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Topic: WW3 (Read 177914 times)
Reply #250 on:
April 13, 2006, 01:17:34 AM »
Facing Down Iran
Our lives depend on it.
Most Westerners read the map of the world like a Broadway marquee: north is top of the bill?America, Britain, Europe, Russia?and the rest dribbles away into a mass of supporting players punctuated by occasional Star Guests: India, China, Australia. Everyone else gets rounded up into groups: ?Africa,? ?Asia,? ?Latin America.?
But if you?re one of the down-page crowd, the center of the world is wherever you happen to be. Take Iran: it doesn?t fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it?s a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation?s turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans?the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.
If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran?s neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam?the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there?s going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.
That moment of ascendancy is now upon us. Or as the Daily Telegraph in London reported: ?Iran?s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.? Hmm. I?m not a professional mullah, so I can?t speak to the theological soundness of the argument, but it seems a religious school in the Holy City of Qom has ruled that ?the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to sharia.? Well, there?s a surprise. How do you solve a problem? Like, sharia! It?s the one-stop shop for justifying all your geopolitical objectives.
The bad cop/worse cop routine the mullahs and their hothead President Ahmadinejad are playing in this period of alleged negotiation over Iran?s nuclear program is the best indication of how all negotiations with Iran will go once they?re ready to fly. This is the nuclear version of the NRA bumper sticker: ?Guns Don?t Kill People. People Kill People.? Nukes don?t nuke nations. Nations nuke nations. When the Argentine junta seized British sovereign territory in the Falklands, the generals knew that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, but they also knew that under no conceivable scenario would Her Majesty?s Government drop the big one on Buenos Aires. The Argie generals were able to assume decency on the part of the enemy, which is a useful thing to be able to do.
But in any contretemps with Iran the other party would be foolish to make a similar assumption. That will mean the contretemps will generally be resolved in Iran?s favor. In fact, if one were a Machiavellian mullah, the first thing one would do after acquiring nukes would be to hire some obvious loon like President Ahmaddamatree to front the program. He?s the equivalent of the yobbo in the English pub who says, ?Oy, mate, you lookin? at my bird?? You haven?t given her a glance, or him; you?re at the other end of the bar head down in the Daily Mirror, trying not to catch his eye. You don?t know whether he?s longing to nut you in the face or whether he just gets a kick out of terrifying you into thinking he wants to. But, either way, you just want to get out of the room in one piece. Kooks with nukes is one-way deterrence squared.
If Belgium becomes a nuclear power, the Dutch have no reason to believe it would be a factor in, say, negotiations over a joint highway project. But Iran?s nukes will be a factor in everything. If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they?d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist.
If we?d understood Iran back in 1979, we?d understand better the challenges we face today. Come to that, we might not even be facing them. But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia?and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue?though, as the Royal Family has belatedly discovered vis-?-vis the Islamists, they?re somewhat overdrawn on that front. The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say ?Islamic Republic,? they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.
Twenty-seven years ago, because Islam didn?t fit into the old cold war template, analysts mostly discounted it. We looked at the map like that Broadway marquee: West and East, the old double act. As with most of the down-page turf, Iran?s significance lay in which half of the act she?d sign on with. To the Left, the shah was a high-profile example of an unsavory U.S. client propped up on traditional he-may-be-a-sonofabitch-but-he?s-our-sonofabitch grounds: in those heady days SAVAK, his secret police, were a household name among Western progressives, and insofar as they took the stern-faced man in the turban seriously, they assured themselves he was a kind of novelty front for the urbane Paris ?migr? socialists who accompanied him back to Tehran. To the realpolitik Right, the issue was Soviet containment: the shah may be our sonofabitch, but he?d outlived his usefulness, and a weak Iran could prove too tempting an invitation to Moscow to fulfill the oldest of czarist dreams?a warm-water port, not to mention control of the Straits of Hormuz. Very few of us considered the strategic implications of an Islamist victory on its own terms?the notion that Iran was checking the neither-of-the-above box and that that box would prove a far greater threat to the Freeish World than Communism.
But that was always Iran?s plan. In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact disintegrating before his eyes, poor beleaguered Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block: ?I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan,? Ayatollah Khomeini wrote to Moscow. ?I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.?
Today many people in the West don?t take that any more seriously than Gorbachev did. But it?s pretty much come to pass. As Communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay who?d have been ?Marxist fantasists? a generation or two back are now Islamists: it?s the ideology du jour. At the point of expiry of the Soviet Union in 1991, the peoples of the central Asian republics were for the most part unaware that Iran had even had an ?Islamic revolution?; 15 years on, following the proselytizing of thousands of mullahs dispatched to the region by a specially created Iranian government agency, the Stans? traditionally moderate and in many cases alcoholically lubricated form of Islam is yielding in all but the most remote areas to a fiercer form imported from the south. As the Pentagon has begun to notice, in Iraq Tehran has been quietly duplicating the strategy that delivered southern Lebanon into its control 20 years ago. The degeneration of Baby Assad?s supposedly ?secular? Baathist tyranny into full-blown client status and the replacement of Arafat?s depraved ?secular? kleptocrat terrorists by Hamas?s even more depraved Islamist terrorists can also be seen as symptoms of Iranification.
So as a geopolitical analyst the ayatollah is not to be disdained. Our failure to understand Iran in the seventies foreshadowed our failure to understand the broader struggle today. As clashes of civilizations go, this one?s between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war?wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers. (Its sole resource, oil, would stay in the ground were it not for foreign technology, foreign manpower, and a Western fetishization of domestic environmental aesthetics.)
For this to be a mortal struggle, as the cold war was, the question is: Are they a credible enemy to us?
For a projection of the likely outcome, the question is: Are we a credible enemy to them?
Four years into the ?war on terror,? the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: ?the long war.? Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs?our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower?their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he?s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it?s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
What, after all, is the issue underpinning every little goofy incident in the news, from those Danish cartoons of Mohammed to recommendations for polygamy by official commissions in Canada to the banning of the English flag in English prisons because it?s an insensitive ?crusader? emblem to the introduction of gender-segregated swimming sessions in municipal pools in Puget Sound? In a word, sovereignty. There is no god but Allah, and thus there is no jurisdiction but Allah?s. Ayatollah Khomeini saw himself not as the leader of a geographical polity but as a leader of a communal one: Islam. Once those urbane socialist ?migr?s were either dead or on the plane back to Paris, Iran?s nominally ?temporal? government took the same view, too: its role is not merely to run national highway departments and education ministries but to advance the cause of Islam worldwide.
If you dust off the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, Article One reads: ?The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.? Iran fails to meet qualification (d), and has never accepted it. The signature act of the new regime was not the usual post-coup bloodletting and summary execution of the shah?s mid-ranking officials but the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by ?students? acting with Khomeini?s blessing. Diplomatic missions are recognized as the sovereign territory of that state, and the violation thereof is an act of war. No one in Washington has to fret that Fidel Castro will bomb the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Even in the event of an actual war, the diplomatic staff of both countries would be allowed to depart.
Yet Iran seized protected persons on U.S. soil and held them prisoner for over a year?ostensibly because Washington was planning to restore the shah. But the shah died and the hostages remained. And, when the deal was eventually done and the hostages were released, the sovereign territory of the United States remained in the hands of the gangster regime. Granted that during the Carter administration the Soviets were gobbling up real estate from Afghanistan to Grenada, it?s significant that in this wretched era the only loss of actual U.S. territory was to the Islamists.
Yet Iran paid no price. They got away with it. For the purposes of comparison, in 1980, when the U.S. hostages in Tehran were in their sixth month of captivity, Iranians opposed to the mullahs seized the Islamic Republic?s embassy in London. After six days of negotiation, Her Majesty?s Government sent SAS commandos into the building and restored it to the control of the regime. In refusing to do the same with the ?students? occupying the U.S. embassy, the Islamic Republic was explicitly declaring that it was not as other states.
We expect multilateral human-rights Democrats to be unsatisfactory on assertive nationalism, but if they won?t even stand up for international law, what?s the point? Jimmy Carter should have demanded the same service as Tehran got from the British?the swift resolution of the situation by the host government?and, if none was forthcoming, Washington should have reversed the affront to international order quickly, decisively, and in a sufficiently punitive manner. At hinge moments of history, there are never good and bad options, only bad and much much worse. Our options today are significantly worse because we didn?t take the bad one back then.
With the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, a British subject, Tehran extended its contempt for sovereignty to claiming jurisdiction over the nationals of foreign states, passing sentence on them, and conscripting citizens of other countries to carry it out. Iran?s supreme leader instructed Muslims around the world to serve as executioners of the Islamic Republic?and they did, killing not Rushdie himself but his Japanese translator, and stabbing the Italian translator, and shooting the Italian publisher, and killing three dozen persons with no connection to the book when a mob burned down a hotel because of the presence of the novelist?s Turkish translator.
Iran?s de facto head of state offered a multimillion-dollar bounty for a whack job on an obscure English novelist. And, as with the embassy siege, he got away with it.
In the latest variation on Marx?s dictum, history repeats itself: first, the unreadable London literary novel; then, the Danish funny pages. But in the 17 years between the Rushdie fatwa and the cartoon jihad, what was supposedly a freakish one-off collision between Islam and the modern world has become routine. We now think it perfectly normal for Muslims to demand the tenets of their religion be applied to society at large: the government of Sweden, for example, has been zealously closing down websites that republish those Danish cartoons. As Khomeini?s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said, ?It is in our revolution?s interest, and an essential principle, that when we speak of Islamic objectives, we address all the Muslims of the world.? Or as a female Muslim demonstrator in Toronto put it: ?We won?t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.?
If that?s a little too ferocious, Kofi Annan framed it rather more soothingly: ?The offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.?
If you?ve also ?recently acquired? a significant Muslim population and you?re not sure how to ?adjust? to it, well, here?s the difference: back when my Belgian grandparents emigrated to Canada, the idea was that the immigrants assimilated to the host country. As Kofi and Co. see it, today the host country has to assimilate to the immigrants: if Islamic law forbids representations of the Prophet, then so must Danish law, and French law, and American law. Iran was the progenitor of this rapacious extraterritoriality, and, if we had understood it more clearly a generation ago, we might be in less danger of seeing large tracts of the developed world being subsumed by it today.
Yet instead the West somehow came to believe that, in a region of authoritarian monarchs and kleptocrat dictators, Iran was a comparative beacon of liberty. The British foreign secretary goes to Tehran and hangs with the mullahs and, even though he?s not a practicing Muslim (yet), ostentatiously does that ?peace be upon him? thing whenever he mentions the Prophet Mohammed. And where does the kissy-face with the A-list imams get him? Ayatollah Khamenei renewed the fatwa on Rushdie only last year. True, President Bush identified Iran as a member of the axis of evil, but a year later the country was being hailed as a ?democracy? by then-deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and a nation that has seen a ?democratic flowering,? as State Department spokesman Richard Boucher put it.
And let?s not forget Bill Clinton?s extraordinary remarks at Davos last year: ?Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.? That?s true in the very narrow sense that there?s a certain similarity between his legal strategy and sharia when it comes to adultery and setting up the gals as the fall guys. But it seems Clinton apparently had a more general commonality in mind: ?In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.? America?s first black President is beginning to sound like America?s first Islamist ex-president.
Those remarks are as nutty as Gerald Ford?s denial of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Iran has an impressive three-decade record of talking the talk and walking the walk?either directly or through client groups like Hezbollah. In 1994, the Argentine Israel Mutual Association was bombed in Buenos Aires. Nearly 100 people died and 250 were injured?the worst massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. An Argentine court eventually issued warrants for two Iranian diplomats plus Ali Fallahian, former intelligence minister, and Ali Akbar Parvaresh, former education minister and deputy speaker of the Majlis.
Why blow up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires? Because it?s there. Unlike the Iranian infiltration into Bosnia and Croatia, which helped radicalize not just the local populations but Muslim supporters from Britain and Western Europe, the random slaughter in the Argentine has no strategic value except as a demonstration of muscle and reach.
Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:
contempt for the most basic international conventions;
effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
Yet the Europeans remain in denial. Iran was supposedly the Middle Eastern state they could work with. And the chancellors and foreign ministers jetted in to court the mullahs so assiduously that they?re reluctant to give up on the strategy just because a relatively peripheral figure like the, er, head of state is sounding off about Armageddon.
Instead, Western analysts tend to go all Kremlinological. There are, after all, many factions within Iran?s ruling class. What the country?s quick-on-the-nuke president says may not be the final word on the regime?s position. Likewise, what the school of nuclear theologians in Qom says. Likewise, what former president Khatami says. Likewise, what Iran?s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, says.
But, given that they?re all in favor of the country having nukes, the point seems somewhat moot. The question then arises, what do they want them for?
By way of illustration, consider the country?s last presidential election. The final round offered a choice between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an alumnus of the U.S. Embassy siege a quarter-century ago, and Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, which sounds like an EU foreign policy agency but is, in fact, the body that arbitrates between Iran?s political and religious leaderships. Ahmadinejad is a notorious shoot-from-the-lip apocalyptic hothead who believes in the return of the Twelfth (hidden) Imam and quite possibly that he personally is his designated deputy, and he?s also claimed that when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year a mystical halo appeared and bathed him in its aura. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is one of those famous ?moderates.?
What?s the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be ?wiped off the map,? while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is ?the most hideous occurrence in history,? which the Muslim world ?will vomit out from its midst? in one blast, because ?a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.? Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we?re just arguing over the details.
So the question is: Will they do it?
And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the ?proliferation,? but we wouldn?t have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness?the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.
Conversely, a key reason to stop Iran is to demonstrate that we can still muster the will to do so. Instead, the striking characteristic of the long diplomatic dance that brought us to this moment is how September 10th it?s all been. The free world?s delegated negotiators (the European Union) and transnational institutions (the IAEA) have continually given the impression that they?d be content just to boot it down the road to next year or the year after or find some arrangement?this decade?s Oil-for-Food or North Korean deal?that would get them off the hook. If you talk to EU foreign ministers, they?ve already psychologically accepted a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the chief characteristic of the West?s reaction to Iran?s nuclearization has been an enervated fatalism.
Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can?t be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get ?em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran?s head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that?s part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.
The fatalists have a point. We may well be headed for a world in which anybody with a few thousand bucks and the right unlisted Asian phone numbers in his Rolodex can get a nuke. But, even so, there are compelling reasons for preventing Iran in particular from going nuclear. Back in his student days at the U.S. embassy, young Mr. Ahmadinejad seized American sovereign territory, and the Americans did nothing. And I would wager that?s still how he looks at the world. And, like Rafsanjani, he would regard, say, Muslim deaths in an obliterated Jerusalem as worthy collateral damage in promoting the greater good of a Jew-free Middle East. The Palestinians and their ?right of return? have never been more than a weapon of convenience with which to chastise the West. To assume Tehran would never nuke Israel because a shift in wind direction would contaminate Ramallah is to be as ignorant of history as most Palestinians are: from Yasser Arafat?s uncle, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, to the insurgents in Iraq today, Islamists have never been shy about slaughtering Muslims in pursuit of their strategic goals.
But it doesn?t have to come to that. Go back to that Argentine bombing. It was, in fact, the second major Iranian-sponsored attack in Buenos Aires. The year before, 1993, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 29 people and injured hundreds more in an attack on the Israeli Embassy. In the case of the community center bombing, the killer had flown from Lebanon a few days earlier and entered Latin America through the porous tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Suppose Iran had had a ?dirty nuke? shipped to Hezbollah, or even the full-blown thing: Would it have been any less easy to get it into the country? And, if a significant chunk of downtown Buenos Aires were rendered uninhabitable, what would the Argentine government do? Iran can project itself to South America effortlessly, but Argentina can?t project itself to the Middle East at all. It can?t nuke Tehran, and it can?t attack Iran in conventional ways.
So any retaliation would be down to others. Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might?but an administration of a more Clinto-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under UN auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.
Perhaps it?s unduly pessimistic to write the civilized world automatically into what Osama bin Laden called the ?weak horse? role (Islam being the ?strong horse?). But, if you were an Iranian ?moderate? and you?d watched the West?s reaction to the embassy seizure and the Rushdie murders and Hezbollah terrorism, wouldn?t you be thinking along those lines? I don?t suppose Buenos Aires Jews expect to have their institutions nuked any more than 12 years ago they expected to be blown up in their own city by Iranian-backed suicide bombers. Nukes have gone freelance, and there?s nothing much we can do about that, and sooner or later we?ll see the consequences?in Vancouver or Rotterdam, Glasgow or Atlanta. But, that being so, we owe it to ourselves to take the minimal precautionary step of ending the one regime whose political establishment is explicitly pledged to the nuclear annihilation of neighboring states.
Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no ?surgical? strike in any meaningful sense: Iran?s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country?s allegedly ?pro-American? youth. This shouldn?t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment?and incarceration. It?s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime?but no occupation.
The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it?s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.
A quarter-century ago, there was a minor British pop hit called ?Ayatollah, Don?t Khomeini Closer.? If you?re a U.S. diplomat or a British novelist, a Croat Christian or an Argentine Jew, he?s already come way too close. How much closer do you want him to get?
Reply #251 on:
April 21, 2006, 06:51:57 PM »
The New Republic Online
A CHILD OF THE REVOLUTION TAKES OVER.
by Matthias K?ntzel
Post date: 04.14.06
Issue date: 04.24.06
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small
plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the
past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on,
"we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the
minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a
few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again,
there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in
the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such
scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before
entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and
they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the
explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."
These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass
movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started
in order to supplement his beleaguered army.The Basij Mostazafan--or
"mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most
of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the
thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with
their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even
without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."
The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not
of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities
against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence.
They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law
in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops
against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the
Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the
potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man
who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the
Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. He regularly appears in
public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he
routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power," with which he says
"Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic
stage." Ahmadinejad's ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that
the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new
and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews
were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power,
wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their
predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.
In 1980, the Ayatollah Khomeini called the Iraqi invasion of Iran a "divine
blessing," because the war provided him the perfect opportunity to Islamize
both Iranian society and the institutions of the Iranian state. As Saddam's
troops pushed into Iran, Khomeini's fanatically devoted Revolutionary Guard
moved rapidly to mobilize and prepare their air and sea forces. At the same
time, the regime hastened to develop the Basiji as a popular militia.
Whereas the Revolutionary Guard consisted of professionally trained adult
soldiers, the Basiji was essentially composed of boys between twelve and 17
and men over 45. Photo by Reuters/NewscomThey received only a few weeks of
training--less in weapons and tactics than in theology. Most Basiji came
from the countryside and were often illiterate. When their training was
done, each Basiji received a blood-red headband that designated him a
volunteer for martyrdom. According to Sepehr Zabih's The Iranian Military in
Revolution and War, such volunteers made up nearly one-third of the Iranian
army--and the majority of its infantry.
The chief combat tactic employed by the Basiji was the human wave attack,
whereby barely armed children and teenagers would move continuously toward
the enemy in perfectly straight rows. It did not matter whether they fell to
enemy fire or detonated the mines with their bodies: The important thing was
that the Basiji continue to move forward over the torn and mutilated remains
of their fallen comrades, going to their deaths in wave after wave. Once a
path to the Iraqi forces had been opened up, Iranian commanders would send
in their more valuable and skilled Revolutionary Guard troops.
This approach produced some undeniable successes. "They come toward our
positions in huge hordes with their fists swinging," one Iraqi officer
complained in the summer of 1982. "You can shoot down the first wave and
then the second. But at some point the corpses are piling up in front of
you, and all you want to do is scream and throw away your weapon. Those are
human beings, after all!" By the spring of 1983, some 450,000 Basiji had
been sent to the front. After three months, those who survived deployment
were sent back to their schools or workplaces.
But three months was a long time on the front lines. In 1982, during the
retaking of the city of Khorramshahr, 10,000 Iranians died. Following
"Operation Kheiber," in February 1984, the corpses of some 20,000 fallen
Iranians were left on the battlefield. The "Karbala Four" offensive in 1986
cost the lives of more than 10,000 Iranians. All told, some 100,000 men and
boys are said to have been killed during Basiji operations. Why did the
Basiji volunteer for such duty?
Most of them were recruited by members of the Revolutionary Guards, which
commanded the Basiji. These "special educators" would visit schools and
handpick their martyrs from the paramilitary exercises in which all Iranian
youth were required to participate. Propaganda films--like the 1986 TV film
A Contribution to the War--praised this alliance between students and the
regime and undermined those parents who tried to save their children's
lives. (At the time, Iranian law allowed children to serve even if their
families objected.) Some parents, however, were lured by incentives. In a
campaign called "Sacrifice a Child for the Imam," every family that lost a
child on the battlefield was offered interest-free credit and other generous
benefits. Moreover, enrollment in the Basiji gave the poorest of the poor a
chance for social advancement.
Still others were coerced into "volunteering." In 1982, the German weekly
Der Spiegel documented the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Hossein, who
enlisted with the Basiji despite having polio:
One day, some unknown imams turned up in the village. They called the
whole population to the plaza in front of the police station, and they
announced that they came with good news from Imam Khomeini: The Islamic Army
of Iran had been chosen to liberate the holy city Al Quds--Jerusalem--from
the infidels. ... The local mullah had decided that every family with
children would have to furnish one soldier of God. Because Hossein was the
most easily expendable for his family, and because, in light of his illness,
he could in any case not expect much happiness in this life, he was chosen
by his father to represent the family in the struggle against the infidel
Of the 20 children that went into battle with Hossein, only he and two
But, if such methods explained some of why they volunteered, it did not
explain the fervor with which they rushed to their destruction. That can
only be elucidated by the Iranian Revolution's peculiar brand of Islam.
At the beginning of the war, Iran's ruling mullahs did not send human beings
into the minefields, but rather animals: donkeys, horses, and dogs. But the
tactic proved useless: Photo by Gamma Presse/Newscom"After a few donkeys had
been blown up, the rest ran off in terror," Mostafa Arki reports in his book
Eight Years of War in the Middle East. The donkeys reacted normally--fear of
death is natural. The Basiji, on the other hand, marched fearlessly and
without complaint to their deaths. The curious slogans that they chanted
while entering the battlefields are of note: "Against the Yazid of our
time!"; "Hussein's caravan is moving on!"; "A new Karbala awaits us!"
Yazid, Hussein, Karbala--these are all references to the founding myth of
Shia Islam. In the late seventh century, Islam was split between those loyal
to the Caliph Yazid--the predecessors of Sunni Islam--and the founders of
Shia Islam, who thought that the Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet
Muhammad, should govern the Muslims. In 680, Hussein led an uprising against
the "illegitimate" caliph, but he was betrayed. On the plain of Karbala, on
the tenth day of the month of Muharram, Yazid's forces attacked Hussein and
his entourage and killed them. Hussein's corpse bore the marks of 33 lance
punctures and 34 blows of the sword.
His head was cut off and his body was trampled by horses. Ever since, the
martyrdom of Hussein has formed the core of Shia theology, and the Ashura
Festival that commemorates his death is Shiism's holiest day. On that day,
men beat themselves with their fists or flagellate themselves with iron
chains to approximate Hussein's sufferings. At times throughout the
centuries, the ritual has grown obscenely violent. In his study Crowds and
Power, Elias Canetti recounts a firsthand report of the Ashura Festival as
it occurred in mid-nineteenth-century Tehran:
500,000 people, in the grip of delirium, cover their heads with ashes
and beat their foreheads against the ground. They want to subject themselves
voluntarily to torments: to commit suicide en masse, to mutilate themselves
with refinement. ... Hundreds of men in white shirts come by, their faces
ecstatically raised toward the sky. Of these, several will be dead this
evening, many will be maimed and mutilated, and the white shirts, dyed red,
will be burial shrouds. ... There is no more beautiful destiny than to die
on the Festival of Ashura. The gates of the eight Paradises are wide open
for the holy and everyone tries to get through them.
Bloody excesses of this sort are prohibited in contemporary Iran, but,
during the Iran-Iraq War, Khomeini appropriated the essence of the ritual as
a symbolic act and politicized it. He took the inward-directed fervor and
channeled it toward the external enemy. He transformed the passive
lamentation into active protest. He made the Battle of Karbala the prototype
of any fight against tyranny. Indeed, this technique had been used during
political demonstrations in 1978, when many Iranian protestors wore funeral
shrouds in order to tie the battle of 680 to the contemporary struggle
against the shah. In the war against Iraq, the allusions to Karbala were
given still greater significance: On the one hand, the scoundrel Yazid, now
in the form of Saddam Hussein; on the other, the Prophet's grandson,
Hussein, for whose suffering the time of Shia revenge had finally come.
The power of this story was further reinforced by a theological twist that
Khomeini gave it. According to Khomeini, life is worthless and death is the
beginning of genuine existence. "The natural world," he explained in October
1980, "is the lowest element, the scum of creation. "What is decisive is the
beyond: The "divine world, that is eternal." This latter world is accessible
to martyrs. Their death is no death, but merely the transition from this
world to the world beyond, where they will live on eternally and in
splendor. Whether the warrior wins the battle or loses it and dies a
Martyr--in both cases, his victory is assured: either a mundane or a
This attitude had a fatal implication for the Basiji: Whether they survived
or not was irrelevant. Not even the tactical utility of their sacrifice
mattered. Military victories are secondary, Khomeini explained in September
1980.The Basiji must "understand that he is a 'soldier of God' for whom it
is not so much the outcome of the conflict as the mere participation in it
that provides fulfillment and gratification." Could Khomeini's antipathy for
life have had as much effect in the war against Iraq without the Karbala
myth? Probably not.With the word "Karbala" on their lips, the Basiji went
elatedly into battle.
For those whose courage still waned in the face of death, the regime put on
a show. A mysterious horseman on a magnificent steed would suddenly appear
on the front lines. His face--covered in phosphorous--would shine. His
costume was that of a medieval prince. A child soldier, Reza Behrouzi, whose
story was documented in 1985 by French writer Freidoune Sehabjam, reported
that the soldiers reacted with a mixture of panic and rapture.
Everyone wanted to run toward the horseman. But he drove them away.
"Don't come to me!" he shouted, "Charge into battle against the infidels!
... Revenge the death of our Imam Hussein and strike down the progeny of
Yazid!" As the figure disappears, the soldiers cry: "Oh, Imam Zaman, where
are you?" They throw themselves on their knees, and pray and wail. When the
figure appears again, they get to their feet as a single man. Those whose
forces are not yet exhausted charge the enemy lines.
The mysterious apparition who was able to trigger such emotions is the
"hidden imam," a mythical figure who influences the thought and action of
Ahmadinejad to this day. The Shia call all the male descendants of the
Prophet Muhammad "imams" and ascribe to them a quasidivine status. Hussein,
who was killed at Karbala by Yazid, was the third Imam. His son and grandson
were the fourth and fifth. At the end of this line, there is the "Twelfth
Imam," who is named Muhammad. Some call him the Mahdi (the "divinely guided
one"), though others say imam Zaman (from sahib-e zaman: "the ruler of
time"). He was born in 869, the only son of the eleventh Imam. In 874, he
disappeared without a trace, thereby bringing Muhammad's lineage to a close.
In Shia mythology, however, the Twelfth Imam survived. The Shia believe that
he merely withdrew from public view when he was five and that he will sooner
or later emerge from his "occultation" in order to liberate the world from
Writing in the early '80s, V. S. Naipaul showed how deeply rooted the belief
in the coming of the Shia messiah is among the Iranian population. In Among
the Believers: An Islamic Journey, he described seeing posters in
post-Revolutionary Tehran bearing motifs similar to those of Maoist China:
crowds, for instance, with rifles and machine guns raised in the air as if
in greeting. The posters always bore the same phrase: twelfth imam, we are
waiting for you. Naipaul writes that he could grasp intellectually the
veneration for Khomeini. "But the idea of the revolution as something more,
as an offering to the Twelfth Imam, the man who had vanished ... and
remained 'in occultation,' was harder to seize." According to Shia
tradition, legitimate Islamic rule can only be established following the
reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. Until that time, the Shia have only to
wait, to keep their peace with illegitimate rule, and to remember the
Prophet's grandson, Hussein, in sorrow. Khomeini, however, had no intention
of waiting. He vested the myth with an entirely new sense: The Twelfth Imam
will only emerge when the believers have vanquished evil. To speed up the
Mahdi's return, Muslims had to shake off their torpor and fight.
This activism had more in common with the revolutionary ideas of Egypt's
Muslim Brotherhood than with Shia traditions. Khomeini had been familiar
with the texts of the Muslim Brothers since the 1930s, and he agreed with
the Brothers' conception of what had to be considered "evil": namely, all
the achievements of modernity that replaced divine providence with
individual self-determination, blind faith with doubt, and the stern
morality of sharia with sensual pleasures. According to legend, Yazid was
the embodiment of everything that was forbidden: He drank wine, enjoyed
music and song, and played with dogs and monkeys. And was not Saddam just
the same? In the war against Iraq, "evil" was clearly defined, and
vanquishing evil was the precondition for hastening the return of the
beloved Twelfth Imam. When he let himself be seen for a few minutes riding
his white steed, the readiness to die a martyr's death increased
It was this culture that nurtured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's worldview. Born
outside Tehran in 1956, the son of blacksmith, he trained as a civil
engineer, and, during the Iran-Iraq War, he joined the Revolutionary Guards.
His biography remains strangely elliptical. Did he play a role in the 1979
takeover of the U.S. Embassy, as some charge? What exactly did he do during
the war? These are questions for which we have no definite answers. His
presidential website says simply that he was "on active service as a Basij
volunteer up to the end of the holy defense [the war against Iraq] and
served as a combat engineer in different spheres of duty."
We do know that, after the war's end, he served as the governor of Ardebil
Province and as an organizer of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical gang of violent
Islamic vigilantes. After becoming mayor of Tehran in April 2003,
Ahmadinejad used his position to build up a strong network of radical
Islamic fundamentalists known as Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami, or Developers of
an Islamic Iran. It was in that role that he won his reputation--and
popularity--as a hardliner devoted to rolling back the liberal reforms of
then-President Muhammad Khatami. Ahmadinejad positioned himself as the
leader of a "second revolution" to eradicate corruption and Western
influences from Iranian society. And the Basiji, whose numbers had grown
dramatically since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, embraced him. Recruited
from the more conservative and impoverished parts of the population, the
Basiji fall under the direction of--and swear absolute loyalty to--the
Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Khomeini's successor. During Ahmadinejad's run
for the presidency in 2005, the millions of Basiji--in every Iranian town,
neighborhood, and mosque--became his unofficial campaign workers.
