come down to the moment of truth: Do the Shia want a united Iraq, or do they prefer to have control over the Shiite regions and the United States bogged down in a guerrilla war in the Sunni regions? Are the Sunnis really prepared to endure attacks by jihadists -- targeting negotiators personally -- in exchange for a role in an Iraqi government?
We think the answer to both of these questions is "yes." We think there may be one more extension on the deadline to achieve it -- but the entire process is really out of time, and we are at the point where it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks. The Shia and Sunnis must now make their decisions, and the United States must now decide how to live -- or not -- with those decisions. It's down to the short hairs. served.
Reply #182 on:
August 22, 2005, 03:10:48 PM »
Found an interesting article about finding terrorists and creating structures for doing so. One of the arguments made is that there currently is not a consistent or comprehensive structure for finding the bad guys. The piece can be found at:
I've recently subscribed to the free newletter Blackwater publishes. A private training and security company working in Iraq among other places, their newsletter contains a lot of nuggets. You can subscribe from their homepage at:
Reply #183 on:
August 23, 2005, 06:32:40 AM »
A friend writes:
Message: 1. Before 1991, we underestimated the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. At the time of its eviction from Kuwait, the SH regime was a couple of years away from a workable nuclear warhead.
2. After the truce, we failed to discover any evidence of Iraq's bio weapons program until after Saddam's soon to be ex-sons-in-law defected to Jordan in 1995.
3. Between 1991 and 1998, UNSCOM overestimated the amount of usable chemicals available for weaponized chemical warheads.
4. During the same time period, the same UN group overestimated the amount of unaccounted-for biological material and failed to realize that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) was in charge of the biological weapons program.
The anti-war advocates also have made their own intelligence blunders particularly on the issue of IIS-al Qaida liasons.
A. The Duelfer Report found that up to the time of the 2003 invasion, the IIS maintained a small biological weapons program.
B. Between 1991 and 9-11, the IIS had numerous meetings with al Qaida in the Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of these are detailed in the indictment of Usama bin Laden for the 1998 embassy bombings. (Indictment S(6), 98 Cr. 1023, (LBS), p.18)
C. Iraq likely assisted the al Qaida cell that carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
1) The 1993 WTC bombed contained deliberately implanted cyanide gas that was designed to be dispersed by the explosion. New York Times, Jan 21, 1994. Statement of Judge Duffy at sentencing in US vs Salameh et al, May 24, 1994.
2) Ramzi Yousef escaped the US on an Iraqi passport under the name of Abdul Basit, a Pakistani allegedly living in Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation. See Government Exhibits 614 and 739A in the case of US vs Salameh.
3) Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was indicted in New York for mixing the cyanide gas into the 1993 WTC bomb, was given sanctuary in Iraq by the Saddam Hussein regime after fleeing to Jordan on March 5, 1993 while traveling on a US passport. (Ralph Blumenthal, "Missing bombing Case Figure Reported To Be Staying In Iraq", New York Times, June 10, 1993) He was given a job by the Iraqi government. (ABC News Broadcast, June 1994). In 1994, via Jordan, the US requested Yasin's return to face the indictment, but the request was denied by Iraq. (New York Times, August 1, 1994)
4) The gas used in the 1993 bomb was the same type that was discovered to have been smuggled into Iraq in the late 1980's by various Iraqi agents posing as businessmen in the US and Europe. (ABC News Nightline, July 2, 1991. Financial Times, July 3, 1991)
5) Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen acknowledged this poison gas evidence as a new threat. ("Preparing for a Grave New World", Washington Post, July 26, 1999.)
To summarize, although there is no evidence that Iraq directly assisted al Qaida's 9-11 plot, there is evidence that Iraq provided assistance before and after the 1993 WTC bombing to that al Qaida cell. Iraq maintained its communication with al Qaida after 9-11 directly through the IIS and indirectly through the IIS surrogate, Ansar al Islam, now known as al Qaida of Iraq. This is the terror cell managed by Zarqawi originally placed in northern Iraq by the IIS to disrupt Kurdish ambitions.
In conclusion, after 9-11 and after we recovered a lot of intelligence about al Qaida's ambitions to execute small WMD attacks, the Iraqi-al Qaida liason was no longer tolerable. We had reason to suspect direct Iraqi assistance in the 1993 WTC bombing. Our intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities still lacked precision and was complicated by the SH regime's post-Gulf War I deceptions. Under these circumstances, the SH regime no longer deserved the benefit of any doubt. It was never an overt threat to our nation; but it remained a real threat to provide covert assistance to al Qaida.
Reply #184 on:
August 25, 2005, 08:30:33 AM »
The Crisis in U.S.-Pakistani Relations
By George Friedman and Kamran Bokhari
Though the governments of the United States and Pakistan appear to be in sync with one another on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and militant Islamists, a crisis of relations is brewing just beneath the surface. Despite expressions of unity in the war against al Qaeda, cooperation at the operational and tactical levels is nearly nonexistent -- and calculated interference by Pakistani intelligence and security elements is hindering U.S. operations in the country.
This situation is further complicated by ongoing rivalries between government agencies, poor communications and general lack of cooperation by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. All of which leaves counterterrorism operations in Pakistan -- or, more precisely, U.S. efforts to capture or kill bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders -- stagnant.
At the broad political level, Washington and Islamabad are presenting a relatively unified front in the battle. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who must balance his domestic political concerns against U.S. pressure, continues to walk a fine line -- between cooperation with Washington (or with opposition forces within Pakistan), and capitulation.
On the surface, Musharraf and U.S. President George W. Bush are in a state of cautious compromise -- with Washington continuing to express confidence in Musharraf's government and offering increased military assistance to Pakistan. For its part, Islamabad has been paying lip service to counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, while still professing its ability to carry out sweeps and all other anti-jihadist operations on its own. The Musharraf government's attitude has been that it is doing all it can to get rid of terrorist sanctuaries, but it will not allow foreign forces to conduct operations on Pakistani soil. As Musharraf told U.S. media earlier this year, "We are capable of" capturing bin Laden, and "if we get intelligence, we will do it ourselves."
Islamabad recognizes that U.S. forces will operate in Pakistani territory -- with or without government permission -- and thus has struck a compromise so that U.S. operations will be kept as low-key as possible by both sides. The Pakistanis have acknowledged the involvement of foreign forces in the counterterrorism offensive but claim joint efforts are limited to intelligence-sharing and logistics cooperation. In this way, Islamabad seeks to defuse both U.S. pressure to act -- and domestic pressure to avoid acting.
But despite the political niceties, two key issues continue to impede efforts to dismantle al Qaeda's structure in Pakistan. The first is the professional rivalry between the CIA, Department of Defense and FBI, as well as other security and intelligence agencies, which continues to dog the post-Sept. 11 efforts to streamline intelligence-sharing. The second is the dismal performance by the Pakistani security and intelligence organizations.
It is true that a number of key al Qaeda operatives and leaders have been arrested by Pakistani authorities since their exodus from Afghanistan in late 2001. In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda member, was captured in Faisalabad. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a deputy leader of the task force that coordinated the Sept. 11 attacks, was captured in Karachi in September 2002. And in March 2003, another task force leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was picked up in Rawalpindi. Other prominent captures include those of communications expert Naeem Noor Khan, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (linked to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa), and Abu Farj al-Libi, believed to be the head of al Qaeda operations in Pakistan.
Nevertheless, the progress made against the core leadership of al Qaeda remains an open question. First, how is it that al Qaeda's mostly Arab leadership is able to evade detection in a country with very few Arabs? More important, how can a foreign non-state actor evade detection -- when he is known to be in a certain region, with massive global search-and-destroy operations hunting him -- unless he is granted succor or protection from some members of the local security and intelligence organizations closest to the front?
While those at the topmost levels of U.S. authority have been praising the Musharraf government as a crucial ally in the war against al Qaeda, certain U.S. officials lately have been making a public issue of Islamabad's non-cooperation. Among these is CIA Director Porter Goss, who insinuated a few months ago that bin Laden is known to be in Pakistan and said outright that in order for him to be captured, certain "weak links" -- i.e., Pakistan -- must be strengthened.
Goss's comments are clearly echoed by U.S. intelligence and defense officials now active in Pakistan and working with Islamabad. There is an ingrained distrust of U.S. and other foreign services within Pakistan's intelligence community -- stemming from nationalistic instincts, a desire to hide links between intelligence services and jihadists and their supporters, and sympathies on multiple levels with the jihadists.
One very senior Pakistani intelligence source engaged in a frank discussion about this atmosphere of distrust -- which is pervasive throughout the country's security organizations, even though most of Pakistan's law enforcement personnel are not personally Islamists. Some simply don't like the idea of U.S. pressure against their government, while others dislike being told how to do their jobs. Still others see the United States as arrogantly pursuing its own interests at Pakistan's expense. We are told there is a great deal of resentment -- from the highest echelons down through the rank-and-file -- over what the Pakistanis perceive as Washington's failure to recognize the efforts, sacrifices, and cooperation they are providing.
And, not insignificantly, there are some who perceive that the jihadists Washington is now pursuing were created by the United States' proxy war in 1980s Afghanistan -- and who believe that the U.S. government, having abandoned Afghanistan after meeting its objectives there, will abandon Pakistan in similar fashion.
Resistance to U.S. influence, therefore, has been both passive and active, with intelligence operatives telling local police and village chiefs directly not to cooperate with U.S. operations on the ground. Sources in Pakistan tell us that the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence agencies debrief all private Pakistani citizens who come into contact with U.S. government, media and think tanks -- both before and after the interface -- in attempts to restrict contact between the two countries to official channels. Additionally, certain high-level leaders of Pakistani militant Islamist movements have been declared off-limits as targets for security forces, thus leaving key segments of the international militant network unmolested. The United States is providing large amounts of supplies, money and training for Pakistani forces, but with few results.
Clearly, cooperation from the country's intelligence and security apparatus -- a major cog in the machine built to hunt down al Qaeda in Pakistan -- is not happening. There are four reasons for this:
1. The insistence by top leadership that U.S. forces cannot operate any more prominently on Pakistani soil than they already are. Though there are many reasons behind this, as mentioned earlier, they boil down for some key government officials to mere survival: Islamist militants have made several attempts on Musharraf's life and others within the regime, at al Qaeda's behest. Nationalist sentiments and political opposition to Musharraf's government are considerations as well.
2. Calculated moves by influential figures at the middle and lower levels of Pakistan's intelligence and security apparatus to thwart offensives against the militants. Some of this reflects countermoves by Islamabad against American attempts to push the limits of tacit security agreements with the Pakistanis. However, it is also a sign that the Musharraf regime does not have tight control over its own intelligence and security services -- and of this, Islamabad is keenly and nervously aware.
3. The Pakistani military's desire to hide its past links with the militants and its current ties to certain Islamist groups -- which it views as assets of the state to be used in pursuit of Islamabad's geopolitical goals. For Islamabad, the jihadists have long been both an internal threat to military/civilian rule and a useful form of leverage in its geopolitical maneuvers -- for example, gaining strategic depth with regard to Afghanistan and waging its proxy war against India in Kashmir. Pakistan is not willing to surrender this leverage lightly -- and, because the lines between those "useful" militant groups and al Qaeda members can be blurry, many on Islamabad's preservation list fall into both categories.
