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Topic: Geo Political matters (Read 76674 times)
Russia Provides Syria w/ Ammo, Training
Reply #50 on:
September 29, 2005, 12:35:28 PM »
Hmm, given the current context this is an interesting tidbit.
Russia to supply Syria with ammunition, train officers
17:47 | 29/ 09/ 2005
MOSCOW, September 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will provide Syria with small arms ammunition and allow more Syrian students to study at Russian defense ministry universities, a ministry spokesman said Thursday.
Syrian Chief of Staff General Ali Habib, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Chief of Staff Yury Baluyevsky reached this agreement during talks in Moscow September 27-28, the source said.
"[The parties] agreed on small supplies of ammunition for small arms to Syria and doubling the number of Syrian students in Russian higher education institutions under the Ministry of Defense. There are about 30 Syrian officers studying in Russia now," the spokesman said.
The source also said the parties had not signed any high-level agreements during the talks.
While in Russia, the Syrian general visited the Instrument Production Design Bureau in Tula (about 200 km south of Moscow), which has developed and produced 130 types of arms and military equipment for the Russian armed forces.
Geo Political matters
Reply #51 on:
October 02, 2005, 01:20:06 PM »
The World Health Organization reports that the H5N1 avian influenza could bloom into a pandemic that would be more lethal than the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed as many as 100 million pepole worldwide. This was in a world one third as populated as today. The chaos attending such a disaster would shake mankind like no other disaster in history.
At this tme only bird to human infection has occurred. Epidemiologist from W.H.O. predict the virus will mutate in the near future and result in human to human transferance. H5N1 HAS A 50% death rate at this time.
Democracy Activist Beaten in China
Reply #52 on:
October 10, 2005, 02:32:38 PM »
'They beat him until he was lifeless'
How democracy activist in China's new frontline was left for dead after a brutal attack by a uniformed mob
Benjamin Joffe-Walt in Taishi, southern China
Monday October 10, 2005
The last time I saw Lu Banglie, he was lying in a ditch on the side of the street - placid, numb and lifeless - the spit, snot and urine of about 20 men mixing with his blood, and running all over his body.
I had only met him that day. He was to show me the way to Taishi, the hotspot of the growing rural uprisings in China. It felt like heading into a war. Taishi is under siege, I was warned. The day I arrived a French radio journalist and a Hong Kong print journalist were rumoured to have been beaten somewhere around Taishi.
The Taishi election had also been scheduled for that very day, and news of a hunger strike by one of the two most famous figures in Taishi had just come out.
Mr Lu was a very soft-spoken man, one of those skinny guys who looked like he might start tearing at any moment. Born as a peasant in Baoyuesi village of Bailizhou town in Zhijiang city in Hubei province, he was a people's representative and had been in the village of Taishi since the start of a democratic movement in the area.
That movement, deeply unpopular with the local authorities, has come to be seen as a weather vane for China's tentative steps toward a more representative society. It has led to beatings and mass arrests among its population as well as for observers who ventured into its environs.
Mr Lu was at the forefront of this maelstrom. And yesterday this was where the problem lay. We had hired a taxi. Mr Lu got in the car to put us on the right road. As we got closer, I asked him to get out. He refused. "If you go, I go," he insisted. I told him he would be endangering himself, the driver and maybe us. He was unfazed, not even listening. I repeated for a third time that I wanted him to get out of the car. It didn't work. The translator was annoyed and asked me to leave it. Mr Lu knew the risks better than us, he reasoned. So I dropped it, and it was this appeasement that determined Mr Lu's fate.
We arrived on the outskirts of Taishi, just as the dirt roads start. There were 30 to 50 men - angry, inebriated, bored men. Most looked like thugs. Some wore military camouflage uniform. Some wore blue uniforms with badges on the shoulders, and one guy had a greyish-mauve uniform with a walkie-talkie. Our taxi driver, who we had hired randomly in a neighbouring village, was called out by the thugs. They screamed at him: "What the fuck are you doing here?"
He knew nothing. He came back in and screamed at us. "Fuck all of you, look now you've gotten me into trouble."
We told him to reverse but by that time it was already too late, the car was encircled. "Don't go out!," I screamed, telling everyone to lock their doors. I called a colleague on my mobile, asked him to stay on the phone with me.
The men outside shouted among themselves and those in uniform suddenly left. Those remaining started pushing on the car, screaming at us to get out. They pointed flashlights at us, and when the light hit Mr Lu's face, it was as if a bomb had gone off. They completely lost it. They pulled him out and bashed him to the ground, kicked him, pulverised him, stomped on his head over and over again. The beating was loud, like the crack of a wooden board, and he was unconscious within 30 seconds.
They continued for 10 minutes. The body of this skinny little man turned to putty between the kicking legs of the rancorous men. This was not about teaching a man a lesson, about scaring me, about preventing access to the village; this was about vengeance - retribution for teaching villagers their legal rights, for agitating, for daring to hide.
They slowed down but never stopped. He lay there - his eye out of its socket, his tongue cut, a stream of blood dropping from his mouth, his body limp, twisted. The ligaments in his neck were broken, so his head lay sideways as if connected to the rest of his body by a rubber band.
We were probably in the car another five to eight minutes. The front windows were open and various men were reaching in to unlock my door. I held my hand tight to the lock. They punched me, twisted my wrist, tried everything possible with a quick grab to get me out. But I wouldn't let go, and I defended myself while watching Mr Lu get beaten through the window.
Eventually, my translator got out. I followed. They opened my pen, searched my pockets, underwear and socks, asked my translator if his watch could record anything. They asked what we were doing in Taishi. They found my Chinese press pass. "You foreigners you are ruining Taishi," they screamed. "You write write write so much about what's happened here that all these businesses have fled the new industrial zone."
My head was spinning. I was in a mixed state of shock at what had happened to Mr Lu and utter fear for my life.
I shamelessly begged. I prayed. I offered them money. I tried to smile at them. Random people came up to Mr Lu and kicked him in the head, clearing their nose of snot on his body, spitting on him, peeing on him, showing off for each other. I had no idea what to do.
I stood there, sweating, my hands ripping my hair out, just staring at the blood all over the man who had risked his life to help me.
An ambulance came. The medic got out, checked his pulse and left. Then it hit me: I'd done absolutely nothing to save Mr Lu. I stood there watching. I'm trained as a medic, and I did nothing to save Mr Lu. Absolutely nothing. They put us in a car, told us we were being taken for interrogation. On the way the men joked, laughed and we shook.
Mr Lu spent his adult life working to empower villagers and to get the attention of Beijing and the world. He was beaten up many times, had scars all over his body. This, he thought, was part of his work.
Once at the township, they put us at a conference table with flowers and spring water. About 15 officials sat round it and politely questioned us, videotaping the interaction as if it were a TV show. "Why did you come to Taishi? Why did you meet Lu Banglie? How did you meet him?" they asked.
"We are not interested in the reception of media interviews of any kind at this juncture in time," one official explained.
His superior arrived: Ms Qi Hong, associate director of the government news office in Guangzhou. "China is open to foreigners," she said. "We welcome any journalists in Guangzhou, but if you don't follow the proper procedures how can we guarantee your safety?"
The initiator of Mr Lu's beating sat at the table, eyes bloodshot, arms crossed at an angle, his elbow jutting into the air as if to show his extreme disinterest in us.
They said we had broken the law by coming here without permission. We apologised. That is all, that is how the night ended. We walked out of the government building, still being filmed, across the lawn, past the Chinese flag at high mast, and into the car.
They waved and smiled, filming us as we drove off. And this is all I can say about the story of Mr Lu because I never saw Taishi from the inside and cannot tell you how it looks, what the people say, how the air feels.
What I can tell you is that what's going on in Taishi is perhaps the most significant grassroots social movement China has seen since the Cultural Revolution, a rural revolt against corruption, against deterioration of healthcare, against the illegal sale of farmland, and broadly against urban capitalism that has reaped no benefits for these farmers.
The Guardian has been unable to confirm what happened to Mr Lu.
Police said they had received reports that he had been taken to hospital, but that he had been released and was "fine". The three nearest hospitals said that no one had been admitted yesterday.
The last words of Mr Lu I wrote down were: "The police cover their arses. They employ all these thugs whose lives mean nothing to them to kill you. That's why once we are in this we can't go out."
Venona Code Breaking Effort
Reply #53 on:
October 15, 2005, 11:23:19 PM »
Very long and dense recitation of a National Security Agency effort to break Soviet codes. Next time you hear about the communist witch hunts of the 1950s, you'd do well to review the particulars of Venona.
Littoral Line in the Sand
Reply #54 on:
October 22, 2005, 01:06:02 PM »
Interesting piece about the evolution of costal naval warfare with more than a few implications. The original piece is well annotated with links and can be found at:
The Far Line of Sand
The Belmont Club | October 21, 2005 | Wretchard
The USS Maine, a 6682-ton second-class battleship built in 1895, spent her active career operating along the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean area. In 1898 she was sent to Cuba, to protect U.S. interests during a time of local insurrection and civil disturbances, where she famously blew up. Contemporary images of the Maine, available from the link above, show a vessel with guns down low along sides that sloped inward from her waterline to her deck, the so-called "tumblehome" hull form. It was an image of the classic gunboat of the type which Joseph Conrad described in the Heart of Darkness.
"I left in a French steamer, and she called in every blamed port they have out there, for, as far as I could see, the sole purpose of landing soldiers and custom-house officers. I watched the coast. Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you-- smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, Come and find out. This one was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. ... Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere."
These types of gunboat operations ended in the first decades of the 20th century as "sea mines, surface and submarine torpedo-attack craft, long-range rifled guns ... and ... aircraft meant that the traditional form of blockade ... could no longer be sustained ... maritime blockade evolved into long-range operations". Naval warfare became a thing of fleets grapping with rival fleets for control of the blue water. But things have changed again. The decay of the Soviet fleets and the rise of terrorism has shifted emphasis to the coasts once more. As Roger Barnett put it:
After 9/11 the central security problem, for the United States at least, became how to ensure that no weapons of mass destruction could be used by nonstate entities against American citizens in the homeland. ... It is far better to seek to control shipping or the shipment of contraband at the source rather than at the destination. ... In today?s context, contraband WMD can be shipped from states, nonstate entities, or individuals, or consigned to any of the three. The form of blockade operations, accordingly, has changed dramatically from close blockade through distant blockade and blockade zones, to prevention of movement of specific items at, or as close as possible to, their source.
Many of today's critical naval tasks require operations close inshore; including keeping choke points open, preventing piracy in strategic waterways, ensuring harbor security and blockade. Unfortunately, open ocean warships are at their most vulnerable in restricted waters. The US Navy, invincible in the blue water, suffered its worst losses since Korea in the littoral. The FFG-7 class USS Stark was nearly sunk by two Exocet missiles in the Persian Gulf in 1987. During Desert Storm in 1991, Aegis class cruiser USS Princeton and Iwo-Jima class LPH USS Tripoli suffered extensive mine damage. One of the most powerful surface combatants in the world, the Burke class destroyer USS Cole, was nearly destroyed in 2000 by an explosive-laden small boat while in port at Aden.
In consequence, the USN has been recreating the capability lost since British failed to force the Dardanelles in the face of mines and coastal artillery; to be able say as Nelson once did that 'the enemy's coast is our frontier'. Apart from changes to doctrine, new classes of USN warships now coming online will make this possible. The former Ohio-class USS Georgia SSBN is now being converted to an SSGN "Tactical Trident" SpecOps Sub and may be followed by the USS Ohio (SSBN 726), USS Michigan (SSBN 727), USS Florida (SSBN 728). These vessels can transport the ASDS minisub, designed to operate as an offshore "underwater hotel" for SEALs landing on an enemy coast.
A wholly new class of warships called the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), able to transit open oceans at half-helicopter speeds is being fielded in considerable numbers. These ships can act as small amphibious landing ships or platforms for unmanned aerial and waterborne unmanned vehicles. Depending on their configuration, they can land forces or deploy robotic vehicles to find enemy mines or submarines. Up to 60 LCS vessels are planned.
But if anything visually represents how things have come full circle, it is the Navy's planned new destroyer class, the DD(X). It's weapons will be deployed along the rim of the hull. And it will have, shades of the Maine, a tumblehome hull form. The accompanying image in the DD(X) link shows a vessel firing into a continent at a camp of enemies 'hidden out of sight somewhere'.
(Speculation alert) If form follows function the shape of the 21st century US Navy suggests that the "dark-green ... almost black" coastlines of the Third World will again become a theater of operations with this fundamental difference: areas that 19th century Europeans once sought to penetrate are now localities that need to be contained. No longer are arms being landed on those whispering coasts in hopes of conquest. The flows now go the other way. Today they must be blockaded against the outflow of weapons, armed gangs and multitudes of desperate people bent on escape from their misery. The USN by restructuring itself in response to the logical implications of terrorism, is anticipating a crisis that, to use Thomas Barnett's terminology, the "Core" governments have yet to face: how to bring freedom, prosperity and functionality to the "Non-Integrating Gap". The system of World Courts, multilateral institutions and development agencies which had their genesis in the 1950s and 60s will not be enough. Fund raising rock concerts will not be enough. The task requires the spread of functioning democratic institutions and market systems assisted where necessary by peacekeeping and relief operations. One day even the UN and the EU will realize that need and on that day America will be ready with some of the means.
The Joseph Conrad quote above was chosen with the awareness of its historical context. The Heart of Darkness was written as a moral examination of human behavior using the example of the Congo. Conrad's Congo was the plaything of King Leopold II of Belgium, who turned it into his private concentration camp. From it he extracted billions of dollars in rubber and ivory from slave labor under the mantle of extending European civilization. In the process he killed ten million people. Better yet, his crimes, which bear comparison with Hitler's, have been largely forgotten by history. In 1914 England would go to war to preserve the neutrality of poor defenseless Belgium. Conrad's work serves even today as an allegory for crime committed in the guise of virtue.
The Heart of Darkness has the potential to make many sorts of people uncomfortable. It is a cautionary tale for those who would remake the Third World by force, but it is also comes uncomfortably close to characterizing the virtuous enterprise of "international" organizations whose rich livelihoods depend on a steady stream of human misery; who leave disease and oppression unaddressed in order to remain true to the banners under which they march. There's a rich vein of unmined irony in the high-minded posturing of countries (where is Brussels?) who only a century ago were dividing the map of the world into private fiefdoms with colored pencils; from whose actions in part derive the mess which must now be cleaned up, though not by them after their retirement from history.
In any case the reflux from European colonialism, with further impetus from non-European forces of expansionism such as Islam, have now burst upon a world too small to ignore it. I was struck by boldness of the USN's decision to re-invent itself as a force capable of fighting in the littoral, creating capability in advance of policy. It bore historical similarities to the initiatives of Major Earl H. Ellis, who in the years between the World Wars, foresaw the need for amphibious warfare long before Pearl Harbor made it necessary.
Poland's New President & Moscow
Reply #55 on:
October 26, 2005, 05:01:14 PM »
Hmm, some interesting dynamics emerging in the wake of Poland's presidential election.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005. Page 1.
Kaczynski Knows Moscow's Pressure Points
By Anatoly Medetsky
Alik Keplicz / AP
Lech Kaczynski on Monday
Lech Kaczynski has scorned the Red Army's actions in World War II, bristled over a Russian-German pipeline project and renamed a traffic roundabout after a slain Chechen rebel.
Then on Monday, when he was declared Poland's president, he said President Vladimir Putin had to come to Warsaw before he would go to Moscow.
The ascension of the tough-talking Warsaw mayor to the presidency is raising the specter that Russian-Polish ties will sink to all-time lows. In a sign that Putin is less than thrilled with his victory, he has yet to congratulate Kaczynski for winning -- even though European leaders, including outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, have sent their best wishes.
"It's clear that Moscow won't hurry with its congratulations," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of journal Russia in Global Affairs. "He's not a person with whom Moscow would like to establish relations."
Kaczynski said Monday that Poland wanted good relations with Russia and that the country hoped Putin would visit Warsaw "as soon as possible."
But he was careful to say that Putin must come to Poland before he would go to Russia. Kaczynski has accused outgoing Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski of giving Russia the upper hand by visiting Moscow more often than Putin went to Warsaw.
As Warsaw mayor, Kaczynski earlier this year irritated Moscow by agreeing to name a traffic roundabout after Dzhokhar Dudayev, a Chechen separatist leader who was killed by federal forces in 1996.
During the presidential campaign, Kaczynski criticized a Russian-German plan to build a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea that would bypass Poland. His remarks reflected domestic fears that the two countries were plotting behind Poland's back.
Kaczynski also stirred grievances inflicted by the Soviet Union during World War II. He reminded Poles in August that Stalin had refused to send troops to help an anti-Nazi uprising in Warsaw in 1944. He also demanded that Russia pay compensation for a 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish officers in Katyn. Soviet troops had captured the officers during a short war with Poland.
Last year, a Russian government commission angered Poland by concluding that the massacre was not a crime against humanity or a war crime but an ordinary criminal act.
Russian-Polish relations have grown increasingly tense. A major irritant for the Kremlin was the active support that Poland gave to Ukraine during the Orange Revolution last year. Poland has also encouraged the opposition in Belarus, a close ally of Russia.
In a move indicative of the countries' poor relations, Putin personally denounced the beating and mugging of several children of Russian diplomats in a Warsaw park in August. Two Polish Embassy employees and a Polish journalist were beaten in Moscow a few days later in what appeared to be retaliatory attacks.
Kaczynski, a member of the conservative Law and Justice Party, won 54 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff election, beating pro-business lawmaker Donald Tusk, who received 46 percent. He is to be inaugurated Dec. 23.
Lukyanov said Kaczynski's suggestion that Putin visit Warsaw first would irritate Moscow and boded ill for future relations. "It's clear that Putin won't go there and [Kaczynski] won't come here," he said.
Moreover, Polish conservatives are typically sensitive toward history, which "is the most explosive and unpleasant issue in the Russian-Polish relations," Lukyanov said.
Kaczynski may also seek to take advantage of Poland's status as a member of the European Union to help formulate the EU's policy toward Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Poland joined the EU in 2004.
Kaczynski, however, has designated the United States as Poland's main foreign partner, and that could undermine any attempt to direct EU policy. Kaczynski said during his campaign that as president he would travel to EU capital, Brussels, only after a visit to Washington.
"Europe will not close its eyes to that," Lukyanov said.
Kaczynski said Monday that he would go to Washington on Jan. 16.
Under Kaczynski, Poland, which now depends entirely on Gazprom for natural gas supplies, could resurrect a plan to build a pipeline to Norway, said Alexei Khaitun, director of the Center for Energy Policy at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe.
The EU could provide funding for the project to help Poland comply with a EU program to diversify energy supplies by 2015, he said. The program stipulates that a member state should receive no more than one-third of its coal, oil or natural gas from one source.
Geo Political matters
Reply #56 on:
October 29, 2005, 08:40:44 AM »
SCO: A New Power Center Developing
October 28, 2005 21 47 GMT
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's (SCO) summit in Moscow ended Oct. 27. Talk at the summit indicates that the organization is growing; soon, the SCO will deal with more than security-related matters, and its geographic scope will expand. As it grows, the SCO will become a more authoritative figure in Eurasian -- and global -- matters.
The prime minister-level Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit -- at which participants met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines -- concluded in Moscow on Oct. 27. The organization which Washington at first dismissed as a talk shop is now raising concerns for the Bush administration, especially after SCO member Uzbekistan heeded the organization's call and evicted a U.S. military base in July.
Some media outlets already call the SCO "NATO of the East." In reality, the organization is neither a talk shop nor a NATO equivalent, in the sense that it is not a military bloc. Extensive talks with officials from the SCO's full members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and observer-members (India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia) -- along with observations of the SCO summit -- give insight into where this key Eurasian organization is going.
The summit showed that the SCO is developing in two strategic directions. First, it is growing from a security-only organization into a multi-functional group that includes political and economic collaboration; second, the SCO is expanding from a Central Asia-based organization to include Eurasia. The more the SCO expands in these directions, the more authority it will gain in Eurasian and global affairs. If the SCO continues developing in terms of joint economic projects and security initiatives, it could become a new collective power center.
The SCO was founded by Moscow and Beijing on June 15, 2001, with the ultimate vision of gradually developing a new world power-center that would tend to Eurasian affairs without interference from outside powers. This goal runs contrary to the Bush administration's agenda for Eurasia; Washington considers Eurasia to be of paramount importance in the pursuit of U.S. geopolitical interests, and it is a cornerstone of the U.S. geopolitical strategy that Washington has a decisive role in Eurasian geopolitics. Thus, it is against Washington's interest for major Eurasian states to form alliances, because if those states join together they could successfully challenge the United States, the world's only superpower.
If the SCO matures according to its founders' vision, the organization could become an alliance capable of taking care of Eurasian matters and, thus, capable of challenging Washington's interests there. However, this would take years. SCO leaders fully understand this and strive to keep Washington from seeing the organization as anti-U.S. The SCO is not explicitly anti-U.S., though butting heads with Washington is inevitable as the United States fights to maintain a presence in Eurasia. Rather, its members are focused on getting their neighbors' and their own houses in order while trying to develop them internally. China is about to launch a major internal social and economic redistribution campaign and does not want to be seen as forming any bloc to counter U.S. security interests. Russia is busy trying to revive its economy and find friends abroad who are willing to help it regain some of its former prominence and unwilling to follow U.S. policies. Furthermore, Putin still wants to Westernize the country, which implies at least some cooperation with the United States. India is building itself up as a future global power and wants to benefit from U.S. nuclear technology know-how. The list goes on.
The SCO's growth and strength potential come from a key geopolitical fact: Its members -- current and potential -- have many common problems, and many of these problems can be resolved only if the countries work together. In practice, this involves forming Eurasian transportation corridors, shaping energy routes to benefit the countries' growing and energy-hungry economies, making sure the countries' economies complement each other to remain or become competitive in a global economy, and so on. SCO members' shared and important agenda of making themselves stronger by working together will give the organization an internal strength that is necessary if it is to thrive and become geopolitically significant.
Realizing this, the SCO has worked to complement its security cooperation with major joint economic development plans. At the summit in Moscow, SCO members agreed to fulfill a program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation by 2020. The program includes jointly constructing hydroelectric plants, upgrading highways, laying out fiber-optic communications networks, hydrocarbons exploration and pipeline construction -- a total of 127 joint projects. To finance the first projects, China offered to issue Central Asian nations a low-interest line of credit for $900 million, to be paid off in 20 years. China will also train 1,500 Central Asian engineers and other specialists. Trying to make sure its role in the SCO is not minor compared to Beijing's, Moscow proposed that investments in SCO projects should be joint ventures. This will amount to almost all investment coming from stronger nations, such as Russia and China -- both of which are willing and apparently able to do it.
Another important outcome of the SCO summit is that its leaders, including the observer-members' heads of state, agreed that the organization will deal only with major issues and on a strategic level, leaving it to member nations to sort out details. This could help the SCO move forward with Eurasian security and economic affairs without getting bogged down in the details of local issues and differences. For instance, the SCO joint security drive likely will have a negative impact on Islamist militancy, an issue which all SCO nations have to tackle.
It is telling that current SCO members have had to put a damper on observer-members' enthusiasm to join immediately, in order to keep the SCO from getting overwhelmed by its own rapid growth. Beijing and Moscow first want to make sure the SCO's shop is in order before expanding, ensuring that the first economic projects and security initiatives work for the full member states. They also want to make sure that including countries with diverse agendas will not turn the SCO into a useless group. However, expansion seems to be inevitable, given that both Moscow and Beijing are eager to see more countries join.
The SCO is an organization intended to bear fruit for years to come, though its members will start seeing progress as each year passes. If the current trend -- eagerness to cooperate and a desire to put aside differences -- continues among member nations through the next few years, the SCO could take shape as a new power center in Eurasia -- something for other powers, including Washington, to reckon with.
How to Inspire Underclass Riots
Reply #57 on:
November 05, 2005, 03:48:01 PM »
A lengthy, amazingly prescient piece about the conditions leading to the current riots in France. US parallels are well worth contemplating.
The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris
Surrounding the City of Light are threatening Cities of Darkness.
Everyone knows la douce France: the France of wonderful food and wine, beautiful landscapes, splendid ch?teaux and cathedrals. More tourists (60 million a year) visit France than any country in the world by far. Indeed, the Germans have a saying, not altogether reassuring for the French: ?to live as God in France.? Half a million Britons have bought second homes there; many of them bore their friends back home with how they order these things better in France.
But there is another growing, and much less reassuring, side to France. I go to Paris about four times a year and thus have a sense of the evolving preoccupations of the French middle classes. A few years ago it was schools: the much vaunted French educational system was falling apart; illiteracy was rising; children were leaving school as ignorant as they entered, and much worse-behaved. For the last couple of years, though, it has been crime: l?ins?curit?, les violences urbaines, les incivilit?s. Everyone has a tale to tell, and no dinner party is complete without a horrifying story. Every crime, one senses, means a vote for Le Pen or whoever replaces him.
I first saw l?ins?curit? for myself about eight months ago. It was just off the Boulevard Saint-Germain, in a neighborhood where a tolerably spacious apartment would cost $1 million. Three youths?Rumanians?were attempting quite openly to break into a parking meter with large screwdrivers to steal the coins. It was four o?clock in the afternoon; the sidewalks were crowded, and the nearby caf?s were full. The youths behaved as if they were simply pursuing a normal and legitimate activity, with nothing to fear.
Eventually, two women in their sixties told them to stop. The youths, laughing until then, turned murderously angry, insulted the women, and brandished their screwdrivers. The women retreated, and the youths resumed their ?work.?
A man of about 70 then told them to stop. They berated him still more threateningly, one of them holding a screwdriver as if to stab him in the stomach. I moved forward to help the man, but the youths, still shouting abuse and genuinely outraged at being interrupted in the pursuit of their livelihood, decided to run off. But it all could have ended very differently.
Several things struck me about the incident: the youths? sense of invulnerability in broad daylight; the indifference to their behavior of large numbers of people who would never dream of behaving in the same way; that only the elderly tried to do anything about the situation, though physically least suited to do so. Could it be that only they had a view of right and wrong clear enough to wish to intervene? That everyone younger than they thought something like: ?Refugees . . . hard life . . . very poor . . . too young to know right from wrong and anyway never taught . . . no choice for them . . . punishment cruel and useless?? The real criminals, indeed, were the drivers whose coins filled the parking meters: were they not polluting the world with their cars?
Another motive for inaction was that, had the youths been arrested, nothing would have happened to them. They would have been back on the streets within the hour. Who would risk a screwdriver in the liver to safeguard the parking meters of Paris for an hour?
The laxisme of the French criminal justice system is now notorious. Judges often make remarks indicating their sympathy for the criminals they are trying (based upon the usual generalizations about how society, not the criminal, is to blame); and the day before I witnessed the scene on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, 8,000 police had marched to protest the release from prison on bail of an infamous career armed robber and suspected murderer before his trial for yet another armed robbery, in the course of which he shot someone in the head. Out on bail before this trial, he then burgled a house. Surprised by the police, he and his accomplices shot two of them dead and seriously wounded a third. He was also under strong suspicion of having committed a quadruple murder a few days previously, in which a couple who owned a restaurant, and two of their employees, were shot dead in front of the owners? nine-year-old daughter.
The left-leaning Lib?ration, one of the two daily newspapers the French intelligentsia reads, dismissed the marchers, referring with disdainful sarca?m to la fi?vre flicardiaire?cop fever. The paper would no doubt have regarded the murder of a single journalist?that is to say, of a full human being?differently, let alone the murder of two journalists or six; and of course no one in the newspaper acknowledged that an effective police force is as vital a guarantee of personal freedom as a free press, and that the thin blue line that separates man from brutality is exactly that: thin. This is not a decent thing for an intellectual to say, however true it might be.
It is the private complaint of everyone, however, that the police have become impotent to suppress and detect crime. Horror stories abound. A Parisian acquaintance told me how one recent evening he had seen two criminals attack a car in which a woman was waiting for her husband. They smashed her side window and tried to grab her purse, but she resisted. My acquaintance went to her aid and managed to pin down one of the assailants, the other running off. Fortunately, some police passed by, but to my acquaintance?s dismay let the assailant go, giving him only a warning.
My acquaintance said to the police that he would make a complaint. The senior among them advised him against wasting his time. At that time of night, there would be no one to complain to in the local commissariat. He would have to go the following day and would have to wait on line for three hours. He would have to return several times, with a long wait each time. And in the end, nothing would be done.
As for the police, he added, they did not want to make an arrest in a case like this. There would be too much paperwork. And even if the case came to court, the judge would give no proper punishment. Moreover, such an arrest would retard their careers. The local police chiefs were paid by results?by the crime rates in their areas of jurisdiction. The last thing they wanted was for policemen to go around finding and recording crime.
Not long afterward, I heard of another case in which the police simply refused to record the occurrence of a burglary, much less try to catch the culprits.
Now crime and general disorder are making inroads into places where, not long ago, they were unheard of. At a peaceful and prosperous village near Fontainebleau that I visited?the home of retired high officials and of a former cabinet minister?criminality had made its first appearance only two weeks before. There had been a burglary and a ?rodeo??an impromptu race of youths in stolen cars around the village green, whose fence the car thieves had knocked over to gain access.
A villager called the police, who said they could not come at the moment, but who politely called back half an hour later to find out how things were going. Two hours later still, they finally appeared, but the rodeo had moved on, leaving behind only the remains of a burned-out car. The blackened patch on the road was still visible when I visited.
The official figures for this upsurge, doctored as they no doubt are, are sufficiently alarming. Reported crime in France has risen from 600,000 annually in 1959 to 4 million today, while the population has grown by less than 20 percent (and many think today?s crime number is an underestimate by at least a half). In 2000, one crime was reported for every sixth inhabitant of Paris, and the rate has increased by at least 10 percent a year for the last five years. Reported cases of arson in France have increased 2,500 percent in seven years, from 1,168 in 1993 to 29,192 in 2000; robbery with violence rose by 15.8 percent between 1999 and 2000, and 44.5 percent since 1996 (itself no golden age).
Where does the increase in crime come from? The geographical answer: from the public housing projects that encircle and increasingly besiege every French city or town of any size, Paris especially. In these housing projects lives an immigrant population numbering several million, from North and West Africa mostly, along with their French-born descendants and a smattering of the least successful members of the French working class. From these projects, the excellence of the French public transport system ensures that the most fashionable arrondissements are within easy reach of the most inveterate thief and vandal.
Architecturally, the housing projects sprang from the ideas of Le Corbusier, the Swiss totalitarian architect?and still the untouchable hero of architectural education in France?who believed that a house was a machine for living in, that areas of cities should be entirely separated from one another by their function, and that the straight line and the right angle held the key to wisdom, virtue, beauty, and efficiency. The mulish opposition that met his scheme to pull down the whole of the center of Paris and rebuild it according to his ?rational? and ?advanced? ideas baffled and frustrated him.
The inhuman, unadorned, hard-edged geometry of these vast housing projects in their unearthly plazas brings to mind Le Corbusier?s chilling and tyrannical words: ?The despot is not a man. It is the . . . correct, realistic, exact plan . . . that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly. . . . This plan has been drawn up well away from . . . the cries of the electorate or the laments of society?s victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds.?
But what is the problem to which these housing projects, known as cit?s, are the solution, conceived by serene and lucid minds like Le Corbusier?s? It is the problem of providing an Habitation de Loyer Mod?r??a House at Moderate Rent, shortened to HLM?for the workers, largely immigrant, whom the factories needed during France?s great industrial expansion from the 1950s to the 1970s, when the unemployment rate was 2 percent and cheap labor was much in demand. By the late eighties, however, the demand had evaporated, but the people whose labor had satisfied it had not; and together with their descendants and a constant influx of new hopefuls, they made the provision of cheap housing more necessary than ever.
An apartment in this publicly owned housing is also known as a logement, a lodging, which aptly conveys the social status and degree of political influence of those expected to rent them. The cit?s are thus social marginalization made concrete: bureaucratically planned from their windows to their roofs, with no history of their own or organic connection to anything that previously existed on their sites, they convey the impression that, in the event of serious trouble, they could be cut off from the rest of the world by switching off the trains and by blockading with a tank or two the highways that pass through them, (usually with a concrete wall on either side), from the rest of France to the better parts of Paris. I recalled the words of an Afrikaner in South Africa, who explained to me the principle according to which only a single road connected black townships to the white cities: once it was sealed off by an armored car, ?the blacks can foul only their own nest.?
The average visitor gives not a moment?s thought to these Cit?s of Darkness as he speeds from the airport to the City of Light. But they are huge and important?and what the visitor would find there, if he bothered to go, would terrify him.
A kind of anti-society has grown up in them?a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, ?official,? society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust?greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years?is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them.
Their hatred of official France manifests itself in many ways that scar everything around them. Young men risk life and limb to adorn the most inaccessible surfaces of concrete with graffiti?BAISE LA POLICE, fuck the police, being the favorite theme. The iconography of the cit?s is that of uncompromising hatred and aggression: a burned-out and destroyed community-meeting place in the Les Tarterets project, for example, has a picture of a science-fiction humanoid, his fist clenched as if to spring at the person who looks at him, while to his right is an admiring portrait of a huge slavering pit bull, a dog by temperament and training capable of tearing out a man?s throat?the only breed of dog I saw in the cit?s, paraded with menacing swagger by their owners.
There are burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere. Fire is now fashionable in the cit?s: in Les Tarterets, residents had torched and looted every store?with the exceptions of one government-subsidized supermarket and a pharmacy. The underground parking lot, charred and blackened by smoke like a vault in an urban hell, is permanently closed.
When agents of official France come to the cit?s, the residents attack them. The police are hated: one young Malian, who comfortingly believed that he was unemployable in France because of the color of his skin, described how the police invariably arrived like a raiding party, with batons swinging?ready to beat whoever came within reach, irrespective of who he was or of his innocence of any crime, before retreating to safety to their commissariat. The conduct of the police, he said, explained why residents threw Molotov cocktails at them from their windows. Who could tolerate such treatment at the hands of une police fasciste?
Molotov cocktails also greeted the president of the republic, Jacques Chirac, and his interior minister when they recently campaigned at two cit?s, Les Tarterets and Les Musiciens. The two dignitaries had to beat a swift and ignominious retreat, like foreign overlords visiting a barely held and hostile suzerainty: they came, they saw, they scuttled off.
Antagonism toward the police might appear understandable, but the conduct of the young inhabitants of the cit?s toward the firemen who come to rescue them from the fires that they have themselves started gives a dismaying glimpse into the depth of their hatred for mainstream society. They greet the admirable firemen (whose motto is Sauver ou p?rir, save or perish) with Molotov cocktails and hails of stones when they arrive on their mission of mercy, so that armored vehicles frequently have to protect the fire engines.
Benevolence inflames the anger of the young men of the cit?s as much as repression, because their rage is inseparable from their being. Ambulance men who take away a young man injured in an incident routinely find themselves surrounded by the man?s ?friends,? and jostled, jeered at, and threatened: behavior that, according to one doctor I met, continues right into the hospital, even as the friends demand that their associate should be treated at once, before others.
Of course, they also expect him to be treated as well as anyone else, and in this expectation they reveal the bad faith, or at least ambivalence, of their stance toward the society around them. They are certainly not poor, at least by the standards of all previously existing societies: they are not hungry; they have cell phones, cars, and many other appurtenances of modernity; they are dressed fashionably?according to their own fashion?with a uniform disdain of bourgeois propriety and with gold chains round their necks. They believe they have rights, and they know they will receive medical treatment, however they behave. They enjoy a far higher standard of living (or consumption) than they would in the countries of their parents? or grandparents? origin, even if they labored there 14 hours a day to the maximum of their capacity.
But this is not a cause of gratitude?on the contrary: they feel it as an insult or a wound, even as they take it for granted as their due. But like all human beings, they want the respect and approval of others, even?or rather especially?of the people who carelessly toss them the crumbs of Western prosperity. Emasculating dependence is never a happy state, and no dependence is more absolute, more total, than that of most of the inhabitants of the cit?s. They therefore come to believe in the malevolence of those who maintain them in their limbo: and they want to keep alive the belief in this perfect malevolence, for it gives meaning?the only possible meaning?to their stunted lives. It is better to be opposed by an enemy than to be adrift in meaninglessness, for the simulacrum of an enemy lends purpose to actions whose nihilism would otherwise be self-evident.
That is one of the reasons that, when I approached groups of young men in Les Musiciens, many of them were not just suspicious (though it was soon clear to them that I was no member of the enemy), but hostile. When a young man of African origin agreed to speak to me, his fellows kept interrupting menacingly. ?Don?t talk to him,? they commanded, and they told me, with fear in their eyes, to go away. The young man was nervous, too: he said he was afraid of being punished as a traitor. His associates feared that ?normal? contact with a person who was clearly not of the enemy, and yet not one of them either, would contaminate their minds and eventually break down the them-and-us worldview that stood between them and complete mental chaos. They needed to see themselves as warriors in a civil war, not mere ne?er-do-wells and criminals.
The ambivalence of the cit? dwellers matches ?official? France?s attitude toward them: over-control and interference, alternating with utter abandonment. Bureaucrats have planned every item in the physical environment, for example, and no matter how many times the inhabitants foul the nest (to use the Afrikaner?s expression), the state pays for renovation, hoping thereby to demonstrate its compassion and concern. To assure the immigrants that they and their offspring are potentially or already truly French, the streets are named for French cultural heroes: for painters in Les Tarterets (rue Gustave Courbet, for example) and for composers in Les Musiciens (rue Gabriel Faur?). Indeed, the only time I smiled in one of the cit?s was when I walked past two concrete bunkers with metal windows, the ?cole maternelle Charles Baudelaire and the ?cole maternelle Arthur Rimbaud. Fine as these two poets are, theirs are not names one would associate with kindergartens, let alone with concrete bunkers.
But the heroic French names point to a deeper official ambivalence. The French state is torn between two approaches: Courbet, Faur?, nos anc?tres, les gaullois, on the one hand, and the shibboleths of multiculturalism on the other. By compulsion of the ministry of education, the historiography that the schools purvey is that of the triumph of the unifying, rational, and benevolent French state through the ages, from Colbert onward, and Muslim girls are not allowed to wear headscarves in schools. After graduation, people who dress in ?ethnic? fashion will not find jobs with major employers. But at the same time, official France also pays a cowering lip service to multiculturalism?for example, to the ?culture? of the cit?s. Thus, French rap music is the subject of admiring articles in Lib?ration and Le Monde, as well as of pusillanimous expressions of approval from the last two ministers of culture.
One rap group, the Minist?re amer (Bitter Ministry), won special official praise. Its best-known lyric: ?Another woman takes her beating./ This time she?s called Brigitte./ She?s the wife of a cop./ The novices of vice piss on the police./ It?s not just a firework, scratch the clitoris./ Brigitte the cop?s wife likes niggers./ She?s hot, hot in her pants.? This vile rubbish receives accolades for its supposed authenticity: for in the multiculturalist?s mental world, in which the savages are forever noble, there is no criterion by which to distinguish high art from low trash. And if intellectuals, highly trained in the Western tradition, are prepared to praise such degraded and brutal pornography, it is hardly surprising that those who are not so trained come to the conclusion that there cannot be anything of value in that tradition. Cowardly multiculturalism thus makes itself the handmaiden of anti-Western extremism.
Whether or not rap lyrics are the authentic voice of the cit?s, they are certainly its authentic ear: you can observe many young men in the cit?s sitting around in their cars aimlessly, listening to it for hours on end, so loud that the pavement vibrates to it 100 yards away. The imprimatur of the intellectuals and of the French cultural bureaucracy no doubt encourages them to believe that they are doing something worthwhile. But when life begins to imitate art, and terrible gang-rapes occur with increasing frequency, the same official France becomes puzzled and alarmed. What should it make of the 18 young men and two young women currently being tried in Pontoise for allegedly abducting a girl of 15 and for four months raping her repeatedly in basements, stairwells, and squats? Many of the group seem not merely unrepentant or unashamed but proud.
Though most people in France have never visited a cit?, they dimly know that long-term unemployment among the young is so rife there that it is the normal state of being. Indeed, French youth unemployment is among the highest in Europe?and higher the further you descend the social scale, largely because high minimum wages, payroll taxes, and labor protection laws make employers loath to hire those whom they cannot easily fire, and whom they must pay beyond what their skills are worth.
Everyone acknowledges that unemployment, particularly of the permanent kind, is deeply destructive, and that the devil really does find work for idle hands; but the higher up the social scale you ascend, the more firmly fixed is the idea that the labor-market rigidities that encourage unemployment are essential both to distinguish France from the supposed savagery of the Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model (one soon learns from reading the French newspapers what anglo-saxon connotes in this context), and to protect the downtrodden from exploitation. But the labor-market rigidities protect those who least need protection, while condemning the most vulnerable to utter hopelessness: and if sexual hypocrisy is the vice of the Anglo-Saxons, economic hypocrisy is the vice of the French.
It requires little imagination to see how, in the circumstances, the burden of unemployment should fall disproportionately on immigrants and their children: and why, already culturally distinct from the bulk of the population, they should feel themselves vilely discriminated against. Having been enclosed in a physical ghetto, they respond by building a cultural and psychological ghetto for themselves. They are of France, but not French.
The state, while concerning itself with the details of their housing, their education, their medical care, and the payment of subsidies for them to do nothing, abrogates its responsibility completely in the one area in which the state?s responsibility is absolutely inalienable: law and order. In order to placate, or at least not to inflame, disaffected youth, the ministry of the interior has instructed the police to tread softly (that is to say, virtually not at all, except by occasional raiding parties when inaction is impossible) in the more than 800 zones sensibles?sensitive areas?that surround French cities and that are known collectively as la Zone.
But human society, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and so authority of a kind, with its own set of values, occupies the space where law and order should be?the authority and brutal values of psychopathic criminals and drug dealers. The absence of a real economy and of law means, in practice, an economy and an informal legal system based on theft and drug-trafficking. In Les Tarterets, for example, I observed two dealers openly distributing drugs and collecting money while driving around in their highly conspicuous BMW convertible, clearly the monarchs of all they surveyed. Both of northwest African descent, one wore a scarlet baseball cap backward, while the other had dyed blond hair, contrasting dramatically with his complexion. Their faces were as immobile as those of potentates receiving tribute from conquered tribes. They drove everywhere at maximum speed in low gear and high noise: they could hardly have drawn more attention to themselves if they tried. They didn?t fear the law: rather, the law feared them.
I watched their proceedings in the company of old immigrants from Algeria and Morocco, who had come to France in the early 1960s. They too lived in Les Tarterets and had witnessed its descent into a state of low-level insurgency. They were so horrified by daily life that they were trying to leave, to escape their own children and grandchildren: but once having fallen into the clutches of the system of public housing, they were trapped. They wanted to transfer to a cit?, if such existed, where the new generation did not rule: but they were without leverage?or piston?in the giant system of patronage that is the French state. And so they had to stay put, puzzled, alarmed, incredulous, and bitter at what their own offspring had become, so very different from what they had hoped and expected. They were better Frenchmen than either their children or grandchildren: they would never have whistled and booed at the Marseillaise, as their descendants did before the soccer match between France and Algeria in 2001, alerting the rest of France to the terrible canker in its midst.
Whether France was wise to have permitted the mass immigration of people culturally very different from its own population to solve a temporary labor shortage and to assuage its own abstract liberal conscience is disputable: there are now an estimated 8 or 9 million people of North and West African origin in France, twice the number in 1975?and at least 5 million of them are Muslims. Demographic projections (though projections are not predictions) suggest that their descendants will number 35 million before this century is out, more than a third of the likely total population of France.
Indisputably, however, France has handled the resultant situation in the worst possible way. Unless it assimilates these millions successfully, its future will be grim. But it has separated and isolated immigrants and their descendants geographically into dehumanizing ghettos; it has pursued economic policies to promote unemployment and create dependence among them, with all the inevitable psychological consequences; it has flattered the repellent and worthless culture that they have developed; and it has withdrawn the protection of the law from them, allowing them to create their own lawless order.
No one should underestimate the danger that this failure poses, not only for France but also for the world. The inhabitants of the cit?s are exceptionally well armed. When the professional robbers among them raid a bank or an armored car delivering cash, they do so with bazookas and rocket launchers, and dress in paramilitary uniforms. From time to time, the police discover whole arsenals of Kalashnikovs in the cit?s. There is a vigorous informal trade between France and post-communist Eastern Europe: workshops in underground garages in the cit?s change the serial numbers of stolen luxury cars prior to export to the East, in exchange for sophisticated weaponry.
A profoundly alienated population is thus armed with serious firepower; and in conditions of violent social upheaval, such as France is in the habit of experiencing every few decades, it could prove difficult to control. The French state is caught in a dilemma between honoring its commitments to the more privileged section of the population, many of whom earn their livelihoods from administering the dirigiste economy, and freeing the labor market sufficiently to give the hope of a normal life to the inhabitants of the cit?s. Most likely, the state will solve the dilemma by attempts to buy off the disaffected with more benefits and rights, at the cost of higher taxes that will further stifle the job creation that would most help the cit? dwellers. If that fails, as in the long run it will, harsh repression will follow.
But among the third of the population of the cit?s that is of North African Muslim descent, there is an option that the French, and not only the French, fear. For imagine yourself a youth in Les Tarterets or Les Musiciens, intellectually alert but not well educated, believing yourself to be despised because of your origins by the larger society that you were born into, permanently condemned to unemployment by the system that contemptuously feeds and clothes you, and surrounded by a contemptible nihilistic culture of despair, violence, and crime. Is it not possible that you would seek a doctrine that would simultaneously explain your predicament, justify your wrath, point the way toward your revenge, and guarantee your salvation, especially if you were imprisoned? Would you not seek a ?worthwhile? direction for the energy, hatred, and violence seething within you, a direction that would enable you to do evil in the name of ultimate good? It would require only a relatively few of like mind to cause havoc. Islamist proselytism flourishes in the prisons of France (where 60 percent of the inmates are of immigrant origin), as it does in British prisons; and it takes only a handful of Zacharias Moussaouis to start a conflagration.
The French knew of this possibility well before September 11: in 1994, their special forces boarded a hijacked aircraft that landed in Marseilles and killed the hijackers?an unusual step for the French, who have traditionally preferred to negotiate with, or give in to, terrorists. But they had intelligence suggesting that, after refueling, the hijackers planned to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In this case, no negotiation was possible.
A terrible chasm has opened up in French society, dramatically exemplified by a story that an acquaintance told me. He was driving along a six-lane highway with housing projects on both sides, when a man tried to dash across the road. My acquaintance hit him at high speed and killed him instantly.
According to French law, the participants in a fatal accident must stay as near as possible to the scene, until officials have elucidated all the circumstances. The police therefore took my informant to a kind of hotel nearby, where there was no staff, and the door could be opened only by inserting a credit card into an automatic billing terminal. Reaching his room, he discovered that all the furniture was of concrete, including the bed and washbasin, and attached either to the floor or walls.
The following morning, the police came to collect him, and he asked them what kind of place this was. Why was everything made of concrete?
?But don?t you know where you are, monsieur?? they asked. ?C?est la Zone, c?est la Zone.?
La Zone is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
Revising the Bush Doctrine
Reply #58 on:
November 10, 2005, 05:54:02 PM »
Reconsidering the Bush Doctrine
By Arnold Kling Published 11/08/2005
Recently, Commentary magazine put together a fascinating symposium on the Bush Doctrine, which includes the use of pre-emptive attacks and the strategy of bringing democracy to the Middle East. I strongly recommend reading the symposium, as well as other recent thoughtful pieces by Francis Fukuyama, Theodore Dalrymple, and others cited in the blogs Winds of Change and Belmont Club.
Commentary's editors kicked off the symposium with a number questions about the Bush Doctrine. Participants were asked to comment on the doctrine and its implementation to date.
I am skeptical of the Bush doctrine. However, I want to be clear from the outset that my purpose is not to endorse the main alternative, which is the Mush Doctrine. To proponents of the Mush Doctrine, phrases like
-- international community
-- moral leadership
-- hearts and minds
-- treating root causes
are phrases that carry positive connotations. Such phrases make me want to spit. For more on the Mush Doctrine, see my essay on George Lakoff, the Berkeley linguistics professor influential in Democratic Party intellectual circles.
Speaking of linguistics, the conflict in which we are engaged has suffered from vagueness of definition. President Bush first described it as the "global war on terror." Since then, many people have argued that this formulation fails to face up to the role of Islam. For example, Newt Gingrich suggests that we call this the "Long War" against the "irreconcilable wing of Islam." That terminology will do. However, terrorism is important, because attacks on civilians are the modus operandi of Islam's irreconcilable wing.