Since Ahmadinejad became president, the influence of the Basiji has grown.
In November, the new Iranian president opened the annual "Basiji Week,"
which commemorates the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War. According to a report
in Kayan, a publication loyal to Khameini, some nine million Basiji--12
percent of the Iranian population--turned out to demonstrate in favor of
Ahmadinejad's anti-liberal platform. The article claimed that the
demonstrators "form[ed] a human chain some 8,700 kilometers long. ... In
Tehran alone, some 1,250,000 people turned out." Barely noticed by the
Western media, this mobilization attests to Ahmadinejad's determination to
impose his "second revolution" and to extinguish the few sparks of freedom
At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its
membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010. The elite special units
are supposed to comprise some 150,000 people by then. Accordingly, the
Basiji have received new powers in their function as an unofficial division
of the police. What this means in practice became clear in February 2006,
when the Basiji attacked the leader of the bus-drivers' union, Massoud
Osanlou. They held Osanlou prisoner in his apartment, and they cut off the
tip of his tongue in order to convince him to keep quiet. No Basiji needs to
fear prosecution for such terrorists tactics before a court of law.
As Basij ideology and influence enjoy a renaissance under Ahmadinejad, the
movement's belief in the virtues of violent self-sacrifice remains intact.
There is no "truth commission" in Iran to investigate the state-planned
collective suicide that took place from 1980 to 1988. Instead, every Iranian
is taught the virtues of martyrdom from childhood. Obviously, many of them
reject the Basij teachings. Still, everyone knows the name of Hossein
Fahmideh, who, as a 13-year-old boy during the war, blew himself up in front
of an Iraqi tank. His image follows Iranians throughout their day: whether
on postage stamps or the currency. If you hold up a 500 Rial bill to the
light, it is his face you will see in the watermark. The self-destruction of
Fahmideh is depicted as a model of profound faith by the Iranian press. It
has been the subject of both an animated film and an episode of the TV
series "Children of Paradise." As a symbol of their readiness to die for the
Revolution, Basij groups wear white funeral shrouds over their uniforms
during public appearances.
During this year's Ashura Festival, school classes were taken on excursions
to a "Martyrs' Cemetery." "They wear headbands painted with the name
Hussein," The New York Times reported, "and march beneath banners that read:
'Remembering the Martyrs today is as important as becoming a Martyr' and
'The Nation for whom Martyrdom means happiness, will always be Victorious.'
" Since 2004, the mobilization of Iranians for suicide brigades has
intensified, with recruits being trained for foreign missions. Thus, a
special military unit has been created bearing the name "Commando of
Voluntary Martyrs. "According to its own statistics, this force has so far
recruited some 52,000 Iranians to the suicidal cause. It aims to form a
"martyrdom unit" in every Iranian province.
The Basiji's cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In
the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with
martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse. Nowadays, Basiji are sent not into the
desert, but rather into the laboratory. Basij students are encouraged to
enroll in technical and scientific disciplines. According to a spokesperson
for the Revolutionary Guard, the aim is to use the "technical factor" in
order to augment "national security."
What exactly does that mean? Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian
President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that "the use of even one nuclear
bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." On the other hand, if Israel
responded with its own nuclear weapons, it "will only harm the Islamic
world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Rafsanjani
thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible
to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level
of damage Israel could inflict is bearable--only 100,000 or so additional
martyrs for Islam.
And Rafsanjani is a member of the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Iranian
Revolution; he believes that any conflict ought to have a "worthwhile"
outcome. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, is predisposed toward apocalyptic
thinking. In one of his first TV interviews after being elected president,
he enthused: "Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more
eternal than the art of the martyr's death?" In September 2005, he concluded
his first speech before the United Nations by imploring God to bring about
the return of the Twelfth Imam. He finances a research institute in Tehran
whose sole purpose is to study, and, if possible, accelerate the coming of
the imam. And, at a theology conference in November 2005, he stressed, "The
most important task of our Revolution is to prepare the way for the return
of the Twelfth Imam."
A politics pursued in alliance with a supernatural force is necessarily
unpredictable.Why should an Iranian president engage in pragmatic politics
when his assumption is that, in three or four years, the savior will appear?
If the messiah is coming, why compromise? That is why, up to now,
Ahmadinejad has pursued confrontational policies with evident pleasure.
The history of the Basiji shows that we must expect monstrosities from the
current Iranian regime. Already, what began in the early '80s with the
clearing of minefields by human detonators has spread throughout the Middle East, as suicide bombing has become the terrorist tactic of choice. The motivational shows in the desert--with hired actors in the role of the
hidden imam--have evolved into a showdown between a zealous Iranian
president and the Western world. And the Basiji who once upon a time
wandered the desert armed only with a walking stick is today working as a
chemist in a uranium enrichment facility.
Matthias K?ntzel is a political scientist in Hamburg, Germany, and author of Djihad und Judenhass (or Jihad and Jew-Hatred).
Reply #252 on:
May 03, 2006, 11:39:52 PM »
May 3, 2006
A funny thing happened on the way to the Iranian bomb: The more alarming the mullahs' behavior, the more nonchalant the rest of the world seems to be about it. But one development may give even the most adamant pooh-poohers pause.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month announced that Iran had enriched uranium to reactor-grade levels in a 164-centrifuge cascade, a major technical achievement that puts Iran within hopping distance of an actual bomb. Mr. Ahmadinejad followed this up by announcing that Iran was working on an advanced centrifuge of Pakistani design, the possession of which Iran had previously denied to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Next, Iran rebuffed IAEA requests to inspect the new centrifuges, a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory. Iran then threatened to withdraw from the NPT altogether if the United Nations imposed sanctions for its violations thereof. Iran ignored Friday's deadline from the U.N. Security Council to stop enriching uranium. Instead Tehran simply repeated a long-standing offer to allow additional inspections if the Security Council drops the issue.
Israeli intelligence also reports last week that Iran has purchased an upgraded version of the Soviet SS-6 ballistic missile from North Korea, which is capable of carrying a nuclear payload and has a range of about 1,600 miles, putting parts of Europe well within range.
And the international community's response? Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are adamantly opposed to U.N. sanctions on Iran. Their view is mainly shared by Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Committee, who thinks President Bush "ought to cool this one" by negotiating directly with Tehran.
In Europe, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has reportedly told Cabinet colleagues that it would be "illegal" for Britain to participate in any prospective military action against Iran. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier agrees: "We will not stop Iran with war," he recently told the news weekly Der Spiegel.
Which brings us to Iran's latest. Last week, the Associated Press reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, offered to share the nuclear genie with Sudan. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists," Mr. Khamenei told visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir, whose government abets the massacre of Darfuris, says Sudan could use a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. Uh huh.
How so many apparently thoughtful people can face the idea of an Iranian bomb with relative equanimity remains a mystery to us. Whether they are as "cool" with the idea of fissile material in Mr. Bashir's hands is another matter. Whatever the case, they should consider that acquiescing to a bomb for Iran may also mean agreeing to one for many more of the world's worst actors.
Reply #253 on:
May 04, 2006, 06:18:21 AM »
Iraq: If Not Now, When?
By George Friedman
If there is an endgame to the American presence in Iraq, it is now. The Iraqis have reached a general compromise on the composition of a new government. The agreement was blessed by the joint visit to Baghdad of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There also have been statements -- though later retracted -- by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that U.S. and Iranian officials have held meetings in Dokan, a city in the northern Kurdish region. Talabani also has said that he and American officials had met with the leaders of seven separate Sunni guerrilla groups and that he expected to meet with others who had taken up arms against the occupation.
The formation of the government was preceded and succeeded by a complex series of negotiations in which there are at least five sides, each of which (including the United States at this point) is factionalized. There are the three main Iraqi players -- Shia, Kurds and Sunnis -- plus the United States and Iran. That makes for a complex negotiation and one that can readily fail. The endgame could turn into the beginning of an entirely new round of warfare and chaos. But this much can be said: If no agreement can be reached now, it is hard to imagine how an agreement will be reached in the future. If not now, when? The times will not be more propitious than they are now.
Each party has an interest in a settlement. Each side could lose as much as it might gain in the future. The three internal factions -- Shia, Sunnis and Kurds -- are all getting substantially less than they wanted, but each could possibly lose even more if the fighting continues. The external powers, the United States and Iran, face similar circumstances. Certainly, everyone wants to explore what a settlement would look like, hence the flurry of very quiet and highly deniable meetings and discussions. It may work or it may fall apart, but it would seem to be the time to examine each side's bargaining position and what they are likely to settle for.
The Americans came in with the goal of occupying Iraq, reshaping its society to suit them and using Iraq as a base from which to project power and influence throughout the region. However, the war did not go as they hoped or expected. The United States defeated the Iraqi army but found itself facing a Sunni insurgency and complex Shiite political maneuvers. The goal of reshaping Iraqi society is gone; the possibility of influencing the future structure and policy of any emerging Iraqi government remains. Iraq has not served as a platform from which to project power. Rather, it has served as a magnet that attracted outside forces. However, the possibility of some agreement that would allow the United States to base forces in Iraq is not out of the question.
At this point, however, the primary American goal is to hand off responsibility for providing security in Iraq. The U.S. military has not been able to provide security under any circumstances. It clearly cannot suppress the Sunni insurgency -- but in its current posture, the United States continues to carry the burden of counterinsurgency operations without any real expectation of success. Leaving aside the fact that the United States continues to absorb casualties, there are now more than 100,000 troops in Iraq -- a number that is obviously insufficient for the mission, but which drains U.S. logistical and manpower resources to a degree that dealing with unexpected crises elsewhere in the world would be difficult.
Since this position is untenable, the United States must make a move.
One option would be to surge additional force into Iraq. The current political configuration in the United States does not make that an option for the Bush administration, even if this was wished, and even if a surge of troops would suppress the Sunni insurrection. Therefore, the United States has two pressing goals. First, it must abandon the mission of counterinsurgency, transferring it in some way to Iraqi forces. Second, it needs to withdraw its forces from Iraq. Ideally, the United States would not withdraw all forces but would leave behind enough to serve as a rapid-reaction force in the region. This force would be based outside of populated areas. However, the basing issue is secondary to the withdrawal issue.
In addition, and of great strategic importance to the United States, the government of Iraq must not become a client of Iran. Given the size of the Shiite population in Iraq, guaranteeing this outcome will not be easy, but it is clearly the focus of U.S. negotiations at this time. If Iraq were to become a client of the Shiite regime in Tehran, then the entire balance of power in the region would tilt in favor of Iran, putting the Arabian Peninsula at risk. That is something that the United States (not to mention others, like Saudi Arabia) would find intolerable. Faced with a choice of continued inconclusive warfare and an Iran-dominated Iraq, the United States would likely choose warfare. That is how high the stakes would be. Therefore, the key negotiating strategy for the United States is to find a way to withdraw its forces from Iraq -- possibly leaving a residual force behind -- after creating a government in Baghdad that would be able to balance or buffer Iran.
In other words, at this point, American policy in Iraq is to restore the status quo prior to 2003, with a different regime in Baghdad and the possibility of an ongoing, noninvolved American military presence in the country.
In Iran's ideal scenario, Iraq would become a satellite state. This would involve the installation of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad so beholden to Iran that Iraq essentially would be an extension of Iran. If that were to happen, Iran would have achieved the geopolitical goal of major-power status: It would be the unchallenged native power in the Persian Gulf. Given the existence of indigenous Shiite populations throughout the Arabian Peninsula, Iran not only would be in a position to influence events in other countries, but would have the opportunity to use direct force against them.
The prize would be Saudi Arabia. If Iraq fell under Iranian control, the road to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states would be wide open. Other than the United States, there would be no power in a position to block the Iranians.
For Iran, this would be more than a matter of oil. If Iraq belonged to Iran and no outside power intervened, Shiite power could be amplified in the region. Sunnis, of course, vastly outnumber Shia within the Muslim world -- a structural impediment that, realistically, constrains Iran's ability to project itself as the leader of the Islamic world. Nonetheless, Iran has a need to burnish its credentials in this area and to be viewed as a regional hegemon. Control of Gulf oil would make Iran a regional power, but a rebalancing of Sunni and Shiite influence within the region would be heady stuff indeed.
In order for Iran to achieve this goal, the United States would have to withdraw from Iraq without having created a force that could block Iranian ambitions. Having the United States invade Iraq was in the Iranian interest because it got rid of Saddam Hussein. Having the Americans bog down in an endless war was in the Iranian interest because it offered the best chance of achieving Tehran's ultimate ambition. Iran has, therefore, been torn between two realities: On the one hand, in order to achieve its ambition, Iran needed a strong Sunni insurgency in Iraq -- but on the other, if a strong Sunni insurgency existed, Tehran's desire for the complete domination of Iraq could be thwarted.
Iran wound up with its own worst-case scenario. First, the Sunni insurgency swelled, creating a force that could not easily be controlled by the Shia. Second, the United States showed more endurance than the Iranians had hoped. In due course, the Iranian threat actually created a bizarre circumstance in which the United States and the Sunnis were simultaneously fighting and working together to block Iranian aspirations -- the Sunnis by demanding participation in the Iraqi government, and the United States by supporting their demands. Out of this came a third undesirable outcome: The Iraqi Shia, seeing themselves trapped between Iranian geopolitical ambitions and the threat of civil war without American protection, moved away from dependency on Iran and toward a much more complex position.
Unless the Sunnis were suddenly to collapse and the Americans were simply to withdraw, Iran no longer can expect to create a protectorate in Iraq. Its current goal must be much more modest: It must have an Iraq that is no threat to Iran. To this end, the Iranians need several things:
1. Guarantees as to the size and armament of the future Iraqi armed forces; they can be sufficient for internal security and defense but must not have offensive capability.
2. A degree of control over the makeup of the Iraqi government -- in particular, the right to block any appointment that is too close to the former Baathist elite and would have too much control over the defense or intelligence establishments.
3. Strict limits on Kurdish autonomy in order to guarantee that Kurdish separatism does not spill over into Iran. In this, the Iranians have an ally in Turkey.
4. A tight timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces.
In the back of their minds, the Iranians will accept these conditions as a major improvement over the status quo of 2003, but they will always see this as a springboard for their deeper ambitions. They will take a deal that keeps Iraq weak and gets the Americans out.
As we have noted previously, the Shia are fragmented and have a complex bargaining position as a result. However, two irreducible elements are present. First, the Shia do not want the Sunnis to return to a dominant political position in Iraq. This is essential and non-negotiable. Second, they want to be in a position to control Iraq's oil economy and the various industries that support it. In other words, the Shia want to control Iraq's government.
Until the first battle of Al Fallujah, it appeared that Washington would give them that prize -- but when the Americans entered into negotiations with the Sunni insurgents, it became clear that the United States was not going to simply play that role. The Shia then counted on Sunni intransigence -- which evaporated in December 2005, when the Sunnis participated in elections. The vigor of the Sunni rising eliminated the likelihood that it could be suppressed, except at a price to the Shia that they were unwilling to pay. The Shia, therefore, had to face either perpetual and uncertain civil war or accept the idea of Sunni participation in the government.
They had already abandoned the idea of complete control of Iraq's oil when they entered into an alliance with the Kurds. It was not clear who would control the northern oil regions, but it was not going to be the Shia. With the entry of the Sunnis into the government, the Shia accepted the idea that they would lead but not control the Iraqi government. Therefore, their position on oil became a regional rather than national position. For the Shia, the key now is to guarantee that a substantial portion of southern oil wealth remains under Shiite control and is not simply controlled by the government.
The Iraqi Shia remain heavily influenced by Iran, but they understand that playing Iran's game could decimate them. They will settle for control of the key ministries in Baghdad and a large piece of the southern oil economy. When the Americans leave, and in what sequence, is of far less interest to them than the control of the economy.
The Sunnis have gone from being the dominant power in Iraq to being a minority ethnic group, and the only one of the three with no oil clearly in their territory. At the same time, their insurgency has achieved what it was designed to do: The Sunnis have not become an irrelevant force in Iraq. The ability to sustain an insurrection against the Americans as well as to strike against the Shia established that it would be better to include them in a political settlement than to exclude them. Their skillful use of the jihadist threat particularly drove home the fact that they could not simply be ignored. By portraying the jihadists as an uncontrollable outside force, the Sunnis set themselves up as the only force that could control the jihadists. That was their key bargaining chip, and they used it well.
The interests of the Sunnis are relatively simple. First, they want to participate in the Iraqi government. Second, they want a share of Iraq's oil income and a degree of control over the northern oil fields. Third -- and this will complicate attempts to convince insurgents to give up weapons -- they want American forces to remain in-country in order to guarantee that the Shia don't attack them, that Iran does not intervene and that the Iraqi government does not fall under Iranian control. The Sunnis may dream of regaining the power and privilege they enjoyed in Baathist Iraq, but in practical terms, they have shed a huge amount of blood simply in order not to be dismissed while Iraq's future is shaped.
The Kurds want, ideally, an independent nation. That means going to war with Iran, Turkey and Syria -- therefore, they will not get an independent nation. They can gain a degree of autonomy in Iraq, but the degree will depend less on the Sunnis and Shia, who have other issues to worry about, than it will on Tehran, Ankara and Damascus, none of whom want the Kurds to have too much autonomy. The Americans have been the guarantors of autonomy for the Kurds in Iraq since 1991. However, the Americans also want to get out of the business of guaranteeing things in Iraq. The Turks and Iranians both have leverage with the Americans. Therefore, the United States, as part of its exit strategy, might well become the force to contain the Kurds.
The second issue for the Kurds is oil. They are the dominant population in the north, where some of Iraq's significant oil fields are located, and they want to consolidate their hold. Some Shia are amenable to this, but the Sunnis want a share in Kurdish oil. The Sunnis ultimately will not participate in an arrangement in which the Shia and Kurds draw oil wealth directly but in which the Sunnis have access to it only after it is disbursed through the central government. Had the Sunnis not fought so tenaciously, they perhaps could have been ignored. Ignoring them now is dangerous. Therefore, the issue for the Kurds is precisely how much they will have to give the Sunnis directly. This is a matter of money and, in the end, money matters are negotiable.
The Kurds know they will not get a Kurdish state that incorporates Iranian and Turkish Kurds at this time. They also believe that if they gain a degree of autonomy and oil wealth, they will be in a position to take advantage of other opportunities later. If not, there is still the oil wealth.
There is a basic understanding of what is possible currently in Iraq. Everyone has their plans for the future, but right now, the idea of a coalition government is a given. But two issues remain outstanding.
The first is the status of U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States will not permit its forces to remain as targets for guerrillas, although the Sunnis and Shia might find this useful. Therefore, there will be a withdrawal, with a substantial drawdown this year. However, the Sunnis and Kurds both want an American force to remain, and the Americans want that, too. The Iranians and Iraqi Shia want the Americans out earlier. So the timing is one issue to negotiate.
The other issue is oil -- how the revenues and resources are divided up among the three ethnic communities. As we have said, that is about money and, when it gets down to that, compromise is possible. However, the Sunnis and Kurds are afraid of Shiite strength, which means they want the Americans to remain in place. The Shia can charge for that in terms of oil revenues. Treaties have been based on less.
The problem with the endgame in Iraq is not so much the divergence of interests among the players -- they tend to converge now more than to diverge. The problem is that there are so many parties to the negotiations and that these parties are themselves divided, the Americans not least among them. In other words, there are too many players to create a stable basis for negotiations. On the one side, reality pulls them together; on the other side, the sheer mechanics of the negotiation are mind-boggling.
We think that something will be worked out, simply because the logic of each player requires a settlement. It will result in a diminishment of violence, not its elimination. That is the best that can be hoped for. But we also believe that the train is leaving the station. If an agreement cannot be reached now that allows for a phased and managed withdrawal of U.S. forces, then the only remaining options for the United States will be to continue to fight a counterinsurgency indefinitely, with insufficient force, or a unilateral withdrawal.
Reply #254 on:
May 05, 2006, 04:52:29 PM »
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 5, 2006
When something happens for the first time in 1,871 years, it is worth
noting. In A.D. 70, and again in 135, the Roman Empire brutally put down
Jewish revolts in Judea, destroying Jerusalem, killing hundreds of thousands
of Jews and sending hundreds of thousands more into slavery and exile. For
nearly two millennia, the Jews wandered the world. And now, in 2006, for the
first time since then, there are once again more Jews living in Israel --
the successor state to Judea -- than in any other place on Earth.
Israel's Jewish population has just passed 5.6 million. America's Jewish
population was about 5.5 million in 1990, dropped to about 5.2 million 10
years later and is in a precipitous decline that, because of low fertility
rates and high levels of assimilation, will cut that number in half by
When 6 million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust, only two main
centers of Jewish life remained: America and Israel. That binary star system
remains today, but a tipping point has just been reached. With every year,
as the Jewish population continues to rise in Israel and decline in America
(and in the rest of the Diaspora), Israel increasingly becomes, as it was at
the time of Jesus, the center of the Jewish world.
An epic restoration, and one of the most improbable. To take just one of the
remarkable achievements of the return: Hebrew is the only "dead" language in
recorded history to have been brought back to daily use as the living
language of a nation. But there is a price and a danger to this
transformation. It radically alters the prospects for Jewish survival.
For 2,000 years, Jews found protection in dispersion -- protection not for
individual communities, which were routinely persecuted and massacred, but
protection for the Jewish people as a whole. Decimated here, they could
survive there. They could be persecuted in Spain and find refuge in
Constantinople. They could be massacred in the Rhineland during the Crusades
or in the Ukraine during the Khmelnytsky Insurrection of 1648-49 and yet
survive in the rest of Europe.
Hitler put an end to that illusion. He demonstrated that modern
anti-Semitism married to modern technology -- railroads, disciplined
bureaucracies, gas chambers that kill with industrial efficiency -- could
take a scattered people and "concentrate" them for annihilation.
The establishment of Israel was a Jewish declaration to a world that had
allowed the Holocaust to happen -- after Hitler had made his intentions
perfectly clear -- that the Jews would henceforth resort to self-protection
and self-reliance. And so they have, building a Jewish army, the first in
2,000 years, that prevailed in three great wars of survival (1948-49, 1967
But in a cruel historical irony, doing so required concentration -- putting
all the eggs back in one basket, a tiny territory hard by the Mediterranean,
eight miles wide at its waist. A tempting target for those who would finish
His successors now reside in Tehran. The world has paid ample attention to
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that Israel must be destroyed.
Less attention has been paid to Iranian leaders' pronouncements on exactly
how Israel would be "eliminated by one storm," as Ahmadinejad has promised.
Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the presumed moderate of this
gang, has explained that "the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave
nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam." The
logic is impeccable, the intention clear: A nuclear attack would effectively
destroy tiny Israel, while any retaliation launched by a dying Israel would
have no major effect on an Islamic civilization of a billion people
stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia.
As it races to acquire nuclear weapons, Iran makes clear that if there is
any trouble, the Jews will be the first to suffer. "We have announced that
wherever [in Iran] America does make any mischief, the first place we target
will be Israel," said Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani, a top Revolutionary
Guards commander. Hitler was only slightly more direct when he announced
seven months before invading Poland that, if there was another war, "the
result will be . . . the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."
Last week Bernard Lewis, America's dean of Islamic studies, who just turned
90 and remembers the 20th century well, confessed that for the first time he
feels it is 1938 again. He did not need to add that in 1938, in the face of
the gathering storm -- a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the
West, and most determinedly of the Jews -- the world did nothing.
When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the
number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never again?
? 2006 The Washington Post Company
Islamofascism and the Long View
Reply #255 on:
June 09, 2006, 03:23:03 PM »
Austin Bay: The Multi-Administration War. From cold war containment to a forward strategy of freedom
TCS Daily ^ | June 8, 2006 | Austin Bay
President George W. Bush's May 27 commencement address to the 2006 West Point graduating class made it clear he knows the War on Terror will grind on for years.
Last year, I criticized the Bush administration for neglecting -- at least in public -- the "multi-administration" character of the War on Terror. In the July 25, 2005, issue of The Weekly Standard, I wrote:
"Al-Qaida's jihadists plotted a multigenerational war. In the early 1990s, our enemies began proselytizing London and New York mosques and, in doing so, began planting cadres throughout the world. Even if Washington leads a successful global counter-terror war, many of these cadres will unfortunately turn gray before it's over. That means a multi-administration war. ... The Bush administration has not done that -- at least, not in any focused and sustained fashion."
Bush's speech indicates he intends to build a multi-administration policy framework to fight a long war of ideological and political attrition -- a strategic vision that will survive the whipsaw of the U.S. presidential political cycle.
Harry Truman prepared America for the Cold War -- and at West Point, Bush compared our moment in time to that of Truman, circa 1950. Bush pointed out that "Truman laid the foundation for freedom's victory in the Cold War." Then he said his own administration is "laying the foundation for victory" in our new long war.
The Cold War analogy only goes so far. Bush noted that while "mutually assured destruction" (with nuclear weapons) worked on the Soviet Union, it won't work on Islamist terrorist, though there are "important similarities. ... Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology."
Strategic "containment" stopped the Soviets' murderous ideology because the Soviets -- as Russians -- had a nation-state to lose. Al-Qaida's Salafist (Islamo-fascist) ideology presents a different problem. The Arab Muslim world's long-term political and economic failure seeds the discontent on which al-Qaida-type terrorists thrive. Salafism frees its faithful from responsibility by blaming everyone else for eight centuries of decline.
Bush believes Muslim nations -- and everyone else -- can make modernity work. At West Point, Bush dubbed America's new strategy as "a forward strategy of freedom." Bush argued American security depends "on the advance of freedom" in other nations and pointed out that "accommodation" in the Middle East "did nothing to make us safe."
A "forward strategy of freedom" means fostering the development of states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted. Implementing that strategy means nation-building. Since the 2000 presidential campaign, the Bush administration has done a necessary 180 on nation-building. Bush entered office disdaining it. Sept. 11 changed that calculus.
Sept. 11 made it clear that economic and political development -- the expansion of the sphere of economically and politically liberal states -- is key to America's 21st century security. What Al Toffler called the "slow" and "fast" worlds became the Pentagon's world of "gaps" and "cores." "Gaps" with Muslim populations were the most critical, but every "gap" dictatorship can also provide haven to terrorists in exchange for cash.
Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of "heavy-lifting" nation-building. These "first efforts" may prove to be the most difficult. Every major war has a bitter learning curve.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "transformational diplomacy" is another tool for implementing a "liberation" strategy. Rice intends to pursue "proactive" diplomacy, where on-the-ground diplomats identify emerging social and political currents, economic prospects and new leaders so that they can better shape future circumstances. Rice's diplomacy is more "people-to-people" than "elite-to-elite." With instant communications a strategic fact, this diplomatic focus is critical.
In April 1950, the "unpopular" Truman administration produced NSC-68, a strategic study that shaped U.S. foreign policy for five decades. In 1953, the Eisenhower administration "tested" NSC-68 with a secret analysis commissioned by President Eisenhower (the Solarium project). Ike's group ratified NSC-68's basic strategy of containment.
Ike understood defeating the Soviets required sustained and steady U.S. leadership. The United States was the only free nation capable of organizing, facilitating and coordinating a global campaign against aggressive, imperial communist tyranny.
In the 21st century, defeating Islamo-fascism -- another imperial tyranny and utopian ideology -- will require the same sustained effort.
Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and TCS Daily contributing writer.
Reply #256 on:
June 12, 2006, 09:11:43 PM »
A Dying Al-Zarqawi Tried to Get Away
Jun 9, 6:50 PM (ET)
By PATRICK QUINN
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could barely speak, but he struggled and tried to get away from American soldiers as he lay dying on a stretcher in the ruins of his hideout.
The U.S. forces recognized his face, and knew they had the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Initially, the U.S. military had said al-Zarqawi was killed outright. But Friday new details emerged of his final moments.
For three years, al-Zarqawi orchestrated horrific acts of violence guided by his extremist vision of jihad, or holy war - first against the U.S. soldiers he considered occupiers of Arab lands, then against the Shiites he considered infidels.
On Wednesday, the U.S. military tracked him to a house northwest of Baghdad, and blew it up with two 500-pound bombs.
Al-Zarqawi somehow managed to survive the impact of the bombs, weapons so powerful they tore a huge crater in the date palm forest where the house was nestled just outside the town of Baqouba.
Iraqi police reached the scene first, and found the 39-year-old al-Zarqawi alive.
"He mumbled something, but it was indistinguishable and it was very short," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said Friday of the Jordanian-born terrorist's last words.
Iraqi police pulled him from the flattened home and placed him on a makeshift stretcher. U.S. troops arrived, saw that al-Zarqawi was conscious, and tried to provide medical treatment, the spokesman said.
"He obviously had some kind of visual recognition of who they were because he attempted to roll off the stretcher, as I am told, and get away, realizing it was the U.S. military," Caldwell told Pentagon reporters via videoconference from Baghdad.
Al-Zarqawi "attempted to, sort of, turn away off the stretcher," he said. "Everybody re-secured him back onto the stretcher, but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he'd received from this airstrike."
So much blood covered al-Zarqawi's body that U.S. forces cleaned him up before taking photographs. "Despite the fact that this person actually had no regard for human life, we were not going to treat him in the same manner," Caldwell said.
The airstrike killed two other men and three women who were in the house, but only al-Zarqawi and his spiritual adviser have been positively identified, he said.
Caldwell also said experts told him it is not unheard of for people to survive a blast of that magnitude.
"There are cases when people, in fact, can survive even an attack like that on a building structure. Obviously, the other five in the building did not, but he did for some reason," Caldwell said.
He said he did not know if al-Zarqawi was inside or outside the house when the bombs struck.
"Well, what we had found, as with anything, first reports are not always fully accurate as we continue the debriefings. But we were not aware yesterday that, in fact, Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site," Caldwell said.
His recounting of the aftermath of the airstrike could not be independently verified. The Iraqi government confirmed only that Iraqi forces were first on the scene, followed by the Americans.
An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said he saw Caldwell's news briefing but could neither confirm nor deny that al-Zarqawi briefly survived the blast.