4. Recognition within Islamabad that Pakistan's importance as a U.S. ally likely will dissolve if bin Laden is captured or killed. Washington has been attempting to strengthen its ties with India and is even attempting tentative negotiations with Iran, with the eventual goal of warmer relations. Should these efforts bear fruit, the Musharraf regime's geopolitical importance to the United States will diminish -- leaving Islamabad as a potential member of the "outposts of tyranny" rather than a close anti-terrorism ally.
Given these factors -- coupled with the potential for ineptitude and rivalries among the Pakistani and U.S. security and intelligence agencies -- there is a crisis that has brought the search for al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to a virtual halt. This situation cannot last indefinitely -- the breaking point will come either with a misstep by Musharraf that destroys the political balance he has tried to maintain within Pakistan, or a decision by Washington that delay, obfuscation and overt obstructionism will no longer be tolerated. If Islamabad doesn't act -- and it is questionable whether another pre-packaged capture of a mid-level al Qaeda operative by Pakistani forces will satisfy the Bush administration -- Washington will be left with little choice but to move on its own.
Islamabad's response to the pressure is predicated on one unanswered question: Is Musharraf lying to the United States, or is he being lied to by his own people? In other words, is he in control of the obstructionism, or is he a victim of it? We believe the reality is somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, the outlook is troubling.
Signing up highly recommended!
Reply #185 on:
September 11, 2005, 07:23:55 AM »
Reply #186 on:
September 19, 2005, 01:42:53 PM »
U.S.: Suicide Bomber Says He Was Kidnapped
September 19th, 2005 @ 4:22am
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military said its medical tests indicated the man was telling the truth.
Mohammed Ali, who claimed to be Saudi-born and appeared to be in his 20s, said he managed to flee after another suicide attacker set off his bomb, killing at least 12 worshippers Friday as they left a mosque in the northern city of Tuz Khormato.
In confession broadcast on state television later that day, Ali told Iraqi interrogators he did not want to bomb the mosque and hoped to go home.
Results from medical tests on Ali were "consistent with his story and characterization of his treatment," Col. Billy J. Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday.
Ali said insurgents kidnapped him from a field near his home earlier this month, then drugged and beat him.
His story was similar to those recounted by other captured militants. The captives routinely claim they were either coerced or fooled by insurgent leaders who promised them a role in the holy war against the U.S. military, only to find themselves as would-be suicide bombers sent to attack civilians.
Musab Aqil al-Khayal, a 19-year-old Syrian, was shown on state television Saturday confessing to his aborted involvement in a bombing earlier in the week in which a companion exploded his car bomb in the midst of day laborers assembled to find work. The Wednesday attack killed 112 people and wounded 250. Al-Khayal said handlers from the al-Qaida in Iraq terror group had duped him.
"Those dogs fooled me," he told Iraqi interrogators.
Televised interrogations and confessions are becoming increasingly common as Iraqi and American officials capture more militants and use their confessions in an attempt to undercut support for militants.
Ali, who also holds Iraqi citizenship, said he strapped on a crude suicide vest and was led to a second mosque in Tuz Khormato, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, "where he was told he would become a good Muslim and go to heaven if he carried out the attack," the U.S. military statement said.
Forced to enter the mosque, he waited until the others were distracted, ran out of the building and was arrested just minutes after the first attack, the statement said.
The kidnapping demonstrates the desperation of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his ability to execute his strategy," said Buckner.
"He knows that he can't win against Iraqi security and coalition forces, and is therefore willing to use innocent Iraqi citizens to further his cause to disrupt the election process and prevent a free and democratic Iraq," he said.
The Plot Thickens
Reply #187 on:
September 25, 2005, 12:25:54 PM »
September 25, 2005
The Sunday Times
SAS in secret war against Iranian agents
Michael Smith and Ali Rifat, Basra
TWO SAS soldiers rescued last week after being arrested by Iraqi police and handed over to a militia were engaged in a ?secret war? against insurgents bringing sophisticated bombs into the country from Iran.
The men had left their base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra to carry out reconnaissance and supply a second patrol with ?more tools and fire power?, said a source with knowledge of their activities.
They had been in Basra for seven weeks on an operation prompted by intelligence that a new type of roadside bomb which has been used against British troops was among weapons being smuggled over the Iranian border.
The bombs, designed to pierce the armour beneath coalition vehicles, are similar to ones supplied by Iran to Hezbollah, the Islamic militant group.
?Since the increase in attacks against UK forces two months ago, a 24-strong SAS team has been working out of Basra to provide a safety net to stop the bombers getting into the city from Iran,? said one source. ?The aim is to identify routes used by insurgents and either capture or kill them.?
The forces have tried to seal the notoriously porous border using high-technology sensors that monitor movement by night. They report to a major based in Baghdad in an unmarked building known as the ?station house?.
Special forces commanders believe that a tip-off from a local worker at their base may have led to the men?s capture last Monday after a car chase by police, who later handed them to the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shi?ite cleric. They were freed from a nearby house.
The disclosure that the SAS has targeted the Iranian border coincides with claims by a former Iraqi defence minister that parts of Iraq have fallen under Tehran?s control.
Hazim Shalan, who left office last May amid a scandal over huge sums of missing money, claimed that 460 Iranian agents had been apprehended in the past two years. He accused Iranian officials of bringing weapons and drugs into Iraq and of paying voters to back their chosen candidates.
An inquiry into the capture of the SAS team and clashes that followed between British forces and an Iraqi mob was being carried out by the Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this would focus on how the soldiers had been compromised but it was also expected to address claims that they had shot an Iraqi police officer.
The officer, Quteeb Rasheed Abdul Hameed, alleged that he had been wounded in the leg when the soldiers opened fire as police approached their unmarked car to question them.
A judge said yesterday that he had issued warrants for the arrest of the SAS men over the shooting and the alleged killing of a second man shot in the car chase. Judge Ragheb Mohamad Hassan al-Muthafar told The Sunday Times in an exclusive interview that the soldiers were ?suspects who attempted to commit a wilful act of murder?.
He added: ?Whatever their mission they have no right to fire intentionally on anyone, let alone a security man whose job is to protect this country.?
According to the judge, nine people were killed and 14 injured, including two boys aged 13 and 14, when the mob attacked British forces surrounding the police station where the men were detained.
The MoD declined to comment on the toll but said the warrants had no legal basis. ?All British troops in Iraq come under the jurisdiction of Britain,? a spokesman said.
Reply #188 on:
September 28, 2005, 10:47:05 AM »
Heart of Darkness
From Zarqawi to the man on the street, Sunni Arabs fear Shiite emancipation.
BY FOUAD AJAMI
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The remarkable thing about the terror in Iraq is the silence with which it is greeted in other Arab lands. Grant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi his due: He has been skilled at exposing the pitilessness on the loose in that fabled Arab street and the moral emptiness of so much of official Arab life. The extremist is never just a man of the fringe: He always works at the outer edges of mainstream life, playing out the hidden yearnings and defects of the dominant culture. Zarqawi is a bigot and a killer, but he did not descend from the sky. He emerged out of the Arab world's sins of omission and commission; in the way he rails against the Shiites (and the Kurds) he expresses that fatal Arab inability to take in "the other." A terrible condition afflicts the Arabs, and Zarqawi puts it on lethal display: an addiction to failure, and a desire to see this American project in Iraq come to a bloody end.
Zarqawi's war, it has to be conceded, is not his alone; he kills and maims, he labels the Shiites rafida (rejecters of Islam), he charges them with treason as "collaborators of the occupiers and the crusaders," but he can be forgiven the sense that he is a holy warrior on behalf of a wider Arab world that has averted its gaze from his crimes, that has given him its silent approval. He and the band of killers arrayed around him must know the meaning of this great Arab silence.
There is a clich? that distinguishes between cultures of shame and cultures of guilt, and by that crude distinction, it has always been said that the Arab world is a "shame culture." But in truth there is precious little shame in Arab life about the role of the Arabs in the great struggle for and within Iraq. What is one to make of the Damascus-based Union of Arab Writers that has refused to grant membership in its ranks to Iraqi authors? The pretext that Iraqi writers can't be "accredited" because their country is under American occupation is as good an illustration as it gets of the sordid condition of Arab culture. For more than three decades, Iraq's life was sheer and limitless terror, and the Union of Arab Writers never uttered a word. Through these terrible decades, Iraqis suffered alone, and still their poetry and literature adorn Arabic letters. They need no acknowledgment of their pain, or of their genius, from a literary union based in a city in the grip of a deadening autocracy.
A culture of shame would surely see into the shame of an Arab official class with no tradition of accountability granting itself the right to hack away at Iraq's constitution, dismissing it as the handiwork of the American regency. Unreason, an indifference to the most basic of facts, and a spirit of belligerence have settled upon the Arab world. Those who, in Arab lands beyond Iraq, have taken to describing the Iraqi constitution as an "American-Iranian constitution," give voice to a debilitating incoherence. At the heart of this incoherence lies an adamant determination to deny the Shiites of Iraq a claim to their rightful place in their country's political order.
The drumbeats against Iraq that originate from the League of Arab States and its Egyptian apparatchiks betray the panic of an old Arab political class afraid that there is something new unfolding in Iraq--a different understanding of political power and citizenship, a possible break with the culture of tyranny and the cult of Big Men disposing of the affairs--and the treasure--of nations. It is pitiable that an Egyptian political class that has abdicated its own dream of modernity and bent to the will of a pharaonic regime is obsessed with the doings in Iraq. But this is the political space left open by the master of the realm. To be sure, there is terror in the streets of Iraq; there is plenty there for the custodians of a stagnant regime in Cairo to point to as a cautionary tale of what awaits societies that break with "secure" ways. But the Egyptian autocracy knows the stakes. An Iraqi polity with a modern social contract would be a rebuke to all that Egypt stands for, a cruel reminder of the heartbreak of Egyptians in recent years. We must not fall for Cairo's claims of primacy in Arab politics; these are hollow, and Iraq will further expose the rot that has settled upon the political life of Egypt.
Nor ought we be taken in by warnings from Jordan, made by King Abdullah II, of a "Shia crescent" spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is a piece of bigotry and simplification unworthy of a Hashemite ruler, for in the scheme of Arab history the Hashemites have been possessed of moderation and tolerance. Of all Sunni Arab rulers, the Hashemites have been particularly close to the Shiites, but popular opinion in Jordan has been thoroughly infatuated with Saddam Hussein, and Saddamism, and an inexperienced ruler must have reasoned that the Shiite bogey would play well at home.