The Three Theaters
In a complex global war, it can be useful to view the conflict as a combination of several theaters of operation. I think of this war as having three theaters: cultural, technological, and conventional military. Each theater provides a potential for victory or defeat.
The cultural theater is the contest between American values and the ideology of what Gingrich calls the irreconcilable wing of Islam. We could win in the cultural theater if Muslim moderates were to assert themselves strongly, so that the radical wing shrinks and loses viability. On the other hand, our society has its own internal divisions and weaknesses. We can lose in the cultural theater if our fighting spirit gives way to feckless appeasement. Another possibility would be for the majority of the world's Muslims to become radicalized, while the Western democracies coalesce in self-defense. That would set the stage for spectacular bloodshed.
The technological theater is one where each side has the potential to alter the balance of power in a dramatic way. We would win in the technological theater if we were to establish Surveillance Supremacy, meaning the ability to track with confidence the movement and threat potential of terrorists. We would lose in the technological theater if terrorists are able to deploy weapons of mass destruction on American soil.
The conventional military theater is the set of places where Americans and others in the "coalition of the willing" are fighting Islamic militants. In addition, Victor Davis Hanson identifies four countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Syria -- that are potentially in the conventional military theater, because their governments have an attitude toward terrorists that is ambivalent, to say the least. We can win in the conventional military theater if we kill a large proportion of terrorists and deny them access to funding, supplies, and training. We can lose in the conventional military theater if terrorists are able to carry out major operations routinely without effective disruption.
In the cultural theater, we are trying to change the attitudes and behaviors of Muslims around the world. The Bush Doctrine focuses on using democracy as the lever to achieve such change. Supporters of the Mush Doctrine believe that America can, by playing more nicely in the international schoolyard, achieve victory in the cultural theater.
My question about strategies focused on the cultural theater is this: Even assuming that we choose the best strategies and they work as well as one could possibly hope, when is the soonest that we could expect victory? 2040? 2050?
On the other hand, my guess is that within ten or fifteen years of today, weapons of mass destruction will be easier for terrorists to access. (The technology for surveillance also is advancing rapidly.) Given the increased risks of proliferation, unless we achieve surveillance supremacy or defeat the terrorists conventionally, we will have lost the war technologically long before the wave of radical Islam recedes. From this assessment, it follows that:
The war is likely to be decided in the technological theater.
Until the decision in the technological theater is reached, I think that our goal in the conventional military theater should be to apply as much pressure as possible. We should try to hold the line in the cultural theater, but it is futile to rely on a decision there.
We made a number of mistakes prior to the war in Iraq. One mistake was attempting to utilize the institutional forum of the United Nations.
We have many helpful allies. We ought to consult with them and involve them. However, our message to people in other countries should be that they can influence our policy constructively, not through obstruction and betrayal. Going to the UN undermines our standing with our friends, because it reduces their influence. Instead, it increases the influence of countries that are willing to vote against our interests.
Another problem with the UN, and with international elites in general, is their tendency to substitute empty gestures for real action. Economic sanctions are empty gestures, and they should be dispensed with. In the case of Iraq, they were worse than empty gestures -- they led to the "oil-for-food" program, which strengthened Saddam's regime both domestically and internationally.
What about the invasion itself? At various times, the invasion of Iraq has been alleged to offer benefits in all three theaters of the war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam. In the technology theater, it was supposed to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction. In the conventional military theater, there was a period when people spoke of a "flypaper" strategy, in which we would use Iraq as a killing field for terrorists. In the cultural theater, it was supposed to showcase the plan for democracy in the Middle East.
Concerning weapons of mass destruction, we made a big mistake by essentially promising to find WMD's. It would have been far better to go in saying the opposite -- that we did not necessarily expect to find WMD's, but we were going to war over the principle of unimpeded inspections. That is, in today's world, our alliance must be able to send teams of weapons inspectors anywhere that a potential WMD threat exists. Refusal to accept inspectors ought to be a legitimate grounds for war. Certainly, that is the message that one would have wanted to send to Iran and North Korea. It was the principle embodied in the UN resolution leading up to the war, a fact which the world's anti-American elites have conveniently chosen to forget.
The net result of transforming the WMD issue from a question of unimpeded inspections into a question about our intelligence estimates is that we are now more timid about enforcing an inspections regime going forward. By the same token, rogue nations are less timid about flouting the principle of nonproliferation. Overall, then, this has to be regarded as a setback in the technological theater.
Another rationale for the war is in the cultural theater, where we hope to gain by changing Iraq from a dictatorship to a democracy. In my view, the weakest pillar in the Bush Doctrine is the plan for democracy. As Fukuyama and others point out, it is difficult to execute. Moreover, as noted above, I believe that the conflict with the irreconcilable wing of Islam is likely to be decided, for better or worse, in the technology theater.
In post-war Iraq, the Bush Doctrine is bound to over-promise and under-deliver. Certainly, some ethnic group or sub-group is going to be justifiably bitter about the way that democracy plays out over the next several years. We should not have put ourselves in the position of taking responsibility for producing a successful democracy where everyone lives happily ever after.
If the Iraq war provided any benefits, those would have to be in the conventional military theater. Here, I have more questions than answers.
What alternative uses would have been made of the American troops?
Perhaps the American forces now occupied in Iraq would instead have been deployed to one of the other rogue nations, such as Pakistan or Iran. If that is the case, then one might argue that they were wasted in Iraq. I find it implausible that our troops would have been used in other countries, but this assumption is implicit in much of the scornful rhetoric used by some war critics.
What would the jihadists who came from other countries to fight in Iraq have done otherwise?
Another implicit assumption made by war critics is that the foreigners became jihadists spontaneously in response to our invasion. The extreme alternative hypothesis is that the Iraq invasion was a "flypaper strategy" that attracted existing militants from elsewhere. My guess is that the truth includes some of both. My guess is that there are somewhat fewer trained militants in Saudi Arabia and Europe today, because they were killed by our troops in Iraq.
Did the invasion help "tip" Saudi Arabia in the direction of cracking down on the irreconcilable wing of Islam?
George Friedman, in America's Secret War, argues that the Iraq war may have helped in this regard. In his view, the Saudis needed to see that America was willing and able to fight in the Middle East before they would take action against Al Qaeda.
Did the invasion help "tip" Iran in the opposite direction -- further radicalizing and emboldening that regime?
Friedman says that invasion of Iraq probably did have this adverse effect. If so, then this has to be counted as a point against the invasion policy.
Did removing Saddam reduce the number of countries that support terrorists?
Supporters of the war say that under Saddam, Iraq was involved in aiding terrorism. They also point to a change in Libya's policy. If Victor Davis Hanson is correct that we now have four countries to worry about, he might argue that prior to the invasion there were six. Other analysts would disagree.
Going forward, my recommendations for the Bush Doctrine would be to try to rejuvenate the pre-emption doctrine while lowering expectations for democratic transformation. In particular, I would recommend:
1. Build on the concept of a "coalition of the willing" by creating a formal alliance against the irreconcilable wing of Islam. Members of the alliance will be consulted on strategy and will enjoy the prestige that comes with active participation in the long war. If some countries prefer tacit support or neutrality to membership in the alliance, then so be it. A new war calls for a new alliance, which is not necessarily the same as the alliance that was left over from the Cold War.
2. We need a new institutional mechanism for determining when pre-emption is justified. The ex post effort to delegitimize the invasion of Iraq is terribly corrosive. At this point, it does not matter whether the problem is that Bush lied or that Democrats are airbrushing history. Either way, we are signaling to the rest of the world that we might never again muster the political will to engage in pre-emptive military action.
In the future, there may be a compelling need to use force against another country. If so, then we need a process that allows us to do so. I am thinking of some sort of independent, bipartisan intelligence review commission, whose job is to evaluate rogue nations on an ongoing basis and to advise Congress and the President when to go to war. There may even be a role on this commission for other countries in our alliance.
3. Finally, we need powerful internal audits of our key agencies, both for effectiveness and for conformity to Constitutional protections of individual rights. For example, Gingrich writes,
"The office of the DNI [Director of National Intelligence] could have an advisory board, functioning as a corporate board of directors, which would meet at least monthly to represent the President, the Congress and the American people, provide a review function and sound and practical guidance. These directors could include individuals with a national reputation as successful managers in government or the private sector. They might include a former mayor or state governor, a corporate CEO, or someone who has effectively run a governmental program in an area outside of intelligence."
I have thought along similar lines. A few months ago, I wrote, "What needs to be watched most closely? Our airports? Our rail systems? Our government buildings? Our borders? Radical Muslims? I think that the top security priority should be to set up a system to monitor the Department of Homeland Security. I am not kidding."
Overall, my sense is that we have reached a point where the Bush Doctrine no longer serves as a sufficient basis for addressing the long war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam. The three institutional changes listed above could bolster our ability to conduct the war in the future.
Reply #59 on:
November 14, 2005, 11:02:15 AM »
November 14, 2005, 8:18 a.m.
Zarqawi?s Big Mistake
The Jordan attacks may hurt.
James S. Robbins
You know that a terrorist attack has backfired when the bad guys start blaming it on us. Rumors are spreading on the insurgent websites and chatrooms that last week's hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, were part of a CIA plot, a Mossad intrigue, or a take-your-pick conspiracy. Since al Qaeda has already admitted the attack was theirs, this line will have a hard time playing, but it shows that at some level the terrorist sympathizers know that this was a bad move.
As angry Jordanians poured into the streets to denounce hometown zero Zarqawi, he rushed out a second statement seeking to justify the attacks. He explained that these hotels had been under observation for some time, and that they "had become favorite spots for intelligence activities, especially for the Americans, the Israelis, and some West European countries, where the hidden battle is fought in the so-called war against terrorism." In other words, they were not seeking to kill civilians, but aiming at a legitimate military target. I doubt this argument will sway the masses, since many of the victims were attending a wedding at the time. In p.r. terms it is probably the worst event a terrorist can bomb. Only the hard-core psychopaths will get a warm feeling from blowing up someone's nuptials.
Attacks like this are not only criminal, they are foolhardy. They rarely benefit the terrorists, and often harm their cause. Recent history makes the case. The 9/11 attacks unified and motivated our country to unleash incalculable harm on al Qaeda. The 2002 Bali bombing had the principle strategic effect of making the Australians their implacable foes. The 2005 London bombings rallied British public opinion against the continuing threat. The 3/11 bombings in Madrid may have helped influence the Spanish elections to bring in a government with a less cooperative Iraq policy, but in other areas of the War on Terrorism Spanish policies have if anything gotten tougher. In Jordan, a researcher found that since the bombing, nine of ten people he surveyed who had previously held a favorable view of al Qaeda had changed their minds. This is no way to run a revolution.
King Abdullah has rightfully taken umbrage at statements, particularly from myopic Western pundits, that Jordan was attacked primarily because of its relationship with the United States. Al Qaeda has plenty of reasons to attack Jordan that have nothing to do with the U.S. or the war in Iraq. Those rushing to link everything to Iraq (and, by implication, U.S. policies) should remember that Zarqawi was jailed in Jordan from 1993-1999, and there is no love lost between him and the Jordanian government. Furthermore, Jordan sentenced him to death in absentia for complicity in the murder of American diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman in 2002. Zarqawi would be killing people whether Coalition forces were in Iraq or not. It's his job, and he likes it.
Noteworthy in Zarqawi's second announcement was his list of intelligence services working with the U.S., which includes those from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. The last is significant because lately al Qaeda has been seeking to raise its profile in the Palestinian community. Al Qaeda has never had a high opinion of the Fatah faction (Yasser Arafat's security forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators carrying pictures of bin Laden in October 2001) and as the government of the Palestinian Authority seeks to move towards a measure of respectability, al Qaeda is moving in to take over the market in violent resistance. They announced the formation of a franchise in Gaza and won praise from a local imam. Members of Hamas, frustrated at their organization's drift away from violence, are already starting to defect to the more motivated al Qaeda. This is a development well worth watching.
Another lesson learned for the terrorists is that multiple suicide attacks do not always go off as planned, and when they fail they leave behind living bombers who make excellent intelligence sources. For example: In the May 2003 Casablanca bombings (which Zarqawi was allegedly involved in as well), one of the cell leaders chose at the last minute not to detonate his bomb and collect a trip to paradise. Instead, he was arrested and helped bring down what was left of the organization in Morocco.
So too with the Amman bombing; 35-year-old Sajida Mubarak Atrous al Rishawi suffered a wardrobe malfunction and now has become an invaluable asset in understanding the means, motives and methods of the suicide cell. Al Qaeda actually helped investigators by rushing out information on the bombers not knowing that Sajida was still alive and trying to go to ground. Zarqawi's statement tipped off police that there was a woman involved, and she was the wife of one of the bombers. After quickly connecting some dots, she was in custody.
Early reports have it that Sajida is the sister of Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, said to be a Zarqawi lieutenant killed fighting Coalition forces in Fallujah. Her pseudonym for the operation was "Sajida Abdel Qader Latif," which could be an homage to Latif al-Rishawi, head of the Abu Risha (or Al Burayshah) tribe of al Anbar, who was killed in Ramadi in a clash with U.S. troops in February 2005. The previous tribal leader, Sheikh Khamis Futaikhan, was gunned down in November 2004 in Ramadi by unknown assailants. It's a tough gig. But if Zarqawi is sending members of the inner circle on suicide missions, you have to wonder how many people he has left.
Less is being reported about Sajida's husband, Ali al-Shamari, though someone by that name helped lead a mutiny of 200 Iraqi soldiers in April, 2004, when they were ordered into action against insurgents in Fallujah. This could be a coincidence of names, but if not it adds to the picture; it illustrates the insurgent technique of penetrating the Iraqi security forces in order to sow various forms of chaos. I guess he ran out of missions and wanted to go out with a big one.
Incidentally: Back on September 14, 2000, an Iraqi national named Adil al-Rishawi hijacked Qatar Airways flight 404 as it was heading for Amman, Jordan. He surrendered to Saudi authorities after the plane made a forced landing in Hail. At his trial in Doha, Qatar, he said he was trying to draw attention to the plight of Iraqis under U.N. sanctions. One report stated that al-Rishawi took over the plane armed with "a sharp tool." Sounds familiar. No word whether he ever visited Saddam's terrorist training camp at Salman Pak, but if he is still being held in Qatar maybe someone should go talk to him.
It will be interesting in coming days to see if Zarqawi keeps trying to explain the Jordan bombings, and how al Qaeda's limitless appetite for violence will affect public opinion in the Muslim world. People who think this attack is evidence of al Qaeda's strength or momentum have it backwards. This is a sign of weakness, of rashness, of desperation. It has hurt their legitimacy and damage their movement. As the old saying goes: In politics if you are explaining, you are losing, and Zarqawi has a lot more explaining to do.
? James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and an NRO contributor.
Where hava all the WMDs Gone?
Reply #60 on:
November 16, 2005, 12:09:22 PM »
Where the WMDs Went
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 16, 2005
Frontpage Interview?s guest today is Bill Tierney, a former military intelligence officer and Arabic speaker who worked at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and as a counter-infiltration operator in Baghdad in 2004. He was also an inspector (1996-1998) for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) for overseeing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in Iraq. He worked on the most intrusive inspections during this period and either participated in or planned inspections that led to four of the seventeen resolutions against Iraq.
FP: Mr. Tierney, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Tierney: Thanks for the opportunity.
FP: With the Democrats now so viciously and hypocritically attacking Bush about WMDs, I?d like to discuss your own knowledge and expertise on this issue in connection to Iraq. You have always held that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Why? Can you discuss some actual finds?
Tierney: It was probably on my second inspection that I realized the Iraqis had no intention of ever cooperating. They had very successfully turned The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections during the eighties into tea parties, and had expected UNSCOM to turn out the same way. However, there was one fundamental difference between IAEA and UNSCOM that the Iraqis did not account for. There was a disincentive in IAEA inspections to be aggressive and intrusive, since the same standards could then be applied to the members states of the inspectors. IAEA had to consider the continued cooperation of all the member states. UNSCOM, however, was focused on enforcing and verifying one specific Security Council Resolution, 687, and the level of intrusiveness would depend on the cooperation from Iraq.
I came into the inspection program as an interrogator and Arabic linguist, so I crossed over various fields and spotted various deception techniques that may not have been noticed in only one field, such as chemical or biological. For instance, the Iraqis would ask in very reasonable tones that questionable documents be set aside until the end of the day, when a discussion would determine what was truly of interest to UNSCOM. The chief inspector, not wanting to appear like a knuckle-dragging ogre, would agree. Instead of setting the documents on a table in a stack, the Iraqis would set them side to side, filling the entire table top, and would place the most explosive documents on the edge of the table. At some point they would flood the room with people, and in the confusion abscond with the revealing documents.
This occurred at Tuwaitha Atomic Research Facility in 1996. A car tried to blow through an UNSCOM vehicle checkpoint at the gate. The car had a stack of documents about two feet high in the back seat. In the middle of the stack, I found a document with a Revolutionary Command Council letterhead that discussed Atomic projects with four number designations that were previously unknown. The Iraqis were extremely concerned. I turned the document over to the chief inspector, who then fell for the Iraqis? ?reasonable request? to lay it out on a table for later discussion. The Iraqis later flooded the room, and the document disappeared. Score one for the Iraqis.
On finds, the key word here is ?find.? UNSCOM could pursue a lead and approach an inspection target from various angles to cut off an escape route, but at some point, the Iraqis would hold up their guns and keep us out.
A good example of this was the inspection of the 2nd Armored Battalion of the Special Republican Guards in June 1997. We came in from three directions, because we knew the Iraqis had an operational center that tracked our movement and issued warnings. The vehicle I was in arrived at the gate first. There were two guards when we arrived, and over twenty within a minute, all extremely nervous.
The Iraqis had stopped the third group of our inspection team before it could close off the back of the installation. A few minutes later, a soldier came from inside the installation, and all the other guards gathered around him. He said something, there was a big laugh, and all the guards relaxed. A few moments later there was a radio call from the team that had been stopped short. They could here truck engines through the tall (10?) grass in that area. When we were finally allowed in, our team went to the back gate. The Iraqis claimed the gate hadn?t been opened in months, but there was freshly ground rust at the gate hinges. There was a photo from overhead showing tractor trailers with missiles in the trailers leaving the facility.
When pressed, Tariq Aziz criticized the inspectors for not knowing the difference between a missile and a concrete guard tower. He never produced the guard towers for verification. It was during this period that Tariq Aziz pulled out his ?no smoking gun? line. Tariq very cleverly changed the meaning of this phrase. The smoking gun refers to an indicator of what you are really looking for - the bullet. Tariq changed the meaning so smoking gun referred to the bullet, in this case the WMD, knowing that as long as there were armed guards between us and the weapons, we would never be able to ?find,? as in ?put our hands on,? the weapons of mass destruction. The western press mindlessly took this up and became the Iraqis? tool. I will let the reader decide whether this inspection constitutes a smoking gun.
FP: So can you tell us about some other ?smoking guns??
Tierney: Sure. Another smoking gun was the inspection of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Special Republican Guards. After verifying source information related to biological weapons formerly stored at the National War College, we learned at another site that the unit responsible for guarding the biological weapons was stationed near the airport. We immediately dashed over there before the Iraqis could react, and forced them to lock us out. One of our vehicles took an elevated position where they could look inside the installation and see the Iraqis loading specialized containers on to trucks that matched the source description for the biological weapons containers. The Iraqis claimed that we had inspected the facilities a year earlier, so we didn?t need to inspect it again.
Another smoking gun was the inspection of Jabal Makhul Presidential Site. In June/July 1997 we inspected the 4th Special Republican Guards Battalion in Bayji, north of Tikrit. This unit had been photographed taking equipment for the Electro-magnetic Isotope Separation (EMIS) method of uranium enrichment away from inspectors. The Iraqis were extremely nervous as this site, and hid any information on personnel who may have been involved with moving the equipment. This was also the site where the Iraqi official on the UNSCOM helicopter tried to grab the control and almost made the aircraft crash.
When I returned to the States, I learned that the Iraqis were extremely nervous that we were going to inspect an unspecified nearby site, and that they checked that certain code named items were in their proper place. I knew from this information the Iraqis could only be referring to Jabal Makhul Presidential Site, a sprawling mountain retreat on the other side of the ridge from the 4th Battalion, assigned to guard the installation. This explained why the Iraqis caused the problems with the helicopter, to keep it from flying to the other side of the mountain.
We inspected Jabal Makhul in September of 1997. The Iraqis locked us out without a word of discussion. This was the start of the Presidential Site imbroglio. The Iraqis made great hay out of inspectors wanting to look under the president?s furniture, but this site, with its hundreds of acres, was the real target.
During the Presidential Site inspections in Spring of 1998, inspectors found an under-mountain storage area at Jabal Makhul. When the inspectors arrived, it was filled with drums of water. The Iraqis claimed that they used the storage area to store rainwater. Jabal Makhul had the Tigris River flowing by at the bottom of the mountain, and a massive pump to send water to the top of the mountain, where it would cascade down in fountains and waterfalls in Saddam?s own little Shangri-la, but the Iraqi had to go to the effort of digging out an underground bunker akin to our Cheyenne Mountain headquarters, just so they could store rainwater.
A London Sunday Times article in 2001 by Gwynne Roberts quoted an Iraqi defector as stating Iraq had nuclear weapons in a heavily guarded installation in the Hamrin mountains. Jabal Makhul is the most heavily guarded location in the Hamrin mountains. With its under-mountain bunker, isolation, and central location, it is the perfect place to store a high-value asset like a nuclear weapon.
On nukes, some analysts wait until there is unambiguous proof before stating a country has nuclear weapons. This may work in a courtroom, but intelligence is a different subject altogether. I believe it is more prudent to determine what is axiomatic given a nation?s capabilities and intentions. There was no question that Iraq had triggering mechanisms for a nuke, the question was whether they had enriched enough uranium. Given Iraq?s intensive efforts to build a nuke prior to the Gulf War, their efforts to hide uranium enrichment material from inspectors, the fact that Israel had a nuke but no Arab state could claim the same, my first-hand knowledge of the limits of UNSCOM and IAEA capabilities, and Iraqi efforts to buy yellowcake uranium abroad (Joe Wilson tea parties notwithstanding), I believe the TWELVE years between 1991 and 2003 was more than enough time to produce sufficient weapons grade uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Maybe I have more respect for the Iraqis? capabilities than some.
FP: Tell us something you came up with while conducting counter-infiltration ops in Iraq.
Tierney: While I was engaged in these operations in Baghdad in 2004, one of the local translators freely stated in his security interview that he worked for the purchasing department of the nuclear weapons program prior to and during the First Gulf War. He said that Saddam purchased such large quantities of precision machining equipment that he could give up some to inspections, or lose some to bombing, and still have enough for his weapons program. This translator also stated that when Saddam took human shields and placed some at Tarmiya Nuclear Research Facility, he was sent there to act as a translator. One of the security officers at Tarmiya told him that he had just recovered from a sickness he incurred while guarding technicians working in an underground facility nearby. The security officer stated that the technicians left for a break every half hour, but he stayed in the underground chamber all day and got sick. The security officer didn?t mention what they were doing, but I would say uranium enrichment is the most logical pick.
What, not enough smoke? There was the missile inspection on Ma?moun Establishment. I was teamed with two computer forensic specialists. A local technician stood by while we opened a computer and found a flight simulation for a missile taking off from the Iraqi desert in the same area used during the First Gulf War and flying west towards Israel. The warhead was only for 50 kilograms. By the time we understood was this was, the poor technician was coming apart. I will never forget meeting his eyes, and both of us realizing he was a dead man walking. The Iraqis tried to say that the computer had just been transferred from another facility, and that the flight simulation had not been erased from before the war. The document?s placement in the file manager, and the technician?s reaction belied this story. UNSCOM?s original assessment was that this was for a biological warhead, but I have since seen reporting that make me think it was for a nuclear weapon.
These are only some of the observations of one inspector. I know of other inspections where there were clear indicators the Iraqis were hiding weapons from the inspectors.
FP: Ok, so where did the WMDs go?
Tierney: While working counter-infiltration in Baghdad, I noticed a pattern among infiltrators that their cover stories would start around Summer or Fall of 2002. From this and other observations, I believe Saddam planned for a U.S. invasion after President Bush?s speech at West Point in 2002. One of the steps taken was to prepare the younger generation of the security services with English so they could infiltrate our ranks, another was either to destroy or move WMDs to other countries, principally Syria. Starting in the Summer of 2002, the Iraqis had months to purge their files and create cover stories, such as the letter from Hossam Amin, head of the Iraqi outfit that monitored the weapons inspectors, stating after Hussein Kamal?s defection that the weapons were all destroyed in 1991.
I was on the inspections that follow-up on Hussein Kamal?s defection, and Hossam said at the time that Hussein Kamal had a secret cabal that kept the weapons without the knowledge of the Iraqi government. It was pure pleasure disemboweling this cover story. Yet the consensus at DIA is that Iraq got rid of its weapons in 1991. This is truly scary. If true, when and where did Saddam have a change of heart? This is the same man who crowed after 9/11, then went silent after news broke that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague. Did Saddam spend a month with Mother Theresa, or go to a mountain top in the Himalaya?s? Those that say there were no weapons have to prove that Saddam had a change of heart. I await their evidence with interest.
FP: So do you think the WMD is the central issue regarding Iraq?
Tierney: No, and it never should have been an issue. The First Gulf War -- and I use this term as a convention, since this is actually all the same war -- was a prime example of managing war instead of waging it. Instead of telling Saddam to get out of Kuwait or we will push him out, we should have said to get out of Kuwait or we will remove him from power. As it was, we were projecting our respect for human life on Saddam, when actually, from his point of view, we were doing him a favor by killing mostly Shi?ite military members who were a threat to his regime. I realize that Saudi Arabia, our host, did not want a change in government in Iraq, and they had helped us bring down the Soviet Union with oil price manipulation, but we should have bent them to our will instead of vice versa. Saddam would not have risked losing power to keep Kuwait, and we could have avoided this whole ordeal.
We topped one mistake with another, expecting Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party, a criminal syndicate masquerading as a political party, to abide by any arms control agreement. Gun control and Arms control both arise from the ?mankind is good? worldview. If you control the environment, i.e. get rid of the guns, then man?s natural goodness will rise to the surface. I hope it is evidence after more than a decade of Iraqi intransigence how foolish this position is. The sobering fact is that if a nation feels it is in their best interest to have certain weapons, they are going to have them. Chemical weapons were critical to warding off hoards of Iranian fighters, and the Iraqis knew they would always be in a position of weakness against Israel without nuclear weapons. The United States kept nuclear weapons to deter the Soviet Union, but we would deny the same logic for Iraq?
There is also the practicality of weapons inspections/weapons hunts. After seventeen resolutions pleading with the Iraqis to be nice, the light bulb still didn?t go off that the entire concept is fundamentally flawed. Would you like to live in a city where the police chief sent out resolutions to criminals to play nice, instead of taking them off the streets?
As I said earlier, I knew the Iraqis would never cooperate, so the inspections became a matter of illustrating this non-cooperation for the Security Council and the rest of the world. No manipulation or fabrication was necessary. There was a sufficient percentage of defectors with accurate information to ensure that we would catch the Iraqis in the act. UNSCOM was very successfully at verifying the Iraqis? non-cooperation; the failure was in the cowardice at the Security Council. Maybe cowardice is too strong a word. Maybe the problem was giving a mission that entailed the possible use of force to an organization with the goal of eliminating the use of force.
On the post-war weapons hunt, the arrogance and hubris of the intelligence community is such that they can?t entertain the possibility that they just failed to find the weapons because the Iraqis did a good job cleaning up prior to their arrival. This reminds me of the police chief who announced on television plans to raid a secret drug factor on the outskirts of town. At the time appointed, the police, all twelve of them, lined up behind each other at the front door, knocked and waiting for the druggies to answer, as protocol required. After ten minute of toilet flushing and back-door slamming, somebody came to the front door in a bathrobe and explained he had been in the shower. The police took his story at face value, even though his was dry as a bone, then police proceeded to inspect the premises ensuring that the legal, moral , ethnic, human, and animal rights, and also the national dignity, of the druggies was preserved. After a search, the police chief announced THERE WERE NO STOCKPILES of drugs at the inspected site. Anyone care to move to this city?
FP: Let?s talk a little bit more about how the WMDs disappeared.
Tierney: In Iraq?s case, the lakes and rivers were the toilet, and Syria was the back door. Even though there was imagery showing an inordinate amount of traffic into Syria prior to the inspections, and there were other indicators of government control of commercial trucking that could be used to ship the weapons to Syria, from the ICs point of view, if there is no positive evidence that the movement occurred, it never happened. This conclusion is the consequence of confusing litigation with intelligence. Litigation depends on evidence, intelligence depends on indicators. Picture yourself as a German intelligence officer in Northern France in April 1944. When asked where will the Allies land, you reply ?I would be happy to tell you when I have solid, legal proof, sir. We will have to wait until they actually land.? You won?t last very long. That officer would have to take in all the indicators, factor in deception, and make an assessment (this is a fancy intelligence word for an educated guess).
The Democrats understand the difference between the two concepts, but have no qualms about blurring the distinction for political gain. This is despicable. This has brought great harm to our nation?s credibility with our allies. A perfect example is Senator Levin waving deception by one single source, al-Libi, to try and convince us that this is evidence there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as though the entire argument rested on this one source. Senator Levin, and his media servants, think the public can?t read through his duplicity. He is plunging a dagger into the heart of his own country.
Could the assessments of Iraq?s weapons program been off? I am sure there were some marginal details that were incorrect, but on the matter of whether Iraq had a program, the error was not with the pre-war assessment, the error was with the weapons hunt.
I could speak at length about the problems with the weapons hunt. Mr. Hanson has an excellent article in ?The American Thinker,? and Judith Miller, one of the few bright lights at the New York Times, did an article on the problems with the weapons hunt that I can corroborate from other sources. But if the Iraqi Survey Group had been manned by a thousand James Bonds, and every prop was where it should have been, I doubt the result would have been much different. The whole concept of international arms inspections puts too much advantage with the inspected country. Factor in the brutality used by the Baath Party, and it amounts to a winning combination for our opponents.
I was shocked to learn recently that members of the Iraqi Survey Group believed their Iraqi sources when they said they don?t fear a return of the Baath Party. During my eight months of counterinfiltration duty, we had 50 local Iraqis working on our post who were murdered for collaborating. Of the more than 150 local employees our team identified as security threats, the most sophisticated infiltrators came from the Baath Party. This was just one post, yet the DIA believes no one was afraid to talk, even though scientists who were cooperating with ISG were murdered. You can add this to the Able Danger affair as another example of the deep rot inside the intelligence community.
I believe that once the pertinent sources have a sense of security, a whole lot of people are going to have egg on their face. I believe the Iraqis had a WMD program, and I am not changing my story, no matter how many times Chris Matthews hyperventilates.
FP: Before we go, can you briefly touch on some of the prevailing attitudes in the U.S. military that may hurt us?
Tierney: There is a prevailing attitude that the U.S. is too big and ponderous to lose, so individual officers don?t have to take the potentially career-threatening risks necessary to win. I have heard it said that for every one true warrior in the military, there are two to three self-serving, career-worshipping bureaucrats. We shouldn?t be surprised. After all, the Army advertised ?Be all you can be!? Or in other words, get a career at taxpayer expense.
President Clinton changed the definition of the military from peace makers to peace keepers, and no senior officers resigned or objected. President Clinton took a one star general who ran a humanitarian effort in Northern Iraq, Shalikashvilli, and made him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The signal was out, warriors need not apply. Shalikashvilli later spoke at a U.N. meeting and listed the roles for the military in the ?Revolution in Military Affairs.? He included warm and fuzzy things like ?confidence building,? but failed to mention waging war. In my five years at CENTCOM headquarters, I very rarely heard the words, ?war,? ?enemy,? or ?winning.? This was all absorbed into the wonderful term ?strike operations.?
Operation Desert Fox was a perfect example of the uselessness of strike operations. Iraqis have told me that the WMD destruction and movement started just after Operation Desert Fox, since after all, who would be so stupid as to start a bombing campaign and just stop.
It was only after Saddam realized that President Clinton lacked the nerve for anything more than a temper-tantrum demonstration that he knew the doors were wide open for him to continue his weapons program. We didn?t break his will, we didn?t destroy his weapons making capability (The Iraqis simply moved most of the precision machinery out prior to the strikes, then rebuilt the buildings), but we did kill some Iraqi bystanders, just so President Clinton could say ?something must be done, so I did something.?
General Zinni, Commander of CENTCOM, and no other senior officer had any problem with this fecklessness. They apparently bought into the notion that wars are meant to be managed and not waged. The warriors coming into the military post 9/11 deserve true warriors at the top. I believe the house cleaning among the senior military leadership started by the Secretary of Defense should continue full force. If not across the board, then definitely in the military intelligence field.
FP: Mr. Tierney it was a pleasure to speak with you today. Thank you for visiting Frontpage.
Tierney: Thank you Jamie for the opportunity to say there were weapons, and that we were right to invade Iraq.
China's Economic Shell Game
Reply #61 on:
January 07, 2006, 05:34:05 PM »
Interesting libertarian blog out of the UK:
The following post is among the cogent pieces one can find there.
January 05, 2006
Thoughts on China's future
James Waterton (Perth, Australia) Asian affairs ? Globalization/economics
I have been wandering through the fascinating nation of China of late, so I have not had much time to peruse the blogosphere - I guess this means that for a month I had a life. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in the beautiful city of Lijiang in Yun'nan province. This mid-sized Chinese town is famed for its wonderfully restored 'old city', a cobbled and confusing maze of shops, traditional inns with gorgeous courtyards and a grid of small canals filled with luminous fish and gushing clean water. A beautiful place to while away a few days, but Lijiang is not really known for its nightlife. So on the evening of the 25th of December, I got trawling through some of the past articles on Samizdata. Reading through the comments section on this post, I noticed that an article I wrote early in 2005 got a mention. It was a pity I was not around a computer regularly, because a debate raged in the comments section that I would have very much liked to have been a part of. For all my appreciation of China, I am one of the few Sino sceptics.
I should explain. I am not a sceptic of the aspirations of the billions of Chinese people who sense greatness in the Chinese identity. After all, I'm mentioning a deeply rich culture backed up by a vast talent pool on the mainland and in the diaspora that has the capacity to change the world radically in the future. I am, however, deeply pessimistic about China in its current nominally Communist incarnation, for reasons I have outlined in a previous post. I will not go into specifics; if you're curious, please read my rationale here.
Some interesting developments have taken place between now and then, however. These merit further analysis. One or two of the commenters in the mentioned Samizdata piece stated that they were keeping abreast of banking developments in the Middle Kingdom. In 2002, Chinese officials admitted that 25% of the loans written by the state owned banks were non-performing. Standard and Poors and a number of others said it was closer to 50%, and possibly more. Within the space of four years, the Chinese administration has revised its estimation of the rate of non-performing loans down to an average of about 12%. How can this be done so fast? I'm not really sure. We are, of course, talking about the writing down or otherwise accounting for of many hundreds of billions of dollars of bad loans. I assume that it's due to the fact that most or all of the bad loans have been transferred to special "asset management" companies set up by the government. I suspect that the banks have been able to revise their non-performing loans (NPL) ratio down so quickly by performing a debt-to-equity swap with these holding companies. The article linked to immediately above believes the asset management companies have taken a chunk of the banks' loans and issued them with 10 year bonds in return.
This solution is clearly economic sophistry. At the end of the day, someone has to pay the tab - at some stage depositors are going to want their money. The equity in these holding companies is effectively (if not nominally for the time being) worthless - after all, their assets consist of a bunch of loans that will never be repaid. What is being done about the essentially state-owned industrial sector, which was - and most likely still is - the major recipient of these loans? There's a saying in China that goes something like "The mountains are high and the Emperor is far away". I have no doubt that this thinking pervades China's provincial administration and its state-owned industrial sector, and it explains the pervasive corruption that is, contrary to official publications, as rampant as ever. For every high-profile trial and execution of an apparently "senior" official on corruption charges, there are hundreds of thousands more who not only escape undetected, but are also politically untouchable into the bargain. Quite simply, the central government cannot be everywhere at once, and its reach is frequently limited by local powerbrokers. Consider this case in Guangdong, one of China's more prosperous provinces, where the central government could not exercise its will due to local political considerations, even though humiliating international media attention was beaming down. And who is to say that the central government is not as corrupt as its provincial counterparts? It is hardly unreasonable to say that corruption probes have a definite glass ceiling when it comes to the powers that be in Beijing.
I believe that the Chinese banking sector's dire straits constitute the gravest threat to global stability in the coming years. The Chinese government is always harping on about its "deepening" banking and state-owned industrial enterprise reforms, and this is a mantra is being repeated across the world. Unfortunately, the Chinese state is so opaque that it's impossible to verify the veracity of such claims, and the unrealistic numbers being thrown at us by the Communist party (like the drop of NPLs from 25% to 12% in less than five years) and the shonky juggling of bad debt from one insolvent bank to another woefully undercapitalised holding company do not inspire much confidence in the nature of the reforms. Frankly, I believe the banking sector is too far gone to reform without collapse. In international terms, the crisis in the Chinese banks and SOEs is an elephant that stands in the middle of the room, but everyone is either perceiving it as a mouse or trying to pass it off as a mouse. I believe the Australian government is in the latter category, as are a great many others around the world.
I speculate that governments like Australia's are acting as they are because they realise the Chinese state is very brittle and unlikely to withstand economic collapse. The massively stimulating US$50 billion or thereabouts annual injection of foreign direct investment is holding the Chinese state together for the time being. Thus, a number of states such as Australia have an interest in talking up Chinese economic reforms - and concealing the parlous nature of the Chinese economy - in the hope that investor confidence will not flag and the Chinese will trade and consume their way out of their problems. Our current economic health is due to huge demand in booming and resource-hungry China. Thus we see documents like this (pdf) that echo the "deepening reforms" mantra consistently spouted by the Chinese administration. Puff pieces like this create and sustain the irrational exuberance that swirls around the legend of the Chinese economic miracle, and inevitably amplifies economic pain when the collapse eventuates. The strategy of our governments may work, but it is an extremely high-risk gamble. The more investment in and commercial intertwinement with China increases, the more outsiders will suffer if the system unravels.
And perhaps the cracks are already becoming evident even to the man on the street. When I was in China in late 2005, ATMs were frequently out of order. I work in the banking sector in Australia, and when an ATM is out of order this nearly always means the machine has dispensed all its money. This was not a problem in late 2004 during my previous Chinese visit - ATM operations at that time were indiscernible to those in Australia. I am speculating here, because I'm not really an expert on this kind of money velocity issue, but perhaps the sudden patchiness of the ATM network is a sentinel of a solvency crisis.
And the collapse could come sooner than we think. In 2007, as per the agreement China entered into upon joining the WTO, it must open up its retail banking sector to foreign banks. This is a potential tripwire. Even if only a small number of Chinese are concerned about the health of their local banks (and thus their savings), when Citibank opens up next door the run on Chinese banks could easily spin out of control. I am assuming that the government is trying to spread the notion of confidence and stability in the retail banking sector. If the Chinese do not panic come 2007 or any time in the subsequent 20 years or so, the banks should be able to reduce their NPL rate to a "more manageable 5%". It wouldn't be the first time that people have left their money in a bank that is essentially insolvent because they believe the government will cover any losses incurred. This is a questionable assumption, however, and if I was Chinese I probably would not run the risk.
I am concerned by the consequences of a Chinese economic collapse, and these concerns reach far beyond any short to medium term economic pain. I fear a worldwide economic slump prompted by the collapse of China and its supposedly free market will provoke a popular backlash against globalisation and the liberal market reforms carried out in the 80s in the most successful economies of the West. Capitalism and liberalism will be blamed if people create a nexus between China's collapse, its market reforms and its intertwining with the greater world economy. There is no shortage of people who will quickly jump to the fallacious conclusion that the free market sunk China - those who protested in Hong Kong and other places would grab plenty of (misguided) ammunition from such a catastrophic event. Ask any one of those economic curmudgeons about post communist Russia's economy, and I will bet you penny to a pound that their standard response would be "capitalism failed Russia". This is about as sensible as saying that modesty failed Paris Hilton, for anyone who knows anything about post-Soviet "free market reforms" will know that they were in fact nothing of the sort. This type of thinking could very well gain traction because it makes sense prima facie. Policy reversals may follow and suddenly we're staring down the barrel of a neo-Keynesian revolution. Consider what the average person knows about China's economy. We're all told about China's free market reforms and its burgeoning capitalist class in the mainstream media - we're not told about the Chinese government's meddling in the economy and its mandating of compulsory totalitarian-style imposts on big private companies like internal "political cells", its retention of control over huge swathes of industry, its equity market (there is currently a ban on IPOs on Mainland bourses) which is stuffed with companies who are controlled by local governments and even the military, rather than shareholder, the board and a CEO. Most importantly, we're not told about the largely intractable problems with China's banking sector. Most people truly think China operates under a free market economic system. If the dog's breakfast that is China Inc fails with all the accompanying pain and fallout, there's a real danger that free market liberalism will be made the scapegoat internationally.
As I speculated above and in my previous article, Chinese economic collapse will probably preface political revolution. This is in itself an interesting, though disturbing proposition. What would post-communist China look like? Firstly, I should mention that a democratic revolution seems fanciful at best. There is no ANC-type shadow opposition waiting in the wings. The Party is the State, and the Party brooks no opposition. Here are what I consider to be the two most likely outcomes:
1) The military will overthrow the Party. If the banking sector collapses, so too will large chunks of the state-owned industrial sector that are afloat solely due to loans from the state-owned banks. Millions upon millions will be out of work - millions more will lose their pensions and benefits. Many tens - perhaps hundreds - of millions of people will pour onto the street to vigorously and violently protest their loss of savings and/or employment. In its death throes, the Communist Party will order a brutal military crackdown. Trouble is, a military is made up by people with aspirations, families, hopes etc. People who would have lost their savings, too. People whose parents, family and friends are suddenly out of work and without benefits. Most of the officers and soldiers will have no end of sympathy for their countrymen under such circumstances, and it's difficult to imagine the chain of command will survive under such conditions. The Communist top brass will lose control of the military, which will regroup under a new command. The old political order will be drawn and quartered, Mao will be evicted from his mausoleum and his portrait ripped down from the gate of the Forbidden City. There is no democratic tradition in China, however the country is steeped in a history of rule-by-decree. Expect this for many years to come. Perhaps the best outcome would be highly imperfect democratic elections in several years time.
2) The country breaks up along the lines of regional powerbrokers. Along with rule-by-decree, China also has a long history of warlordism and disunity. Due to the lack of any credible and widespread opposition movement in China, the possibility of a complete breakdown of central control is high if the Communists depart the scene and the military doesn't fill the vacuum. Hong Kong would almost certainly go its own way. Those provinces with large populations of non-Han citizens like Tibet and Xinjiang may declare their independence - perhaps bloodily ejecting the old order. Inner Mongolia may reunite with Mongolia. There is scope for large-scale dismemberment of the modern Chinese state. That left over will be fractured and ruled perhaps by the old regional party bosses reincarnated as warlords or whoever is able to wrest power from them and maintain it.
Some mention Taiwan as a wildcard that could be used as a distraction by the Central government. I think this unlikely. If the economy collapses, a war with Taiwan is not likely to distract anyone from their sudden poverty. Militarily, it seems unrealistic, too. The military will be stretched to breaking point in an attempt to reign in the chaos on the Mainland, so a massive invasion or attack on Taiwan looks unfeasible.
I truly hope that I am wrong about my bleak assessment, mainly due to the turmoil and potentially massive loss of life that would undoubtedly accompany such an event. I am also deeply concerned about the potential illiberal and protectionist measures that may be enacted in the West and elsewhere in the wake of a Chinese meltdown. The world has made a grave error of judgement in heavily backing an economy designed, constructed and administered by a group of ostensibly reformed Communists. This fact alone should have cooled the foreigners' ardour. As it stands, the potential for unprecedented economic losses from Chinese investments is enormous. I think we could be facing a very painful depression, which may very well be "cured" with a protectionist, welfarist New Deal-like solution. Scary times ahead.
Shaignhai Housing Bust
Reply #62 on:
January 08, 2006, 04:09:33 PM »
Hmm, wonder if this piece and the one posted above are indicitive of an emerging pattern.
From the Los Angeles Times
A Home Boom Busts
Shanghai's hot housing market has fizzled after a run-up fed by speculators, threatening a significant part of China's economy.
By Don Lee
Times Staff Writer
January 8, 2006
SHANGHAI ? American homeowners wondering what follows a housing bubble can look to China's largest city.
Once one of the hottest markets in the world, sales of homes have virtually halted in some areas of Shanghai, prompting developers to slash prices and real estate brokerages to shutter thousands of offices.
For the first time, homeowners here are learning what it means to have an upside-down mortgage ? when the value of a home falls below the amount of debt on the property. Recent home buyers are suing to get their money back. Banks are fretting about a wave of default loans.
"The entire industry is scaling back," said Mu Wijie, a regional manager at Century 21 China, who estimated that 3,000 brokerage offices had closed since spring. Real estate agents, whose phones wouldn't stop ringing a year ago, say their incomes have plunged by two-thirds.
Shanghai's housing slump is only going to worsen and imperil a significant part of the Chinese economy, says Andy Xie, Morgan Stanley's chief Asia economist in Hong Kong.
Although the city's 20 million residents represent less than 2% of China's population of 1.3 billion, Xie says, Shanghai accounts for an astounding 20% of the country's property value. About 1 million homes in Shanghai alone ? about half the number of housing starts for the entire United States in 2004 ? are under construction.
"They'll remain empty for years," Xie said, adding that a jolting comedown also was in store for other Chinese cities with building booms ? including Beijing, Chongqing and Chengdu ? though other analysts say the problem is largely confined to Shanghai.
Shanghai's housing bust comes after a doubling of prices in the previous three years, a run-up fueled by massive speculation. With China's economy booming and Shanghai at the center of worldwide attention, investors from Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere were buying as fast as buildings were going up. At least 30% to 40% of homes sold were bought by speculators, says Zhang Zhijie, a real estate analyst at Soufun.com Academy, a research group in Shanghai.
"Ordinary people had no option but to follow the trend," Zhang said. "Worrying that prices would be even more unaffordable tomorrow, many of them borrowed from relatives and banks to buy as soon as possible."
The Shanghai government only pushed the market higher, he added. "Many of the officials said Shanghai's property market was healthy and wouldn't drop before the World Expo" in 2010.
For Wang Suxian, the tale of two lines illustrates how the bubble has burst.
When home prices were at the tail end of the boom in March, Wang hired two migrant workers to stand in line for a chance to buy units in what the developer said was modeled after an apartment community on New York's Park Avenue.
The workers waited 72 hours, including cold nights, but the 35-year-old was thrilled to come away with two apartments, one for $110,000, about the average price for a new home in Shanghai, and another for $170,000. They were among Wang's four investment properties.
And for a short period, Wang believed she was raking in hundreds of dollars a day for doing nothing, as property prices in the city kept soaring.
But today, prices at the complex have fallen by a third, and the lines of frenzied buyers are gone. Wang is among dozens who are fighting the developer to take the apartments back.
On a recent frosty morning, she stood in a line herself with about 40 other buyers outside the builder's headquarters, demanding that it negotiate a deal to return their money. "This is ridiculous," Wang huffed.
The company, Da Hua Group, invited Wang and other homeowners inside, served them hot tea, then told them to forget it.
"I think it'll take at least three years before the property market becomes healthy again," said Zhu Delin, a finance professor at Shanghai University and former head of the Shanghai Banking Assn.
The typical home being built is in a high-rise complex, with two bedrooms and about 850 square feet of living space.
Developers say many of Shanghai's homes are valued at about $70,000 or less, and price drops haven't been as steep for those units.
Some still see promise in the Shanghai market. Incomes are rising and droves of people are relocating from the inner city to outlying areas, said Richard David, managing director at Macquarie Property Investment Banking China in Shanghai.
What's more, he says, the Shanghai government ? which owns all the land ? has auctioned off few lots in the last two years, which will limit the number of housing units in the future.
But that's little solace for homeowners who have seen inventories rise even as buyers show no hurry to come back into the market.
In Shanghai, people blame the popping of the housing bubble on the central government, which has applied one measure after another in the last year to quash excessive speculation and price increases.
Banks were ordered to raise their best rate on home loans to 5.5% from 5%. Home buyers were required to make down payments of at least 30%, up from 20%. A 5.5% capital gains tax on home sellers' profits was imposed. Beijing also levied a 5% tax on the sale price of homes sold before two years of ownership.
"It's killed the speculators," said David Pitcher, a Shanghai developer and former head of CB Richard Ellis' office here.