"Well, I think it's clear: The Americans said he was seriously wounded and he died," the aide said.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #257 on:
June 12, 2006, 09:14:27 PM »
al-Qaida in Iraq Names New Leader
Jun 12, 9:48 PM (ET)
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Al-Qaida in Iraq named a successor Monday to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and said he would stick to the slain leader's path - attacks on Shiites as well as on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
The new leader, identified by the nom de guerre Abu Hamza al-Muhajer in a statement posted on the Web, appeared to be a foreign Arab, like his predecessor.
But otherwise he is an unknown. The name has not appeared in previous al-Qaida in Iraq propaganda or on U.S. lists of terrorists with rewards on their heads, suggesting he is a lower-level figure or someone more prominent who has taken a new pseudonym.
President Bush said Monday that al-Muhajer would join the ranks of those sought by the U.S. "I think the successor to Zarqawi is going to be on our list to bring to justice," Bush said.
The lack of detail appeared to reflect a new emphasis on secrecy by the group. U.S. forces have launched a series of raids against al-Qaida in Iraq based on intelligence found in the safehouse where al-Zarqawi was killed by an American airstrike Wednesday. The group may fear infiltration or that al-Zarqawi's public stance led to his downfall.
"Al-Qaida in Iraq's council has agreed on Sheik Abu Hamza al-Muhajer to be the successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the leadership of the organization," the group said.
The authenticity of the statement could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on an Islamic militant Web forum where al-Qaida in Iraq often posts messages.
The posting said al-Muhajer was "a beloved brother with jihadi (holy war) experience and a strong footing in knowledge.
"We ask Almighty God to strengthen him that he may accomplish what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, God have mercy on his soul, began," it said.
That could mean he will continue the strategy the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi followed: a campaign of brutal attacks on Shiite civilians, aimed at sparking a Sunni-Shiite civil war.
The attacks sparked tensions between al-Zarqawi's group and some Iraqi insurgents who felt the bloodshed hurt the image of their resistance against U.S. forces. They wanted to focus attacks on American and Iraqi troops.
Iraqi insurgents loyal to Saddam Hussein made a rare public acknowledgment of disputes with al-Zarqawi in a condolence letter posted on the same Web site.
"Although there were many matters we differed with him on and him with us, ... what united us was something greater," said the statement by the Fedayeen Saddam. It said the group had "the honor" of fighting alongside al-Zarqawi and that "our determination is only increased for waging jihad."
Al-Zarqawi's death raised speculation the group might turn to an Iraqi leader to smooth over the differences with Iraqis. Al-Zarqawi's deputy is an Iraqi known as Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Iraqi. The U.S. military told The Associated Press on Monday that he was not a man identified as "Abdul-Rahman" who was killed with al-Zarqawi.
The name al-Muhajer, Arabic for "immigrant," suggested the new leader was not Iraqi. The name is often used by foreign Arab militants, referring to the "muhajereen," Islam's early converts who fled persecution in Mecca to join the Prophet Muhammad in Medina.
Rohan Gunaratna, a terror expert at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, said the choice of a non-Iraqi means the group is "likely to continue the foreign operations."
Al-Zarqawi had sought to expand his campaign beyond Iraq, including a triple suicide bombing against hotels in Jordan last November that killed 60 people.
Al-Zarqawi also had links to al-Qaida's branch in Saudi Arabia, which in a statement Monday thanked him for helping its fight against the kingdom's rulers. "We will not forget his favors to jihad and the mujahedeen in the prophet's peninsula," the group said.
The U.S. military had predicted a militant named Abu Ayyub al-Masri would become al-Qaida in Iraq's leader. Al-Masri, an Egyptian associate of al-Zarqawi, has a $50,000 reward on his head.
Militants usually adopt a pseudonym made up of a nickname called a "kunya" in Arabic - "Abu," meaning "father of," plus a name that sometimes refers to an actual child of the militant. The second part of the pseudonym is usually an adjective denoting the militant's nationality.
Al-Zarqawi was born Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, but took a pseudonym from Zarqa, his hometown in Jordan. He had a child named Musab, so took the kunya of "Abu Musab."
The secrecy surrounding the new leader could hurt the group's ability to carry out attacks, said Egyptian analyst Diaa Rashwan. Al-Zarqawi built a reputation as a holy warrior, helping draw foreign militants to carry out suicide bombings.
"Al-Zarqawi's charisma was very important factor for many to join his organization," Rashwan said. "All al-Zarqawi had was car bombs and people ready to blow themselves up."
"My feeling is that they are going to have establish a persona for him," said Evan Kohlmann, a New York-based terror consultant and founder of globalterroralert.com. "They're going to have to introduce this fellow to the world."
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #258 on:
June 14, 2006, 11:30:05 AM »
Abu Baker Bashir of Bali Bombing fame, has been released from Prison today from a sentence that got shorter and shorter each time it was mentioned. He is heading back to continue his teachings which ispired the Bali bombings and the way inwhich the whole situation has been handled by indonesia sound very similar to lack of regard that iran has for anyone else.
Abu Bakar Bashir, the firebrand Islamic cleric accused of inspiring the first Bali bombings, has walked free from Jakarta's main prison and into the arms of hundreds of jubilant militant supporters.
Lifting his hands in the air an otherwise subdued Bashir muttered "I thank Allah" as he was mobbed by adoring fans, many in black "mujahidin" jackets.
Wearing a white skull cap, grey suit and red checked headscarf, the bespectacled 68-year-old made no mention of the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 88 Australians were killed, or a subsequent string of deadly terrorist attacks in Indonesia.
"To the lawyers who have enthusiastically defended me during the trial we will keep on fighting to uphold sharia," he said in a brief speech targeting moderate opponents.
"Upholding sharia is full of struggle," he added, before being whisked away with his son Rachim in a black van to begin a road trip to Solo, an ancient royal city in central Java where he teaches his radical brand of Islam at the Ngruki boarding school, dubbed the "Ivy League" of militant academies.
During his road trip he planned to visit earthquake survivors around nearby Yogyakarta.
Security was tight outside the prison with scores of police keeping watch.
Scores of supporters were bused in to cheer Bashir. But three were killed in a car accident on their way from Solo.
Many in the crowd wore headbands and carried copies of Bashir's new book, I Was Falsely Accused, The Days of Abu Bakar Bashir in Prison.
On its pages, the cleric denounces Prime Minister John Howard as "an infidel" and "enemy of Allah".
He also accuses Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of pressuring Indonesia to keep him in prison following an earlier 18-month jail sentence for minor immigration offences.
The Malaysian-born Bashir denied allegations by western nations that he is the "emir", or spiritual head, of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network.
He has called on all Indonesian Muslims to defend the nation "against violence".
"We must believe that this country will be safe from all darkness under Islamic sharia," he said.
Bashir was released 15 minutes ahead of schedule and his chaotic departure from Jakarta's Cipinang Prison took his legal team by surprise.
One of Bashir's lawyers, Adnan Wirawan, said plans for the journey to Solo had been thrown into disarray by a small band of supporters who bundled him into a van.
"This is not the plan and right now we don't know where he is," Adnan told AAP.
"All the plans that we have set up for him, it has been deviated. We have to find him so we can take him to Solo."
Australia's government has called on Indonesia to place Bashir under close surveillance amid warnings by some terrorist analysts that his release could inspire more terror attacks.
The United States said it was deeply disappointed with Bashir's release from what Washington believed had been a light 25-month sentence for giving blessings to the first Bali attacks.
Asked about possible police surveillance of his father, Rachim said he was unafraid.
"I don't care about it. If they want to watch, go ahead," he said.
Lawyer Adnan said any move to place Bashir under surveillance would be a violation of his rights.
"I expect that there will be a discrimination surveillance of him and that would be unconstitutional, because he is as free as everyone else in the country," he said.
Accusations Bashir had been the leader of JI would be proven wrong, Adnan said.
"That is a paranoid version of the western media. He has never been a man of violence," he said.
"What is to be afraid of? He has never been proven to kill a fly, an animal, he has never been proven to kill anyone."
The massive show of support for Bashir outside the prison proved he was innocent, Adnan said.
"People will not worship someone who is evil, who is a criminal, and if a lot of people still worship him it proves that he is an innocent man," he said.
Before Bashir's release, Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency chief, Syamsir Siregar, said he hoped Bashir would not cause any trouble.
"We hope Bashir, after he has been jailed, will regain his self-awareness and be willing to cooperate with us," Siregar told politicians earlier this week.
Jemaah Islamiah is accused of carrying out church bombings across Indonesia in 2000, the Bali bombings in 2002, attacks in the Indonesian capital in 2003 and 2004, and a triple suicide bombing on Bali last October. The attacks together killed more than 260 people.
Bashir has little active support in Indonesia, where most Muslims follow a moderate form of the faith.
On his road trip Bashir criticised the United States.
"The United States is a state terrorist because it is waging war against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan," he told reporters when asked about US accusations he was a terror leader.
Bashir made the remark after he stopped for midday prayers in the town of Tegal, 300km east of Jakarta.
Reply #259 on:
June 15, 2006, 12:03:48 AM »
The Real Iraq
Spending time in the United States after a tour of Iraq can be a
disorienting experience these days. Within hours of arriving here, as I can
attest from a recent visit, one is confronted with an image of Iraq that is
unrecognizable. It is created in several overlapping ways: through
television footage showing the charred remains of vehicles used in suicide
attacks, surrounded by wailing women in black and grim-looking men carrying
coffins; by armchair strategists and political gurus predicting further doom
or pontificating about how the war should have been fought in the first
place; by authors of instant-history books making their rounds to dissect
the various "fundamental mistakes" committed by the Bush administration; and
by reporters, cocooned in hotels in Baghdad, explaining the "carnage" and
"chaos" in the streets as signs of the country's "impending" or "undeclared"
civil war. Add to all this the day's alleged scandal or revelation-an outed
CIA operative, a reportedly doctored intelligence report, a leaked
pessimistic assessment-and it is no wonder the American public registers
disillusion with Iraq and everyone who embroiled the U.S. in its troubles.
It would be hard indeed for the average interested citizen to find out on
his own just how grossly this image distorts the realities of present-day
Iraq. Part of the problem, faced by even the most well-meaning news
organizations, is the difficulty of covering so large and complex a subject;
naturally, in such circumstances, sensational items rise to the top. But
even ostensibly more objective efforts, like the Brookings Institution's
much-cited Iraq Index with its constantly updated array of security,
economic, and public-opinion indicators, tell us little about the actual
feel of the country on the ground.
To make matters worse, many of the newsmen, pundits, and commentators on
whom American viewers and readers rely to describe the situation have been
contaminated by the increasing bitterness of American politics. Clearly
there are those in the media and the think tanks who wish the Iraq
enterprise to end in tragedy, as a just comeuppance for George W. Bush.
Others, prompted by noble sentiment, so abhor the idea of war that they
would banish it from human discourse before admitting that, in some
circumstances, military power can be used in support of a good cause. But
whatever the reason, the half-truths and outright misinformation that now
function as conventional wisdom have gravely disserved the American people.
For someone like myself who has spent considerable time in Iraq-a country I
first visited in 1968-current reality there is, nevertheless, very different
from this conventional wisdom, and so are the prospects for Iraq's future.
It helps to know where to look, what sources to trust, and how to evaluate
the present moment against the background of Iraqi and Middle Eastern
Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on
several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the country's
condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably
accurate-as accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some
time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction.
The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq-in
1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990-long queues of Iraqis have
formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for
example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had
not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq's creation as a state, some 1.2
million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not
the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and
intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries.
Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages
and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam
Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we
have not seen on our television sets-and we can be sure that we would be
seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from
fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most
conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark.
Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi
Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at
Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests
returned home in 2004.
A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a
different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines
in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream
is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when
Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003,
there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddam's fall, they
have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an
estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the
entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.
Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite
seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils,
now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. This is because Najaf,
the oldest center of Shiite scholarship, is once again able to offer an
alternative to Qom, the Iranian "holy city" where a radical and highly
politicized version of Shiism is taught. Those wishing to pursue the study
of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where,
unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its
A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the
Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the region's other major
currencies. In the final years of Saddam Hussein's rule, the Iraqi dinar was
in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait.
By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against
both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent
against the former and by 23 percent against the latter. Although it is
still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international
currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar,
increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August
2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and
Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange
My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and
medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in
Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the
country's most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi
Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North
America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector
boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as
well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better
than any other in the region. The country's gross domestic product rose to
almost $90 billion in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are
available), more than double the output for 2003, and its real growth rate,
as estimated by the IMF, was 52.3 per cent. In that same period, exports
increased by more than $3 billion, while the inflation rate fell to 25.4
percent, down from 70 percent in 2002. The unemployment rate was halved,
from 60 percent to 30 percent.
Related to this is the level of agricultural activity. Between 1991 and
2003, the country's farm sector experienced unprecedented decline, in the
end leaving almost the entire nation dependent on rations distributed by the
United Nations under Oil-for-Food. In the past two years, by contrast, Iraqi
agriculture has undergone an equally unprecedented revival. Iraq now exports
foodstuffs to neighboring countries, something that has not happened since
the 1950's. Much of the upturn is due to smallholders who, shaking off the
collectivist system imposed by the Baathists, have retaken control of land
that was confiscated decades ago by the state.
Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always
been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing
people; when they fall silent, life is incontrovertibly becoming hard for
them. There have been times, indeed, when one could find scarcely a single
Iraqi, whether in Iraq or abroad, prepared to express an opinion on anything
remotely political. This is what Kanan Makiya meant when he described Saddam
Hussein's regime as a "republic of fear."
Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault.
Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage,
while heated debate is the order of the day in shops, tea-houses, bazaars,
mosques, offices, and private homes. A "catharsis" is how Luay Abdulilah,
the Iraqi short-story writer and diarist, describes it. "This is one way of
taking revenge against decades of deadly silence." Moreover, a vast network
of independent media has emerged in Iraq, including over 100 privately-owned
newspapers and magazines and more than two dozen radio and television
stations. To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world,
it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is
most effectively exercised.
That an experienced observer of Iraq with a sense of history can point to so
many positive factors in the country's present condition will not do much,
of course, to sway the more determined critics of the U.S. intervention
there. They might even agree that the images fed to the American public show
only part of the picture, and that the news from Iraq is not uniformly bad.
But the root of their opposition runs deeper, to political fundamentals.
Their critique can be summarized in the aphorism that "democracy cannot be
imposed by force." It is a view that can be found among the more
sophisticated elements on the Left and, increasingly, among dissenters on
the Right, from Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to the ex-neoconservative
Francis Fukuyama. As Senator Hagel puts it, "You cannot in my opinion just
impose a democratic form of government on a country with no history and no
culture and no tradition of democracy."
I would tend to agree. But is Iraq such a place? In point of fact, before
the 1958 pro-Soviet military coup d'etat that established a leftist
dictatorship, Iraq did have its modest but nevertheless significant share of
democratic history, culture, and tradition. The country came into being
through a popular referendum held in 1921. A constitutional monarchy modeled
on the United Kingdom, it had a bicameral parliament, several political
parties (including the Baath and the Communists), and periodic elections
that led to changes of policy and government. At the time, Iraq also enjoyed
the freest press in the Arab world, plus the widest space for debate and
dissent in the Muslim Middle East.
To be sure, Baghdad in those days was no Westminster, and, as the 1958 coup
proved, Iraqi democracy was fragile. But every serious student of
contemporary Iraq knows that substantial segments of the population, from
all ethnic and religious communities, had more than a taste of the modern
world's democratic aspirations. As evidence, one need only consult the
immense literary and artistic production of Iraqis both before and after the
1958 coup. Under successor dictatorial regimes, it is true, the conviction
took hold that democratic principles had no future in Iraq-a conviction that
was responsible in large part for driving almost five million Iraqis, a
quarter of the population, into exile between 1958 and 2003, just as the
opposite conviction is attracting so many of them and their children back to
A related argument used to condemn Iraq's democratic prospects is that it is
an "artificial" country, one that can be held together only by a dictator.
But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some
extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so. The truth is
that Iraq-one of the 53 founding countries of the United Nations-is older
than a majority of that organization's current 198 member states. Within the
Arab League, and setting aside Oman and Yemen, none of the 22 members is
older. Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom
House came into being after Iraq's appearance on the map.
Critics of the democratic project in Iraq also claim that, because it is a
multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the country is doomed to
despotism, civil war, or disintegration. But the same could be said of
virtually all Middle Eastern states, most of which are neither multi-ethnic
nor multi-confessional. More important, all Iraqis, regardless of their
ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian differences, share a sense of national
identity-uruqa ("Iraqi-ness")-that has developed over the past eight
decades. A unified, federal state may still come to grief in Iraq-history is
not written in advance-but even should a divorce become inevitable at some
point, a democratic Iraq would be in a better position to manage it.
What all of this demonstrates is that, contrary to received opinion,
Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force.
Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to
democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant who had utterly suppressed a
well-established aspect of the country's identity. It may take years before
we know for certain whether or not post-liberation Iraq has definitely
chosen democracy. But one thing is certain: without the use of force to
remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the
opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future.
Assessing the progress of that democratic project is no simple matter. But,
by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a
series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years,
up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted. This new orientation is
supported by more than 60 political parties and organizations, the first
genuinely free-trade unions in the Arab world, a growing number of
professional associations acting independently of the state, and more than
400 nongovernmental organizations representing diverse segments of civil
society. A new constitution, written by Iraqis representing the full
spectrum of political, ethnic, and religious sensibilities was
overwhelmingly approved by the electorate in a referendum last October.
Iraq's new democratic reality is also reflected in the vocabulary of
politics used at every level of society. Many new words-accountability,
transparency, pluralism, dissent-have entered political discourse in Iraq
for the first time. More remarkably, perhaps, all parties and personalities
currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the
principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and
These democratic achievements are especially impressive when set side by
side with the declared aims of the enemies of the new Iraq, who have put up
a determined fight against it. Since the country's liberation, the jihadists
and residual Baathists have killed an estimated 23,000 Iraqis, mostly
civilians, in scores of random attacks and suicide operations. Indirectly,
they have caused the death of thousands more, by sabotaging water and
electricity services and by provoking sectarian revenge attacks.
But they have failed to translate their talent for mayhem and murder into
political success. Their campaign has not succeeded in appreciably slowing
down, let alone stopping, the country's democratization. Indeed, at each
step along the way, the jihadists and Baathists have seen their
self-declared objectives thwarted.
After the invasion, they tried at first to prevent the formation of a
Governing Council, the expression of Iraq's continued existence as a
sovereign nation-state. They managed to murder several members of the
council, including its president in 2003, but failed to prevent its
formation or to keep it from performing its task in the interim period. The
next aim of the insurgents was to stop municipal elections. Their message
was simple: candidates and voters would be killed. But, once again, they
failed: thousands of men and women came forward as candidates and more than
1.5 million Iraqis voted in the localities where elections were held.
The insurgency made similar threats in the lead-up to the first general
election, and the result was the same. Despite killing 36 candidates and 148
voters, they failed to derail the balloting, in which the number of voters
rose to more than 8 million. Nor could the insurgency prevent the writing of
the new democratic constitution, despite a campaign of assassination against
its drafters. The text was ready in time and was submitted to and approved
by a referendum, exactly as planned. The number of voters rose yet again, to
more than 9 million.
What of relations among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds-the focus of so much
attention of late? For almost three years, the insurgency worked hard to
keep the Arab Sunni community, which accounts for some 15 percent of the
population, out of the political process. But that campaign collapsed when
millions of Sunnis turned out to vote in the constitutional referendum and
in the second general election, which saw almost 11 million Iraqis go to the
polls. As I write, all political parties representing the Arab Sunni
minority have joined the political process and have strong representation in
the new parliament. With the convening of that parliament, and the
nomination in April of a new prime minister and a three-man presidential
council, the way is open for the formation of a broad-based government of
national unity to lead Iraq over the next four years.
As for the insurgency's effort to foment sectarian violence-a strategy first
launched in earnest toward the end of 2005-this too has run aground. The
hope here was to provoke a full-scale war between the Arab Sunni minority
and the Arab Shiites who account for some 60 percent of the population. The
new strategy, like the ones previously tried, has certainly produced many
deaths. But despite countless cases of sectarian killings by so-called
militias, there is still no sign that the Shiites as a whole will acquiesce
in the role assigned them by the insurgency and organize a concerted
campaign of nationwide retaliation.
Finally, despite the impression created by relentlessly dire reporting in
the West, the insurgency has proved unable to shut down essential government
services. Hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren have been killed in
incidents including the beheading of two teachers in their classrooms this
April and horrific suicide attacks against school buses. But by September
2004, most schools across Iraq and virtually all universities were open and
functioning. By September 2005, more than 8.5 million Iraqi children and
young people were attending school or university-an all-time record in the
A similar story applies to Iraq's clinics and hospitals. Between October
2003 and January 2006, more than 80 medical doctors and over 400 nurses and
medical auxiliaries were murdered by the insurgents. The jihadists also
raided several hospitals, killing ordinary patients in their beds. But, once
again, they failed in their objectives. By January 2006, all of Iraq's 600
state-owned hospitals and clinics were in full operation, along with dozens
of new ones set up by the private sector since liberation.
Another of the insurgency's strategic goals was to bring the Iraqi oil
industry to a halt and to disrupt the export of crude. Since July 2003, Iraq
's oil infrastructure has been the target of more than 3,000 attacks and
attempts at sabotage. But once more the insurgency has failed to achieve its
goals. Iraq has resumed its membership in the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC) and has returned to world markets as a major oil
exporter. According to projections, by the end of 2006 it will be producing
its full OPEC quota of 2.8 million barrels a day.
The Baathist remnant and its jihadist allies resemble a gambler who wins a
heap of chips at a roulette table only to discover that he cannot exchange
them for real money at the front desk. The enemies of the new Iraq have
succeeded in ruining the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, but over the
past three years they have advanced their overarching goals, such as they
are, very little. Instead, they have been militarily contained and
politically defeated again and again, and the beneficiary has been Iraqi
None of this means that the new Iraq is out of the woods. Far from it.
Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination,
and luck. The U.S.-led coalition, its allies, and partners have achieved
most of their major political objectives, but that achievement remains under
threat and could be endangered if the U.S., for whatever reason, should
decide to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.
The current mandate of the U.S.-led coalition runs out at the end of this
year, and it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will want to
maintain their military presence at current levels. In the past few months,
more than half of the 103 bases used by the coalition have been transferred
to the new Iraqi army. The best guess is that the number of U.S. and
coalition troops could be cut from 140,000 to 25,000 or 30,000 by the end of
One might wonder why, if the military mission has been so successful, the
U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least
another two years. There are three reasons for this.
The first is to discourage Iraq's predatory neighbors, notably Iran and
Syria, which might wish to pursue their own agendas against the new
government in Baghdad. Iran has already revived some claims under the
Treaties of Erzerum (1846), according to which Tehran would enjoy a droit de
regard over Shiite shrines in Iraq. In Syria, some in that country's ruling
circles have invoked the possibility of annexing the area known as Jazirah,
the so-called Sunni triangle, in the name of Arab unity. For its part,
Turkey is making noises about the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which gave it a
claim to the oilfields of northern Iraq. All of these pretensions need to be
The second reason for extending America's military presence is political.
The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq's various ethnic and religious
communities and political factions. It is, in a sense, a traffic cop, giving
Iraqis a green or red light when and if needed. It is important that the
U.S. continue performing this role for the first year or two of the newly
elected parliament and government.
Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and
testing Iraq's new army and police. Impressive success has already been
achieved in that field. Nevertheless, the new Iraqi army needs at least
another year or two before it will have developed adequate logistical
capacities and learned to organize and conduct operations involving its
But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it. The
Baathists and jihadists, their prior efforts to derail Iraqi democracy
having come to naught, have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos
and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this,
they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots
rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose
own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure. Among
Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world,
predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of
a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon.
But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq.
Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are
stirrings elsewhere in the region. Beyond the much-publicized electoral
concessions wrung from authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there
is a new democratic discourse to be heard. Nationalism and pan-Arabism,
yesterday's hollow rallying cries, have given way to a "big idea" of a very
different kind. Debate and dissent are in the air where there was none
before-a development owing, in significant measure, to the U.S. campaign in
Iraq and the brilliant if still checkered Iraqi response.
The stakes, in short, could not be higher. This is all the more reason to
celebrate, to build on, and to consolidate what has already been
accomplished. Instead of railing against the Bush administration, America's
elites would do better, and incidentally display greater self-respect, to
direct their wrath where it properly belongs: at those violent and
unrestrained enemies of democracy in Iraq who are, in truth, the enemies of
democracy in America as well, and of everything America has ever stood for.
Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above.
Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today's Iraq,
the only one that has a ring of truth is "messy." Yes, the situation in Iraq
today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a
baby unworthy of life?
Amir Taheri, formerly the executive editor of Kayhan, Iran's largest daily
newspaper, is the author of ten books and a frequent contributor to numerous
publications in the Middle East and Europe. His work appears regularly in
the New York Post.
Reply #260 on:
June 19, 2006, 10:26:15 AM »
BITING THE HAND THAT FED THEM:
KURDISH INSURGENCY TESTS IRANIAN CONVENTIONAL MILITARY POWER
Ali M. Koknar*
April 26, 2006
??I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me??
from the album: This Year's Model
By Elvis Costello
There is much speculation in Washington these days about whether Iran will respond to a
preemptive strike by the United States and/or Israel in order to damage or destroy its nuclear
weapons program. The deficiencies in the human intelligence collection and analysis capability of
the United States resulting in the confusion about Iran?s war fighting ability is a major factor in
this current speculation. American experts are finding it hard to gauge Iran?s military strength and
effectiveness. One way to measure Iran?s might with some degree of accuracy is to study how it
has been fighting recently. Iran has not fought a conventional campaign since the end of the Iran-
Iraq War in 1988, almost two decades ago. Since then, Iran?s military industrial complex and
manpower evolved significantly. Some of this new technology and training has been put into
action by the Tehran regime in a limited extent at Iran?s periphery, which offers a window to
peek at the Iranian military under actual combat conditions. Except for the two proxy campaigns
in Lebanon and Iraq which Iranian military and intelligence are engaged in, Iran?s only direct
military action on its enemies has materialized in the form of a few surface-to-surface missile
attacks on Mojahedin-e-Khalq camps in Iraq in the late 1990s and its ongoing conflict with the
Kurdish terrorist organization PKK (Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan-Workers? Party of Kurdistan)
inside Iran and in Northern Iraq at present, which this analysis is about.
Starting in 1979, the Islamic regime continued the Shah?s policy of attacking the armed
ethnic Kurds (as represented by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and Komala, the
Marxists) with conventional military forces. These clashes continued during the Iran-Iraq War,
until the mid 1990s and resulted in the deaths of around 10 thousand Kurdish insurgents, 50
thousand Kurdish civilians and thousands of troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC-Pasdaran). A de facto cease-fire came into effect in 1995. Paradoxically, the Islamic
regime in Tehran harbored and supported the Maoist PKK against Turkey in the 1980s but
especially after the removal of PKK?s leader from Syria in 1998. The Iranian intelligence service
(Ettelaat-SAVAMA) managed the PKK presence inside Iran and the infiltration of PKK terrorists
into Turkey. Interestingly enough, during the same period of time Ettelaat supported the activities
of the Islamist Turkish Hezbollah, an ethnically Kurdish organization which organized itself in
* Ali M. Koknar, a private security consultant in Washington, DC, specializing in counterterrorism and international
organized crime, is an Associate of the Terrorism Research Center. His e-mail is
the 1980s to oppose the PKK in southeast Turkey. In fact, the Turkish intelligence services
believe that the Ettelaat engineered a truce between the PKK and the Turkish-Kurdish Hezbollah
in the late 1990s. At the peak of its relations with the Iranian regime in 1995, the PKK maintained
about 1,200 of its members at around 50 locations in Iran. The Ettelaat even used the PKK
against other Kurdish groups in Iran such as Komala, eight leaders of which the PKK ambushed
and killed in June 1998. Fed up with Iran?s harboring the PKK, Turkey sent a direct message to
Tehran in July 1999, when Turkish F16s attacking a PKK camp in Iran, accidentally bombed a
Pasdaran base, killing a Pasdar officer and four Pasdaran troops and wounding ten. A new
Turkish government elected at the end of 2002, developed a d?tente with Tehran in 2003, making
it possible for Ankara to press Tehran into cutting off its support to the PKK.
With its charismatic leader, Abdullah Ocalan captured by Turkey in 1999, the PKK
withdrew about 3,000 of its 4,000 field cadres from Turkey and Iran to its dozen or so camps
strewn along the Qandil mountain range which straddles the Iran-Iraq border across from Turkey.
The PKK used the period between 1999 and 2003 to reorganize its command structure, recruit
new members and especially after Saddam?s quick defeat in April 2003, to acquire ex-Iraqi Army
weapons and explosives. They also set up a front, Part?ya J?yane Azad?ya Kurdistan (Kurdistan
Free Life Party-PJAK) in Iran (heretofore referred to as simply ?PKK? for practicality). Despite
sporting its own leader, Haji Ahmedi, its operations are conducted under orders from PKK?s
strongman, Murat Karayilan, and like other PKK teams operating in Turkey, its armed cadres are
ethnic Kurds recruited from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The PKK operates camps housing about 500
of these on Mount Asos, which is on the Iranian side of the Qandil Range.
In 2004, from their Asos bases the PKK terrorist started operating in northwestern Iran,
near the Iranian towns of Selmas, Mahabad, Serdest, Bane, P?ranshahr, Mer?wan, Sine, and
Hewraman. By July that year, the Pasdaran started mounting battalion-level operations in the area
against the PKK, to total about eight such operations by the end of the year. In 2004, the PKK
claimed killing about 20 Pasdaran troops, but did not admit its own casualties as a result of a
brigade-level Pasdaran operation near Xoye/Urumiyeh in October, during which the Pasdaran
deployed Katyusha artillery rockets.