The truth of Jordan today is official moderation coupled with a civic culture given to anti-Americanism, and hijacked by the Islamists. In that standoff, the country's political life is off-limits, but the street has its way on Iraq. Verse is still read in Saddam's praise at poetry readings in Amman, and the lawyers' syndicate is packed with those eager to join the legal defense teams of Saddam Hussein and his principal lieutenants. Saddam's two daughters reside in Jordan with no apologies to offer, and no second thoughts about the great crimes committed under the Baath tyranny. Those who know the ways of Jordan speak of cities where religious radicalism and bigotry blow with abandon. Zarqa, the hometown of Abu Musab, is one such place; Salt, the birthplace of a notorious suicide bomber, Raad al-Banna, who last winter brought great tragedy to the Iraqi town of Hilla, killing no fewer than 125 of its people, is another. For a funeral, Banna's family gave him a "martyr's wedding," and the affair became an embarrassment to the regime and the political class. Jordan is yet to make its peace with the new Iraq. (King Abdullah's "crescent" breaks at any rate: Syria has no Shiites to speak of, and its Alawite rulers are undermining the Shiites of Iraq, feeding a jihadist breed of Sunni warriors for whom the Alawites are children of darkness.)
It was the luck of the imperial draw that the American project in Iraq came to the rescue of the Shiites--and of the Kurds. We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world. We have overturned an edifice of material and moral power that dates back centuries. The Arabs railing against U.S. imperialism and arrogance in Iraq will never let us in on the real sources of their resentments. In the way of "modern" men and women with some familiarity with the doctrines of political correctness, they can't tell us that they are aggrieved that we have given a measure of self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf and the highlanders of Kurdistan. But that is precisely what gnaws at them.
An edifice of Arab nationalism built by strange bedfellows--the Sunni political and bureaucratic elites, and the Christian Arab pundits who abetted them in the idle hope that they would be spared the wrath of the street and of the mob--was overturned in Iraq. And America, at times ambivalent about its mission, brought along with its military gear a suspicion of the Shiites, a belief that the Iraqi Shiites were an extension of Iran, a community destined to build a sister-republic of the Iranian theocracy. Washington has its cadre of Arabists reared on Arab nationalist historiography. This camp had a seat at the table, but the very scale of what was at play in Iraq, and the redemptionism at the heart of George Bush's ideology, dwarfed them.
For the Arab enemies of this project of rescue, this new war in Iraq was a replay of an old drama: the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258. In the received history, the great city of learning, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, had fallen to savages, and an age of greatness had drawn to a close. In the legend of that tale, the Mongols sacked the metropolis, put its people to the sword, dumped the books of its libraries in the Tigris. That river, chroniclers insist, flowed, alternately, with the blood of the victims and the ink of the books. It is a tale of betrayal, the selective history maintains. A minister of the caliph, a Shiite by the name of Ibn Alqami, opened the gates of Baghdad to the Mongols. History never rests here, and telescopes easily: In his call for a new holy war against the Shiites, Zarqawi dredges up that history, dismisses the Shiite-led government as "the government of Ibn Alqami's descendants." Zarqawi knows the power of this symbolism, and its dark appeal to Sunni Arabs within Iraq.
Zarqawi's jihadists have sown ruin in Iraq, but they are strangers to that country, and they have needed the harbor given them in the Sunni triangle and the indulgence of the old Baathists. For the diehards, Iraq is now a "stolen country" delivered into the hands of subject communities unfit to rule. Though a decided minority, the Sunni Arabs have a majoritarian mindset and a conviction that political dominion is their birthright. Instead of encouraging a break with the old Manichaean ideologies, the Arab world beyond Iraq feeds this deep-seated sense of historical entitlement. No one is under any illusions as to what the Sunni Arabs would have done had oil been located in their provinces. They would have disowned both north and south and opted for a smaller world of their own and defended it with the sword. But this was not to be, and their war is the panic of a community that fears that it could be left with a realm of "gravel and sand."
In the aftermath of Katrina, the project of reforming a faraway region and ridding it of its malignancies is harder to sustain and defend. We are face-to-face with the trade-off between duties beyond borders and duties within. At home, for the critics of the war, Katrina is a rod to wave in the face of the Bush administration. To be sure, we did not acquit ourselves well in the aftermath of the storm; we left ourselves open to the gloatings of those eager to see America get its comeuppance. Even Zarqawi weighed in on Katrina, depicting a raid on the northern town of Tal Afar by a joint Iraqi-American force as an attempt on the part of "Bush, the enemy of God" to cover up the great "scandal in facing up to the storm which exposed to the entire world what had happened to the American military due to the wars of attrition it had suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Those duties within have to be redeemed in the manner that this country has always assumed redemptive projects. But that other project, in the burning grounds of the Arab-Muslim world, remains, and we must remember its genesis. It arose out of a calamity on 9/11, which rid us rudely of the illusions of the '90s. That era had been a fools' paradise; Nasdaq had not brought about history's end. In Kabul and Baghdad, we cut down two terrible regimes; in the neighborhood beyond, there are chameleons in the shadows whose ways are harder to extirpate.
We have not always been brilliant in the war we have waged, for these are lands we did not fully know. But our work has been noble and necessary, and we can't call a halt to it in midstream. We bought time for reform to take root in several Arab and Muslim realms. Leave aside the rescue of Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar have done well by our protection, and Lebanon has retrieved much of its freedom. The three larger realms of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are more difficult settings, but there, too, the established orders of power will have to accommodate the yearnings for change. A Kuwaiti businessman with an unerring feel for the ways of the Arab world put it thus to me: "Iraq, the Internet, and American power are undermining the old order in the Arab world. There are gains by the day." The rage against our work in Iraq, all the way from the "chat rooms" of Arabia to the bigots of Finsbury Park in London, is located within this broader struggle.
In that Iraqi battleground, we can't yet say that the insurgency is in its death throes. But that call to war by Zarqawi, we must know, came after the stunning military operation in Tal Afar dealt the jihadists a terrible blow. An Iraqi-led force, supported by American tanks, armored vehicles and air cover, had stormed that stronghold. This had been a transit point for jihadists coming in from Syria. This time, at Tal Afar, Iraq security forces were there to stay, and a Sunni Arab defense minister with the most impeccable tribal credentials, Saadoun Dulaimi, issued a challenge to Iraq's enemy, a message that his soldiers would fight for their country.
The claim that our war in Iraq, after the sacrifices, will have hatched a Shiite theocracy is a smear on the war, a misreading of the Shiite world of Iraq. In the holy city of Najaf, at its apex, there is a dread of political furies and an attachment to sobriety. I went to Najaf in July; no one of consequence there spoke of a theocratic state. Najaf's jurists lived through a time of terror, when informers and assassins had the run of the place. They have been delivered from that time. The new order shall give them what they want: a place in Iraq's cultural and moral order, and a decent separation between religion and the compromises of political life.
Over the horizon looms a referendum to ratify the country's constitution. Sunni Arabs are registering in droves, keen not to repeat the error they committed when they boycotted the national elections earlier this year. In their pride, and out of fear of the insurgents and their terror, the Sunni Arabs say that they are registering to vote in order to thwart this "illegitimate constitution." This kind of saving ambiguity ought to be welcomed, for there are indications that the Sunni Arabs may have begun to understand terror's blindness and terror's ruin. Zarqawi holds out but one fate for them; other doors beckon, and there have stepped forth from their ranks leaders eager to partake of the new order. It is up to them, and to the Arab street and the Arab chancelleries that wink at them, to bring an end to the terror. It has not been easy, this expedition to Iraq, and for America in Iraq there has been heartbreak aplenty. But we ought to remember the furies that took us there, and we ought to be consoled by the thought that the fight for Iraq is a fight to ward off Arab dangers and troubles that came our way on a clear September morning, four years ago.
Mr. Ajami teaches International Relations at Johns Hopkins University.
Reply #189 on:
October 05, 2005, 07:10:46 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005
Two streams of intelligence, both touching on Syria, cropped up on Tuesday. First, sources close to deliberations within the Bush administration said the National Security Council is discussing the idea of bombing certain Syrian villages, along the infiltration routes used by jihadists staging attacks in Iraq. And second, sources within Syria said U.S. Special Forces are conducting cross-border operations on Syrian territory.
These reports follow a day after Israeli daily Haaretz, citing unnamed sources, said senior U.S. officials wanted Israel's assessments of possible successors for Syrian President Bashar al Assad. According to Haaretz, officials were asking who might be able to replace him, assuming he were ousted, while still maintaining the stability of the country. The report went on to say that the Sharon government is interested in weakening the Alawite-Baathist regime, but beyond that, it prefers the status quo in Damascus.
It is possible that all of these reports and leaks are a way for Washington to pressure Damascus, which long has been viewed as enabling the cross-border flow of militants into Iraq. The United States has just embarked on a fresh counterterrorism offensive in Iraq, with two simultaneous campaigns: Operation Iron Fist near the Syrian border, and Operation River Gate closer to Al Fallujah. By placing pressure on both ends of the ant line, troops would make it more difficult for insurgents to take shelter in Syria and then reappear in Iraqi towns and cities soon after. The RUMINT concerning a diplomatic offensive against al Assad would add impetus to this effort as well.
However, Damascus already has been making concessions to Washington -- mainly in efforts to keep al Assad and his top aides from being implicated in the investigation of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Not only has al Assad abandoned his most trusted ally in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud, but he also has sacrificed his own interior minister, Ghazi Kanaan; the ex-chief of Lebanese military intelligence, Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh; and the chief of general headquarters in Syria, Lt. Gen. Bahjat Suleiman.
Thus, it would seem there is more to the RUMINT than merely efforts to raise the pressure. But this doesn't necessarily mean Washington truly seeks to topple al Assad. For one thing, the Bush administration doesn't have the bandwidth for such an undertaking at the moment.
There are several other possible explanations for the leaks. First, the United States always has contingency plans in place, even if there are no plans for immediate execution -- which would explain the discussions between U.S and Israeli officials about an alternative to al Assad. Second, it is highly likely that, as they are along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, U.S. forces are indeed making forays onto Syrian soil while in hot pursuit of jihadists. This is underscored by the fact that U.S. and Iraqi forces are more focused on taking out the al Qaeda-linked transnational jihadists than the Sunni nationalist insurgents.
All of this leaves us wondering, just what is Syria doing in the face of these incursions? In all likelihood, Damascus has relocated its troops a safe distance away from the Iraq border. Doing so would serve three purposes:
1. It reduces chances of a firefight between U.S. and Syrian forces, which would complicate matters horribly for Damascus;
2. By not having an official presence in the area, the Syrian regime can deny that U.S. operations are even taking place on its soil -- thus mitigating further backlash from the public or government officials (who could be expected to be disgruntled that al Assad has sacrificed three top lieutenants to Washington already);
3. It allows the Syrians to signal their willingness to play ball with Washington, so long as everyone remains suitably discreet.
Much as with Iran, it is not in the Bush administration's interest to be open about dealings with Damascus. Doing so could upset the geopolitical calculus in the region, which already is seething with anti-American sentiment, and add to the growing problems for the president on the home front. Therefore, Washington will not be the one rushing to go public with its moves. The Bush administration knows that many states in the region already are trying to break free of the U.S. pressure that was applied following the Sept. 11 attacks, and they are looking for an opening to make their moves -- especially knowing that Bush is in a weakened position at home.