Before the market swooned, buses would bring investors from the southeastern coastal city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province on home-buying missions here. They no longer come.
Wang, the woman battling Da Hua, is one of tens of thousands of Shanghai home buyers from Wenzhou, known for its wealth and business prowess.
But it's not just speculators who have bailed out of the market. A lot of potential Shanghai buyers have been scared off by numerous reports of sinking home prices and desperate action by some owners.
Internet chat rooms recently were abuzz with a story that a Taiwanese man had jumped from the 33rd floor of an apartment tower about 15 miles northeast of downtown. Many people suspect that he killed himself because he was drowning in debt after his home investments went sour.
Managers at the complex refused to comment, but brokers indicated that the price of some units there have plummeted by more than 50% since March, when a home fetched as much as $250 a square foot, similar to housing prices in some Southern California communities.
Zhang Wei, an editor at Imagine China, a photography agency in Shanghai, was close to buying an apartment in the new Pudong development area last year.
The 25-year-old planned to use his $1,250 in savings, and his parents ? a policeman and a doctor ? agreed to contribute about $30,000. The family of three currently lives in a 550-square-foot apartment in an industrial district that was provided by his father's employer, the Police Bureau.
Zhang walked away from the deal after the central government stepped up its campaign to cool Shanghai's market. He noticed prices beginning to drop. "When two of the four real estate agencies near our home finally closed, I decided not to buy for at least two years," he said. "Even a 1% drop in prices is a lot of money for us."
For Shanghai, prolonged weakness in the housing market could be very painful. Like Los Angeles, Shanghai relies heavily on real estate to drive its economy. Morgan Stanley's Xie calculates that property sales directly accounted for about half of $31 billion of the growth in Shanghai's annual economic output from 2001 to 2004.
Construction cranes still fill the skyline of Shanghai, an area of about 2,200 square miles ? a little more than half the size of Los Angeles County. But there's sparse development in the center of the city, where strong sales of high-end homes and luxury office suites, in large part by foreigners, belie the losses around it.
Shanghai's government is relocating inner-city residents to new suburban areas, where entire towns are going up as part of a plan to build distinct industries that ring the city.
It's unclear how many of these new homes are sitting empty. Sales and inventory figures aren't provided by the government. But analysts say they can see the surplus of housing when they drive past housing complexes and there are few lights on at night.
Few analysts are betting on a quick turnaround. Yin Zhongli, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, says a housing crash takes time to clean up. He worries that the financial sector will be crippled by the real estate fallout. Last year, he said, 76% of all bank loans in Shanghai were in real estate.
"Now is the time to swallow a bitter pill," Yin said.
That's what Huang Xiaolei is doing. The 25-year-old Shanghai native nabbed a 1,700-square-foot apartment from Da Hua during the heady times last spring. The unit wouldn't be completed until the end of the year, but as is customary in China, Huang had to secure a loan and make the down payment right away.
She and her parents pooled their life savings of about $80,000 and put 30% down on the $270,000 home. In April, they began making monthly mortgage payments of $1,100 on a 30-year loan with a 5.5% interest rate.
In November, Huang decided to stop the monthly payment, and this month she filed a lawsuit against Da Hua, claiming her contract allowed her to rescind the purchase before the house was completed under special circumstances, with a 3% fee.
"We have over 40 cases like this at our firm," said Du Yuping, Huang's lawyer.
Huang regrets that she got caught up in the frenzied market, and says that even if she wins the lawsuit, she'll suffer a hard financial loss.
"I was cheated," she said.
Chinese Miracle Workers Needed
Reply #63 on:
January 11, 2006, 04:28:33 PM »
More from Stratfor on Chinese economic woes.
Dissecting the 'Chinese Miracle'
By Peter Zeihan
The "Chinese miracle" has been a leading economic story for several years now. The headlines are familiar: "China's GDP Growth Fastest in Asia." "China Overtakes United Kingdom as Fourth-Largest Economy." "China Becomes World's Second-Largest Energy Consumer." "China Revises GDP Growth Rates Upward -- Again." Everywhere, one can find news articles about China, rising like a phoenix from the economic debris of its Maoist system to change and challenge the world in every way imaginable.
But just like the phoenix, the idea of an inevitable Chinese juggernaut is a myth.
Moreover, Western markets have been at least subconsciously aware of this for a decade. More than half of the $1.1 trillion in foreign direct investment that has flowed into China since 1995 has not been foreign at all, but money recirculated through tax havens by various local businessmen and governing officials looking to avoid taxation. Of the remainder, Western investment into China has remained startlingly constant at about $7 billion annually. Only Asian investors whose systems are often plagued (like Japan's) by similar problems of profitability or (like Indonesia's) outright collapse have been increasing their exposure in China.
Once the numbers are broken down, it's clear that the reality of China does not live up to the hype. While it is true that growth rates have been extremely strong, growth does not necessarily equal health. China's core problem, the inability to allocate capital efficiently, is embedded in its development model. The goals of that model -- rapid urbanization, mass employment and maximization of capital flow -- have been met, but to the detriment of profitability and return on capital. In time, China is likely to find itself undone not only by its failures, but also by its successes.
The Chinese Model
Until very recently, China's economic system operated in this way:
State-owned banks held a monopoly on deposits in the country, allowing them to take advantage of Asians' legendary savings rate and thus ensuring a massive pool of capital. The state banks then lent to state-owned enterprises (SOEs). This served two purposes. First, it kept the money in the family and assisted Beijing in maintaining control of the broader economic and political system. Second, because loans were disbursed frequently and at subsidized rates -- and banks did not insist upon strict repayment -- the state was able to guarantee ongoing employment to the Chinese masses.
This last point was -- and remains -- of critical importance to the Chinese Politburo: they know what can happen when the proletariat rises in anger. That is, after all, how they became the Politburo in the first place.
The cost of keeping the money circulating in this way, of course, is that China's state firms are now so indebted as to make their balance sheets a joke, and the banks are swimming in bad debts -- independent estimates peg the amount at around 35-50 percent of the country's GDP. Yet so long as the economic system remains closed, the process can be kept up ad infinitum: After all, what does it matter if the banks are broke if they are state-backed and shielded from competition and enjoy exclusive access to all of the country's depositors?
This system, initiated under Deng Xiaoping in 1979, served China well for years. It yielded unrestricted growth and rapid urbanization, and helped China emerge as a major economic power. And so long as China kept its financial system under wraps, it would remain invulnerable.
But the dawning problem is that China is not in its own little world: It is now a World Trade Organization member, and nearly half of its GDP is locked up in international trade. Its WTO commitments dictate that by December, Beijing must allow any interested foreign companies to compete in the Chinese banking market without restriction. But without some fairly severe adjustments, this shift would swiftly suck the capital out of the Chinese banking system. After all, if you are a Chinese depositor, who would you put your money with -- a foreign bank offering 2 percent interest and a passbook that means something, or a local state bank that can (probably) be counted on to give your money back (without interest)?
The Chinese are well aware of their problems, and perhaps their greatest asset at this point is that -- unlike the Soviets before them -- they are hiding neither the nature nor the size of the problem. Chinese state media have been reporting on the bad loan issue for the better part of two years, and state officials regularly consult each other as well as academics and businesspeople on what precisely they should do to avert a catastrophe.
The result has been a series of stopgap measures to buy time. Among these, the most far-reaching initiative has been a partial reform of the financial sector. The government has founded a series of asset-management companies to take over the bad loans from the state banks, thus scrubbing them free of most of the nonperforming loans. The scrubbed banks are then opened up so that interested foreign investors can purchase shares.
So far as it goes, this is a win-win scenario: Foreign banks get access to assets in-country before the December jump-in date, and the state banks avoid meltdown. In addition, a measure of foreign management expertise is injected into the system that hopefully will teach the state banks how to lend appropriately and -- if all goes well -- lead to the formation of a healthy financial sector. At the same time, the deep-pocketed foreign companies come away with a vested interest in keeping their new partners -- and by extension, the Chinese government -- fully afloat.
The only downside is that central government, through its asset-management firms, assumes responsibility for financially supporting all of China's loss-making state-owned enterprises.
But this rather ingenious banking shell game addresses only the immediate problem of a looming financial catastrophe. Left completely untouched is the existence of a few hundred billion dollars in dud loans -- linked to tens of thousands of dud firms for which the central government is now directly responsible.
Which still leaves for China the unsettled question: "Now what do we do?"
Two Opposing "Solutions"
As can be expected from a country that just underwent a leadership change, there are two competing solutions.
The first solution belongs to the generation of leadership personified by Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, and could be summed up as a philosophy of "Grow faster and it will all work out." It could be said that during Jiang's presidency, while the leadership certainly perceived China's debt problem, they -- like their counterparts in Japan -- felt that attacking the problem at its source -- the banking system -- would lead to an economic collapse (not to mention infuriate political supporters who benefited greatly from the system of cheap credit).
Jiang's recommendation was that everyone should build everything imaginable in hopes that the resulting massive growth and development would help catapult China to "developed country" status -- or, at the very least, raise overall wealth levels sufficiently that the population would not turn rebellious. In the minds of Jiang and his generation of leaders, the belief was that only rapid economic growth -- defined as that in excess of 8 percent annually -- could contain growing unemployment and urbanization pressures and thus hold social instability at bay.
The second solution comes from the current generation of leadership, represented by President Hu Jintao. This solution calls for rationalizing both development goals and credit allocation. The leadership wants to eliminate the "growth for its own sake" philosophy, consolidate inefficient producers and upgrade everything with a liberal dose of technology. Key to this strategy is a centrally planned effort to focus economic development on the inland areas that need it most -- and this entails tighter control over credit. Hu wants loans to go only to enterprises that will use money efficiently or to projects that serve specific national development goals -- narrowing the rich-poor, urban-rural and coastal-interior gaps in particular.
There are massive drawbacks to either solution.
Regional and local governors enthusiastically seized upon Jiang's program to massively expand their own personal fiefdoms. And as corporate empires of these local leaders grew, so too did Chinese demand for every conceivable industrial commodity. One result was the massive increases in commodity prices of 2003 and 2004, but the results for the Chinese economy were negligible. China consumes 12 percent of global energy, 25 percent of aluminum, 28 percent of steel and 42 percent of cement -- but is responsible for only 4.3 percent of total global economic output. Ultimately, while "solution" espoused by Jiang's generation did forestall a civil breakdown, it also saddled China with thousands of new non-competitive projects, even more bad debt, and a culture of corruption so deep that cases of applied capital punishment for graft and embezzlement have soared into the thousands.
Yet the potential drawbacks of the solution offered by Hu's generation are even worse. In attempting to consolidate, modernize and rationalize Jiang's legacy, Hu's government is butting heads with nearly all of the country's local and regional leaderships. These people did quite well for themselves under Jiang and are not letting go of their wealth easily. Such resistance has forced the Hu government to reform by a thousand pinpricks, needling specific local leaders on specific projects while using control of the asset management firms as a financial hammer. After all, since the central government relieved the state banks of their bad loan burden, it now has the perfect tool to strip power from those local leaders who prove less-than-enthusiastic about the changes in government policy.
Or at least that is how it is supposed to work. Local government officials have become so entrenched in their economic and political fiefdoms that they are, at best, simply ignoring the central government or, at worst, actively impeding central government edicts.
Hu's team is indeed making progress, but with the problem mammoth and the resistance both entrenched and stubborn, they can move only so fast for fear of risking a broader collapse or rebellion. And this does not take into consideration Beijing's efforts to strengthen the Chinese interior -- where the poorest Chinese actually live. Complicating matters even more, Hu's strategy relies upon the central government's ability to wring money out of the wealthy coastal regions to pay for the reconstruction of the interior.
That has made the coastal leaders even more disgruntled. However, they have come upon a fresh source of funding, replacing the traditional sources of capital that now are drying up as a result of the personnel changes in Beijing: the underground lending system, which was spurred by the official government monopoly over banks in years past. The central government now estimates that the underground banking sector is worth 800 billion yuan, or some 28 percent of the value of all loans granted in country.
Dealing with Failure -- And Success
The question in our mind is which strategy will fail -- or even succeed -- first. If Jiang's system prevails, then growth will continue, along with the attendant rise in commodity prices -- but at the cost of growing income disparity and environmental degradation. The likely outcome of such "success" would be a broad rebellion by the country's interior regions as money becomes increasingly concentrated in the coastal regions long favored by Jiang. And that is assuming the financial system does not collapse first under its own weight.
Local rebellions in China's rural regions have already become common, but two of are particular note.
In March, the villagers of Huaxi in the Zhejiang region protested against a local official who had used his connections to build a chemical plant on the outskirts of town. When rumors of police brutality surfaced, some 20,000 villagers quite literally seized control of the town from 3,000 security personnel. Before all was said and done, the villagers invited regional press agencies in to chronicle events in the town that had told the Politburo to go to hell, and started burning police property and parading riot control equipment before anyone who would watch. They actually sold tickets to their rebellion. Huaxi marked the first time local officials actually lost control of a town.
Then, in December, protests erupted against a local official in Shanwei, who had similarly lined his pockets with the money that was supposed to have been made available to farmers displaced by his expanding wind-power farm. The local governor figured that since he was investing not just in an energy-generating project in energy-starved China, but a green energy project, that he would have carte blanche to run events as he saw fit. He was right. When the protests turned violent, government forces opened fire -- the first authorized use of force by government troops against protesters since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989.
Such events are, in part, evidence of a degree of success for the strategy espoused by Jiang's generation. The grow-grow-grow policy results in massive demand for labor by tens of thousands of economically questionable -- and typically state-owned -- corporations. This, in turn, draws workers from the rural regions to the rapidly expanding urban centers by the tens of millions. The dominant sense among those who are left behind -- or those who find their urban experiences less-than-savory -- is that they have been exploited. This is particularly true in places like Shanwei, on the outskirts of urban regions, when urban governors begin confiscating agricultural land for their pet projects.
But for all the complications created by Jiang's solution to China's economic challenges, it is Hu's counter-solution that could truly shatter the system. In addition to dealing with all the corrupt flotsam and high-priced jetsam of Jiang's policies, Hu must rip down what Jiang set out to accomplish: thousands of fresh enterprises that are unencumbered by profit concerns. A steady culling of China's non-competitive industry is perhaps a good idea from the central government's point of view -- and essential for the transformation of the Chinese economy into one that would actually be viable in the long term -- but not if you happen to be one of the local officials who personally benefited from Jiang's policies.
The approach of Hu's generation is nothing less than an attempt to recast the country in a mold that is loosely based on Western economics and finance. Even in the best-case scenario, the central government not only needs to put thousands of mewling firms to the sword and deal with the massive unemployment that will result, it also needs to eliminate the businessmen and governing officials who did well under the previous system (which did not even begin to loosen its grip until 2003). And the only way Beijing can pay for its efforts to develop the interior is to tax the coast dry at the same time it is being gutted politically and economically.
The challenge is to keep this undeclared war at a tolerable level, even while ratcheting up pressure on the coastal lords in terms of both taxation and rationalization. But just as Jiang's "solution" faces the doomsday possibility of a long rural march to rebellion, Hu's strategy well might trigger a coastal revolution. As the central government gradually increases its pressure on the assets and power of China's coastal lords, there is a danger that those in the coastal regions will do what anyone would in such a situation: reach out for whatever allies -- economic and political -- might become available. And if China's history is any guide, they will not stop reaching simply because they reach the ocean.
The last time China's coastal provinces rebelled, they achieved de facto independence -- by helping foreign powers secure spheres of influence -- during the Boxer Rebellion. This resulted, among things, in a near-total breakdown of central authority.
Geo Political matters
Reply #64 on:
January 16, 2006, 08:09:32 AM »
The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented
By Niall Ferguson
Are we living through the origins of the next world war? Certainly, it is easy to imagine how a future historian might deal with the next phase of events in the Middle East:
With every passing year after the turn of the century, the instability of the Gulf region grew. By the beginning of 2006, nearly all the combustible ingredients for a conflict - far bigger in its scale and scope than the wars of 1991 or 2003 - were in place.
The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.
This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.
This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there had three times as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2050.
Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.
The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.
Although few countries followed Iran down the road to full-blown theocracy, there was a transformation in politics everywhere. From Morocco to Pakistan, the feudal dynasties or military strongmen who had dominated Islamic politics since the 1950s came under intense pressure from religious radicals.
The ideological cocktail that produced 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic. A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'.
Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan, the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia: the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.
Under different circumstances, it would not have been difficult to thwart Ahmadinejad's ambitions. The Israelis had shown themselves capable of pre-emptive air strikes against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. Similar strikes against Iran's were urged on President Bush by neo-conservative commentators throughout 2006. The United States, they argued, was perfectly placed to carry out such strikes. It had the bases in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. It had the intelligence proving Iran's contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the President was advised by his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to opt instead for diplomacy. Not just European opinion but American opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency.
Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas; they wanted to reduce them. Europeans did not want to hear that Iran was about to build its own WMD. Even if Ahmad-inejad had broadcast a nuclear test live on CNN, liberals would have said it was a CIA con-trick.
So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist, the West appealed to international agencies - the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China's veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals.
Only one man might have stiffened President Bush's resolve in the crisis: not Tony Blair, he had wrecked his domestic credibility over Iraq and was in any case on the point of retirement - Ariel Sharon. Yet he had been struck down by a stroke as the Iranian crisis came to a head. With Israel leaderless, Ahmadinejad had a free hand.
As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime change in Teheran.
This gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered. Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.
The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.
The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shi'ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.
Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.
? Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University
? Niall Ferguson, 2006 ''
Geo Political matters
Reply #65 on:
January 16, 2006, 08:36:18 AM »
That's some deeply scary stuff. Here's two more:
Will Iran Be Next?
Soldiers, spies, and diplomats conduct a classic Pentagon war game?with sobering results
by James Fallows
Throughout this summer and fall, barely mentioned in America's presidential campaign, Iran moved steadily closer to a showdown with the United States (and other countries) over its nuclear plans.
In June the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had not been forthcoming about the extent of its nuclear programs. In July, Iran indicated that it would not ratify a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty giving inspectors greater liberty within its borders. In August the Iranian Defense Minister warned that if Iran suspected a foreign power?specifically the United States or Israel?of preparing to strike its emerging nuclear facilities, it might launch a pre-emptive strike of its own, of which one target could be the U.S. forces next door in Iraq. In September, Iran announced that it was preparing thirty-seven tons of uranium for enrichment, supposedly for power plants, and it took an even tougher line against the IAEA. In October it announced that it had missiles capable of hitting targets 1,250 miles away?as far as southeastern Europe to the west and India to the east. Also, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected a proposal by Senator John Kerry that if the United States promised to supply all the nuclear fuel Iran needed for peaceful power-generating purposes, Iran would stop developing enrichment facilities (which could also help it build weapons). Meanwhile, the government of Israel kept sending subtle and not-so-subtle warnings that if Iran went too far with its plans, Israel would act first to protect itself, as it had in 1981 by bombing the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak.
Preoccupied as they were with Iraq (and with refighting Vietnam), the presidential candidates did not spend much time on Iran. But after the election the winner will have no choice. The decisions that a President will have to make about Iran are like those that involve Iraq?but harder. A regime at odds with the United States, and suspected of encouraging Islamic terrorists, is believed to be developing very destructive weapons. In Iran's case, however, the governmental hostility to the United States is longer-standing (the United States implicitly backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s), the ties to terrorist groups are clearer, and the evidence of an ongoing nuclear-weapons program is stronger. Iran is bigger, more powerful, and richer than Iraq, and it enjoys more international legitimacy than Iraq ever did under Saddam Hussein. The motives and goals of Iran's mullah government have been even harder for U.S. intelligence agencies to understand and predict than Saddam Hussein's were. And Iran is deeply involved in America's ongoing predicament in Iraq. Shiites in Iran maintain close cultural and financial contacts with Iraqi Shiite communities on the other side of the nearly 1,000-mile border between the countries. So far Iraq's Shiites have generally been less resistant to the U.S. occupation than its Sunnis. Most American experts believe that if it wanted to, Iran could incite Iraqi Shiites to join the insurgency in far greater numbers.
Is a preview of the problems Iran will pose for the next American President, and of the ways in which that President might respond, The Atlantic conducted a war game this fall, simulating preparations for a U.S. assault on Iran.
"War game" is a catchall term used by the military to cover a wide range of exercises. Some games run for weeks and involve real troops maneuvering across oceans or terrain against others playing the role of the enemy force. Some are computerized simulations of aerial, maritime, or land warfare. Others are purely talking-and-thinking processes, in which a group of people in a room try to work out the best solution to a hypothetical crisis. Sometimes participants are told to stay "in role"?to say and do only what a Secretary of State or an Army brigade commander or an enemy strategist would most likely say and do in a given situation. Other times they are told to express their own personal views. What the exercises have in common is the attempt to simulate many aspects of conflict?operational, strategic, diplomatic, emotional, and psychological?without the cost, carnage, and irreversibility of real war. The point of a war game is to learn from simulated mistakes in order to avoid making them if conflict actually occurs.
Our exercise was stripped down to the essentials. It took place in one room, it ran for three hours, and it dealt strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran's rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons. It wasn't meant to explore every twist or repercussion of past U.S. actions and future U.S. approaches to Iran. Reports of that nature are proliferating more rapidly than weapons.
Rather, we were looking for what Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, has called the "clarifying effect" of intense immersion in simulated decision-making. Such simulations are Gardiner's specialty. For more than two decades he has conducted war games at the National War College and many other military institutions. Starting in 1989, two years before the Gulf War and fourteen years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, he created and ran at least fifty exercises involving an attack on Iraq. The light-force strategy that General Tommy Franks used to take Baghdad last year first surfaced in a war game Gardiner designed in the 1980s. In 2002, as the real invasion of Iraq drew near, Gardiner worked as a private citizen to develop nonclassified simulations of the situation that would follow the fall of Baghdad. These had little effect on U.S. policy, but proved to be prescient about the main challenges in restoring order to Iraq.
Gardiner told me that the war games he has run as a military instructor frequently accomplish as much as several standard lectures or panel discussions do in helping participants think through the implications of their decisions and beliefs. For our purposes he designed an exercise to force attention on the three or four main issues the next President will have to face about Iran, without purporting to answer all the questions the exercise raised.
The scenario he set was an imagined meeting of the "Principals Committee"?that is, the most senior national-security officials of the next Administration. The meeting would occur as soon as either Administration was ready to deal with Iran, but after a November meeting of the IAEA. In the real world the IAEA is in fact meeting in November, and has set a deadline for Iran to satisfy its demands by the time of the meeting. For the purposes of the simulation Iran is assumed to have defied the deadline. That is a safe bet in the real world as well.
And so our group of principals gathered, to provide their best judgment to the President. Each of them had direct experience in making similar decisions. In the role of CIA director was David Kay, who after the Gulf War went to Iraq as the chief nuclear-weapons inspector for the IAEA and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), and went back in June of 2003 to lead the search for weapons of mass destruction. Kay resigned that post in January of this year, after concluding that there had been no weapons stockpiles at the time of the war.
Playing Secretary of State were Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institution, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute. Although neither is active in partisan politics (nor is anyone else who served on the panel), the views they expressed about Iran in our discussion were fairly distinct, with Gerecht playing a more Republican role in the discussions, and Pollack a more Democratic one. (This was the war game's one attempt to allow for different outcomes in the election.)
Both Pollack and Gerecht are veterans of the CIA. Pollack was a CIA Iran-Iraq analyst for seven years, and later served as the National Security Council's director for Persian Gulf affairs during the last two years of the Clinton Administration. In 2002 his book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq was highly influential in warning about the long-term weapons threat posed by Saddam Hussein. (Last January, in this magazine, Pollack examined how pre-war intelligence had gone wrong.) His book about U.S.-Iranian tensions, The Persian Puzzle, has just been published. Gerecht worked for nine years in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, where he recruited agents in the Middle East. In 1997, under the pseudonym Edward Shirley, he published Know Thine Enemy: A Spy's Journey Into Revolutionary Iran, which described a clandestine trip. He has written frequently about Iran, Afghanistan, and the craft of intelligence for this and other publications.
The simulated White House chief of staff was Kenneth Bacon, the chief Pentagon spokesman during much of the Clinton Administration, who is now the head of Refugees International. Before the invasion Bacon was closely involved in preparing for postwar humanitarian needs in Iraq.
Finally, the Secretary of Defense was Michael Mazarr, a professor of national-security strategy at the National War College, who has written about preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, among other countries, and has collaborated with Gardiner on previous war games.
This war game was loose about requiring players to stay "in role." Sometimes the participants expressed their institutions' views; other times they stepped out of role and spoke for themselves. Gardiner usually sat at the conference table with the five others and served as National Security Adviser, pushing his panel to resolve their disagreements and decide on recommendations for the President. Occasionally he stepped into other roles at a briefing podium. For instance, as the general in charge of Central Command (centcom)?the equivalent of Tommy Franks before the Iraq War and John Abizaid now?he explained detailed military plans.
Over the years Gardiner has concluded that role-playing exercises usually work best if the participants feel they are onstage, being observed; this makes them take everything more seriously and try harder to perform. So the exercise was videotaped, and several people were invited to watch and comment on it. One was Graham Allison, of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a leading scholar of presidential decision-making, who served as a Pentagon official in the first Clinton Administration, specializing in nuclear-arms control. His Essence of Decision, a study of how the Kennedy Administration handled the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, is the classic work in its field; his latest book, which includes a discussion of Iran, is Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. Two other observers were active-duty officers: Marine Corps Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, who has specialized in counterinsurgency and whose book about dealing with Iran (and many other challenges), The Sling and the Stone, was published this summer; and Army Major Donald Vandergriff, whose most recent book, about reforming the internal culture of the Army, is The Path to Victory (2002). The fourth observer was Herbert Striner, formerly of the Brookings Institution, who as a young analyst at an Army think-tank, Operations Research Organization, led a team devising limited-war plans for Iran?back in the 1950s. Striner's team developed scenarios for one other regional war as well: in French Indochina, later known as Vietnam.
Promptly at nine o'clock one Friday morning in September, Gardiner called his group of advisers to order. In his role as National Security Adviser he said that over the next three hours they needed to agree on options and recommendations to send to the President in the face of Iran's latest refusal to meet demands and the latest evidence of its progress toward nuclear weaponry. Gardiner had already decided what questions not to ask. One was whether the United States could tolerate Iran's emergence as a nuclear power. That is, should Iran be likened to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in whose possession nuclear weapons would pose an unacceptable threat, or to Pakistan, India, or even North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions the United States regrets but has decided to live with for now? If that discussion were to begin, it would leave time for nothing else.
Gardiner also chose to avoid posing directly the main question the game was supposed to illuminate: whether and when the United States should seriously consider military action against Iran. If he started with that question, Gardiner said, any experienced group of officials would tell him to first be sure he had exhausted the diplomatic options. So in order to force discussion about what, exactly, a military "solution" would mean, Gardiner structured the game to determine how the panel assessed evidence of the threat from Iran; whether it was willing to recommend steps that would keep the option of military action open, and what that action might look like; and how it would make the case for a potential military strike to an audience in the United States and around the world.
Before the game began, Gardiner emphasized one other point about his approach, the importance of which would become clear when the discussions were over. He had taken pains to make the material he would present as accurate, realistic, and true to standard national-security practice as possible. None of it was classified, but all of it reflected the most plausible current nonclassified information he could obtain. The detailed plans for an assault on Iran had also been carefully devised. They reflected the present state of Pentagon thinking about the importance of technology, information networks, and Special Forces operations. Afterward participants who had sat through real briefings of this sort said that Gardiner's version was authentic.
His commitment to realism extended to presenting all his information in a series of PowerPoint slides, on which U.S. military planners are so dependent that it is hard to imagine how Dwight Eisenhower pulled off D-Day without them. PowerPoint's imperfections as a deliberative tool are well known. Its formulaic outline structure can overemphasize some ideas or options and conceal others, and the amateurish graphic presentation of data often impedes understanding. But any simulation of a modern military exercise would be unconvincing without it. Gardiner's presentation used PowerPoint for its explanatory function and as a spine for discussion, its best use; several of the slides have been reproduced for this article.
In his first trip to the podium Gardiner introduced himself as the director of central intelligence. (That was David Kay's role too, but during this phase he just sat and listened.) His assignment was to explain what U.S. intelligence knew and didn't know about Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons, and what it thought about possible impediments to that progress?notably Israel's potential to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear sites.
"As DCI, I've got to talk about uncertainty," Gardiner began?the way future intelligence officers presumably will after the Iraq-WMD experience, when George Tenet, as CIA director, claimed that the case for Iraq's having weapons was a "slam-dunk." "It's an important part of this problem. The [intelligence] community believes that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in three years." He let that sink in and then added ominously, "Unless they have something we don't know about, or unless someone has given them or sold them something we don't know about"?or unless, on top of these "known unknowns," some "unknown unknowns" were speeding the pace of Iran's program.
One response to imperfect data about an adversary is to assume the worst and prepare for it, so that any other outcome is a happy surprise. That was the recommendation of Reuel Gerecht, playing the conservative Secretary of State. "We should assume Iran will move as fast as possible," he said several times. "It would be negligent of any American strategic planners to assume a slower pace." But that was not necessarily what the DCI was driving at in underscoring the limits of outside knowledge about Iran. Mainly he meant to emphasize a complication the United States would face in making its decisions. Given Iran's clear intent to build a bomb, and given the progress it has already made, sometime in the next two or three years it will cross a series of "red lines," after which the program will be much harder for outsiders to stop. Gardiner illustrated with a slide (figure 1).
Iran will cross one of the red lines when it produces enough enriched uranium for a bomb, and another when it has weapons in enough places that it would be impossible to remove them in one strike. "Here's the intelligence dilemma," Gardiner said. "We are facing a future in which this is probably Iran's primary national priority. And we have these red lines in front of us, and we"?meaning the intelligence agencies?"won't be able to tell you when they cross them." Hazy knowledge about Iran's nuclear progress doesn't dictate assuming the worst, Gardiner said. But it does mean that time is not on America's side. At some point, relatively soon, Iran will have an arsenal that no outsiders can destroy, and America will not know in advance when that point has arrived.
Then the threat assessment moved to two wild-card factors: Iran's current involvement in Iraq, and Israel's potential involvement with Iran. Both complicate and constrain the options open to the United States, Gardiner said. Iran's influence on the Shiite areas of Iraq is broad, deep, and obviously based on a vastly greater knowledge of the people and customs than the United States can bring to bear. So far Iran has seemed to share America's interest in calming the Shiite areas, rather than have them erupt on its border. But if it needs a way to make trouble for the United States, one is at hand.
As for Israel, no one can be sure what it will do if threatened. Yet from the U.S. perspective, it looks as if a successful pre-emptive raid might be impossible?or at least so risky as to give the most determined Israeli planners pause. Partly this is because of the same lack of knowledge that handicaps the United States. When Menachem Begin dispatched Israeli fighter planes to destroy Iraq's Osirak plant, he knew there was only one target, and that if it was eliminated, Iraq's nuclear program would be set back for many years. In our scenario as in real life, the Americans thought Ariel Sharon and his successors could not be sure how many important targets were in Iran, or exactly where all of them were, or whether Israel could destroy enough of them to make the raid worth the international outrage and the likely counterattack. Plus, operationally it would be hard.
But for the purposes of our scenario, Israel kept up its threats to take unilateral action. It was time again for PowerPoint. Figure 2 shows the known targets that might be involved in some way in Iran's nuclear program. And figure 3 shows the route Israeli warplanes would have to take to get to them. Osirak, near Baghdad, was by comparison practically next door, and the Israeli planes made the round trip without refueling. To get to Iran, Israeli planes would have to fly over Saudi Arabia and Jordan, probably a casus belli in itself given current political conditions; or over Turkey, also a problem; or over American-controlled Iraq, which would require (and signal) U.S. approval of the mission.
With this the DCI left the podium?and Sam Gardiner, now sitting at the table as National Security Adviser, asked what initial assessments the principals made of the Iranian threat.
In one point there was concord. Despite Gardiner's emphasis on the tentative nature of the intelligence, the principals said it was sufficient to demonstrate the gravity of the threat. David Kay, a real-life nuclear inspector who was now the DCI at the table, said that comparisons with Iraq were important?and underscored how difficult the Iranian problem would be. "It needs to be emphasized," he said, "that the bases for conclusions about Iran are different, and we think stronger than they were with regard to Iraq." He explained that international inspectors withdrew from Iraq in 1998, so outsiders had suspicions rather than hard knowledge about what was happening. In Iran inspectors had been present throughout, and had seen evidence of the "clandestine and very difficult-to-penetrate nature of the program," which "leaves no doubt that it is designed for a nuclear-weapons program." What is worse, he said, "this is a lot more dangerous than the Iraqi program, in that the Iranians have proven, demonstrated connections with very vicious international terrorist regimes who have shown their willingness to use any weapons they acquire" against the United States and its allies. Others spoke in the same vein.
The real debate concerned Israel. The less America worried about reaction from Europe and the Muslim world, the more likely it was to encourage or condone Israeli action, in the hope that Israel could solve the problem on its own. The more it worried about long-term relations with the Arab world, the more determined it would be to discourage the Israelis from acting.
Most of the principals thought the Israelis were bluffing, and that their real goal was to put pressure on the United States to act. "It's hard to fault them for making this threat," said Pollack, as the Democratic Secretary of State, "because in the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering this option? Based on my discussions with the Israelis, I think they know they don't have the technical expertise to deal with this problem. I think they know they just don't have the planes to get there?setting aside every other problem."
"They might be able to get there?the problem would be getting home," retorted Gerecht, who had the most positive view on the usefulness of an Israeli strike.
Bacon, as White House chief of staff, said, "Unless they can take out every single Iranian missile, they know they will get a relatively swift counterattack, perhaps with chemical weapons. So the threat they want to eliminate won't be eliminated." Both he and Pollack recommended that the Administration ask the Israelis to pipe down.
"There are two things we've got to remember with regard to the Israelis," Kay said. "First of all, if we tell them anything, they are certain to play it back through their network that we are 'bringing pressure to bear' on them. That has been a traditional Israeli response. It's the nature of a free democracy that they will do that. The second thing we've got to be careful of and might talk to the Israelis about: our intelligence estimate that we have three years to operate could change if the Iranians thought the Israelis might pre-empt sooner. We'd like to have that full three years, if not more. So when we're talking with the Israelis, toning down their rhetoric can be described as a means of dealing with the threat."
Woven in and out of this discussion was a parallel consideration of Iraq: whether, and how, Iran might undermine America's interests there or target its troops. Pollack said this was of great concern. "We have an enormous commitment to Iraq, and we can't afford to allow Iraq to fail," he said. "One of the interesting things that I'm going to ask the CentCom commander when we hear his presentation is, Can he maintain even the current level of security in Iraq, which of course is absolutely dismal, and still have the troops available for anything in Iran?" As it happened, the question never came up in just this form in the stage of the game that featured a simulated centcom commander. But Pollack's concern about the strain on U.S. military resources was shared by the other panelists. "The second side of the problem," Pollack continued, "is that one of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us ? If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell." Provoking Iran in any way, therefore, could mean even fewer troops to handle Iraq?and even worse problems for them to deal with.
Kay agreed. "They may decide that a bloody defeat for the United States, even if it means chaos in Iraq, is something they actually would prefer. Iranians are a terribly strategic political culture ? They might well accelerate their destabilization operation, in the belief that their best reply to us is to ensure that we have to go to helicopters and evacuate the Green Zone."
More views were heard?Gerecht commented, for example, on the impossibility of knowing the real intentions of the Iranian government?before Gardiner called a halt to this first phase of the exercise. He asked for a vote on one specific recommendation to the President: Should the United States encourage or discourage Israel in its threat to strike? The Secretary of Defense, the DCI, the White House chief of staff, and Secretary of State Pollack urged strong pressure on Israel to back off. "The threat of Israeli military action both harms us and harms our ability to get others to take courses of action that might indeed affect the Iranians," Kay said. "Every time a European hears that the Israelis are planning an Osirak-type action, it makes it harder to get their cooperation." Secretary of State Gerecht thought a successful attack was probably beyond Israel's technical capability, but that the United States should not publicly criticize or disagree with its best ally in the Middle East.
Sam Gardiner took the podium again. Now he was four-star General Gardiner, commander of CentCom. The President wanted to understand the options he actually had for a military approach to Iran. The general and his staff had prepared plans for three escalating levels of involvement: a punitive raid against key Revolutionary Guard units, to retaliate for Iranian actions elsewhere, most likely in Iraq; a pre-emptive air strike on possible nuclear facilities; and a "regime change" operation, involving the forcible removal of the mullahs' government in Tehran. Either of the first two could be done on its own, but the third would require the first two as preparatory steps. In the real world the second option?a pre-emptive air strike against Iranian nuclear sites?is the one most often discussed. Gardiner said that in his briefing as war-game leader he would present versions of all three plans based as closely as possible on current military thinking. He would then ask the principals to recommend not that an attack be launched but that the President authorize the preparatory steps to make all three possible.
The first option was straightforward and, according to Gardiner, low-risk. The United States knew where the Revolutionary Guard units were, and it knew how to attack them. "We will use Stealth airplanes, U.S.-based B-2 bombers, and cruise missiles to attack," Gardiner said. "We could do this in one night." These strikes on military units would not in themselves do anything about Iran's nuclear program. Gardiner mentioned them because they would be a necessary first step in laying the groundwork for the ultimate scenario of forced regime change, and because they would offer the United States a "measured" retaliatory option if Iran were proved to be encouraging disorder in Iraq.
The pre-emptive air strike was the same one that had been deemed too demanding for the Israelis. The general's staff had identified 300 "aim points" in Iran. Some 125 of them were sites thought to be involved in producing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The rest were part of Iran's air-defense or command system. "I call this a low-risk option also," Gardiner said, speaking for CentCom. "I'm not doing that as political risk?that's your job. I mean it's a low-risk military option." Gardiner said this plan would start with an attack on air-defense sites and would take five days in all.
Then there was option No. 3. Gardiner called this plan "moderate risk," but said the best judgment of the military was that it would succeed. To explain it he spent thirty minutes presenting the very sorts of slides most likely to impress civilians: those with sweeping arrows indicating the rapid movement of men across terrain. (When the exercise was over, I told David Kay that an observer who had not often seen such charts remarked on how "cool" they looked. "Yes, and the longer you've been around, the more you learn to be skeptical of the 'cool' factor in PowerPoint," Kay said. "I don't think the President had seen many charts like that before," he added, referring to President Bush as he reviewed war plans for Iraq.)
The overall plan of attack was this: a "deception" effort from the south, to distract Iranian troops; a main-force assault across the long border with Iraq; airborne and Special Forces attacks from Afghanistan and Azerbaijan; and cruise missiles from ships at sea. Gardiner presented more-detailed possibilities for the deployment. A relatively light assault, like the one on Afghanistan, is depicted in figure 4. A "heavier" assault would involve more troops and machines attacking across two main fronts (figure 5).
In all their variety, these and other regime-change plans he described had two factors in common. One is that they minimized "stability" efforts?everything that would happen after the capital fell. "We want to take out of this operation what has caused us problems in Iraq," Gardiner of CentCom said, referring to the postwar morass. "The idea is to give the President an option that he can execute that will involve about twenty days of buildup that will probably not be seen by the world. Thirty days of operation to regime change and taking down the nuclear system, and little or no stability operations. Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in about two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations to take the targets inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards. Go in quickly, change the regime, find a replacement, and get out quickly after having destroyed?rendered inoperative?the nuclear facilities." How could the military dare suggest such a plan, after the disastrous consequences of ignoring "stability" responsibilities in Iraq? Even now, Gardiner said after the war game, the military sees post-conflict operations as peripheral to its duties. If these jobs need to be done, someone else must take responsibility for them.
The other common factor was the need for troops, machinery, and weapons to be nearby and ready to move. Positioning troops would not be that big a problem. When one unit was replacing another in Iraq, for a while both units would be in place, and the attack could happen then. But getting enough machinery into place was more complicated, because airfields in nearby Georgia and Azerbaijan are too small to handle a large flow of military cargo planes (figure 6).
As centcom commander, Gardiner cautioned that any of the measures against Iran would carry strategic risks. The two major dangers were that Iran would use its influence to inflame anti-American violence in Iraq, and that it would use its leverage to jack up oil prices, hurting America's economy and the world's. In this sense option No. 2?the pre-emptive air raid?would pose as much risk as the full assault, he said. In either case the Iranian regime would conclude that America was bent on its destruction, and it would have no reason to hold back on any tool of retaliation it could find. "The region is like a mobile," he said. "Once an element is set in motion, it is impossible to say where the whole thing will come to rest." But the President had asked for a full range of military options, and unless his closest advisers were willing to go to him empty-handed, they needed to approve the steps that would keep all the possibilities alive. That meant authorizing the Department of Defense to begin expanding airfields, mainly in Azerbaijan, and to dedicate $700 million to that purpose. (As it happens, this is the same amount Tommy Franks requested in July of 2002, to keep open the possibility of war in Iraq.) "This is not about executing the plan," Gardiner of centcom said. "We're preparing options for the President; the whole issue of execution is separate. We need some money to build facilities."
Gardiner remained at the podium to answer questions as the CentCom commander, and the discussion began. The panelists skipped immediately to the regime-change option, and about it there was unanimity: the plan had been modeled carefully on the real assault on Iraq, and all five advisers were appalled by it.
"You need to take this back to Tampa," David Kay said, to open the discussion. Tampa, of course, is the headquarters for CentCom units operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Or put it someplace else I'd suggest, but we're in public." What was remarkable about the briefing, he said, was all the charts that were not there. "What were the countermoves?" he asked. "The military countermoves?not the political ones you offloaded to my Secretaries of State but the obvious military countermoves that the Iranians have? A very easy military counter is to raise the cost of your military operation inside Iraq. Are you prepared to do that?"
The deeper problem, Kay said, lay with the request for money to "keep options open." "That, quite frankly, is a bunch of bullshit," he said. "Approval of the further planning process forecloses a number of options immediately. I would love to see a strategic communications plan that would allow us to continue diplomatic and other options immediately with our European allies when this leaks; inevitably this will leak."
The next twenty minutes of discussion was to the same effect. Who, exactly, would succeed the mullahs in command? How on earth would U.S. troops get out as quickly as they had come in? "Speaking as the President's chief of staff, I think you are doing the President an enormous disservice," Kenneth Bacon said. "One, it will leak. Two, it will be politically and diplomatically disastrous when it leaks ? I think your invasion plan is a dangerous plan even to have on the table in the position of being leaked ? I would throw it in Tampa Bay and hope the sharks would eat it."
"This is a paranoid regime," Kenneth Pollack said of Iran. "Even if the development of the Caucasus airfields ? even if it weren't about them, they would assume it was about them. So that in and of itself will likely provoke a response. The Iranians are not inert targets! If they started to think we were moving in the direction of a military move against them, they would start fighting us right away."
Michael Mazarr, as Secretary of Defense, said he did not want the authority that was on offer to his department. "Tell the President my personal judgment would be the only circumstances in which we could possibly consider launching any significant operation in Iran would be the most extreme provocation, the most imminent threat," he said.
Even the hardest-liner, Reuel Gerecht, was critical. "I would agree that our problems with the Islamic republic will not be over until the regime is changed," he said. If the United States could launch a genuine surprise attack?suddenly, from aircraft carriers, rather than after a months-long buildup of surrounding airfields?he would look at it favorably. But on practical grounds, he said, "I would vote against the regime-change options displayed here."
Further unhappy back-and-forth ensued, with the CentCom commander defending the importance of keeping all options open, and the principals warning of trouble when news of the plan got out. When Gardiner called an end to this segment, there was little objection to the most modest of the military proposals?being ready, if need be, for a punitive strike on the Revolutionary Guards. The participants touched only briefly on the Osirak-style strike during the war game, but afterward most of them expressed doubt about its feasibility. The United States simply knew too little about which nuclear projects were under way and where they could be destroyed with confidence. If it launched an attack and removed some unknown proportion of the facilities, the United States might retard Iran's progress by an unknown number of months or years?at the cost of inviting all-out Iranian retaliation. "Pre-emption is only a tactic that puts off the nuclear development," Gardiner said after the exercise. "It cannot make it go away. Since our intelligence is so limited, we won't even know what we achieved after an attack. If we set it back a year, what do we do a year later? A pre-emptive strike would carry low military risk but high strategic risk."
During the war game the regime-change plan got five nays. But it was clear to all that several other big issues lay on the table, unresolved. How could the President effectively negotiate with the Iranians if his own advisers concluded that he had no good military option to use as a threat? How could the world's most powerful and sophisticated military lack the ability to take an opponent by surprise? How could leaders of that military imagine, after Iraq, that they could ever again propose a "quick in-and-out" battle plan? Why was it so hard to develop plans that allowed for the possibility that an adversary would be clever and ruthless? Why was it so hard for the United States to predict the actions and vulnerabilities of a regime it had opposed for twenty-five years?
At noon the war game ended. As a simulation it had produced recommendations that the President send a go-slow signal to the Israelis and that he not authorize any work on airfields in Central Asia. His advisers recommended that he not even be shown Centcom's plans for invading Iran.
The three hours of this exercise were obviously not enough time for the panel of advisers to decide on all aspects of a new policy toward Iran. But the intended purpose of the exercise was to highlight the real options a real President might consider. What did it reveal? Gardiner called for a wrap-up from participants and observers immediately after the event. From their comments, plus interviews with the participants in the following week, three big themes emerged: the exercise demonstrated something about Iraq, something about the way governments make decisions, and something about Iran.
Iraq was a foreground topic throughout the game, since it was where a threatened Iran might most easily retaliate. It was even more powerful in its background role. Every aspect of discussion about Iran was colored by knowledge of how similar decisions had played out in Iraq. What the United States knew and didn't know about secret weapons projects. What could go wrong with its military plans. How much difficulty it might face in even a medium-size country. "Compared with Iraq, Iran has three times the population, four times the land area, and five times the problems," Kenneth Pollack said during the war game. A similar calculation could be heard in almost every discussion among the principals, including those who had strongly supported the war in Iraq. This was most obvious in the dismissal of the full-scale regime-change plan?which, Gardiner emphasized, was a reflection of real-life military thinking, not a straw man. "I have been working on these options for almost eighteen months," he said later. "I tried them in class with my military students. They were the best I could do. I was looking for a concept that would limit our involvement in stability operations. We just don't have the forces to do that in Iran. The two lesser concepts"?punitive raids on the Revolutionary Guard and pre-emptive air strikes?"were really quite good from a military perspective." And of course the sweeping third concept, in the very similar form of Tommy Franks's plan, had been approved by a real President without the cautionary example of Iraq to learn from.
Exactly what learning from Iraq will mean is important but impossible to say. "Iraq" could become shorthand for a comprehensive disaster?one of intention, execution, and effect. "Usually we don't make the same mistakes immediately," Graham Allison said. "We make different mistakes." In an attempt to avoid "another Iraq," in Iran or elsewhere, a different Administration would no doubt make new mistakes. If George Bush is re-elected, the lessons of Iraq in his second term will depend crucially on who is there to heed them. All second-term Presidents have the same problem, "which is that the top guys are tired out and leave?or tired out and stay," Kay said. "You get the second-best and the second-brightest, it's really true." "There will be new people, and even the old ones will behave differently," Gardiner said. "The CIA will not make unequivocal statements. There will be more effort by everyone to question plans." But Kay said that the signal traits of the George W. Bush Administration?a small group of key decision-makers, no fundamental challenge of prevailing views?would most likely persist. "I have come to the conclusion that it is a function of the way the President thinks, operates, declares his policy ahead of time," Kay said. "It is inherent in the nature of George Bush, and therefore inherent in the system."
What went wrong in Iraq, according to our participants, can in almost all cases be traced back to the way the Administration made decisions. "Most people with detailed knowledge of Iraq, from the CIA to the State Department to the Brits, thought it was a crazy quilt held together in an artificial state," Allison said. Because no such people were involved in the decision to go to war, the Administration expected a much easier reception than it met?with ruinous consequences. There was no strong institutional system for reconciling differences between the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, and other institutions, and the person who theoretically might have done this, Condoleezza Rice, was weak. "If you don't have a deliberate process in which the National Security Adviser is playing a strong role, clarifying contrary views, and hammering out points of difference, you have the situation you did," Allison said. "There was no analytic memo that all the parties looked at that said, 'Here's how we see the shape of this problem; here is the logic that leads to targeting Iraq rather than North Korea.'"
"Process" sounds dull, and even worse is "government decision-making," but these topics provoked the most impassioned comments from panelists and observers when they were interviewed after the war game. All were alarmed about the way governments now make life-and-death decisions; this was, after Iraq, the second big message of the exercise.