A Pasdaran brigade, accompanied by hundreds of Basej paramilitaries, conducted sweep
operations in the sector between the Iraqi border and the town of Piranshahr in late May and early
June 2005 using AH-1J Cobra attack helicopters, but did not report any PKK terrorists killed or
captured. As they did in Turkey, the PKK made attempts to foment a Kurdish uprising in Iran in
2005 to affect the outcome of the presidential elections. As if in response to the Pasdaran/Basej
sweep a month earlier, in July, these attempts materialized in the ethnically Kurdish populated
Mahabad and clashes between armed PKK terrorists, their civilian Kurdish supporters and the
Pasdaran and Basej resulted in the declaration of martial law and curfew. The PKK claimed that
they had killed 16 Pasdaran and Basej for a loss of four of their own during the July clashes.
The seasonal nature of contacts between the PKK and Iranian security forces was
somewhat altered in 2006 as the PKK mounted attacks in Iran during the snowy winter months
just as they did inside Turkey. In February, there were about a dozen PKK and Pasdaran on each
side killed in action and at least a dozen wounded. In March the Pasdaran staged heliborne
assaults killing at least 2 PKK terrorists. The PKK claimed they killed seven Pasdaran.
As the weather improved in April, the Pasdaran launched a division-level operation against the PKK for
the first time, deploying towed howitzers. The PKK also claimed that the Iranian Air Force
fighters bombed one of its camps near Xinira next to the Haji Umran Iran-Iraq border crossing.
The Pasdaran also hit a PKK camp near Sidakan, about 50 miles north of the Iraqi city of Arbil
and about 6 miles from the Iranian border, with Katyusha artillery rockets. These attacks killed at
least three PKK terrorists (as admitted by them) and probably up to a dozen more. The PKK
claimed that they engaged the Pasdaran along the border and killed six and wounded eight, which
the Pasdaran did not admit. The Pasdaran did admit however, that they lost 100 troops between
2003 and 2006 in contacts with the PKK. The PKK admits losing no less than 50 terrorists in
contacts with the Pasdaran between July 2005 and March 2006.
The cyclical nature of the PKK operations to date in Iran suggest that the coming months
will bring more contacts with Iranian security forces. Based on the escalation of the conflict in the
last three years, it is plausible that the size of the Iranian troop movements will be large (from
battalion-level in 2004 to division-level in 2006) and will involve heavy weapons such as artillery
pieces and may also be conducted as combined-arms operations with the participation of regular
Iranian Army units in addition to the Pasdaran. These developments will offer a unique
opportunity to observe the Iranian military in action using its inventory against a real enemy, as
opposed to the recent war games they conducted in the Persian Gulf during which reverse-
engineered Russian weapons systems were showcased. Iran?s success or failure against an
insurgent force of no more than a battalion or two will be indicative of its conventional
warfighting ability against a larger opposing force, such as the United States Army or Marines.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #261 on:
June 21, 2006, 12:38:35 PM »
Mohammed has an interesting viewpoint on
the Insurgency and Intelligence. We know what makes up the Insurgents.
This take on Intelligence I had not really considered. Hope you can use it.
Sir, would you please fill out this form?
Now and after a week since operation forward together was launched in
Baghdad let's try to evaluate this operation through the people's reactions
and through the authorities' announcements.
First we will see that the operation brought high hopes and was found
largely promising by the people of Baghdad as it reflected the level of the
government's determination to provide Baghdadis with their number one need,
which is security.
What happened in the first two days made people feel that there was a good
chance for the government bring calm to the capital but two days later the
insurgents we again able to find a way to disrupt peace and renew their
attacks against Iraqi civilians and ISF.
Yesterday the Iraqi minister of national security admitted that insurgents
are a step ahead of the government when it comes to intelligence. As bleak
as this confession may sound I think it's admirable of the government to
admit such a fact because the first step in solving a problem is through
recognizing it and never through denying it or speaking big empty words.
In fact the minister's statement was pretty close to what we wrote in our
earlier post, both accounts define the weakness point of this particular
operation and that of the government's efforts to fight the insurgency in
general which is intelligence.
To discuss this point we should go back few years in time to know the
intelligence system worked in Iraq and why we still be behind the insurgents
in this regard if we did not take the right measures.
As we all know, the bulk of the insurgency is made up mostly of the security
corps of the past regime, mainly the secret service, special republican
guards, military intelligence and former ba'athists and these corps
collectively were the ones in charge of collecting and analyzing
intelligence for the regime and over years, these corps were able to build a
massive database that contained lots of information about every single
citizen in Iraq.
I recall those years when everyone had to fill countless inquiries (general
information forms) every now and then; for example if I moved from one city
to another, applied for a job, moved from one school to another, rented a
house or a shop, started a new business or even signed up for a phone line I
would be asked to fill many of these forms to many entities. Not to mention
the inquiries every citizen had to routinely fill and these inquiries would
come from the police station, local ba'ath HQ, the district council and
every other authority you can think of.
these inquiries in addition to asking regular questions like number of
family members, their jobs, working places etc, etc, they also went as far
as asking detailed questions about relatives as far as of the 6th degree,
like "do you have any relatives that had been executed?" or "do you have any
relatives living abroad? And why?".
The data collected in this manner were used to keep track of citizens and
determine how this or that one should be treated (given or denied a job,
admitted to college or not, promoted or not).
You can imagine now how much information the past regime had about the
people of Iraq, and where did that huge database go?
It was kept by the same people who were in charge of it before, hard disks
and box files were all taken home and the rest was burned and soon many of
those personnel became the core of the local insurgency so it's somewhat
correct to say that those intelligence collectors did not lose power because
they retained one of the most powerful weapons in the kind of warfare we're
The regime was toppled and places were switched; the jobless former officers
became in control of a huge information treasure while the new
administration was left with office drawers void of files!
So this imbalanced possession of information needs to change, and to change
soon and a plan to build a new database should go simultaneously with the
plan to collect weapons. We need to do this because the insurgents are
hiding amongst us, they look and dress like normal civilians, they drive
civilian vehicles, not tanks and they operate from normal houses, not
Building a new database can be done through reasonably simple procedures and
from the base up by a simple campaign coordinated the authorities, the
district councils (Mukhtars) and food ration distribution points.
Of course this should not be done in the same totalitarian demeaning manner
that Saddam adopted; just decently detailed records of who lives where and
who works where will be enough and can be of great help to our
Reply #262 on:
June 23, 2006, 09:45:55 AM »
U.S.: New bomb plot aimed to 'kill all the devils'
Court documents: Black Muslim group thought informant was with al-Qaida
Charles Rex Arbogast / AP file
Chicago's Sears Tower, the tallest highrise on the city's skyline, was allegedly the focus of a bomb plot, officials said Thursday after seven men were arrested in Miami.
MIAMI - Following a warehouse raid and their arrests a day earlier, seven young men were charged Friday with conspiring to work with al-Qaida to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and federal buildings. Court documents obtained by NBC News said the ringleader boasted of wanting to "kill all the devils we can" in a mission "just as good or greater than 9/11."
The seven individuals indicted by a federal grand jury were taken into custody Thursday when authorities swarmed a Miami warehouse that had been used by a Black Muslim group.
According to the court documents, a man identified as Narseal Batiste was the recruiter who wanted to organize "soldiers" to build an Islamic army to wage holy war.
The others were identified as Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine.
Batiste allegedly met last December in a hotel room with someone posing as a representative of al-Qaida ? someone law enforcement officials say was actually an agent of a country friendly to the United States.
The indictment described the alleged scheme this way:
Batiste initially asked for "boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, and vehicles," as well as $50,000 in cash, to help him build an "Islamic Army to wage jihad.?
'Good or greater than 9/11'
In February, Batiste told the foreign agent that he wanted him and his men to attend an al-Qaida training camp so as to "kill all the devils we can" in a mission he said "would be just as good or greater than 9/11" ? beginning with the destruction of the Sears Tower.
At a meeting on March 16 at a warehouse in the Miami area, the seven defendants discussed a plot to bomb FBI buildings in five cities, and each swore an oath of loyalty to al-Qaida before the purported al-Qaida representative.
The person they believed to be an al-Qaida representative gave Batiste a video camera, which Batiste said he would use to film the North Miami Beach FBI building, the indictment said. At a March 26 meeting, Batiste and Augustin provided the foreign agent with photographs of the FBI building, as well as video of other Miami government buildings, and discussed the plot to bomb the FBI building.
But on May 24, the indictment said, Batiste told the foreign agent that he was experiencing delays ?because of various problems within his organization.? Batiste said he wanted to continue his mission and his relationship with al-Qaida nonetheless, the document said.
The informant's ability to track the group from its early stages had neutralized the threat.
?There is no imminent threat to Miami or any other area because of these operations,? said Richard Kolko, spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. He declined further comment.
One source said the suspects had been trying to buy weapons and other things needed to carry out attacks. Ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can also be used as an explosive, was reportedly among the items.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday to discuss the arrests. A news conference also will be held in Miami.
'Like military boot camp'
Neighbors who lived nearby said young men, who appeared to be in their teens and 20s, slept in the warehouse, running what looked like a militaristic group. They appeared brainwashed, some said.
?They would come out late at night and exercise,? said Tashawn Rose. ?It seemed like a military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard.?
Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their group. Rose said they tried to recruit her younger brother and nephew for a karate class.
She said she talked to one of the men about a month ago. ?They seemed brainwashed,? she said. ?They said they had given their lives to Allah.?
Residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information. They said the men had lived in the area for about a year.
Benjamin Williams, 17, said the group sometimes had young children with them. At times, he added, the men ?would cover their faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like turbans.?
A man who called himself Brother Corey and claimed to be a member of the group told CNN late Thursday that the individuals worship at the building and call themselves the ?Seas of David.?
He dismissed any suggestion that the men were contemplating violence. ?We are peaceful,? he said. He added that the group has ?soldiers? in Chicago but is not a terrorist organization.
Xavier Smith, who attends the nearby United Christian Outreach, said the men would often come by the church and ask for water.
?They were very private,? said Smith.
Managers of the Sears Tower, the nation?s tallest building, said in a statement they speak regularly with the FBI and local law enforcement about terror threats and that Thursday ?was no exception.?
Security at the 110-floor Sears Tower, a Chicago landmark, was ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 103rd-floor skydeck was closed for about a month and a half.
?Law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions,? the statement said.
The warehouse owner declined comment. ?I heard the news just like you guys,? George F. Mobassaleh told the AP. ?I can?t talk to you.?
South Florida has been linked to several terrorism investigations in the past. Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived and trained in the area, including ringleader Mohamed Atta and several plots by Cuban Americans against the government of Fidel Castro have also been based in Miami.
Jose Padilla, a former resident once accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb in the country, is charged in Miami with being part of a North American terror support cell to al-Qaida and other violent Islamic extremist organizations. He has been in federal custody since 2002 and is scheduled for trial in September.
Padilla was originally designated an "enemy combatant" and held for three years without charge by the Bush administration shortly after his May 2002 arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
NBC News? Pete Williams, Jim Popkin, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Of Pacts, Sects, and Nilhism
Reply #263 on:
June 25, 2006, 06:06:07 PM »
I'm of the opinion that much of the strife found in sorry sections of the planet are caused by people imposing simple perspectives on complex problems. The Middle East is a good case in point, where Zionists/Israel/America are blamed for all manner of ills that in fact have much messier causes. This piece explores a similar thesis.
Sects and Death in the Middle East
Mon Jun 19, 6:39 AM ET
It's unclear how damaging the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi will be to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. But the admiration of sympathizers like Hamas, which called him a "brother-fighter," reminds us that he was not just a blood-drenched killer and lowlife. He was also the product of his region. The impact of his career on his extremist peers and the Middle East's Sunni mainstream will therefore bear close watching.
Even happier than the White House at his demise are Middle Eastern minorities, especially the Shiites, for they, rather than the Americans, were at the core of his exterminationist program. For Sunnis, the Shiites have always been barely tolerable heretics, but Zarqawi took this traditional loathing to new heights. Shortly before his death, he called Lebanon's fanatical Islamist militia Hezbollah a cover for Israel--because, after all, they were Shiites who stood between the Zionists and the wrath of the Sunni resistance.
Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah and supporters were most certainly appalled and quite possibly terrified. After all, one reason for waging the "resistance" against Israel is to prove that the minority Shiites are Arabs in good standing just as much as the majority Sunnis. Indeed, since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has been bragging that it was the first Arab group to make the Zionists taste defeat, and thus that the Shiites had managed to out-Sunni the Sunnis.
In effect, Zarqawi said he saw through the charade, and that Hezbollah should disarm--a demand that reminds us why it is probably going to be impossible to convince Nasrallah to give up his weapons peacefully. Hezbollah may well believe its own rhetoric--that only its militia can protect Lebanon from Israel. But the Shiites also have to worry that, if they put down their guns, they are vulnerable to Sunni violence, a threat that Zarqawi's spectacular Iraq campaign made very real to Shiites across the region. Thus, in response to the insult that he was doing the work of the Zionists, Nasrallah described Zarqawi in similar terms: "The killers in Iraq, no matter what sect they belong to, are Americans and Zionists and CIA and Mossad agents."
This Arab habit of blaming everything on the United States, or Israel, or the West in general, strikes many observers as evidence of faulty logical processes, or an abdication of basic political responsibility. But it is also part of an unspoken ceasefire pact--a reminder among Arabs that they have agreed not to attack each other and will focus their energies on external enemies in order to keep the peace at home.
For over half a century, Arab leaders from Nasser to Nasrallah have all sounded the same note--we Arabs are in a battle to the death against Israel, the United States, the West, colonialism, etc. Zarqawi broke that pact. We Sunnis are Arabs, said Zarqawi, but you lot are Shia and we will kill you.
And so Ayman al-Zawahiri's letter last year urging Zarqawi to leave the Shiites alone and focus on the Americans indicates that, at least compared with the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, the al Qaeda home office is staffed by rather mainstream Arab demagogues. Many Arabs believe that Israel would be lost without U.S. support. The same holds true in the bin Laden-Zawahiri worldview, where Washington is the only thing protecting weak Arab regimes from jihadist takeovers. Zarqawi believed, for whatever combination of religious, political, criminal, and sociopathic rationales, that to truly set the region in flames and bring down the established order, you get the people to fight each other.
Zarqawi tapped into the id of the region, the violent subterranean intra-Arab hatreds that no one wants to look at very closely, neither locals nor foreigners, because the picture it paints is so dauntingly gruesome that it suggests the Middle East will be a basket case for decades to come.
A RECENT ZOGBY POLL on Arab TV-watching habits explained that Al Jazeera remains the most watched station in the region for foreign news. Curiously, the poll ignored Iraq, where 80 percent of the population, Shiites and Kurds, are not apt to patronize a media outlet that regards them as little more than fodder for the heroic Sunni struggle against the Americans and Zionists.
That other 20 percent of Iraq was Zarqawi's target constituency, his Sunni base, and it is a much, much larger number outside of Iraq. It includes not just takfiris like himself--extremists who believe in murdering infidels and heretics. It comprises a mournful Hamas government, elected by a majority of Palestinians, and "moderate" Islamists like the four parliamentarians from Jordan's Islamic Action Front now facing prosecution for openly lamenting the death of a man who had repeatedly targeted the Royal Hashemite Kingdom. Certainly not all Sunni Arabs approved of Zarqawi's tactics, but many agreed that someone had to put the Shiites back in their place lest they misunderstand what is in store for them once the Americans leave.
Last year, Jordan's King Abdullah famously warned of a Shiite crescent--a sphere of influence running from Iran to Lebanon--and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has accused Shiites of being more loyal to Iran than the countries they live in. And these are the heads of the two major Arab states that are almost devoid of Shiites. Feelings run even higher elsewhere in the region.
In Saudi Arabia, the mere existence of Shiites in the Eastern Province threatens not only the kingdom's primary source of income, oil, but also the very legitimacy of Wahhabi rule. After all, as true Wahhabis, shouldn't they be converting or killing Shiites, as the founder of the country, Ibn Saud, once insisted? Further west in Syria, the Sunni majority has been grating for more than 40 years under the rule of a Shia sect, the Alawites, who have now cost the Sunni merchant class in both money and prestige. The Assad regime has so isolated Syria from the rest of the international community that its only ally is the Islamist Republic of Iran. And then there is Lebanon, where Hezbollah has effectively usurped the mantle of Arab militancy from the Sunnis.
To your average Joe Sunni, then, it's good that Osama bin Laden kills Americans. And it's wonderful that the Palestinian groups kill Israelis. But Zarqawi was the man in the trenches who went after the heretics that Sunni Arabs all actually have to live with every day, and have successfully kept in their place for a millennium now, and don't ever want overturning the scales.
THE SECTARIANISM OF IRAQ has been topic A in Washington ever since the war began. And yet it is not merely a temporary eruption at a time of crisis, but rather a permanent and defining feature of every Arab society, and you don't have to scratch beneath the surface of things to find it. Sometimes, it's just gossip and banter, as in Lebanon, where I've heard Sunni women talk about the disgusting way that Shiites hang their laundry. A Christian friend married to a Shiite confided his concern that their daughter's fashion sense was becoming gaudily Shiite. The Sunnis say, eat with a Druze but sleep with a Christian--meaning the Christians are filthy but the Druze are untrustworthy and will slaughter you in your bed. Some exchange Jew for Druze.
Other times, the gossip turns to folk wisdom. Some Sunnis really believe that Shiites have little tails. And there are scores of volumes of age-old Shiite propaganda about the bizarre sexual practices of Sunnis. Much of the sectarian enmity, in fact, partakes of sexual loathing and envy. Sunni women, for instance, are famously believed by their detractors to relish anal sex. Recently, Hezbollah supporters surrounded a Sunni neighborhood in Beirut, where they insulted deputy Saad al-Hariri, chanting "the c--of his sister, the c--of his mother."
Many Arabs believe that Syria's Alawites engage in pagan orgies where men sleep with each other's wives, or with their daughters, or with each other. Osama bin Laden's mother, as it happens, is an Alawite, which is strange only in that the 14th-century jurist and father of modern jihad Ibn Taymiyya, one of bin Laden's role models, thought the Alawites were "more infidel than Jews or Christians, even more infidel than many pagans." He wrote, "War and punishment in accordance with Islamic law against them are among the greatest of pious deeds and the most important obligation."
Of course, most people don't speak about sectarian hatreds publicly. In Syria, the Alawite government has made it very dangerous to talk about sects. In Lebanon, people are too polite to ask you directly what you are, and so to find out, they will ask you your last name, your neighborhood, your school, your father's name, his hometown. The well-educated Arab classes are especially careful about speaking in sectarian terms in front of Westerners, because, as elites talking to elites, they believe that Westerners think religious faith is bizarre to begin with and sectarianism evidence of a primitive society. To hear many Iraqi officials and journalists describe their country, there is so much intermarriage between the sects and tribes that their Iraq, the non-Zarqawi Iraq, actually looks something like a page out of the New York Times wedding announcements. And to be fair, a case can be made that 20th-century Iraq was at times among the most cosmopolitan of Arab societies.
But to downplay sectarian issues is to risk misunderstanding the real problems in Iraq. There are already scores of books and articles detailing how the Bush team screwed up the war or the postwar occupation, some written by former administration employees, others the mea culpas of self-described onetime true believers. But the biggest problem in Iraq isn't really the stupidity or arrogance or incompetence of the Bush administration. The real stumbling block isn't getting Iraq's electricity or water on full blast. Police and army recruits aren't bound and tortured before they are decapitated or shot in the head because of premature or insufficient de-Baathification, or because the State Department and the Pentagon were fighting over the role of Ahmad Chalabi. Americans should have provided better security, and more overwhelming force. But the political and religious cover so amply offered to the assassins of ordinary Iraqis did not issue from the office of the Coalition Provisional Authority or the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. No American exhorted Sunni or Shiite gangs to butcher their neighbors. The American arguments over Iraq sometimes achieve truly astonishing levels of parochialism and self-obsession. The problem in Iraq is Iraq. More broadly speaking, it is the problem of Arab society. Intolerance of the other, fear of the other, is always there.
OSAMA BIN LADEN, some Middle Eastern wags like to joke, is the father of Arab democracy, for without September 11, the United States would have gone on ignoring the region. But Zarqawi is the real radical, for he exploited and illuminated the region's oldest and deepest hatreds. And he stayed on message until it was very difficult to argue that the root causes of violence in the Middle East are colonialism, imperialism, and Zionism.
Zarqawi made it clear, if it wasn't already, that a more "even-handed approach" toward the Israeli-Palestinian crisis will not really defuse tensions in the Middle East. That particular problem, at least in its political dimensions, goes back at most only to 1860; the Sunni-Shiite split begins with the death of the prophet Muhammad. Zarqawi also made it clear, if it wasn't already, that getting U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia will not really calm jihadi fervor, because the American military is just one among the many valuable targets the jihadists see in the greater Middle East.
The world looks like a different place thanks to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, for without him the obtuse, the partisan, and the dishonest would still have room to talk about root causes and such stuff and reason away mass murder and sectarian fear and loathing. Zarqawi clarified things. If his death turns out to be a turning point in the war or the political development of Iraq, we will not know for many years, maybe decades. But it will only be a turning point if, having held up a mirror to the people who quietly cheered him on, they recoil from what he showed them.
Lee Smith, a Hudson Institute visiting fellow based in Beirut, is writing a book on Arab culture.
Reply #264 on:
June 26, 2006, 11:48:51 AM »
A North Korean Missile Test: Implications for the U.S. and the Region
by Balbina Y. Hwang, Ph.D.
June 20, 2006 | |
According to international intelligence reports, for the last five weeks, North Korea has been steadily moving towards a test launch of the Taepodong 2, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range up to 6,000 kilometers ? enough to reach Alaska. Satellite intelligence reveals that Pyongyang has loaded booster rockets onto a launch pad in Musuduan-ri, in the North Hamkyong Province of northeastern North Korea, and moved fuel tanks in preparation for fueling. This action is in violation of North Korea?s international agreements and appears designed to goad the United States into direct bilateral talks. The U.S. must not take the bait. No good will come from rewarding North Korea for its belligerent behavior.
A missile test is problematic for the region and the United States because it would end North Korea?s 1999 self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests ? a moratorium that was reiterated in the Pyongyang Declaration when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in September 2002. The test would spell further trouble for the stalled Six-Party negotiations over the North?s nuclear ambitions. More broadly, a test would raise questions about the future stability and security of the region and North Korea?s enduring role as the region?s troublemaker.
If the missile test does occur, the Bush Administration must not succumb to pressure to enter into in bilateral talks with North Korea. The United States has been clear that all diplomatic negotiations must go through the Six-Party framework involving North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and China. The Bush Administration should make clear that aggressive behavior by the North Koreans will not cause the United States to alter its position.
North Korea last tested a long-range missile in August 1998, when it fired a Taepodong 1, with a range of 2,000 km, over northern Japan. That test took many by surprise and confirmed that North Korean capabilities had progressed beyond previous estimates. A launch of the Taepodong 2 would put North?s Korea?s military efforts back into the spotlight and demonstrate that it now has a missile with the range to reach the U.S. mainland.
Knowledge of the Taepodong 2 is limited, in part because the system has never been tested. A 2001 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate forecast that a three-stage version of the missile could reach North America carrying a sizable payload. It could be fitted with a chemical or biological warhead but probably not a nuclear payload, because North Korea has likely not yet developed the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon.
The United States ? along with Japan, South Korea, and Australia ? has urged North Korea to abandon its plans to test the missile, stating clearly that a launch would be dangerous and provocative and damaging to North Korean interests. But Pyongyang may have reached the opposite conclusion. From a North Korean standpoint, a missile test launch would further three goals:
Pyongyang?s strategic objective is to raise the stakes for the Six-Party talks, which have stalled since North Korea?s refusal to return to the table last November. With little incentive for Washington to relent on its long-standing insistence that Pyongyang must first agree to return to the talks without preconditions and the global perception that Iran has become Washington?s top priority, a missile test would raise the level of tension and bring focus back to North Korea. Further, a test launch would put yet another issue on the negotiating table and, Pyongyang hopes, distract attention from the core issue of its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea wants to test years of investment in missile research and development. Ultimately, the only way to prove that a missile works is to test it. A test would not only serve as a stern warning to the region about the strength of North Korea?s ballistic missile capabilities, but also would enhance the legitimacy of North Korean missiles in the weapons proliferation marketplace. In part due to the U.S. crackdown on North Korea?s illicit financial activities, a major source of income of the Kim Jong Il regime, Pyongyang may turn its attention elsewhere, such as the lucrative weapons and missile markets. The missile test preparations are being conducted in open view of foreign satellites; Pyongyang is clearly showing off.
Domestic pressure may also be at play. A missile test would demonstrate the military?s supremacy in national policymaking. A launch could also be a tremendous morale boost for the North Korean public. The regime has been testing engines for a new missile since at least 2002, and a successful test would bolster Kim?s claims that he is developing advanced technology for his people. This would have the added benefit of boosting nationalism as a counterweight to increased international pressures on the regime.
Is Pyongyang fully prepared for the negative repercussions of a launch? Japan is deeply concerned about a launch that it would consider a direct threat to its security. North Korea?s Taepodong 1 test over Japan in 1998 was a wake-up call that led Tokyo to cooperate with Washington on a missile defense system. A new launch would not only bolster Japanese efforts to erect defensive capabilities against North Korea but would also likely spur the U.S. Congress to increase its support for missile defense efforts. Furthermore, such aggression from North Korea could play a role in selecting the future leadership of Japan. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is preparing to step down in September, and polls indicate that Shinzo Abe, who has taken a strong stance against North Korea and China, trails moderate candidate Yasuo Fukuda. A North Korean missile test could aid Abe?s campaign, reducing the possibility of a diplomatic reconciliation between North Korea and Japan.
Seoul?s reaction is more uncertain. A North Korean missile test would further undermine President Roh Moo Hyun?s policy of engagement with Pyongyang, which is already under pressure due to the North?s lack of reciprocity. A test launch would attract criticism both domestically and internationally. Former President and Nobel laureate Kim Dae-Jung would have to cancel his scheduled trip to Pyongyang on June 27th. Yet, it is unclear if a missile launch would be enough to turn public opinion against engagement with the North. While critical voices will grow stronger, a new missile test will be perceived much the same as the previous one was in 1998: an abstract concern that does not directly threaten South Koreans.
North Korea may hope that South Koreans will focus on strongly negative U.S. and Japanese reactions rather than the North Korean threat, thereby driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington. There is precedent: The 1998 missile launch did not slow down Kim Dae Jung?s ?Sunshine Policy.?
Unfortunately, the range of policy options for the international community should Pyongyang proceed with its test are limited. Washington and Tokyo already have strict economic sanctions in place, and there is little additional economic leverage they could exercise. They can, and likely will, continue to pressure the North Korean regime by aggressively targeting its illicit activities, but unless China and South Korea decide to halt their economic assistance to the North, this will have limited effect. A military option ? such as shooting down the North Korean missile with responding interceptors ? should be kept on the table. In the event of a launch, the U.S. should bring North Korea?s aggression before the United Nations Security Council. While UN sanctions would have minimal practical impact, they would carry important symbolic value.
The United States and its partners in the Six-Party process must not succumb to North Korea?s manipulation and brinksmanship. Undoubtedly, one of Pyongyang?s goals is to put pressure on Washington to re-engage in direct bilateral talks to resolve not only the missile issue, but its nuclear programs. North Korea has some reason to believe this will work: After its missile launch in 1998, the Clinton Administration engaged in concerted high-level bilateral efforts with Pyongyang over its missile programs ? to no avail. The Bush Administration, therefore, should continue to insist that the diplomatic process must occur within the context of the established multilateral format. It should not allow aggressive North Korean actions to alter this.
The five parties engaging with North Korea agree that a North Korean missile test would be a dangerous act and only isolate Pyongyang further from the rest of the international community. Ironically, such isolation is an important step towards successful conclusion of the Six-Party process.
Balbina Y. Hwang, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #265 on:
June 26, 2006, 12:00:03 PM »
Hundreds of chemical weapons found in Iraq: US intelligence by Charlotte Raab
Thu Jun 22, 6:39 AM ET
US-led coalition forces in Iraq have found some 500 chemical weapons since the March 2003 invasion, Republican lawmakers said, citing an intelligence report.
"Since 2003, Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent," said an overview of the report unveiled by Senator Rick Santorum and Peter Hoekstra, head of the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives.
"Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf war chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf war chemical munitions are assessed to still exist," it says.
The lawmakers cited the report as validation of the US rationale for the war, and stressed the ongoing danger they pose.
"This is an incredibly -- in my mind -- significant finding. The idea that, as my colleagues have repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass destruction, is in fact false," Santorum said.
A Pentagon official who confirmed the findings said that all the weapons were pre-1991 vintage munitions "in such a degraded state they couldn't be used for what they are designed for."
The official, who asked not to be identified, said most were 155 millimeter artillery projectiles with mustard gas or sarin of varying degrees of potency.
"We're destroying them where we find them in the normal manner," the official said.
In 2004, the US army said it had found a shell containing sarin gas and another shell containing mustard gas, and a Pentagon official said at the time the discovery showed there were likely more.
The intelligence overview published Wednesday stressed that the pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market.
"Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out," it said.
Santorum said the two-month-old report was prepared by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a military intelligence agency that started looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the Iraq Survey Group stopped doing so in late 2004.
Last year the head of Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, said that insurgents in Iraq had already used old chemical weapons in their attacks.
Nevertheless, "the impression that the Iraqi Survey Group left with the American people was they didn't find anything," Hoekstra said.
"But this says: Weapons have been discovered; more weapons exist. And they state that Iraq was not a WMD-free zone, that there are continuing threats from the materials that are or may still be in Iraq," he said.
Asked just how dangerous the weapons are, Hoekstra said: "One or two of these shells, the materials inside of these, transferred outside of the country, can be very, very deadly."
The report said that the purity of the chemical agents -- and thus their potency -- depends on "many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions."
"While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal," it said.
Reporters questioned the lawmakers as to why the Bush administration had not played up the report to boost their case for continued warfare in Iraq.
"The administration has been very clear that they want to look forward," Santorum said. "They felt it was not their role to go back and fight previous discussions."
Fear that Saddam Hussein might use his alleged arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was a reason US officials gave for launching the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #266 on:
June 27, 2006, 12:18:37 AM »
Iraq: An Offer of Amnesty in a Complex Landscape
Sunni leaders criticized a reconciliation plan put forth by the Iraqi government, saying it falls short of the minority Arab community's expectations. The Sunni reaction offers insights into the makeup of the Sunni political landscape in Iraq and underscores its complexity, further challenging efforts to scale back the insurgency and disband the militias.
Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashmi, a Sunni, warned June 26 that there will be no letup in the insurgency unless the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki negotiates with insurgent groups dominated by former Baathists -- and until there is a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces from the country.
Earlier, Hassan al-Sunaid, a lawmaker and member of the political bureau of al-Maliki's Hizb al-Dawah party, claimed that seven Sunni insurgent groups had responded positively to a national reconciliation plan presented by the al-Maliki administration. Al-Sunaid named six of the seven groups: the al-Ashreen Brigades, the Mohammed Army, Abtal al-Iraq (Heroes of Iraq), the 9th of April Group, al-Fatah Brigades and the Brigades of the General Command of the Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, Iyad al-Samarrai, a legislator from al-Hashmi's Iraqi Islamic Party, questioned whether the favorable response came from bona fide insurgent leaders. "The problem comes from people who say they represent this or that group," Al-Samarrai said. "Do they really represent them? Does he represent the leadership or a branch? This is something that needs investigating."
Apart from the Mohammed Army and the al-Ashreen Brigades (aka the 1920 Revolution Brigades), the others are quite insignificant. None is a first-tier Sunni nationalist group, a category that would include organizations such as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance. Therefore, it is likely that the seven groups that contacted the government in response to the reconciliation plan are part of a Sunni approach that involves groups coming forward in increments. Sunnis do not want to surrender all their communal military assets until the Shia are willing to do the same.
That some insurgents groups are reportedly ready to lay down their weapons while Sunni political leaders remain critical of the government's opposition to dealing with Baathists underscores a complex political structure that has evolved over the last three years. The locus of power in Iraq's Sunni areas is shared by political, religious, tribal and military leaders. This means that, despite a general Sunni consensus toward seeking a political settlement with the Shia, the negotiating process will be excruciatingly lengthy and bloody. Moreover, the difficulties that the Shiite-dominated al-Maliki government faces regarding the Sunni demand for disbanding the militias will further complicate matters.
Maverick Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's response to the reconciliation plan is quite telling. Sahib al-Amery, an aide to al-Sadr, was quoted June 26 in An Najaf as saying that the al-Sadrite bloc welcomes the 24-point plan but sees it as not being tough enough to keep Baathists out of the political system, and believes it must address the issue of releasing jailed leaders of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.
Al-Maliki's plan would extend amnesty to all those insurgents who are not jihadists or Saddamists/Baathists. In effect, this plan is the Shiite response to the Sunnis moving away from the jihadists, and the Shia deliberately excluded members of the former government from the amnesty offer. The Shia will likely bargain on the issue of the Baathists as part of any settlement on the Shiite militias.
By coughing up al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Sunnis showed a united front and exploited intra-Shiite differences when they demanded that the Shia reciprocate by disbanding the militias. This time around, the Shia are trying to take advantage of the splits among the Sunnis by linking the matter of the militias to a deal on the Baathists.
But the Sunni fragmentation is not as severe as that of the Shia, which was obvious when those Sunnis who are part and parcel of the system came out saying that any national reconciliation plan that failed to engage the Baathists was destined to fail. The Sunni political leadership is skillfully trying to leverage the complex structure of their community to their advantage.
On one hand are Sunni political groups such as the Tawafoq Iraqi Front and the Hewar National Iraqi Front, which together control 55 seats in Parliament. On the other hand are the sundry array of armed Sunni guerilla groups. Unlike the classical political-military wing model, the Sunni political and military leadership is connected through the pivot of tribal leaders, who are the ones with the most leverage over the armed groups and who act through the political forces within the two Sunni coalitions. Sunni religious scholars also exercise influence over political leaders and military commanders but they, too, are dependent upon the tribal shayukh for their power.
It is this structure that has allowed the Sunnis to mitigate internal differences and adroitly maneuver in their political dealings with the Shia, Kurds and Americans. More important, this structure will continue to allow the Sunnis to engage in tough negotiations with the Shia and to exploit their growing internal rifts, especially as the government moves forward on the issue of dismantling the Shiite militias.
Reply #267 on:
June 28, 2006, 08:14:02 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Signs of an Approaching U.S.-Iranian Deal
Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Iran does not need to talk with the United States about its nuclear program because there is nothing to be gained from the negotiations. State television quoted Khamenei as saying, "We do not negotiate with anybody on achieving and exploiting nuclear technology ... But if they recognize our nuclear rights, we are ready to negotiate about controls, supervisions and international guarantees."
Western media jumped on Khamenei's remark and began flooding the airwaves with reports that Iran had categorically rejected talks with the United States, feeding the popular perception that the world is headed toward a major crisis on the Iranian nuclear issue. But the reality is the opposite. Khamenei's remarks are to be expected: Iran has intensified its preparations on the home front as well as on the international level to move toward public dialogue with the United States.
One of the most glaring examples of such developments is the report from the Iranian news agency Fars that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will soon make a trip to Baghdad. This would not be happening if Iran was not close to consolidating its geopolitical interests in Iraq. What's more, the U.S. State Department gave a cautious nod of approval to this visit.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite leaders have been traveling to Iran, as did Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul over the weekend. Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in an interview published June 26 in the Arabic-language daily al-Hayat, said that Syrian interests would be best served through an understanding between the United States and Iran, and that he finds Arab fears over Iran's growing role in the region irrational.
The Iranians have also been engaged in some significant changes internally, trying to get all the factions of the clerical-led conservative establishment on the same page in order to move toward a dialogue with the Bush administration. The most important event in this regard is the creation of a new body that will be shaping Iranian foreign policy: the Strategic Council for Foreign Affairs (SCFA), meant to serve as an advisory group to improve the country's capabilities in making major foreign policy decisions. It is not an executive body and is not supposed to interfere with the function of the Foreign Ministry or the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). The creation of the SCFA is part of Khamenei's effort to have greater oversight over the foreign-policymaking process in the hawkish Ahmedinejad administration.
It should be noted that this move follows several similar initiatives by the supreme leader. What Khamenei has done is retain key pragmatic conservatives from the previous government in positions that allow him to exercise greater control over the ultraconservatives who emerged with the election of Ahmadinejad. Senior officials of the three branches of the Iranian government called June 25 for the need to show greater solidarity and cooperation in order to achieve the aspirations of the Islamic Revolution and the supreme leader.
Signs of progress are also visible inside Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie held meetings over the weekend with several tribal leaders from Anbar province, where the insurgency has been strong, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a 24-point national reconciliation plan early this week. It is quite possible the seven groups that responded favorably to the government's amnesty offer came forward as a result of these meetings. Under the amnesty plan, several hundred Sunni prisoners were released on Tuesday. As a result of all this, there was a noticeable drop in violence.
All of these developments indicate that Tehran and Washington are moving to finalize their deal on Iraq. What remains to be seen is how this will filter into Tehran's role in Lebanon and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and, of course, the nuclear issue.
Reply #268 on:
July 03, 2006, 12:58:50 AM »
MOSCOW: Ukraine sold banned long-range missiles to China and Iran in a gross breach of its non-proliferation obligations, the Russian defence chief has said.
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Ukraine's state-owned defence exporter through its subsidiary supplied 12 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to China and Iran.
Mr. Ivanov, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister, told a news conference here on Friday that Progress, a daughter firm of Ukraine's arms export monopoly Ukrspetseksport, in 2000-2001 sold six Soviet Kh-55 Granat missiles to China and another six missiles to Iran.
"This is the grossest violation of the missile technologies control regime," Mr. Ivanov said at a presentation of a Russian White Book on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Russian Minister said this was the sole violation of the non-proliferation regime in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States. International authorities had been informed of the Ukrainian deal and investigation was underway, he said.
Ukrainian officials earlier said the missiles had been sold without nuclear warheads.
Out of 1000 Granat missiles Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union, half were to be sold back to Russia and half were to be destroyed.
Media reports said Iran had used the Ukrainian missiles to copycat the technology and launch its own production of similar missiles.
Reply #269 on:
July 03, 2006, 10:43:46 AM »
June 28, 2006:
Saudi Arabia detains 43 suspected militants (back to list)
International Analysis Alert Level: High
Saudi security forces have detained 43 suspected Islamist militants, including two Somalis, an Ethiopian and an Iraqi, the interior ministry said Saturday after a deadly gunbattle in the capital. The ministry said the arrests had been made in different parts of the oil-rich kingdom since May 9. Two arrests followed a firefight in Riyadh Friday in which six suspected Al-Qaeda militants and a policeman were killed. Full Story
The recent arrests and killings of more than 40 militants in Saudi Arabia (Country Profile) is continuing testament of the capabilities of the Saudi security forces, who have hunted, pursued, killed, and captured militants in the Kingdom with such a dogged persistence that the once fearsome al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Group Profile) has been unable to pull off a major attack in almost two years. At the same time, the repetitive emergence of new militants in the country shows that Saudi Arabia still has much reform to do of its educational, cultural, and religious environment. The existence of more than 40 people in the Kingdom who were planning terrorist attacks also demonstrates that the country is still very much at risk of another terrorist attack. In addition to the militants themselves, Saudi security secured weapons, documents, and money being prepared to carry out an attack.
The presence of foreigners in these militant networks in Saudi Arabia demonstrates the extent to which the Kingdom is seen as a legitimate target of the international Jihad, not just a target for local dissidents. The absorption of foreigners into militant networks is dangerous for Saudi Arabia, as foreigners are more difficult to identify and intercept in terror networks in other countries. The vast traffic of Muslim foreigners into Saudi Arabia, not only during the pilgrimage season but for jobs that Saudi citizens refuse to work, makes the population difficult to police, and their ill treatment by the Saudi government can fuel tendencies toward militancy and the desire for revenge.
Also notable of those arrested in this recent campaign is that they have not been characterized as part of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula organization. They seem to have been examples of distinct, spontaneously emerging terrorist cells that were not recruited by the existing, prevailing terrorist organization in the Kingdom. While the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula organization is thought to have been severely weakened by the campaign against it, the emergence of new, separate terrorist groups or cells demonstrates that Saudi Arabia will continue to suffer from terrorist threats even if the al-Qaeda organization within the Kingdom is eradicated.
A parallel of this dynamic has occurred recently with the media wing of the Mujahideen in Saudi Arabia. The "Sawt al-Jihad" media arm of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has nearly ceased all production, but recently a new media company, called "al-Bisha'ir," has announced its existence and put out its first two productions. Al-Bisha'ir has announced that it is not part of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula but is concerned with the plight of the Mujahideen in the Kingdom generally.
By Rebecca Givner-Forbes, TRC Staff
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #270 on:
July 03, 2006, 10:52:20 AM »
Iraqis say US exit plan should await security By Scott Peterson and Awadh al-Taee
Tue Jun 27, 4:00 AM ET
News of a possible US military reduction in Iraq, beginning as early as this fall, is being met in Baghdad with the deep skepticism of a war-weary people who have witnessed many other American exit plans go unfulfilled.
Most Iraqis want an end to the 127,000-strong US presence, which they consider an occupation. But they are concerned, too, that Iraqi forces, while growing in size and capability, still can't cope with the insurgency and sectarian killings that have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis.
"I want the Americans to leave as soon as possible, so the reason to attack Iraqi troops will end, because insurgents are always accusing us of being agents and supporting these foreign troops," a first lieutenant of Iraq's Interior Ministry said Monday, while commanding a checkpoint on Baghdad's airport road.
"Before they leave, they should destroy the [sectarian] militias and make sure the security elements are strong," says the officer. "I don't want them to leave completely; they should stay in bases. But if they don't lower their numbers, we will pressure them to do so."
The apparent plan, initially reported by The New York Times on Sunday, projects that US combat brigades in Iraq, of 3,500 troops each, would be cut from 14 to five or six by the end of next year. An initial two brigades now slated to go home this September would not be replaced, according to the Times.
But, says Ismael Zayer, editor of Baghdad's Sabah al-Jadiid newspaper, "We need to face the fact that if security ... does not improve in a very crucial way, there is nothing to talk about.
"We have the impression that a battle of Baghdad has begun already now," says Mr. Zayer. "Pulling out small troops or something bigger is good, it's welcome, but it has to be part of a ... genuine plan; not propaganda."
US officials have "emphasized that any withdrawals would depend on continued progress" and strength of Iraqi units ? the same caveat that has undermined every previous pullout plan ? and that the newly formed Iraqi government had yet to be consulted, the Times noted.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday unveiled a 24-point plan for national reconciliation, and called on Iraqi forces to take control of growing slices of Iraq, to enable US-led coalition troops to leave. He gave no timeline for a US pullout.
"When they finish supplying us Humvees, tanks, cannons, and airplanes like their army, [US forces] should leave today, before tomorrow," says Captain Mohammad, of the Iraqi Army, who would not give his full name. "We originally did not even want to smell their perfume, or [for them to] leave any footprint in Iraq."
US forces are "not more courageous than us, and they do not care more about our homes than we do," asserts Mohammad, though newly trained Iraqi units have disintegrated in past years when ordered to quell uprisings.
Poll results in late March from the US-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) indicate that, at least relative to security, withdrawal of US troops is not a top demand. When asked to list priorities for the new government, 48 percent said security should rank first; more than 85 percent listed security as one of the top three most important issues.
Among more than 2,800 Iraqis polled, withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq ranked a distant third, the top priority of just 9 percent of Iraqis. In the IRI poll, withdrawal was 1 point ahead of fixing the economy and job creation.
In some cases, US lawmakers have been as skeptical as Iraqis. Democrats in Congress were criticized for trying to vote on an exit timeline for Iraq last week, during heated debate in both houses.
"The [Defense] Department's drawn up plans at all times, but I think it would be wrong now to say that this is the plan we are going to operate under," Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) (R) of Virginia said on FOX News Sunday, when asked about US General George Casey's reported plan.
Monday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, "I would caution very strongly against everybody thinking, 'Well, they're going to pull two brigades out.'
"Maybe they will, maybe they won't," he said. "It really does depend upon a whole series of things that we cannot at this juncture predict. I would characterize this more in terms of scenario building and we'll see how it proceeds."
According to the Associated Press, Mr. Snow said the general has "a number of scenarios in mind for differing situations on the ground," that would depend on conditions on the ground.
Regardless of any pullout strategy, US Marine units in Iraq's western Anbar Province ? where, along with Baghdad and central Iraq, the insurgency has been most violent and widespread ? have no plans to reduce numbers, the Times reported on Monday.
Lt. Gen. John Sattler, who commands Marines across the Middle East, told The New York Times Monday that he could foresee "no reductions" in US troop strength in Anbar "at least through next summer, because of the restiveness there. Al Anbar is going to be one of the last provinces to be stabilized."
In fact, US commanders in late May ordered a reserve force of 1,500 from Kuwait to Anbar for a short tour of perhaps four months to deal with the "challenge" in that province. Already, one-fifth of all US troops in Iraq are deployed in Anbar.
"When the Americans leave, the militias will eat us," predicts Khalil Mohammad, an air conditioning specialist in Baghdad. "The hands that came here to help us ? the Americans ? should finish their work and leave.... They should increase the power of the law, and should not leave completely but stay in bases."
One US military assessment last April predicted that it would take two to five years of continual US backup before Iraqi security forces could stand on their own. One senior Iraqi official spoke in April about an understanding with US officials that troop numbers might dip below 100,000 by the end of 2006, with an eventual total pullout by mid-2008.
But sectarian killing and a six-month security vacuum between mid-December elections and formation of new government last month has complicated efforts to build up Iraqi units. According to the Brooking Institution's Iraq Index, the total number of security forces is 265,600.
"The situation steadily deteriorated more quickly than Iraqi forces could be brought online. Ethnic and sectarian fighting vastly broadened that area where security was a major problem," writes Anthony Cordesman, a veteran defense and Iraq analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, in a draft assessment made public last week.
"These issues were not addressed in coalition and Iraqi reporting. Claims that Iraqi forces could take control of large areas of battle space in Iraq had never been honest or realistic," writes Mr. Cordesman. "Performance was so mixed that US forces had to constantly intervene, embedded advisors were often critical to Iraqi success, and Iraqi forces remained heavily dependent on US [firepower]."
The results are felt on the ground in Baghdad, where a two-week-old security clampdown has barely dented insurgent attacks. Gunmen took on a checkpoint during a curfew Friday, sparking street battles.
"We are not sure that the development of Iraqi security forces will be strong or sufficient enough in the future, because the indicators are almost all negative," says editor Zayer, comparing the sectarian divisions in Iraq to those that defined civil war in Lebanon for 15 years, from the mid-1970s. "If the Americans don't manage to find a solution, and remedies for this deterioration, then there is no hope."
"I am afraid there is a trend we notice in the American media ... with the position of the administration, the White House, the Pentagon, which tries to put a rosy view of the situation which is not fact, not honest, [and] not the reality we have now," adds Zayer, about reports of US withdrawal. "There is a sort of propaganda-like line; I don't like it. It doesn't mean anything."
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #271 on:
July 03, 2006, 04:01:13 PM »
In a related vein, the following:
Interview With An Iraqi General
I wrote a story for Michael Yon?s Frontline Forum a week ago about the town I am stationed in right now named Qayyarah. Qayyarah is a model for other Iraqi cities because it was once a haven for terrorists but is now safe enough for anyone to travel around in without fear of terrorists. The main reason for the safety of Qayyarah lies with one man: General Ali. He is a myth-like figure around our base and everyone knows his name. He is a strict military man but is the type of man Iraq needs so desperately right now. I hope people the world over will read this interview and learn just what kind of men are in Iraq right now willing to take control of their own country. What follows is the truth. It comes directly from the mouth of a man who knows intimately what is going on in Iraq and knows where Iraq has come from and where it needs to go. I intend to post the interview in two installments due to the length and urge everyone to bookmark this page and come back for the rest of the interview.
General Ali in his office
How long have you been in the military?
General Ali: I first went to the army in 1976, I became a staff brigade general in 1997. In 2001 I left the army because there were many problems between my tribe and Saddam?s regime. He fired many of the officers and put some of them in jail. I am one of the officers who was put in jail for ten months and afterwards I was put out of the army. When the coalition forces came to Iraq in 2003 I worked with the 101st (Airborne American army unit) in Qayyarah (*the town I am in now and where he lives) as an advisor. In 2004 the terrorists destroyed all of the Iraqi police stations and in that time the terrorists controlled all of this area. They controlled Mosul, south Mosul, and 40 km from where we are now. In that time no one came to help. All of the people and soldiers were scared and went home. I came to help and the Americans invited me to come command this battalion. The name of this battalion was the 102nd ING before they changed the name to the 1st battalion 3 brigade Iraqi army. At that time I only had eight soldiers with my battalion. They could not go out in their uniforms because they were scared of the terrorists. If they went out on a mission with the coalition they wore facemasks because if the terrorists saw them they would kill them. First time I started training my soldiers I made 1000 soldiers in my unit. After one month I went out on a mission with them and captured all of the terrorists leaders.
At this point I asked kind of jokingly, kind of seriously ?Really, on the first time out?? He replied in all seriousness:
Yes the first time.
I worked day and night, 24 hours 7 days a week to clean my area because my area at that time was very dangerous. No one could move at that time, no market, no police, no Iraqi army. We continue to work with the Americans, we captured many bad guys, more than 800. We found caches we found mortars, many weapons. They attacked my house many times. They did not send messages to me but instead sent car bombs and mortars to my family. But I did not stop my mission. I encouraged my family but I did not go home. For three months I did not see my family, I stayed with the coalition to serve my country because my country needed me.
I was in this same position as battalion commander in 1987 during the war between Iraq and Iran which started in 1980-88. In that war I was injured 7 times and have 17 medals for courage. I did not go to Kuwait in 1991 because I did not believe in the old regime and also my tribe did not believe the old regime. He killed many people in my tribe from the military. But now that all the people believe me they work with me and help me.
As two local Sheiks sit across the room from us listening in on our conversation General Ali turns the conversation to them for a minute.
You see those two sheiks? They came to thank me because I made their area secure. They are very happy when they see the work being done in their area. When they see people working at night, people driving. Basra and Baghdad are dangerous but my area now is very safe. In my area the security is excellent. Now I can guarantee that you can go by yourself in your uniform with no armor, no helmet, no weapon, and I?ll give you my vehicle so that you can go to Qayyarah to shop in the market and come back to here and you will be safe. This happened because before the terrorists were in control there was no trust between the Iraqi army and the people. They just believed the terrorists but when I came I controlled this area and I had a meeting with all the sheiks and all the people and all the doctors and I made clear to them that all the terrorists and all the criminals were killers against Islam and they believed me and helped me. They gave me information and even caught terrorists and brought them to me. This is excellent. I told them that it was their job, that it was their country. All Iraqi people must fight the terrorists because it was not just the job of the Iraqi army. The terrorists were killing civilians and because of it the people believed me and they came to work with me.
How did Saddam treat you since you were in a different tribe than him?
General Ali: He was a bad guy against all of the Iraqi people not just my tribe.
Have you liked working with the American soldiers?
General Ali: Yes, yes, yes. They believe me and I believe them. All the soldiers that have worked here know General Ali. I invite them to my house to eat with me and to train with me. I know they came to help the Iraqi people. That is why I work with them, that is why I tell my people the truth about the coalition. Before they might have disliked the US army because they did not have the real picture of the soldiers. I told the people though how the US army fought for us and also how they did projects for us. They fixed the schools, made roads, and made many things for the people of Iraq. The people see how we caught the terrorists, how we made it safe, they see that is more comfortable then under Saddam?s regime.
Do you have a different picture of Americans now then before we came?
General Ali: It is the same for me because I know exactly why the soldiers came to Iraq. I am not a small officer (*Just incase: Brigadier General is a high rank in any army). I work with the soldiers day and night. If you work with people for three years you get to know them. You see them more than your family. You work with them more than your brother. I believe and like the soldiers. If they make mistakes I tell them because they are my friends. If they don?t know about the Iraqi people I tell them. I am a soldier and an advisor. Sometimes the soldiers did not know about the Iraqi people. I also told my friends about the soldiers: how they speak, how they shake hands, how they sit down with them. Which subject they speak on because I know the US army soldiers read before they came over here. When they came to help though they needed advisors. If there were other good advisors like me then there wouldn?t be terrorists. My people help me because they believe in me and like me. And when the terrorists came they did not believe the terrorists, they fought against the terrorists. When the terrorists came from Mosul, Ramadi, and from any other town the people would call me on my cell phone and tell me about them.
At this time in the conversation I mentioned to General Ali about the day before when I saw him coming in the main gate to our base with three terrorists in the back of a truck. He laughed and told me he received a tip from some locals and he and his men dropped everything they were doing and went out to catch the men. They were assisted by an American helicopter in the capture, which made it a combined effort. He explained to me that those same sequences of events happen often and exuded confidence in the efforts of his men and of his fellow townspeople.
The rest of the interview will be posted on Wednesday. In the second part of the interview General Ali shares his feelings about the American media, the future of the Iraqi army, and shares some words for the American people. Please spread the word about this interview. I believe what General Ali has to say needs to be heard by the whole world.
Reply #272 on:
July 09, 2006, 10:52:25 PM »
Ahmadinejad: Conditions for Removal of Israel Are at Hand
20:16 Jul 09, '06 / 13 Tammuz 5766
by Ezra HaLevi
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clearing up any ambiguity in previous calls to ?wipe Israel off the map,? now used an Arabic word for the removal of body hair to describe his plans for Israel.
?All the conditions for the removal of the Zionist regime are at hand,? Ahmadinejad told an Arab Conference of Iraqi Neighbors meeting Saturday. For the first time, he employed the Arabic word ezaleh, which is used to describe the irreversible removal of body hairs or a woman?s virginity.
?Nations in the region will be more furious every day. It won?t take long before the wrath of the people turns into a terrible explosion that will wipe the Zionist entity off the map,? Ahmadinejad told the foreign ministers of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain and Egypt. The heads of the Arab League and the Islamic Conference were also present, in addition to a special United Nations representative.
None of the foreign ministers present, including Jordan, Egypt or Turkey ? commonly regarded as Israel?s friends in the Arab/Muslim world - objected to the call for annihilation. Instead, the following statement was issued: ?The Arab foreign ministers participating in today's Tehran meeting expressed their strong condemnation of this continuing and increasing aggression against the Palestinian people."
The Iranian president went on to blame all of the region?s troubles on the Jewish state. ?"The basic problem in the Islamic world is the existence of the Zionist regime, and the Islamic world and the region must mobilize to remove this problem. It is a usurper that our enemies made and imposed on the Muslim world, a regime that prevented the progress of the region?s nations, a regime that all Muslims must join hands in isolating worldwide.?
He ended with a call on all nations to cease their support of Israel. ?[All nations] should realize that their support for the illegitimate, usurper, Zionist regime is a mistake. The waves of fury of Muslim nations will not be confined within the boundaries of the region, and the people who close their ears to the cries of the Palestinians and blindly support this regime will be responsible for the consequences.? "I tell them to dissociate themselves or face the terrible consequences.?
Since Ahmadinejad?s call to ?wipe Israel off the map? last October, some academics have claimed the Iranian leader was mistranslated or misunderstood.
"Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map, because no such idiom exists in Persian," left-wing University of Michigan professor Juan Cole told the New York Times. "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse?Since Iran has not attacked another country aggressively for over a century, I smell the whiff of war propaganda."
Jonathan Steele of the British Guardian newspaper also told the Time: "The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran's first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that 'this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,' just as the shah's regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon."
Neither of the two have responded to Ahmadinejad?s latest clarification and call to action, which were translated and distributed by the Iranian state-run IRNA news agency.
The Iranian leader's threats are particularly significant as the Islamic Republic continues to pursue nuclear technology and world bodies continue to pursue diplomatic means of inducing Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations.
Reply #273 on:
July 11, 2006, 06:47:14 PM »
Geopolitical Diary: Al-Sadr Sends a Message
Baghdad has been embroiled in sectarian violence in recent days. Gunfights broke out between Sunni and Shiite fighters in the predominantly Sunni district of Ghazaliya in western Baghdad on Monday, and these clashes follow a particularly bloody weekend of reprisal attacks.
Following the bombing of a Shiite mosque July 8, masked Shiite gunmen in black set up fake checkpoints in a Sunni-populated neighborhood in western Baghdad. When cars drove up to the checkpoints along the main road to the Baghdad International Airport, the gunmen reportedly shot dead any drivers and passengers with Sunni names after they showed their identification cards. The bodies of several Sunni residents were also found scattered throughout the neighborhood (which, ironically enough, is named Jihad) after being abducted by roaming Shiite gunmen. A few hours later, two car bombs exploded next to a Shiite mosque in the Kasra neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad.
The escalation in attacks between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq naturally reintroduces fears of a full-blown civil war in the country. What it actually reveals, however, is that the ongoing political negotiations in Baghdad between the country's main factions have reached a resounding crescendo.
Following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, we laid out the blueprint of a political deal in the making between the Sunni and Shiite political groups. Once al-Zarqawi was sacrificed by Sunni leaders with jihadist ties, and once the Defense Ministry was awarded to the Sunnis, the next order of business was for the Shia to reciprocate by reining in their militias. The Herculean task that fell to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- to dissolve the Shiite militias while the Sunni insurgency rages on -- is, without a doubt, a thoroughly complicated affair.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite leader of the militia known as the Mehdi Army, knows full well that this critical step in the political process is where his interests could be severely undercut. The last thing al-Sadr wants is for his movement to be forced into disarming while the other main Shiite militia -- the Badr Brigades, owned by the dominant Shiite faction, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- gets integrated into the Iraqi army. When the time comes to seal a political deal in Baghdad and the question of dividing oil revenues becomes Iraq's biggest preoccupation, al-Sadr wants to ensure that his faction receives its fair share -- both politically and financially -- but without his guns, he loses his most effective negotiating tool.
Though al-Sadr has denied his movement has anything to do with the recent sectarian attacks against Sunnis, he is simply trying to hold on to his plausible deniability card. The principals behind the attacks can keep their distance from the abundance of thugs and vigilante groups that carry out retaliatory rampages against Sunnis; but these gunmen are delivering a potent message on behalf of al-Sadr to ensure a space is reserved for him at the negotiating table.
Time may be dwindling for al-Sadr to make his demands heard. U.S. forces have been stepping up operations to detain Shiite guerrilla leaders in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, who have allegedly been driving the Shiite death squads to ratchet up the Sunni body-count in Iraq. This type of operation needs the implicit approval of the dominant Shiite factions involved in the political process -- as members of the Sunni-controlled Defense Ministry have been happy to point out, though the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry quickly denied these claims. The Sunni political leaders will use any opportunity at their disposal to exacerbate rifts within the Shiite community, and bringing to light any political dealings the Shia make with Washington to contain a renegade leader like al-Sadr certainly gets the job done.
As a result, al-Sadr needs to get himself quickly into a position where he can negotiate effectively. Sending gunmen into the streets -- to snatch and kill Sunnis and seriously aggravate sectarian tensions -- demonstrates his capability to wreck any political deal that is struck in Baghdad.
The person to keep an eye on now will be Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the kingmaker of the Iraqi Shia, who will have the final say in what concessions are given to al-Sadr. As we watch for al-Sistani to speak up and bring Shiite militant activity under control, we imagine real estate in the Jihad neighborhood must be getting pretty cheap.
Reply #274 on:
July 12, 2006, 03:04:44 PM »
Israelis attack just 10 miles from Beirut
AP - 46 minutes ago
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli warplanes and gunboats struck a Palestinian guerrilla base 10 miles south of Beirut late Wednesday, Lebanese security officials said, in the closest raid to the Lebanese capital since fighting erupted in southern Lebanon after guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. Warplanes flew over the Naameh base in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Beirut. Gunboats sailed facing the position, and explosions rang out across the area.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #275 on:
July 12, 2006, 04:48:03 PM »
Analysis: Nasrallah's gamble
yoav appel, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 12, 2006
In killing seven soldiers, kidnapping two more and re-igniting Israel's northern border with Lebanon Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has taken a gamble that violence will quickly dissipate and negotiations on a prisoner exchange will soon begin, an expert on Lebanon said Wednesday.
Attacks against Israel, in particular kidnappings of Israelis that could lead to prisoner exchanges, boost Hizbullah's popularity in the Middle East, especially at a time that the militia group is under regional and international pressure to disarm, said Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center.