The wild card to watch now is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq -- whose group stands to lose the most in all of this. It's conceivable that he might eventually issue a statement, commenting on the whole U.S.-Syria dynamic. Al-Zarqawi, who is a hunted man, would want to upset the U.S. calculus so as to save himself. His goal would be to destabilize the Syrian regime from within -- creating chaos that would lend itself to another jihadic pasture. Moreover, he could create problems for the United States at the strategic level by spreading rumors that U.S. forces were invading Syria at will. This in turn would create a major dilemma for other governments in the region, which would be forced to condemn the move.
Reply #190 on:
October 06, 2005, 01:43:48 PM »
Pretty inspiring stuff!
"I have prepared an important dispatch entitled " Battle for Mosul IV." This is a very interesting and important dispatch with many photos, and is just now posted
VDH on Quiet Agreement
Reply #191 on:
October 10, 2005, 11:10:43 AM »
As always, VDH lends perspective.
October 07, 2005, 7:58 a.m.
The Quiet Consensus on Iraq
The more they argue, the more they sound the same.
Victor Davis Hanson
Some 30 months after the removal of Saddam Hussein, an unspoken consensus is emerging about Iraq. The Howard Dean/Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan fringe of the Democratic party so far has made almost no inroads into mainstream party thinking. Perhaps this new Copperhead movement to find political resonance has failed because most Democratic stalwarts ? senators Kerry, Clinton, and Biden ? themselves voted to remove Saddam. And these erstwhile supporters of the war can offer nothing much different on Iraq now except to harangue about the need for more allies or more multilateral/U.N. help.
True, most Americans are tired of Iraq; but they wish to win rather than withdraw immediately and lose the country to the terrorists. The odd thing is that the more the rhetoric heats up, the more both sides sound about the same.
The ostensible military advantage of having a larger U.S. troop presence to pacify Sunni hotspots was always outweighed by a number of other, though less immediately apparent, disadvantages.
The key to stabilizing Iraq has been to promote the autonomy of Iraqi security forces ? impossible if they are ensured that 300,000 or so American combat troops will do their fighting for them. And in this type of socio-cultural war, a smaller foreign footprint is critical, since the last thing we wish is an enormous ostentatious American military bureaucracy in Baghdad.
The shortcoming was never the number of U.S troops per se, but our self-imposed straightjacket on rules of engagement that apparently discouraged the vital sorts of offensive operations that we have at last seen the last two months.
The lesson of Vietnam is that the south was more secure in 1973 without almost any American ground troops than with over 500,000 present in 1968. Promises of air power to support ARVN forces between 1971-3 proved about as viable as thousands of prior search-and-destroy patrols by American soldiers. It also never made sense to tie down nearly half of available American combat manpower in Iraq, at a time when vigilance was necessary in Korea, near China, and in other spots in the Middle East.
That the United States needs at least 4-5 more combat-ready divisions is not the same question as the wisdom of putting more American personnel into Iraq.
Even the Democratic leadership has made no move to demand a scheduled timetable of withdrawal, much less, Vietnam-style, to cut off funds for general military operations in Iraq.
Yet most supporters of the war do not want an open-ended commitment to Iraq either, with large permanent basing and perpetual subsidies to such an oil-rich state. So here too there is general agreement emerging about our goals as outlined by most of the military's top brass: in a year or two begin to downsize our presence in Iraq, ideally leaving behind special forces and elite units embedded within Iraqi units, backed up by instantaneous air support.
In the larger sense, with Saddam gone ? he was the reason for America's 1991 build up in the region in the first place ? our total regional troop strength could decline, contingent on the degree to which Al Qaeda poses less of a conventional threat than Saddam Hussein once did in this critical area. The departure from Saudi Arabia was long overdue, and few Americans wish troops to return there. Again, no mainstream figure is demanding either an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or an imperial build-up.
It is now popular to caricature the effort to prompt democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to encourage them elsewhere in the Gulf, Lebanon, and Egypt. We all know the homilies ? "You can't implant democracy by force" or "There is no history of democracy in that part of the world."
Yet few leftist critics of the administration have advised not to pressure Syria to leave Lebanon, not to encourage elections in Beirut, not to hector Mubarak in Egypt about allowing fair voting, or not to engage in the messy work of consensual government in Iraq and Afghanistan. No Democrats are calling for a strongman in Iraq, or endorsing the general status quo in the Middle East. If anything, we hear the Orwellian refrain, "We should not be supporting dictators" ? at precisely the time in recent memory that we are beginning not to!
There is a quiet but growing assumption that there is really not much of a choice other than to come down on the right side of history and support the democratizing efforts now under way. Freedom and the rule of law offer the best hope of undermining Islamic fundamentalism faster than it can subvert consensual government. Far from being a Puritanical, messianic vision of forcing Islamic cultures to follow a cookie-cutter American model, our policy of post-September 11 arises because most Americans are tired of giving their money to dictatorships in Egypt, or lining up with monarchies in the Gulf, or having autocracies harbor and bribe terrorists to turn their wrath against the United States.
To their credit, in past years Democrats were more likely to object to realpolitik in the first place, so it makes absolutely no sense now for them to criticize George Bush for doing more to end the old cynicism than Bill Clinton ever did.
Iraq and the war on terrorism?
The old debate whether Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda is now calcified. Liberal conventional wisdom denies any such linkage since there is no firm evidence that Saddam knew of, or was involved in, the September 11 attacks. Thus most on the left ignore entirely that Ansar al-Islam was doing Saddam's dirty work in fighting the Kurds, that Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas resided in Baghdad, that Saddam openly harbored Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmed Hikmat Shakir who were connected to the effort in 1993 to blow up the World Trade Center and various anti-American plots, and that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fled Afghanistan to the sanctuary of Iraq.
No matter. That was then, this is now ? and there is no denying that al-Zarqawi is conducting al-Qaedist operations in Iraq, or that the sort of people who attacked us on September 11 are the sort of people now flocking to the Sunni Triangle and often dying at the hands of U.S. military forces. Everyone can agree on that.
The "flypaper" exegesis ? that Iraq has become a magnetized burial ground pulling in wannabe al Qaedists ? is widely dismissed as unsophisticated and yokelish. But we saw the same phenomenon on the Afghan border in late 2001 where the Pakistani madrassas thinned out as jihadists went over the mountains to the Taliban's aid ? only to be bombed to smithereens, the survivors limping back to warn others to give up such a holy trek.
In one of the strangest developments of this entire war, the Western world hears almost nothing about the aggregate number of jihadists killed by coalition forces in Iraq, even though we suspect it may have been several thousand ? 10,000, 20,000, 50,000? Surely this has had both a concrete and a spiritual effect on hundreds of thousands of angry young Islamists, who are beginning to realize that a trip to Iraq may be lethal ? and unwelcomed by most Iraqis who just wish to be left alone to form their own new government. Whatever one thought about the nexus of Iraq and terror before, no one now denies that our jihadist enemies are in Iraq and are being fought and defeated there each day.
For nearly four years, debates raged in the West over the Patriot Act, supposed Islamophobia, and the sense that the war was never a war at all, but a cooked-up overreaction by Bush-Cheney/Halliburton/Fox News (take your pick) to further a corporate imperial agenda.
But after bombings and assassinations in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands, the almost weekly arrests of Middle Eastern suspects from New Jersey to Lodi, California, few now deny that we are in a war with real jihadists, who are energized by an Islamo-fascistic creed that flares up from Bali to Pakistan.
Saddam is ancient history. The real war in Iraq is against al-Qaedists who behead, murder, and seek to turn any village they get their hands on into an 8th-century nightmare. Democrats may groan about the Patriot Act; ACLU liberals will occasionally cry bigotry against Muslims; but there is no longer any real debate that one of the tools of the jihadists is to repeat a September 11 on a larger scale through the stealthy terrorism of infiltrators from the Middle East. Better then to draw them out and hit them abroad than just play defense at home.
It is easy to be pessimistic about Iraq, given the media's constant barrage of bad news. But why then are there not millions in the street as in the fashion of Vietnam-era moratoria? Why doesn't the Senate move to cut off funds? Why don't the Democrats bring forth another George McGovern?
Moveon.org, Cindy Sheehan, or Michael Moore in the short-term may be useful stilettos to the Democrats. But most keep their safe distance from such blood-stained rapiers, since few know how Iraq will turn out ? or what such razor-sharp groups and firebrands will say or do next.
If Iraq is a more lethal theater than Afghanistan, and appears the more unstable, then we should remember that Saddam Hussein was sui generis, and his warped country the linchpin of the Arab Middle East. Who knows what Iraq will look like in, say, 15 months, given that its liberation had about that much lag time after the fall of the Taliban?
On the horizon there are a number of events whose public repercussions are impossible to predict, although they may well enhance the efforts of democratic reformers. The elections of October will be followed by even more voting in December. For all the predictions of Sunni boycotts and subversion, at some point the wiser ones will participate ? understanding that the insurgents are losing, destroying not the Americans, but their own country in the process, and that a constitution moves onward, with or without them.
Soon there will be a globally televised trial of Saddam Hussein that may well shock the Arab autocracies ? especially when their unfree populations gaze on the most well-known and thuggish of the Arab illegitimate leaders, chained in the docket and demurring to a constitutionally-appointed judge.
Yes, America is divided about Left/Right politics and over occasional antiwar street theater. But on the major issue of the war on terror and Iraq, most critics have very few ideas of doing anything other than what we are doing right now. The result is a strange consensus that few speak about ? but fewer still wish to undo.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His book A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War (Random House) appears this month.
Reply #192 on:
October 11, 2005, 04:06:19 PM »
October 17, 2005
Exploit Rifts in The Insurgency
The next two weeks are crucial. Washington and the Iraqi government should put forward a bold program of "national reconciliation"
By Fareed Zakaria
Amid all the problems in Iraq, I see one encouraging sign. Sunnis are organizing to defeat the referendum on Iraq's draft constitution. This is good news because it places the Sunnis in direct opposition to the jihadi insurgents in Iraq. The latter, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have been threatening to kill anyone who votes. The vast majority of Sunni organizations in Iraq?including several insurgent groups-have called on Sunnis to mobilize and vote to defeat the constitution, which they view as anti-Sunni. This is the most important positive development in Iraq?a growing split between the radical jihadists and the other insurgents, who are mostly Baathists. It provides the United States with an opportunity, even at this late date, for some success. Drive this split wider and isolate the jihadis. Or as the British motto goes, divide and conquer.
Rifts are emerging on other issues. Recently Zarqawi urged a "total war" against the Shiites in Iraq. But five Sunni insurgent groups rejected the argument and emphasized that they do not target civilians, whether Sunni or Shia. The Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group that supports the insurgency, issued a more elaborate denunciation. Days later, Zarqawi issued a correction, explaining that "not all Shiites are targets," and exempting those who opposed the occupation, such as the followers of the rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr. This led Sadr's group to issue a statement rejecting Zarqawi's embrace and making clear that "for our movement Zarqawi is nothing but an enemy and if he falls into the hands of our militia he will be torn apart."