"Companies deciding which kind of toothpaste to market have much more rigorous, established decision-making processes to refer to than the most senior officials of the U.S. government deciding whether or not to go to war," Michael Mazarr said. "On average, the national-security apparatus of the United States makes decisions far less rigorously than it ought to, and is capable of. The Bush Administration is more instinctual, more small-group-driven, less concerned about being sure they have covered every assumption, than other recent Administrations, particularly that of George H. W. Bush. But the problem is bigger than one Administration or set of decision-makers."
Gardiner pointed out how rare it is for political leaders to ask, "And what comes after that? And then?" Thomas Hammes, the Marine expert in counterinsurgency, said that presentations by military planners feed this weakness in their civilian superiors, by assuming that the adversary will cooperate. "We never 'red-celled' the enemy in this exercise" (that is, let him have the first move), Hammes said after the Iran war game. "What if they try to pre-empt us? What if we threaten them, and the next day we find mines in Baltimore Harbor and the Golden Gate, with a warning that there will be more? Do we want to start this game?" Such a failure of imagination?which Hammes said is common in military-run war games?has a profound effect, because it leads to war plans like the ones from Gardiner's CentCom, or from Tommy Franks, which in turn lull Presidents into false confidence. "There is no such thing as a quick, clean war," he said. "War will always take you in directions different from what you intended. The only guy in recent history who started a war and got what he intended was Bismarck," who achieved the unification of Germany after several European wars.
Gardiner pointed out that none of the principals had even bothered to ask whether Congress would play a part in the decision to go to war. "This game was consistent with a pattern I have been seeing in games for the past ten years," he said. "It is not the fault of the military, but they have learned to move faster than democracy was meant to move."
And what did the exercise show about Iran? In the week after the war game I interviewed the partici- pants about the views they had expressed "in role" and about their personal recommendations for the next President's approach. From these conversations, and from the participants' other writings and statements about Iran, the following themes emerged.
About Iran's intentions there is no disagreement. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and unless its policy is changed by the incentives it is offered or the warnings it receives, it will succeed.
About America's military options there is almost as clear a view. In circumstances of all-out war the United States could mount an invasion of Iran if it had to. If sufficiently provoked?by evidence that Iran was involved in a terrorist incident, for example, or that it was fomenting violence in Iraq?the United States could probably be effective with a punitive bomb-and-missile attack on Revolutionary Guard units.
But for the purposes most likely to interest the next American President?that is, as a tool to slow or stop Iran's progress toward nuclear weaponry?the available military options are likely to fail in the long term. A full-scale "regime change" operation has both obvious and hidden risks. The obvious ones are that the United States lacks enough manpower and equipment to take on Iran while still tied down in Iraq, and that domestic and international objections would be enormous. The most important hidden problem, exposed in the war-game discussions, was that a full assault would require such drawn-out preparations that the Iranian government would know months in advance what was coming. Its leaders would have every incentive to strike pre-emptively in their own defense. Unlike Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a threatened Iran would have many ways to harm America and its interests. Apart from cross-border disruptions in Iraq, it might form an outright alliance with al-Qaeda to support major new attacks within the United States. It could work with other oil producers to punish America economically. It could, as Hammes warned, apply the logic of "asymmetric," or "fourth-generation," warfare, in which a superficially weak adversary avoids a direct challenge to U.S. military power and instead strikes the most vulnerable points in American civilian society, as al-Qaeda did on 9/11. If it thought that the U.S. goal was to install a wholly new regime rather than to change the current regime's behavior, it would have no incentive for restraint.
What about a pre-emptive strike of our own, like the Osirak raid? The problem is that Iran's nuclear program is now much more advanced than Iraq's was at the time of the raid. Already the U.S. government has no way of knowing exactly how many sites Iran has, or how many it would be able to destroy, or how much time it would buy in doing so. Worse, it would have no way of predicting the long-term strategic impact of such a strike. A strike might delay by three years Iran's attainment of its goal?but at the cost of further embittering the regime and its people. Iran's intentions when it did get the bomb would be all the more hostile.
Here the United States faces what the military refers to as a "branches and sequels" decision?that is, an assessment of best and second-best outcomes. It would prefer that Iran never obtain nuclear weapons. But if Iran does, America would like Iran to see itself more or less as India does?as a regional power whose nuclear status symbolizes its strength relative to regional rivals, but whose very attainment of this position makes it more committed to defending the status quo. The United States would prefer, of course, that Iran not reach a new level of power with a vendetta against America. One of our panelists thought that a strike would help the United States, simply by buying time. The rest disagreed. Iran would rebuild after a strike, and from that point on it would be much more reluctant to be talked or bargained out of pursuing its goals?and it would have far more reason, once armed, to use nuclear weapons to America's detriment.
Most of our panelists felt that the case against a U.S. strike was all the more powerful against an Israeli strike. With its much smaller air force and much more limited freedom to use airspace, Israel would probably do even less "helpful" damage to Iranian sites. The hostile reaction?against both Israel and the United States?would be potentially more lethal to both Israel and its strongest backer.
A realistic awareness of these constraints will put the next President in an awkward position. In the end, according to our panelists, he should understand that he cannot prudently order an attack on Iran. But his chances of negotiating his way out of the situation will be greater if the Iranians don't know that. He will have to brandish the threat of a possible attack while offering the incentive of economic and diplomatic favors should Iran abandon its plans. "If you say there is no acceptable military option, then you end any possibility that there will be a non-nuclear Iran," David Kay said after the war game. "If the Iranians believe they will not suffer any harm, they will go right ahead." Hammes agreed: "The threat is always an important part of the negotiating process. But you want to fool the enemy, not fool yourself. You can't delude yourself into thinking you can do something you can't." Is it therefore irresponsible to say in public, as our participants did and we do here, that the United States has no military solution to the Iran problem? Hammes said no. Iran could not be sure that an American President, seeing what he considered to be clear provocation, would not strike. "You can never assume that just because a government knows something is unviable, it won't go ahead and do it. The Iraqis knew it was not viable to invade Iran, but they still did it. History shows that countries make very serious mistakes."
So this is how the war game turned out: with a finding that the next American President must, through bluff and patience, change the actions of a government whose motives he does not understand well, and over which his influence is limited. "After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers," Sam Gardiner said of his exercise. "You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work."
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, has written three recent cover stories on U.S. foreign policy and Iraq: "Bush's Lost Year" (October), "Blind Into Baghdad" (January/February), and "The Fifty-first State?" (November 2002).
From the Guardian. Seems to suggest that Ahmadinejad is a religious nut
who believes the end is near. Now, if Bush held these beliefs, the world
would demand his dismissal. With Ahmadinejad, the world quakes and
'Divine mission' driving Iran's new leader
By Anton La Guardia
As Iran rushes towards confrontation with the world over its nuclear
programme, the question uppermost in the mind of western leaders is "What is
moving its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to such recklessness?"
Political analysts point to the fact that Iran feels strong because of high
oil prices, while America has been weakened by the insurgency in Iraq.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
But listen carefully to the utterances of Mr Ahmadinejad - recently
described by President George W Bush as an "odd man" - and there is another
dimension, a religious messianism that, some suspect, is giving the Iranian
leader a dangerous sense of divine mission.
In November, the country was startled by a video showing Mr Ahmadinejad
telling a cleric that he had felt the hand of God entrancing world leaders
as he delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly last September.
When an aircraft crashed in Teheran last month, killing 108 people, Mr
Ahmadinejad promised an investigation. But he also thanked the dead, saying:
"What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we
The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the
Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's
belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.
One of the first acts of Mr Ahmadinejad's government was to donate about ?10
million to the Jamkaran mosque, a popular pilgrimage site where the pious
come to drop messages to the Hidden Imam into a holy well.
All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who
will appear at the End of Days. A common rumour - denied by the government
but widely believed - is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have signed a
"contract" pledging themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi and sent
it to Jamkaran.
Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan,
regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.
He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of
five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After
a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the
world to an era of universal peace.
This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the
Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.
Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and
that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.
The prospect of such a man obtaining nuclear weapons is worrying. The
unspoken question is this: is Mr Ahmadinejad now tempting a clash with the
West because he feels safe in the belief of the imminent return of the
Hidden Imam? Worse, might he be trying to provoke chaos in the hope of
hastening his reappearance?
The 49-year-old Mr Ahmadinejad, a former top engineering student, member of
the Revolutionary Guards and mayor of Teheran, overturned Iranian politics
after unexpectedly winning last June's presidential elections.
The main rift is no longer between "reformists" and "hardliners", but
between the clerical establishment and Mr Ahmadinejad's brand of
revolutionary populism and superstition.
Its most remarkable manifestation came with Mr Ahmadinejad's international
debut, his speech to the United Nations.
World leaders had expected a conciliatory proposal to defuse the nuclear
crisis after Teheran had restarted another part of its nuclear programme in
Instead, they heard the president speak in apocalyptic terms of Iran
struggling against an evil West that sought to promote "state terrorism",
impose "the logic of the dark ages" and divide the world into "light and
The speech ended with the messianic appeal to God to "hasten the emergence
of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human
being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace".
In a video distributed by an Iranian web site in November, Mr Ahmadinejad
described how one of his Iranian colleagues had claimed to have seen a glow
of light around the president as he began his speech to the UN.
"I felt it myself too," Mr Ahmadinejad recounts. "I felt that all of a
sudden the atmosphere changed there. And for 27-28 minutes all the leaders
did not blink.It's not an exaggeration, because I was looking.
"They were astonished, as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It
had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."
Western officials said the real reason for any open-eyed stares from
delegates was that "they couldn't believe what they were hearing from
Their sneaking suspicion is that Iran's president actually relishes a clash
with the West in the conviction that it would rekindle the spirit of the
Islamic revolution and - who knows - speed up the arrival of the Hidden
Re: Will Iran Be Next? PowerPoint on Parade
Reply #66 on:
January 16, 2006, 12:33:00 PM »
"I don't think the President had seen many charts like that before," he added, referring to President Bush as he reviewed war plans for Iraq.
Hah! Always amusing when someone slips in a telling comment like that.
A Little Light Reading
Reply #67 on:
January 17, 2006, 08:18:24 PM »
Anyone seeking a little light reading (300+ page .pdf) can find it in an Army War College publication titled "GETTING READY FOR A NUCLEAR-READY IRAN."
A synopsis can be found at:
Scary stuff. Always fun to watch American politicians posture for the next election cycle while our islamicist foe positions itself for the long haul.
The Djinni Half Way Out the Bottle
Reply #68 on:
January 19, 2006, 12:36:18 PM »
More on looming Chinese social problems and cash crunch.
SPIEGEL ONLINE - January 18, 2006, 11:40 AM
Putting on the Brakes
Fearing Social Unrest, China Tries to Rein in Unbridled Capitalism
With a fast-graying population, increasing pollution and environmental damage and the absence of a real social system, Beijing is now seeking to check unbridled capitalism and quell flaring social tensions.
Not so long ago, nouveau-riche Chinese could be seen standing in lines several hundred yards long. They were registering to purchase luxury condos in Shanghai -- such was the demand. Hoping that prices would continue to rise -- as they have over the past four years, by a full 74 percent -- many were even buying third or fourth apartments in China's bastion of business. Speculation fever had broken out.
Meanwhile, however, the heat is off. Under massive pressure from Beijing, Shanghai's city fathers have levied a new tax on properties that are resold within a year of purchase.
Central government planners are worried. They want to steady the economy in the bellwether city at all costs -- for fear of an impending crash. Such a meltdown could spark unforeseen consequences, and deal a crushing blow to state banks that have amassed billions in distressed debt.
To ward off the apocalypse, Beijing has been curbing loans for steel, cement and, of course, real estate during the past twelve months. According to Cao Yushu, a spokesperson for China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the escalating investments are a "tumor in China's economic body." The economy has nonetheless continued at a rolling boil, growing by more than 9 percent. Provincial officials and managers customarily ignore edicts issued by the planners in Beijing.
So China continues to boom, using a quarter of the world's cement and steel, and almost a third of its coal. The country has long succeeded Japan as the world's second-largest consumer of oil.
Available for purchase online now at the SPIEGEL Shop.
And maintaining growth remains its only option. Compared with industrialized countries, private consumer spending comprises a relatively low share of its GDP -- arguably too low to cushion a major slump. Although Beijing's new investment rules have led to a decline in imports, exports have increased all the more. China's export surplus could break $100 billion in 2005, triple the previous year's figure.
China's boom is stoking the world economy. It has become a focus for investment goods, and offers multinationals a cost-effective production base. But how long can China sustain the rampant growth?
The state banks' distressed debts present as incalculable a risk as the country's flimsy infrastructure. Many companies are now powered by private generators, giving them increased independence from national utility providers. Projecting dramatic shortages through the winter, twenty Chinese provinces opted to ration electricity in early 2005.
Immeasurable environmental damage through air and water pollution are fanning the problems, the economic costs of which remain unclear for China and, indeed, the world. Yue Pan, Deputy Minister for the Environment, is already predicting the end of the economic miracle: "To produce goods worth $10,000, we need seven times the resources used by Japan, almost six times the resources used by the U.S. and -- a particular source of embarrassment -- almost three times the resources used by India."
The challenges are threatening to spiral out of control, as Beijing seeks to check unbridled capitalism and quell flaring social tensions.
China urgently needs a social security system. Some 134 million people over the age of 60 already live in the world's most populous country. By 2050, this age group will account for 25 percent of its inhabitants. But there's nobody to pay into their pension funds. As a result of the one-child family policy -- the Communist Party program, launched in the 1980s, to defuse the population explosion -- social welfare contributions have plummeted.
In the old days, China's state-owned companies provided for the sick and aged. Because these have been converted into joint-stock companies, Beijing is now seeking to establish a hybrid system combining basic state pensions with private retirement plans. But only a small portion of the population in urban coastal regions receives social security. The roughly 800 million Chinese in the rural regions are still dependent on more traditional forms of support: their families. Western economists are already warning: "China will grow old before it grows rich."
Damascus Domino makes Tehran Teeter
Reply #69 on:
January 23, 2006, 02:38:33 PM »
January 23, 2006, 12:46 p.m.
The Road to Tehran...
Assad?s fall will have a domino effect
The Syrian-Iranian terror alliance goes back a long time, at least to the mid-1980s, when Hezbollah was created to wage terror war against American and French forces in Lebanon. There was a neat division of labor: Syria controlled the territory, and Iran ran the organization. Hezbollah's murderous successes are legendary, from the suicide bombings against the French and American Marine barracks to a similar operation against the American embassy, all in Beirut, to massive bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina. That alliance remains intact, and provides the base of the terror war in Iraq today.
So it should not have surprised anyone that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flew to Damascus last Thursday to meet with Bashar Assad, nor was it surprising that among his entourage were key Iranian officials in charge of Hezbollah, probably including the operational leader, Imad Mughniyah. And in case our Middle East analysts were in doubt about the mission of the Iran-Syria partnership, a suicide bomber struck in Tel Aviv at about the same time Ahmadinejad and Assad were meeting.
A Weakening Grip
Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian blogger presently in the United States, summed up the intent of the two leaders as follows:
And so it happened just like we knew it would. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has just announced the formation of new alliance including Syria, Iran, rejectionist Palestinian groups, and Shia factions in Lebanon (in other words: Hezbollah).
The die seems to have finally been cast. The Shia Crescent has just been formalized and reconfigured into a living and breathing entity, with its own network of supports from among the secular nationalist movements and extremist Sunni groups, which simply have no other means of support at this stage.
The Iranians are concerned at signs of cracks in the edifice of the Assad regime, and are at pains to remind the Syrians that the destinies of the two tyrannical regimes are closely linked, and they must continue to make a common front against the destabilizing revolutionary forces unleashed on the region by the United States. Assad is now famously under pressure from unexpectedly honest U.N. investigations into the assassination of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon, and that pressure has intensified after the defection of former Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, now openly calling for regime change in Damascus. Things are also a bit dicey for Assad in Lebanon, where there have been many calls for disarming Hezbollah.
Assad had been hinting that he would be willing to cooperate with investigators, provided he and his family were given immunity, but the Bush administration has rejected any such deals, as Vice President Dick Cheney emphasized on his recent sortie to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both of whom had given signs of willingness to compromise. But following the Cheney trip, both governments took a tough line, and even Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League and a man who has given new meaning to the concept of appeasement of tyrants, said there would be no leniency with the murderers of Hariri. To add an exclamation point to this welcome show of American seriousness, the Treasury froze the bank accounts of the head of Syrian military intelligence, Bashar's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.
In short, the Assad family's grip on Syria is weakening, and this is welcome news indeed, both for the long-suffering Syrian people and for us. The Iranians are obviously desperate to keep Assad in power, and Hezbollah armed to the teeth. Should things go the other way, Iran would lose its principal ally in the war against us in Iraq. As is their wont, the Iranians have been paying others to do much of their dirtiest work, and they have awarded Assad tens of millions of dollars' worth of oil, as well as cash subsidies, to cover the costs of recruiting, training and transporting young jihadis, who move from Syria into the Iraqi battle space (and, according to Jane's, a serious publication, the Iranians have also sent some of their WMDs to Assad for safekeeping). That deadly flow has been considerably reduced in recent months, thanks to an extended campaign waged by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Anbar Province, and further along the Iraq/Syria border. The Syrians have accordingly sent radical Islamists into Lebanon, perhaps to link up with Hezbollah in a new jihad against Israel.
Should the jihadist traffic into Iraq and Lebanon cease, we and the Iraqis would be free to concentrate our attention on the Iranian border, especially in the oil-rich south, where Revolutionary Guards forces are very active, both to contain the anti-regime rage of the Ahwaz Arabs on the Iranian side of the border, and to infiltrate the Iraqi side, both in support of Zarqawi's terror network, and to agitate for an Islamic republic in the Shiite region around Basra. The Iranians have been hyperactive in that area ever since the fall of Saddam, and it would be a very good thing to start to turn the tables on them. For, just as many Iraqi oil fields, and millions of Iraqi Shiites, are vulnerable to Iranian maneuver, the reverse is also true: the bulk of the Iranian oil fields, and millions of Iranians, are vulnerable. And the strategic balance is definitely in our favor.
The population of the Iranian oil region is largely Arab, and they have been brutally oppressed and ethnically cleansed by the mullahs. Tehran has gobbled up thousands of square kilometers of land on the pretext of building industrial parks or expanding military facilities, and the locals have been protesting on and off for many months. As I wrote last week, the regime is so nervous about disorder in the spinal cord of the Iranian economy that they sent Lebanese Hezbollahis and members of the Badr Corps (Shiites of Iraqi origin trained in Iran for the past two decades and then sent into Iraq to fight the Coalition).
In short, the Iranians have a lot to worry about, regardless of whether or not they have atomic bombs. Indeed, as I have long argued, the mullahs have made an enormous strategic miscalculation by going all-out for nukes, because it has made regime change in Iran an absolute imperative for the West. The closer they get to their first nuclear test, the closer the mullahs approach judgement day, and not in the way the fanatics around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad believe. They will not face the 12th Imam, but the harsh condemnation of their own people.
The mullahs have long seen this threat, and indeed the elevation of Ahmadinejad was a desperate throw of the dice to quash any and all revolutionary forces in the country. In recent weeks, Tehran forced the government of Dubai to cancel all live satellite TV broadcasts in the Persian language. Just a year ago, the mullahs had similarly intimidated the Dutch government, even though parliament in the Hague had appropriated funds for the project. In a little noted sequence of events, the Dutch won some big contracts in Iran shortly thereafter, and the Bush administration fined Dutch banks to the tune of eighty million euros for embargo-busting (do you ever wonder, as I do, that this tasty information has to be gleaned from Rooz Online?).
This is the usual practice of insecure tyrants (whose sense of doom is demonstrated by the ongoing exodus of money and talent from the country). They cannot risk the consequences of honest news reaching their people, and they run around like little mad hatters, sticking their thumbs in every crack in their ideological dykes. They are now shutting down NGOs, which, according to the hard-line publication Qods, the interior ministry accuses of planning to overthrow the regime. The mullahs want Islamic organizations, not independent ones, which might support civil liberties or elementary human rights. They want a total monopoly on the flow of information inside the Islamic republic.
Power to the People
This situation is tailor-made for the Bush administration, if only it will support the Iranian people against the mullahs, and the Syrian people against the Assads. The Iranian people see the desperation of their rulers, and honest broadcasts into Iran will be welcome indeed. Support for the Ahwaz Arabs ? provided we take care to stress that we have no interest in any separatist impulses, but seek to support all Iranians who wish to exercise their human rights ? would also have considerable impact, as would support for the bus drivers' organization, recently savaged by the regime, which has thus far received moral support only from Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa. Perhaps the Labor Department might say a few words about the suppression of workers' organizations in Iran? And, for those millions of Iranians who do not fear the consequences of seeking the truth, we should be providing the tools of modern communications: phones, servers, laptops, phone cards, and so forth,
Meanwhile, we must increase our support for freedom in Syria. There are several new political organizations calling for Syrian freedom. Predictably, most of the organizers live outside the shadow of Assad's thumb, but they have held recent meetings in Europe with a surprising number of Syrian citizens, they are beginning to broadcast into the country, and many entrails and tea leaves suggest far more support for democratic revolution than the cynical old guys at State and CIA had believed possible. The administration should embrace all such organizations ? it is not for us to pick Bashar's successor, that is the kind of old-Europe tactics best left to the futile Cartesian scheming of the Quai D'Orsay ? and press hard for pulling the military fangs of Hezbollah, the sooner the better.
You can be sure that, as Assad collapses, the reverberations will reach Baghdad and Tehran. The Iraqis will gain the security they desperately need in order to advance their brave democratic project. And the Iranians, turbaned and bare-headed alike, will see the hour of their own freedom draw ever closer.
It sure beats drawing up a list of bombing targets, doesn't it?
? Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute
China's Caribbean Adventure
Reply #70 on:
February 14, 2006, 01:30:33 PM »
February 14, 2006, 8:10 a.m.
Red China on the March
The People?s Republic moves onto Grenada.
By Steven W. Mosher
In January 2005, Grenada established diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, breaking off its longstanding relationship with Taiwan in the process. The sudden move followed a hotly contested election in which the ruling party won by the smallest of margins. The PRC has opened a substantial embassy in the tiny island nation ? Ambassador Shen Hongshun and entourage arrived in April ? and is rebuilding, at considerable expense, the national soccer stadium that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Other aid has been promised, including funds for scholarships in China and the renovation of the main hospital.
China's move into Grenada clones a pattern it has followed elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean. Exactly the same scenario was played out last year in the neighboring island of Dominique, and some years ago in St. Lucia. Each of these island republics now has a full-scale Chinese embassy, a completed or promised national soccer stadium, and is receiving continuing aid. Dominica, for example, is slated to receive a staggering U.S.$112 million in aid, which works out to $1,600 for each of the island's 70,000 inhabitants. Some of this aid was cash, ostensibly to ease the government's cash flow problems. Coincidently, Chinese construction battalions have landed a number of government-funded infrastructural projects in the region, such as a contract to build a storm drainage system in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia.
Chinese immigration to the region is picking up, and a cultural offensive is underway. The relationships between China and the islands' ruling parties are increasingly cozy, with leading politicians regularly being invited to China for all-expenses-paid "familiarization" tours. Those not important enough for the "foreign guest" treatment receive their dose of propaganda in their own homes. Shows touting China's history, culture, and peaceful intentions are broadcast for hours on the islands' state-owned television channels ? all paid for by Beijing, of course. Let a hundred flowers boom, one might say.
But Chinese moneybags-diplomacy is not cheap, and Beijing's rulers are not known for their largess ? unless, that is, it serves their strategic interests. So what does Beijing hope to gain from its investments?
The immediate target is Taiwan, of course. By causing those few nations which still recognize the island-democracy to break off ties, Beijing hopes to undermine Taiwan's de facto independence and hasten the day of reunification ? on its terms. The PRC is fighting the Chinese civil war even in the Caribbean. Look for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to break ties with Taiwan in the next year or two.
But this alone does not explain China's continuing aggressive and expensive efforts to bring these small nations ? Grenada has less than 100,000 people ? under its sway. With staffs ranging from five to ten people, these embassies are able to hold regular meetings and informal dinners with leading political figures, and to monitor the eastern Caribbean's political and economic environment on a daily basis. By way of contrast, the U.S. doesn't even maintain a single diplomat in any of these countries. Instead, the U.S. ambassador to Barbados is jointly accredited to the other island nations in the Eastern Caribbean and is a complete stranger to most eastern Caribbean figures in the public and private sector.
These islands are right in our backyard (the Caribbean has been called the soft and vulnerable underbelly of the United States), and China's actions in the West Indies are of a piece with their well known activities in Cuba and Panama. While none of these islands have any great military potential for electronic eavesdropping, and none sits aside a maritime choke point, it would be foolish to forget the lessons of the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960s. Dealing with an expansive China in the Far East will be complicated enough without having a dozen aggressively pro-Chinese nations sitting in and around the Caribbean basin.
For now, however, it seems that China has a different purpose in mind. Recall that each of these independent nations is a member of countless international bodies, chief among them the general assembly of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. In some of these organizations, their representatives hold considerable rank. The ambassador from St. Lucia to the U.N. actually presided over the general assembly during its 2004 session. If the nations of the Caribbean could be induced to vote consistently with China in either of these bodies, this PRC-led bloc could become a force to be reckoned with. It would prove especially useful to Beijing in the event of a future confrontation with the U.S. over Taiwan, for instance, or over trade.
China is widely believed to be flaunting WTO rules, in part by keeping its currency significantly undervalued. (The recent 2.1 percent revaluation of the yuan was insignificant.) Suppose that an unfair trade case were brought against China by the U.S. government in the WTO. Such cases are resolved, ultimately, by a vote, with WTO rules requiring a supermajority of 62 percent of the member states. Who knows if the governments of Grenada, Dominica, and St. Lucia, having been the beneficiaries of significant amounts of PRC largess, would vote with the U.S. or with China?
What should we do to counter China's moves in the Caribbean? First, we must stop taking the region for granted, reacting only after the fact, as we did after a communist coup in Grenada in 1983. That crisis, it is well to recall, would have been much worse if other Caribbean nations had not taken a firm stand against the Russian and Cuban-supported coup, and voted in favor of U.S. intervention. Would the new crop of politicians, so assiduously courted by China, come down on our side in the event of a similar problem?
To put it another way, can we allow China, an up-and-coming superpower, to replace the U.S. as the predominant political influence in the region? Opening embassies in each of these states, so that we are in a position to make America's case directly to local government officials, is essential. Thwarting China's efforts to buy friends and influence governments requires not just foreign aid ? although this should be increased ? but private investment as well. Increasingly, foreign investment is coming from everywhere but the United States. A Free Trade Zone for the West Indies would be a good first step toward fixing this.
China has a long history of establishing tributary relationships between it and lesser states, supporting local tyrants in return for their allegiance. While we work to bring transparency and openness to China, we don't want China to bring corruption and deception to existing democracies and international organizations. The Caribbean can't wait.
? Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of Hegemon: China's Plan to Dominate Asia and the World.
Ultra Sound Begets Ultra Nationalism?
Reply #71 on:
March 03, 2006, 12:22:10 AM »
The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration
By Martin Walker
Asia has too many boys. They can?t find wives, but they just might find extreme nationalism instead. It?s a dangerous imbalance for a region already on edge.
The lost boys of Prof. Albert Macovski are upon us. Twenty years ago, the ultrasound scanning machine came into widespread use in Asia. The invention of Macovski, a Stanford University researcher, the device quickly gave pregnant women a cheap and readily available means to determine the sex of their unborn children. The results, by the million, are now coming to maturity in Bangladesh, China, India, and Taiwan. By choosing to give birth to males?and to abort females?millions of Asian parents have propelled the region into an extraordinary experiment in the social effects of gender imbalance.
Back in 1990, Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen was one of the first to call attention to the phenomenon of an estimated 100 million ?missing women? in Asia. Nearly everywhere else, women outnumber men, in Europe by 7 percent, and in North America by 3.4 percent. Concern now is shifting to the boys for whom these missing females might have provided mates as they reach the age that Shakespeare described as nothing but stealing and fighting and ?getting of wenches with child.?
Now there are too few wenches. Thanks in large part to the introduction of the ultrasound machine, Mother Nature?s usual preference for about 105 males to 100 females has grown to around 120 male births for every 100 female births in China. The imbalance is even higher in some locales?136 males to 100 females on the island of Hainan, an increasingly prosperous tourist resort, and 135 males to 100 females in central China?s Hubei Province. Similar patterns can be found in Taiwan, with 119 boys to 100 girls; Singapore, 118 boys to 100 girls; South Korea, 112 boys to 100 girls; and parts of India, 120 boys to 100 girls.
China, India, and other nations have outlawed the use of prenatal diagnostic techniques to select the sex of an unborn child. But bribery and human ingenuity have made it easy for prospective parents to skirt the law; a suitably compensated ultrasound technician need only smile or frown at the expectant mother.
Many of the excess boys will be poor and rootless, a lumpenproletariat without the consolations of sexual partners and family. Prostitution, sex tourism, and homosexuality may ease their immediate urges, but Asian societies are witnessing far more dramatic solutions. Women now risk being kidnapped and forced not only into prostitution but wedlock. Chinese police statistics recorded 65,236 arrests for female trafficking in 1990?91 alone. Updated numbers are hard to come by, but it?s apparent that the problem remains severe. In September 2002, a Guangxi farmer was executed for abducting and selling more than 100 women for $120 to $360 each. Mass sexual frustration is thus adding a potent ingredient to an increasingly volatile regional cocktail of problems that include surging economic growth, urbanization, drug abuse, and environmental degradation.
Understanding the effect of the testosterone overload may be most important in China, the rising Asian superpower. Prompted by expert warnings, the Chinese authorities are already groping for answers. In 2004, President Hu Jintao asked 250 of the country?s senior demographers to study whether the country?s one-child policy?which sharply accentuates the preference for males?should be revised. Beijing expects that it may have as many as 40 million frustrated bachelors by 2020. The regime, always nervous about social control, fears that they might generate social and political instability.
Brigham Young University political scientist Valerie Hudson?the leading scholar on the phenomenon of male overpopulation in Asia?sees historical evidence for these concerns. In 19th-century northern China, drought, famine, and locust invasions apparently provoked a rash of female infanticide. According to Hudson, the region reached a ratio of 129 men to every 100 women. Roving young men organized themselves into bandit gangs, built forts, and eventually came to rule an area of some 6 million people in what was known as the Nien Rebellion. No modern-day rebellion appears to be on the horizon, but China watchers are already seeing signs of growing criminality.
The state?s response to crime and social unrest could prove to be a defining factor for China?s political future. The CIA asked Hudson to discuss her dramatic suggestion that ?in 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause.? Other experts aren?t so alarmed. Military observers point out that China is moving from a conscription army to a leaner, professional military. And other scholars contend that China?s population is now aging so fast that the elderly may well balance the surge of frustrated young males to form a calmer and more peaceful nation.
It would be reassuring to assume that China?s economic growth will itself solve the problem, as prosperity removes the traditional economic incentives for poor peasants to have sons who can work the land rather than daughters who might require costly dowries. But the numbers don?t support that theory. Indeed, the steepest imbalance between male and female infants is found in more prosperous regions, such as Hainan Island. And census data from India suggest that slum-dwellers and the very poor tend to raise a higher proportion of female children than more prosperous families.
The long-term implications of the gender imbalance are largely guesswork because there is no real precedent for imbalances on such a scale. Some Chinese experts speculate, off the record, that there might be a connection between the shortage of women and the spread of open gay life since 2001, when homosexuality was deleted from the official Classification of Mental Disorders. It is possible to dream up all kinds of scenarios: Mumbai and Shanghai may soon rival San Francisco as gay capitals. A Beijing power struggle between cautious old technocrats and aggressive young nationalists may be decided by mobs of rootless young men, demanding uniforms, rifles, and a chance to liberate Taiwan. More likely, the organized crime networks that traffic in women will shift their deliveries toward Asia and build a brothel culture large enough to satisfy millions of sexually frustrated young men.
Whatever the outcome, the consequences of Albert Macovski?s useful invention will be with us for some time. When they called him ?the most inventive person at Stanford,? they didn?t know the half of it.
Martin Walker is editor of United Press International, and senior fellow of the World Policy Institute at the New School University in New York.
Geo Political matters
Reply #72 on:
March 06, 2006, 04:17:53 PM »
Babies Win Wars
By GUNNAR HEINSOHN
March 6, 2006
Dying nations are usually defined as those with fertility rates of 1.5 or lower. By that measure, 30 European countries are either dying today or -- like France -- seeing their cultures and populations transformed by growing ethnic and religious minorities.
Europe is shrinking just as the population in Islamic, African and Asian countries is exploding. In 2020, there will be one billion "fighting-age" men (ages 15-29) world-wide; only 65 million will be Europeans. At the same time, the Muslim world will have 300 million males, often with limited opportunities at home.
Little can be done to reverse Europe's demographic fate. Germany's 80 million inhabitants would need 750,000 skilled immigrants every year up to 2050 to offset the declining fertility rate that started in 1975. Even if such an unrealistic immigration level could somehow be achieved (only 10,000 skilled immigrants a year are arriving now), Germany's median age would still jump to 52 from 42 while ethnic Germans would become a minority in their own country.
This isn't the first time Europe has found itself tottering on the edge of extinction. Throughout the 1400s, outbreaks of bubonic plague and pressure from conquering Muslim armies reduced Europe's population to 40 million from 70 million. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII responded to the crisis by decreeing the death penalty for "persons of both sexes who by accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offenses, slay infants yet in the mother's womb (or who) hinder women from conceiving." Midwives, who were also experts in birth control and abortion, were prosecuted and killed.
The results were immediate, producing fertility rates as high as in Gaza or Niger today. By 1510, the number of male births in England had almost doubled. After 1500 and right up to 1914, West European women raised on average about six children, twice as many as during the Middle Ages.
The European economy couldn't keep up. Because a father's land went to his oldest son, the younger brothers were often left to fend for themselves. They quickly found an outlet. In the 16th century, Spain called its young conquistadors "Secundones," second sons, those who don't inherit. Starting with Columbus' second voyage (1493), Europe's surplus males (representing about 10% of the world's fighting-age males at the time) began the conquest of the world. And despite their wars around the globe and the 80 million who died in Europe's domestic wars and genocides, their population rose tenfold to 400 million. The original population bomb was a weapon made in Europe. Over the next few centuries, Europeans took control of 90% of the globe.
Who was to be master in Europe? In the early 1800s, France, West Europe's most populous nation for 800 years, made its last bid. At the time of Waterloo, France was able to draw on 5% of the world's males of fighting age. It took an alliance of Great Britain (10 million people) and Prussia (also 10 million) to prevail over France's 27 million. After 1861, Germany passed France's population and shortly afterwards defeated its neighbor across the Rhine. At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe's share of fighting age males had grown to 35%, with 10% belonging to the empires of Berlin and Vienna alone. In 1914 these two behemoths used their population advantage to make a bid for world supremacy. But their campaign to capture Eurasia's land mass failed to take account of a newcomer to the world stage. Though separated by an ocean, the U.S. commanded about the same demographic and industrial potential.
Japan, Italy and Germany became the last great powers that tried -- and failed -- to take territories away from other leading powers. After 1945 Europe lost every war it fought, from Indochina, to Algeria to Timor. Euphemisms such as "emancipation of the colonies" hide the true causes behind this chain of defeats. If Europeans had continued to multiply like in its imperialistic prime, the world would still tremble before their armies. In just 100 years, Muslim countries have duplicated the tenfold growth that Europe experienced between 1500-1900. In the last century, the Muslim population skyrocketed to 1.4 billion from 140 million.
If Europe had merely matched the fourfold increase of the United States (to 300 million from 75 million between 1900-2006), the continent's 1.6 billion would still dwarf China (1.3 billion) and India (1.1 billion). Yet, Europe's share of the world's fighting-age males, which stood at 27% in 1914, is lower today (9%) than it was in 1500 (11%). Thus, the new clothes of European "pacifism" and "soft power" conceal its naked weakness.
With a fertility rate at the 2.1 replacement level, the U.S. is still defendable. But how many times can America send out their only sons to prevent all those second, third or fourth sons from engaging in acts of violence abroad? In some ways, the faster Europe collapses the better it will be for the U.S., whose chances of defeating global terrorism would improve by a panic-driven influx of the Old World's best, brightest and bravest ready to strengthen it economically and militarily.
The alternative to the terrorism of the Islamist secundones will not be peace but -- as it was for their "Christianist" predecessors in Peru, Mexico and India -- conquest. Terror is merely conquest's little brother.
Mr. Heinsohn is professor of sociology at Bremen University and founder and president of the Raphael-Lemkin-Institut.
Saddam's Filipino Jihad Connection
Reply #73 on:
March 19, 2006, 12:05:14 PM »
And other revelations from the Iraqi regime files.
by Stephen F. Hayes
03/27/2006, Volume 011, Issue 26
SADDAM HUSSEIN'S REGIME PROVIDED FINANCIAL support to Abu Sayyaf, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law in the Philippines in the late 1990s, according to documents captured in postwar Iraq. An eight-page fax dated June 6, 2001, and sent from the Iraqi ambassador in Manila to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, provides an update on Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and indicates that the Iraqi regime was providing the group with money to purchase weapons. The Iraqi regime suspended its support--temporarily, it seems--after high-profile kidnappings, including of Americans, focused international attention on the terrorist group.
The fax comes from the vast collection of documents recovered in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq. Up to this point, those materials have been kept from the American public. Now the proverbial dam has broken. On March 16, the U.S. government posted on the web 9 documents captured in Iraq, as well as 28 al Qaeda documents that had been released in February. Earlier last week, Foreign Affairs magazine published a lengthy article based on a review of 700 Iraqi documents by analysts with the Institute for Defense Analysis and the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Plans for the release of many more documents have been announced. And if the contents of the recently released materials and other documents obtained by The Weekly Standard are any indication, the discussion of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq is about to get more interesting.
Several months ago, The Weekly Standard received a set of English-language documents from a senior U.S. government official. The official represented this material as U.S. government translations of three captured Iraqi documents. According to this source, the documents had been examined by the U.S. intelligence community and judged "consistent with authentic documents"--the professionals' way of saying that these items cannot definitively be certified but seem to be the real thing.
The Weekly Standard checked its English-language documents with officials serving elsewhere in the federal government to make sure they were consistent with the versions these officials had seen. With what one person characterized as "minor discrepancies," they are. One of the three documents has been posted in the original Arabic on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. A subsequent translation of that document is nearly identical to the English-language text that we were given.
These documents add to the growing body of evidence confirming the Iraqi regime's longtime support for terrorism abroad. The first of them, a series of memos from the spring of 2001, shows that the Iraqi Intelligence Service funded Abu Sayyaf, despite the reservations of some IIS officials. The second, an internal Iraqi Intelligence memo on the relationships between the IIS and Saudi opposition groups, records that Osama bin Laden requested Iraqi cooperation on terrorism and propaganda and that in January 1997 the Iraqi regime was eager to continue its relationship with bin Laden. The third, a September 15, 2001, report from an Iraqi Intelligence source in Afghanistan, contains speculation about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and the likely U.S. response to it.
ON JUNE 6, 2001, the Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines sent an eight-page fax to Baghdad. Ambassador Salah Samarmad's dispatch to the Secondary Policy Directorate of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry concerned an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping a week earlier that had garnered international attention. Twenty civilians--including three Americans--had been taken from Dos Palmas Resort on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines. There had been fighting between the kidnappers and the Filipino military, Samarmad reported. Several hostages had escaped, and others were released.
"After the release of nine of the hostages, an announcement from the FBI appeared in newspapers announcing their desire to interview the escaped Filipinos in order to make a decision on the status of the three American hostages," the Iraqi ambassador wrote to his superiors in Baghdad. "The embassy stated what was mentioned above. The three American hostages were a missionary husband and wife who had lived in the Philippines for a while, Martin and Gracia Burnham, from Kansas City, and Guillermo Sobrero, from California. They are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers from a total of 20 people who were kidnapped from (Dos Palmas) resort on Palawan Island." (Except where noted, parentheses, brackets, and ellipses appear in the documents quoted.)
The report notes that the Iraqis were now trying to be seen as helpful and keep a safe distance from Abu Sayyaf. "We have all cooperated in the field of intelligence information with some of our friends to encourage the tourists and the investors in the Philippines." But Samarmad's report seems to confirm that this is a change. "The kidnappers were formerly (from the previous year) receiving money and purchasing combat weapons. From now on we (IIS) are not giving them this opportunity and are not on speaking terms with them."
Samarmad's dispatch appears to be the final installment in a series of internal Iraqi regime memos from March through June 2001. (The U.S. government translated some of these documents in full and summarized others.) The memos contain a lengthy discussion among Iraqi officials--from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Iraqi Intelligence Service--about the wisdom of using a Libyan intelligence front as a way to channel Iraqi support for Abu Sayyaf without the risks of dealing directly with the group. (The Libyan regime had intervened in an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping in 2000, securing the release of several hostages by paying several million dollars in ransom. Some observers saw this as an effort by Muammar Qaddafi to improve his image; others saw it as an effort to provide support to Abu Sayyaf by paying the ransom demanded by the group. Both were probably right.)
One Iraqi memo, from the "Republican Presidency, Intelligence Apparatus" to someone identified only as D4/4, makes the case for supporting the work of the Qaddafi Charity Establishment to help Abu Sayyaf. The memo is dated March 18, 2001.
1. There are connections between the Qaddafi Charity Establishment and the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines; meanwhile, this establishment is providing material support to them.
2. This establishment is one of the Libyan Intelligence fronts.
3. The Tripoli post has indicated that there is a possibility to form what connections are available with this establishment as it can offer the premise of providing food supplies to [Ed: word missing] in the scope of the agreement statement.
Please review . . . it appears of intelligence value to proceed into connections with this establishment and its intelligence investments in the Abu Sayyaf group.
The short response, two days later:
Mr. Dept. 3:
Study this idea, the pros and the cons, the relative reactions, and any other remarks regarding this.
That exchange above was fully translated by U.S. government translators. The two pages of correspondence that follow it in the Iraqi files were not, but a summary of those pages informs readers that the Iraqi response "discourages the supporting of connections with the Abu Sayyaf group, as the group works against the Philippine government and relies on several methods for material gain, such as kidnapping foreigners, demanding ransoms, as well as being accused by the Philippine government of terrorist acts and drug smuggling."
These accusations were, of course, well founded. On June 12, 2001, six days after Samarmad's dispatch, authorities found the beheaded body of Guillermo Sobrero near the Abu Sayyaf camp. Martin Burnham was killed a year later during the rescue attempt that freed his wife.
A thorough understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Abu Sayyaf (the name, honoring Afghan jihadi Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, means "Father of the Sword") will not come from an analysis of three months' correspondence between Manila and Baghdad in 2001. While it is certainly significant to read in internal Iraqi documents that the regime was at one time funding Abu Sayyaf, we do not now have a complete picture of that relationship. Why did the Iraqis begin funding Abu Sayyaf, which had long been considered a regional terrorist group concerned mainly with making money? Why did they suspend their support in 2001? And why did the Iraqis resume this relationship and, according to the congressional testimony of one State Department regional specialist, intensify it?
ON MARCH 26, 2003, as war raged in Iraq, the State Department's Matthew Daley testified before Congress. Daley, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee that he was worried about Abu Sayyaf.
"We're concerned that they have what I would call operational links to Iraqi intelligence services. And they're a danger, they're an enemy of the Philippines, they're an enemy of the United States, and we want very much to help the government in Manila deal with this challenge," Daley told the panel. Responding to a question, Daley elaborated. "There is good reason to believe that a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group who has been involved in terrorist activities was in direct contact with an IIS officer in the Iraqi Embassy in Manila. This individual was subsequently expelled from the Philippines for engaging in activities that were incompatible with his diplomatic status."
This individual was Hisham Hussein, the second secretary of the Iraqi Embassy in Manila. And Daley was right to be concerned.
Eighteen months before his testimony, a young Filipino man rode his Honda motorcycle up a dusty road to a shanty strip mall just outside Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga City, Philippines. The camp was host to American troops stationed in the south of the country to train with Filipino soldiers fighting terrorists. The man parked his bike and began to examine its gas tank. Seconds later, the tank exploded, sending nails in all directions and killing the rider almost instantly.
The blast damaged six nearby stores and ripped the front off of a caf? that doubled as a karaoke bar. The caf? was popular with American soldiers. And on this day, October 2, 2002, SFC Mark Wayne Jackson was killed there and a fellow soldier was severely wounded. Eyewitnesses almost immediately identified the bomber as an Abu Sayyaf terrorist.
One week before the attack, Abu Sayyaf leaders had promised a campaign of terror directed at the "enemies of Islam"--Westerners and the non-Muslim Filipino majority. And one week after the attack, Abu Sayyaf attempted to strike again, this time with a bomb placed on the playground of the San Roque Elementary School. It did not detonate. Authorities recovered the cell phone that was to have set it off and analyzed incoming and outgoing calls.
As they might have expected, they discovered several calls to and from Abu Sayyaf leaders. But another call got their attention. Seventeen hours after the attack that took the life of SFC Jackson, the cell phone was used to place a call to the second secretary of the Iraqi embassy in Manila, Hisham Hussein. It was not Hussein's only contact with Abu Sayyaf.
"He was surveilled, and we found out he was in contact with Abu Sayyaf and also pro-Iraqi demonstrators," says a Philippine government source, who continued, "[Philippine intelligence] was able to monitor their cell phone calls. [Abu Sayyaf leaders] called him right after the bombing. They were always talking."
An analysis of Iraqi embassy phone records by Philippine authorities showed that Hussein had been in regular contact with Abu Sayyaf leaders both before and after the attack that killed SFC Jackson. Andrea Domingo, immigration commissioner for the Philippines, said Hussein ran an "established network" of terrorists in the country. Hussein had also met with members of the New People's Army, a Communist opposition group on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups, in his office at the embassy. According to a Philippine government official, the Philippine National Police uncovered documents in a New People's Army compound that indicate the Iraqi embassy had provided funding for the group. Hisham Hussein and two other Iraqi embassy employees were ordered out of the Philippines on February 14, 2003.
Interestingly, an Abu Sayyaf leader named Hamsiraji Sali at least twice publicly boasted that his group received funding from Iraq. For instance, on March 2, 2003, he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Iraqi regime had provided the terrorist group with 1million pesos--about $20,000--each year since 2000.
ANOTHER ITEM from the Iraq-Philippines files is a "security report" prepared by the Iraqi embassy's third secretary, Ahmad Mahmud Ghalib, and sent to Baghdad by Ambassador Samarmad. The report provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Iraqi Intelligence operation in the Philippines. A cover memo from the ambassador, dated April 12, 2001, gives an overview: "The report contain
a variety of issues including intelligence issues and how the Philippines, American and Zionist intelligence operate in the Philippines, especially the movements of the American intelligence in their efforts to fight terrorism and recruiting a variety of nationalities, particularly Arabs."
Ghalib's report is a rambling account of a phone conversation he had with an Iraqi intelligence informer named Muhammad al-Zanki, an Iraqi citizen living in the Philippines, who is referred to throughout the document as Abu Ahmad. The embassy official is looking for information on a third person, an informer named Omar Ghazal, and believes that Abu Ahmad might have some. (To review: Salah Samarmad is the Iraqi ambassador; Ahmad Mahmud Ghalib is the embassy's third secretary, most likely an Iraqi intelligence officer and author of the "security report"; Abu Ahmad is an Iraqi intelligence informer; and Omar Ghazal is another Iraqi intelligence informer.)
As the conversation begins, Abu Ahmad tells his embassy contact that he doesn't know where Omar Ghazal is and would have told the embassy if he did. He then tells the embassy contact that when he called Omar Ghazal's aunt to check on his whereabouts, she used a word in Tagalog--walana--which means "not here." But Abu Ahmad says its connotations are not good. "That word is used when you target one of the personnel who are assigned to complete everything (full mission). Then they announce that he is traveling and so on, and that's what I'm afraid of." The Iraqi embassy contact asks him to elaborate. "I have been exposed to that same phrase before, when I asked about an individual, and later on I found out that he was physically eliminated and no one knows anything about him."
The embassy official assures Abu Ahmad that Iraqi intelligence has also lost track of Ghazal, and became alarmed when he abruptly stopped attending soccer practice at a local college. Abu Ahmad fears the worst. "I'm afraid they might have killed him and I'm very worried about him," he says, according to the report. "The method that those people use is terrible and that's why I refuse to work with them."
The Iraqi embassy official interrupts Abu Ahmad. "Who are they? I would like to know who they are."
"Didn't I tell you before who they are?"
"The office group," says Abu Ahmad.
"Which office?" asks his Iraqi embassy handler.
