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Author Topic: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why  (Read 39114 times)
G M
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« Reply #100 on: November 14, 2008, 12:33:03 PM »

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/persian_gulf_rising_shia_and_uneasy_sunnis

Saudi Arabia is also worried about the possibility of unrest instigated by Iran in its oil-rich Eastern province, the home to the kingdom’s minority Shia — and its oil wealth. Riyadh seems to have begun taking measures to ensure that such unrest does not disrupt the booming Saudi oil-based economy. The latest announcement by the Saudi authorities Dec. 18 that a government delegation will listen to the grievances of the kingdom’s Shiite minority is a move to pre-empt any such uprising. According to an Agence France-Presse report, the head of the commission, a Saudi minister, acknowledged that Shia “often suffer from discrimination in the judicial field” — the first senior Saudi official to make such an admission. In April, King Abdullah warned Saudis against sectarian frictions, which he said threatened the unity and security of the kingdom.

Until recently, the Gulf Arab states could count on the United States working with them to contain the rise of Iran. Emerging signs of an understanding between Tehran and Washington over Iraq, however, mean the United States could reduce its military presence in the region in the not-so-distant future. The Arab states know that if and when that day comes, they will have to live with an emergent Iran and and empowered Shia in Iraq.

Despite recent efforts on the part of the Gulf Cooperation Council member countries to engage Iran in a positive manner, countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remain only too aware of Iran’s increasing ability to inflame internal sectarian tensions in their countries as its influence continues to rise in the region vis-a-vis Iraq.
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G M
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« Reply #101 on: November 14, 2008, 12:38:36 PM »

Now, with the new and weak US of Obamica, watch the sunni AQ align with Hezbollah/Iran to smite the unbelievers. AQ hates the Saudi royal family, Iran hates the Saudi royal family. Oil prices surge and the pursuit of OBL into Pakistan may have to be shelved for lack of funds.

Just a scenario. If I could see the future, I'd be in Vegas right now.
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G M
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« Reply #102 on: November 14, 2008, 01:14:48 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/washington/14intel.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

November 14, 2008
C.I.A. Chief Says Qaeda Is Extending Its Reach

By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — Even as Al Qaeda strengthens its hub in the Pakistani mountains, its leaders are building closer ties to regional militant groups in order to launch attacks in Africa and Europe and on the Arabian Peninsula, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency said Thursday.

The director, Michael V. Hayden, identified North Africa and Somalia as places where Qaeda leaders were using partnerships to establish new bases. Elsewhere, Mr. Hayden said, Al Qaeda was “strengthening” in Yemen, and he added that veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan had moved there, possibly to stage attacks against the government of Saudi Arabia.

He said the “bleed out” from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also extended to North Africa, raising concern that the countries there could be used to stage attacks into Europe. Mr. Hayden delivered his report in a speech to the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, and it offered a mixed assessment of Al Qaeda’s ability to wage a global jihad.

He drew a contrast between what he described as growing Islamic radicalism in places like Somalia and what he said had been the “strategic defeat” of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia — the network’s affiliate group in Iraq.

Still, Mr. Hayden said that Pakistan’s tribal areas remained Al Qaeda’s most significant operations base because the group’s close ties to Pashtun tribes in the region gave Qaeda militants a sanctuary to plan attacks on Western targets.

“Today, virtually every major terrorist threat my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas,” he said.

His remarks were the first public appraisal of Al Qaeda’s Pakistan sanctuary since the C.I.A. escalated what had been a secret campaign of airstrikes in the tribal areas over the summer.

President Bush signed orders in July allowing the C.I.A. to broaden the campaign.

The C.I.A. used to focus remotely piloted Predator aircraft attacks on a relatively small number of Arab fighters in the tribal areas, but it has begun striking Pakistani militant leaders as well as convoys bound for Afghanistan to resupply militant fighters there.

Mr. Hayden pointedly refused to give details about the strikes by remotely piloted aircraft, or even to acknowledge that they occurred. He did say that the recent killing of senior Qaeda operatives had disrupted the group’s planning and isolated its leadership.

In mid-October, a missile fired from an American drone killed Khalid Habib, the latest senior Qaeda planner to be killed this year in Pakistan.