Most recently comes news that Ayman al-Zawahiri sent a letter to Zarqawi telling him his goals and means were causing a loss of support for Al Qaeda. For months now there have been signs that the Baathist insurgency wants to end its uprising. Last week, there was one more such signal. Saleh al Mutlak, a prominent Sunni politician whom many believe has ties to the insurgency, publicly proposed a ceasefire. "The fighting should stop," Mutlak told Reuters. "We have fought for two and a half years and the problem is, it doesn't work."
Within the next week, several Sunni groups will gather to put together a formal set of proposals for the United States to consider. "We must find a political solution," he said. A ceasefire during Ramadan, which began last week, "should be a start for direct negotiations between the two sides."
Until recently, the United States has been opposed to negotiating with the insurgents, but that line is weakening. The new U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, has begun meeting with people who are close to the insurgents. But, according to a senior diplomat who spoke on background so as not to interfere with the negotiations, Khalil-zad has not yet met the people with power, who are actually running the insurgency.
From the start, the United States has misunderstood how to handle Iraq's Sunnis, sending the signal that it viewed them all as Baathists. In fact, Saddam's regime was run by a small group of tribal Sunnis, mostly from Tikrit and adjoining areas. He displaced the secular, urban Sunnis, who were Iraq's traditional elite. Some of the latter were left in government bureaucracies and educational establishments, but with little power. Then came de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Army. All of a sudden, tens of thousands of people, nominally members of the Baath Party, lost jobs as engineers, schoolteachers and officials. The result was chaos and an embittered Sunni population.
For the last year, Washington has been trying to reverse these errors. But the Shiite-dominated government has been unwilling to make many compromises. This is understandable. The Shiites suffered greatly under Saddam and the Baath Party. But that perspective might blind them to what is in Iraq's long-term interest. Only a balance of power between the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds will keep Iraq stable.
The next two weeks are crucial. In all likelihood, the Sunnis will not be able to defeat the constitution, which means they will be further embittered. Washington and the Iraqi government should then put forward a bold program of "national reconciliation" that includes talks with some of the insurgent groups to draw the Sunnis into the political mainstream. Otherwise the dangers grow for Iraq, and for others as well. Iraq's Interior minister, Bayan Jabr, said last week that while Zarqawi had been weakened in recent months, other smaller jihadi groups were getting stronger. And, he added, they were beginning to move men and arms outside of Iraq. "You will see insurgencies in other countries," he warned. There's a dark cloud forming in the Middle East, and it may burst if we don't act soon.
Bomb Materials from Iran Intercepted
Reply #193 on:
October 13, 2005, 10:06:19 PM »
Iran's killer bombs found
Bombs seized ... where
cargo was found
From TOM NEWTON-DUNN
Defence Editor, in Al Amarah, Iraq
A HUGE cache of hi-tech bomb-making kit has been seized from terrorist smugglers crossing from Iran into Iraq.
The find included detonators, military-style charges and a whopping 100kg of plastic explosives ? enough to flatten a tower block.
Exactly the same technology was used in five devastating roadside bombs that killed eight British soldiers recently.
Iraqi forces seized the cargo in a sparsely-populated border area in desolate Maysan province, which is largely scrub and marshland.
This is the first hard proof of Iran?s highly controversial sponsorship of terrorism against Our Boys in southern Iraq.
Military sources said the leadership in Tehran must have authorised the moving of such a large and lethal consignment.
Last night one said: ?It?s inconceivable this sort of highly sophisticated material can cross the border without some very important people in Iran knowing about it.
Foiled ... Iraqi officers capture insurgent with cache this week
?We cannot publicly accuse Tehran yet ? but this is as close as it comes to catching the Iranians red-handed ? without actually seeing them pull the trigger.?
The seizure happened in July but was kept secret before being confirmed for the first time yesterday by British military in Basra. It cranks up tensions further between Iran?s Ayatollahs and furious politicians in London.
PM Tony Blair has already accused elite troops from Iran?s Revolutionary Guards of giving insurgents the deadly new bombs to kill British soldiers. Earlier this week defence sources in Iraq piled on the pressure by insisting the Iranians were also running training camps in Iran.
And yesterday Captain Will Blackhurst of the Staffordshire Regiment Battle Group based in Camp abu Naji ? which has lost five members to the new bombs ? hinted the terrorists? tactics have evolved recently. He said: ?The enemy is fighting a far cleverer war than he did last year and his skills and tactics have improved greatly.?
Last night a spokesman for British forces in Iraq said: ?We can confirm that there was a large find reported by the Iraqi Department for Border Enforcement.
?It was a great success for everyone in Iraq as it has taken a large amount of weaponry out of the insurgents? hands.?
Reply #194 on:
October 13, 2005, 10:56:54 PM »
Iraq, the Constitution and the Fate of a President
By George Friedman
The elections scheduled in Iraq for Dec. 15 have generated what is becoming a permanent feature of Iraqi politics. The process of establishing a constitution has become the battleground among the three major ethnic factions over the nature of political arrangements in Iraq, the distribution of power, the character of the regime and, of course, how oil revenues will be shared. Each milestone on the road to a constitution has become an occasion for intensifying both the negotiating and military process, with no milestone becoming definitive. Thus, the Oct. 15 referendum will give way to December's general elections, and today's negotiations set the stage for the next round of negotiations.
All of this can be taken two ways. One way to view it is that the Iraqi situation is fundamentally insoluble, that the various parties cannot achieve a permanent resolution to the problem. Another way of looking at it is that this process is the permanent solution: Iraq will be an endless reshuffling of a finite political deck, with no end in sight. There are other countries that live this way, and the solution is that they muddle through: politics and the state are devalued, while the rest of society -- clans, families, corporations, organized crime -- are emphasized. An Iraq with eternally shifting politics is not incompatible with the notion of a functioning society.
This assessment, of course, ignores a number of things. First, Iraq is occupied by U.S. troops. Second, there is a war going on in which the Sunnis are fighting the occupation. The Iranians are in the wings -- actually, on the stage -- trying to dominate Iraq as much as possible. A border war is raging along the Syrian frontier. A broader war involving the United States and jihadists is still sputtering along. Therefore, any hope has to be viewed through the prism of this violence, and the question is simple: can the emerging political process ultimately reduce -- "eliminate" is too much to ask -- the level of violence? Put another way, from the U.S. side, can the present political process solve the problems of occupation while yielding the political goals Washington wanted? From the jihadist side, can the uncertainty of the political process be exploited to create the conditions for what Ayman al-Zawahiri described in a recent letter: the jihadist domination of Iraq? Or, will the conflict between political goals undermine the process and create permanent war instead of permanent instability?
The core difference between this milestone and the last -- the generation of a proposed constitution for consideration by the legislature and, through this referendum, the public -- is that, whereas the last round of negotiations ended in an inability of the Shia and Kurds to reach an agreement with the Sunnis, this one has ended in an agreement of sorts. That agreement frames the situation, inasmuch as it is less an agreement than a framework for ongoing negotiations.
Some Sunni leaders have opposed any agreement or participation in the constitutional referendum; others have supported participation with a "no" vote. What appears to have been crafted between the Shia and negotiating Sunni groups is this:
If the constitution is approved, it will be a temporary, not permanent, constitution.
After a general election on Dec. 15 that would be based on this constitution, a committee of the National Assembly would review the document once again.
The new parliament would have four months to complete changes to the document.
A new vote would be held to ratify that final constitution.
In other words, the agreement that has been reached here between the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds is simply that all sides will focus on the constitutional negotiations.
That's not a bad deal, if the negotiations can encompass a large enough spectrum of each group's leadership and if everyone agrees to put other issues on hold. You can spend a lot of time debating the rules under which you will debate the issues, and you can defuse other issues if that is what everyone wants to do. The problem here is that it is not clear that this is what everyone wants.
A major Sunni organization -- the Iraqi Islamic Party -- has agreed to these rules. Other groups, at least as or more important than the Iraqi Islamic Party, have not. Neither the Association of Muslim Scholars nor the Iraqi General Conference appear at this moment to have changed their position, which is that Sunni voters should reject the new constitution. That in itself is not as alarming as it appears. The Sunnis, and other factions, are represented by several groups, and these groups sometimes play "good cop, bad cop" very effectively. The signal the Sunnis are giving is that they are not rejecting the constitutional process out of hand, but that they will need serious coaxing before the vote comes about. They are taking it down to the wire, which is the rational thing to do under the circumstances.
Three serious pressures are converging on the Sunnis. First, simply refraining from participating in the Oct. 15 referendum could free the Shia and Kurds to set up a regional federal system that would leave the Sunnis as the weakest player -- and the one with least access to future oil revenues. At the same time, the traditional Sunni leadership, deeply complicit in the Baath dictatorship, has substantial reason to fear the jihadists. The jihadists are not part of the traditional leadership and are, in fact, ideological enemies of Baathism. If the jihadists grow in strength, the traditional leadership might find itself displaced by them over time. On the other hand, agreeing to participate in the country's political process would open the Sunni leadership up to charges of being, not only lackeys of the United States, but also stooges to the hated Shia. More than any other group in Iraq, the Sunnis need for the jihadists to be defeated. On the other hand, they know they can't count on the Americans to deliver this defeat. They are under pressure to find a political solution, but also under powerful pressure not to find one. So, they churn around, generally heading toward a solution but never quite getting there.
The position of the Shia is simpler, and they have more ways of winning. If the constitution leads to a simple federalist government, the Shia will dominate southern Iraq and can deal with the Sunnis at their leisure. If a centralized government is created, the Shia will be -- with the Kurds -- the majority. The only thing the Shia can't live with is the one thing the Sunnis want: a constitution so contrived that the Sunnis can block major initiatives by the Shia.
The Kurds can live with a lot of solutions and can create informal realities based on geography and their own military strength and American backing. Their interest is less institutional than geopolitical -- they want Mosul and Kirkuk. More precisely, they want to dominate the northern oil fields and trade, and to exclude the Sunnis as far as possible from these interests. Whether that is accomplished through constitutional or business means is of less interest to them than that it be done.
The form of the constitution, therefore, matters most to the Sunnis. They need it to be written a certain way, and then to have guarantees that its provisions will be respected. At the moment, this coincides with the American interest. A radical federalism that creates a de facto Shiite state in the south is not at all in the American interest: It would have the potential to expand Iranian power in ways far more significant that a nuclear weapons program, by bringing a Shiite force -- perhaps Iraqi, or perhaps Iraqi and Iranian -- to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The specter of a Shiite force inciting Shiite populations in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has always been a fear, but the possibility of the Iranian army taking up positions on the frontier would change the balance of power in the region decisively.