"A long time ago the American FBI opened up an office in the Philippines, under American supervision and that there are Philippine Intelligence groups that work there. The goal of the office is to fight international terrorism (in the Philippines of course) and they have employees from various nationalities that speak of peace and international terrorism and how important it is to put an end to terrorism. The office also has other espionage affairs involving Arab citizens to work with them in order to provide them with information on the Arabs who are living in the Philippines and also for other spying purposes."
Abu Ahmad continues: "They also monitor diplomacy, and after I tried to lessen my amount of office work, I became aware that the office group was trying to get in contact with the person who is in charge of temporary work, Malik al-Athir, when he was alone."
Abu Ahmad tells his Iraqi embassy contact, Ghalib, that "the office" was trying to recruit an Arab to monitor Arab citizens in the Philippines. The Iraqi embassy contact suggests that Abu Ahmad volunteer for the job. Abu Ahmad says he had other plans. "I am leaving after I finish selling my house and properties and will move to Peshawar [Pakistan]. There I will be supplied with materials, weapons, explosives, and get married and then move to America. Do you know that there are more than one thousand Iraqi extremists who perform heroism jobs?" The speaker presumably means martyrdom operations.
The Iraqi embassy contact asks Abu Ahmad how he knows that those people are not "Saudis, Kuwaitis, Iranians."
Abu Ahmad replies: "They are bin Laden's people and all of them are extremists and they are heroes. Do you want me to give you their names?"
"Why not? Yes, I want them," says the Iraqi embassy contact.
"I will supply you with the names very soon. I will write some for you because I am in touch with them," says Abu Ahmad.
This report raises more questions than it answers. Who is Omar Ghazal and why did he disappear? What is the "office group" and how is it connected to Americans? What happened to Abu Ahmad? Were his stated plans--moving to Peshawar to obtain weapons and explosives and then moving to the United States--just bluster to impress his Iraqi embassy handler? A way to discontinue his work for the Iraqi regime? Or was he serious? Is he here now?
A SECOND internal Iraqi file obtained by The Weekly Standard concerns relations between Iraqi Intelligence and Saudi opposition groups. The document was apparently compiled at some point after January 1997, judging by the most recent date in the text, and discusses four Saudi opposition groups: the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights, the Reform and Advice Committee (Osama bin Laden), People of al Jazeera Union Organization, and the Saudi Hezbollah.
The New York Times first reported on the existence of this file on June 25, 2004. "American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization." According to the Times, a Pentagon task force "concluded that the document 'appeared authentic,' and that it 'corroborates and expands on previous reporting' about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force's analysis."
The most provocative aspect of the document is the discussion of efforts to seek cooperation between Iraqi Intelligence and the Saudi opposition group run by bin Laden, known to the Iraqis as the "Reform and Advice Committee." The translation of that section appears below.
We moved towards the committee by doing the following:
A. During the visit of the Sudanese Dr. Ibrahim al-Sanusi to Iraq and his meeting with Mr. Uday Saddam Hussein, on December 13, 1994, in the presence of the respectable, Mr. Director of the Intelligence Service, he [Dr. al-Sanusi] pointed out that the opposing Osama bin Laden, residing in Sudan, is reserved and afraid to be depicted by his enemies as an agent of Iraq. We prepared to meet him in Sudan (The Honorable Presidency was informed of the results of the meeting in our letter 782 on December 17, 1994).
B. An approval to meet with opposer Osama bin Laden by the Intelligence Services was given by the Honorable Presidency in its letter 138, dated January 11, 1995 (attachment 6). He [bin Laden] was met by the previous general director of M4 in Sudan and in the presence of the Sudanese, Ibrahim al-Sanusi, on February 19, 1995. We discussed with him his organization. He requested the broadcast of the speeches of Sheikh Sulayman al-Uda (who has influence within Saudi Arabia and outside due to being a well known religious and influential personality) and to designate a program for them through the broadcast directed inside Iraq, and to perform joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz. (The Honorable Presidency was informed of the details of the meeting in our letter 370 on March 4, 1995, attachment 7.)
C. The approval was received from the Leader, Mr. President, may God keep him, to designate a program for them through the directed broadcast. We were left to develop the relationship and the cooperation between the two sides to see what other doors of cooperation and agreement open up. The Sudanese side was informed of the Honorable Presidency's agreement above, through the representative of the Respectable Director of Intelligence Services, our Ambassador in Khartoum.
D. Due to the recent situation of Sudan and being accused of supporting and embracing of terrorism, an agreement with the opposing Saudi Osama bin Laden was reached. The agreement required him to leave Sudan to another area. He left Khartoum in July 1996. The information we have indicates that he is currently in Afghanistan. The relationship with him is ongoing through the Sudanese side. Currently we are working to invigorate this relationship through a new channel in light of his present location.
(It should be noted that the documents given to The Weekly Standard did not include the attachments, letters to and from Saddam Hussein about the status of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. And the last sentence differs slightly from the version provided to the New York Times. In the Weekly Standard document, Iraq is seeking to "invigorate" its relationship with al Qaeda; in the Times translation, Iraq is seeking to "continue" that relationship.)
Another passage of the Iraq-Saudi opposition memo details the relationship between the Iraqi regime and the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), founded by Dr. Muhammad Abdallah al-Massari. Once again, Dr. Ibrahim al-Sanusi, the senior Sudanese government official, was a key liaison between the two sides. Al-Massari is widely regarded as an ideological mouthpiece for al Qaeda, a designation he does little to dispute. His radio station broadcasts al Qaeda propaganda, and his website features the rantings of prominent jihadists. He has lived in London for more than a decade. The Iraqi Intelligence memo recounts two meetings involving Dr. al-Sanusi and CDLR representatives in 1994 and reports that al-Massari requested assistance from the Iraqi regime for a trip to Iraq.
In 1995, the Iraqis turned to another Saudi to facilitate their relationship with al-Massari. According to the Iraqi memo, Ahmid Khudir al-Zahrani was a diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington who applied for political asylum in the United States. His application was denied, and al-Zahrani contacted the Iraqi embassy in London, seeking asylum in Iraq. His timing was good. Al-Zahrani's request came just as Iraqis were stepping up efforts to establish better relations with the Saudi opposition. According to the Iraqi Intelligence memo:
A complete plan was put in place to bring the aforementioned [al-Zahrani] to Iraq in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and our [intelligence] station in Khartoum [Sudan]. He and his family were issued Iraqi passports with pseudonyms by our embassy in Khartoum. He arrived to Iraq on April 21, 1995, and multiple meetings were held with him to obtain information about the Saudi opposition.
These contacts were not, contrary to the speculation of some Middle East experts, simply an effort to keep tabs on an enemy. The memo continues, summarizing Iraqi Intelligence activities:
We are in the process of following up on the subject, to try and establish a nucleus of Saudi opposition in Iraq, and use our relationship with [al-Massari] to serve our intelligence goals.
The final document provided to The Weekly Standard is a translation of a memo from the "Republican Command, Intelligence Division," dated September 15, 2001. It is addressed to "Mr. M.A.M.5."
Our Afghani source number 11002 (his biographic information in attachment #1) has provided us information that the Afghani consul Ahmed Dahestani (his biographic information attachment #2) has talked in front of him about the following:
1. That Osama bin Laden and the Taliban group in Afghanistan are in communication with Iraq and that previously a group of Taliban and Osama bin Laden have visited Iraq.
2. That America has evidence that the Iraqi government and the group of Osama bin Laden have cooperated to attack targets inside America.
3. In the event that it has been proven that the group of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban planning such operations, it is possible that America will attack Iraq and Afghanistan.
4. That the Afghani consul heard of the relation between Iraq and the group of Osama bin Laden while he was in Iran.
5. In the light of what has been presented, we suggest to write to the committee of information.
This document is speculative in parts, and the information it contains is third-hand at best. Its value depends on the credibility of "source number 11002" and of Ahmed Dahestani and of the sources Dahestani relied on, all of which are unknown.
We are left, then, with three small pieces to add to a large and elaborate puzzle. We will never have a complete picture of the Iraqi regime's support for global terrorism, but the coming release of a flood of captured documents should get us closer.
A new and highly illuminating article in Foreign Affairs draws on hundreds of Iraqi documents to provide a look at the Iraq war from the Iraqi perspective. The picture that emerges is that of an Iraqi regime built on a foundation of paranoia and lies and eager to attack its perceived enemies, internal and external. This paragraph is notable:
The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan]." Preparations for "Blessed July," a regime-directed wave of "martyrdom" operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.
Think about that last sentence.
The Rise of China's Military
Reply #74 on:
April 17, 2006, 09:52:32 PM »
Hedging Against China
by John J. Tkacik, Jr.
April 17, 2006
According to the Central Intelligence Agency, China is the world?s second largest economy. Sec retary of State Condoleezza Rice has observed that China is becoming a ?military superpower,? and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has testified before Congress that China ?may become a peer competitor to the United States? in the Asia?Pacific region.
By itself, the rise of a new power in Asia need not be alarming, but a new superpower that works against the interests of freedom, free trade, and glo bal stability is now becoming a reality. On the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao?s visit, it is time for America to reexamine its China strategy and its stake in the Pacific.
The Bush Administration, to its credit, seems ready to face the challenge of a rising China. The recent National Security Strategy of the United States specifies that America?s new ?strategy seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities.? Significantly, the Pentagon?s Quadrennial Defense Review, issued on February 6, 2006, also warns that the U.S. must ?hedge against the possibility that a major or emerging power could choose a hostile path in the future,? undoubtedly referring to China.
While hedging against China as a new super power is a prudent choice, the Administration?s task now is to develop and implement sound pol icies that protect and advance American interests.
The New Strategic Environment in Asia
China is the new superpower in Asia, distrustful of the Pacific?s status quo power, the United States. For example, at the Chinese Communist Party?s 16th Congress in November 2002, Party leaders not only reiterated that they ?oppose hegemonism and power politics? (i.e., the United States) and will ?boost world multipolarization? (i.e., oppose America?s role as the sole superpower), but also compared ?terrorism? and American ?hege monism? as equal threats. However, China?s strat egy is not solely to balance American power in Asia. China?s leaders seek to reclaim China?s ancient place as the preeminent power in Asia, replacing the United States.
While Beijing has prudently avoided head-on collisions with U.S. policies, an examination of China?s strategic unhelpfulness at virtually every level of engagement with the United States?from the war on terrorism to the proliferation of weap ons of mass destruction (WMD) to even the traffic in counterfeit currency?is unsettling.
Nothing in China?s strategic behavior is more unsettling than its military buildup.Since 1992, Chinese defense spending has grown at an annual double-digit rate. The Pentagon estimates that total defense-related expenditures were between $50 billion and $70 billion in 2004 and as high as $90 billion in 2005, placing China third in defense spending (in nominal dollars) after the United States and Russia. On March 6, 2006, China announced another 15 percent increase in military spending, on top of 13 percent in 2005, giving China the world?s fastest growing peacetime defense budget. This led Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to muse, ?Since no nation threat ens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment??
However, budgets do not tell the whole story. For example, Beijing?s military is rapidly increasing its ballistic missile capability. Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) production has doubled from 50 per year in 2002 to over 100 per year by 2006. In addition, China is fielding growing numbers of medium-range and intercontinental-range missiles, such as the DF-21 and DF-31 and the submarine-launched Julang-1. Chinese media reports indicate that a new DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of 10,000 kilometers (km) and an improved Julang-2 SLBM with a range of 8,000 km will enter service in four years.
Moreover, the fact that China?s first-ever military exercises with Russia last summer included drills with the Russian SS-N-22 Moskit supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, which are specifically designed to sink American aircraft carriers, calls into ques tion Beijing?s peaceful intentions in the region.
Perhaps the most unsettling facet of China?s mil itary buildup is its naval modernization. In addi?tion to four advanced Russian Sovremenny-class destroyers that the Chinese navy will have this year, China has been deploying a new series of Type 051 and Type 052 missile destroyers since 1996.
China?s submarine fleet is also growing prodi giously. The Chinese navy has already deployed four super-quiet Russian Kilo-class diesel subma rines. Eight more Kilos are on order from Russian yards, and China has increased production of the new, formidable Song-class diesel/electric subma rine to 2.5 boats per year. It is also testing a new diesel submarine that the defense intelligence com munity has designated the Yuan. The Yuan is heavily inspired by Russian designs, including sound-absorbing tile coatings and a super-quiet seven-blade screw.
The addition of ?air-independent propulsion,? which permits a submarine to operate underwater for up to 30 days on battery power, will make the Song-class and Yuan-class submarines virtually inaudible to existing U.S. surveillance networks, including U.S. nuclear subs. By 2025, Chinese attack submarines could easily outnumber U.S. submarines on station in the Pacific by a five to one ratio, and several Chinese nuclear ballistic missile submarines will be capable of patrolling America?s west coast.
American intelligence analysts and academic researchers are unanimous in their assessment that China?s submarine strategy is aimed at neutralizing America?s carrier-centered naval strength in the Pacific.
Beyond the U.S., what else might China intend for its military buildup? Taiwan is certainly a near-term target of China?s military modernization, but some analysts see China?s forced ?unification? with Taiwan not as an end in itself, but as key to China?s ability to project power well into the Pacific. They cite a senior Chinese military theorist:
[Taiwan is of] far reaching significance to breaking international forces? blockade against China?s maritime security?. Only when we break this blockade shall we be able to talk about China?s rise?. [T]o rise suddenly, China must pass through oceans and go out of the oceans in its future development.
A Responsible Stakeholder?
In a September 2005 speech, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick asked, ?For the United States and the world, the essential question is? how will China use its influence?? To answer that question, he said, ?we need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that sys tem.? While Zoellick?s speech ?Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility?? was designed to express concern about Chinese policies that run counter to international norms and stan dards, Beijing?s proliferation record has to be among the most troubling of these policies.
Serial Proliferator. For several decades, Beijing has pursued an insouciant approach to the prolifer ation of weapons of mass destruction and WMD technologies, components, and materials. As then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton described the problem in 2005, the Chinese government displays a deliberate lack of attention to ?the continuing problem of business-as-usual proliferation by Chi nese companies.? The U.S. Department of State considers China a ?serial proliferator? and has sanc tioned Chinese companies 80 times (out of a total 115 sanctions actions) for proliferation-related ship ments between 2001 and 2005.
Iran. Chinese exports of nuclear technology, chemical weapons precursors, and guided missiles to Iran have caused American proliferation officials the most heartburn. For example, in 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that ?Chinese entities are continuing work on a zirconium pro duction facility at Esfahan that will enable Iran to produce cladding for reactor fuel.? Although Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is required to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on its production of zirconium fuel cladding, it has made no moves to do so, and China has exerted no influence to this end. Indeed, China tacitly supports Iran?s nuclear power program by ignoring overwhelming evi dence that has persuaded the U.S., Germany, France, Britain, and others of Iran?s intentions to produce nuclear weapons.
On January 10, 2006, Iran finally removed seals from the last nuclear enrichment laboratories that remained under IAEA safeguards. The day before, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister met with the Chinese Foreign Minister in Beijing to brief him ?about the views and considerations of the Iranian side.? As one Washington commentator put it, ?in other words, Tehran cleared its action with Beijing.? This might explain why China managed to water down subsequent IAEA language censur ing Iran. One Western official dryly observed that ?technically, China is being difficult.?
On January 31, China?s representative in the IAEA relented in a vote to ?report? Iran?s nuclear violations to the U.N. Security Council, provided that no action would be taken until March. On March 20, after the Security Council failed to reach agreement on a formal statement ordering Iran to stop its uranium-enrichment program, China?s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, suggested that no action be taken for ?four or six weeks? until the IAEA issues yet another report on whether Iran has ceased its objectionable activities?effectively delaying the matter at least until June when the 35-nation IAEA governing board meets again.
Accordingly, on March 29, the Security Council requested the IAEA governor to report, yet again, in ?30 days? on Iran?s progress in complying with IAEA request, thereby ensuring that the issue would not come up inconveniently during Hu Jin tao?s April visit to the United States. China?s assumption of the Security Council presidency in April also placed it in a stronger position to stymie efforts to slow Iran?s weapons program.
In addition, China appears to have persuaded Russia to oppose any Security Council action beyond a reprimand calling on Iran to cease ura nium enrichment, and it is likely that China will threaten to veto any U.N. sanctions on Iran. With out sanctions, Iran will have no incentive to nego tiate the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program.
Beijing?s policies appear grounded in a strategic calculation. In April 2002, shortly after President George W. Bush labeled Iran a member of the ?Axis of Evil,? Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Teheran and conveyed a message that China and Iran hope to ?prevent domination of a superpower on the entire world,? according to the Iranian press. Jiang also declared that China?s policy was ?to oppose American deployments in Central Asia and the Middle East.? He pledged that ?one of China?s most important diplomatic missions is to strengthen unity and cooperation with developing countries and to avoid having developing countries become the targets of American military attacks.?
North Korea. Washington should not be sur prised by China?s lack of interest in deterring the Iranian nuclear weapons program; its behavior mirrors Beijing?s policies toward North Korea.
Washington policymakers must ask themselves why, despite North Korea?s absolute economic and security dependence on China, China?s three years of involvement in multiparty talks on North Korea?s nuclear ambitions have resulted in no progress. Indeed, the situation has worsened.
Since 2002, the United States has sanctioned Chinese companies for providing North Korea with tributyl phosphate, an acid solvent used to extract uranium and plutonium salts from nuclear reactor effluents. The most recent sanction action was in April 2004?incongruously, just one month before the State Department recommended that China be admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an infor mal international nonproliferation organization. In 2003, China interdicted one such shipment at U.S. insistence, but there is no indication that China has made any other effort to enforce its export controls on North Korea.
In the opinion of arms control experts at the U.S. State Department, China enforces its rules ?only under the imminent threat, or in response to the actual imposition, of sanctions,? and China?s failure to respond represents more an ?unwillingness? than an ?inability? to enforce its export regulations.
Pyongyang removed irradiated fuel cores from its Yongbyon reactor in February 2005 and thus far has apparently fashioned fissile plutonium cores for six to 10 nuclear weapons.
China?s support of the Iranian and Pakistani nuclear programs, both of which have been con?nected to Pyongyang?s nuclear program, could be grounded in Beijing?s calculation that a nuclear-armed North Korea is in China?s interests. A nuclear-armed North Korea complicates U.S. stra tegic planning, especially in scenarios involving conflict in the Taiwan Strait or island territorial dis putes with Japan.
This may explain why, when North Korea admit ted on February 10, 2005, that it already had nuclear weapons, China?s reaction was a shrug of the shoulders. ?We are still researching the situa tion,? it announced, and China continues to say that it is uncertain whether Pyongyang has a nuclear device. Moreover, China?s steadfast insis tence that the six-party talks are the only way to address the situation may mean that North Korea will keep its nuclear weapons indefinitely.
Clearly, Beijing?s involvement with North Korean, Pakistani, and Iranian nuclear programs belies the idea that China has become a responsible stakeholder on weapons proliferation.
Obstructionism in the War on Terrorism.China has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to hinder U.S. coalition forces support ing operations in Afghanistan. In June 2005, China pressured its Central Asian allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to demand that the U.S. set a timetable for withdrawal from U.S. bases. Within weeks, American officials accused China of ?bullying? Uzbekistan to remove U.S. bases and cajoling neighboring Kyr?gystan to agitate for increased U.S. funding to retain bases there. Subsequently, American bases were closed in Uzbekistan and nearly shut tered in Kyrgyzstan.
A number of U.S. officials have remarked about China?s lack of enthusiasm for the global war on terrorism. One reason for China?s disinterest is ideological. Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin has cautioned against ?unreserved support for the war on terror? lest it aid the United States in its quest for hegemony.
Support for Oppression. Another reason to hedge against China is its support for illiberal regimes, insulating them against criticism on human rights from the United States and other Western democracies. The Beijing regime views constant harassment from the West on human rights issues as undermining its own legitimacy. To the extent that it can defend despots around the world?such as the leaders of Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Burma?as only ?exploring a road to develop ment suited to their national conditions,? it can claim that its own lack of civil and political rights is suited to China?s national conditions.
Despite international concern about human rights in China, the post-Tiananmen Beijing regime remains and will probably continue to be a coun terliberal force, encouraging despotism and under mining democracy at home as well as in Asia and around the globe.
What the Administration and Congress Should Do
Hedging against China as a new military super power is a prudent posture, but hedging must become an active strategy as opposed to a mere slo gan. The Administration?s task now is to insist that its national security bureaucracy act on the urgency of the China challenge as it makes Asia policy. Spe cifically, the U.S. should:
Advance reform in China. Change in Chinese policies will not evolve naturally. Reforms must be undertaken, but they will come only with strong international pressure. U.S. policy must include a vocal public diplomacy campaign to discredit the abysmal political and human rights record of the Beijing regime.
Strengthen ties with Japan and India. Japan and India, two of the world?s most populous democracies and among the leading economic powers in Asia, are natural partners of the United States in managing China?s rise. New Delhi, Tokyo, and Washington should expand their strategic discussions on China.
Protect Asia?s democracies. Public diplomacy in the form of presidential and Cabinet-level speeches that reassert America?s intention to remain an Asia?Pacific power is a strategic imperative. Reaffirming America?s commitment to Asian democracies would buttress relations in the region. While slogans are not a substitute for policy, authoritative speeches help give coherence to policy.
Deepen the strategic dialogue with Europe. Formal regular strategic consultations with America?s European allies on China will help to address the challenges of Chinese security threats, proliferation, and support for oppres sive regimes.
Downgrade the strategic dialogue with China. While the State Department had downgraded the strategic dialogues with Japan and Australia to the under-secretary level, it launched a new deputy-level ?senior dialogue? with China in 2005. This senior dialogue has proven fruit less. It should be downgraded or terminated until the Chinese begin to show evidence of becoming a responsible stakeholder.
Support Taiwan?s democracy. To counter Beijing?s campaign to isolate Taiwan, the U.S. should support Taiwan?s meaningful participa tion in international organizations such as the World Health Organization and informal coun terproliferation regimes such as the Australia Group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Was senaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Opening talks with Taiwan on a free trade agreement would also serve America?s strategic aims in this regard.
Confront Beijing?s subtle but substantial sup port for the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs. Public statements of disap pointment over China?s support for North Korea?s and Iran?s nuclear weapons ambitions would help both to clear the air and to deny China international public opinion leverage. As long as the U.S. pretends that China is helping, China can claim to be an honest broker between the U.S. and the nuclear pariahs. Washington should publicly express anger at Beijing?s eternal temporizing on Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation.
Maintain military pre-eminence in the Pacific. The Department of Defense is already increas ing U.S. naval and air presence in the Western Pacific, despite the pressures on U.S. ground forces in the Middle East and Central Asia. To support this effort, Congress must appropriate additional resources to bolster America?s ability to project power in the Western Pacific, espe cially for the submarine force.
Beijing?s behavior in the international arena has moved too far in the wrong direction for anyone to say that China will ever act as a responsible stake holder without considerable pressure. Unless Chi nese leaders believe that their policies will bring serious consequences, they will have no incentive to moderate them.
That American leaders now openly talk of ?hedg ing? China should give their Chinese counterparts pause, but unless the talk of hedging is accompa nied by action, China will dismiss it as just more bluff and bluster. If China successfully calls Ameri can bluff and bluster, its power and influence in Asia will only strengthen, and America?s will dimin ish. The predictable result will be a 21st century Asia under China?s sway and Asian democracy sub ject to China?s gentle protection.
John J. Tkacik, Jr., is Senior Research Fellow in China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Policy in the Asian Stud ies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
China is listed as the second largest national economy behind the United States in ?purchasing power parity? terms (a quanti tative measure of equivalent goods and services rather than nominal dollar values at official exchange rates). Central Intelli gence Agency, The World Factbook 2005, updated March 29, 2006, at
rankorder/2001rank.html (April 11, 2006). In nominal dollar terms, China was the world?s fifth largest economy at the end of 2005, after the U.S., Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. James T. Areddy and Jason Dean, ?China?s GDP Exceeds Italy, Nudges France,? The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2005, p. A12. Data for 2006 indicate that China now has the world?s fourth larg est economy (after the U.S., Japan, and Germany) if new revised figures for China?s service sector and Hong Kong?s GDP are included. Joe McDonald, ?China Says Economy Much Bigger Than Thought,? Associated Press, December 20, 2005.
Neil King, Jr., ?Rice Wants U.S. to Help China Be Positive Force,? The Wall Street Journal,June 29, 2005, p. A13.
Negroponte testified that ?China is a rapidly rising power with steadily expanding global reach that may become a peer com petitor to the United States at some point.? Bill Gertz, ?China?s Emergence as Military Power Splits Strategists on Threat to U.S.,? The Washington Times, February 7, 2006, p. A3, at
(April 11, 2006).
The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 22, 2006, p. 42, at
(April 11, 2006).
U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, February 6, 2005, p. 40, at
(April 11, 2006).
Jiang Zemin cautioned the 16th Party Congress that ?the scourge of terrorism is more acutely felt. Hegemonism and power politics have new manifestations.? Jiang Zemin, ?Build a Well-Off Society in an All-Round Way and Create a New Situation in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,? report to 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, November 8, 2002. Jiang?s message of equating ?terrorism? and American ?hegemonism? is explicated in Liu Jianfei, ?Ren qing Fankong yu fanbade guanxi? (Grasp the Relationship Between Antiterrorism and Anti-Hegemonism), Liaowang (Beijing), February 24, 2003, pp. 54?56.
Richard P. Lawless, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, testimony before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, April 26, 2004, at
LawlessTestimony040422.pdf (April 11, 2006), and U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Military Power of the People?s Republic of China, July 18, 2005, at
(April 11, 2006), p. 22.
Shai Oster, ?China Plans 15% Boost in Military Spending; Leaders Cite Price of Oil, Soldiers? Pay; Neighbors Are Wary,? The Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2006, p. A8.
Donald H. Rumsfeld, remarks at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, June 4, 2005, at
(April 11, 2006).
SRBMs were deployed against Taiwan at a pace of 50 per year between 1996 and 2002. Bill Gertz, ?Missiles Bolstered Oppo site Taiwan,? The Washington Times, April 29, 2002, p. A12. By the end of 2005, new SRBM deployments had reached a rate of at least 100 per year. Foster Klug, ?Pentagon Official Warns of Chinese Buildup,? Associated Press, March 16, 2006.
For a comprehensive look at China?s missile industry, see Evan S. Medeiros, Roger Cliff, Keith Crane, and James C. Mul venon, A New Direction for China?s Defense Industry (Santa Monica, Cal.: RAND Corporation, 2005), pp. 51?108, at
(April 11, 2006).
Agence France?Presse, ?Chinese, Russian Defense Chiefs Assess Joint Exercises,? Defense News, August 24, 2005, at
(April 11, 2006).
Including the Type 051C Shenyang class, Type 052C Lanzhou class, Type 052B Guangzhou class, and Type 051B Luhai class. For details on these ships and their weapons systems, see ?Navy,? China Defence Today, at
(April 11, 2006).
For a discussion of this, see John J. Tkacik, Jr., ?China?s Submarine Challenge,? Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1001, March 1, 2006, at
See U.S. Department of Defense, The Military Power of the People?s Republic of China; U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, pp. 29?30; and Lyle Goldstein and William Murray, ?Undersea Dragons: China?s Maturing Submarine Force,? International Security, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Spring 2004), pp. 161?196
U.S. Department of Defense, The Military Power of the People?s Republic of China, p. 12.
Robert B. Zoellick, ?Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility?? remarks to National Committee on U.S.?China Relations, New York City, September 21, 2005, at
(April 11, 2006).
For example, the U.S. has complained about China?s assistance to Pakistan?s nuclear weapons program since the mid-1980s, and China supplied medium-range ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia in 1988. For a list of current U.S. sanctions on China for proliferation behavior dating from 1990, see U.S.?China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2004 Report to Congress, June 2004, Appendix A, pp. 136?140.
John R. Bolton, ?Coordinating Allied Approaches to China,? remarks to the Tokyo American Center and the Japan Institute for International Affairs, Tokyo, February 7, 2005, at
(April 11, 2006).
Bruce Odessey, ?Weapons Proliferation Threat a Major U.S. Concern: United States Sanctions China?s Repeat Offenders for Controlled Export Lapses,? U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs, May 2, 2005, at
(April 13, 2006).
Central Intelligence Agency, ?Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January Through 30 June 2002,? posted November 2004, at
report_july_dec2003.pdf (April 11, 2006).
William R. Hawkins, ?China Collusion with Iran?Walking into a Trap?? The Washington Times, February 13, 2006, p. A18.
Sue Pleming, ?Tehran Told to Cease Fuel Research,? Reuters, January 10, 2006.
See last paragraph of ?Statement by the President of the Security Council,? United Nations Security Council document S/PRST/ 2006/15, March 29, 2005, at
290/88/PDF/N0629088.pdf. See also ?Foreign Affairs Envoys Try to Break Iran Impasse,? Reuters, March 20, 2006, at
See ?Iran Radio Commentary Says China Ties Can Reduce Dependence on West,? Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio, April 19, 2002, transcribed by Foreign Broadcast Information Service, FBIS-NES-2002-0419.
Iran National Broadcast Service, ?Jiang fang Yilang, Fandui Mei zhujun Dongya Zhongdong? (Jiang visit to Iran, opposes U.S. troops in East Asia, Middle East), China Times (Taipei), April 22, 2002, p. 2.
In May 2004, Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf told a congressional committee that the U.S. still supported China?s membership in the NSG: ?Let me be clear on the April cases?. [T]he Iran Non-Proliferation Act covers all of the export con trol regimes, not just the Nuclear Suppliers Group list. And most of the sanctions that were imposed on Chinese entities related to things that were non-nuclear.? He then noted, ?We have not seen the kinds of activity that worried us several years ago. That does not mean that it is not taking place. It is only that we have not seen it.? Hearing, Should China Join the Nuclear Suppliers Group? Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, 108th Cong., 2nd Sess., May 18, 2004, pp. 16?17; emphasis added.
See Colin L. Powell, ?Remarks at Conference on China?U.S. Relations,? Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, November 5, 2003, at
powell/remarks/2003/25950.htm (April 11, 2006). A RAND Corporation researcher sees the Chinese action as a sign of cooperation. Evan S. Medeiros, Chasing the Dragon: Assessing China?s System of Export Controls for WMD-Related Goods and Technologies (Santa Monica, Cal.: RAND Corporation, 2005), p. 90, at
(April 11, 2006). However, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher refused to make a judgment on whether China is helping North Korea?s nuclear program ?without having to base it on intelligence sources,? which he could not do. Intelligence officials ?told The Washington Times that a Chinese company in Dalian sent 20 tons of tributyl phosphate to North Korea earlier this month. The chemical is believed to be for North Korea?s program to turn spent reactor fuel into weapons-grade material.? Nicholas Kralev, ?Kremlin Divided on How to Disarm Pyongyang,? The Washington Times, December 18, 2002, at
(April 11, 2006).
Paula A. DeSutter in hearing, China?s Proliferation Practices and the North Korean Nuclear Crisis, U.S.?China Economic and Security Review Commission, 108th Cong., 1st Sess., July 24, 2003, pp. 7?31, esp. p. 26, at
03_07_24tran.pdf (April 11, 2006).
Private conversations with former Bush Administration officials.
Ann Scott Tyson, ?Russia and China Bullying Central Asia, U.S. Says: Pentagon Pressured to Pull Out of Uzbek, Kyrgyz Bases,? The Washington Post, July 15, 2005, A19, at
(April 11, 2006).
For an extended discussion of this problem, see John J. Tkacik, Jr., ?Time for Washington to Take a Realistic Look at China Policy,? Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1717, December 22, 2003, at
Liu Jianfei, ?Renqing Fankong yu fanbade guanxi.?
China has praised North Korea for following a development model suited to its national conditions. See Luo Hui, ?Jin Rich eng hui Li Changchun: Chaozhong Renmin Chuantong Youyi Bu Ke Po? (Kim Jong Il sees Li Changchun: The traditional friendship between the peoples of the DPRK and China is unbreakable), Xinhua News Agency, September 12, 2004, at
(April 11, 2006). China uses similar phraseology to support dictator ships in Africa. See Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ?China?s African Policy,? January 12, 2006, at
(April 11, 2006).
William C. Mann, ?U.S., China End Talks Agreeing to Disagree,? Associated Press, December 8, 2005. See also Glenn Kessler, ?Zoellick Details Discussions with China on Future of the Korean Peninsula,? The Washington Post, September 7, 2005, p. A22, at
(April 11, 2006). After 20 hours of discussions with his Chinese counterpart at the August 2005 ?senior dialogue,? Zoellick admitted that he still ?did not know if the Chinese deals being struck with countries the United States considers problematic were driven by indi?vidual bureaucracies seeking market openings or part of a ?strategic plan.??
Geo Political matters
Reply #75 on:
April 18, 2006, 12:04:34 AM »
Another reason to send the UN packing
Iran Elected to UN Disarmament Commission
By Julie Stahl
CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
April 17, 2006
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Under threat of United Nations Security Council sanctions for its own nuclear program, Iran has been elected to a vice-chair position on the U.N. Disarmament Commission, whose mission includes preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
The commission's deliberations began last Monday and are scheduled to continue until April 28. On the first day of the commission meeting, Iran along with Uruguay and Chile was elected as one of three vice-chairs.
It happened on the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised his people "good news" about the country's nuclear program.
The following day, Iran announced that it had managed to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in the production of a nuclear bomb.
On Monday, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that his country would continue to enrich uranium, and dismissed the idea that the U.S. might attack nuclear facilities in Iran.
"We are certain that Americans will not attack Iran because the consequences would be too dangerous," Rafasanjani was quoted as telling the Kuwaiti parliament.
Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. said that electing Iran to aleadership position on the UN Disarmament Commission was like asking the "cat to guard the milk."
"Clearly the Iranians have an interest in establishing disarmament rules that protect their clandestine nuclear weapons program," said Gold, author of Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos.
"For the last decade and a half, Iran has appointed a very large diplomatic mission to the U.N. and has sought to obtain appointments to as many U.N. bodies as possible," said Gold in a telephone interview.
It is not a surprise, therefore, that Iran would find a place at the table of even the most sensitive committees, he said.
According to Gold, the various commissions at the U.N. establish the "background noise" and "international norms" that are adopted for dealing with problems worldwide.
"They have a way of penetrating the judgments of the U.N. secretariat and other U.N. bodies," he said.
The Disarmament Commission's new chairman, Joon Oh from South Korea, said prior to the group's meeting that it was not intended to be an isolated event but should be considered an integral part of worldwide disarmament efforts.
According to a release on the Disarmament Commission's website, the agenda items include recommendations for achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and "practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons."
The commission was established by a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 1952 to pursue "effective international control of atomic energy" and make sure that atomic energy was used only for peaceful purposes.
While Iran's election to the commission is not a "decisive development," Gold said, it is "one link" in the chain that helps Iran use multi-lateral organizations to serve its interests.
Prof. Anne Bayefsky, who edits the Eye on the U.N. website, quoted U.N.
Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuaki Tanaka, as saying that the commission "played a unique role" with "the advantage of being a fully universal deliberative body."
"This is the U.N. fiction, which brings us close to nuclear war with each passing day," Bayefsky said. "The allusion is to universal democracy, though the majority of voters is non-democratic and include thugs, racists and war-mongers."
As tensions grow over the situation in Iran, Washington has not ruled out the idea of a military option in dealing with Iran, though it has downplayed the idea.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently referred Iran to the Security Council, where the U.S. is pushing for sanctions to be leveled against the Islamic Republic.
But Gold said that if the U.N.'s dealings with Iraq set a precedent for its dealings elsewhere in the world, then it is not likely that the U.N. would be an effective body in dealing with Iran.
"The U.N. has long ago forfeited its role as an international body safeguarding international peace and security and this is just the latest proof of why the U.N. doesn't work," Gold said of Iran's election to vice chair the Disarmament Commission.
Iran says its nuclear development is for a civilian energy program but the U.S., Israel and other Western nations believe Iran is really developing nuclear weapons.
The Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S. think tank, released satellite images on Sunday showing that Iran had expanded its uranium enrichment site at Isfahan and has reinforced its underground site at Natanz.
London's Sunday Times quoted unnamed Iranian officials as saying that Iran had recruited and trained 40,000 suicide bombers, who were ready to attack American and British targets.
"We are ready to attack American and British sensitive points if they attack Iran's nuclear facilities," said Dr. Hassan Abbasi, head of the Center for Doctrinal Strategic Studies in the Revolutionary Guards.
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Cindy "Pretty Kitty" Denny.
Dog Brothers, Inc.
Geo Political matters
Reply #76 on:
April 23, 2006, 12:53:55 PM »
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 7, 2005
Frontpage Interview?s guest today is Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in infantry and intelligence units before becoming a Foreign Area Officer and a global strategic scout for the Pentagon. He has published three books on strategy and military affairs, as well as hundreds of columns for the New York Post, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and other publications. He is the author of the new book New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy.
FP: Ralph Peters, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Peters: I'm honored by the chance to reach your audience. Thanks.
FP: What inspired you to write New Glory?
Peters: New Glory is a book that literally took me a lifetime to write--in the sense that it contains decades of first-hand experience and observation in more than sixty countries. While I've written essays and columns over the years, I just sensed that the time was right to put it all together, to lay out as forthrightly and honestly as I could where I think the world is going--to offer a fresh vision of the world as it is and as it's going to be...no matter who might be offended by my views.
And, frankly, I was fed up with the countless "experts" all over the media who had never been anywhere or done anything, but who had an opinion on everything. You can't understand this complex world without going out to see it firsthand. The book's conclusions about where we've been and where we need to go strategically will surprise many readers, but they're based upon direct experience, not faculty-lounge chitchat. This book had been cooking inside me for a long time--and I'm glad I waited to write it. I needed all those years of getting dirty overseas to mature my thinking--and to escape Washington group-think.
FP: Tell us why the battle for Fallujah epitomized how we must fight -- and win -- the terror war.
Peters: Well, the First Battle of Fallujah, in the spring of 2004, was an example of how to get it as wrong as you possibly can. We bragged that we were going to "clean up Dodge." And the Marines went in, tough and capable as ever. Then, just when the Marines were on the cusp of victory, they were called off, thanks to a brilliant, insidious and unscrupulous disinformation campaign waged by al-Jazeera. I was in Iraq at the time, and the lies about American "atrocities" were stunning. But the lies worked and the Bush administration, to my shock and dismay, backed down.
Let's be honest: The terrorists won First Fallujah. And for six months thereafter Fallujah was the world capital of terror--a terrorist city-state. It was evident to all of us who had served that we'd have to go back into Fallujah, but the administration--which I support--made the further error of waiting until after the presidential election to avoid casualties or embarrassments during the campaign. Well, fortunately, in the Second Battle of Fallujah the Army and Marines realized they had to do it fast, before the media won again and the politicians caved in again. The military had been burned once and they were determined not to get burned again. And they did a stunning job--Second Fallujah was a model of how to take down a medium-size city. Great credit to the troops, mixed reviews for the politicos.
The bottom line is this: If you have to fight, fight to win, don't postpone what's necessary, and be prepared for the media's anti-American onslaught. Today, the media--with some noteworthy exceptions--are stooges of Islamist terrorists who, if they actually won, would butcher the journalists defending them.
We should never go to war lightly, but if we must fight, we have to give it everything we've got and damn the global criticism. There's a straightforward maxim that applies: In warfare, if you're unwilling to pay the butcher's bill up front, you will pay it with compound interest in the end.
FP: You note that terror of female sexuality underlies Islamic terror. You also make the point that a culture that hates and fears woman is incompatible with modernity and democracy. Can you illuminate these phenomena for us please?
Peters: No brainer on this one. Any society that refuses to exploit the talents and potential contributions of half of its population can't remotely hope to compete with the USA or the West in general. Worse, the virtual enslavement of women is as much a symptom of other ailments as it is a problem in and of itself. Where women are tormented by bitter old men in religious robes, there's never a meritocracy for males, either. And such societies are consistently racially and religiously bigoted. Take Pakistan: While the USA is operating at a phenomenal level of human efficiency in the 21st century, say 85%, Pakistan would likely measure in at 12 to 15%. They just keep falling comparatively farther and farther behind, they hate it, and, of course, they blame us. We're dealing with the abject and utter failure of the entire civilization of Middle Eastern Islam--not competitive in a single sphere (not even terror, since these days we're terrorizing the terrorists). It's historically unprecedented--and unspeakably dangerous.
As far as the inhuman, inhumane--and stupid--treatment of women in the Middle East, yep, Islam is scared of the girls. I wish Freud were alive--he'd really get a look at a civilization's discontents. If you're not terrified of female sexuality, you don't lock women up, insist on covering them up from scalp to toenail and stone them to death for their "sins." Every single Muslim culture in the greater Middle East is sexually infantile--to use the Freudian term. For all their macho posturing, the men are terrified of their feared inadequacy. It's like one big junior high school dance, with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other--except the boys have Kalashnikovs.
Now, I realize this isn't the sort of thing most people consider as a strategic factor, but I am thoroughly convinced that the one foolproof test for whether or not a society has any hope of making it in the 21st century is its treatment of women. Where women are partners, societies take off--as ours has done for this reason and others. Where women are property, there's simply no hope of a competitive performance.
In the collective culture of the Middle East, we're dealing with a deeply neurotic, if not outright psychotic civilization. I wish I could be more positive. But the average Middle Eastern male just has snakes in his head. And, by the way, the place isn't much fun, either. A mega-mall or two does not make a civilization.
FP: You make the observation that ?Islam produced a strain of violent homoeroticism that reaches into al-Qaeda and beyond.? Please expand on this reality a bit for us.
Peters: Another issue "sober" Washington wouldn't consider as a strategic concern, but this ties in with the fear of and disdain for women. If you read the notes and papers they left behind, it's evident that the hijackers of 9/11 were a boy's club with strong homoerotic tendencies. Read Mohammed Atta's lunatic note describing how women must be kept away from his funeral to avoid polluting his grave. Does that sound like a guy with a happy dating history? Of course, sex between men and boys is a long tradition from North Africa through Afghanistan (fear of women always leads to an excessive fixation on female virginity--so she won't know her husband's inadequate--as well as homoerotic undercurrents).
They don't talk about it, of course--it's supposed to be anathema--but very few Middle Eastern mothers would trust their good-looking young sons around many adult males. This has deep roots, right back to the celebrations of the Emperor Babur's fixation on a pretty boy in the Baburnama. And the related dread of the female as literal femme fatale, as vixen, as betrayer, appears in much of the major literature--especially the "Thousand and One Arabian Nights," which, in its unabridged, unexpurgated version, is one long chronicle of supposed female wantonness and insatiability (the men are always innocent victims of Eve).
Pretty hard for the president to work this into a State of the Union message, but I'm convinced that sexual dysfunction is at the core of the Middle East's sickness--and it's certainly sick. Nothing about our civilization so threatens the males of the Middle East as the North American career woman making her own money and her own decisions. We don't think of it this way, but from one perspective the best symbols of the War on Terror would be the Islamic veil versus the two-piece woman's business suit.
There is no abyss more unbridgeable between our civilizations than that created by our respect for women and the Islamic disdain for the female. There are many aspects of our magnificent civilization that threaten traditional, backward societies, but nothing worries them so much as the independence of the Western woman--not that they approve of freedom of any kind.
FP: You write that the developments in Iran pose a great danger to the Islamists and great hope for the West. Tell us what the possibilities are. Perhaps a domino theory? (i.e, if the Iranians overthrow their religious despots, the rest of the Islamic world might do the same?)
Peters: No matter what the outcome in Iraq, the Middle East isn't going to change overnight. This is a very long process. But if you want an irrefutable indicator of how important Iraq's future is, just consider how many resources our enemies are willing to spend to stop the emergence of an even partially functional rule-of-law democracy in Iraq. The terrorists are throwing in everything they've got. Surely, that should tell us something.
Despite all the yelling and jumping up and down in the "Arab Street" (where someone needs to pick up the litter, by the way), the truth is that Arabs, especially, are afraid they can't do it, that they can't build a modern, let alone a postmodern, market democracy. The Arabs desperately need a win--they've been losing on every front for so long. If Iraq is even a deeply flawed success, it will be success enough to spark change across the region. But we must not expect overnight results. This is all very hard. We're not just trying to change a country--we're asking a civilization to change, to revive itself.
Iraq matters immensely. But no matter the outcome, it will be a long time before we see the rewards. It's an agonizingly slow process--which is tough for our society, which expects quick results.
And if Iraq should fail, despite our best efforts, it won't really be an American (or Anglo-American) failure. The consequences will be severe, but we'll work it off at the strategic gym. A failed Iraq will be another tragic Arab failure.
This is our best shot, but it's their last chance.
FP: You observe that Islamist terror sprouts from the failure of Arab and Islamic civilization, that they are humiliated, envious and seek to destroy the reminder of everything we have done right. Please illustrate this picture for us.
Peters: Back to our disdain for new strategic factors: Certainly economic statistics and demographics, hydrology and terms of trade all matter. But the number one deadly and galvanizing strategic impulse in the world today is jealousy. And it's jealousy of the West in general, but specifically of the United States. Jealousy is a natural, deep human emotion, which afflicts us all in our personal lives--to some degree. But when it afflicts an entire civilization, it's tragic. The failed civilization of the Middle East--where not one of the treasured local values is functional in the globalized world--is morbidly jealous of us. They've succumbed to a culture of--and addiction to--blame. Instead of facing up to the need to change and rolling up their sleeves, they want the world to conform to their terms. Ain't going to happen, Mustapha.
I've been out there. And while anti-Americanism is really much exaggerated, where it does exist among the terrorists and their supporters, jealousy is a prime motivating factor. You've heard it before, but it's all too true: They do hate us for our success.
The populations of the Middle East blew it. They've failed. Thirteen hundred years of effort came down to an entire civilization that can't design and build an automobile. And thanks to the wonders of the media age, it's daily rubbed in their faces how badly they've failed.
Oil wealth? A tragedy for the Arabs, since it gave the wealth to the most backward. The Middle East still does not have a single world-class university outside of Israel. Not one. The oil money has been thrown away--it's been a drug, not a tool.
The terrorists don't want progress. They want revenge. At the risk of punning on the title of the book, they don't want new glory--they want their old (largely imagined) glory back. They want to turn back the clock to an imagined world. The terrorists are the deadly siblings of Westerners who believe in Atlantis.
FP: It is clear you are not very fond of France and Germany. How come?
Peters: Actually, I love France and Germany. They're two of my favorite museums. And what's not to like about two grotesquely hypocritical societies who are, between them, responsible for the worst savagery in and beyond Europe over the past several centuries?
Anybody who really wants to see how I take "Old Europe" apart will just have to read the book. Too much to say to get it down here. But the next time the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing plays the moral superiority card, let's remind them that no German soldier ever liberated anybody--and the most notable achievement of the French military in the past century and a half has been the slaughter of unarmed black Africans.
And just watch their brutal treatment of their Islamic residents. Old Europe--France and Germany--is just the Middle East-lite.
FP: Explain why you believe there are great benefits to America reaching out to India.
Peters: Human capital. Trade. Healthy competition. Strategic position. Common interests. Brilliant, hard-working people. Great food. That enough?
FP: Are there grounds to have hope about Africa?
Peters: Yes. There are plentiful reasons to be hopeful about parts--parts--of Africa. But much of the continent is every bit as disastrous as the popular image has it. My complaint is that we treat that vast, various continent as one big, failed commune. Well, Congo or Sierra Leone certainly aren't inspiring...but in the course of several, recent, lengthy trips to Africa, I was just astonished at the vigor, vision and strategic potential of South Africa. South Africa is well on the way to becoming the first true sub-Saharan great power--and it's another natural ally for us. Oh, the old revolutionary, slogan-spouting generation and their prot?g?s have to die off--and they will. But, in the long-term, I expect great things from South Africa, that they'll control (economically and culturally) southern Africa at least as far north as the Rovuma River. The one qualifier is this: Their next presidential election will be the turning point, either way. If they elect a demagogue, South Africa could still turn into another failing African state. But if they elect a technocrat, get out of the way, because the South Africans are coming.
I explain much of this far better in the book than I can here. Suffice to say that, for all the continent's horrid misery, there are islands of genuine hope. And, of course, there's plenty of wreckage...and AIDS, civil wars, corruption (the greatest bane of all for the developing world). I'm not a Pollyanna. But over the years I've gotten pretty good at spotting both potential crises and potential successes--and South Africa, for all its problems, is a land of stunning opportunities with neo-imperial potential.
FP: Overall, as a former military man, tell us what the United States has to stop doing, and has to start doing, to win this terror war.