But in the eyes of many groups, some within Lebanon, who call the group a "danger to stability," Wednesday's activities may just prove them right, Zisser said.
"It's good for their prestige," Zisser said, referring to Hizbullah. Based on previous incidents, the militia group was gambling that Israel's response to Wednesday's attack would be restrained, he said.
Hizbullah forces took control of southern Lebanon when Israel withdrew from its "security zone" leaving a vacuum there in 2000. The group's leaders say they are defending Lebanon from Israel. The group also claims Lebanese sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms area, a small parcel of land Israel captured from Syria in 1967, and have said they will continue to attack Israel until the area is liberated.
But a wide-scale outbreak of violence could backfire for the group, especially if Lebanese citizens feel Hizbullah is to blame.
"These operations reinforce [Nasrallah's] position. It's an issue of image," Zisser said. Nasrallah "is a gambler. He is hoping he will benefit from these actions."
Hizbullah gained much recognition in the Arab world in 2004 when it won the release of hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the bodies of three IDF soldiers it captured and one Israeli businessman. It is also widely seen as responsible for Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon after an 18-year occupation.
Zisser said from Hizbullah's perspective, it's actions Wednesday were not an escalation, because it had both attempted and carried out similar operations in the past. "They don't see this as a step up, this is a step they've taken before," he said. "Hizbullah has an interest that this will end and they will begin negotiations," he added.
The group was taking into account Israel's muted responses to previous Hizbullah provocations, he said.
Within Lebanon, "Hizbullah is under a lot of pressure because ... of the many groups that want it to disarm, who say that it is a danger to stability," Zisser said.
But Iran and Syria, both considered to be enthusiastic sponsors of Hizbullah's activities, would not come to the group's aid if Israel begins wide-scale operations inside Lebanon.
The next steps in the conflict would be up to Israel, he said, which would have no choice but to respond.
Israeli military operations in Lebanon would probably work on two levels, one aimed at isolating the area near the initial attack and returning the kidnapped soldiers, and a second that would exact a high price from Lebanon for a military action initiated from within its territory, said Maj. Gen Danny Rothschild, President of the Council of Peace and Security.
An operation to return the kidnapped soldiers would involve bombing bridges and attempting to contain the area around where the abduction took place, although only within a very limited timeframe, Rothschild said. "In that sense you have a window of operation which is closing every minute," he said.
"The other layer of operation is a signal to Lebanon that there is a price," Rothschild said, adding that could be via military or political pressure. Politically, Israel could request foreign governments including the US and the European Union to pressure Lebanon for the release of the soldiers, he said.
Military options would include bombing Hizbullah's headquarters in Beirut and destroying infrastructure, he said.
Another concern is Hizbullah's military arsenal, which is said to contain around 11,000 short to mid-length missiles, some capable of reaching as far south as Hadera, about 30 miles from Tel Aviv. The missiles pose "a serious threat to civilians in Israel," Rothschild said, pointing out that the missiles are spread in a range that covers most of northern Israel.
And "nobody knows," how long an operation inside Lebanon might last, he said, acknowledging the possibility existed that Israeli forces could still be operating in southern Lebanon months from now.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #276 on:
July 13, 2006, 06:11:16 PM »
Middle East Crisis: Backgrounder
Israel lives with three realities: geographic, demographic and cultural. Geographically, it is at a permanent disadvantage, lacking strategic depth. It does enjoy the advantage of interior lines -- the ability to move forces rapidly from one front to another. Demographically, it is on the whole outnumbered, although it can achieve local superiority in numbers by choosing the time and place of war. Its greatest advantage is cultural. It has a far greater mastery of the technology and culture of war than its neighbors.
Two of the realities cannot be changed. Nothing can be done about geography or demography. Culture can be changed. It is not inherently the case that Israel will have a technological or operational advantage over its neighbors. The great inherent fear of Israel is that the Arabs will equal or surpass Israeli prowess culturally and therefore militarily. If that were to happen, then all three realities would turn against Israel and Israel might well be at risk.
That is why the capture of Israeli troops, first one in the south, then two in the north, has galvanized Israel. The kidnappings represent a level of Arab tactical prowess that previously was the Israeli domain. They also represent a level of tactical slackness on the Israeli side that was previously the Arab domain. These events hardly represent a fundamental shift in the balance of power. Nevertheless, for a country that depends on its cultural superiority, any tremor in this variable reverberates dramatically. Hamas and Hezbollah have struck the core Israeli nerve. Israel cannot ignore it.
Embedded in Israel's demographic problem is this: Israel has national security requirements that outstrip its manpower base. It can field a sufficient army, but its industrial base cannot supply all of the weapons needed to fight high-intensity conflicts. This means it is always dependent on an outside source for its industrial base and must align its policies with that source. At first this was the Soviets, then France and finally the United States. Israel broke with the Soviets and France when their political demands became too intense. It was after 1967 that it entered into a patron-client relationship with the United States. This relationship is its strength and its weakness. It gives the Israelis the systems they need for national security, but since U.S. and Israeli interests diverge, the relationship constrains Israel's range of action.
During the Cold War, the United States relied on Israel for a critical geopolitical function. The fundamental U.S. interest was Turkey, which controlled the Bosporus and kept the Soviet fleet under control in the Mediterranean. The emergence of Soviet influence in Syria and Iraq -- which was not driven by U.S. support for Israel since the United States did not provide all that much support compared to France -- threatened Turkey with attack from two directions, north and south. Turkey could not survive this. Israel drew Syrian attention away from Turkey by threatening Damascus and drawing forces and Soviet equipment away from the Turkish frontier. Israel helped secure Turkey and turned a Soviet investment into a dry hole.
Once Egypt signed a treaty with Israel and Sinai became a buffer zone, Israel became safe from a full peripheral war -- everyone attacking at the same time. Jordan was not going to launch an attack and Syria by itself could not strike. The danger to Israel became Palestinian operations inside of Israel and the occupied territories and the threat posed from Lebanon by the Syrian-sponsored group Hezbollah.
In 1982, Israel responded to this threat by invading Lebanon. It moved as far north as Beirut and the mountains east and northeast of it. Israel did not invade Beirut proper, since Israeli forces do not like urban warfare as it imposes too high a rate of attrition. But what the Israelis found was low-rate attrition. Throughout their occupation of Lebanon, they were constantly experiencing guerrilla attacks, particularly from Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has two patrons: Syria and Iran. The Syrians have used Hezbollah to pursue their political and business interests in Lebanon. Iran has used Hezbollah for business and ideological reasons. Business interests were the overlapping element. In the interest of business, it became important to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran that an accommodation be reached with Israel. Israel wanted to withdraw from Lebanon in order to end the constant low-level combat and losses.
Israel withdrew in 1988, having reached quiet understandings with Syria that Damascus would take responsibility for Hezbollah, in return for which Israel would not object to Syrian domination of Lebanon. Iran, deep in its war with Iraq, was not in a position to object if it had wanted to. Israel returned to its borders in the north, maintaining a security presence in the south of Lebanon that lasted for several years.
As Lebanon blossomed and Syria's hold on it loosened, Iran also began to increase its regional influence. Its hold on some elements of Hezbollah strengthened, and in recent months, Hezbollah -- aligning itself with Iranian Shiite ideology -- has become more aggressive. Iranian weapons were provided to Hezbollah, and tensions grew along the frontier. This culminated in the capture of two soldiers in the north and the current crisis.
It is difficult to overestimate the impact of the soldier kidnappings on the Israeli psyche. First, while the Israeli military is extremely highly trained, Israel is also a country with mass conscription. Having a soldier kidnapped by Arabs hits every family in the country. The older generation is shocked and outraged that members of the younger generation have been captured and worried that they allowed themselves to be captured; therefore, the younger generation needs to prove it too can defeat the Arabs. This is not a primary driver, but it is a dimension.
The more fundamental issue is this: Israel withdrew from Lebanon in order to escape low-intensity conflict. If Hezbollah is now going to impose low-intensity conflict on Israel's border, the rationale for withdrawal disappears. It is better for Israel to fight deep in Lebanon than inside Israel. If the rockets are going to fall in Israel proper, then moving into a forward posture has no cost to Israel.
From an international standpoint, the Israelis expect to be condemned. These international condemnations, however, are now having the opposite effect of what is intended. The Israeli view is that they will be condemned regardless of what they do. The differential between the condemnation of reprisal attacks and condemnation of a full invasion is not enough to deter more extreme action. If Israel is going to be attacked anyway, it might as well achieve its goals.
Moreover, an invasion of Hezbollah-held territory aligns Israel with the United States. U.S. intelligence has been extremely concerned about the growing activity of Hezbollah, and U.S. relations with Iran are not good. Lebanon is the center of gravity of Hezbollah, and the destruction of Hezbollah capabilities in Lebanon, particularly the command structure, would cripple Hezbollah operations globally in the near future. The United States would very much like to see that happen, but cannot do it itself. Moreover, an Israeli action would enrage the Islamic world, but it would also drive home the limits of Iranian power. Once again, Iran would have dropped Lebanon in the grease, and not been hurt itself. The lesson of Hezbollah would not be lost on the Iraqi Shia -- or so the Bush administration would hope.
Therefore, this is one Israeli action that benefits the United States, and thus helps the immediate situation as well as long-term geopolitical alignments. It realigns the United States and Israel. This also argues that any invasion must be devastating to Hezbollah. It must go deep. It must occupy temporarily. It must shatter Hezbollah.
At this point, the Israelis appear to be unrolling a war plan in this direction. They have blockaded the Lebanese coast. Israeli aircraft are attacking what air power there is in Lebanon, and have attacked Hezbollah and other key command-and-control infrastructure. It would follow that the Israelis will now concentrate on destroying Hezbollah -- and Lebanese -- communications capabilities and attacking munitions dumps, vehicle sites, rocket-storage areas and so forth.
Most important, Israel is calling up its reserves. This is never a symbolic gesture in Israel. All Israelis below middle age are in the reserves and mobilization is costly in every sense of the word. If the Israelis were planning a routine reprisal, they would not be mobilizing. But they are, which means they are planning to do substantially more than retributive airstrikes. The question is what their plan is.
Given the blockade and what appears to be the shape of the airstrikes, it seems to us at the moment the Israelis are planning to go fairly deep into Lebanon. The logical first step is a move to the Litani River in southern Lebanon. But given the missile attacks on Haifa, they will go farther, not only to attack launcher sites, but to get rid of weapons caches. This means a move deep into the Bekaa Valley, the seat of Hezbollah power and the location of plants and facilities. Such a penetration would leave Israeli forces' left flank open, so a move into Bekaa would likely be accompanied by attacks to the west. It would bring the Israelis close to Beirut again.
This leaves Israel's right flank exposed, and that exposure is to Syria. The Israeli doctrine is that leaving Syrian airpower intact while operating in Lebanon is dangerous. Therefore, Israel must at least be considering using its air force to attack Syrian facilities, unless it gets ironclad assurances the Syrians will not intervene in any way. Conversations are going on between Egypt and Syria, and we suspect this is the subject. But Israel would not necessarily object to the opportunity of eliminating Syrian air power as part of its operation, or if Syria chooses, going even further.
At the same time, Israel does not intend to get bogged down in Lebanon again. It will want to go in, wreak havoc, withdraw. That means it will go deeper and faster, and be more devastating, than if it were planning a long-term occupation. It will go in to liquidate Hezbollah and then leave. True, this is no final solution, but for the Israelis, there are no final solutions.
Israeli forces are already in Lebanon. Its special forces are inside identifying targets for airstrikes. We expect numerous air attacks over the next 48 hours, as well as reports of firefights in southern Lebanon. We also expect more rocket attacks on Israel.
It will take several days to mount a full invasion of Lebanon. We would not expect major operations before the weekend at the earliest. If the rocket attacks are taking place, however, Israel might send several brigades to the Litani River almost immediately in order to move the rockets out of range of Haifa. Therefore, we would expect a rapid operation in the next 24-48 hours followed by a larger force later.
At this point, the only thing that can prevent this would be a major intervention by Syria with real guarantees that it would restrain Hezbollah and indications such operations are under way. Syria is the key to a peaceful resolution. Syria must calculate the relative risks, and we expect them to be unwilling to act decisively.
1. Israel cannot tolerate an insurgency on its northern frontier; if there is one, it wants it farther north.
2. It cannot tolerate attacks on Haifa.
3. It cannot endure a crisis of confidence in its military
4. Hezbollah cannot back off of its engagement with Israel.
5. Syria can stop this, but the cost to it stopping it is higher than the cost of letting it go on.
It would appear Israel will invade Lebanon. The global response will be noisy. There will be no substantial international action against Israel. Beirut's tourism and transportation industry, as well as its financial sectors, are very much at risk.
Reply #277 on:
July 14, 2006, 04:52:13 PM »
Syria, Iran stand to the side, watching
Mideast powers seen as behind kidnapping, using clash to their advantage
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:24 p.m. CT July 14, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Iran?s warning against any Israeli retaliation on Syria and its taunts that Israel can?t hurt Iran highlight what many see as the real hand behind Hezbollah?s capture of two Israeli soldiers.
At the White House and in Arab capitals, the belief is strong that the Mideast?s top two hard-line states, Iran and Syria, are playing a dangerous game to increase their influence. However, analysts say it could backfire and weaken Hezbollah, and by extension its two patrons.
?We would be idiots if we believed it was only about the Israeli captives,? Hazem Saghieh, a senior Lebanese columnist with the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, told The Associated Press.
?The issue, at the end of the day, is all about Syria and Iran, and Hezbollah is just giving them more trump cards,? Saghieh said.
Wednesday?s seizure of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas came at a time of mounting tensions between the two Mideast powers and the West.
Iran is embroiled in a diplomatic fight with Europe and the U.S. over its nuclear program. Washington accuses Syria of sending insurgents to Iraq, interfering in Lebanon and hosting the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Syria is also believed to have been behind the collapse of a deal that would have led to the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas militants along Israel?s frontier with Gaza on June 25.
Iran and Syria, analysts say, believe the intensified violence will help strengthen their positions in their conflicts with the West and show they hold the key to a settlement of the Arab-Israeli issue.
The White House said Wednesday, hours after Hezbollah took the two Israelis, that it holds Iran and Syria responsible.
On Friday, French President Jacques Chirac implicitly suggested the two states might have a role in the expanding crisis, saying he has ?the feeling, if not the conviction, that Hamas and Hezbollah wouldn?t have taken the initiatives alone.?
Moderate Arab governments like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia appear to have the same belief ? though they haven?t said so outright because of a reluctance to show splits with fellow Muslim nations. Instead, it?s reflected in their mild criticisms of Israel?s air campaign in Lebanon and their indirect denunciations of Hezbollah.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that Israel couldn?t hurt Iran in its campaign, declaring Israel and its Western supporters ?do not even have the power to give Iran a nasty look.?
Earlier, he called Syrian President Bashar Assad and assured him that if Israel attacks Syria ?it will be equivalent to an attack on the whole Islamic world and the regime (Israel) will face a crushing response.?
Ahmadinejad has often fanned anti-Israeli sentiment to bolster his image as a fierce opponent of the West, saying Israel should be ?wiped off the map? and casting doubt on the Nazi Holocaust.
The Iranians ?have an interest in fomenting as much trouble here as they can and think that it will benefit them somehow in terms of their ambitions in the region and ultimately how they resolve the nuclear question,? said Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Mideast envoy.
?In the case of Syria ... they feel this makes them a factor, that people have to pay attention to them,? he said.
But they may have miscalculated.
In Lebanon, there is mounting resentment against the Hezbollah action, which has killed a tourism season many had expected to be one of Lebanon?s best.
If Hezbollah fails to win a prisoner swap for the soldiers and if Israel carries out its threat to push Hezbollah away from its border, the group will be blamed for the damage to Lebanon.
?Hezbollah will definitely emerge as a loser,? said Saghieh, the columnist for Al-Hayat. ?It?s hijacked the country and is demanding the Lebanese pay with their lives for its actions.?
?The people and other political parties are going to demand that Hezbollah account for its actions since it has always claimed that its resistance offered us protection,? he said.
Paul Salem, director of the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Hezbollah?s military presence in the south was seen by many Lebanese as a deterrent against any Israeli attack on Lebanon and even on Iran.
?But if you use your military power, you lose it,? said Salem. ?It will no longer be a deterrent.?
While Iran doesn?t have a stake in seeing the violence end, Syria might ?if they decide that it?s becoming more costly to them,? Ross said.
?That?s where the Saudis could play a major role,? by pressuring Damascus, he said.
Saudi Arabia has harshly criticized Hezbollah, without naming it directly, for escalating the situation, saying ?uncalculated adventures? could precipitate a new Middle East crisis.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #278 on:
July 14, 2006, 06:00:44 PM »
With this new hot front of WW3, the tempo of posts on this thread is increasing.
Red Alert: Hezbollah's Motives
Hezbollah's decision to increase operations against Israel was not taken lightly. The leadership of Hezbollah has not so much moderated over the years as it has aged. The group's leaders have also, with age, become comfortable and in many cases wealthy. They are at least part of the Lebanese political process, and in some real sense part of the Lebanese establishment. These are men with a radical past and of radical mind-set, but they are older, comfortable and less adventurous than 20 years ago. Therefore, the question is: Why are they increasing tensions with Israel and inviting an invasion that threatens their very lives? There are three things to look at: the situation among the Palestinians, the situation in Lebanon and the situation in the Islamic world. But first we must consider the situation in Hezbollah itself.
There is a generation gap in Hezbollah. Hezbollah began as a Shiite radical group inspired by the Iranian Islamic Revolution. In that context, Hezbollah represented a militant, nonsecular alternative to the Nasserite Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that took their bearing from Pan-Arabism rather than Islam. Hezbollah split the Shiite community in Lebanon -- which was against Sunnis and Christians -- but most of all, engaged the Israelis. It made a powerful claim that the Palestinian movement had no future while it remained fundamentally secular and while its religious alternatives derived from the conservative Arab monarchies. More than anyone, it was Hezbollah that introduced Islamist suicide bombings.
Hezbollah had a split personality, however; it was supported by two very different states. Iran was radically Islamist. Syria, much closer and a major power in Lebanon, was secular and socialist. They shared an anti-Zionist ideology, but beyond that, not much. Moreover, the Syrians viewed the Palestinian claim for a state with a jaundiced eye. Palestine was, from their point of view, part of the Ottoman Empire's Syrian province, divided by the British and French. Syria wanted to destroy Israel, but not necessarily to create a Palestinian state.
From Syria's point of view, the real issue was the future of Lebanon, which it wanted to reabsorb into Syria, or at the very least economically exploit. The Syrians intervened in Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization and on the side of some Christian elements. Their goal was much less ideological than political and economic. They saw Hezbollah as a tool in their fight with Yasser Arafat and for domination of Syria.
Hezbollah strategically was aligned with Iran. Tactically, it had to align itself with Syria, since the Syrians dominated Lebanon. That meant that when Syria wanted tension with Israel, Hezbollah provided it, and when Syria wanted things to quiet down, Hezbollah cooled it. Meanwhile the leadership of Hezbollah, aligned with the Syrians, was in a position to prosper, particular after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
That withdrawal involved a basic, quiet agreement between Syria and Israel. Israel accepted Syrian domination of Lebanon. In return, Syria was expected to maintain a security regime that controlled Hezbollah. Attacks against Israel had to be kept within certain acceptable limits. Syria, having far less interest in Israel than in Lebanon, saw this as an opportunity to achieve its ends. Israel saw Syrian domination under these terms as a stabilizing force.
Two things converged to destabilize this situation. The emergence of Hamas as a major force among the Palestinians meant the Palestinian polity was being redefined. Even before the elections catapulted Hamas into a leadership role, it was clear that the Fatah-dominated government of Arafat was collapsing. Everything was up for grabs. That meant that either Hezbollah made a move or would be permanently a Lebanese organization. It had to show it was willing to take risks and be effective. In fact, it had to show that it was the most effective of all the groups. The leadership might have been reluctant, but the younger members saw this as their moment, and frankly, the old juices might have been running in the older leadership. They moved.
The second part of this occurred in Lebanon itself. After the death of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, outside pressure, primarily from the United States, forced a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Now, do not overestimate the extent of the withdrawal. Syrian influence in Lebanon is still enormous. But it did relieve Syria of the burden of controlling Hezbollah. Indeed, Israel was not overly enthusiastic about Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon for just that reason.
Syria could now claim to have no influence or obligation concerning Hezbollah. Hezbollah's leadership lost the cover of being able to tell the young Turks that they would be more aggressive, but that the Syrians would not let them. As the Syrian withdrawal loosened up Lebanese politics, Hezbollah was neither restrained nor could it pretend to be restrained. Whatever the mixed feelings might have been, the mission was the mission, Syrian withdrawal opened the door and Hezbollah could not resist walking through it, and many members urgently wanted to walk through it.
At the same time the Iranians were deeply involved in negotiations in Iraq and over Tehran's nuclear program. They wanted as many levers as they could find to use in negotiations against the United States. They already had the ability to destabilize Iraq. They had a nuclear program the United States wanted to get rid of. Reactivating a global network that directly threatened American interests was another chip on the bargaining table. Not attacking U.S. interests but attacking Israel demonstrated Hezbollah's vibrancy without directly threatening the United States. Moreover, activities around the world, not carefully shielded in some cases, gave Iran further leverage.
In addition, it allowed Iran to reclaim its place as the leader of Islamic radical resurgence. Al Qaeda, a Sunni group, had supplanted Iran in the Islamic world. Indeed, Iran's collaboration with the West allowed Tehran to be pictured among the "hypocrites" Osama bin Laden condemned. Iran wants to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, and one part of that is to take away the mantle of Islamic radicalism from al Qaeda. Since al Qaeda is a damaged organization at best, and since Hezbollah pioneered Islamist terrorism on a global basis, reactivating Hezbollah made a great deal of sense to the Iranians.
Syria benefited by showing how badly it was needed in Lebanon. Iran picked up additional leverage against the United States. Hezbollah claimed a major place at the negotiations shaping the future of Palestinian politics. It all made a great deal of sense.
Of course, it was also obvious that Israel would respond. From Syria's point of view, that was fine. Israel would bog down again. It would turn to Syria to relieve it of its burdens. Israel would not want an Islamic regime in Damascus. Syria gets regime preservation and the opportunity to reclaim Lebanon. Iran gets a war hundreds of miles away from it, letting others fight its battles. It can claim it is the real enemy of Israel in the Islamic world. The United States might bargain away interests in Iraq in order to control Hezbollah. An Israeli invasion opens up possibilities without creating much risk.
It is Hezbollah that takes it on the chin. But Hezbollah, by its nature and its relationships, really did not have much choice. It had to act or become irrelevant. So now the question is: What does Hezbollah do when the Israelis come? They can resist. They have anti-tank weapons and other systems from Iran. They can inflict casualties. They can impose a counterinsurgency. Syria may think Israel will have to stay, but Israel plans to crush Hezbollah's infrastructure and leave, forcing Hezbollah to take years to recover. Everyone else in Lebanon is furious at Hezbollah for disrupting the recovery. What does Hezbollah do?
In the 1980s, what Hezbollah did was take Western hostages. The United States is enormously sensitive to hostage situations. It led Ronald Reagan to Iran-Contra. Politically, the United States has trouble handling hostages. This is the one thing Hezbollah learned in the 1980s that the leaders remember. A portfolio of hostages is life insurance. Hezbollah could go back to its old habits. It makes sense to do so.
It will not do this while there is a chance of averting an invasion. But once it is crystal clear it is coming, grabbing hostages makes sense. Assuming the invasion is going to occur early next week -- or a political settlement is going to take place -- Western powers now have no more than 72 hours to get their nationals out of Beirut or into places of safety. That probably cannot be done. There are thousands of Westerners in Beirut. But the next few days will focus on ascertaining Israeli intensions and timelines, and executing plans to withdraw citizens. The Israelis might well shift their timeline to facilitate this. But all things considered, if Hezbollah returns to its roots, it should return to its first operational model: hostages.
Reply #279 on:
July 15, 2006, 11:27:50 PM »
Lebanon, Israel: Potential Attack on Tel Aviv
July 14, 2006 21 18 GMT
Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said July 14 in a speech broadcast on Hezbollah media outlets that his group will strike "beyond Haifa and what is beyond, beyond Haifa." Hezbollah has the capability to launch an attack on Tel Aviv, Israel, from southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared July 14 that Hezbollah would strike "beyond Haifa and what is beyond, beyond Haifa" in an all-out war against Israel. Nasrallah's speech was broadcast live on Hezbollah media outlets.
Hezbollah already demonstrated its capability to strike Haifa with what were likely Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets that have a range of 28 miles. "Beyond, beyond" Haifa, however, lies Tel Aviv, Israel's most densely populated and industrialized city. Sources in Lebanon whose reliability is unconfirmed reveal that Tel Aviv may very well become Hezbollah's next big target, and Hezbollah is believed to possess the capabilities to carry out such an attack from southern Lebanon. According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has as many as 30 Zelzal-2 rockets, a 610 mm heavy artillery rocket that can deliver a warhead of more than 1,000 pounds to a range of approximately 130 miles, giving it the ability to hit the northern outskirts of Tel Aviv from the Israeli-Lebanese border. The Zelzal-2 is a solid fueled rocket, which means it can be launched with very little preparation.
Faced with destruction, Hezbollah will use all the long-range missiles it has in its arsenal. The plan to launch a ground invasion into Lebanon was likely hardwired into the Israeli military strategy following the Haifa attack. Israel will precede any major ground offensive with a preemptive strike on Hezbollah's offensive capability -- namely, the rocket sites in the Bekaa Valley in southern Lebanon.
Reply #280 on:
July 16, 2006, 08:36:22 PM »
Here is an interesting post from a former State Department official who was posted in the Near Abroad. His views on the current situation.
BTW, I wonder if anyone knows the current status of US Naval forces in the Mideast and deployments. Also USAF deployments. It seems to me that we should be moving assets back into the region.
The thing with Israel is going to escalate. Hamas and Hiz'ballah are going to get their tails whopped. Israel has sealed Hiz' in Lebanon and can go fully offensive at any time to eliminate the threat. Iran and Syria cannot allow this to happen, so it is reasonable that Iran will attempt something. Israel retaliates and the US should have the forces ready to take out Iranian nuke sites and also military command and control structures. Maybe some wacko Islamist heads of government.
We may be in the beginning stages of eliminating those states that truly sponsor terrorism.
Update From Israel
I had planned to write more today about what I learned last night about the current situation in Israel on various blogs, sharing comments and posts with people in Europe, Australia, the U.S., Canada and, of course, Israel itself. Then, this morning, I was pointed to an update at The New Republic's website by their Israeli correspondent Yossi Klein Halevi. Halevi is clearly the best writer on Israeli affairs writing in English today. Rather than subject you to my paragraphs, I direct you to his:
The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.
The goals of the war should be the destruction of the Hamas regime and the dismantling of the Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Israel cannot coexist with Iranian proxies pressing in on its borders. In particular, allowing Hamas to remain in power--and to run the Palestinian educational system--will mean the end of hopes for Arab-Israeli reconciliation not only in this generation but in the next one too.
For the Israeli right, this is the moment of "We told you so." The fact that the kidnappings and missile attacks have come from southern Lebanon and Gaza--precisely the areas from which Israel has unilaterally withdrawn--is proof, for right-wingers, of the bankruptcy of unilateralism. Yet the right has always misunderstood the meaning of unilateral withdrawal. Those of us who have supported unilateralism didn't expect a quiet border in return for our withdrawal but simply the creation of a border from which we could more vigorously defend ourselves, with greater domestic consensus and international understanding. The anticipated outcome, then, wasn't an illusory peace but a more effective way to fight the war. The question wasn't whether Hamas or Hezbollah would forswear aggression but whether Israel would act with appropriate vigor to their continued aggression.
So it wasn't the rocket attacks that were a blow to the unilateralist camp, but rather Israel's tepid responses to those attacks. If unilateralists made a mistake, it was in believing our political leaders--including Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert--when they promised a policy of zero tolerance against any attacks emanating from Gaza after Israel's withdrawal. That policy was not implemented--until two weeks ago. Now, belatedly, the Olmert government is trying to regain something of its lost credibility, and that is the real meaning of this initial phase of the war, both in Gaza and in Lebanon.
Still, many in Israel believe that, even now, the government is acting with excessive restraint. One centrist friend of mine, an Olmert voter, said to me, "If we had assassinated [Hamas leader] Haniyeh after the first kidnapping, [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah would have thought twice about ordering another kidnapping." Israel, then, isn't paying for the failure of unilateral withdrawal, but for the failure to fulfill its promise to seriously respond to provocations after withdrawal.
Absurdly, despite Israel's withdrawal to the international borders with Lebanon and Gaza, much of the international community still sees the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers as a legitimate act of war: Just as Israel holds Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, so Hamas and Hezbollah now hold Israeli prisoners. One difference, though, is that inmates in Israeli jails receive visits from family and Red Cross representatives, while Israeli prisoners in Gaza and Lebanon disappear into oblivion. Like Israeli pilot Ron Arad, who was captured by Hezbollah 20 years ago, then sold to Iran, and whose fate has never been determined. That is one reason why Israelis are so maddened by the kidnapping of their soldiers.
Another reason is the nature of the crimes committed by the prisoners whose release is being demanded by Hezbollah and Hamas. One of them is Samir Kuntar, a PLO terrorist who in 1979 broke into an apartment in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, took a father and child hostage, and smashed the child's head against a rock. In the Palestinian Authority, Kuntar is considered a hero, a role model for Palestinian children.
The ultimate threat, though, isn't Hezbollah or Hamas but Iran. And as Iran draws closer to nuclear capability--which the Israeli intelligence community believes could happen this year--an Israeli-Iranian showdown becomes increasingly likely. According to a very senior military source with whom I've spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.
For Israelis, that is the worst scenario of all. Except, of course, the scenario of nuclear weapons in the hands of the patron state of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Reply #281 on:
July 17, 2006, 08:51:08 AM »
Something I found in the New York Post
KILL, DON'T CAPTURE
By RALPH PETERS
July 10, 2006 -- THE British military defines experience as the ability to recognize a mistake the second time you make it. By that standard, we should be very experienced in dealing with captured terrorists, since we've made the same mistake again and again.
Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there's no way to dispose of them.
Killing terrorists during a conflict isn't barbaric or immoral - or even illegal. We've imposed rules upon ourselves that have no historical or judicial precedent. We haven't been stymied by others, but by ourselves.
The oft-cited, seldom-read Geneva and Hague Conventions define legal combatants as those who visibly identify themselves by wearing uniforms or distinguishing insignia (the latter provision covers honorable partisans - but no badges or armbands, no protection). Those who wear civilian clothes to ambush soldiers or collect intelligence are assassins and spies - beyond the pale of law.
Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom.
The present situation encourages our enemies to behave wantonly, while crippling our attempts to deal with terror.
Consider today's norm: A terrorist in civilian clothes can explode an IED, killing and maiming American troops or innocent civilians, then demand humane treatment if captured - and the media will step in as his champion. A disguised insurgent can shoot his rockets, throw his grenades, empty his magazines, kill and wound our troops, then, out of ammo, raise his hands and demand three hots and a cot while he invents tales of abuse.
Conferring unprecedented legal status upon these murderous transnational outlaws is unnecessary, unwise and ultimately suicidal. It exalts monsters. And it provides the anti-American pack with living vermin to anoint as victims, if not heroes.
Isn't it time we gave our critics what they're asking for? Let's solve the "unjust" imprisonment problem, once and for all. No more Guantanamos! Every terrorist mission should be a suicide mission. With our help.
We need to clarify the rules of conflict. But integrity and courage have fled Washington. Nobody will state bluntly that we're in a fight for our lives, that war is hell, and that we must do what it takes to win.
Our enemies will remind us of what's necessary, though. When we've been punished horribly enough, we'll come to our senses and do what must be done.
This isn't an argument for a murderous rampage, but its opposite. We must kill our enemies with discrimination. But we do need to kill them. A corpse is a corpse: The media's rage dissipates with the stench. But an imprisoned terrorist is a strategic liability.
Nor should we ever mistreat captured soldiers or insurgents who adhere to standing conventions. On the contrary, we should enforce policies that encourage our enemies to identify themselves according to the laws of war. Ambiguity works to their advantage, never to ours.
Our policy toward terrorists and insurgents in civilian clothing should be straightforward and public: Surrender before firing a shot or taking hostile action toward our troops, and we'll regard you as a legal prisoner. But once you've pulled a trigger, thrown a grenade or detonated a bomb, you will be killed. On the battlefield and on the spot.
Isn't that common sense? It also happens to conform to the traditional conduct of war between civilized nations. Ignorant of history, we've talked ourselves into folly.
And by the way: How have the terrorists treated the uniformed American soldiers they've captured? According to the Geneva Convention?
Sadly, even our military has been infected by political correctness. Some of my former peers will wring their hands and babble about "winning hearts and minds." But we'll never win the hearts and minds of terrorists. And if we hope to win the minds, if not the hearts, of foreign populations, we must be willing to kill the violent, lawless fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population determined to terrorize the rest.
Ravaged societies crave and need strict order. Soft policies may appear to work in the short term, but they fail overwhelmingly in the longer term. Wherever we've tried sweetness and light in Iraq, it has only worked as long as our troops were present - after which the terrorists returned and slaughtered the beneficiaries of our good intentions. If you wish to defend the many, you must be willing to kill the few.
For now, we're stuck with a situation in which the hardcore terrorists in Guantanamo are "innocent victims" even to our fair-weather allies. In Iraq, our troops capture bomb-makers only to learn they've been dumped back on the block.
It is not humane to spare fanatical murderers. It is not humane to play into our enemy's hands. And it is not humane to endanger our troops out of political correctness.
Instead of worrying over trumped-up atrocities in Iraq (the media give credence to any claim made by terrorists), we should stop apologizing and take a stand. That means firm rules for the battlefield, not Gumby-speak intended to please critics who'll never be satisfied by anything America does.
The ultimate act of humanity in the War on Terror is to win. To do so, we must kill our enemies wherever we encounter them. He who commits an act of terror forfeits every right he once possessed.
Ralph Peters' new book, "Never Quit the Fight," hits stores today.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #282 on:
July 17, 2006, 09:56:37 AM »
Peters always has an interesting take on things, like his most current article below. I agree with much, but disagree quite often. As so it is with these two articles.
Peters suggests just killing all terrorists immediately as a blanket policy. It sounds great, but the "legal and moral" complications are immeasurable. Yes, terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Accords, but if a terrorist is captured and immediately executed, does this not create a p.r. nightmare, if not legal or moral complications? The world outcry against such actions would be unbearable. In addition, can one imagine the number of our troops who would be subjected to "investigations" for killing "civilians" and not terrorists?
In the below article, Peters offers disjointed thinking, which he does quite often. Hezbollah does the kidnappings on its own. Lebanon cannot do anything about it so hit Syria instead. Yet he also claims that Syria had no imput into the action in the first place. So his advice is to hit Syria. Huh?
The reality is that Syria still controls Lebanon. Syrian supporters still control the military. The majority of the population of Lebanon support Hezbollah. Hitting Syria would draw them into the fight before Israel was ready to take them on. Finish one enemy first before going after the next. Who needs a three front war when they already have a two front war?
Of course, Syria does not want to be drawn into the conflict without Iranian participation either. Syria would get blasted again like in the 80's. Their pitiful Air Force would suffer disasterous defeat again. So the hope fkor Syria is that if they were hit, Iran would join in. And that may be wishful thinking.
Also, he claims that Hezbollah is not being directed by Iran. This is a large stretch of the imagination. Iran has always armed and directed Hezbollah. Why should it be different this time?
TRAGEDY OF ERRORS
By RALPH PETERS
July 16, 2006 -- THE violence that scorched the Middle East this time didn't result from a sly Iranian plot. It was the product of emotion, miscalculation, impulsiveness and folly. On all sides.
Here's a sound rule in analyzing problems anywhere between Cairo and Karachi: Never ascribe to a calculated strategy what can be blamed on passionate incompetence.
Another iron rule that applies to this and every Israeli attempt to strike back at Islamist terrorists is that, just when the Israeli Defense Forces really start to hurt the enemy, the world community - including the United States - intervenes to save the terrorists from destruction.
Europeans have more sympathy with Iran's nuclear program than they do with Israel's attempts at self-defense. But, then, the only thing continental Europeans regret about the Holocaust is that they didn't get to finish the job. Even as Europe suffers its own attacks by Islamist terrorists, Europeans defend the selfsame terrorists against Israeli retribution.
Meanwhile, the flare-up that began last week resulted from bad judgment on the part of every organization and state involved - as well as producing some spectacularly bad analysis by our herd-like media.
AS soon as Hezbollah commandos snatched two Israeli soldiers from northern Israeli, we were told Iran was behind it. Utterly wrong. That raid was a Hezbollah-conceived copy-cat operation launched impulsively to piggyback on the Hamas seizure of an Israeli soldier in Gaza the week before. The Iranian government was as surprised as anyone.
Iran was dragged into the mess thereafter. But - while President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is always delighted to give we-will-bury you speeches - Iran's best interests just now are served by avoiding violent confrontations with Israel while Tehran tries to persuade the world that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes. Iran's fanatics don't just want to capture or kill six Israeli soldiers. They want to kill 6 million Jews.
The Iranians were blindsided, but had to back their clients (as Germany had to back Austria in 1914).
Because it offers an easy sound-bite explanation, journalists consistently misrepresent Iran's degree of control over Hezbollah, insisting that Tehran pulls all the strings. Just not true. Iran's relationship with Hezbollah is a dark mirror image of our own relationship with Israel: We support Israel, providing funds and weapons, and we can influence Israel. But we don't control Israel. Sometimes Israel surprises us - and not always happily.
Iran's in the same situation with Hezbollah.
Despite drawing vital support from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has its own goals, tactics and internal dynamics. And since it was allowed to defy U.N. resolutions calling for it to disarm in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has been able to build the most-effective and best-motivated Arab military, man-for-man.
BUT Hezbollah got this one wrong. Whoever green- lighted the raid on Israel didn't anticipate the ferocity or scale of the Israeli reaction.
Then the Israelis began to miscalculate - reacting impulsively and emotionally themselves. Attacking Hezbollah was fully justified and necessary, but Israel's frustration with the Lebanese government's toleration of terrorists boiled over into folly. Israeli aircraft attacked Beirut's international airport and other targets around the city, doing both Israel and Lebanon's fragile democracy far more harm than good.
Israel hopes to pressure the Lebanese government into taking action against Hezbollah. But Lebanon's leaders can't do that. If they ordered their work-in-progress military to attack and disarm Hezbollah, some Lebanese Armed Forces units would mutiny, others would disintegrate - and any outfits that attempted to take on Hezbollah would be badly and swiftly defeated. And the action would reignite the country's dormant civil war.
After the Israeli strikes in Beirut, Hezbollah then raised the stakes again by raining rockets down on Israeli cities - making it impossible for Israel to limit its offensive. The global media nonetheless portrayed Israel as the aggressor, highlighting Lebanese casualties, rather than the suffering in Israel.
FOR its part, Israel picked the wrong fight by striking Beirut's infrastructure while its deadly enemies sat comfortably in Damascus.
Israel should've hit Syria. It had nothing to lose and far more to gain. No matter what Israel does and no matter how many concessions Israeli governments make, its enemies prove implacable and the "global community" will condemn it.
Returning Gaza to Palestinian control was a noble attempt at making peace. Fanatics made sure it failed. Likewise, withdrawing from southern Lebanon was a risky attempt at compromise and international cooperation. We've seen the rewards. The heart of the problem beats in Damascus, not Beirut. Israel should've gone for it.
As for world opinion, it's saved the terrorists, time and again. Does any reader believe that the United Nations or more than a handful of its member states would act to save Israel? Israel's in a ceaseless fight for its life, and we, at least, have to stop intervening to save its enemies.
THE situation in the Middle East has no good or clear solution. The struggle will continue beyond our lifetimes (unless, of course, the Iranians get their nukes). This is just the latest round, if a particularly ugly one. The ultimate amount of blood that will be shed is unknowable. But we can be certain that Israel's genocidal enemies will always be saved by the bell.
Ralph Peters' latest book, "Never Quit the Fight," was published last week.
Victory through Disproportion
Reply #283 on:
July 17, 2006, 01:03:01 PM »
By Michael Rubin
As bombs continue to drop on Lebanon and rockets on Israel, the West has begun to lose its resolve. On July 14, French president Jacques Chirac condemned Israel?s military action as ?completely disproportionate.? Russian President Vladimir Putin called Israel?s ?use of full-scale force? unacceptable. While President George W. Bush stood firm in his moral clarity, the State Department was more cautious. ?It is extremely important that Israel exercise restraint in its acts of self defense,? Condoleezza Rice told reporters on July 13.
Some U.S. politicians sought to capitalize on the latest violence for political gain. Senator Hillary Clinton blamed the Bush administration for the outburst of violence. ?We?ve had five and a half years of a failed experiment in tough talk absent diplomacy and engagement. I think it?s time to go back to what works, and what has historically worked and what can work again.?
Clinton should go back and reread her history. Premature recourse to diplomacy backfires. Bill Clinton?s diplomatic efforts were well-intentioned but they resulted not in peace, but in a far more violent conflict. The fault for this does not lie with Clinton, but rather with an Iranian and Arab leadership that had not abandoned violence as a mechanism to achieve their goals.
Still, the Clinton administration trusted Arafat as a partner far longer than the evidence warranted. They were not alone. Often in Washington, politicians become so wedded to the success of their policy initiatives, that they ignore the reality of its failure.
The Bush administration was not as willing to accept Yasser Arafat?s duplicity. While in December 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell held out hope that Arafat?s call to end armed struggle against Israel was sincere, his decision to withhold judgment was wise. As Arafat won European praise for his ceasefire, Iranian and Hezbollah officials were loading 50 tons of weaponry onto the Karine-A, destination: Gaza. Throughout the intifada, Arafat?s diplomacy was insincere. He, like other terrorists and rogue leaders, ran to diplomats and the United Nations when he feared retaliation, the playground equivalent of sucker-punching a classmate when the teacher?s back is turned, and then crying for intercession as the victim fights back.
Arafat and many Hamas leaders paid the price for their strategy: It was not diplomacy which ended the intifada. Rather, the U.S. and Israeli quarantine of Arafat and Israel?s targeted assassination campaign against other terrorist leaders created accountability and broke the back of the terrorist campaign.
It was at this point, though, that both Ariel Sharon and George Bush snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Politicians should never reward violence and non-compliance. The second intifada which followed Ehud Barak?s May 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon made the violence which engulfed Gaza after Sharon?s unilateral disengagement predictable. Bush?s mistake was rewarding Iran?s noncompliance. Just days after he reversed his policy and rewarded Iran, Iranian Supreme Leader ridiculed U.S. weakness. ?In Iraq, you failed. You say you have spent 300 billion dollars to bring a government in office that obeys you. But it did not happen. In Palestine, you made all attempts to prevent Hamas from coming to power and again you failed. Why don?t you admit that you are weak and your razor is blunt?? he declared on June 4, 2006.
The problem with the West?s policy in the Middle East is not lack of diplomacy, but rather failure to allow retaliatory violence and impose accountability. During the Clinton years, terrorists believed they could strike U.S. interests with near impunity. In 1996, Clinton failed to respond to Iranian planning, training, and supply for the terrorists which struck the Khobar towers, in 1998, U.S. retaliation in response to al Qaeda?s East Africa embassy bombings was weakwristed, and in 2000, the response to the U.S.S. Cole bombing was nonexistent. Israel too suffered from and erosion of its deterrence.
Not only is vengeance against terrorism sometimes necessary, but it is more likely to bring peace if it is disproportionate. The Bush administration?s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was not to bring down a couple buildings in Kabul or Qandahar, nor shoot missiles at empty buildings or training camps, but rather to launch war on al Qaeda and bring the Taliban government to its knees.
For the West, moral equivalency is also a handicap. True, terrorists may also argue that the way to alter Western policy is through violence. But that is all the more reason why the West must ensure its own victory first.
When academics and commentators decry disproportionate force as an obstacle to peace, they replace analysis with platitude. Lasting peace is seldom made between equals, but rather between strong and weak. The United States ended World War II precisely because it was willing to use disproportionate force. In doing so, it allowed Japan to rebuild and thrive. England and France did not pull back from Germany and allow the Nazi regime to re-arm and try again. Wars are fought until they are won. Among Israel?s neighbors, only Egypt and Jordan have accepted peace with the Jewish state. In 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat sought peace only after a disastrous attempt at war. King Hussein of Jordan also accepted peace ? not as formally at first ? after understanding the price of war. Negotiations between Jerusalem, Cairo, and Amman succeeded because they accepted that violence could not achieve their aims, an epiphany still lost upon many in the Arab world and Iran. The irony of the Oslo Accords was that those that fought the first intifada were not those handed the reins of leadership. Both U.S. and Israeli leaders enabled the Tunisia-based faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization to take control. Arafat viewed his chairmanship over the Palestinian Authority as an entitlement, without understanding his responsibility.
Diplomacy that preserves a status quo in which terrorists win concession through violence ensures future bloodshed. Hezbollah is not a movement whose existence diplomats should intercede to preserve. While world leaders condemned Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad?s Holocaust denial and threats to eradicate Israel from the map, they ignore that on April 9, 2000, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared, ?The Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities,? and argued, ?Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history... Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment.? Nasrallah has made his aims clear. That anyone would intercede to enable someone whose goal is genocide to continue is irresponsible, if not hateful. Nasrallah later provided an answer to those progressive tempted to argue the problem to be Israel?s existence. To the Hezbollah leader, Israel is just one part of the fight. On October 22, 2002, Hassan Nasrallah told Lebanon?s Daily Star, ?If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them world wide.?
There will be a role for diplomacy in the Middle East, but it will only be successful if it commences both after the eradication of Hezbollah and Hamas, and after their paymasters pay a terrible cost for their support. This does not mean that Israel is without blame. Lebanese politicians may have been cowardly in their failure to exert sovereignty following Israel?s May 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The State Department and European foreign ministries were negligent in their failure to keep up the pressure on Hezbollah, Damascus, and Tehran following the Cedar Revolution. But there will never be peace if Syria and Iran are allowed to use Lebanon as a proxy battlefield safe and secure in the knowledge that they will not pay directly. If the peace is the aim, it is imperative to punish the Syrian and Iranian leadership. Most Lebanese are victims, too.
? Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of Middle East Quarterly.
National Review Online -
Reply #284 on:
July 17, 2006, 01:34:45 PM »
If Hezbollah bombs Tel Aviv. The gloves will come off and no one will be able to control Israel.
Israel has been looking for a reason to attack Iran. Due to the Iranian nuclear sword rattling and the Israeli view that the rest of the world is dragging their feet to prevent Iran. They also feel Bush is weak and unable to drum up support to help Israel.
So if Tel Aviv is lite up watch for Iran, Lebanon and maybe Syria to pay the price.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #285 on:
July 18, 2006, 06:57:50 PM »
Why the F are you not in Iraq yourself if you feel so strongly about it ?
How unfortunate that I now feel like slapping your ears for your warlike lunacy when I actually respect your fighting philosophy
Reply #286 on:
July 19, 2006, 06:16:00 AM »
Is this how you talk to people in face to face political conversations?
Reply #287 on:
July 19, 2006, 10:05:19 AM »
Michael Yon's latest dispatch on the WOT
Sunday, July 16th, 2006
The lust for self-destruction and someone to blame
The cauldron of the Israeli conflict is flaring, scalding the surrounding desert. The hands stoking the fire underneath belong to militant Islam. Jihad has different meanings, but the only meaning that concerns us today is ?Holy War.?
In the words of esteemed Pakistani writer, Ahmed Rashid:
These new Islamic fundamentalists are not interested in transforming a corrupt society into a just one, nor do they care about providing jobs, education, or social benefits to their followers or creating harmony between the various ethnic groups that inhabit many Muslim countries. The new jihadi groups have no economic manifesto, no plan for better governance and the building of political institutions, and no blue-print for creating democratic participation in the decision-making process of the future Islamic states. They depend on a single charismatic leader, an amir, rather than a more democratically constituted organization or party for governance. They believe that the character, piety, and purity of their leader rather than his political abilities, education, or experience will enable him to lead the new society. Thus has emerged the phenomenon of the cults of Mullah Muhammad Omar of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda, and Juma Namangani of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
[Ahmed Rashid in JIHAD, The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia.]
Although Israel is the center of world attention today, she is only one of many targets for militant Islam. A quick trip around the world to inventory a trail of strife and death shows that Israel is only a face in the targeted-crowd.
Nighttime on the ghats in Varanasi, India; another place where Hindus, Christians and Muslims suffer at the hands of militant Muslims.
Last week, about 200 people were killed and 700 wounded by simultaneous terrorist bombings in Mumbai. India is the most unlikely democracy in the world, with its amalgam of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and others. During each of my long excursions there, I was amazed at how the peace holds together. But it does, mostly, and India, despite many obstacles, continues to develop its place in the global new world. Yet our Indian friends have long suffered at the hands of militant Islam, demonstrating this week again the often overlooked fact that nobody suffers worse at the hands of militant Muslims than other Muslims.
India is overwhelmingly Hindu, though about 150 million Muslims live there, which equals nearly the entire population of Pakistan. Most of these Indian Muslims are peaceful, yet clusters of militants in Pakistan, Kashmir and India keep picking, picking, picking. The subcontinent is one of the most dangerous places on Earth for festering wounds because India and Pakistan both possess nuclear weapons. We don?t have to worry about India, but only a weak thread keeps those weapons out of dangerous hands in Pakistan. One thing is certain: Jews in Israel are not to blame for the murderous rage of militant Muslims in India, and India is at this hour blaming Pakistan.
Sheep lungs and other organs hang by their tracheas on a hook in Srinagar, Kashmir; another bastion of militant Islam.
The Russians regularly bleed at the hands of Islamic militants. Terrorists invaded a school in Beslan, holding more than a thousand students, teachers and staff hostage. When the shooting and explosions ended, more than 350 were dead and more than 700 wounded; most of the victims were children. The terrorists may have been addicted to heroin or morphine; the Russians say drugs were found in their blood. That many terrorists are heavy drug users, particularly as they approach the date with their own planned death, is not widely known, but our troops in Iraq have found drug use to be part of the fact pattern of homicide bomb attacks. Whether any narcotic substance was used to grease the slope to slaughtering children, the Jews in Israel had no connection to these attacks.
Even China has a cluster of militant Muslims who have left bomb craters for footprints. The Euro-rhetoric that claims our foreign policy is to blame for the rise in terrorism cannot account for the problems in China.
Thailand, in the southern region, finds peaceful Buddhists suffering from the bombs of militant Islam.
The Jews in Israel cannot be blamed for the bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed about 200 tourists, including my friend Beata Pawlak, in one attack.
Over in the Philippines: much trouble, more bombs, and corpses and crime scenes smeared with the bloody rhetoric of militant Islam. The Jews in Israel or our support for them did not cause any of this.
Bold leap to Canada, one of the most peaceful and tolerant nations, but hardly a second home for the world Jews; attacks were narrowly averted recently. Down to New York, which might qualify for that homeland claim, buildings collapse. Pennsylvania, people crater into the earth. Washington D.C., hijacked bodies slam into the Pentagon. Bin Laden has been on the record saying he murders because infidels occupy holy land. Al-Qaeda mentions Israel as an afterthought, when reaction to their attacks in the world seems for a brief moment almost unified and resolved. But television cameras captured the footage of militant Palestinian Muslims cheering the news of the attacks and chanting victoriously in the streets.
Across the Atlantic, our friends in Europe are frequent victims. In the south: BOOM! Madrid, another metro hit, like in India. London: BOOM! Metro and bus attacks: similar to India, similar to Israel, similar to France.
Germany and France have been hit again and again. Paris may not have been burning but most of France recently cowered in the face of the flames of militant Muslim youth.
Danish people, who pride themselves on tolerance, were burned out of embassies because a cartoonist depicted Mohammed in ways intended to be comical, if cynical. The results were bloody. American flags were burned over Danish cartoons, and many people could not help mentioning ?foreign policy? and Israel to excuse barbaric behavior, though the cause of the riots and deaths was militant reaction to a cartoon from Europe.
In peaceful Holland, a Dutch filmmaker dared raise a questioning hand, with the following result:
On the morning of Nov. 2 in a busy street in east Amsterdam, a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan named Mohammed Bouyeri pulled out a gun and shot controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was riding a bike to his office. Van Gogh hit the ground and stumbled across the street to a nearby building. He didn?t make it. As the Moroccan strode toward him, van Gogh shouted, ?We can still talk about it! Don?t do it! Don?t do it.? But the Moroccan didn?t stop. He shot him again, slit van Gogh?s throat and stuck a letter to his chest with a knife. He was slaughtered like an animal, witnesses said. ?Cut like a tire,? said one. Van Gogh, the Dutch master?s great-grand-nephew, was 47 years old.
[Salon.com?The silencing of Theo van Gogh]
Unfortunately, Mr. van Gogh did not grasp the nature of this philosophy: ?We can still talk about it! Don?t do it! Don?t do it.? Only bad math would attribute US foreign policy toward Israel into van Gogh?s murder.
East, over to Iran, is an insane President who states that the Holocaust never occurred. He would like to make a Holocaust today by destroying Israel, and his scientists and engineers are working on the nuclear bombs to do it. At the current rate, this is scheduled to be the first national-suicide attack, where an entire nation straps a nuclear weapon(s) onto its body and then slams into Israel. If this day comes to pass, countries like Syria and Iran will suddenly cease to exist.
Consider now the question of Israel. Islamic terrorists often cite US support for Israel as the cause of their anger. They are lying. They don?t care about the Palestinians. The Palestinians are pawns and excuses. Saddam Hussein ?cared? about Palestinians, and he focused his charity by giving bonuses to the families of homicide bombers. His sponsorship of terrorism welled up from ancient land disputes between Arabs and Jews. But he used Palestinian pawns to attack Jews in a desperate ploy to curry favor with Hamas leaders, lest they begin to concern themselves with all their Shia brethren piled into mass graves in the Iraq desert.
Attacking Israel while crying crocodile tears for Palestinians has been an effective drill for tapping into wells of anti-Semitism, for polarizing the United Nations, NATO and the EU, which then become embroiled in impassable stalemates that render these organizations inert. This lesson was not lost on Saddam?s closest neighbor and worst enemy: Iran.
When Israel defends itself, the world denounces it and cries the same crocodile tears for the Palestinians. The phrase ?Never again? has special meaning to a people who have been repeated targets for genocide. But the fact is, like the Iraqi Kurds who have seized on their new peace and run fast with it, if people stop shooting at Israelis, they will stop shooting back. This current situation looks like an endless cycle of attack and reciprocation, but the Israelis will stop if the other sides will stop. But Hezbollah, Hamas and others will not stop. These recent attacks and kidnappings were unprovoked. By Israel, that is.
The only common thread to all the violence described in this dispatch is militant Islam. Not Islam. Militant Islam. Militant Muslims around the globe are waging war against anything different, be it the Buddhists? carvings destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Hindus burned alive on trains in India, or Sunni against Shia in Iraq. This is not about Islam; this is not rooted in even a most fundamentalist reading of the Quran.
The pattern is clear, says Dr. Wafa Sultan [video]:
The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.
[Excerpted from an interview with Arab-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan. The interview was aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 21, 2006.]
Reply #288 on:
July 19, 2006, 10:10:21 AM »
I think that Crafty has done more for our men in uniform through efforts he will not mention than he could ever do in Iraq personally.
We try to be respectful in Cd's house.
Reply #289 on:
July 19, 2006, 12:28:46 PM »
Witnessing the random violence of war
Hezbollah rockets strike without warning, with devastating effect
By Martin Fletcher
Updated: 6:48 p.m. CT July 18, 2006
HAIFA, Israel - We started our day in a bomb shelter in the northern town of Nahariya, Israel. I asked the kids in the shelter, "Do you understand why you're here?"
"Hezbollah," they reply.
"They are bad people. They want to kill us," adds 11-year-old Tal.
His sister Michel feels safe here.
But as we leave: Panic. New rocket attacks around us.
"Katyushas," shouts one woman, then, "a bomb!" "Where are my children?" she cries.
A man points to the smoke, and we run there. Half a mile. Past another bomb shelter, more frightened people pointing the way. When we get there, cars are destroyed, gasoline flowing down the street, burning embers. Live electric cables on the ground, water mains broken. Deadly combinations.
A man is in shock. The Katyusha rocket, with its 50-pound warhead, made only a small hole in the ground. But it spread terror.
Close by, a second hit. But nobody was wounded in either attack.
One house was hit by a rocket, but everybody was inside the bomb shelter.
Then, a third rocket. Terror on the homefront. We run another half mile. A quick response can save lives. But for all three bombs, we got there before the ambulances.
One man we saw had no chance. A direct hit.
?Where are you??
People are just waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Yet again, it happened right next to a bomb shelter. Most people were inside, and that's how they stayed safe. The man we saw was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At the shelter, one lady is desperate. "Where are you? Where are you?" she cries.
A man says, "She's lost her husband."
The woman calls him.
Everybody hears a phone ring.
It's by the dead body.
Randomness sparks fear
This is just one example of the suffering Israelis and Lebanese people are feeling since fighting began with Hezbollah seven days ago.
Hezbollah fired several missiles at northern Israel Tuesday, killing the man in Nahariya and wounding several others, Israeli officials said.
Twenty-five Israelis and more than 237 Lebanese people have died so far in the conflict. The violence has displaced an estimated 500,000.
Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at northern Israeli towns from the Lebanese border, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take cover in underground shelters or flee to the south.
The randomness of the missiles has substantially increased the fear in Israel. There is no forewarning. It could happen anytime. The bomb just falls out of the sky.
Because Nahariya is so close to the border, there is no siren warning citizens before a missile strikes. There?s nowhere to run or hide. Peple stay close to bomb shelters to stay safe.
Israeli army air strikes continue
The Israeli air force kept up its strikes across southern Lebanon on Tuesday, hitting a military base at Kfar Chima as soldiers rushed to their bomb shelters, the Lebanese military said. At least 11 soldiers were killed in an engineering unit and 35 were wounded, it said. The base is adjacent to Hezbollah strongholds often targeted by recent Israeli strikes.
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr denounced the strike as a ?massacre,? saying the regiment?s main job was to help rebuild infrastructure. The Lebanese army has largely stayed out of the fighting, confining itself to firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes. But Israeli jets have struck Lebanese army positions.
Israel did not give a reason for the strike on the base.
Nine members of the same family were killed when a bomb hit their house in the village of Aitaroun, near the border, Lebanon?s state-run news agency said, citing the police. Israeli warplanes also struck southern Beirut, and hit four trucks that Israeli officials said were bringing in weapons.
?That is intolerable terrorist activity,? said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman. In total, Israel?s attacks Tuesday killed 27 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Editorial: Self-defence is a universal right
Reply #290 on:
July 19, 2006, 02:21:06 PM »
Editorial: Self-defence is a universal right
July 20, 2006
Israel's critics are too often guilty of selective outrage
THE tyranny of distance still afflicts Australia, or at least certain segments of the Australian commentariat. For from a distance of nearly 15,000km, many local media outlets look at the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and see a decidedly one-sided affair. Last week, The Sydney Morning Herald headlined a front-page story declaring Lebanon "UNDER SIEGE" by what its correspondent called "Israeli attacks causing soaring civilian death tolls in Gaza and Lebanon", setting the tone for the paper's coverage of the conflict. Meanwhile, at the ABC on Tuesday night, Tony Jones badgered former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak over Israel's refusal to call a ceasefire, while the UK Independent's Robert Fisk regularly rants against Israel on the nation's broadcaster. Yet the closer one gets to the front lines, the less Israel cops the blame. In the Middle East, the normally anti-Israeli Saudi Arabian Government has said Hezbollah bears "full responsibility for . . . ending the crisis". In Lebanon, there is even more support for Israel's actions. On Tuesday night's 7:30 Report, of all places, several Lebanese officials placed blame for the current conflict on Hezbollah ? not Israel. The question that comes to mind, then, is whether those who effectively suggest Israel should meekly accept its neighbours' attacks actually support the Jewish state's right to exist?