The countries in the Saudi peninsula are no match for the Iranians. Add in the Syrians, who long have been allies of sorts to Iran, and you get a situation in which the United States would have to retain a presence in order to protect the regional balance of power. The Saudis do not want U.S. forces in the kingdom, to say the least, and the United States does not want to be there -- it would generate even more jihadist threats. Therefore, Washington does not want to see the federal solutions favoring the Shia come into being, nor does it want to see a centralized government dominated by the Shia. Having used the Shia to contain the insurrection in the Sunni regions, the United States now finds itself aligned with the Sunnis and with the former Baath Party.
These things happen in war and geopolitics. But there are two problems here. First, the United States has made it very clear that it will be withdrawing its forces -- at least some of them -- from Iraq in 2006. Second, everyone reads U.S. polls. President George W. Bush is in political trouble in the United States and, now, within the Republican Party itself. As with Nixon and Ford found in Vietnam, following Watergate, the threat posed by the United States declines as the president's political weakness grows. And with the decline of the U.S. military threat, there is a decline of U.S. influence. Last week's discussion of air strikes inside Syria -- and the leak that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opposed such strikes -- is an example of the problem. Where the administration had had credibility for action before, that credibility has now decreased.
The administration's political weakness does not seem to be reversing. Should Karl Rove be indicted in the Valerie Plame affair -- and at the moment, the rumors in Washington say that he will be -- the president will have lost his chief aide, and the administration will have been struck another blow.
At this moment, it is possible to make the constitutional process into a container for diverse Iraqi interests. It is also possible to see a point where the Sunni Baathists would turn on the jihadists in order to protect their political position. But all of this hinges on the guarantees that are provided by each side, and the ability and willingness of the United States to compel compliance with those guarantees. The paradox is that the most likely path to a successful withdrawal from Iraq is the perception that the United States is going to stay there forever -- and can do it. But as Bush weakens in Washington, the ability of various Iraqi factions to rely on U.S. guarantees declines.
Geopolitics teaches the interconnectedness of events. The current American strategy requires sufficient stability to be generated in Iraq to permit a U.S. military withdrawal. That requires that the United States must be taken seriously as a military force. But the weaker Bush is -- for whatever reason, fair or not -- the less credible becomes his pledge to stay the course. There are few parallels between Iraq and Vietnam save this: the political climate in Washington determines the seriousness with which American power is taken on the battlefield.
It would seem, then, that Bush has two problems. The first is whether he can stabilize and increase his power in the United States. The second is whether he can extract a clear strategy from the complexity of Iraq. The answer to the second question rests in the answer to the first. At the moment, the Iraqi constitutional talks seem to be saying, "Bush is not broken, but we aren't committing to anything until we see the polls in December."
VDH on Zbig's Doomsaying
Reply #195 on:
October 14, 2005, 02:53:12 PM »
October 14, 2005, 8:10 a.m.
An American ?Debacle??
More unjustified negativity on the war in Iraq.
Victor Davis Hanson
In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled ?American Debacle? Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national-security adviser to President Carter, begins with:
Some 60 years ago Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental ?Study of History,? that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was ?suicidal statecraft.? Sadly for George W. Bush's place in history and ? much more important ? ominously for America's future, that adroit phrase increasingly seems applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11.
Brzezinski soon adds, ?In a very real sense, during the last four years the Bush team has dangerously undercut America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of regional origin into an international debacle.?
What are we to make of all this, when a former national-security adviser writes that the war that began when Middle Eastern terrorists struck at the heart of the continental United States in New York and Washington ? something that neither the Nazis, Japanese militarists, nor Soviets ever accomplished ? was merely a ?challenge largely of regional origin??
Some ?region? ? downtown Manhattan and the nerve center of the American military.
Aside from the unintended irony that the classical historian Arnold Toynbee himself was not always ?adroit,? but wrong in most of his determinist conclusions, and that such criticism comes from a high official of an administration that witnessed on its watch the Iranian-hostage debacle, the disastrous rescue mission, the tragicomic odyssey of the terminally ill shah, the first and last Western Olympic boycott, oil hikes even higher in real dollars than the present spikes, Communist infiltration into Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian holocaust, a gloomy acceptance that perpetual parity with the Soviet Union was the hope of the day, the realism that cemented our ties with corrupt autocracies in the Middle East (Orwellian sales of F-15 warplanes to the Saudis minus their extras), and the hard-to-achieve simultaneous high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest rates, Mr. Brzezinski is at least a valuable barometer of the current pessimism over events such as September 11.
Such gloom seems to be the fashion of the day. Iraq is now routinely dismissed as a quagmire or ?lost.? Osama bin laden is assumed to be still active, while we are beginning the fifth year of the war that is ?longer than World War II.? Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo purportedly are proof of our brutality and have lost us hearts and minds, while gas prices spiral out of control. The U.S. military is supposedly ?overextended? if not ?wrecked? by Iraq, while the war in Afghanistan ?drags on.? Meanwhile, it is ?only a matter of time? until we are hit with another terrorist strike of the magnitude of September 11. To cap it off, the United States is now ?disliked? abroad, by those who abhor our ?unilateralism? and ?preemptive? war.
All that is a fair summation of the current glumness.
But how accurate are such charges? If one were to assess them from the view of the Islamic fundamentalists, they would hardly resemble reality.
Many of al-Zarqawi or Dr. Zawahiri?s intercepted letters and communiqu?s reveal paranoid fears that Iraq is indeed becoming lost ? but to the terrorists. The enemy speaks of constantly shifting tactics ? try beheading contractors; no, turn to slaughtering Shiites; no, butcher teachers and school kids; no, go back to try to blow up American convoys. In contrast, we are consistent in our strategy ? go after jihadists, train Iraqi security forces, promote consensual government so Iraq becomes an autonomous republic free to determine its own future. We will leave anytime the elected government of Iraq asks us to; the terrorists won?t cease until they have rammed, Taliban-style, an 8th-century theocracy down the throats of unwilling Iraqis.
Bin Laden is in theory ?loose,? but can?t go anywhere except the wild Afghan-Pakistan border or perhaps the frontiers of Kashmir. His terrorist hierarchy is scattered, and many of his top operatives are either dead or, like him, in hiding. For all the legitimate worry over the triangulation of Pakistan, it is still safer for Americans openly to walk down the streets of Islamabad than for bin Laden. In any case, at least the former try it and the latter does not. How much food and medical supplies will bin Laden airlift in to his fellow Muslims reeling from the earthquake?
Note how al Qaeda has dropped much of its vaunted boasts to restore the caliphate over the infidel, and now excuses its violence with the plea of victimhood: ?After all this, does the prey not have the right, when bound and dragged to its slaughter, to escape? Does it not have the right, while being slaughtered, to lash out with its paw? Does it not have the right, after being slaughtered, to attack its slaughterer with its blood??
The war against the terrorists may be entering the fifth year, but despite over 2,000 combat fatalities, we have still only lost a little over 2/3s of those killed on the very first day of the war, almost 50 months ago ? quite a contrast with the over 400,000 American dead at the end of World War II. And a wrecked Japan and Germany were not on a secure path to democracy until six years after America entered the war, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan that were defeated without killing millions and already have held plebiscites on new constitutions.
Westerners, it is true, sensationalize the abuses of Abu Ghraib and perceived grievances of Guantanamo far more than they do the abject slaughtering and beheading by the enemy. Nor do Americans write much about the heroics of their own U.S. Marines in retaking Fallujah or their brave Army battalions in providing security for civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq to vote.
But our enemies still are not impressed by such a self-critical mentality, and know that a trip to Abu Ghraib does not mean either a Saddam-like torture chamber or an al Qaeda beheading, but rather far better conditions than they ever would extend to others, and often a rest of sorts between attacking Americans. As for Guantanamo, it is humane compared to any jail in the Middle East, and fundamentalists only harp on its perceived brutality since they think such invective resonates with Western opponents of America?s current policy.
Oil is the weirdest theme of the debate over the war. Opponents claim that we went there to steal or control it. But after we arrived, as in the case of 1991 when we had the entire mega-reserves of Kuwait in our grasp, we turned it back over to the local owners, ensuring that for the first time in decades a transparent Iraqi government ? not the French, not the Russians, not the Baathists, not the Saddam kleptocracy ? now controls its own petroleum. The more the terrorists talk about Western theft of their national heritage, the more OPEC gouges the industrialized world and sends its billions in petrodollars abroad to foreign banks.
The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East. During Katrina, critics suggested troops in Iraq should have been in New Orleans, but that was a political, not a realistic complaint: few charged that there were too many thousands abroad in Germany, Italy, the U.K., Korea, or Japan when they should have been in Louisiana.
Afghanistan is nearing the status of the Balkans ? after nearly four, not eight years of peacekeeping to keep down the remnants of fascism while democracy takes root. And Afghanistan was a war (like Iraq) approved by the U.S. Senate and House ? unlike Mr. Clinton?s bombing of Serbia.
The enemy seems frustrated that it cannot repeat September 11 here in the United States. Hundreds of terrorists have been arrested, and direction from a central al Qaeda leadership has been lost. Killing jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq has, as their communiqu?s show, put terrorists on the defensive ? understandable after losing sympathetic governments like the Taliban.
We have made plenty of mistakes since September 11, often failed to articulate our goals and values, and turned on each other in perpetual acrimony. Federal spending is out of control, and our present energy policy won?t wean us off Middle Eastern petroleum for years. But still lost in all this conundrum is that the old appeasement of the 1990s is over, the terrorists are losing both tactically and strategically, and, as Tony Blair said of the evolving Western mentality, ?The rules of the game are changing.?
Finally, we need to be systematic in our appraisal of the course of this war, asking not just whether the United States is more popular and better liked, but rather whether Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Egypt are moving in the right or wrong direction. Is Europe more or less attuned to the dangers of radical Islam, and more or less likely to work with the United States? Is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute getting worse or stabilizing? Is our security at home getting better, and do we understand radical Islam more or less perfectly? Are Middle East neutrals like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan more or less helpful in the war against the terrorists? Are global powers like India and Japan more or less inclined to America? And are clear-cut enemies such as Iran and Syria becoming more or less emboldened or facing ostracism?
If we look at all these questions dispassionately, and tune out the angry rhetoric on the extreme Left and Right, then we can see things are becoming better rather than worse ? even as the media and now the public itself believes that a successful strategy is failing.
And as for Mr. Brzezinski?s indictment ? most of us still would prefer the United States of 2005 to the chaotic America of 1977-80 under an administration that did little to confront the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which began in earnest on its watch with the real debacle in Tehran.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His book A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War appears this month.
Al Qaeda's Pentagon Papers?
Reply #196 on:
October 14, 2005, 03:03:50 PM »
October 13, 2005
An Honest Missive
Zawahiri boasts strategy for "victory of Islam."
by Bruce Thornton
The website of the Director of National Intelligence just published a letter from Al Qaeda?s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head-terrorist in Iraq. This document repays careful reading, for it explodes much of the received wisdom many people rely on in making sense of jihadist terror.