“To the extent that the United States and its allies deepen that isolation, disturb the safe haven, and target terrorist leaders gathered there, we keep Al Qaeda off balance,” Mr. Hayden said.

The radicalization of Pashtun tribes, and their strengthening ties to Qaeda operatives, date in part to the decision by the Pakistani president at the time, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to raid the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July 2007, the C.I.A. director said. That raid, at the end of an eight-day siege of the mosque by government troops, killed scores of Pakistani militants.

At the end of his remarks, Mr. Hayden deflected questions about whether he would consider remaining at the C.I.A. during the Obama administration and declined to say whether President-elect Barack Obama had asked him to extend his tenure.

“This is the business of the transition team,” Mr. Hayden said. “This is the business of the president-elect.”
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G M
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« Reply #103 on: November 23, 2008, 03:31:44 PM »

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/3506544/Iran-receives-al-Qaeda-praise-for-role-in-terrorist-attacks.html

Iran receives al Qaeda praise for role in terrorist attacks
Fresh links between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and al-Qaeda have been uncovered following interception of a letter from the terrorist leadership that hails Tehran's support for a recent attack on the American embassy in Yemen, which killed 16 people.
 
By Con Coughlin
Last Updated: 9:04PM GMT 23 Nov 2008

Delivery of the letter exposed the rising role of Saad bin Laden, son of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama as an intermediary between the organisation and Iran. Saad bin Laden has been living in Iran since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, apparently under house arrest.
The letter, which was signed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, was written after the American embassy in Yemen was attacked by simultaneous suicide car bombs in September.
Western security officials said the missive thanked the leadership of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for providing assistance to al-Qaeda to set up its terrorist network in Yemen, which has suffered ten al-Qaeda-related terror attacks in the past year, including two bomb attacks against the American embassy.
In the letter al-Qaeda's leadership pays tribute to Iran's generosity, stating that without its "monetary and infrastructure assistance" it would have not been possible for the group to carry out the terror attacks. It also thanked Iran for having the "vision" to help the terror organisation establish new bases in Yemen after al-Qaeda was forced to abandon much of its terrorist infrastructure in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
There has been intense speculation about the level of Iranian support for al-Qaeda since the 9/11 Commission report into al-Qaeda's terror attacks against the U.S. in 2001 concluded that Iran had provided safe passage for many of the 9/11 hijackers travelling between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia prior to the attacks.
Scores of senior al Qaeda activists - including Saad bin Laden - sought sanctuary in Iran following the overthrow of the Taliban, and have remained in Tehran ever since. The activities of Saad bin Laden, 29, have been a source of Western concern despite Tehran's assurances that he is under official confinement.
But Iran was a key transit route for al Qaeda loyalists moving between battlefields in the Middle East and Asia. Western security officials have also concluded Iran's Revolutionary Guards have supported al-Qaeda terror cells, despite religious divisions between Iran's Shia Muslim revolutionaries and the Sunni Muslim terrorists.
Iran is active in Yemen, Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland. The country has been a focal point for al-Qaeda, which has found relatively easy targets in its lawless environment. "Yemen is now a key strategic base for al-Qaeda's operations, as well as being fertile recruitment territory," said a senior Western security official. "Iran's Revolutionary Guards have provided important support in helping al-Qaeda to turn Yemen into a major centre of operations."
Apart from the terror attacks against the US embassy al-Qaeda has also threatened to attack the British and Saudi Arabian embassies in Yemen.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #104 on: December 15, 2008, 11:06:15 AM »

U.S. President George W. Bush made what is likely his final trip as president to Iraq on Sunday. During the trip, he discussed what progress had been made while reiterating that the war there has not yet been won decisively. Bush was undoubtedly correct on both counts, but in a sense, these are no longer the key (or at least the only) questions that have to be asked in evaluating the Iraq war.

We have discussed the reasoning behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq innumerable times, and the issue certainly has been debated to the point that it is unlikely there is anyone left who hasn’t made up his mind on the subject. The point that significant progress has been made but that the situation remains fluid strikes us as fairly uncontroversial. Few deny that progress has been made; few would say the war is over.