Peters: Knock off the bluster and fight like we mean it. To a disheartening degree, the War on Terror has been a war of (ineptly chosen) words. Look, this is a death struggle, a strategic knife fight to the bone. I wish our civilian leaders would stop beating their chests and saying that we're going to get this terrorists or that one--because when we fail to make good on our promises, the terrorists wins by default. More deeds, fewer words.
Above all, we need to think clearly, to cast off the last century's campus-born excuses for the Islamic world of the Middle East. We need to be honest about the threat, in all its dimensions. "Public diplomacy" isn't going to convert the terrorists who were recruited and developed while we looked away from the problem for thirty years. In the end, only deeds convince. And not just military deeds, of course, although those remain indispensable.
Most Americans still do not realize the intensity or the dimensions of the struggle with Islamist terror. Despite 9-11, they just don't have a sense that we're at war. And I'm afraid I have to fault the Bush administration on that count: Good Lord, we're at war with the most implacable enemies we've ever faced (men who regard death as a promotion), and what was our president's priority this year? The reform of Social Security. While I continue to support the administration's overall intent and efforts in Iraq and around the world, I believe the president has failed us badly by not driving home to the people that we're at war.
The Bush administration has done great and necessary things--but all too often they've done those things badly. And only the valor and blood of our troops has redeemed the situation, time after time, from Fallujah to the struggles of the future.
FP: Ralph Peters thank you for joining us today.
Peters: My pleasure, and my thanks. And allow me to say a special thanks to all your readers in uniform, those troops defending the values of our civilization and human decency in distant, discouraging places. Freedom truly isn't free.
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...
...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Posts: 1786 | Location: USA | Registered: August 29, 2005
G M Posted April 23, 2006 06:28 AM
The Counterrevolution in Military Affairs
Fashionable thinking about defense ignores the great threats of our time.
by Ralph Peters
02/06/2006, Volume 011, Issue 20
REVOLUTIONS NOTORIOUSLY IMPRISON THEIR MOST committed supporters. Intellectually, influential elements within our military are locked inside the cells of the Revolution in Military Affairs--the doctrinal cult of the past decade that preaches that technological leaps will transcend millennia-old realities of warfare. Our current conflicts have freed the Pentagon from at least some of the nonsensical theories of techno-war, but too many of our military and civilian leaders remain captivated by the notion that machines can replace human beings on the battlefield. Chained to their 20th-century successes, they cannot face the new reality: Wars of flesh, faith, and cities. Meanwhile, our enemies, immediate and potential, appear to grasp the contours of future war far better than we do.
From Iraq's Sunni Triangle to China's military high command, the counterrevolution in military affairs is well underway. We are seduced by what we can do; our enemies focus on what they must do. We have fallen so deeply in love with the means we have devised for waging conceptual wars that we are blind to their marginal relevance in actual wars. Terrorists, for one lethal example, do not fear "network-centric warfare" because they have already mastered it for a tiny fraction of one cent on the dollar, achieving greater relative effects with the Internet, cell phones, and cheap airline tickets than all of our military technologies have delivered. Our prime weapon in our struggles with terrorists, insurgents, and warriors of every patchwork sort remains the soldier or Marine; yet, confronted with reality's bloody evidence, we simply pretend that other, future, hypothetical wars will justify the systems we adore--purchased at the expense of the assets we need.
Stubbornly, we continue to fantasize that a wondrous enemy will appear who will fight us on our own terms, as a masked knight might have materialized at a stately tournament in a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Yet, not even China--the threat beloved of major defense contractors and their advocates--would play by our rules if folly ignited war. Against terrorists, we have found technology alone incompetent to master men of soaring will--our own flesh and blood provide the only effective counter. At the other extreme, a war with China, which our war gamers blithely assume would be brief, would reveal the quantitative incompetence of our forces. An assault on a continent-spanning power would swiftly drain our stocks of precision weapons, ready pilots, and aircraft. Quality, no matter how great, is not a reliable substitute for a robust force in being and deep reserves that can be mobilized rapidly.
There is, in short, not a single enemy in existence or on the horizon willing to play the victim to the military we continue to build. Faced with men of iron belief wielding bombs built in sheds and basements, our revolution in military affairs appears more an indulgence than an investment. In the end, our enemies will not outfight us. We'll muster the will to do what must be done--after paying a needlessly high price in the lives of our troops and damage to our domestic infrastructure. We will not be beaten, but we may be shamed and embarrassed on a needlessly long road to victory.
Not a single item in our trillion-dollar arsenal can compare with the genius of the suicide bomber--the breakthrough weapon of our time. Our intelligence systems cannot locate him, our arsenal cannot deter him, and, all too often, our soldiers cannot stop him before it is too late. A man of invincible conviction--call it delusion, if you will--armed with explosives stolen or purchased for a handful of soiled bills can have a strategic impact that staggers governments. Abetted by the global media, the suicide bomber is the wonder weapon of the age.
The suicide bomber's willingness to discard civilization's cherished rules for warfare gives him enormous strength. In the Cain-and-Abel conflicts of the 21st century, ruthlessness trumps technology. We refuse to comprehend the suicide bomber's soul--even though today's wars are contests of souls, and belief is our enemy's ultimate order of battle. We write off the suicide bomber as a criminal, a wanton butcher, a terrorist. Yet, within his spiritual universe, he's more heroic than the American soldier who throws himself atop a grenade to spare his comrades: He isn't merely protecting other men, but defending his god. The suicide bomber can justify any level of carnage because he's doing his god's will. We agonize over a prisoner's slapped face, while our enemies are lauded as heroes for killing innocent masses (even of fellow believers). We continue to narrow our view of warfare's acceptable parameters even as our enemies amplify the concept of total war.
Islamist terrorists, to cite the immediate example, would do anything to win. Our enemies act on ecstatic revelations from their god. We act on the advice of lawyers. It is astonishing that we have managed to hold the line as well as we have.
The ultimate precision weapon, the suicide bomber simultaneously redefines the scope of "legitimate" targets. Delighted to kill our troops, this implacable enemy who regards death as a promotion is equally ready to slaughter men, women, and children of unknown identity who have done him no harm. His force of will towers over our own. He cannot win wars on the traditional battlefields we cherish, but his commitment and actions transcend such tidy limits. In the moment of his deed, the suicide bomber is truly larger than life. The world's a stage, and every suicide bomber is, at least briefly, a star.
We will develop the means to defeat the majority of, if not all, improvised explosive devices. But the suicide bomber--the living, thinking assassin determined to die--may prove impossible to stop. Even if we discover a means to identify him at a distance from our troops, he has only to turn to easier targets. Virtually anything the suicide bomber attacks brings value to his cause--destruction of any variety is a victory. The paradox is that his act of self-destruction is also an undeniable assertion that "I am," as he becomes the voice from below that the mighty cannot ignore. We are trained to think in terms of cause and effect--but the suicide bomber merges the two. The gesture and the result are inseparable from and integral to his message. Self-destruction and murder join to become the ultimate act of self-assertion.
And his deed is heralded, while even our most virtuous acts are condemned around the world. Even in the days before mass media, assassins terrorized civilizations. Today, their deeds are amplified by a toxic, breathtakingly irresponsible communications culture that spans the globe. Photogenic violence is no longer a local affair--if a terrorist gives the media picturesque devastation, he reaches the entire planet. We cannot measure the psychological magnification, although we grasp it vaguely. And the media's liturgical repetition of the suicide bomber's act creates an atmosphere of sacrament. On a primal level, the suicide bomber impresses even his enemies with his conviction. We hasten to dismiss his deed as a perversion, yet it resounds as a vivid act of faith. Within his own cultural context, people may hate what the suicide bomber does, yet revere his sacrifice (and, too often, they do not hate what he does).
We may refuse to accept it, but suicide bombing operates powerfully on practical, emotional, and spiritual levels--and it generates dirt-cheap propaganda. To the Muslim world, the suicide bomber's act is a proof of faith that ensnares the mind with a suspicion of his righteousness. He is a nearly irresistible champion of the powerless, the Middle East's longed-for superhero, the next best thing to the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam.
We praise Nathan Hale's willingness to die for his cause. Now imagine thousands of men anxious to die for theirs. The suicide bomber may be savage, brutal, callous, heartless, naive, psychotic, and, to us, despicable, but within his milieu he is also heroic.
The hallmark of our age is the failure of belief systems and a subsequent flight back to primitive fundamentalism--and the phenomenon isn't limited to the Middle East. Faith revived is running roughshod over science and civilization. Secular societies appear increasingly fragmented, if not fragile. The angry gods are back. And they will not be defeated with cruise missiles or computer codes.
A paradox of our time is that the overwhelmingly secular global media--a collection of natural-born religion-haters--have become the crucial accomplices of the suicide bomber fueled by rabid faith. Mass murderers are lionized as freedom fighters, while our own troops are attacked by the press they protect for the least waywardness or error. One begins to wonder if the bomber's suicidal impulse isn't matched by a deep death wish affecting the West's cultural froth. (What if Darwin was right conceptually, but failed to grasp that homo sapiens' most powerful evolutionary strategy is faith?) Both the suicide bomber and the "world intellectual" with his reflexive hatred of America exist in emotional realms that our rational models of analysis cannot explain. The modern age's methods for interpreting humanity are played out.
We live in a new age of superstition and bloodthirsty gods, of collective madness. Its icons are the suicide bomber, the veil, and the video camera.
One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason. We suffer under layers of intellectual asymmetries that hinder us from an intuitive recognition of our enemies. Our rear-guard rationalists range from those convinced that every security problem has a technological solution, if only it can be found, to those who insist that members of al Qaeda and its affiliates are motivated by finite, comprehensible, and logical ambitions that, if satisfied, would make our problems disappear.
Living in unprecedented safety within our borders and lacking firsthand knowledge of the decay beyond, honorable men and women have convinced themselves that Osama bin Laden's professed goals of driving the United States from the Middle East and removing corrupt regional governments are what global terror is all about. They gloss over his ambition of reestablishing the caliphate and his calls for the destruction of Israel as rhetorical effects--when they address them at all. Yet, Islamist fanatics are more deeply committed to their maximalist goals than to their lesser ones--and their unspoken ambitions soar beyond logic's realm. Religious terrorists are committed to an apocalypse they sense within striking distance. Their longing for union with god is inseparable from their impulse toward annihilation. They seek their god in carnage, and will go on slaughtering until he appears to pat them on the back.
A dangerous asymmetry exists in the type of minds working the problem of Islamist terrorism in our government and society. On average, the "experts" to whom we are conditioned to listen have a secular mentality (even if they go to church or synagogue from habit). And it is a very rare secular mind that can comprehend religious passion--it's like asking a blind man to describe the colors of fire. One suspects that our own fiercest believers are best equipped to penetrate the mentality--the souls--of our Islamist enemies, although those believers may not be as articulate as the secular intellectuals who anxiously dismiss all possibilities that lie outside their theoretical constructs.
Those who feel no vital faith cannot comprehend faith's power. A man or woman who has never been intoxicated by belief will default to mirror-imaging when asked to describe terror's roots. He who has never experienced a soul-shaking glimpse of the divine inevitably explains religion-driven suicide bombers in terms of a lack of economic opportunity or social humiliation. But the enemies we face are burning with belief, on fire with their vision of an immanent, angry god. Our intelligentsia is less equipped to understand such men than our satellites are to find them.
All of our technologies and comforting theories are confounded by the strength of the soul ablaze with faith. Our struggle with Islamist terror (other religious terrors may haunt our descendants) has almost nothing to do with our actions in the Middle East. It's about a failing civilization's embrace of a furious god.
We are not (yet) at war with Islam, but the extreme believers within Islam are convinced that they are soldiers in a religious war against us. Despite their rhetoric, they are the crusaders. Even our conceptions of the struggle are asymmetrical. Despite the horrors we have witnessed, we have yet to take religious terrorists seriously on their own self-evident terms. We invaded a succession of their tormented countries, but haven't come close to penetrating their souls. The hermetic universe of the Islamist terrorist is immune to our reality (if not to our bullets), but our intellectuals appear equally incapable of accepting the religious extremist's reality.
We have no tools of persuasion effective against a millenarian belief. What logic can we wield against the soul fortified by faith and barricaded beyond argument? Even if we understood every nuance of our enemy's culture, the suicide bomber's intense faith and the terror chieftain's visions have burned through native cultural restraints. We are told, rather smugly, that the Koran forbids suicide. But our enemies are not concerned with how we read their faith. Religions are living things, and ultra-extremists are improvising a new and savage cult within Islam--even as they proclaim their return to a purified faith.
Security-wise, we have placed our faith in things, in bright (and expensive) material objects. But the counterrevolution in military affairs is based on the brilliant intuition that our military can be sidestepped often enough to challenge its potency. Certainly, we inflict casualties on our enemies--and gain real advantages from doing so--but we not only face an enemy who, as observed above, views death as a promotion, but also one who believes he has won even when he loses. If the suicide bomber completes his mission, he has won. But even if he is killed or dies short of his target, he has conquered a place in paradise. Which well-intentioned information operation of ours can compete with the conviction that a martyr's death leads to eternal joy?
Again, our intelligentsia falls woefully short. The most secularized element of our society--educated to avoid faith (or, at the very least, to shun enthusiastic, vigorous, proud, and public faith)--our professional thinkers have lost any sense of a literal paradise beyond the grave. But our enemies enjoy a faith as vivid as did our ancestors, for whom devils lurked in the undergrowth and paradise was an idealized representation of that which mortals knew. We are taught that we should never underestimate our enemies--yet, we underestimate the power of his faith, his most potent weapon.
Nor should we assume that Islamist extremists will remain the only god-haunted terrorists attacking established orders. This century may prove to be one of multi-sided struggles over the interpretation of god's will, between believers and unbelievers, between the varieties of the faithful, between monotheists and polytheists, between master faiths and secessionist movements, between the hollow worshippers of science and those swollen with the ecstasy of belief.
Naturally, we view the cardinal struggle as between the West and extremists within the Islamic world; yet, the bloodiest religious warfare of the coming decades may be between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or between African Muslims and the new, sub-Saharan Church Militant. Hindu extremists gnaw inward from the epidermis of Indian society, while even Buddhist monks have engaged in organized violence in favor of their ostensibly peaceable faith. In a bewildering world where every traditional society is under assault from the forces of global change, only religion seems to provide a reliable refuge. And each god seems increasingly a jealous god.
Faith is the great strategic factor that unbelieving faculties and bureaucracies ignore. It may be the crucial issue of this century. And we cannot even speak about it honestly. Give me a warrior drunk with faith, and I will show you a weapon beyond the dreams of any laboratory. Our guided bombs may kill individual terrorists, but the terrorist knows that our weapons can't kill his god.
Even in preparing for "big wars," we refuse to take the enemy into account. Increasingly, our military is designed for breathtaking sprints, yet a war with China--were one forced upon us by events--would be a miserable, long march. For all the rhetoric expended and the innumerable wargames played, the best metaphor for a serious struggle with Beijing--perhaps of Homeric length--comes from that inexhaustible little book, Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, with its pathetic image of a Western gunboat lobbing shells uselessly into a continent.
Given the comprehensive commitment and devastation required to defeat strategically and structurally weaker enemies such as Japan and Germany, how dare we pretend that we could drive China to sue for peace by fighting a well-mannered war with a small military whose shallow stocks of ammunition would be drained swiftly and could not be replaced in meaningful quantities? Would we try Shock and Awe, Part II, over Beijing, hoping to convince China's leaders to surrender at the sight of our special effects? Or would our quantitative incompetence soon force us onto the defensive?
We must be realistic about the military requirements of a war with China, but we also need to grasp that, for such an enemy, the military sphere would be only one field of warfare--and not the decisive one. What would it take to create an atmosphere of defeat in a sprawling nation of over one billion people? A ruthless economic blockade, on the seas, in the air, and on land, would be an essential component of any serious war plan, but the Chinese capability for sheer endurance might surprise us. Could we win against China without inflicting extensive devastation on Chinese cities? Would even that be enough? Without mirror-imaging again, can we identify any incentive China's leaders would have to surrender?
The Chinese version of the counterrevolution in military affairs puts less stress on a head-to-head military confrontation (although that matters, of course) and more on defeating the nation behind our military. Despite the importance Beijing attaches to a strong military, China won't fall into the trap that snared the Soviets--the attempt to compete with our military expenditures. Why fight battles you'll lose, when you can wage war directly against the American population by attacking its digital and physical infrastructure, its confidence and morale? In a war of mutual suffering, which population would be better equipped, practically and psychologically, to endure massive power outages, food-chain disruptions, the obliteration of databases, and even epidemic disease?
Plenty of Americans are tougher than we're credited with being, but what about the now-decisive intelligentsia? What about those conditioned to levels of comfort unimaginable to the generation that fought World War II (or even Vietnam)? Would 21st-century suburban Americans accept rationing without protests? Whenever I encounter Chinese abroad I am astonished by their chauvinism. Their confidence is reminiscent of Americans' a half century ago. Should we pretend that Chinese opinion-makers, such as they are, would feel inclined to attack their government as our journalists attack Washington? A war with China would be a massive contest of wills, and China might need to break the will of only a tiny fraction of our population. It only takes a few hundred men and women in Washington to decide that a war is lost.
As for our military technologies, how, exactly, would an F/A-22 destroy the Chinese will to endure and prevail? How would it counteract a hostile media? If we should worry about any strategic differences with China, they are the greater simplicity and robustness of China's less developed (hence, less fragile) infrastructure, and a greater will to win in Beijing. No matter how well our military might perform, sufficient pain inflicted on the American people could lead a weak national leadership to a capitulation thinly disguised as a compromise. Addicted to trade with China, many in America's business community would push for a rapid end to any conflict, no matter the cost to our nation as a whole. (When Chinese fighters forced down a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on Hainan Island several years ago, American-business lobbyists rushed to Capitol Hill to plead for patience with China--they had no interest in our aircrew or our national good.)
The Chinese know they cannot defeat our military. So they intend to circumvent it, as surely as Islamist terrorists seek to do, if in more complex ways. For example, China's navy cannot guarantee its merchant vessels access to sea lanes in the Indian Ocean--routes that carry the oil on which modern China runs. So Beijing is working to build a web of formal and informal client relationships in the region that would deny the U.S. Navy port facilities, challenge the United States in global and regional forums, and secure alternate routes and sources of supply. China's next great strategic initiative is going to be an attempt to woo India, the region's key power, away from a closer relationship with the United States. Beijing may fail, but its strategists are thinking in terms of the out-years, while our horizon barely reaches from one Quadrennial Defense Review to the next.
Even in Latin America, China labors to develop capabilities to frustrate American purposes, weaken hemispheric ties, and divert our strategic resources during a Sino-American crisis. We dream of knock-out blows, while Beijing prepares the death of a thousand cuts. The Chinese are the ultimate heirs of B.H. Liddell Hart and his indirect approach: They would have difficulty conquering Taiwan militarily, but believe they could push us into an asymmetrical defeat through economic, diplomatic, and media campaigns in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America--while crippling the lifestyle of America's citizens.
It's become another clich? to observe how much of our manufacturing capability has moved to China while we tolerate, at our own business community's behest, Beijing's cynical undervaluation of its currency. If you don't think this matters, try to go a single week without buying or using a product made in China. A conflict with Beijing might be lost on the empty shelves of Wal-Mart. Indeed, Beijing's most effective international allies are American corporations. In the Second World War we famously converted our consumer industries into producers of wartime materiel. Will a future president find himself trapped by our defense industry's inability to produce consumer goods in wartime?
A war with China would be a total war, waged in spheres where our military is legally forbidden to engage, from data banks to shopping malls. How many readers of this magazine have participated in a wargame that addressed crippling consumer shortages as a conflict with China dragged on for years? Instead, we obsess about the fate of a pair of aircraft carriers. For that matter, how about a scenario that realistically portrayed the global media as siding overwhelmingly with China? The metastasizing power of the media is a true strategic revolution of our time--one to which our narrow revolution in military affairs has no reply.
Oh, by the way: Could we win a war with China without killing hundreds of millions of Chinese?
Many of us have struggled to grasp the unreasonable, even fanatical anti-Americanism in the global media--including the hostility in many news outlets and entertainment forums here at home. How can educated men and women, whether they speak Arabic, Spanish, French, or English, condemn America's every move, while glossing over the abuses of dictators and the savagery of terrorists? Why is America blamed even when American involvement is minimal or even nonexistent? How has the most beneficial great power in history been transformed by the international media into a villain of relentless malevolence?
There's a straightforward answer: In their secular way, the world's media elites are as unable to accept the reality confronting them as are Islamist fundamentalists. They hate the world in which they are forced to live, and America has shaped that world.
It isn't that the American-wrought world is so very bad for the global intelligentsia: The freedom they exploit to condemn the United States has been won, preserved, and expanded by American sacrifices and America's example. The problem is that they wanted a different world, the utopia promised by socialist and Marxist theorists, an impossible heaven on earth that captured their imagination as surely as visions of paradise enrapture suicide bombers.
The global media may skew secular, but that doesn't protect them against alternative forms of faith. Europeans, for example, have discarded a belief in God as beneath their sophistication--yet they still need a Satan to explain their own failures, just as their ancestors required devils to explain why the milk soured or the herd sickened. Today, America has replaced the horned, cloven-footed Lucifer of Europe's past; behind their smug assumption of superiority, contemporary Europeans are as superstitious and irrational as any of their ancestors: They simply believe in other demons.
One of the most perverse aspects of anti-Americanism in the global media and among the international intelligentsia is that it's presented as a progressive, liberal movement, when it's bitterly reactionary, a spiteful, elitist revolt against the empowerment of the common man and woman (the core ethos of the United States). Despite their outward differences, intellectuals are the logical allies of Islamist extremists--who are equally opposed to social progress and mass freedom. Of course, the terrorists have the comfort of religious faith, while the global intelligentsia, faced with the death of Marxism and the triumph of capitalism, has only its rage.
Human beings are hard-wired for faith. Deprived of a god, they seek an alternative creed. For a time, nationalism, socialism, Marxism, and a number of other-isms appeared to have a chance of working--as long as secular intellectuals rejected the evidence of Stalin's crimes or Mao's savagery (much as they overlook the brutalities of Islamist terrorists today). The intellectuals who staff the global media experienced the American-made destruction of their secular belief systems, slowly during the Cold War, then jarringly from 1989 to 1991. The experience has been as disorienting and infuriating to them as if we had proved to Muslim fanatics that their god does not exist.
America's triumph shames the Middle East and Europe alike, and has long dented the pride of Latin America. But the brotherhood of Islamist terrorists and the tribe of global intellectuals who dominate the media are the two groups who feel the most fury toward America. The terrorists dream of a paradise beyond the grave; intellectuals fantasized about utopias on earth. Neither can stomach the practical success of the American way of life, with its insistence on individual performance and its resistance to unearned privilege. For the Islamists, America's power threatens the promises of their faith. For world-intellectuals, America is the murderer of their most precious fantasies.
Is it any wonder that these two superficially different groups have drifted into collusion?
The suicide bomber may be the weapon of genius of our time, but the crucial new strategic factor is the rise of a global information culture that pretends to reflect reality, but in fact creates it. Iraq is only the most flagrant example of the disconnect between empirical reality and the redesigned, politically inflected alternative reality delivered by the media. This phenomenon matters far more than the profiteers of the revolution in military affairs can accept--the global information sphere is now a decisive battleground. Image and idea are as powerful as the finest military technologies.
We have reached the point (as evidenced by the first battle of Falluja) where the global media can overturn the verdict of the battlefield. We will not be defeated by suicide bombers in Iraq, but a chance remains that the international media may defeat us. Engaged with enemies to our front, we try to ignore the enemies at our back--enemies at whom we cannot return fire. Indeed, if anything must be profoundly reevaluated, it's our handling of the media in wartime. We have no obligation to open our accounts to proven enemies, yet we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by platitudes.
This doesn't mean that all of the media are evil or dishonest. It means we need to have the common sense and courage to discriminate between media outlets that attempt to report fairly (and don't compromise wartime secrets) and those whose track records demonstrate their hostility to our national purposes or their outright support for terrorists.
We got it right in World War II, but today we cannot count on patriotism among journalists, let alone their acceptance of censorship boards. Our own reporters pretend to be "citizens of the world" with "higher loyalties," and many view patriotism as decidedly down-market. Obsessed with defending their privileges, they refuse to accept that they also have responsibilities as citizens. But after journalistic irresponsibility kills a sufficient number of Americans, reality will force us to question the media's claim that "the public has a right to know" every secret our government holds in wartime.
The media may constitute the decisive element in the global counterrevolution in military affairs, and the video camera--that insatiable accomplice of the terrorist--the cheap negation of our military technology. (And beware the growing capability of digital technology to create American "atrocities" from scratch.) We are proud of our ability to put steel precisely on target anywhere in the world, but guided bombs don't work against faith or an unchallenged flood of lies. We have fallen in love with wind-up dolls and forgotten the preeminence of the soul.
We need to break the mental chains that bind us to a technology-?ber-alles dream of warfare--a fantasy as absurd and dated as the Marxist dreams of Europe's intellectuals. Certainly, military technologies have their place and can provide our troops with useful tools. But technologies are not paramount. In warfare, flesh and blood are still the supreme currency. And strength of will remains the ultimate weapon. Welcome to the counterrevolution.
Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, is the author of 21 books, including New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy and the forthcoming Never Quit the Fight.
Geo Political matters
Reply #77 on:
May 05, 2006, 07:42:49 AM »
The Enemy at the Gates
// Dick Cheney practically gives a new Fulton Speech
At the ?Common Vision for a Common Neighborhood? conference in Vilnius yesterday, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney gave a programmatic speech on relations between the West and Russia. He criticized the Kremlin's domestic policy ad accused Moscow of ?blackmail,? ?intimidation,? ?undermining the territorial integrity of its neighbors? and ?interference in democratic processes.? As the G8 summit in St. Petersburg approaches, Russia is being given the choice between ?returning to democracy? and ?becoming an enemy.?
Until yesterday, the White House preferred to criticize Kremlin policies only through press secretaries. U.S. President George W. Bush and politicians close to him spoke of Russia as a reliable partner in the fight against international terrorism, even while admitting to certain disagreements. Cheney's Vilnius speech has broken that tradition and was the most pointed declaration by an American leader since the end of the Cold War.
The theme of the Cold War ran throughout Cheney's speech. That phrase, first spoken exactly 60 years ago by Winston Churchill at Fulton, was used by Cheney three times. He named the heroes of the Cold War who, in his opinion, made the greatest contributions to democracy: Andrey Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II, Natan Sharansky and Ronald Reagan. He mixed interspersed that list with the names of the ?heroes of our time?: Mikhail Saakashvili, Viktor Yushchenko and Alexander Milinkevich, the Belarusian opposition leader who is now jailed in Minsk. Cheney's words practically point to a renewal of the Cold War, only now the ?front line? has changed. ?The spread of democracy is irreversible. It is to the benefit of al and poses a threat to no one. The system that has provided hope on the shores of the Baltic Sea can bring hope to the shores of the Black Sea and even farther,? Cheney said. ?That which is applicable to Vilnius is applicable to Tbilisi and to Kiev, and it is applicable to Minsk and Moscow as well.?
Mentioning Moscow and Minsk in this context, Cheney identified them as powers opposing democratic states. He then criticized Russian and Belarusian authorities. He spoke shortly but mercilessly about Belarus, saying the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has earned the title of ?last dictator of Europe.? ?There is no place in Europe for that kind of regime. The people of Belarus deserve better,? the U.S. vice president said before turning his attention to Russia.
Cheney briefly listed the charges accumulated against Russia. First, the victories of recent decades are being scaled back as the authorities limit civil rights and the rights of the media, nongovernmental organizations and political parties. Cheney continued that Russia's policies are detrimental not only within the country but beyond it as well. ?No one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor, or interfere with democratic movements. No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,? Cheney said.
Cheney's speech culminated in the assertion that Russia faces the choice of ?returning to democracy? or ?becoming an enemy.? ?There is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russia will generate further success for its people and greater respect among fellow nations,? Cheney said. ?None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy.? But it can be concluded from that statement that the likelihood of that happening is high.
The Baltic and Black Sea region leaders assembled at the conference applauded the U.S. vice president. The leaders of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were present in Vilnius. Cheney's address to then practically identifies their countries as the ?defensive wall? that separates the democratic West from potential hostile Russia. Cheney's speech was full of praise for the ?new democracies.? He thanked the ?brave leaders? of the color revolutions for proposing the summit and noted the success of the Baltic states ?one the provinces of an empire, ancient nations whose sovereignty was stolen? that were able to throw off imperial dictatorship and the command economy. He gave a rather lengthy description of democratic value, hinting that democracy is now being threatened, although without stating directly where that threat was coming from. ?I don't think I have to mention what the alternative is [to democracy]. You have all seen it and lived through it.? He went one to list centralized control, intimidation of political opponents, merciless corruption, ever-present violence, national decline, economic stagnation ?that no rational person could want.?
Cheney ended his speech by mentioning the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg. The leading developed countries will make it clear to Russia there that it has nothing to fear and can only win if there will be a ?strong democratic state? within its borders. In other words, an answer is expected from Russia at the G8 summit about which of the two relationships with the West it has chosen. That is bad news for the Kremlin, which has grandiose political and propagandistic plans of its own for the summit.
by Mikhail Zygar
Geo Political matters
Reply #78 on:
May 05, 2006, 05:14:45 PM »
More on this:
China, Russia, U.S.: Washington's Strategic Insults
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 4, delivering a critical message toward Russia that raised Cold War imagery and urged Moscow and its allies to pursue democracy. The speech followed hard on the heels of "accidental" insults Washington dealt to Chinese President Hu Jintao on his recent White House visit. The incidents' timing suggests Washington is signaling its two largest competitors that though it may be preoccupied with domestic challenges and foreign entanglements, they had best not imagine they have free rein globally in the last years of the Bush administration.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at the Common Vision For a Common Neighborhood conference of Baltic and Black Sea states in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 4, delivering a very clear and critical message toward Russia, raising Cold War imagery and individuals and urging Moscow and its allies to pursue the path toward democracy.
Though the official Kremlin reaction has been muted, Russian media, political analysts and politicians have been much more forthcoming in their response, denouncing Cheney's remarks. Russian online daily Kommersant said Cheney effectively asserted that "Russia faces the choice of 'returning to democracy' or 'becoming an enemy.'" An analyst cited by Interfax said the speech "eliminates the vestiges of strategic partnership between Russia and the United States." Others decried the tough U.S. stance, seen as a reversal of the relationship forged between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While Moscow has tried to play down the speech, Cheney's remarks have clearly raised hackles. The U.S. vice president's speech, coming from a podium in Lithuania, a former Soviet republic turned EU and NATO member, simply poured salt on the wounds created by the sharp words.
Cheney's comments follow close on the heels of the White House's "accidental" humiliation of Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington, D.C., which included both referring to mainland China by Taiwan's moniker, the Republic of China, and allowing a three-minute harangue from a Falun Gong activist on the White House grounds during Hu's welcome address. It seems that Washington has now opened up both barrels and is taking shots at Russia and China. Apparently, Washington is providing a reminder that though the Bush administration might be facing domestic political troubles, and though U.S. forces are still in Iraq, the United States is not too distracted to pay attention to global affairs.
As we noted in our annual forecast, 2006 will be defined by the confrontation between the United States and Russia and China. Russia is growing more assertive in its near abroad, seeking to reverse geopolitical losses incurred during the early stages of the U.S.-jihadist war with Washington's moves into Central Asia and the U.S.-inspired (if not instigated) "color revolutions" around the Russian periphery. China is seeking to balance internal economic instabilities and social unrest by positioning itself elsewhere in the world, seeking levers to use to keep Washington off balance, or at least keep the United States from taking advantage of internal Chinese weaknesses.
Both Russia and China have seen themselves as having a stronger position with the declining poll numbers for Bush, the internal political wrangling in the United States during the 2006 midterm election year and the continued U.S. military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iran issue has simply added one more distraction, as North Korea was before, leaving Beijing and Moscow more room to push their own international agendas without much U.S. resistance.
For its part, Washington has refrained from significant pushes against Russia and China, instead needling where the opportunity presented itself and offering places for cooperation -- in essence seeking to shape, rather than contain, the two Eurasian powers. But Washington has recently viewed Russian and Chinese actions as going perhaps a few steps too far.
Because Russia is a major energy supplier, it feels a certain amount of invincibility. Russia has reasserted its presence in the near abroad, seeking to protect its flanks. In Ukraine, turning off the natural gas this January was only one of the steps designed to bring the country back into the fold. After March 26 parliamentary elections, the pro-Russian Party of Regions won the most votes, proving that affinity for its neighbor is still strong.
Russia has made inroads into Central Asia as well -- Uzbekistan's recent expulsion of U.S. air bases and deals with Russian state-owned monopoly Gazprom are just some examples. Even the Kyrgyz government, installed after the "Tulip Revolution," has been careful to be on good terms with Moscow.
Russia's near-complete domination of Belarus, however, has paid off in the re-election of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Minsk will continue to faithfully follow Moscow, despite Gazprom's proposed rate hikes.
Anti-Russian sentiment remains strong in the first color revolution state, Georgia. Russian efforts to sabotage its territorial integrity by supporting secessionist enclaves have not yet produced results, and agricultural embargoes have only caused Tbilisi to strengthen its anti-Russian rhetoric.
For its part, China has been on a global quest for new energy resources, as well as other raw materials. Beijing has made strong inroads into Africa, is working with Latin America, and is increasing its ties throughout the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, China has largely overcome the earlier perception that it was too big a player, and cooperation with Southeast Asian states is emerging.
China's economic heft is growing rapidly, and while there are internal contradictions within the middle kingdom, China's absorption of raw materials and primary commodities, its ability to influence global commodity prices, and its widening trade imbalance with the United States continue to create rifts in its relationship with the United States. Beijing's conflicts with U.S.-ally Japan, and China's tightening ties with South Korea coming while it fails to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table, are threatening to begin reshaping the Northeast Asian security balance -- at least on the regional level.
Washington's twin rhetorical hits at Russia and China are a reminder to these two regional powers that the United States may seem distracted, but it is certainly well-aware of what is going on globally, and not afraid to pick a fight with either China or Russia -- apparently even simultaneously. This is essentially intended to get Moscow and Beijing to rethink their current strategic planning, to make sure China and Russia do not think they have a free run until the end of the Bush term in two years.
Both the diplomatic slap in Hu's face and Cheney's shot at Moscow have been brushed aside by Washington as insignificant; the Chinese affront being called a mistake and Cheney's speech simply a reaffirmation of the spread of democracy. Washington is withholding the more meaty levers, such as reinvesting money and planners in the color revolutions or stepping back and letting Congress slap a few tariffs on Chinese goods -- but the option of using stronger levers is obviously there.
Beijing and China have accepted these affronts fairly quietly, but internally they are contemplating whether Washington is serious or bluffing. Both can be expected to take steps -- both positive and negative -- to test this. And the first clash could come at the upcoming meeting of the G-8.
Geo Political matters
Reply #79 on:
May 08, 2006, 10:56:20 AM »
TOTALLY ignores the issue of Iranian nukes and related matters, but full of interesting observations by an Indian diplomat:
May 9, 2006
Cheney puts Moscow to the hardness test
By M K Bhadrakumar
Addressing a gathering of leaders from the Baltic states and eastern and southeastern Europe in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius last week, US Vice President Dick Cheney harshly criticized the Kremlin for rolling back human rights and backsliding on democracy as well as using energy as a weapon to browbeat Russia's neighbors.
"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation," Cheney told the
gathering, in remarks intended to be heard in the Kremlin.
He alleged that the Russian government had "unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people" and had taken other actions that might adversely affect relations with other countries. "Russia has a choice to make," Cheney warned, "None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy."
Such harsh public denunciation of Russia by a top US government official is unusual. The media speculation, therefore, was swift, characterizing Cheney's Vilnius speech as a modern-day version of Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech 60 years ago. Yet there was something contrived about Cheney's outburst.
Cheney, the ex-boss of Halliburton, the realist par excellence, does not usually lose sleep over lofty ideals of democracy and freedom. All roads, in his straightforward world view, lead inevitably to Mammon.
Moscow seems to have chosen to take Cheney's speech in its stride. When asked how Cheney would compare to Churchill, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was dismissive: "I would rather not compare these politicians or give this sort of ratings." A middle-level Kremlin functionary said Cheney's speech was "completely incomprehensible". 
Moscow apparently chose not to "revive the escalation mechanism", as the influential president of the Politika Fund, Vyacheslav Nikonov, put it. "Once this mechanism is set in motion, it's unclear how it can be stopped, and then the Cold War may start looming somewhere on the horizon," Nikonov said.
Cheney was putting Moscow to a "hardness test". To what extent will Moscow accommodate US business interests in the Russian energy sector? Will Moscow persevere, no matter what it takes, with efforts to be an influential player on the world stage? Will it persist in its present course of broadening and deepening its strategic partnership with Beijing? Will it continue establishing energy cooperation bilaterally with the European capitals as if the trans-Atlantic alliance didn't exist? Finally, what should be the limits of Russia's "Eurasian" options?
Cheney's speech exhibits a high degree of exasperation in Washington that Moscow has somehow outmaneuvered it in recent years. The central issue is certainly energy, a subject close to Cheney's heart. Some major decisions are in the pipeline, as it were. For the Bush administration with its close ties with the US oil industry, this is a truly defining moment.
The single most important issue awaiting a decision by Putin concerns the Shtokman gas fields in the Barents Sea. It will be by far Russia's biggest energy deal for a while. The gas fields hold 3.6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, which is equivalent to about seven times the entire annual consumption of the European Union member countries and which is estimated to supply Russia's exports to the United States for 50 years.
The first phase of the project itself would cost US$12 billion to $14 billion. The gas from the deposit will be pumped through the North European Gas Pipeline to Europe, but Russia is prepared to supply liquefied gas to the US as well provided agreeable conditions can be negotiated. The Americans are extremely keen to get the gas.
Moscow is to award a minority stake to one or more foreign partners to be picked from a short list that includes Chevron and ConocoPhillips of the United States, Norsk Hydro and Statoil of Norway, and Total of France. The foreign companies are vying with one another to offer competitive terms to Moscow.
The Russian side is seeking reciprocal rights for Gazprom to expand into the foreign markets. The retail market for energy in the US or Europe can be highly lucrative. (According to a study undertaken by Goldman Sachs, the retail price for gas in France is 1.9 times that of the wholesale price. The corresponding ratio is 6.7 times in Denmark. On the average, European end users currently pay more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas for what costs their distributors about $230.)
The French and Norwegian bidders for Shtokman are inclined to offer reciprocal business for Gazprom. (German companies offered similar reciprocal deals for Russia in the North European Gas Pipeline project.)
Gazprom is seeking a similar reciprocal deal from Chevron. Russia maintains that "security of demand" is to be guaranteed on par with "security of supply" because the cost of energy production and transport is constantly escalating. The "asset swap" that Russia is offering to its energy customers in essence involves giving its European (and US) partners access to its upstream reserves in return for Russian companies participating in European downstream and power generation.
But the United States remains wary of granting any foothold to Russian companies in the US downstream market. (In any case, the US Congress would unlikely favor any such proposal.) Thus the US would rather like the EU to take a unified position - and has raised the supposed risk of "excessive" energy dependence on Russia. The European Commission has lately proposed a single EU-Russia framework agreement under which Gazprom would have to sell its gas at the EU border.
But this is easier said than done. Putin sarcastically referred to the paradigm when he said recently in Tomsk, "We keep hearing the danger of becoming dependent on Russia, and about the need to restrict the access of Russian companies ... When they [foreign companies such as Chevron] come here, it is called 'investment' and 'globalization', but when we plan to go somewhere, what is it? It is called 'expansion of Russian companies'. We need to agree on common rules of the game."
Washington is annoyed that Moscow has not caved in despite high-level US political intervention, and is holding back a decision on the Shtokman gas fields. Meanwhile, the recent agreements between Gazprom and its German partners and likely progress in the Russian moves to acquire energy assets in Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, Hungary and other countries in Europe are further strengthening Russia's negotiating hand.
Equally, Washington apprehends an incremental erosion of its trans-Atlantic leadership if Russia continues to firm up energy cooperation at the bilateral level with the European countries. This would have serious consequences for the United States' global domination. The Vilnius forum itself was a hasty attempt at establishing US leadership over an increasingly disparate, quarrelsome flock.
Not only that: at some point, European countries may actually begin to resent the United States' intrusive attitude on issues concerning their energy security. European opinion itself is far from consensual either. In an interview with Financial Times recently, Wulf Bernotat, the chief executive officer of Eon (Germany's largest gas and electricity company), pointed out, "Russia has a pipeline system geared entirely toward the West. They make their money exclusively from exports; they don't make any in Russia itself. So they need the exports to be profitable to be able to finance the investments needed to maintain such a high level of production ...
"They [Russia] have got the stuff we want and need. I find the Gazprom supply debate completely exaggerated and overblown. It is, to be frank, absolute nonsense."
A second concern of Washington's "energy dialogue" with Moscow involves Russia's growing cooperation with China. The March report of the Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the influential US think-tank, on the directions of US-Russian relations had an intriguing passage: "The future policy and development of Russia and China will determine whether the group of the leading world powers is divided into two blocs based on differences in political regime ... or even into two military blocs. So far it is still a long way to such a development of events, but there are certain aspects of Russian-Chinese relations that in the event of a rapid expansion of cooperation would bolster these tendencies."
The CFR report was so paranoid about Russia-China cooperation that it urged Washington to "point out to the Russian leadership the advantages of membership in a 'single club' of great powers, as well as the threats that would arise if it were divided".
The heart of the matter is that so long as China remains critically dependent on energy supplies from the Persian Gulf region, it will remain vulnerable to US pressures. Washington calculates that the long supply routes through the Strait of Malacca can be easily throttled, thus bringing China's economy to its heels if it chooses to do so at any given point.
In the overall US geostrategy, therefore, China must be prevented from obtaining oil bypassing the Malacca transit zone. China can break out of this extreme vulnerability to US blackmail only if it succeeds in lining up alternative sources of energy transiting through territories that are beyond the United States' reach.
Three such potential sources exist - Russia, Central Asian countries, and Iran. Washington had assumed that for a variety of reasons, there were insurmountable obstacles to any meaningful advancement of Sino-Russian cooperation. In retrospect, Washington grossly miscalculated by subscribing to its own propaganda about the inherent contradictions in a Sino-Russian rapprochement.
But there is a realization now, bordering on disquiet, in Washington that Russia and China have reached a level of mutual understanding on regional and international issues that may have already begun to work against US global domination.
This is particularly evident in the field of energy. Russia is keen to secure a toehold in the lucrative Chinese market, so much so that that its oil-pipeline company Transneft is considering forthwith supplying 1.3 million tons oil from West Siberia through Kazakhstan (the Atasu-Alanshankou pipeline) to China pending the construction of Russia's own Pacific oil pipeline. (The thesis of US strategic "experts" was all along that Russia and China would compete over energy.) Russia's No 1 oil company Rosneft is getting ready to enter the Chinese retail market.
China is rapidly expanding its energy cooperation in the Central Asian region - another energy source that lies far beyond the long arm of US geopolitical manipulation. Meanwhile, the Financial Times recently reported that Iran is also entering as a protagonist in the game. The FT report warned: "Analysts are concerned that an overall hardening of US policy towards Moscow could drive Russia and Iran, which together hold nearly half the world's gas reserves, into an energy-based alliance. A senior financier told the FT that Iran, which is competing with Gazprom to provide gas to the Caucasus, was considering a switch in policy by selling its gas to Russia through Central Asia because the US was blocking its access to Europe and India."
Now, that's just a step away from Iran linking up with the Chinese market via Central Asia. With the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the doldrums because of US pressure, Iran is at liberty to focus on China as its principal Asian market for natural gas.
If the US had not been foolish enough to torpedo the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) efforts aimed at striking an agreement on the Iran nuclear issue, that would have led to an improved energy dialogue between Europe and Iran - making Iran a rival to Russia on the European gas market. Today, on the other hand, Russia (and China) is likely to seize the initiative - though Iran's own preference would have been Western Europe. As Iran would see it, an agreement with Western Europe would have obtained for it a broad political and economic rehabilitation in the international community.
There was a time not too long ago when Gazprom wanted to enter Iran's gas fields, but Tehran balked, and began insisting that any Russian-Iranian cooperation should also include transit projects. Iran is an ambitious country. But the situation is radically different today because of shortsighted US policies toward Iran.
The specter that is now haunting the US is the likely admission of Iran as a full member in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Will that happen at the forthcoming SCO meeting on June 15? Possibly. The only counter that US would have is to go ahead and militarily occupy Iran.
The third big "happening" on the Russian energy front that Washington finds disconcerting is the expected $20 billion initial public offering of Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil company, through the London Stock Exchange. The deal could turn out to be the biggest IPO in history.
The Wall Street Journal reported, "Advisers including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan took Rosneft president Sergei Bogdanchikov to London in February for a presentation. So many fund managers and analysts turned up that some had to stand through lunch."
The Journal commented: "The offering, which could come as early as July, would be much more than a financial triumph for the Kremlin ... a resounding endorsement of the Kremlin's drive to retake control of the strategic energy sector in a country that is the world's top producer of natural gas and No 2 in oil. At a time of soaring oil prices, President Vladimir Putin sees Russia's energy wealth as a critical source of international influence.
"Less than a decade ago, Russia defaulted on tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt, decimating investors' holdings and leading many never to return. Now, the Russian stock market is one of the world's best performers."
Washington has gone ballistic. American billionaire-financier George Soros (who also funds "color revolutions") warned foreign investors to steer clear of the flotation. Buying the Rosneft stock, Soros warned, would legitimize Putin's "authoritarian regime" - and "cement" the West's growing energy dependence on Russia. The paradox is that Rosneft's IPO is a positive sign that Russia wants to integrate with the West. But the US does not want this sort of "integration" of Russia with the Western world.
Again, Morgan Stanley Investment Bank just reported that the cost of one share of Gazprom is due to touch $140. That means the total exchange capitalization of Gazprom will add up to $330 billion. This comes on the heels of the emergence of Gazprom as one of the three largest companies in the world - even ahead of Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Russia has offered to pay back the entire foreign debt of the old Soviet Union (amounting to $29 billion) to the Paris Club within this year by itself. According to the estimates of the Goldman Sachs Investment Bank, in the next 20 years Russia is sure to emerge as the economically most powerful country in Europe, with a gross national product of $3 trillion.
Clearly, Russia's "globalization" is proving successful on several fronts. Washington must feel vindicated. But it isn't the sort of "globalization" that the administration of US president Bill Clinton had in mind when it encouraged Boris Yeltsin's Russia to "globalize". When Washington said Russian economy must "globalize", it actually meant Russia must surrender its sovereignty over economic policies and allow "asset-stripping".
Why is the US so upset over the Rosneft IPO or Gazprom's success story? First and foremost, that has a crucial bearing on the legislation in the pipeline in Russia regarding foreign investment. Russia's critical need of investments in the oil and gas industry does not need reiteration. The US had expected that the need of foreign investment alone would eventually prompt Russia to transfer mineral resources to foreign partners to exploit - in effect, by abandoning Russia's sovereign rights. But Russia's oil and gas industry is increasingly finding itself in a position to mobilize investment capital on its own terms.
Second comes the issue of extraction. The growth in Russia's oil and gas extraction has slowed down considerably recently. For meeting the requirements of the growing domestic market as well as for fulfilling the export commitments to Europe (and Asia-Pacific), Russia simply has to concentrate on boosting extraction. This means active incorporation of deposits in East Siberia and the Far East - requiring huge inputs of capital.
A third aspect regards technology. Russia clearly needs Western partners in carrying out extraction involving high technology in difficult conditions. A fourth aspect concerns transport links. The old pipeline system of the Soviet era needs to be replaced, and new lines laid both toward Europe and toward the Pacific.
All these factors affecting the future growth and development of Russia's energy industry are interconnected, and a holistic approach toward them becomes possible only if the industry generates sufficient levels of surplus capital for making investments.
Thus, from the US perspective, its calculations of gaining control over Russia's energy reserves are proving to be a pipe dream. Washington puts the "blame" for this squarely on Putin. The slide began with Putin's crackdown on Yukos and the "oligarchs" - at a moment when US oil majors were hardly inches away from capturing the heights in Russia's energy industry.
Cheney's diatribe in Vilnius last week bears testimony to the degree of frustration in Washington that it has been badly outmaneuvered. Putin depended on Russia's intellectual reserves rather than resort to grandstanding, while steering Russia's transition to an influential and energetic state. The transition was hardly noticeable.
Yet Moscow continues to prevent manifestations of "anti-Americanism" in its policies. Washington, for its part, must somehow keep an extended (and increasingly unwieldy) Euro-Atlantic alliance afloat (under its leadership, of course) despite Moscow's point-blank refusal to lend itself to an enemy image.