According to this standard interpretation, Islamic terror is the handiwork of a fanatic minority that has ?highjacked? and distorted Islamic doctrine. These medieval throwbacks gain traction from the political autocracy and oppression that dominate the Muslim governments in the Middle East, regimes that cannot provide the freedom and prosperity that would eliminate the frustration and despair breeding terrorist violence. The leftist variation of this analysis lays the blame on Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and Western, particularly American, imperialist and colonialist misdeeds in the region. Either way, the underlying assumption is that jihadist terror is a sort of cultural neurosis arising in reaction to political or material circumstances. Thus the cure for the terrorist ?disease? must be found in improving those circumstances: installing democratic governments or compelling Israel to surrender Judea and Samaria (aka the ?occupied West Bank?) so that a Palestinian state can be created.
Zawahiri?s letter, however, offers little that squares with this received wisdom. Its shrewd analysis and careful argument are the signs not of a wild-eyed religious fanatic but of a thinker shaped by his religion?s history and spiritual imperatives. Indeed, Zawahiri is very clear about the traditional jihadist motivation, one that is not a mere reaction to Western misdeeds or a distortion of Islam, but rather squarely in its history and traditional values: the eventual triumph of the true faith over ?atheism? and ?polytheism,? the latter term code for Christianity. Thus the struggle in Iraq is the site of ?the greatest battle of Islam in this era,? another in a long series of ?epic battles between Islam and atheism.? However, in Zawahiri?s analysis, ?the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world.? For only then can the caliphate ultimately be reestablished: ?The goal in this age,? Zawahiri writes, ?is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet.? The terror of the insurgents in Iraq is a ?large step directly towards that goal.?
Rather than a localized response to American-Zionist imperial adventurism, then, the insurgency in Iraq according to Zawahiri is merely the means to achieving the first of several ?incremental goals? aimed at the eventual establishment of the caliphate throughout the ?heart of the Islamic world,? that is the whole Middle East. The first ?goal? is to ?expel the Americans from Iraq? as a necessary precondition to creating ?an Islamic authority or amirate [province],? one that will have no truck with infidel Western notions of secular democracy or human rights. Note well: the insurgents are murdering and maiming not in reaction to Abu Graib, not to forestall Western control over oil reserves, not out of frustration with Israel?s defensive wall, not for any of the reasons we in the West cook up out of our own materialist prejudices, but for a spiritual goal: the fulfillment of Allah?s will that the traditional lands once conquered by his armies and subjected to Islam be restored to rule by adherents of the true faith.
After this goal is achieved, the ?third stage? will involve expanding ?the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.? And then will come the final stage: ?the clash with Israel.? Zawahiri?s references to Israel are significant, and make clear that despite years of propaganda in which Palestinian frustrated ?nationalist aspirations? are trotted out as excuses for murder, it is Israel?s very existence, no matter what it does, that makes its elimination necessary. As Zawahiri puts it, Palestine is the ?heart? of a ?bird? whose wings are Syria and Egypt. The Western powers understood the strategic importance of this location for destroying the unity of the Muslim-Arab world; hence, ?they did not establish Israel in this triangle surrounded by Egypt and Syria and overlooking the Hijaz [western Saudi Arabia containing Mecca and Medina] except for their own interests.?
In other words, Israel is simply a weapon in the war of the infidel against Islam, an outpost of the West as much as were the medieval Crusader kingdoms, a state ?established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.? That is why Israel must go, not because it has prevented the Palestinians from creating a state. Indeed, Zawahiri implicitly rejects the ?nationalist? interpretation of the struggle against Israel: ?It is strange that the Arab nationalists also have, despite their avoidance of Islamic practice, come to comprehend the great importance of this province [Palestine] . . . They have come to comprehend the goal of planting Israel in this region, and they are not misled in this, rather they have admitted their ignorance of the religious nature of this conflict.?
Nor is this interpretation the idiosyncratic obsession of a crank, as the existence of numerous Palestinian jihadist terror organizations attests. The West?s failure to recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an episode in the centuries-long spiritual struggle between Islam and the ?infidels? continues to this day, as we see with the vast hopes pinned on Mahmoud Abbas and democratic elections, all the while organizations like Hamas, committed like Zawahiri to the destruction of Israel, continue to enjoy significant support among Palestinian Arabs and to function as an autonomous state-within-a-state. The creation of a Palestinian state, then, is merely a stage towards that eventual ?clash with Israel? Zawahiri speaks of. Until we recognize this spiritual motivation and compel the presumed ?moderates? who sincerely reject it to act on their beliefs ?? more bluntly, to destroy the armed terrorists?? there will be no solution to that crisis that does not leave Israel vulnerable.
Zawahiri understands that the pursuit of this traditional Islamic goal must take place in a modern world in which the infidels have an overwhelming military superiority. This means that the struggle must be carried on at the psychological and perceptual level as well. He understands that ?half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media? in a ?race for the hearts and minds of our Umma [the whole Muslim community].? Suicide attacks on Shiites in Iraq, then, are condemned not on moral or religious grounds, but as tactical errors in the battle for ?hearts and minds.? Why a gory beheading when ?we can kill the captives by a bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts.? As we have seen repeatedly in Israel, terrorist murder is condemned on tactical, not moral, grounds. Always the larger goal, the restoration of Islamic dominance, is the only standard by which to judge any action.
Finally, Zawahiri makes it clear that the Islamic arrogant assurance of its spiritual superiority and righteousness is validated by the corresponding spiritual dysfunction of an American society that puts material comfort and security ahead of everything else. Zawahiri?s confidence that the ?Americans will exit soon,? as he puts it, and so planning should commence for the political order that will arise upon their departure, is confirmed for him historically by Vietnam: ?The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam ?? and how they ran and left their agents ?? is noteworthy.? Indeed it is, but not for the false ?quagmire? analogy trotted out periodically by those opposed to the war in Iraq. Rather, the significance of Vietnam lies in how the United States, as a South Vietnamese defense minister put it, ?snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.?
In other words, military power may have succeeded in turning back the North Vietnamese, but political and moral weakness undid all the gains earned by the sacrifice of 60,000 American lives and millions of Vietnamese. As Zawahiri indicates, the lesson was learned by our enemies: make enough Americans uncomfortable, disturb their leisure and sensibilities with enough grisly images helpfully broadcast by their own media, and eventually they will cut and run. And indeed, if we were to abandon Iraq after suffering there about the same number of deaths as we did in two months in Vietnam, such abandonment would confirm for the jihadists their estimation of our spiritual corruption.
Over and over the jihadist enemy tells us why he wants to kill us, and over and over we dismiss his words or reduce them to our own categories. Paralyzed by our fear of being ?insensitive? to cultural differences, and deluded by our materialist preconceptions that reduce religion to an expression of some more ?real? cause, we refuse to name clearly the enemy: an Islamic faith that for centuries has killed, enslaved, plundered, ravaged, and conquered in the service of its arrogant assurance of its spiritual superiority.
Reply #197 on:
October 19, 2005, 08:02:38 PM »
Nalchik: The 9/11 That Wasn't
October 19, 2005 22 59 GMT
By Fred Burton
Russian military forces are continuing mop-up operations in Nalchik, a city in the Caucasus region where Islamist militants last week staged a series of coordinated attacks -- signaling attempts to widen the Chechen conflict to other parts of Russia. The incident, which burst into the international news Oct. 13, is significant on several levels -- not least of which was the much-improved counterterrorism response by Russian forces, without which the raids conceivably might have expanded into something approaching the Sept. 11 attacks in terms of geopolitical impact.
As it happens, the events that took place involved some 100 to 150 armed militants, who attempted to seize control of the airport at Nalchik while also assaulting police stations, government offices and the regional headquarters of the Russian prison system, among other targets. All told, about 100 people were killed -- more than 60 of them militants, and roughly equal numbers of security forces and civilians. That's hardly what anyone would term a "minor incident," but compared to other attacks by Chechen militants -- such as the school hostage crisis in Beslan in 2004 or a similar event at a Moscow theater in 2002 -- the Russian response was swifter and the outcome much better.
This is not due to dumb luck: The response logically stems from drastically improved intelligence-gathering and targeting priorities in Russian counterterrorism strategies, which underwent a sea change following the Beslan incident. In fact, there is reason to believe that the militants who planned the attacks in Nalchik (an operation that has been claimed by Moscow's arch-enemy, Shamil Basayev) actually were forced into carrying out their operation prematurely, after Russian intelligence got wind of a much larger and more chilling plot -- one combining all the most deadly tactics of both Sept. 11 and Beslan.
Russian military contacts and other sources have told us that the events in Nalchik apparently were supposed to be only the first phase of a plan that ultimately was to include flying explosives-laden aircraft into high-profile targets elsewhere in Russia. Though the exact targets have not been confirmed, sources say possible targets included the Kremlin, a military district headquarters and railway hub in Rostov-on-Don, a nuclear plant in the vicinity of Saratov, and a hydroelectric plant or dam on the Volga. Sources also say the militants had a back-up plan that would have involved mining important government buildings and taking hostages -- tactics the Chechens have used in other headline-grabbing attacks.
Intelligence from human sources is rarely golden: Analysts always must play the skeptic and filter out the sources' own motives for providing the information -- and in this case, the Russian military certainly has reason to want to appear to have pre-empted a catastrophe. In this case, the list of possible targets reads like a laundry list of nightmare scenarios that have been widely discussed, in the U.S. context, since Sept. 11 -- so, admittedly, it is not much of a stretch to assume such assets also could be targeted in Russia. That said, the Nalchik incident fits into wider trend that we have been following in the Chechen/Islamist insurgency for more than a year, and the target sets make sense for what is becoming an increasingly Wahhabist-dominated campaign in Russian territory.
The events on the ground also seem to bear out the sourced intelligence: The militants opened their attack with attempts to seize the airport in Nalchik, where -- had they not been beaten back by Russian forces already guarding the target -- they would have been able to commandeer the aircraft needed for follow-on operations. The incidents in other parts of the city, which were closely time-coordinated but appear to have involved poorly trained recruits, are believed to have been intended as distractions -- drawing attention and Russian security forces away from the strategically crucial airport.
The fact that the follow-on attacks were more or less quickly put down, with (relatively) small loss of life, also fits the notion of a busted operation. Reportedly, the grand plot was to have been carried out on Oct. 17, with a force of about 700 militants -- most of whom had not yet moved into Nalchik when the Russians began taking action. The entire plan apparently started to unravel nearly 10 days in advance: Acting on tips from local residents, Russian forces arrested two suspected militants -- who reportedly confessed to planning attacks -- as early as Oct. 8.
Accepting, then, that the intelligence concerning the shape of the plot is credible, we have an operation that, if carried to fruition, would have mirrored Sept. 11 in many respects -- opening up a new front in the global jihadist war and, conceivably, could have reinvigorated the organized Islamist militancy in other parts of the world.
Considering Basayev's claims of responsibility for the Nalchik plot, that clearly seems to have been the intent. Basayev, it must be remembered, is the Chechen commander who has authored many of the most horrific terrorist incidents in Russia. Attacks like those at Beslan and the Moscow theater, and hostage-takings at hospitals and other soft targets typically have resulted in hundreds of deaths at a time -- both before and during the bloody responses by Russian security forces. To say that Basayev has a penchant for grand, showy schemes would be something of an understatement.