There are four ways to evaluate the Iraq war. First, was the U.S. goal in the war worthy of the effort it required? Second, did the war achieve its intended goal? Third, was the war effort executed effectively? And finally, did the war have unintended consequences elsewhere? This last issue has always been discussed in terms of international hostility toward the United States or radicalization in the Muslim world. These subjects are worthy of discussion, but to our minds, the greatest unintended consequence of the Iraq war was the opportunity it provided for other states to enhance their power. The United States’ commitment to Iraq provided the world with breathing room and space for maneuver that it otherwise might not have had.

For five years, the bulk of American ground war-fighting capability was committed to Iraq. During that time, the threat posed by American power declined. Venezuela, for example, with all its talk about an American invasion, knew perfectly well that the United States was in no position to think about Caracas. This gave Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez room for maneuver that he otherwise might not have felt he had. In another example, there is much discussion of the need to intervene in Darfur. Whatever the wisdom of such an action, the Sudanese government has known the United States was in no position to play a leading role in such an operation. And whatever threats Washington might have made against Pakistan, Islamabad knew perfectly well that a multidivisional attack was not an option. With U.S. land power off the table for five years, the American ability to shape the world through threats and actions was severely diminished.

Nowhere was this better demonstrated than in the former Soviet Union. Russia is intrinsically weaker than the United States, but military power is not an abstract relationship. Judging military power is a question of which side can bring more power to bear in a certain place at a certain time. In a country like Georgia this past summer, Russian power was greater than American power — and this is now true throughout the Russian periphery. Moscow is now free to reshape the former Soviet Union without fear of meaningful American intervention. This fact is obvious to all of these countries, and it conditions their responses.

One can argue that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified, and one can also argue that the war was executed as effectively as possible. But Bush nailed the indisputable problem: the war is still not over. The fact that the war has taken too long from a global perspective is, to us, the key issue that is rarely discussed. It is not the situation on the ground in Iraq that frames the question of the war; it is the war’s effect on American strategic power around the world.

Because the Iraq war has lasted as long as it has, it has opened doors for other countries – doors that would have been closed had it been possible to end the war more quickly. The fact that the Iraq war is still continuing, and that it likely will last at least another 18 months, has created strategic consequences — independent of the question of the wisdom of the war in the first place. Even if the Iraq war were to end with a U.S. victory tomorrow, it nevertheless has brought with it profound strategic costs.
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G M
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« Reply #105 on: January 07, 2009, 10:19:31 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123128812156759281.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.

By REUEL MARC GERECHT

Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.

AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.

Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.

Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.

The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.

In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.

The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.

Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.

With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.

The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.

With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.

Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.

Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.

Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.

It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.

Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #106 on: January 07, 2009, 10:56:48 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123128812156759281.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.

By REUEL MARC GERECHT

Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.

AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.

Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.

Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.

The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.

In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.

The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.

Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.

With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.

The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.

With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.

Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.

Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.

Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.

It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.

Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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G M
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« Reply #107 on: January 07, 2009, 11:12:43 AM »

Hey Crafty, read the article above yours.....   evil
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #108 on: January 07, 2009, 11:16:41 AM »

Whoops!  embarassed

Not sure what happened there-- what I meant to post was this:

Israel, Lebanon: Tehran Reins in Hezbollah
Stratfor Today » January 6, 2009 | 2143 GMT

ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images
Lebanese students in Beirut affiliated with Hezbollah protest Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 6Summary
While Israel has warned its people that a northern front with Lebanon could open up at the same time as the Israeli military is involved in the Gaza Strip, it appears Iran may be working to keep Hezbollah from opening a northern front.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Israel, Syria and Lebanon: A Tangled Web
Hezbollah
As the Israel Defense Forces continued pounding Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, six Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon from the night of Jan. 5 through the morning of Jan. 6, reaching as far north as Sidon, according to the Lebanese army. The Israeli overflights occurred amid several warnings by the Israeli political and military leadership that another front could open up on Israel’s northern frontier with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As Stratfor previously wrote, neither Hezbollah nor Israel is looking for a fight right now. Israel, focused on paralyzing Hamas, does not want to spread its forces thin by confronting Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is content with limiting its support to Hamas to helping maintain the Palestinian group’s supply lines and commanding several Hamas units in Gaza City. A debate has been taking place inside Hezbollah, however, regarding how much more Hezbollah should be doing in this Gaza crisis. More radical elements are arguing that another confrontation with Israel is inevitable, and that the group would be better off battling Israel in a two-front war.