1. The following is an official translation of comments by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov to the Russian electronic media regarding US Vice President Richard Cheney's remarks in Vilnius.
I think that a person who holds such a high government post [Cheney] should have the full amount of objective information, but everything indicates he was let down by his assistants or advisers. Thus, for example, we read that opponents of reform in Russia "are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade". I think there is no need to explain to the Russian people in detail what kind of gains those were, when the country had actually found itself on the brink of disintegration. What the Russian leadership is doing now is to ensure that Russia is preserved as a unified, integral, strong state in the interests of its citizens.
Or take the statement that no legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail. We have heard such remarks from the lips of politicians lower in rank, but the US vice president surely has to have the information that over the last 40 years our country, either the USSR or the Russian Federation, has never breached any contract for the supply of oil and gas abroad. It is obvious that this information somehow failed to be conveyed to the vice president likewise.
As to the charges that Russia's government has taken actions that "undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor", what is there to say? In the early 1990s it was at the cost of Russian peacekeepers' lives that the bloodshed was halted both in Georgia and in Moldova, thus saving the territorial integrity of these states. Not to remember that is, I would say, sacrilegious.
Where I can agree with Mr Cheney is that he would like to see the world as a community of sovereign democracies. Russia wants to be and is becoming a sovereign, strong and stable democracy and expects that as such it will perceived in the world arena as an equal partner without whose involvement not one global problem can be solved today.
I think that such remarks will not undermine the efforts which we together with the US, together with Europe and together with other leading countries have been making in order to build a just world without conflicts where all countries will be able to develop in the conditions of stability and democracy; for democracy is needed not only within a state, but also on the international scene. Let us not forget about this.
M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings as ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Reply #80 on:
May 16, 2006, 10:20:40 PM »
By Fred Stakelbeck : BIO| 17 May 2006
Chinese President Hu Jintao's first visit to Riyadh last month to meet with Saudi King Abdullah further strengthened what has become an increasingly dynamic bilateral relationship. "This [visit] will further strengthen the friendship between our two countries and our two peoples as well as expand strategic and friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia," said President Hu. The president's visit comes only three months after King Abdullah's trip to China, the first by a Saudi leader since diplomatic relations were established in 1990.
Sino-Saudi cooperation in the areas of defense, trade, transportation and energy has grown dramatically over the past year, with bilateral trade reaching US$15 billion in 2005, up from US$10 billion in 2004. In the first two months of 2006 alone, bilateral trade reached $2.7 billion, up 43 percent from the same period in 2005.
The driving force behind improving Sino-Saudi relations is China's unrelenting need for energy to sustain its unprecedented 25-year economic expansion. "I think China's strategic interests in the Middle East are clear to all," said Wang Shijie, China's special envoy to the Middle East. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, a market intelligence magazine, Saudi Arabia holds approximately 262 billion barrels of proven oil reserves with crude production running slightly over 10 million barrels per day (bpd). The country also holds natural gas reserves of 235 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), ranking it fourth in the world after Russia, Iran and Qatar.
Saudi Arabia's combined oil and natural gas reserves make it an extremely attractive energy partner for China. China has quickly surpassed Asian rival Japan to become the world's second largest consumer of energy behind only the U.S., with year-to-year increases in oil demand averaging one million barrels per day. Consequently, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has become an increasingly important energy provider for China, accounting for 17 percent of all Chinese oil imports in 2005, or approximately 440,000 barrels per day.
Several joint Sino-Saudi energy development and exploration projects are currently underway or under consideration. China's state-controlled energy conglomerate Sinopec won natural gas exploration rights in the Rub al-Khali Basin in 2004, while Saudi Arabia has agreed to help China upgrade its refinery capacity with the construction of a natural gas refinery in the country's Fujian Province. Discussions surrounding the creation of a strategic oil reserve in southeast China using Saudi crude and the construction of a US$9.3 billion refinery and petrochemical plant in northeastern China have already begun.
For Saudi Arabia, interest in Asia as an energy partner has accelerated over the past year. Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and India already receive 60 percent of all Saudi crude exports and that figure is expected to increase in the future. As the largest potential energy market in Asia, China is an attractive market for Riyadh, as it looks for ways to diversify its customer base away from the U.S. and the EU. "We are opening new channels, we are heading east," Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal said last month.
China has also become an appealing energy partner for Saudi Arabia because of its "hands-off" approach to foreign policy which focuses more on economics and less on political ideology. Arab governments are progressively more wary of Washington's "strings attached" foreign policy that calls for measurable improvement in areas such as democratic reforms, human rights and legal system reform before aid is guaranteed. As a result, a growing number of Arab governments view Beijing as a legitimate option to U.S. control and oversight.
As Sino-Saudi relations have become closer, U.S.-Saudi relations have become more detached and strained. It is no secret that both countries disagree on a number of issues such as Iraq, Iran and Israel-Palestinian relations which continue to complicate the relationship. In addition, the recent UAE-based Dubai Ports World controversy has soured a number of Middle East governments on cooperative agreements with U.S.-based companies. As a result, Middle East countries are more likely now than ever before to entertain offers made by Chinese or other Asian business interests.
For the U.S., China's involvement in Saudi Arabia is an emerging national security concern. In particular, reports that arms agreements were signed by Beijing and Riyadh last month permitting the exchange of Chinese weapons and technology for greater access to Saudi crude are alarming. Moreover, the Saudis have reportedly expressed an interest in replacing their aging CSS2 intermediate-range missile force with more modern Chinese-designed missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The sale of missile technology and sophisticated weapons by Beijing to countries such as Iran, Syria, Libya and the Sudan is already a highly-charged issue for Washington; adding Saudi Arabia to the list of Chinese military clients will certainly elicit a strong response form the Bush administration as well. To counter China's growing influence in Saudi Arabia, Washington will likely arrange for high-level diplomatic meetings in the coming months to clarify existing strategic arrangements and identify areas for possible revision. Discussions covering new or accelerated U.S. defense sales aimed at modernizing the Saudi armed forces, expanded intelligence sharing capabilities, increased U.S. economic investment and trade incentives and greater cooperation in the areas of energy research and development are possible. Above all, the Bush administration will stress its own superior abilities to supply Riyadh with the necessary intelligence and military hardware to repel any prospective regional threat, namely, Iran.
Although both the U.S. and China are not engaged in open conflict, both countries' dependence on Middle East oil makes open confrontation possible. China has concluded that unobstructed access to Middle East oil and natural gas is integral for its continued economic expansion. This, coupled with the diminished prospects for greater U.S. energy diversification by the end of the decade, has resulted in an inevitable global race for precious resources. Tensions will slowly rise and competition will become more acute, as traditional strategic relationships are tested and reconfigured to meet existing challenges.
King Abdullah's close relationship with Beijing reflects a gradual movement by Riyadh away from the West towards the East. A general undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the Iraq War and U.S. foreign policy in general now saturates the Middle East. "We need to maintain links to America, but we are not a gas station," noted Khaled al-Maeena, editor of the Arab News daily. China's insatiable appetite for energy and Saudi Arabia's desire to explore new defense and energy partnerships will influence U.S. Middle East policy in the years ahead.
Fred Stakelbeck is an expert on bilateral and trilateral alliances as they relate to China foreign policy. His writings address the implications of China's emerging regional and global strategic influence and relationships upon U.S. national security. He can be reached at
Geo Political matters
Reply #81 on:
May 24, 2006, 03:30:31 PM »
Geopolitical Diary: The Pentagon's View of China
The U.S. Defense Department has released its annual report on China. The report is not so much a snapshot of Chinese military capabilities as a snapshot of U.S. perceptions of China's military. As such, it is an important document. If the United States believes the things the Defense Department says that China is doing, it will have to reconfigure its strategic posture to cope. And we do not regard this document as a Washington throwaway: It is a genuine representation of American views on Chinese strategy. The United States views China as threatening American control of sea lanes and as considering a first-use option for nuclear weapons. These strike at the core of American strategic interests.
According to the study, the Chinese remain focused on the Taiwan question. They have stationed almost 800 short-range missiles at garrisons opposite Taiwan. Beijing, however, understands that the main challenge to any Chinese attack on Taiwan remains the U.S. Navy. More important, so long as the U.S. Navy controls the waters near China, the country will remain vulnerable to a naval blockade. This did not matter to Maoist China, whose international trade was relatively unimportant. However, for a China that is deeply engaged in international trade, most of it by sea, U.S. naval capabilities present a serious potential challenge to its interests.
The Chinese, according to this report, are not responding by building a fleet capable of challenging the Americans -- something that would take too long and be too technologically daunting and expensive. Rather, the Chinese are deploying long-range missiles designed to attack U.S. surface vessels and submarines, as far out as Guam. According to the report, China "is engaged in a sustained effort to interdict, at long ranges, aircraft carrier and expeditionary strike groups that might deploy to the western Pacific." China reportedly is developing its own weaponry as well as buying Russian systems. According to Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense, the Chinese are developing these weapons for "contingencies other than Taiwan."
Rodman also said that while the United States believes China's pledge that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, the Defense Department is concerned that as Chinese capabilities evolve and strategic realities shift, Beijing's doctrine might shift as well. The DoD view is that there is a major debate under way in China on the subject right now.
From the American point of view, therefore, China is threatening U.S. naval hegemony as well as threatening to become more dangerous with its nuclear force. Either of these views, if sincerely held, means that the United States must act to counter the threat. Obviously, a China capable of and prepared to engage in a first strike represents a crisis of the first order. However, even if that is saber-rattling, the threat that the Chinese are posing to U.S. control of sea lanes is of enormous geopolitical significance.
The United States has dominated the world's oceans since the end of World War II. This has been the foundation of American national security. The Soviets tried and failed to challenge American naval power. As a result, the United States projects its force outward. Others cannot project force inward upon the United States, except as terrorists or in a nuclear strike. But if the Chinese are able to neutralize the U.S. Navy to a distance of several thousand miles from China's coast, the regional balance obviously would be shifted. If the Chinese can increase that range and combine it with a first-strike capability, the entire balance of military power shifts: Nuclear parity plus an open contest for maritime hegemony would introduce an entirely new era.
What the DoD document has said is that the fundamental long-term threat to American interests and security is not the intermittent threat of terrorist strikes by Islamist militants, but the emerging threat to the global naval and nuclear balance that is posed by China. Put differently, if the Pentagon really believes this report, it is fighting the wrong war in the wrong place. The jihadists are a threat to American lives, but China threatens fundamental, global American interests.
Whether the Pentagon's view of the Chinese threat is accurate or not is not the key point right now. That this is the view of the Chinese threat means everything. If this is the view, then it follows that U.S. military expenditures should not go toward Iraq and Afghanistan, but toward securing U.S. control of the western Pacific sea lanes through increased technologies focused on naval and space power.
Obviously, DoD is not suddenly trying to back out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But Defense officials certainly are saying -- whether they know it or not -- that the time has come to close out the war with the jihadists and shift emphasis to containing Chinese power projection. Interestingly, that was the view that Donald Rumsfeld came into office with, before 9-11 happened. He seems to be saying --and we'd bet he reviewed and approved this document -- that it is time to return to those roots.
Not now, but over the next few years, this view will generate a completely different U.S. military posture.
Geo Political matters
Reply #82 on:
June 05, 2006, 07:58:40 AM »
May 31, 2006:
Disarming Warlords a Test for Colombia's Uribe (back to list)
International Analysis Alert Level: Elevated
Rafael says his life as a Colombian paramilitary fighter left him with nothing but dead friends and seven bullet scars. So a year ago he traded fighting for farming at a ranch near Bogota in a program set up by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to demobilize illegal armed groups and prepare them to return to civilian life. "We exchanged guns for shovels," said Rafael, 25, showing a bullet fragment lodged in his leg. "We've changed a lot of things, like the idea we can't live without the war." Full Story
On May 28, 2006, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was reelected overwhelmingly to the presidency, securing a better than expected 62 percent of the popular vote. Pundits largely contribute this unprecedented victory to the substantial decrease in criminal and terrorist activity in Colombia (Country Profile) since 2002 and the reinvigoration of the Colombian economy?a feat largely attributable to record levels of US (Country Profile) military and economic assistance. However, a closer examination reveals a country in flux, alternating between civil war and democratic-capitalistic growth, with international observers not yet sure in which direction the state might head. What is determinable, however, is the awesome power Uribe has acquired in four years and his usage of such power to generate a "successful" conclusion to disarmament talks with Colombia's largest paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) (Group Profile). Granting the AUC a controversial de facto amnesty, Uribe's second term rests largely on the peaceful reintegration of AUC forces into the general populace, while curtailing their illicit narcotics enterprises.
Uribe, throughout the campaign, cited the demobilization of more than 30,000 paramilitary fighters as a key success in ameliorating the lives of Colombians. Local and international human rights groups, however, continue to wonder if demobilization came at far too great a price. Critics have condemned the agreed upon framework law as too lenient toward militia leaders accused of drug trafficking and civilian massacres (WAR Report). The framework law, as passed by the Colombian Congress, calls for AUC members found guilty of crimes against humanity to serve five- to eight-year prison terms, minus credits for good behavior and time spent negotiating. Imprisonment would likely be in some form of "house arrest" in a rural hacienda, similar to the house arrest of renowned drug lord Pablo Escobar. Additionally, disarmed paramilitary fighters would not be subject to extradition agreements with the United States (Country Profile), as membership in a paramilitary group was declared a "political crime" (see the May 17, 2006 Intel Report concerning the AUC disarmament framework).
The Colombian populace granted Uribe considerable leeway throughout the demobilization process, believing leniency was far better than a continued two front war. However, like Uribe and the Colombian Congress, Colombians believed AUC paramilitary personnel would reintegrate peacefully into the general populace, curtailing past nefarious activities. As recent events now indicate, however, factions within the AUC have chosen to continue their war against alleged leftist subversives.
As reported by Amnesty International, paramilitary groups have sent several death threats to prominent human rights organizations that work on issues relating to communities forcibly displaced by the armed conflict in Colombia. The group, Colombia Libre de Comunistas (Colombia Free of Communists), is thought to have the backing the Colombian military, not an unprecedented occurrence in Colombia, as paramilitary groups and the Colombian military have routinely worked in conjunction. The threat was sent via email to 20 organizations working in Colombia and warns "you are going to know something more about us now that we are to continue in power?along with the legitimate Colombian armed forces clearing our countryside and cities of grovellers like you." Human rights organizations are frequently labeled as guerrilla collaborators by paramilitary units and are targeted for assassination or forced disappearance.
Amnesty agreements are predicated on the belief that it is impossible to eliminate all terrorists, necessitating a means of enticing terrorists to terminate their connections to the group. Franco Ferracuti, professor of criminological medicine and of forensic psychiatry at the University of Rome, suggests the state must encourage dissent within the terrorist group and the defection from it, providing a way out. Ferracuti believes this is best achieved by providing a place within the country's political system for members of society with dissenting views. Unfortunately, Ferracuti's writing was referencing ideological terrorism in general and leftist terrorism in particular. The AUC is neither ideological per se nor leftist in nature. Although generally labeled as right wing, the AUC paramilitary has maturated into a narco-trafficking syndicate with certain limited elements remaining devoted to the elimination of leftist guerrillas but emphatically engaged in the pursuit of profit.
Ferracuti, referencing the Italian (Country Profile) government's success in alluring Red Brigade (Group Profile) members to defect, believed a lenient and flexible judicial system would facilitate this exit. However, such amnesties may not be so successful for the Colombian government, as the AUC has a historical role within Colombian politics, eliminating the allure of political participation. Rather than offering political participation, Uribe must allow for the possibility of extradition to the US if AUC members do not discontinue narcotics operations. By allowing for such possibilities, Uribe provides the incentive to abide by disarmament and reintegration agreements. Further, Uribe must adamantly inform AUC personnel that any rearmament or continuation of narco-operations will result in the elimination of the agreed upon framework law. Without such threats, AUC remobilization is likely occur in the near-term.
By Brent Heminger, TRC Staff
Primary Related Group:
Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC)
Secondary Related Group:
Red Brigades (BR)
Tertiary Related Group:
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Russia's Pride & Precedents
Reply #83 on:
June 07, 2006, 06:00:49 PM »
Stanford Review ^ | June 2, 2006 | Tucker Herbert and Diane Raub
Today?s Russia is a strange political animal. It emerged from decades-long Soviet isolation in 1991 with the prospect of beginning a new era. Many hoped that Russia would finally join the ranks of the G8 as a Western-style democracy. The yoke of authoritarianism, however, is not easily broken. Democracies are not created overnight, and the Russian Federation is no exception. Over the past fifteen years, both Boris Yeltsin and his successor Vladimir Putin have made a great show of some democratic reforms, and the world has seen Russia undergo considerable changes. But the Russia that is emerging is not a Western-style liberal democracy.
Russia under President Putin holds fundamentally different values from the U.S., and operates under different assumptions. Justice, liberty, and equality have entirely different meanings in Putin?s democracy. Regardless of arguments that Putin uses to claim that he governs a free society, Russia receives a Freedom House ranking of 168th of 192 countries in terms of political rights. The World Economic Forum places it 84th out of 102 countries in independence of the judicial system, and Transparency International places it 126th out of 169 countries in terms of corruption.
Just how serious is this divide between Russian and American political values? The short answer is very serious. The long answer can be found in a two-pronged analysis: first, an analysis of the handling of some salient international issues facing both the U.S. and Russia; and second, a glimpse into recent Russian domestic trends which offer insight into Russian motivations and values. The Russians may pose no immediate threat to U.S. interests?but they are still sitting on the opposite side of the chess board. Some day, an issue will arise which could induce Russia to start the game: and Russia has few qualms about exerting her power against U.S. democratic interests.
Russia?s foreign policy towards its neighbors is often characterized as domineering and brusque. There is little respect for democratically elected leaders. The Kremlin keeps no secret of their preferred victor in the elections of states which they consider within their sphere. When a former-Soviet ally elects pro-Western democratic leadership, the Kremlin claims the CIA must be involved. Russia tacitly supports break-away republics in both Georgia and Moldova. Most recently, Russia has barred exports of Georgian wines and bottled water because of ?health concerns? which Russian officials have failed to validate?again, Russia does not approve of Georgia?s democratically elected leader. They affirmed their endorsement of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan following the massacre he ordered of hundreds of political demonstrators, despite swift condemnation from the U.S. and European Union. Putin is one of the only allies of the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
With regard to the Middle East, Russia is at times pragmatic while at other times blatantly opportunistic. Their reception of the newly-elected Hamas leadership of the Palestinian Territories was a calculated and measured response that sought to contrast the reactions of the United States and the European Union, while gaining favor in the eyes of other Arab states. Although Russia is making efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, Russia does not fear for the security of Israel in the same way that the West does. Russia?s proposed sale of truck-loaded missiles to Syria is just absurd. Russia will support America?s war on terrorism, so long as it fulfills its own ends. By labeling certain groups as terrorists, Putin has justified the use of intensive force against the Chechnyans. Russia?s participation in the War on Terror has served as validation of its military buildup.
Russian defense officials are making a concerted effort to revamp the Russian military. Most recently, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced widespread cuts in the number of conscripts and officers as part of an effort to make the army more efficient and professional. Moscow is also pouring resources into making the remainder of the army more powerful. So far these resources have helped to deploy a strategic missile regiment of a quality ?unmatched by world rivals?; to develop a new nuclear-powered submarine armed with sea-launched ballistic missiles; and to significantly increase the number and level of large-scale military exercises. In a January letter to the Wall Street Journal, Ivanov outlines the motivations behind Russia?s ?profound and comprehensive modernization? of their armed forces. He emphasizes that Russia intends to use these new forces to thwart any political processes that carry the potential to ?change the geopolitical reality in a region of Russia?s strategic interest?. He condemns ?interference in Russia?s internal affairs by foreign states?either directly or through structures that they support? and specifies that ?our top concern is the internal situation in some members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the club of former Soviet republics, and the regions around them.? Although Ivanov insists that he is not ?saber-rattling,? his words are chillingly reminiscent of Cold War rhetoric. Russia has also contributed to military buildup in other regimes. Most notable is Hugo Chavez?s Venezuela, which has purchased $54 million worth of Russian assault rifles, ammunition, and other light weapons in the past year alone.
China and Russia
A strong Sino-Russo alliance has gradually emerged over the past ten years. Russia and China have made clear their joint desire to achieve a world order that does not orbit around the American superpower. Joint military exercises have demonstrated the possibility that such an order may be reached through means other than peace. Indeed, Russia and China seem to get along better now than they did during the Cold War when they were purportedly comrades allied against the capitalist bastards of the West. In 2005, Russia and China signed a pact ending 40 years of negotiations over centuries-old border disputes. Both nations are pursuing a military buildup in the name of defense of sovereignty; desire to limit U.S. intervention in their spheres of influence; and have established their willingness to support sketchy regimes.
Nevertheless, the two powers remain in competition economically, politically, and militarily. Much of Russia?s industrial sector has been replaced by more efficient Chinese manufacturers. China has gained entrance to the World Trade Organization, while Russia has been left in the cold. China may be moving closer to the West on UN security initiatives. The world seems more patient with China?s human rights abuses than with those of Russia. Relative to Russia, China places more emphasis on its economic dominance than its military might. China has devoted vast amounts of resources to investment in infrastructure and human capital, while remaining tight-lipped about their military developments and insisting upon the peaceful nature of their rise. The future of this Sino-Russian alliance remains to be seen. Judging from recent developments, however, the two neighbors are more than willing to put aside resource squabbles in favor of good old-fashioned anti-American ideology.
Russia is the world?s largest exporter of natural gas and the second-largest international oil exporter. In the past year, Putin has demonstrated that he is not skittish of using Russia?s abundant resource exports as a tool of political manipulation. For a few days in early January, Russia cut off natural-gas deliveries to the Ukraine after a dispute over an extreme price hike. Many believe this was a form of punishment directed at Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko for his Westward orientation. Border explosions in gas pipelines running to similarly democratic Georgia have also raised suspicions. The E.U. draws 25% of its natural gas from Russia. E.U. member states are watching Russian oil politics with apprehension while scrambling to diversify their foreign suppliers.
The domestic structure of the Russian oil industry is another cause for concern. In recent years, Putin has cozied up to state-run energy giants, while building an environment increasingly less friendly to the private energy industry. Russia?s oil has played a significant role in fueling 6% growth rates since 1998. Oil wealth is a double-edged sword; if international oil prices fall once again they can drag Russia?s economy with them. But for now prices are high and Russia is reaping the benefits.
Though Putin has continued to lower taxes and increase pro-market incentives that encourage consumer spending, some of his policies look dangerously similar to state centralization. In December 2005, one of President Putin?s economic advisors resigned in protest over declining political and economic freedom; and the heads of pro-democracy Russian NGOs complain routinely of government harassment and efforts to silence them. The government has passed legislation that declares certain international NGOs illegal in Russia. The Duma has given Putin the authority to appoint regional governors. Corruption is such that bribes regularly determine the outcomes of court cases. The lack of freedom in the press stifles accountability and calls into question the legitimacy of this democracy.
Russia is no longer the rival superpower it used to be. In the past two decades, Russia has suffered considerable losses to its military clout and political influence. From a Russian perspective, Putin can be seen as a great leader who has restored Russian pride. The economy has rebounded and boomed since he took office in 1999. His economic reforms have coincided with increased investment and consumer confidence. Russia justifies its own interference in the surrounding region by citing cases of U.S. ?intervention,? despite the more democratically-inclined nature of the approach used by the United States. This belies the fact that the two states have fundamentally different political systems and values. The emerging Russia, in some ways, is as diametrically opposed to U.S. values as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. Putin is playing a different game than his Soviet predecessors, but it is still a game which pits U.S. interests against Russian. Putin has made clear that he does not attach the same value to liberty, democracy, and peaceful rule that the U.S. does. The U.S. must beware of these differences and understand the Russian psyche when forming U.S. foreign policy.
Geo Political matters
Reply #84 on:
June 26, 2006, 11:38:59 AM »
Order Code RS21968
Updated June 15, 2006
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Iraq: Elections, Government, and Constitution
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Elections in 2005 for a transition government (January 30, 2005), a permanent
constitution (October 15), and a permanent (four year) government (December 15)
were concluded despite insurgent violence, progressively attracting Sunni participation.
On May 20, a unity government was formed as U.S. officials had been urging, but it is
not clear that the new government will be able to reduce ongoing violence. (See CRS
Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.)
After Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) deposed Saddam Hussein in April 2003, the
Bush Administration linked the end of U.S. military occupation to the adoption of a new
constitution and national elections, tasks expected to take two years. Prominent Iraqis
persuaded the Administration to accelerate the process, and sovereignty was given to an
appointed government on June 28, 2004, with a government and a permanent constitution
to be voted on thereafter, as stipulated in a Transitional Administrative Law (TAL, signed
March 8, 2004 [http://cpa-iraq.org/government/TAL.html]. Elections were held on
January 30, 2005, for a 275-seat transitional National Assembly; a provincial assembly
in each of Iraq?s 18 provinces (41 seats each; 51 for Baghdad); and a Kurdistan regional
assembly (111 seats). The Assembly chose a transitional ?presidency council? (a
president and two deputies), a prime minister with executive power, and a cabinet. The
transitional Assembly was to draft a constitution by August 15, 2005, to be put to a
referendum by October 15, 2005. The draft could be vetoed with a two-thirds majority
of the votes in any three provinces. A permanent government, elected by December 15,
2005, was to take office by December 31, 2005. If the constitution was defeated, the
December 15 elections would be for another transitional National Assembly (which
would re-draft a constitution).
January 30 Elections
The January 30, 2005, elections, run by the ?Independent Electoral Commission of
Iraq? (IECI), were conducted by proportional representation (closed list); voters chose
among ?political entities? (a party, a coalition of parties, or individuals). Seats in the
Assembly and the provincial assemblies were allocated in proportion to a slate?s showing;
any entity receiving at least 1/275 of the vote (about 31,000 votes) won a seat. A female
Congressional Research Service ? The Library of Congress
candidate occupied every third position on electoral lists in order to meet the TAL?s goal
for at least 25% female membership. A total of 111 entities were on the National
Assembly ballot: 9 multi-party coalitions, 75 single parties, and 27 individual persons.
The 111 entities contained over 7,000 candidates. About 9,000 candidates, organized into
party slates, ran in provincial and Kurdish elections.
In the January 30 (and December 15) elections, Iraqis abroad were eligible to vote.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was tapped to run the ?out-of-country
voting? (OCV) program. OCV took place in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France,
Germany, Iran, Jordan, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Britain, Netherlands, and the United
States. (See [http://www.iraqocv.org].) About 275,000 Iraqi expatriates (dual citizens
and anyone whose father was Iraqi) registered, and about 90% of them voted (in January).
The Iraqi government budgeted about $250 million for the January elections, of
which $130 million was offset by international donors, including about $40 million from
the European Union. Out of $21 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds, the United States
provided $40 million to improve IECI capacity; $42.5 million for Iraqi monitoring; and
$40 million for political party development, through the International Republican Institute
and National Democratic Institute. OCV cost an additional $92 million, of which $11
million was for the U.S. component, but no U.S. funds were spent for OCV.
Violence was less than anticipated; insurgents conducted about 300 attacks, but no
polling stations were overrun. Polling centers were guarded by the 130,000 members of
Iraq?s security forces, with the 150,000 U.S. forces in Iraq available for backup. Two
days prior to election day, vehicle traffic was banned, Iraq?s borders were closed, and
polling locations were confirmed. Security measures were similar for the October 15 and
December 15 votes, although with more Iraqi troops and police trained (about 215,000)
than in January. Polling places were staffed by about 200,000 Iraqis in all three elections
in 2005. International monitoring was limited to 25 observers (in the January elections)
and some European parliament members and others (December elections).
Competition and Results. The Iraqi groups that took the most active interest in
the January elections were those best positioned: Shiite Islamist parties, the Kurds, and
established secular parties. The results of this and the December 2005 election are shown
in the table below. The most prominent slate was the Shiite Islamist ?United Iraqi
Alliance? (UIA), consisting of 228 candidates from 22 parties, primarily the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da?wa Party. The first
candidate on this slate was SCIRI leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim; Da?wa leader Ibrahim
al-Jafari was number seven. Even though radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
denounced the election as a U.S.-led process, 14 of his supporters were on the UIA slate;
eight of these won seats. The two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
(PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) offered a joint 165-candidate list.
Interim Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi filed a six-party, 233-candidate ?Iraqi List? led by
his Iraqi National Accord (INA) party.1
Sunni Arabs (20% of the overall population), perceiving electoral defeat and
insurgent intimidation, mostly boycotted and won only 17 seats spread over several lists.
1 See CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.
The relatively moderate Sunni ?Iraqi Islamic Party? (IIP) filed a 275-seat slate, but it
withdrew in December 2004. The hard-line Iraqi Muslim Scholars Association (MSA),
said to be close to the insurgents, called for a Sunni boycott.
After the election, factional bargaining over governmental posts and disagreements
over Kurdish demands for substantial autonomy delayed formation of the government.
During April and May, the factions formed a government that U.S. officials said was not
sufficiently inclusive of Sunnis, even though it had a Sunni (Hajim al-Hassani) as
Assembly speaker; a Sunni deputy president (Ghazi al-Yawar); a Sunni deputy prime
minister (Abd al-Mutlak al-Jabburi); a Sunni Defense Minister (Sadoun Dulaymi); and
five other Sunni ministers. Most major positions were dominated by Shiites and Kurds,
such as PUK leader Jalal Talabani as president and Da?wa leader Ibrahim al-Jafari as
Prime Minister; SCIRI?s Adel Abd al-Mahdi was second deputy president. In provincial
elections, the Kurds won about 60% of the seats in Tamim (Kirkuk) province (26 out of
41 seats), strengthening the Kurds? efforts to gain control of the province.
Permanent Constitution and Referendum
The next step in the transition process was the drafting of a permanent constitution.
On May 10, the National Assembly appointed a 55-member drafting committee, chaired
by SCIRI activist Humam al-Hammoudi. The committee included only two Sunni Arabs,
prompting Sunni resentment, and 15 Sunnis (and one member of the small Sabian
community) were later added as full committee members, with 10 more as advisors.
Missing the August 15 deadline to produce a draft, the talks produced a document on
August 28 that included some compromises sought by Sunnis ? the Shiites and Kurds
declared it final. The Kurds achieved a major goal; Article 136 set December 31, 2007,
as a deadline for resettling Kurds in Kirkuk and holding a referendum on whether Kirkuk
will join the Kurdish region.
The draft (Article 2)2 designated Islam ?a main source? of legislation and said no
law can contradict the ?established? provisions of Islam. Article 39 implied that families
could choose which courts to use to adjudicate family issues such as divorce and
inheritance, and Article 34 made only primary education mandatory. These provisions
provoked opposition from women who fear that the males of their families will decide to
use Sharia (Islamic law) courts for family issues and limit girls? education. The 25%
electoral goal for women was retained (Article 47). Article 89 said that federal supreme
court will include experts in Islamic law, as well as judges and experts in civil law.
The remaining controversy centered on the draft?s provision allowing two or more
provinces together to form new autonomous ?regions.? Article 117 allowed each ?region?
to organize internal security forces, which would legitimize the fielding of sectarian
(presumably Shiite) militias, in addition to the Kurds? peshmerga (allowed by the TAL).
Article 109 requires the central government to distribute oil and gas revenues from
?current fields? in proportion to population, implying that the regions might ultimately
control revenues from new energy discoveries. These provisions raised Sunni alarms,
because their areas have few known oil or gas deposits. Sunni negotiators, including
chief negotiator Saleh al-Mutlak of the National Dialogue Council opposed the draft on
these grounds. Article 62 establishes a ?Federation Council, a second chamber of a size
with powers to be determined, presumably to review legislation affecting regions.
After further negotiations, on September 19, 2005, the National Assembly approved
a ?final? draft, with some Sunni proposals, such as a statement that Iraq has always been
part of the Arab League. However, no major changes to the provisions on new regions
were made and Sunnis registered in large numbers (70%-85% in some Sunni cities) to try
to defeat the constitution. The United Nations printed and distributed 5 million copies.
The continued Sunni opposition prompted U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad
to mediate an agreement (October 11) between Kurdish and Shiite leaders and a major
Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, providing for (Article 137) a panel to convene after
the installation of a post-December 15 election government and, within four months,
propose a bloc of amendments. The amendments require a majority Assembly vote of
approval and, within another two months, would be put to a public referendum under the
same rules as the October 15, 2005 referendum. As of its seating on March 16, 2006, the
new parliament was expected to begin work on amending the constitution, as provided
in Article 137. It has not done so, to date, and might not do so until September 2006,
according to observers. Some believe that the Sunnis are not pressing the amendment
process because they fear that the UIA will not agree to major amendments, and the
Sunnis do not want to force a political confrontation.
The October 15 referendum was relatively peaceful. Results, released October 25,
were 78.6% in favor and 21.4% against, nationwide. The Sunni provinces of Anbar and
Salahuddin had a 97% and 82% ?no? vote, respectively. Mostly Sunni Nineveh province
voted 55% ?no,? and Diyala, believed mostly Sunni, had a 51% ?yes? vote. The draft
passed because only two provinces, not three, voted ?no? by a 2/3 majority. The
Administration praised the vote as evidence that Sunnis support the political process.
December 15, 2005, Elections
In the December 15 elections, under a formula designed to enhance Sunni
representation, each province contributed a pre-determined number of seats to the new
?Council of Representatives.? Of the 275-seat body, 230 seats were allocated this way,
and there were 45 ?compensatory? seats for entities that did not win provincial seats but
garnered votes nationwide, or which would have won additional seats had the election
constituency been the whole nation. A total of 361 political ?entities? registered: 19 of
them were coalition slates (comprising 125 different political parties), and 342 were other
?entities? (parties or individual persons). About 7,500 candidates spanned all entities.
Most notably for U.S. policy, major Sunni slates competed. Most prominent was
the three-party ?Iraqi Concord Front,? comprising the IIP, the National Dialogue
Council, and the Iraqi People?s General Council. The UIA slate formally included Sadr?s
faction as well as other hard line Shiite parties Fadila (Virtue) and Iraqi Hizballah.
Ahmad Chalabi?s Iraqi National Congress ran separately. Former Prime Minister Iyad
al-Allawi?s mostly secular 15-party ?Iraqi National? slate was broader than his January
list, incorporating not only his Iraq National Accord but also several smaller secular
parties. The Kurdish alliance slate was little changed from January.
Violence was minor (about 30 incidents) as Sunni insurgents, supporting greater
Sunni representation in parliament, facilitated the voting. However, results suggest that
voters chose lists representing their sects and regions, not secular lists. The table gives
results that were court-certified on February 10, 2006. According to the constitution:
within 15 days of certification (by February 25), the Council of Representatives was to
convene to select a speaker and two deputy speakers. The Council first convened on
March 16, but without selecting these or any other positions. After choosing a speaker
the Council was to select (no deadline specified, but a thirty-day deadline for the choice
after subsequent Council elections), a presidency council for Iraq (President and two
deputies). Those choices required a 2/3 vote of the Council. Within another 15 days, the
presidency council (by consensus of its three officials) was to designate the ?nominee of
the [Council] bloc with the largest number? as Prime Minister, the post that has executive
power. Within another 30 days, the prime minister designate was to name a cabinet for
approval by majority vote of the Council.
With 181 seats combined (nearly two thirds of the Council), the UIA and the Kurds
were well positioned to continue their governing alliance. However, their alliance frayed
when the Kurds, Sunnis, and Alawi block protested the UIA?s February 12 nomination
of Jafari to continue as Prime Minister. In March 2006, attempting to promote comity,
Iraqi leaders agreed to a U.S. proposal to form extra-constitutional economic and security
councils including all factions. On April 20, Jafari agreed to step aside, breaking the
logjam. On April 22, the Council of Representatives approved Talabani to continue as
president, Abd al-Mahdi to continue as a deputy president, and another deputy president,
Concord Front/IIP leader Tariq al-Hashimi. National Dialogue Front figure Mahmoud
Mashhadani was chosen Council speaker, with deputies Khalid al-Attiya (UIA/Shiite) and
Arif Tayfour, a KDP activist (continuing in that post). Senior Da?wa Party figure Jawad
al-Maliki was named Prime Minister. Maliki, who was in exile in Syria during Saddam?s
rule, is considered a Shiite hardliner, although he now professes non-sectarianism.
New Cabinet. Amid U.S. and other congratulations, Maliki named and won
approval of a 39 member cabinet (including deputy prime ministers) on May 20, one day
prior to his 30-day deadline. However, three key cabinet slots (Defense, Interior, and
National Security) were not filled permanently until June 8 because of factional
infighting. Many believe that Iran has substantial influence over the Iraqi government
because of the presence of several officials who belong to Shiite Islamist organizations
that have had close ties to Iran.
Of the 37 ministerial posts, a total of eight are Sunnis; seven are Kurds; twenty-one
are Shiites; and one is Christian. Kurdish official Barham Salih and Sunni Arab Salam
al-Zubaie are deputy prime ministers. Four ministers are women. KDP activist Hoshyar
Zebari remained Foreign Minister. The Defense Minister is Gen. Abdul Qadir
Mohammad Jasim al-Mifarji, a Sunni who had been expelled from the Iraqi military and
imprisoned for criticizing the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. More recently, he commanded
operations of the post-Saddam Iraqi Army in western Iraq. The Interior Minister is Jawad
al-Bulani, a Shiite who has been associated with a number of Shiite Islamist trends,
including Sadr?s faction, and the Fadila (Virtue) party that is prominent in Basra. The
Minister for National Security is Sherwan al-Waili, a Shiite who is from a different
faction of the Da?wa Party. He has served since 2003 as head of the provincial council
in the city of Nassiriyah and as adviser in the national security ministry. The Minister of
Trade and Minister of Education are from this Da?wa faction. Reflecting Shiite strength:
! Sadr followers are Ministers of Health, of Transportation, and of
Agriculture. Another is Minister of State for Tourism and Antiquities.
! From SCIRI, the most pro-Iranian party, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, is one of
two Vice Presidents. Bayan Jabr is Finance Minister, moving there from
Minister of Interior. The Minister of Municipalities and Public Works
is from the Badr Organization, SCIRI?s militia wing.
! Several officials in the new government are from other pro-Iranian Shiite
organizations. Deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiyah spent time
in exile in Iran. The Minister of Civil Society Affairs is from the Islamic
Action Organization, a Shiite Islamist grouping based in Karbala. A
minister of state (no portfolio) is from Iraqi Hizbollah, which represents
former Shiite guerrilla fighters against Saddam?s regime based in the city
of Amarah. The Minister of Oil (Hussein Shahristani) is an aide to Shiite
leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Minister of Electricity and the
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs are independent UIA Shiites.
Table 1. Election Results (January and December)
UIA (Shiite Islamist); Sadr formally joined list for Dec. vote
(Of the 128: SCIRI~30; Da?wa~28; Sadr~30; Fadila~15; others~25) 140 128
Kurdistan Alliance (PUK and KDP) 75 53
Iraqis List (secular, Allawi); added some mostly Sunni parties for Dec. vote 40 25
Iraq Concord Front (Sunni). Main Sunni bloc; not in Jan. vote ? 44
Dialogue National Iraqi Front (Sunni, Saleh al-Mutlak) Not in Jan. vote ? 11
Iraqi National Congress (Chalabi). Was part of UIA list in Jan. 05 vote ? 0
Iraqis Party (Yawar, Sunni); Part of Allawi list in Dec. vote 5 ?
Iraqi Turkomen Front (Turkomen, Kirkuk-based, pro-Turkey) 3 1
National Independent and Elites (Jan)/Risalyun (Mission, Dec) pro-Sadr 3 2
People?s Union (Communist, non-sectarian); on Allawi list in Dec. vote 2 ?
Kurdistan Islamic Group (Islamist Kurd) 2 5
Islamic Action (Shiite Islamist, Karbala) 2 0
National Democratic Alliance (non-sectarian, secular) 1 ?
Rafidain National List (Assyrian Christian) 1 1
Liberation and Reconciliation Gathering (Sunni, secular) 1 3
Ummah (Nation) Party. (Secular, Mithal al-Alusi, former INC activist) 0 1
Yazidi list (small Kurdish, heterodox religious minority in northern Iraq) ? 1
Number of polling places: January: 5,200; December: 6,200.
Eligible voters: 14 million in January election; 15 million in October referendum and December.
Turnout: January: 58% (8.5 million votes)/ October: 66% (10 million)/ December: 75% (12 million).
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Geo Political matters
Reply #85 on:
July 07, 2006, 10:03:01 AM »
Jailed Italy spy chief questioned over CIA kidnap By Emilio Parodi
25 minutes ago
Prosecutors questioned the jailed deputy director of Italy's military spy agency on Friday, two days after arresting him on suspicion of involvement in the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in 2003.
Marco Mancini, arrested on Wednesday, has said through his lawyer that he had nothing to do with the alleged "rendition" of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.
Prosecutors believe a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off the street in Milan, bundled him into a van and drove him to a military base in northern Italy. He was then flown to Egypt and, Nasr says, tortured under questioning.
Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, also face arrest warrants for the abduction.
"I never kidnapped anyone and I never participated in the kidnapping of anyone. I'm at ease. I have faith in justice," he was quoted as saying by one of his lawyers before the questioning.
Another official from the Sismi military intelligence agency was placed under house arrest and is expected to be questioned by prosecutors next week.
Domestic spying allegations have also sprung up since the arrests. Italian media, without citing sources, reported that prosecutors believe Sismi was building secret archives on journalists, magistrates and even politicians.
That has prompted calls for a parliamentary inquiry and Italy's Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said this week that he was willing to discuss reforming the intelligence services.
The prosecutor's office in Milan declined comment.
Any proof of Italian involvement would confirm one of the chief accusations made by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty in a report last month -- that European governments colluded with the United States in secret prisoner transfers.
"It seems difficult to me that an operation of this sort, which would involve top-level intelligence agents, happened without the political authorities knowing absolutely anything about it," Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said on Thursday.
In Strasbourg, the European Parliament backed up the Council of Europe's accusations in a resolution adopted on Thursday.
It said it was "implausible ... that certain European governments were not aware of the activities linked to extraordinary rendition taking place on their territory."
Nasr's lawyer said he planned to visit Italy within the next two weeks to sue Italy for 10 million euros ($12.73 million) for its alleged role in the kidnapping. He is being held in prison in Egypt without charge, his lawyer, Montasser el-Zayyat, said.
Nasr had political refugee status in Italy. But he faces a pending arrest warrant in Italy on suspicion of terrorist activity including recruiting militants for Iraq.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Geo Political matters
Reply #86 on:
July 11, 2006, 06:36:19 PM »
North Korea: Missile Tests and Regional Impacts
By Rodger Baker
North Korea has done it again. A week after it tested seven missiles, including the long-range Taepodong-2, a resolution condemning its actions has stalled in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), South Korea is criticizing Japan for hyping the launch, Japan is openly discussing changes to its constitutional military restrictions, and the United States is asking China to use its negotiating capabilities to bring some stability to the situation. If North Korea was largely marginalized leading into July, it is now once again the center of attention -- and controversy.
Defying repeated warnings from the United States, Japan, South Korea and even Russia and China, North Korea launched not one but seven missiles, early July 5 local time. Most were short- or medium-range Hwasong or Nodong missiles; the first launch was timed to coincide with the Independence Day launch of space shuttle Discovery in Florida. But it was the third missile, the long-range Taepodong-2 -- believed to be capable of striking Alaska or Hawaii -- that garnered the most attention.
Pyongyang accomplished quite a bit with the July 5 launches. First and foremost, it has shocked the world with multiple tests while managing to avoid a military confrontation with the United States. It has been able to gauge the effectiveness of improvements in its ballistic missile program -- particularly with the short- and medium-range models that pose a more significant threat to regional security than the Taepodong-2. And it has once again exposed and exploited rifts in Washington's Northeast Asian alliance structure.
Moreover, with disagreements stalling any actions against North Korea at the U.N. Security Council, it is China that appears poised to gain the most from Pyongyang's actions.
Taepodong Failure and U.S. Relief
North Korea had placed the Taepodong-2 on its launch platform more than a month prior to the test launch, as if posing it for U.S. spy satellites and reconnaissance aircraft. Several times, Japan or others announced that a launch was imminent, and each time there was a corresponding cry for restraint, and increasingly overt threats from the United States and Japan -- including calls to shoot the missile down in midflight or even strike it before it left the launchpad.
When the Taepodong-2 finally lifted off, at shortly after 5 a.m. local time, it produced more of a fizzle than a bang. The missile didn't fly over Japan. It didn't place a satellite into orbit. It didn't fulfill a bold, unofficial threat by Pyongyang and land off the coast of New York. In fact, it flew within parameters for just 40 seconds, before either breaking up or suffering engine troubles and veering off course. It landed in the waters between North Korea, Japan and Russia a few minutes later.
The failure was quickly labeled by international media, observers and U.S. officials as an embarrassment to the North Korean regime and a demonstration that Pyongyang lacks the wherewithal to pull off a successful test or to threaten the United States. The additional six missiles were written off as little more than upgraded, inaccurate, short-range SCUD missiles. The initial condescension towards North Korea's technical capabilities was coupled with condemnation of the tests and contradictory recommendations for follow-on actions.
But not all the details of the missile's flight path are clear. According to some reports, the missile performed normally for some 40-42 seconds, burned out and fell into the ocean. Other reports suggest a catastrophic failure, fragmentation of the rocket or a fire. Some estimates put the total flight time at around two minutes, while the South Koreans have said total flight time was seven minutes -- during which the missile traveled 499 kilometers from its launch facility.
Given the available information, it is very likely that the missile suffered system damage during the most critical and stressful part of the launch. This is certainly the picture the United States is projecting, and apparently with some relief. In the weeks leading up to the launch, Washington had touted the strengths of the U.S. missile defense system, moved tests forward on the calendar and warned that the option of shooting down the Taepodong-2 was clearly on the table. The failure of North Korea's missile, however, kept Washington from having to make the difficult decision of whether to carry through with that threat and shoot it down in flight.
There were real reservations about acting on those threats. First, while Washington has confidence in the missile defense system, that confidence is not 100 percent. If North Korea had fired its missile and a U.S. intercept failed, it would be the U.S. Defense Department and the Bush administration with pie on its face. More importantly, such a failure could undermine whatever psychological deterrent the missile defense system currently provides.
But perhaps even more troubling for Washington was the prospect that a strike against the North Korean missile would succeed. First, there is a question of where the intercept would take place -- and where the debris would fall. But the second question is how North Korea would respond. Pyongyang has one key consideration in its actions: ensuring regime survival. North Korea structures its defense force and projects a prickly personality in order to dissuade the United States or others from attacking. But Pyongyang knows that its capabilities are limited and that, in a war with the United States, it ultimately would lose.
Though it feels threatened by Washington, the North Korean leadership does not view launching an offensive war as a logical act. North Korea is outgunned and outclassed by the United States; launching an invasion of South Korea or an attack on Japan or the United States would be a surefire way to ensure regime change in Pyongyang. If Washington shot down its missile, however, the North Korean elite might view that as a guarantee of imminent U.S. military action -- and Pyongyang might strike out at its neighbors to inflict as much pain as possible, seeking to disrupt any U.S. invasion or attack plans.
But even barring such a reaction, allowing its missile to be shot out of the sky by the U.S. military would trigger significant stresses for North Korea -- both within the elite and from the broader military and society. The regime would question whether it could maintain cohesion and stability without retaliating. For Washington, then, either a failure or a success of the U.S. missile defense system could lead to open hostilities in Northeast Asia. The best thing Washington could have hoped for was that North Korea's missile would fail -- even before the button would have had to be pushed for the intercept.
And Pyongyang knew this as well.
A Scrubbed Launch?
There is some possibility that North Korea intentionally scrubbed the launch. On the one hand, simply putting the missile away after leaving it on the pad for more than a month would have been viewed as capitulation -- and that could have weakened the internal cohesion of the regime. A launch became necessary practically as soon as the missile was rolled out (unless Washington had given in to Pyongyang's calls for bilateral talks).
But on the other hand, while North Korea has always walked close to the line, it has been very careful not to cross it. A successful Taepodong-2 test could have shifted the strategic calculation of Japan or the United States toward North Korea. Tokyo already had warned that if any part of the Taepodong-2 fell on Japanese territory, it would be considered an act of war. And while Washington has been relatively lax toward North Korea, aside from rhetoric and the occasional economic lever, all bets would be off should North Korea demonstrate the ability to pose a concrete threat to the U.S. mainland.