It's a legitimate question. Certainly Israel should not be immune to criticism. But if Israel's right to exist is accepted, then the exercise of its corresponding right to protect itself should not be treated with such outrage. Since Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has become more powerful in southern Lebanon, thanks to its friends in Iran and Syria. During this time it has also subjected Israel to regular harassment ? even as Israel has, until the kidnapping of two of its soldiers last week, been restrained in retaliation. One wonders how those who criticise Israel's response to Hezbollah would urge the Howard Government to respond were a foreign enemy seizing cops and dropping artillery shells into Balmain in Sydney or Fitzroy in Melbourne. Those who condemn images of Israeli girls writing messages on artillery shells are rarely if ever heard denouncing the relentless propaganda that brainwashes Palestinian children to hate their Jewish neighbours and celebrate the deeds of suicide bombers. Meanwhile, the ancient idea of proportionate response has lately become a rhetorical cudgel for those who would hobble Israel. Yet in taking the possibility of overwhelming retaliation off the table, the doctrine encourages bad behaviour on the part of Israel's enemies who know they would never be called to account.
In retaliating against Lebanon and evicting that country's Shia interlopers, Israel is simply behaving as a rational actor. And in doing so it strikes a blow for the principle that all states should be treated similarly. This is the only way forward for Israel in dealing with the Palestinians: if Hamas wants to be recognised as the legitimate government of the Palestinian people, then the world should go along with this and no longer accept "rogue state" claims that Qassam rockets and suicide terrorist missions launched from its territory are not its responsibility. Violent internal politics or historic grievances about dispossession and occupation do not excuse bad behaviour. The situation is still fluid in the Middle East. And any attack on Tel Aviv by Hezbollah would radically change the equation. But the quick defeat of Hezbollah ? and by extension its mad backers in Tehran ? would not just be a win for Israel but for Lebanon and the region as well.
Reply #291 on:
July 19, 2006, 03:50:06 PM »
After reading your post I myself felt like swatting your nose with a rolled newspaper for the blatant disrespect.
I maybe wrong but I feel you are against this war. Many people in this "tribe" share your feelings. Instead of throwing out insults why not share why you are against this action.
Since I have started my training with Marc I have been to the Middle East/Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa more times than I want to count. I am extremely gratful that Marc has taken his time and shared his personel knowledge in warcraft. More than once it has saved my backside.
Have you been to Iraq? If not, why not?
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #292 on:
July 20, 2006, 07:15:29 PM »
Quote from: xtremekali
After reading your post I myself felt like swatting your nose with a rolled newspaper for the blatant disrespect.
The only problem we have there is one of distance, I am in New Zealand.
I maybe wrong but I feel you are against this war. Many people in this "tribe" share your feelings. Instead of throwing out insults why not share why you are against this action.
My inner watcher does not allow me to support this war.
If your watcher does, then so be it. . .
Have you been to Iraq? If not, why not?
Currently my territory is about a third of an acre, and it isn't in Iraq.
The military purpose of a dog (IMO) is to defend its territory, which is what I do.
Reply #293 on:
July 21, 2006, 08:20:43 AM »
After reading your post I myself felt like swatting your nose with a rolled newspaper for the blatant disrespect."
The only problem we have there is one of distance, I am in New Zealand."
Well, it seems like we have an answer to my question as to whether you conduct yoursefl thusly in face-to-face conversation.
Anyway, enough of this banter. Forward.
As for defending territory, that is what we seek to do. 911 was an effort to take out the White House (the Pentagon was a Plan B target after that plane missed the WH) and either the Congress or Three Mile Island (Flight 93, which was taken down by the Unorganized Militia passengers). Taking out Congress would have been one thing, but TMI would have left a goodly chunk of America glowing for quite some time.
"If only we had stayed home" thinking seems to assume that all would be well now. We can never know the results of courses of actions not taken, but it seems quite plausible to me to think the following:
1) The UN embargo would have broken down, SH would still be in power with the prestige of having outlasted the West's efforts to bring him to heel. He would be ramping up WMD efforts.
2) US troops would still be in Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud would still be in a position to be placating/buying off AQ instead of seeking to crush it in its homeland.
3) Libya's undetected nuke program would still be undetected and would be headed towards completion.
4) Pakistan's nuke program would not be leashed
5) Encouraged by the lack of consequences for 911, more attacks on the US homeland would be taking place.
We are in a very, very tough war. Its outcome is not yet determined in my opinion.
Indeed, the following piece, if correct, suggests that Israel's very existence is in question.
July 21, 2006
Worst Case Scenario: Hezbollah's Conventional Forces
By Bill Roggio
The Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah have fought pitched battles over
the past two days in the region around Avivim. Ynet News reports nine
Israeli soldiers were wounded during the fighting, and two were killed in
the nearby town of Maroun al-Ras. "Attempts to rescue some of the injured
were carried out under relentless fire," according to the Ynet News report.
Six Hezbollah cells were engaged during the attack. Israeli forces have
withdrawn from the area.
Al Manar, Hezbollah's mouthpiece, states "nine Israeli soldiers were
reported killed in a Hizbullah ambush while advancing into Lebanon," and
"aired footage of Israeli Army equipment seized by Hizbullah fighters in the
clashes." While Al Manar inflates, distorts or outright lies quite often
when it comes to casualty figures and other information, the fact that the
claim on Al Manar must be considered is disquieting. An irregular force such
as Hezbollah should not be fighting a professional military to a standstill.
Hezbollah also has built an extensive underground networks, including
"fortified underground bunkers some 40 meters (roughly 120 feet)
underground, along with mass weapons caches" and communications systems. All
of this was built under the nose of the Israeli military and intelligence
services, as well as the peacekeeping forces of the United Nations Interim
Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The successful Hezbollah raid on the Israeli outpost that started the
conflict, followed by the firing of rockets into Haifa and beyond, anti-ship
cruise missiles which disabled an Israeli warship and sunk a civilian
freighter, and the construction and presence of a fortified bunker network
along the border have caught the Israeli intelligence community (Aman and
Mossad) flat footed. In the words of an American military officer, "If we
didn't know this about Hezbollah's capabilities, just think of what we don't
know about Iran's capabilities."
The Hezbollah fighters are well trained, and according to an anonymous
senior military source, using ammunition and equipment such as armor
piercing rounds, body armor, night vision gear and laser sights. Hezbollah
also possesses mortars, RPGs, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, anti-tank
missiles and possibly surface to air missiles to accompany their arsenal of
short and medium range missiles capable of striking into the heart of
Israeli territory. Hezbollah is using infantry tactics and fighting at the
squad and platoon level.
This isn't a garden variety militia, but a well trained fighting force, the
Iranian version of the Foreign Legion. This is highlighted by Olivier
Guitta, who points out some interesting facts from the Arabic version of an
Asharq Al-Awsat article which explained the Iranian's involvement in
training Hezbollah and supplying the group with its rocket arsenal:
200 Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been stationed in Lebanon since
1990. They have married Shia Lebanese women, mostly "Hezbollah widows" and
have changed their names to Lebanese names. They installed over twenty fixed
rocket bases in the Bekaa Valley and provided Hezbollah with mobile bases to
launch rockets. Furthermore a secret elite force of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard composed of about twenty men is watching the Israel
Defense Forces' every move with very sophisticated high-tech material and
then deciding on the targets to hit inside Israel.
What we are seeing today is the direct result of the state sponsorship of a
terrorist entity after it has gone unchecked for over two decades. Hezbollah
has evolved from a terrorist, paramilitary group into the most effective
fighting force in Lebanon, capable of conducting professional operations and
using sophisticated weapons. The training camps in the Bekaa Valley are not
only churning out fighters for Hezbollah, but train other terrorist
organizations, exporting the dangerous tactics being used today in Lebanon,
much like the training camps in Afghanistan served as a breeding grounds of
today's crop of terrorists.
While Israel can degrade Hezbollah via air strikes, naval bombardments and
limited raids, the Iranian proxy force cannot be defeated without putting
boots on the ground in southern Lebanon and deep into the Bekaa Valley.
Hezbollah fighters must be engaged on the ground to be defeated. Anything
short of that - a buffer zone or negotiated settlement, both of which
members of the Israel government and military has indicated it would accept
- is a victory for Hezbollah and Iran. Hezbollah would have struck at
Israeli cities and stood up the invincible Israeli army, while weakening the
nascent Lebanese democracy and asserting itself as the true military power
in the country. This would far exceed Hezbollah's victory of the Israeli
withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
The surprise and uncertainty of Hezbollah's military capabilities may in
fact be the reason for pausing a massive invasion of Lebanon. Israel has yet
to give up the option of a major ground strike, but there is resistance to
moving into Southern Lebanon. The Jerusalem Post reports "IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz is known to be opposed to a ground incursion into
Lebanon, which he has said would only be carried out as a last resort." The
deputy prime minister and the minister of defense have also signaled a large
scale ground incursion is not desired.
This attitude will need to change if Israel wishes to eliminate the threat
on the northern border.
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Motives in Lebanon
While Hezbollah forces are busy dodging Israeli missiles, their backers in Iran are throwing out words of support in their defense -- and not much else. Iran is watching as its most prized militant asset in the region gets clobbered by Israeli forces, which raises the question of why Tehran played a part in orchestrating this flare-up in the first place.
To begin delving into the psyche of the Iranian regime, we must step back a few days to July 10, the day before the Hezbollah attack in which two Israeli soldiers were abducted in the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The international community at that time was screaming about North Korea's provocative long-range missile test, and the threat of a nuclear-armed Pyongyang dominated the headlines for weeks.
The Iranians and North Koreans regularly play off each other's carefully timed nuclear "crises" -- to the extent that Iranians were reportedly present at North Korea's July 5 missile tests. With North Korea grabbing the world's attention, Tehran had considerable room to maneuver with its own nuclear agenda and skillfully evaded a U.N. Security Council demand for Iran to respond to a package of incentives designed to curb the Iranian nuclear program. The door was open for some adventurism in other areas where Iran possessed assets.
Next door in Iraq, sectarian violence was soaring to unprecedented levels -- Sunni guerrillas continued their attacks, and Shiite death squads roamed relatively freely on the streets, pulling Sunnis out of their homes and cars and shooting them to death. The rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq was driving the U.S. exit strategy even further into the ground, as Shiite political leaders with close links to Iran refrained from taking any action to rein in the Shiite militias.
Meanwhile, Israel already was heavily engaged in a military offensive in the Palestinian territories following the abduction of an Israeli soldier. The banner to resist Israeli aggression had been raised and Hezbollah was itching at the chance to re-legitimize itself as the leading resistance movement and expose the impotence of the Arab states that quickly ducked under cover when the conflict erupted.
With all these cards in place, Iran likely calculated that it would be an opportune time to ignite Hezbollah and enhance its own position as the true vanguard of the Islamic world. Being a Shiite power, Iran faces serious obstacles in crossing the Sunni divide to achieve its desired status in the region. By provoking Israel into a major military offensive in which Israeli airstrikes killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians and destroyed Lebanon's core infrastructure, the Iranians could have very well intended to incite an uprising throughout the region in protest against Israel's aggressive military campaign.
This assumption, however, may have been a miscalculation on Iran's part. Israel's war against Hezbollah has exposed glaring rifts between the Sunni and Shiite populations. The Sunni Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are staunchly protesting Hezbollah's provocations while Shiite communities in Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and other areas are vehemently criticizing the Arab states for standing back from the conflict. It has come to a point where the Arabs have become as distrustful of Iran as they are of the United States and Israel.
Israel is not going to back down from its military campaign until it paralyzes Hezbollah's militant wing. This is evidently a major sacrifice for Iran to make -- but Israel's current offensive will by no means eradicate Hezbollah as a thriving Shiite resistance movement with the tenacity and will to build itself back up.
Because Iran does not share a border with Lebanon, it conveniently lacks the means to intervene militarily in the conflict. Instead, the Iranian government can call for boycotts and rally the region against Israeli aggression, while it positions itself for the United States and Israel to come to Tehran to negotiate an end to the crisis. According to the Iranian view, Tehran can then promote the idea that it has reached an autonomous role in the region, having stepped in where the seemingly ineffective Arab states could not. Moreover, Iran will have the assurance that the United States and Israel are not willing to engage it militarily, even when it sparks a regional crisis through its militant surrogate in Lebanon.
Reply #294 on:
July 21, 2006, 08:56:32 AM »
My second post of the morning:
Lebanon: Israel Launches Ground Invasion
July 21, 2006 12 50 GMT
Israel launched ground operations into southern Lebanon overnight July 20-21, deploying at least five brigades, including paratroopers, commando forces and a tank brigade. These forces are encountering heavy resistance from Hezbollah. Israel's ground campaign, however, cannot stop at southern Lebanon. The move to the Litani River is only the first phase of the operation.
Israel has launched ground operations into southern Lebanon, deploying at least five brigades overnight July 20-21, including paratroopers, commando forces and a tank brigade. These troops are encountering heavy resistance from Hezbollah forces, who are armed with anti-tank missiles for use against Israel's Merkava tanks. The Hezbollah forces also are holed up in underground shelters, bunkers and tunnels -- all well-defensible positions.
For Israel, the ground campaign cannot simply be into southern Lebanon. Though an initial push up to the Litani River will re-create a buffer zone to the north of Israel, Hezbollah has demonstrated a longer-range missile capability, making the buffer zone less effective. In addition, now that Israel has made the final political and military decision to move into Lebanon, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or the Israeli government cannot stop short of inflicting severe damage on Hezbollah capabilities. This means the move to the Litani is only the first phase of the operation. IDF will next move into the Bekaa Valley, where heavy casualties are expected on both sides.
For Hezbollah, whose leader Hassan Nasrallah has shown he is very much still alive despite Israeli airstrikes, the question is how best to counter the Israeli ground invasion. There are two main options. First, Hezbollah could remain in its defensive positions and inflict as many casualties on the invading Israeli forces as possible. Second, it could fade into the villages and hills, allow the Israeli forces to move in, and then begin a guerrilla war against the occupying forces.
Given the current intensity of fighting, it appears Hezbollah is choosing the former. Israel has little intent to remain a long-term occupier in Lebanon; it is not in the country for nation-building. It has a clear military and political objective, and wants to move quickly, employ overwhelming force and withdraw. If Hezbollah decides to lay low, it might not get the opportunity to launch a sustained guerrilla offensive, as Israeli forces will not remain in Lebanon.
However, putting up a stiff resistance -- taking out some of Israel's Merkava tanks and weakening the image of the Israeli military -- will demonstrate the strength and will of Hezbollah and slow the Israeli advances. And the longer Israel is in the ground phase, the more opportunities Hezbollah forces have to employ the modern weaponry they now possess.
In the midst of all of this, the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region is to take place sometime next week. Washington is using the promise of the visit to block other diplomatic missions. Rice will go when Israel is near its objectives. If her visit takes place some time mid- to late next week, it would be in keeping with Israeli expectations -- though not necessarily with reality. Israeli sources are not brimming with confidence in terms of the immediate outcome of the ground offensive -- Hezbollah has surprised Israel with capabilities and discipline.
From Tehran's perspective, it both weakens Israel's image of invulnerability and, in tying down the Israeli forces in intense combat, creates a situation in which international diplomatic pressure on Israel can rise quickly. Though Tehran could lose much of Hezbollah's fighting capability to Israeli forces, it hopes to gain political strength regionally, reshape the impression of Israeli military might, and create tensions or rifts in relations between western nations and Israel.
From the Iranian/Hezbollah point of view, the fighting capabilities of the Lebanese Shiite guerrilla movement can be rebuilt as has been the case in the past. In a way, the question is whether Hezbollah's military capabilities are destroyed before the diplomatic process kicks in, or whether it will be the other way around. It should be noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly has said the war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon would continue until it no longer is "worth the price."
The Iranians also have placed the Sunni Arab states in a bind, forcing them to balance their desire to counter Iranian/Shiite moves with the need to oppose Israeli actions in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. This dynamic also could widen the Shiite-Sunni rift in the region -- possibly spreading the sectarian conflict beyond Iraq.
Reply #295 on:
July 21, 2006, 11:23:46 AM »
Back to Story - Help
Hezbollah 'heroes' hailed in Iran for their 'great job' by Hiedeh Farmani
Fri Jul 21, 8:06 AM ET
Top Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has hailed Lebanon's Hezbollah as "heroes", but rejected mounting allegations that Iran and Syria were behind the Shiite movement's conflict with Israel.
"The Hezbollah forces have done a great job and have resisted well. They and their leader, our dear brother Hassan Nasrallah, are heroes," the influential cleric and former president said in his Friday prayer sermon in Tehran.
Iran has been accused of financing Hezbollah, although the Islamic regime insists it only gives "moral" support to its fellow hardline Shiites.
"It is misleading to say that Iran and Syria are carrying this out," Rafsanjani said of Hezbollah's fight against the Jewish state. "These are careless statements."
Israel launched its offensive against Lebanon on July 12 after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers.
"Destroying a country is not proportionate to capturing two hostages," Rafsanjani said, attributing the ongoing Israeli assault against Lebanon as "part of an evil US plot for the Greater Middle East".
"The United States and Britain do not allow the Security Council to order a ceasefire. The UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) makes proposals favoured by Israel," Rafsanjani added.
But he said that "most deplorable of all" were fellow Muslim nations.
"Arab and Islamic countries... do not even bother to condemn the fact that Muslims are being butchered by non-believers. This is a historic catastrophe," he fumed.
According to state television, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call for an emergency meeting of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the "activation of the Islamic world to stop these Zionist crimes".
Ahmadinejad has previously described Israel as a "tumour", and has said it should "wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska.
On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Iran of helping to coordinate Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a bid to distract attention from the controversial Iranian nuclear programme.
"The moment for the abduction owed nothing to chance, it was determined with Iran to distract the attention of the international community from the Iranian nuclear programme," Olmert said, according to army radio.
"Hezbollah is supported by Iran and Syria," British Prime Minister Tony Blair also said on Tuesday.
It is supported "by the former in weapons -- weapons, incidentally, very similar if not identical to those used against British troops in Basra -- and by the latter in many different ways and by both of them financially."
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #296 on:
July 21, 2006, 11:28:53 AM »
Last update - 18:05 15/07/2006
IDF officer: Israel has no plans to attack Syria
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
Responding to a report in a pan-Arab daily newspaper that Israel presented Damascus with an ultimatum, an Israel Defense Forces officer said Saturday that targeting Syria is currently not on Israel's agenda.
"We're not a gang that shoots in every direction," the officer said. "It won't be right to bring Syria into the campaign."
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday that Israel issued an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to which a regional war would erupt within 72 hours if Damascus does not prevent Hezbollah attacks.
According to the report, a Pentagon source said that if Syria does not try to influence Hezbollah, Israel could bomb essential installations in Syria. The source neither confirmed nor denied rumors that Israel had given Damascus 72 hours to comply with international demands.
The IDF officer emphasized that the Golan Heights frontier has been quiet since 1974, a factor which Israeli views as a vital security asset. The officer said that the Syrian air force as well as additional units are on high alert, a fact which hasn't escaped Israel's attention.
The source added that even though Syria is playing a negative role in the latest crisis, he believes that it had no direct role in the outbreak of fighting.
"Syria is a negative factor, but it is not strong enough in order to instigate all these events," the source said.
U.S. President George W. Bush called on Syria on Saturday to exert its influence to persuade Hezbollah to stop attacks against Israel.
At a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush laid the blame for the upsurge in Middle East violence on Hezbollah.
"The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking. And therefore I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah."
In recent days, senior U.S. administration officials, led Bush blamed Syria for the escalation of violence in the region. Syria's ambassador to the U.S. regarded U.S. policy in the region as favoring Israel, which he said was not helping the situation.
According to analysts and senior officials in Syria, Damascus is aware of the threat of an Israeli strike. In recent days, senior officials warned Israel against attacking. Lawmaker Muhammad Habash stated that if Damascus is attacked, another front would open on the Golan Heights. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned Israel against attacking Syria.
Syria's ambassador to London said Friday that Damascus wants to remain outside the conflict in Lebanon. He went on to say that Syria demanded that Hezbollah stop launching Katyusha rockets at Israel.
On Friday, the ruling Baath Party said Syria will support Hezbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country.
"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communique from the party's national command issued after a meeting.
It said Israel and the U.S. "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that Assad was aware of the seriousness of the situation in the region.
The national command is the highest echelon of the Baath Party, which has been in power since 1963.
Assad, who has resisted Israeli and American pressure to abandon support for Hezbollah, was not at the meeting.
Hezbollah's capture of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers and barrage of rocket attacks incited major Israeli military action against Lebanese targets for the first time since it withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
Ahmadinejad: Israel would not dare to move against Iran
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Israel would not dare to move against the Islamic republic, state television reported.
Iran has denied Israeli suggestions that Hezbollah guerrillas could take the captured soldiers to Iran.
"The Zionist regime does not dare to cast a look with bad intentions at Iran," the president was quoted as saying by state television.
On Thursday, Ahmadinejad said an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a "fierce response", state television reported.
"If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The president made the comments after Israel struck Beirut airport and military airbases and blockaded Lebanese ports in reprisals that have killed 55 civilians in Lebanon since Hezbollah gunmen captured two Israeli soldiers a day earlier.
"He (Ahmadinejad) also said it was a must for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to become more active regarding the new crisis created by the Zionist regime," state television reported.
Arab governments have agreed to send their foreign ministers to Cairo for an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
But the 22-member League has not yet seen specific proposals for a joint Arab response to the Israeli attacks.
Major Arab governments other than Syria are not expected to give unqualified backing Hezbollah, or the Palestinian militant group Hamas which is holding an Israeli soldier hostage.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #297 on:
July 21, 2006, 11:31:42 AM »
Last update - 02:17 17/07/2006
ANALYSIS: Israel-Hezbollah fighting yet to reach its zenith
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent
The fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has still not reached its zenith. The Israel Defense Forces' operational plans against the Shi'ite organizations have not yet been carried out. The next two days are the most critical and a lot depends on whether Tehran decides to take a chance and authorize Hezbollah to launch long-range missiles with more powerful warheads. This is a capability Hezbollah still retains, despite the heavy blows it has suffered in the IDF air strikes.
On Sunday, Israel bore witness to the use of more powerful rockets against Haifa, which killed eight people and injured dozens more. The Syrian-made 220 mm rocket has a warhead weighing more than 50 kilograms. Hezbollah was supplied with these rockets as the Syrian armed forces were receiving them off the production lines. The decision to give Hezbollah the rockets was made when it was concluded that the group would be considered part of the Syrian army's overall emergency preparedness.
The risk to Iran is not military, but rather that Hezbollah would suffer such damage that it would no longer be counted as the sole external element of Iran's Islamic Revolution. It is difficult to assess what the Iranian leadership will decide. If it does opt for aggravating the situation, it will certainly encourage the Syrians to become involved in the confrontation, but all indications suggest that Damascus is not eager to get dragged into war.
Israel is also not interested in a third front, so long as Syria does not intervene in the fighting on the side of Hezbollah.
Another option is that Iran will decide that it is not advantageous for Hezbollah to launch "one too many" rockets at Israel's civilians. In the past 24 hours, there has been a slowing in the air strikes against Lebanese national infrastructure. Now attention is focused on
Hezbollah infrastructure, including rockets, positions and bunkers, in southern Lebanon, the Beka'a and Beirut.
From a military standpoint, the mobile Fajr rockets pose a special problem because they are more difficult to locate and destroy. On Sunday, the air force concentrated on attacks against regular Katyusha rockets whose range is shorter and many of which have already been launched against towns in the Galilee. But the presence of some 600 Hezbollah storage bunkers, a third of which were prepared for the longer range rockets, makes the task difficult.
Israel will also try to target the 12 most senior members of Hezbollah, who are hiding in bunkers deep in the Dahiya quarter in southern Beirut. These men are strategic targets and they include Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, Ibrahim Akil, Imad Mughniye and others. These senior figures constitute the group's equivalent of a General Staff and its political-diplomatic cabinet.
One of the reasons for the repeated attacks against Dahiya is that the Hezbollah's top headquarters are situated there. The area is described by IDF as a "terrorist center" and although the aim is not to harm civilians, the IDF hopes that the permanent residents will leave their homes so that they will not be hurt. A total of 40 targets have been marked in Dahiya, some linked by underground tunnels; one of them is a subterranean factory for special types of ammunition.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Reply #298 on:
July 21, 2006, 12:39:43 PM »
Quote from: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (said)
"Arab and Islamic countries... do not even bother to condemn the fact that Muslims are being butchered by non-believers. This is a historic catastrophe," he fumed.
Right, only believers are allowed to butcher Muslims as is patently evident in what is happening now and in the past in Iraq and many other Muslin nations. And, of course, Muslims are allowed to butcher non-Muslims anywhere in the world as was evident in 9/11, USS Cole, Argentina, the US Embassy in Beirut, India, Indonesia, Russia, London, Madrid, and very specially in Israel.
The Sunni rejection of Hezbollah clearly shows how dangerous they think the Iranian backed militia is for them, not just for infidels. As often happens in politics, we are seeing strange bedfellows, Sunnis backing Israel against the Shia Heizbollah.
Reply #299 on:
July 21, 2006, 01:25:29 PM »
Q&A: Somali Islamist advance
A militia run by Islamic courts is in control of 99% of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, raising fears in the west that they could provide a safe haven for Islamic radicals from al-Qaeda.
But many Mogadishu residents are glad that the city has been reunited, after being fought over by various warlords for the past 15 years. Almost all Somalis are Muslim and have no problem with the idea of being governed according to Islamic law.
What is the Union of Islamic Courts?
A network of 11 Islamic courts has been set in recent years in Mogadishu, funded by businessmen who preferred any semblance of law and order to complete anarchy.
The courts' stated goal is to restore a system of Sharia law in the city and put an end to impunity and fighting on the streets.
Whilst they are widely credited by some residents in Mogadishu as having clamped down on criminal activity in the city before the recent upsurge in violence, there are elements within the Islamist militia pushing for an Islamic state.
The militias became increasingly powerful as a military force after Mogadishu's main warlords formed the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism this year.
The alliance - widely believed to have been backed by the US - said it wished to root out al-Qaeda members being sheltered by the courts.
Who supports them?
As a grassroots movement they have become increasingly popular among city residents and the business community desperate to see an end to the rule of the gun.
Where the Islamic courts militia has obtained its substantial weaponry and financing is unclear though.
A United Nations report, which called for a tighter arms embargo on Somalia, said that Ethiopia was supplying weapons to the interim government while Eritrea was arming the Islamic courts.
Some fingers have been pointed towards Saudi Arabia and others to wealthy foreign supporters of Islamic militancy.
They are not reported to be seeking money from Somalis at their checkpoints in the city, as militias loyal to warlords did.
What about the al-Qaeda links?
The main source of concern for the United States is al-Qaeda involvement.
The Islamic courts deny any links, or that there are terror training camps in Somalia.
But diplomats believe that small groups of al-Qaeda militants, including foreigners, are operating in the country.
There have been at least four attacks on US and Israeli targets in east Africa - all linked in some way to Somalia.
Has life changed in Mogadishu?
Not much - for the moment.
The Islamic courts have stressed that they will not set up a Taleban-style government and the courts themselves have not changed much.
There are fewer check-points where gunmen working for the warlords used to stop vehicles and demand money.
And life is obviously much better now than for much of this year when the Islamists were battling the warlords, leading to hundreds of deaths - mostly civilians.
But life for most Mogadishu residents remains extremely tough.
There are very few jobs - many depend on money sent home by relatives abroad.
The city is home to many people who have fled fighting in other parts of the country over the past 15 years.
Many live in abandoned buildings or shelters cobbled together from whatever they can find - branches, pieces of material or cardboard.
However, it remains far too dangerous for all but the very bravest aid workers to operate in Mogadishu - as well as the interim government which is based some 250km (158 miles) away in Baidoa.
What has happened to the alliance of warlords?
Most of them have fled Mogadishu.
WHERE ARE THE WARLORDS?
Mohamed Dhere : exiled in Ethiopia, believed to be very ill
Abdirashid Shire Ilgayte : exiled in Dubai after Kenya deported him
Mohamed Afrah Qanyare : in his home-town of El Bur
Muse Sudi Yalahow : with Qanyare in El Bur
Bashir Ragge : with Qanyare in El Bur
Omar Finish : changed allegiance to the courts, believed to be in the capital
Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdid : defeated by Islamists, probably fled
Only Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdid, one-time commander of troops loyal to the late warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed who fought US peacekeepers in Mogadishu in the early 1990s, was the last warlord to remain in the capital, but went missing after his forces were defeated in a two day clash in July.
Omar Finish is believed to be still in Mogadishu and says he will now support the Islamic courts.
Abdirashid Shire Ilgayte, owner of Mogadishu's Salafi Hotel, was deported from Nairobi after the Kenyan authorities said they would no longer host those responsible for destabilising Somalia.
He is now in exile in Dubai.
Mohamed Afrah Qanyare has returned to his home-town of El Bur in central Somalia.
He has been joined there by Muse Sudi Yalahow and Bashir Ragge, who are reported to be seeking US help to find refuge outside Somalia.
Jowhar's former warlord Mohamed Dhere has fled to Ethiopia, where he is believed to be very ill.
So will peace now prevail?
The key issue now, with the power of the Mogadishu warlords eroded, will be how the Union of Islamic Courts gets on with President Yusuf's interim government.
Mr Yusuf was elected by MPs in 2004 as part of a peace process based in neighbouring Kenya.
He controls only a very small part of the country.
Some had argued that the unification of Mogadishu for the first time in 15 years could make peace easier to achieve - as the government would only have one group to talk to.
His government at first welcomed the Islamists and talks were started but they have since fallen out over the question of whether foreign peacekeepers are needed in Somalia. It is unclear if they will resume.
The Islamic courts say they can guarantee security but the government does not seem convinced and has asked for African peacekeepers.
Mr Yusuf also insists that the courts recognise his authority before any more talks.
Even more worryingly, the Islamic courts say that Ethiopian troops have crossed the border.
Ethiopia has denied this but it has supported Mr Yusuf against Islamic groups in the past and it raise the possibility of a regional conflict.
If Baidoa were attacked by the Courts, the Ethiopians might intervene.
Securing a lasting peace is not easy in Somalia.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
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