It now appears that Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran are making sure such a scenario does not occur. To this end, Said Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, visited Damascus and Beirut on Jan. 2-3. During his visit, he met with Hamas’ exiled leadership in Damascus, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Ahmad Jibril, chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). According to a Stratfor source whose information has not been verified, Jalili made it abundantly clear in his meetings that Iran would not authorize Hezbollah to get any more involved in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Iran’s apparent need to restrain Hezbollah from provoking Israel represents a very different picture from 2006, when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers in Lebanon were believed to have played a direct role in escalating the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah into an all-out war. At that time, Iran was looking to flex its muscles and demonstrate to the United States, Israel and its Sunni Arab rivals that it had Shiite militant proxies under its control that could unleash chaos at Tehran’s will unless certain Iranian demands were met on key issues, like Iraq.

Tehran has proved its point, and in the current scenario Iran does not have much to gain from an Israeli-Hezbollah war. Not only would Hezbollah run the risk of becoming crippled this time around by a better prepared Israel Defense Forces, but Iran is also at a delicate negotiating stage with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran’s main focus is on consolidating the gains it has made thus far in expanding Shiite power in Iraq; having its primary militant proxy in the Levant come under fire would thus do little to further Iranian interests at this time.

But Iran is not only worried about Hezbollah popping a shot across the border. Jalili, according to the source, also sought to ensure that Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC prevent radical Sunni militants milling about in Lebanon from launching a rocket attack on northern Israel. The Iranians apparently are concerned that these Sunni militants, the bulk of whom are either on the payroll of Syrian or Saudi intelligence, could attempt to drag Hezbollah into an all-out war with Israel. There are reportedly hundreds of Sunni sleeper cells in southern Lebanon, most of which are in the Palestinian refugee camps of Rashidiyye and Burj al-Shimali, with others sprinkled throughout several Sunni villages in the deep south.

While the probability of hostilities breaking out on Israel’s northern frontier remains low, there is still a chance for militants outside Iran’s and Hezbollah’s command to open up a new front. Iran does not appear to be taking any chances, but neither is Israel. If an attack is launched from the north, the Israelis will not hesitate to respond
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« Reply #109 on: January 19, 2009, 05:02:16 PM »

By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
The 2008 U.S. Presidential Race

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in on Tuesday as president of the United States. Candidate Obama said much about what he would do as president; now we will see what President Obama actually does. The most important issue Obama will face will be the economy, something he did not anticipate through most of his campaign. The first hundred days of his presidency thus will revolve around getting a stimulus package passed. But Obama also is now in the great game of global competition — and in that game, presidents rarely get to set the agenda.

The major challenge he faces is not Gaza; the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not one any U.S. president intervenes in unless he wants to experience pain. As we have explained, that is an intractable conflict to which there is no real solution. Certainly, Obama will fight being drawn into mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his first hundred days in office. He undoubtedly will send the obligatory Middle East envoy, who will spend time with all the parties, make suitable speeches and extract meaningless concessions from all sides. This envoy will establish some sort of process to which everyone will cynically commit, knowing it will go nowhere. Such a mission is not involvement — it is the alternative to involvement, and the reason presidents appoint Middle East envoys. Obama can avoid the Gaza crisis, and he will do so.

Obama’s Two Unavoidable Crises

The two crises that cannot be avoided are Afghanistan and Russia. First, the situation in Afghanistan is tenuous for a number of reasons, and it is not a crisis that Obama can avoid decisions on. Obama has said publicly that he will decrease his commitments in Iraq and increase them in Afghanistan. He thus will have more troops fighting in Afghanistan. The second crisis emerged from a decision by Russia to cut off natural gas to Ukraine, and the resulting decline in natural gas deliveries to Europe. This one obviously does not affect the United States directly, but even after flows are restored, it affects the Europeans greatly. Obama therefore comes into office with three interlocking issues: Afghanistan, Russia and Europe. In one sense, this is a single issue — and it is not one that will wait.