For Pyongyang, a controlled launch failure presented a better outcome than risking an accident or simply putting away the long-range toy. A picture-perfect satellite launch would have been the best outcome, but it is questionable whether North Korea actually believed it would be able to pull one off. After all, few space programs have ever managed to develop new systems without many failures along the way.
Other Missiles and Regional Tensions
Whether Pyongyang failed to succeed or succeeded to fail, the Taepodong-2 was not the only missile launched that morning. There were many motives behind North Korea's additional launches. First, everyone was already expecting a Taepodong-2 launch; if Pyongyang had launched only that rocket, the psychological impact already would have been discounted. There would be little leverage. Second, if the North Koreans knew they would scrub the Taepodong-2 launch, they would want to demonstrate a variety of capabilities to cover for the failure.
Finally, and more significantly, North Korea is intending again to trade its missile launches for concessions from its neighbors and the United States. If a moratorium on missile tests is coming anyway, this launch represented a final chance to assess improvements to North Korea's missile systems, particularly as the country so rarely tests its ballistic missiles. Testing six short- and intermediate-range Hwasong and Nodong missiles -- the real bulk of North Korea's missile force -- would allow the country's military to learn more in a single day about their own capabilities and upgrades than they had in the entirety of the preceding decade.
It is these overlooked missiles that are the true face of North Korean missile technology. Pyongyang's Nodong missiles have the capability of reaching most of Japan, including U.S. bases in Okinawa. North Korea has more than 100 of these mobile missiles, making them an extremely valuable commodity. And its short-range Hwasong series can strike anywhere in South Korea and potentially parts of Japan.
The combination of short-, medium- and long-range missile tests helps to explain the political intent behind the July 5 launches. Dividing any coalition that forms against it has been a key aspect of North Korean foreign policy. The regime in Pyongyang has played skillfully on the differences in strategic thinking of trilateral allies Japan, South Korea and the United States. The current diplomatic spat between Tokyo and Seoul over the extent to which North Korea's missile tests should be dramatized is a key example of just how easily these rifts are exploited. The time and effort the United States is expending to convince the world that Washington and Seoul are on the same page is another.
Stalled at the Security Council
In the UNSC discussions, Russia is expected to abstain from any resolution to punish North Korea -- but China well might veto one, so Tokyo and Washington are delaying any vote on the issue. But though Moscow is not actively joining in attempts to have North Korea sanctioned, Russian authorities have found it difficult to conceal their frustration with Pyongyang. What is clear from initial statements, particularly about the safety of Russian ships and aircraft in the missile test zone, is that the North Koreans never bothered warning Russia before lobbing missiles off its coast.
Amid all of this, China appears to be the least fazed by the North Korean tests.
But China also may have had prior notice about the launches. Initial comments credited to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill suggest that China was notified about the tests before they occurred. Officials in Beijing have countered that they were told of the launches a few hours before North Korea formally announced them -- but still days after they actually had taken place. Either way, the Chinese once again have found the world turning to them for a solution.
Given the Security Council deadlock, China is the only viable path to negotiations with North Korea. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Bolton has said the Security Council vote was delayed so that diplomacy through China could continue. Washington and Seoul both have called for Beijing to talk to Pyongyang, and the Chinese already had conveniently arranged for a relatively high-level delegation to visit North Korea.
For China, the missile launches have reinforced Beijing's importance to the United States and even Japan. Neither Washington nor Tokyo is prepared to strike back at North Korea militarily -- over either the missile tests or the ongoing nuclear crisis. Both have opted for sanctions and attempts to isolate North Korea, but these paths require the assistance and participation of South Korea and China. And even if Seoul were fully on board, China would remain as North Korea's primary lifeline. China can undermine any U.S. efforts to isolate or punish Pyongyang -- or it can facilitate dialogue.
In the weeks leading up to the missile tests, Beijing had proposed various ways to restart the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program -- talks from which both Washington and Pyongyang had basically walked away. As the primary coordinator and host of the talks, Beijing has leverage with all the participants -- but China found few takers (aside from South Korea) for its recent proposals. All of that changed, however, when North Korea actually tested the missiles. Washington sent envoys to Beijing and held out the possibility of bilateral talks with Pyongyang (which North Korea has demanded in order to discuss economic sanctions and frozen assets) on the sidelines of the six-party discussions.
While it is not certain that China facilitated the North Korean missile tests, it does seem that Pyongyang was certain the tests wouldn't trigger China to turn on it. If Beijing were truly upset, it could make that rather clear to North Korea in very painful ways. It hasn't. Rather, the Chinese have called on all parties to return to dialogue -- dialogue facilitated by and benefiting China. Meanwhile, North Korea is sitting back and studying the deadlock at the U.N. Security Council, the cracks in the U.S.-South Korea-Japan alliance, and the fact that the world's attention has again turned back toward Pyongyang.
North Korea considered its 1998 Taepodong-1 launch a brilliant success. Only two years later, Pyongyang had gone from being an international outcast and sidelined nation to the center of diplomatic activity -- with normalized relations across Europe and with Canada and Australia. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il hosted then-South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in Pyongyang for the first ever inter-Korean summit in 2000. North Korea gained economic and diplomatic ties and began to break past the constraints of a relationship that had been based primarily on U.S. pressure and Chinese handouts.
Pyongyang sees the same sorts of benefits in its future this time around. It has grown expert at creating artificial crises, from which it reaps economic and political benefits in exchange for merely maintaining the status quo.
In recent years, Washington has attempted to simply ignore North Korea rather than giving in to its temper fits. After all, if a kid in a toy store holds his breath while demanding that a parent buy a new toy, doing so only encourages the behavior -- whereas waiting for the kid to pass out and then start breathing again puts the kibosh on the temper fits. Or at least, that is the theory.
But North Korea always has an extra ace up its sleeve: geography. If the issue were only between North Korea and the United States, Pyongyang would have been ignored into submission years ago. But while its Taepodong-2 failed, its regional missiles proved quite effective. And neither Seoul nor Tokyo can feel as confident as Washington that North Korea really won't do something too crazy if left to stew in its own isolation. When Washington turns a deaf ear, Pyongyang pokes Tokyo and Seoul -- and when they cry out, the United States is drawn back in.
And until a new option is found to be effective, it seems that Beijing is destined to benefit -- as the only voice that can soothe the savage North Korea.
Geo Political matters
Reply #87 on:
July 28, 2006, 04:17:39 PM »
Surviving in the age of very short-range missiles.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, July 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Melodramatic images of war are now televised all day long. The images out of Israel this week have produced something new for war-soaked living-room audiences. One might call it Katyusha World.
The all-too-visible reality for the inhabitants of Katyusha World is that there is no defense against incoming rocket barrages other than hiding and hoping. The Hezbollah militia has decided to use unguided artillery Katyusha rockets like bullets. They fired more than 1,500 of them this week at Israeli population centers. Hezbollah is believed to possess longer-range missiles made in Syria and Iran for which Israel also has no defense. They would simply land and explode.
It was only a few weeks ago that all of us were learning how to pronounce "Taepodong," a long-range ballistic missile that North Korea periodically lobs as a "test" in the direction of the unprotected population of Japan. After this week it is getting hard to pretend that the threat of missiles is something we don't have to think about.
Up to now Israel has regarded Iran's long-range guided missiles as the primary threat of this sort, and in the 1990s developed the Arrow ballistic missile-defense system. Uri Rubin, former head of the Arrow project, told me in an interview from Israel this week that the relatively poor accuracy of the cheap Katyushas has been an argument against investing in an expensive anti-Katyusha defense system. This cost-comparison calculus was one reason Israel shelved plans to deploy Northrop Grumman's THEL system, whose lasers routinely have shot down Katyushas at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Speaking this week about the earlier decision, Mr. Rubin said, "You also have to compare the cost of no defense"--for lives or infrastructure.
Mr. Rubin shared with me an unpublished paper he wrote with Dan Hazanovsky on "The Emerging Threat of Very Short-Range Ballistic Missiles," or VSBMs. In times past, the world worried about huge, Soviet-style missiles. Mr. Rubin says smaller, free-flying rockets are now evolving into relatively sophisticated and accurate ballistic missiles, "thanks to the steep decline in the cost of accuracy--the falling prices of onboard inertial and satellite navigation systems, the availability of cheap, commercial grade, high-speed computing power and low-cost control systems." That is, the same dynamic that makes cheap, fast electronic products available to consumers will do the same to electronic missile weaponry.
Very short-range missiles fall outside any existing export-control regime. China is a primary seller, or proliferator, of missiles and technology. At its International Aviation and Space Exhibition two years ago, China for the first time displayed its B611 short-range missile with a range of 95 miles.
Where would one use a VSBM? Richard Speier, a former Pentagon missile specialist, says Seoul "is a sitting duck for Frog-7s," a short-range missile with a three-minute flight time that North Korea successfully test-fired in May 2005. The Straits of Taiwan comes to mind, as do various border cities in Pakistan, India or Kuwait. These small missiles can carry chemical or biological agents. Uri Rubin calls them "ideal weapons for terrorizing population centers." It generally requires state power to manage and deploy such weapons, but that power is of course a goal of radical Islam.
Israel's population, with Katyushas raining down on them by the thousands, is a metaphor for the world ahead of commoditized missile weaponry. Not thinking about how to survive in that world is foolhardy. Hezbollah's Katyusha barrage, coming so soon after North Korea's aggressive, highly publicized Taepodong test, elevates all this as a political issue.
Historically the Democratic Party has committed itself to suppressing the development of anti-missile technologies. This opposition dates to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. During the Cold War, when the enemy was the Soviet Union, opponents of missile defense opted for the policy known as mutual assured destruction, or MAD. Sens. Biden, Levin, Kerry and Kennedy all in recent times have spoken out against missile defense. The party's platform in 2000 opposed "an ill-conceived missile defense system that would plunge us into a new arms race." But closing off missile-defense technologies today means we default again to MAD, or a kind of MAD Jr.
This was made explicit last Jan. 19 when French President Jacques Chirac threatened a nuclear strike to deter terrorist attacks on France. "Against a regional power, our choice is not between inaction and destruction," he said. "All of our nuclear forces have been configured in this spirit." In a similar vein, it is generally believed that Japan could--and probably would if necessary--assemble several nuclear devices within 30 days. Whatever the argument in the Cold War years for protecting populations with a strategy of mutual assured destruction, it makes no sense now when negotiating partners such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il represent the antithesis of any known concept of good faith.
As Robert Kaplan pointed out in the Journal last week in his review of "Terrorists, Insurgents and Militias," the biggest strategic problem today isn't past notions of big-power miscalculation but new rogue regimes whose ideology means they "cannot be gratified through negotiations." Absent any in-place protection against the missiles described here, "defense" means either an Israel-type counteroffensive, nuclear retaliation or--the Democratic preference--open-ended diplomacy, cease-fires and negotiation. None of these suffice. Widely available tables showing the proliferation of missiles listed by nation boggle the mind. Put simply, in terms of post-launch, we are behind the curve.
We are heading toward two election cycles amid a world unsettled by missile threats--in the air or on the brink. To the specter of North Korea and Iran delivering WMD by long-range missiles, now add Katyusha-like strikes from very small rockets and missiles. Come 2008, we may see a Republican candidate who understands these issues running against a militarily ambivalent Democrat who has to learn them, like an unguided rocket, on the fly.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Geo Political matters
Reply #88 on:
July 28, 2006, 10:43:21 PM »
Mr cut and paste strikes again !
Is that how you fight. . . . cut and paste moves. . . or do you respond to the situation at hand using your own resources ?
Geo Political matters
Reply #89 on:
July 28, 2006, 11:23:33 PM »
One of the things I see as fit to do is post articles which in my opinion are of a level not commonly found elsewhere. The number of reads per post in the threads which seem to annoy you the most are amongst the highest of this forum-- so many people seem to find them interesting. Regardless, my house, my rules.
I thoroughly "get" the point you have been making from the beginning. Taken by itself, its not a bad point and actually shows some insight. That said, in you I simply have not sensed with whom I wish to engage in conversation. With your posts this evening what communicates to me is you are the sort of person who demands attention whether others want to give it or not.
In my house I am Alpha and I do as I see fit. I gave you clear guidance with the tone of your original posts and I see it hasn't worked. The point is not your conclusions. The point is one of respect and by your own words in other post tonight you do not have it for me.
Our Adventure will continue without you. You're outta here.
Geo Political matters
Reply #90 on:
July 31, 2006, 09:49:31 AM »
China Freezes N. Korean Accounts
A case of North Korea's counterfeit U.S. bills at a bank in Seoul. (AP/Lee Jin-man)
July 26, 2006
Prepared by: Esther Pan
Following a U.S.-led crackdown on North Korea?s money laundering, the Bank of China has frozen millions of dollars of North Korean assets (FT) held in its Macau branch. The newly revealed move is surprising, since China had been reluctant to support U.S. and Japanese efforts (McClatchy) to impose UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang?s July 4 missile tests.
The U.S. efforts have focused on Macau, where the Banco Delta Asia was accused by Washington of laundering counterfeit dollars for North Korea and blacklisted in September 2005 (CNN).
North Korea is reported to have perfected a highly sophisticated counterfeit $100 bill, known as the ?supernote,? which is nearly impossible to tell from its legitimate counterpart (NYT Magazine). In addition to U.S. banknotes, Washington says Pyongyang also peddles counterfeit cigarettes and pharmaceuticals and runs an international drug trafficking operation, all of which bring in between $500 million and $1 billion per year in hard currency?money that goes straight to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. North Korea?s illegal financial activities are detailed in this Congressional Research Service report (PDF).
The sanctions are causing a bleak picture for Pyongyang on the money front. Japan is considering cutting cash remittances (CNSNews.com) to North Korea from ethnic Koreans in Japan, a move that follows Tokyo?s leadership in pushing through UN Security Council resolution 1695 condemning the July 4 missile tests. Japan?s Yomiuri Shimbun calls for international unity on sanctions, saying the measures must have enough bite to prevent Pyongyang from launching further missile tests. But such unity may be difficult to muster. South Korea has refused to condemn the missile tests, instead criticizing Japan and the United States for ?overreacting? (Korea Times). Seoul has been diverging from U.S. interests on North Korea for a while; its attempts to take a more assertive regional role are explained in this Backgrounder. South Korea?s historically combative relationship with Japan has complicated attempts to confront the North.
Nuclear nonproliferation expert Paul Kerr writes in Arms Control Today that the United States, for its part, is extending sanctions to include international firms that do business with or support North Korea. This has led foreign banks and firms to limit their involvement with the Pyongyang regime even further; after the U.S. action against Banco Delta Asia in September 2005, there was a run on the bank as investors rushed to reclaim their deposits.
Pyongyang, reportedly seriously hurting from the U.S. measures, has said it will not return to six-party talks until the financial restrictions are lifted. James Hackett writes in the Washington Times that North Korea?s recent missile tests show U.S. pressure on the regime is working, and calls for that pressure to continue until the regime changes or collapses. But others say the pressure is having the opposite effect, and pushing North Korea to increasingly risky behavior. As this New York Times analysis points out, every time Kim Jong-Il feels his demands are not getting enough attention, he provokes a crisis.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Geo Political matters
Reply #91 on:
August 02, 2006, 03:19:55 PM »
Back to Story - Help
Somali gov't struggles with resignations By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 55 minutes ago
Somali leaders struggled to regroup Wednesday after a week in which 29 ministers quit the government, with the defectors urging the virtually powerless administration to reconcile with Islamic militants who have seized the capital.
Eleven ministers stepped down Tuesday and Wednesday, adding to the 18 who resigned late last week.
For the time being, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's government is secure, because he has the support of more than half the 42 remaining ministers. Of those who resigned only 11 were full ministers; the rest were deputy ministers.
Yet his already weak government ? isolated by the success of the hard-line Supreme Islamic Courts Union ? has been further incapacitated by the resignations. In previous months, five other ministers quit or were fired, though for reasons unrelated to the current crisis.
"The prime minister has failed to talk to the Islamic Union," said Hasaan Abshir Farah, who quit late Tuesday.
The group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, said in a radio broadcast that the former ministers were welcome in his group.
Others also urged the government to at least form contacts with the Islamic group, whose militia seized most of southern Somalia including the capital, Mogadishu. The U.N.-installed transitional government is located in Baidoa, one of the only places in the south not in the Islamic group's control.
In Mogadishu, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Eric Larouche, told journalists that the Somali capital's security had improved, but "there can be no full security unless there is dialogue between all sides in Mogadishu."
Larouche spoke after he and nine other U.N. officials met with top officials of the Islamic group. He said the United Nations wanted to help people displaced by months of fighting in Mogadishu, including providing tents for children to study under when school starts in September.
Abdirahman Janaqaw, the deputy leader of the Islamic courts' executive council, said the U.N. is welcome to reopen its offices in Mogadishu but did not say whether any agreement had been reached.
Somalia's government was formed two years ago with the support of the United Nations to help the Horn of Africa nation emerge from more than a decade of anarchy, but it has no power outside Baidoa, 150 miles from Mogadishu.
Infighting, including the wave of recent resignations, has further weakened the government.
On Wednesday, President Abdullahi Yusuf said a delegation was heading to Khartoum, Sudan, for peace talks with the militants. But the prime minister said the Arab League mediators had postponed the talks, and it was unclear whether the militants planned to show up.
"I don't know why this team is going to Khartoum or who they would represent," Gedi said.
The government has watched helplessly in recent months as Islamic militants seized the capital and much of southern Somalia, imposing strict religious courts and raising fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime. The United States accuses the group of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
On Tuesday, Yusuf told Baidoa residents they have a week to give up their weapons, after which "every single gun" will be seized by force. Somalia's government has no military, but relies on a militia loyal to Yusuf for security.
He did not say why his government had decided on the measure now, but two lawmakers have been shot in Baidoa over the past week, one of them killed.
Foreign ministers from eastern Africa met in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Somalia. The coalition of nations, known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development urged countries in the region to obey a U.N. arms embargo imposed in 1992. All sides in the Somali conflict have violated it.
Associated Press writers Salad Duhul and Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Geo Political matters
Reply #92 on:
August 02, 2006, 03:24:10 PM »
Daily News & Analysis
Friday, July 21, 2006 8:36:00 PM
Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo must be obtained from DNA.
Somali Islamists declare jihad against Ethiopia
MOGADISHU: The leader of Somalia's Islamic courts union on Friday declared a "holy war" against neighbouring Ethiopia, whose troops have moved into the country to protect its weak transitional government.
"The Somali people have to fight against Ethiopia, this is a holy war in which we are defending our country," Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said on local radio, speaking from his native Galgudud region in central Somalia.
"The Ethiopians have invaded our country and we must force them out of the country and this will be a holy war of Jihad."
Aweys' Islamists, who have taken control the capital Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia, have demanded the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopians who according to eyewitnesses sent more military vehicles into Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government, overnight.
In Baidoa, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Mogadishu, residents said at least nine more large Ethiopian military vehicles carrying supplies, but no troops, moved into the town early on Friday.
These followed an initial convoy of more than 100 trucks with several hundred Ethiopian soldiers that witnesses said rolled into Baidoa and surrounding areas Thursday, after Islamist militia advanced on a nearby town.
Ethiopia has said it will defend the transitional government from any attack by the Islamists, who it and the US accuse of harboring extremists, including Al-Qaeda members wanted for attacks in east Africa.
Somalia has been wracked by lawlessness since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, which plunged the nation of about 10 million people into anarchic bloodletting.
COPYRIGHT? 2006 DILIGENT MEDIA CORPORATION LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know
Re: Geo Political matters
Reply #93 on:
September 13, 2006, 10:32:44 PM »
Neo-con favorite declares World War III
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Two years before the 2008 presidential election, Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, is trying desperately to grab the national spotlight by declaring he'd be a lot tougher than George W Bush in prosecuting what he calls "World War III".
In the latest in a series of recent presentations and writings, Gingrich called this week in a speech at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for, among other things:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to "clear out
any Taliban forces" in Waziristan if Pakistan fails to do so.
Washington to "take whatever steps are necessary" to force Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to stop the flow of weapons, money and people into Iraq.
To help "organize every dissident group in Iran" with the goal of replacing the regime, failing which, "we certainly have to be prepared to use military force".
"End" the North Korean regime if it ships nuclear weapons or material anywhere.
Insist that Congress immediately pass legislation "that recognizes that we are entering World War III and serves notice that the US will use all its resources to defeat our enemies - not accommodate, understand or negotiate with them, but defeat them".
Gingrich's remarks, which significantly earned a rave review in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, came in the context of early jockeying in the 2008 presidential race, whose leading - albeit unannounced - candidates besides Gingrich include Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Senator George Allen, and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Of these, McCain, the neo-conservative favorite until his defeat by Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries, is the most popular, along with Giuliani, among the electorate as a whole. However, McCain's occasionally maverick ways - such as his support for reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and his efforts to ban torture and other abuse against terrorist suspects - have created tensions with the right-wing core of the party.
According to the latest polls, Gingrich, who is widely credited with masterminding the stunning 1994 Republican landslide that gave the party control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, ranks third behind Giuliani and McCain and appears to be making steady progress among the Republican faithful, who have, according to pollster Frank Luntz, forgotten the many controversies he generated during his four-year tenure as Speaker.
After taking responsibility for Republican losses in Congress in 1998, Gingrich resigned as Speaker, but he has remained politically active as a senior fellow at the AEI, an advisory board member of the pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and a member of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB).
In all of these capacities, he, along with fellow DPB members Richard Perle and James Woolsey, has been an outspoken champion of the hardline hawks within the Bush administration led by Vice President Dick Cheney and a constant critic of the State Department, which, from time to time, he has accused of disloyalty to the Bush agenda.
Indeed, in mid-April 2003, just one week after invading US forces had consolidated control of Baghdad, he gave a speech in which he charged that the department was undermining Washington's military victory by endorsing a high-level dialogue with Syria and the "Quartet's" roadmap for reviving peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
His remarks, which were also delivered at the AEI, were so extreme that they provoked blunt-speaking deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to give USA Today one of the most memorable quotes of the Iraq war: "It's clear that Mr Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy."
Although both more Churchillian and alarmist in tone, Gingrich's latest speech, titled "Lessons from the First Five Years of War: Where Do We Go from Here?", was very much in the same vein in that it included attacks on the State Department, the news media, and even Harvard University, whose recent hosting of "tyrants" such as former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami should, he said, be openly compared to hosting Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels or SS commander Heinrich Himmler in 1937.
While praising Bush for his "courage and determination" in pursuing his "war on terror", Gingrich implicitly criticized the president for failing to communicate the potentially cataclysmic threats posed by "an emerging anti-American coalition" consisting of al-Qaeda, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and doing more to counter them.
Bush's "strategies are not wrong, but they are failing", he said, in part because "they do not define the scale of the emerging World War III, between the West and the forces of Islam, and so they do not outline how difficult the challenge is and how big the effort will have to be".
"We have vastly more to do than we have even begun to imagine," he stressed, larding his text with quotes by Iranian officials, "Islamic fascists", and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatening the United States and Israel, and warning against "appeasement" and "utopian elites [at home who] suffer from ... denial of near-psychotic proportions".
Gingrich proposed a series of steps to counter the threat, beginning at home with gaining "absolute control of our borders" and "decisive port security", adopting a "one war" model in which everything in the country is "done in a coordinated, integrated manner with the same precision and drive in the civilian as in the military agencies" and major increases in the military and intelligence budgets, and developing a "strategic energy policy which is explicitly aimed at making the Persian Gulf and the dictatorships less wealthy and less important".
In Afghanistan, NATO should "clear out "any Taliban" in Pakistan if Islamabad cannot police the border areas and provide a major economic-aid program that would reduce the Afghan economy's dependence on heroin production and that would not be based on "hopelessly obsolete" State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) rules.
For Iraq, Gingrich called for "revitaliz[ing]" the economy by asking US corporations to buy "modest amounts of light manufacturing from Iraq" and creating a new US agency, other than USAID, capable of administering expanded public-works programs; improving security by doubling the size of the Iraqi military and police forces to get a "much larger forces-to-bad-guys ratio than we currently have planned"; and putting Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia "on notice" against any interference in Iraq.
In Iran, "a dictatorship dedicated to Islamic fascism and ... a mortal threat to our survival", Gingrich called for a regime-change strategy through support for all dissidents, diplomatic and economic sanctions, and military force, if necessary. "This strategy means no more visas for Iranian leaders" and United Nations sanctions against President Mahmud Ahmadinejad for "threatening to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth".
"If we do not stand up against a Holocaust-denying, genocide-proposing, publicly self-defined enemy of the United States, why should we expect anyone else to do so?" he asked.
Washington must also pursue regime change in Pyongyang, according to Gingrich, who called for militarily preempting any launch of a North Korean missile and the announcement that "any effort by North Korea to ship nuclear weapons or material anywhere will be a casus belli and will lead to the end of the regime".
It was "vintage Gingrich: brassy, confrontational, direct, polarizing, articulate, harsh, disarming, and charismatic", wrote the Standard's Matthew Continetti approvingly. "His rivals should take note. The first speech of the 2008 presidential campaign was delivered on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001."
(Inter Press Service)
Re: Geo Political matters
Reply #94 on:
October 17, 2006, 08:44:17 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: The EU Scrambles for a Russia Policy
EU foreign ministers will meet Tuesday in an attempt to hammer out common positions on everything from Iran's nuclear program to their own expansion policy. There are not many areas that offer them easy solutions or compromises, yet the meeting is going to find a thread of connection among most of the problems currently vexing Europe. That thread is Russia. Some brief examples:
" The Europeans are concerned that Serbia is not cooperating with international war crimes tribunals, an issue that is hanging up the country's EU accession process. The state most likely to step in should Brussels' influence wane? Russia.
" European states are up to their necks in negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program. The state providing the bulk of that program's technology? Russia.
" European states want to secure their collective borders, both in economic and security terms, by pulling Ukraine into the EU's orbit. The country that has reacted most negatively to that effort? Russia.
" European governments are seeking to fight back against a wave of nationalism in energy-producing states the world over, in order to protect the outlays of their firms. The country currently threatening the most European energy investments? Russia.
" European states desperately want the United Nations not to look like a useless talk shop; they hope the North Korean nuclear test will finally allow the Security Council to shine. The country working most feverishly to use its diplomatic gravitas to minimize the role of the United Nations? Russia.
" The EU member states are desperately working to diversify their energy sources so that no one can use energy supplies against them as a political lever. The country with its hand already on the lever? Russia.
" European countries are attempting to find foreign policy ideals that they all agree on, in order to strengthen the (often faulty) idea that Europe actually can speak with a single voice. One of those few topics is the idea that the former Soviet republic of Georgia should be free to select its own policies. The country leaning on Georgia the hardest? Russia.
Russia, Russia, Russia. Sometimes it seems it is the only topic on Europe's collective mind. Of course, thinking of Europe as having a collective mind will only set one up for some massive misunderstandings; each EU member sees Russia through its own lens.
The former Warsaw Pact states see Russia as an enemy to be, at the very least, held off -- or, ideally, ground down. The French and Italians see Russia as a potential partner, but only so long as Moscow has no real influence in Europe. The Germans and the Dutch see Russia as a major energy supplier, albeit a politically problematic one. The Finns are beholden to and terror-struck by Russia in equal amounts, while the Danes hope they never again have to be the "cork in the Baltic bottle" and the British have discovered a passionate attachment to Norwegian natural gas so they do not have to deal with Russia at all. And none of these issues even addresses Russia-specific concerns such as the ongoing war in Chechnya, the general degradation of civil liberties in the country, or the recent killing of dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Instead, all these clashing national views will likely be laid painfully bare on Friday at the informal summit of EU heads of state. Now, these informal summits are supposed to be places where the union's 25 leaders can rub shoulders and talk off-the-record about whatever is on their minds. This time, however, the summit's hosts -- the Finns -- have taken it upon themselves to ask none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop in for dinner. With 25 leaders bringing 25 different views on the Russian question, the summit is almost certain to become a cantankerous affair. Eurocrats in Brussels have unofficially and anonymously referred to the Finnish invitation as a mistake and are terrified that the summit will vividly demonstrate that the European Union is anything but unified.
It is all the more important, therefore, that the EU foreign ministers get their collective ducks in a row on Tuesday. Should they fail to do so, the upcoming summit will demonstrate the EU at its worst and give the Russians a perfect opportunity to divide and conquer.
1153 GMT -- RUSSIA -- Russia agreed Oct. 17 to discuss further natural gas cooperation with South Korea, including holding discussions between Korea Gas Corp. and Russian gas producer Gazprom on gas exports to South Korea, South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy reported. South Korea could import 7 million tons of liquefied natural gas from Russia by 2012, the ministry added.
1149 GMT -- JAPAN -- Japan has information that North Korea could be planning a second nuclear test, Kyodo news agency reported Oct. 17, citing Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso. The United States and South Korea indicated Oct. 16 that they had intelligence that showed possible North Korean preparations for a second test.
1145 GMT -- CHINA, UNITED STATES -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to visit China on Oct. 20-21 to discuss the implementation of sanctions on North Korea, China's Foreign Ministry said Oct. 17.
1141 GMT -- CHINA, VIETNAM -- Vietnam and China plan to increase military cooperation and develop friendlier relations, Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan said Oct. 17 while meeting with Vietnam's director of the general political department of the Vietnam People's Army.
1134 GMT -- RUSSIA, JAPAN -- Russian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said Oct. 17 he plans to meet with Japanese counterpart Adm. Takashi Saito to discuss joint counterterrorism exercises and military cooperation. Baluyevsky is on a visit to Tokyo until Oct. 20.
1128 GMT -- RUSSIA -- North Korea gave Russia no prior information that it was going to test a nuclear device, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said Oct. 17. Earlier press reports indicated that North Korea warned Russia of the test two hours before the explosion Oct. 9.
1121 GMT -- IRAQ -- U.S. forces Oct. 17 reportedly arrested Sheikh Mazen al-Saedi, the leader of Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite movement in west Baghdad, prompting members of his group to promise protests and possible attacks in Baghdad.
1115 GMT -- PAKISTAN, INDIA -- Pakistan and India are holding back-channel negotiations on a new approach to the Kashmir problem, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said Oct. 16, Press Trust of India reported Oct. 17. Kasuri also said India and Pakistan will resume foreign secretary-level peace talks in New Delhi in mid-November.
1109 GMT -- ERITREA -- Fifteen tanks and 1,500 troops from Eritrea have moved into the demilitarized buffer zone along the Ethiopian border, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Oct. 17. Eritrea's Information Ministry said the troops are in place just to help harvest and protect food.
Reply #95 on:
October 17, 2006, 12:31:22 PM »
Is it just me or is anyone else getting a 1910 Europe vibe? Various alliances flitting around behind the scenes attempting to ward off nasty scenarios via byzantine machinations. I can think of several tipping points out there that could bring the house of cards down.
Re: Geo Political matters
Reply #96 on:
October 17, 2006, 12:36:08 PM »
Lets hear them Buz.
Re: Geo Political matters
Reply #97 on:
October 17, 2006, 05:29:09 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on October 17, 2006, 12:36:08 PM
Lets hear them Buz.
There's the demographic bomb, but that's ticking slowly. The whole post-Soviet dance where elements of the former USSR are trying to ensure they won't be reabsorbed by forming alliances Russia frowns on strike me as a powder keg. Mixed in that is energy production/distribution politics that Russia is using with a heavy hand. Muslim enclaves scattered through the area and the -stans can and have produced Black Hand type organizations. Socialist policies of sundry European nations have produced stagnant economies that could go belly up with a push (putsch?). Nascent antisemitism in Europe could metastasise and fuel some pseudo-nationalist movement. Lotta fault lines in the European Union that could fracture and cascade in odd directions.
Bottom line is that there are numerous pressing issues that are being kicked down the line; at some point some combination of issues could coalesce into something scary.
Reply #98 on:
October 17, 2006, 06:21:44 PM »
The Soft War in Europe's East
The Caucasus has become the new Balkans--a forgotten region where an old, hostile empire chafes against less powerful peoples.
by Bruce P. Jackson
10/12/2006 12:00:00 PM
ON THE FAR SHORES of the Black Sea, just south of the Caucasus mountains, mounting tensions between the Kremlin and tiny Georgia seem to have gotten out of hand.
Russian military intelligence officers were arrested in Tbilisi last week for espionage, which in that part of the world means trying to destabilize the Georgian government. At a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Slovenia, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov berated the attendees for arming Georgia as part of a plan to use military force to expel Russian troops from Georgian territory. And President Putin compared the actions of Georgia's young president, Misha Saakashvili, with Lavrenti Beria, who ran the murderous NKVD under Joseph Stalin. In Washington, few can remember the last time there was this much venom in Russian foreign policy. With the assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow over the weekend, the situation looks as though it could get even worse.
There several things the rolling crisis in the South Caucasus is not. The talk of war south of the Caucasus has nothing to do with the instability of the northern Caucasus. Georgia has nothing in common with Ingushetia or Dagestan, and the potential for violence in the separatist regions of Georgia is not related to the continuing brutality of Russian forces in Chechnya. The brutalized and now radicalized Islamic peoples of the North Caucasus rarely cross the mountains to the south and then, only to shelter their families and children from bombardment or the winter cold. Due to centuries of tolerance, Georgia and its neighbors, Azerbaijan and Armenia, are largely immune from religious fundamentalism, if not from the crippling hangover of their Soviet occupation.
The crisis in Georgia is also not the return of the civil wars that tore apart the South Caucasus after the collapse of the Soviet Union and left frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, on the border of Georgia and Russia, and in Nagorno-Karabakh, on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. These were wars of Soviet succession which were brought about by the understandable, but often misguided, attempts of peoples to reverse the forced deportations of Stalin and to redraw the borders of their ancient communities along religious and ethnic lines.
The political conflict which is occurring today is a consequence of the efforts of the local, democratically-elected leaders to end the region's frozen conflicts and to build sovereign states, with both territorial integrity and a future in European institutions and markets. It is the pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops, which continue to militarize the region, and the rising attraction of Europe and the United States to the fragile democracies, which has engendered in Russia a fear of the loss of its illusory empire.
Throughout Putin's second term as president, a war of the soft powers of Russia and the West has been raging along the northern shore of the Black Sea, rocking the capitals of Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. On one side of this competition lies the Kremlin, which hopes to re-impose a hegemonic system, reminiscent of its 19th century empire, where "democracy" is managed, the economies of surrounding state are dominated by Kremlin-run monopolies, and political associations are muffled within the Commonwealth of Independent States. The West has an opposing, and to the small states of the Black Sea, far more attractive alternative of self-determining democracy, free market economy, and equality within Euro-Atlantic institutions, such as the WTO, the European Union and NATO.
It does not take an intelligence service to figure out that a petro-autocracy based in Moscow is unlikely to win a competition of political ideas, markets, and influence in its former colonies, if closer relations with Europe and the United States remains the alternative choice. The Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine made this abundantly clear, particularly to President Putin who was shocked by the rapidity of the rise of pro-European Governments in post-Soviet space. To an elite overly familiar with historical inevitability, Russia must have seemed on the brink of the second, humiliating defeat in one generation.
Unless, of course, Russia was prepared to use its gas and oil industry as an energy weapon, to run off the troublesome Western NGO's, to remilitarize the frozen conflicts, and to send out the goons from the reconstituted security services to silence a journalist from time to time. And this is precisely what is happening today in the Transnistrian region of Moldova, the Abkhaz region of Georgia, and soon in the Crimea of Ukraine. Sadly, the Caucasus has become the new Balkans, a forgotten region of Europe where an old, hostile empire chafes against less powerful peoples and where wars can start but, once started, never end.
And, therein, lies the problem for Europe and the United States. If left unattended, Russia's bullying will devolve into brutality and the competition of the soft powers of Moscow and Europe will degrade into something more militarized and dangerous. At a minimum, the region will become isolated and economic development will cease. Defense budgets will continue to climb and the fragmentation of politics and infant democracies will accelerate. On the current course, within months the South Caucasus could begin to replicate the appalling condition of the Western Balkans at the beginning of the last decade.
Inevitably, Europe and the United States will be forced to do the same things they did in the Balkans--with great reluctance--at the end of the 1990s. First, they will have to agree to pool their resources and work together. Then, they will have to tell the bullying power to pack up and go home. And, finally, they will have to pile into the region with all manner of civic and economic projects aimed at strengthening the Caucasus democracies and building closer relations with Europe.
Sooner will be far less costly than later.
Bruce P. Jackson is the president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, an international NGO working in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union.
Re: Geo Political matters
Reply #99 on:
October 20, 2006, 12:59:38 PM »
AMERICA'S ACUPUNCTURE POINTS
PART 1: Striking the US where it hurts
By Victor N Corpus
A noted Chinese theorist on modern warfare, Chang Mengxiong, compared China's form of fighting to "a Chinese boxer with a keen knowledge of vital body points who can bring an opponent to his knees with a minimum of movements". It is like key acupuncture points in ancient Chinese medicine. Puncture one vital point and the whole anatomy is affected. If America ever goes to war with China, say, over Taiwan, then America should be prepared for the following "acupuncture points" in its anatomy to be "punctured". Each of the vital points can bring America to its knees with a minimum of effort.
I Electro-magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack
China and Russia are two potential US adversaries that have the capability for this kind of attack. An EMP attack can either come from an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a long-range cruise missile, or an orbiting satellite armed with a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warhead. A nuclear burst of one (or more) megaton some 400 kilometers over central United States (Omaha, Nebraska) can blanket the whole continental US with electro-magnetic pulse in less than one second.
An EMP attack will damage all electrical grids on the US mainland. It will disable computers and other similar electronic devices with microchips. Most businesses and industries will shut down. The entire US economy will practically grind to a halt. Satellites within line of sight of the EMP burst will also be damaged, adversely affecting military command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles will be rendered unserviceable in their silos. Anti-ballistic missile defenses will suffer the same fate. In short ? total blackout. And American society as we know it will be thrown back to the Dark Ages.
Of course, the US may decide to strike first, but China and Russia now have the means of striking back with submarine-launched ballistic missiles with the same or even more devastating results. But knowing China's strategy of "active defense", when war with the US becomes imminent, China will surely not allow itself to be targeted first. It will seize the initiative as mandated by its doctrine by striking first.
China has repeatedly announced that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. But as an old Chinese saying goes: "There can never be too much deception in war." If it means the survival of the whole Chinese nation that is at stake, China will surely not allow a public statement to tie its hands and prevent it from seizing the initiative. As another saying goes: "All is fair in love and war."
2 Cyber attack
America is the most advanced country in the world in the field of information technology (IT). Practically all of its industries, manufacturing, business and finance, telecommunications, key government services and defense establishment rely heavily on computers and computer networks.
But this heavy dependence on computers is a double-edged sword. It has thrust the US economy and defense establishment ahead of all other countries; but it has also created an Achilles' heel that can potentially bring the superpower to its knees with a few keystrokes on a dozen or so laptops.
China's new concept of a "people's war" includes IT warriors coming, not only from its military more than 2-million strong, but from the general citizenry of some 1.3 billion people. If we add the hackers and information warriors from Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and other countries sympathetic to China, the cyber attack on the US would be formidable indeed.
So, if a major conflict erupts between China and America, more than a few dozen laptops will be engaged to hack America's military establishment; banking system; stock exchange; defense industries; telecommunication system; power grids; water system; oil and gas pipeline system; air traffic and train traffic control systems; C4ISR system, ballistic missile system, and other systems that prop up the American way of life.
America, on the whole, has not adequately prepared itself for this kind of attack. Neither has it prepared itself for a possible EMP attack. Such attacks can bring a superpower like America to its knees with a minimum of movement.
3 Interdiction of US foreign oil supply
America is now 75% dependent on foreign imported oil. About 23.5% of America's imported oil supply comes from the Persian Gulf. To cut off this oil supply, Iran can simply mine the Strait of Hormuz, using bottom-rising sea mines. It is worthwhile to note that Iran has the world's fourth-largest inventory of sea mines, after China, Russia and the US.
Combined with sea mines, Iran can also block the narrow strait with supersonic cruise missiles such as Yakhonts, Moskits, Granits and Brahmos deployed on Abu Musa Island and all along the rugged and mountainous coastline of Iran fronting the Persian Gulf. This single action can bring America to its knees. Not only America but Japan (which derives 90% of its oil supply) and Europe (which derives about 60% of its oil supply from the Persian Gulf ) will be adversely affected.
In the event of a major conflict involving superpower America and its allies (primarily Japan and Britain) on the one hand and China and its allies (primarily Russia and Iran) on the other, Iran's role will become strategically crucial. Iran can totally stop the flow of oil coming from the Persian Gulf. This is the main reason why China and Russia are carefully nurturing intimate economic, cultural, political, diplomatic and military ties with Iran, which at one time was condemned by US President George W Bush as belonging to that "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea.
This is also the reason why Iran is so brave in daring the US to attack it on the nuclear proliferation issue. Iran knows that it has the power to hurt the US. Without oil from the Gulf, the war machines of the US and its principal allies will literally run out of gas.
A single blow from Iran or China or Russia, or a combination of the three at the Strait of Hormuz can paralyze America. In addition, Chinese and Russian submarines can stop the flow of oil to the US and Japan by interdicting oil tanker traffic coming from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. On the other hand, US naval supremacy will have minimal effect on China's oil supply because it is already connected to Kazakhstan with a pipeline and will soon be connected to Russia and Iran as well.
One wonders: what will be the price of oil if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz. It will surely drive oil prices sky high. Prolonged high oil prices can, in turn, trigger inflation in the US and a sharp decline of the dollar, possibly even a dollar free-fall. The collapse of the dollar will have a serious impact on the entire US economy.
This brings us to the next "acupuncture point" in the US anatomy: dollar vulnerability.
4 Attack on the US dollar
One of the pillars propping up US superpower status and worldwide economic dominance is the dollar being accepted as the predominant reserve currency. Central banks of various countries have to stock up dollar reserves because they can only buy their oil requirements and other major commodities in US dollars.
This US economic strength, however, is a double-edged sword and can turn out to be America's economic Achilles' heel. A run of the US dollar, for instance, which would cause a dollar free-fall, can bring the entire US economy toppling down.
What is frightening for the US is the fact that China, Russia and Iran possess the power to cause a run on the US dollar and force its collapse.
China is now the biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world, accumulating $941 billion as of June 30 and expected to exceed a trillion dollars by the end of 2006 - a first in world history. A decision by China to shift a major portion of its reserve to the euro or the yen or gold could trigger other central banks to follow suit. Nobody would want to be left behind holding a bagfull of dollars rapidly turning worthless. The herd psychology would be very difficult to control in this case because national economic survival would be at stake.
This global herd psychology motivated by the survival instinct will be strongly reinforced by the latent anger of many countries in the Middle East, Eurasia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America that silently abhor the pugnacious arrogance displayed by the lone Superpower in the exercise of its unilateral and militaristic foreign policies. They will just be too happy to dump the dollar and watch the lone Superpower squirm and collapse.
The danger of the dollar collapsing is reinforced by the mounting US current account deficit, which sky-rocketed to $900 billion at an annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2005. This figure is 7% of US gross domestic product (GDP), the largest in US history. The current account deficit reflects the imbalance of US imports to its exports. The large imbalance shows that the US economy is losing its competitiveness, with US jobs and incomes suffering as a result.
These record deficits in external trade and current accounts mean that the US has to borrow from foreign lenders (mostly Japan and China) $900 billion annually or nearly $2.5 billion every single day to finance the gap between payments and receipts from the rest of the world. In financial year 2005, $352 billion was spent on interest payment of national debt alone - a national debt that has ballooned to $8.5 trillion as of August 24.
The International Monetary Fund has warned: "The US is on course to increase its net external liabilities to around 40% of its GDP within the next few years - an unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial country."
The picture of the US federal budget deficit is equally grim. Dennis Cauchon, writing for USA Today said:
The federal government keeps two sets of books. The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005. The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If social security and medicare were included - as the board that sets accounting rules is considering - the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion. Congress has written its own accounting rules - which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel. Last year, the audited statement produced by the accountants said the government ran a deficit equal to $6,700 for every American household. The number given to the public put the deficit at $2,800 per household ... The audited financial statement - prepared by the Treasury Department - reveals a federal government in far worse financial shape than official budget reports indicate, a USA Today analysis found. The government has run a deficit of $2.9 trillion since 1997, according to the audited number. The official deficit since then is just $729 billion. The difference is equal to an entire year's worth of federal spending.
The huge US current account and trade deficits, the mounting external debt and the ever-increasing federal budget deficits are clear signs of an economy on the edge. They have dragged the dollar to the brink of the precipice. Such a state of economic affairs cannot be sustained for long, and the stability of the dollar is put in grave danger. One push and the dollar will plunge into free-fall. And that push can come from China, Russia or Iran, whom superpower America has been pushing and bullying all along.
We have seen what China can do. How can Russia or Iran, in turn, cause a dollar downfall? On September 2, 2003, Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on oil and gas cooperation. Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed "to exercise joint control over the dynamics of prices for raw materials on foreign markets". The two biggest oil and gas producers, in cooperation, say, with Iran, could control oil production and sales to keep the price of oil relatively high. Sustained high oil prices, in turn, could trigger a high inflation rate in the US and put extreme pressure on the already weak dollar to trigger a more rapid decline.
Russia is now the world's biggest energy supplier, surpassing Saudi Arabia in energy exports measured in barrel oil equivalent or boe (13.3 million boe per day for Russia vs 10 million boe per day for Saudi Arabia). Russia has the biggest gas reserves in the world. Iran, on the other hand, runs second in the world to Russia in gas reserves, and also ranks among the top oil producers. If and when either Russia or Iran, or both, shift away from a rapidly declining dollar in energy transactions, many oil producers will follow suit. These include Venezuela, Indonesia, Norway, Sudan, Nigeria and the Central Asian Republics.
There is a good chance that even Saudi Arabia and the other oil-exporting countries in the Middle East may follow suit. They wouldn't want to be left with fast-shrinking dollars when the shift from petro-dollar to euro-dollar occurs. Again, the herd psychology will come into play, and the US will eventually be left with a dollar that is practically worthless. Considering the strong anti-American sentiments in the world caused by American unilateralism, especially in the Middle East, a concerted effort to dump the dollar in favor of the euro becomes even more plausible.
When the dollar was removed from the gold standard in August 1971, the dollar gained its strength through its use as the currency of choice in oil transactions. Once the dollar is rejected in favor of the euro or another currency for global oil transactions, the dollar will rapidly lose its value and central banks all over the world will be racing to diversify to other currencies. The shift from petro-dollar to petro-euro will have a devastating effect on the dollar. It could cause the dollar to collapse; and the whole US economy crushing down with it - a scene reminiscent of the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. But this one will be a thousand times more devastating.
A successful assault on the US dollar will make America crawl on its knees with a minimum of movements. And this assault can come from China, Russia or Iran - or a combination of the three - if they ever decide that they have had enough of US bullying.
5 Diplomatic isolation
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed from its own weight, the US emerged as the sole superpower in the world. At that crucial period, it would have been a great opportunity for the US to establish its global leadership and dominance worldwide. With the world's biggest economy, its control of international financial institutions, its huge lead in science and technology (specially information technology) and its unequaled military might, America could have seized the moment to establish a truly American Century.
But in the critical years after 1991, America had to make a choice between two divergent approaches to the use of its almost unlimited power: soft power or hard power. The exercise of soft power would have seen America leading the world in the fight against poverty, disease, drugs, environmental degradation, global warming and other ills plaguing humankind.
It would have pushed America in leading the move to address the debt burden of poor, undeveloped or developing countries; promoting distance learning in remote rural areas to empower the poor economically by providing them access to quality education; and helped poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America build highways, railways, ports, airports, hospitals, schools and telecommunication systems.
Unfortunately, such was not to be. If there was any effort at the exercise of soft power at all, it was minimal. In fact, it is not America which is practicing soft power in diplomacy but a rising power in the East - China. China has been busy in the past decade or so exercising soft power in almost all countries in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, winning most of the countries in these regions to its side. Through the use of soft power, China has created a de facto global united front under its silent, low-key leadership.
The US, on the other hand, decided to employ mainly hard power in the exercise of its global power. It adapted the policy of unilateralism and militarism in its foreign policy. It discarded the United Nations and even the advice of close allies. It unilaterally discarded signed international treaties (such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). It adapted the policy of regime change and preventive war. It led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the 78-day bombing of Serbia purportedly for "humanitarian" reasons. It invaded Afghanistan and Iraq without UN sanctions and against the advice of key European allies like France and Germany.
The US-led war in Iraq was a tactical victory for the US initially, but has resulted in strategic defeat overall. The Iraq war caused the US to lose its principal allies in Europe and be isolated, despised and hated in many parts of the world. Without too many friends and allies, the US is likened to an "emperor with no clothes".
So in a major conflict between America and China, isolated America cannot possibly win against a global united front led by China and Russia.
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