Operationally speaking, that trait seems to undermine his effectiveness as a militant leader -- and, in fact, eventually could be his undoing. The fact that that has not yet happened points more toward particular aspects of the political conflict between the Chechen/Islamist insurgents and Moscow than to best practices taught in Terrorism 101.
Under those principles, the most effective forms of attack are those that are simple yet ruthless: They require few resources, and operatives practice airtight "need-to-know" communications. The fewer people who know about a plan -- or have access to more details than they need in order to carry out their own part -- the less likely the plan is to leak out and be pre-empted. Except for the fact that Basayev has, for the most part, operated in territory where locals have supported at least some aspects of the militant campaign against Russian rule, it is nothing short of amazing that he and his cast of thousands have succeeded to the degree that they have.
But the amount of local support Basayev still is able to command has become something of a question mark, as Chechens themselves have grown weary of the death and destruction in their war. It is said that, partly because of this, Basayev increasingly has surrounded himself with Wahhabi militants -- including some Saudi commanders -- and is seeking ways to export the campaign from the Muslim-dominated Caucasus republics into Russia proper.
All of this seems logical: Judging from details of the Nalchik plot and others within the past year, Basayev appears intent on mimicking elements of the Sept. 11 attacks -- indicating that he at least is studying and learning from al Qaeda, even if he is not intimately linked to it. At the very least, his emerging fixation with air assets is reminiscent of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- another tactical genius with a penchant for spectacular strikes.
Both the Nalchik operation and the wider plot, had it been carried out, would have mirrored Sept. 11 in other ways as well: Multiple targets, representing a mix of both hard (government installations) and soft (civilian infrastructure) nodes, might have been struck -- maximizing the political, economic and sheer terror value of the strikes. The plot shows high degrees of strategic planning and, as a result, could have been designed to inspire audiences in the Muslim world -- whether that world is defined to include Russia's Muslim-majority provinces or other regions.
It is important to note here that, though Sept. 11 has become the gold standard for "effective" terrorist attacks, we and others believe that even al Qaeda likely was stunned by its success. The plot was redundant in most aspects: two economic facilities (the World Trade Center towers) and two government facilities (the Pentagon and, it is believed, the Capitol) were targeted, building in a margin of error for planners who likely never expected three of the four aircraft to strike their targets. Similarly, Basayev appears to be hatching redundant plots, so that operations can still be politically and economically effective even if some aspects of the mission fail.
But at Nalchik, almost the entire operation failed before it could get off the ground. The points of failure appear to rest in two areas.
First, there is evidence that Basayev used some and ill-prepared operatives in Nalchik -- rather than highly trained and ruthlessly efficient cells, like those that carried out the 9/11 attacks. The assailants acted in groups of five men. Typical al Qaeda operations use four-man cells, in which each member plays a specific and crucial role. Larger cells appear to be the norm in Chechen operations -- partly because this allows commanders to play a greater role on the ground, but also perhaps because strikes often include local militants who have been poorly trained. This can be a mixed blessing. For instance, we saw in Beslan would-be suicide bombers who ran away; in Nalchik, some of the fighters -- many of whom were well-equipped -- fired their weapons while running toward their targets (a tactic very likely to draw return fire and get them killed). The use of larger cells allows for this kind of attrition without endangering the mission, but it also brings into the mix local operatives who have supreme area knowledge -- and thus are able to identify launching points and escape routes with lower operational overhead.
Second, and crucially, there was poor operational security in Nalchik. In short, someone snitched, and the op was blown. The snitch could have been someone motivated by the bounties Moscow now is offering for intelligence targeting Chechen commanders, or a mole who has infiltrated the militants' ranks, or perhaps a local parent who overhead a conversation between teenagers -- or all of the above. Given the hundreds of people who, according to sources, ultimately would have taken part in the plot, anything is possible. The point is, a lot of people were in the know, and COMSEC -- communications security -- was next to impossible.
At this point, the Russians have to be feeling both relieved and shaken, asking the inevitable "What if?" Basayev certainly has the means and ability to hatch grandiose plots that, if effectively executed, would have serious geopolitical implications -- and, of course, he is alive and free to fight another day. On the other hand, his soaring ambition -- combined with the obviously improved intelligence capabilities and response strategies of the Russian forces -- could be his undoing.
Reply #198 on:
October 20, 2005, 05:00:29 PM »
The Al-Zawahiri Letter and the Coming Jihadist Fracture
Editor's Note: This is the final report in a three-part analysis of the controversial Ayman al-Zawahiri letter.
The controversial letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- which we believe is authentic despite certain apparent discrepancies -- not only provides insights into the inner workings of the global jihadist movement, but also suggests that it is fast reaching an impasse. As a result, the bulk of the movement will either continue to seek guidance and leadership from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri or it will attempt to assume a more political face. Should politics prevail, al-Zarqawi's proven ability to lead successful attacks will catapult him into a leadership role -- and make him a rival to his current brothers-in-arms. It is too early to say which way the pendulum will swing, but one is thing is certain: The jihadist ranks have begun to fracture.
The U.S. war against jihadism, both its military and political components, is responsible for the jihadists' current situation -- they realize that they cannot continue much longer on the path they have taken since before Sept. 11, 2001. Until the attacks, Western governments, especially the United States, viewed the jihadists as a low-intensity regional terrorist phenomenon that could be handled by law enforcement. Meanwhile, even as some governments in the Muslim world were colluding with jihadists because of their own foreign and domestic policy needs, the Muslim masses were ignoring them or, in some cases, flirting with them -- not realizing that these transnational Islamist militants posed a security threat for Muslims as well.
All of this allowed al Qaeda and its jihadist allies to flourish, while no outside factor required them to re-evaluate their course of action. Furthermore, their clear objectives and ability to move ahead with their plans created a general harmony within the ranks as regards their ideology, objectives and policies.
That situation no longer exists. Not only have the jihadists suffered physical losses in terms of men, money and infrastructure, but they also have been challenged at the intellectual and ideological level -- even from within. Like any political actor faced with both external and internal threats, they are being forced to deal with issues of credibility, relevance and the survivability of their organization and its cause.
Subjected to a rude awakening, the Muslim world also is taking stock -- albeit gradually -- of the problems the jihadists have created. The Muslim masses, which never supported the jihadists even before Sept. 11, are now less and less willing to ignore them or try to use them to their advantage. Meanwhile, moderate Muslims have started coming to the fore, shrinking the jihadists' potential pool of support. This has caused al Qaeda to take a hard look at its ideology as well as its methods -- and to realize that it is way behind the curve when it comes to politics.
In other words, the leadership understands that the network's military accomplishments have not translated into political support from the masses -- even though they are desperately trying to pull Muslim public opinion toward their cause. The mainstream Muslim world, however, has become far too nuanced to accept their manifesto.
This is why we see al-Zawahiri, in his letter, trying to convince al-Zarqawi of the need for a more savvy political approach rather than the sole reliance on attacks. He is saying that, if al Qaeda is to become a competitive player, it needs to gain popular support, tolerate the Shia, use the ideology card judiciously and understand that the bulk of Muslims (especially the ulema) do not share the Wahhabi ideology.
Al-Zawahiri also urges al-Zarqawi to moderate his Wahhabi views in order to placate the non-Wahhabi Sunni majority in Iraq and the larger Muslim world. In this regard, he urges al-Zarqawi against alienating the religious scholars who may not share al Qaeda's doctrinal and juristic positions.
Al-Zawahiri points to the example of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, saying that he has been a steadfast supporter of the cause despite his "Hanafi adherence, Matridi doctrine." He also reminds al-Zarqawi of the fate of the lone Wahhabi/Salafi Afghan group that fought the Soviets in the late 1980s, and its leader, Jamil-ur-Rehman, who sought to establish his emirate based on strict Wahhabi ideas in Afghanistan's Kunar province. In the end, stronger non-Wahhabi Afghan Islamist forces killed Jamil-ur-Rehman -- and his organization crumbled.
He also urges al-Zarqawi against appearing the cruel terrorist by carrying out and broadcasting hostage executions. "Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable . . . are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages," he writes. "You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the sheikh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular."
Al-Zawahiri also tries to dissuade al-Zarqawi from interpreting too literally the Koran verses that ask Muslims to strike terror in the hearts of non-Muslims. He then refers to the death of his wife and daughter in the battle of Tora Bora as "American brutality." This is an attempt to pre-empt any misconception on al-Zarqawi's part that the jihadist leadership has gone soft, and also to point out that he has suffered personally.
Quickly he turns to a discussion of the importance of good public relations, reminding al-Zarqawi that "more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media . . . we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our ummah" (global Muslim nation). He also acknowledges the asymmetry in public relations capabilities between the jihadists and those they battle. Al-Zawahiri says, ". . . however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one-thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us."
And realizing that Muslims primarily identify with a nation-state -- as opposed to the notion of an Islamic ummah -- al-Zawahiri carefully tries to get the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi to accept that it would be better for an Iraqi to serve as a figurehead and for al-Zarqawi to control his movement from behind the scenes. He warns that "the assumption of leadership for the mujahideen ? by non-Iraqis" could "stir up sensitivity for some people," and he asks al-Zarqawi to consider how that sensitivity might be overcome "while preserving the commitment of the jihadist work and without exposing it to any shocks."
The letter suggests that al-Zawahiri wishes for continued U.S. actions against Muslims -- which would sustain the anti-American sentiment within the Muslim world and thus allow the jihadists to be seen as the only force "defending" the Muslims. In this way, he believes, the jihadists can try to regain lost ground. He also expresses surprise that secular nationalist forces have begun to view the occupation of Iraq as troublesome and are beginning to feel the need for action against the U.S. military.
Above all, the al-Zawahiri letter is an acknowledgement of significant internal stress within the jihadist movement and the need to re-evaluate the gravity of the situation with an eye toward taking a more rational approach to ideology, objectives and policies. The movement, then, is set to splinter -- and some within it could even take more moderate stances (as many of the Gamaa al-Islamiyah jihadists of Egypt did in the late 1990s and early 2000s). Depending on how the United States executes its war on terrorism, the changes to come eventually could take the sting out of the jihadist threat.
Reply #199 on:
October 24, 2005, 12:49:46 AM »
At some point in Washington the most important decision will have
to be taken. The question is who will get the upper hand: those who believe in regime change or those who favor negotiations? But let me make one important point: I was involved in decision-making processes when there were two superpowers. At that time one could be pretty sure that both sides would exert the same amount of restraint before starting an atomic war. And on top of that just imagine what complicated thought processes both went through trying to work out the opponent's possible behavior. The whole system of international relations is going to have to change. We have to bear this in mind when looking at Iran. The democratic countries have to keep an eye on the consequences of the spread of nuclear weapons and ask themselves what they would have done if the Madrid bombs had been nuclear. Or if the attackers in New York had used nuclear weapons, or if 50,000 people had died in New Orleans in a nuclear attack. The world would look very different than
it does today. So we have to ask ourselves how much energy we want to put into fighting the problem of further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
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