Obama clearly intends to follow Gen. David Petraeus’ lead in Afghanistan. The intention is to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, thereby intensifying pressure on the Taliban and opening the door for negotiations with the militant group or one of its factions. Ultimately, this would see the inclusion of the Taliban or Taliban elements in a coalition government. Petraeus pursued this strategy in Iraq with Sunni insurgents, and it is the likely strategy in Afghanistan.

But the situation in Afghanistan has been complicated by the situation in Pakistan. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. and NATO supplies bound for Afghanistan are delivered to the Pakistani port of Karachi and trucked over the border to Afghanistan. Most fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan is refined in Pakistan and delivered via the same route. There are two crossing points, one near Afghanistan’s Kandahar province at Chaman, Pakistan, and the other through the Khyber Pass. The Taliban have attacked Western supply depots and convoys, and Pakistan itself closed the routes for several days, citing government operations against radical Islamist forces.

Meanwhile, the situation in Pakistan has been complicated by tensions with India. The Indians have said that the individuals who carried out the Nov. 26 Mumbai attack were Pakistanis supported by elements in the Pakistani government. After Mumbai, India made demands of the Pakistanis. While the situation appears to have calmed, the future of Indo-Pakistani relations remains far from clear; anything from a change of policy in New Delhi to new terrorist attacks could see the situation escalate. The Pakistanis have made it clear that a heightened threat from India requires them to shift troops away from the Afghan border and toward the east; a small number of troops already has been shifted.

Apart from the direct impact this kind of Pakistani troop withdrawal would have on cross-border operations by the Taliban, such a move also would dramatically increase the vulnerability of NATO supply lines through Pakistan. Some supplies could be shipped in by aircraft, but the vast bulk of supplies — petroleum, ammunition, etc. — must come in via surface transit, either by truck, rail or ship. Western operations in Afghanistan simply cannot be supplied from the air alone. A cutoff of the supply lines across Pakistan would thus leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan in crisis. Because Washington can’t predict or control the future actions of Pakistan, of India or of terrorists, the United States must find an alternative to the routes through Pakistan.

When we look at a map, the two routes through Pakistan from Karachi are clearly the most logical to use. If those were closed — or even meaningfully degraded — the only other viable routes would be through the former Soviet Union.

One route, along which a light load of fuel is currently transported, crosses the Caspian Sea. Fuel refined in Armenia is ferried across the Caspian to Turkmenistan (where a small amount of fuel is also refined), then shipped across Turkmenistan directly to Afghanistan and through a small spit of land in Uzbekistan. This route could be expanded to reach either the Black Sea through Georgia or the Mediterranean through Georgia and Turkey (though the additional use of Turkey would require a rail gauge switch). It is also not clear that transports native to the Caspian have sufficient capacity for this.
Another route sidesteps the issues of both transport across the Caspian and the sensitivity of Georgia by crossing Russian territory above the Caspian. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (and likely at least a small corner of Turkmenistan) would connect the route to Afghanistan. There are options of connecting to the Black Sea or transiting to Europe through either Ukraine or Belarus.
Iran could provide a potential alternative, but relations between Tehran and Washington would have to improve dramatically before such discussions could even begin — and time is short.
Many of the details still need to be worked out. But they are largely variations on the two main themes of either crossing the Caspian or transiting Russian territory above it.

Though the first route is already partially established for fuel, it is not clear how much additional capacity exists. To complicate matters further, Turkmen acquiescence is unlikely without Russian authorization, and Armenia remains strongly loyal to Moscow as well. While the current Georgian government might leap at the chance, the issue is obviously an extremely sensitive one for Moscow. (And with Russian forces positioned in Azerbaijan and the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow has troops looming over both sides of the vulnerable route across Georgia.) The second option would require crossing Russian territory itself, with a number of options — from connecting to the Black Sea to transiting either Ukraine or Belarus to Europe, or connecting to the Baltic states.


Both routes involve countries of importance to Russia where Moscow has influence, regardless of whether those countries are friendly to it. This would give Russia ample opportunity to scuttle any such supply line at multiple points for reasons wholly unrelated to Afghanistan.

If the West were to opt for the first route, the Russians almost certainly would pressure Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan not to cooperate, and Turkey would find itself in a position it doesn’t want to be in — namely, caught between the United States and Russia. The diplomatic complexities of developing these routes not only involve the individual countries included, they also inevitably lead to the question of U.S.-Russian relations.

Even without crossing Russia, both of these two main options require Russian cooperation. The United States must develop the option of an alternative supply route to Pakistan, and in doing so, it must define its relationship with Russia. Seeking to work without Russian approval of a route crossing its “near abroad” will represent a challenge to Russia. But getting Russian approval will require a U.S. accommodation with the country.

The Russian Natural Gas Connection

One of Obama’s core arguments against the Bush administration was that it acted unilaterally rather than with allies. Specifically, Obama meant that the Bush administration alienated the Europeans, therefore failing to build a sustainable coalition for the war. By this logic, it follows that one of Obama’s first steps should be to reach out to Europe to help influence or pressure the Russians, given that NATO has troops in Afghanistan and Obama has said he intends to ask the Europeans for more help there.

The problem with this is that the Europeans are passing through a serious crisis with Russia, and that Germany in particular is involved in trying to manage that crisis. This problem relates to natural gas. Ukraine is dependent on Russia for about two-thirds of the natural gas it uses. The Russians traditionally have provided natural gas at a deep discount to former Soviet republics, primarily those countries Russia sees as allies, such as Belarus or Armenia. Ukraine had received discounted natural gas, too, until the 2004 Orange Revolution, when a pro-Western government came to power in Kiev. At that point, the Russians began demanding full payment. Given the subsequent rises in global energy prices, that left Ukraine in a terrible situation — which of course is exactly where Moscow wanted it.

The Russians cut off natural gas to Ukraine for a short period in January 2006, and for three weeks in 2009. Apart from leaving Ukraine desperate, the cutoff immediately affected the rest of Europe, because the natural gas that goes to Europe flows through Ukraine. This put the rest of Europe in a dangerous position, particularly in the face of bitterly cold weather in 2008-2009.

The Russians achieved several goals with this. First, they pressured Ukraine directly. Second, they forced many European states to deal with Moscow directly rather than through the European Union. Third, they created a situation in which European countries had to choose between supporting Ukraine and heating their own homes. And last, they drew Berlin in particular — since Germany is the most dependent of the major European states on Russian natural gas — into the position of working with the Russians to get Ukraine to agree to their terms. (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Germany last week to discuss this directly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.)

The Germans already have made clear their opposition to expanding NATO to Ukraine and Georgia. Given their dependency on the Russians, the Germans are not going to be supporting the United States if Washington decides to challenge Russia over the supply route issue. In fact, the Germans — and many of the Europeans — are in no position to challenge Russia on anything, least of all on Afghanistan. Overall, the Europeans see themselves as having limited interests in the Afghan war, and many already are planning to reduce or withdraw troops for budgetary reasons.

It is therefore very difficult to see Obama recruiting the Europeans in any useful manner for a confrontation with Russia over access for American supplies to Afghanistan. Yet this is an issue he will have to address immediately.

The Price of Russian Cooperation

The Russians are prepared to help the Americans, however — and it is clear what they will want in return.

At minimum, Moscow will want a declaration that Washington will not press for the expansion of NATO to Georgia or Ukraine, or for the deployment of military forces in non-NATO states on the Russian periphery — specifically, Ukraine and Georgia. At this point, such a declaration would be symbolic, since Germany and other European countries would block expansion anyway.

The Russians might also demand some sort of guarantee that NATO and the United States not place any large military formations or build any major military facilities in the former Soviet republics (now NATO member states) of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (A small rotating squadron of NATO fighters already patrols the skies over the Baltic states.) Given that there were intense anti-government riots in Latvia and Lithuania last week, the stability of these countries is in question. The Russians would certainly want to topple the pro-Western Baltic governments. And anything approaching a formal agreement between Russia and the United States on the matter could quickly destabilize the Baltics, in addition to very much weakening the NATO alliance.

Another demand the Russians probably will make — because they have in the past — is that the United States guarantee eventual withdrawal from any bases in Central Asia in return for Russian support for using those bases for the current Afghan campaign. (At present, the United States runs air logistics operations out of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.) The Russians do not want to see Central Asia become a U.S. sphere of influence as the result of an American military presence.

Other demands might relate to the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense installations in the Czech Republic and Poland.

We expect the Russians to make variations on all these demands in exchange for cooperation in creating a supply line to Afghanistan. Simply put, the Russians will demand that the United States acknowledge a Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. The Americans will not want to concede this — or at least will want to make it implicit rather than explicit. But the Russians will want this explicit, because an explicit guarantee will create a crisis of confidence over U.S. guarantees in the countries that emerged from the Soviet Union, serving as a lever to draw these countries into the Russian orbit. U.S. acquiescence on the point potentially would have ripple effects in the rest of Europe, too.

Therefore, regardless of the global financial crisis, Obama has an immediate problem on his hands in Afghanistan. He has troops fighting there, and they must be supplied. The Pakistani supply line is no longer a sure thing. The only other options either directly challenge Russia (and ineffectively at that) or require Russian help. Russia’s price will be high, particularly because Washington’s European allies will not back a challenge to Russia in Georgia, and all options require Russian cooperation anyway. Obama’s plan to recruit the Europeans on behalf of American initiatives won’t work in this case. Obama does not want to start his administration with making a massive concession to Russia, but he cannot afford to leave U.S. forces in Afghanistan without supplies. He can hope that nothing happens in Pakistan, but that is up to the Taliban and other Islamist groups more than anyone else — and betting on their goodwill is not a good idea.

Whatever Obama is planning to do, he will have to deal with this problem fast, before Afghanistan becomes a crisis. And there are no good solutions. But unlike with the Israelis and Palestinians, Obama can’t solve this by sending a special envoy who appears to be doing something. He will have to make a very tough decision. Between the economy and this crisis, we will find out what kind of president Obama is.

And we will find out very soon.
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« Reply #110 on: January 24, 2009, 03:05:20 PM »

http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP38802

Special Dispatch - No. 388
June 12, 2002   No. 388

'Why We Fight America': Al-Qa'ida Spokesman Explains September 11 and Declares Intentions to Kill 4 Million Americans with Weapons of Mass Destruction

Al-Qa'ida spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith, originally from Kuwait, recently posted a three-part article titled "In the Shadow of the Lances" on the website of the Center for Islamic Research and Studies, **www.alneda.com**. Following numerous hacking attempts after the international media reported that the site was linked to Al-Qa'ida, its address was changed to **http://66.34.191.223.**

Recently, the site published an article by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy and leader of the Egyptian Jihad organization. However, the Saudi London-based Arabic-daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that the article had already appeared in the Al-Mujahiddeen publication.[1] The following are excerpts from Abu Gheith's article:

Part I: Why We Fight the U.S.
"…Perhaps the [Islamic] nation is waiting for one Al-Qa'ida man to come out and clear up the many questions that accompany any communiqué, message, or picture [concerning September 11], to know the truth, the motives, and the goals behind the conflict with the Hubal [one of the pre-Islamic Ka'ba idols - referring to the U.S.] of our generation…"

"Why is the world surprised?! Why were millions of people astounded by what happened to America on September 11? Did the world think that anything else would happen? That something less than this would happen?!"

"What happened to America is something natural, an expected event for a country that uses terror, arrogant policy, and suppression against the nations and the peoples, and imposes a single method, thought, and way of life, as if the people of the entire world are clerks in its government offices and employed by its commercial companies and institutions."

"Anyone who was surprised, and did not expect [the events of September 11] did not [understand] the nature of man, and the effects of oppression and tyranny on man's emotions and feelings. They thought that oppression begets surrender, that repression begets silence, that tyranny only leaves humiliation. Perhaps they also thought that this [oppressive] atmosphere is sufficient to kill man's virility, shatter his will, and uproot his honor. These people erred twice: once when they ignored [the consequences of] treating man with contempt, and again when they were unaware of man's ability to triumph."

"This goes for every man - let alone when the man in question is of those who believe in Allah, in Islam as a religion, and in Muhammad as Prophet and Messenger, and anyone who knows that his religion is unwilling to allow him to be inferior and refuses to allow him to be humiliated."

The Entire Earth Must Be Subjected to Islam
"How can [he] possibly [accept humiliation and inferiority] when he knows that his nation was created to stand at the center of leadership, at the center of hegemony and rule, at the center of ability and sacrifice? How can [he] possibly [accept humiliation and inferiority] when he knows that the [divine] rule is that the entire earth must be subject to the religion of Allah - not to the East, not to the West - to no ideology and to no path except for the path of Allah?…"

"As long as this Muslim knows and believes in these facts, he will not - even for a single moment - stop striving to achieve it, even if it costs him his soul… his time, his property, and his son, as it is said, 'Say [to the believers]: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your wives and your kinsfolk and the worth you have acquired and the trade, the dullness of which you apprehend, and the dwellings that you fancy are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah issues His judgment. Allah guides not the disobedient people…'" [2]

Part II: The Blow Against the U.S. Will Come from Where Least Expected

"…The [premises] on which we base ourselves as an organization, and on which we base our operations and our method of action, are practical and realistic… They are also scientific and [in accordance with] Islamic religious law, and they give us confidence and certainty… In writing them and in [publicly] revealing them, I do not intend to be apologetic for what was done; I lay [these arguments] before you so as to emphasize that we are continuing with our blows against the Americans and the Jews, and with attacking them, both people and installations [so as to stress] that what awaits the Americans will not, Allah willing, be less than what has already happened to them. America must prepare itself; it must go on maximum alert; … because, Allah willing, the blow will come from where they least expect it…"

"America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by the people via legislating laws that contradict the way of Allah and permit what Allah has prohibited. This compels the other countries to act in accordance with the same laws in the same ways… and punishes any country [that rebels against these laws] by besieging it, and then by boycotting it. By so doing, [America] seeks to impose on the world a religion that is not Allah's…"

"America, with the collaboration of the Jews, is the leader of corruption and the breakdown [of values], whether moral, ideological, political, or economic corruption. It disseminates abomination and licentiousness among the people via the cheap media and the vile curricula."

"America is the reason for all oppression, injustice, licentiousness, or suppression that is the Muslims' lot. It stands behind all the disasters that were caused and are still being caused to the Muslims; it is immersed in the blood of Muslims and cannot hide this."

"For 50 years in Palestine, the Jews - with the blessing and support of the Americans - carried out abominations of murder, suppression, abuse, and exile… The Jews exiled nearly 5 million Palestinians and killed nearly 260,000. They wounded nearly 180,000, and crippled nearly 160,000."

"Due to the American bombings and siege of Iraq, more than 1,200,000 Muslims were killed in the past decade. Due to the siege, over a million children are killed [annually] - that is 83,333 children on average per month, 2,777 children on average per day. 5,000 Iraqis were killed in one day in the Al-'Amiriya shelter alone. Are these statistics of military installations???!!!!"

"In its war against the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan, America has killed 12,000 Afghan civilians and 350 Arab Jihad fighters, among them women and children. It annihilated entire families from among the Arab Jihad fighters while they were in their cars, when the American Air Force bombed [them] with helicopters and anti-tank missiles, until nothing remained of some of them except scattered body parts."

"In Somalia, America killed 13,000 Somalis and [its soldiers] carried out acts of abomination on [Somali] boys and women."

Muslims Have Suffered from the U.S.'s Standing with Christians
"America's standing with the Christians of the world against the Muslims has stripped the camouflage from its face. Much can be said about this regarding the Sudan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir, Macedonia, Bosnia, and other tragedies. America's siege on the Islamic countries as punishment for their rebellion against its laws has transgressed all limits, and Muslims have suffered economic losses that outstrip the imagination."

"After all this, is it forbidden for a victim to escape when he is tied and brought to the slaughterhouse?!! Is he not entitled, while he is being slaughtered, to stamp his feet?!!..."

"After all this, some [Arab regimes] shed crocodile tears for what happened to the country of heresy [America], and tried to exonerate Islam from what happened to [America] and asked the country of heresy to treat the Muslims sensitively and gently, and sent messengers and broadcasters to the Jihad fighters with a request to stop fighting Hubal [i.e. meaning the U.S.]. Do they really think we would do this?!"

"No, by Allah. They [the Arab regimes] have turned their back on us and we have turned our back on them… We would have no honor if we did not avenge the blood of our brothers in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and everywhere."

"… The banner is being waved openly, and now there is 'only a trench of belief' and 'a trench of heresy.'"

Part III: The Islamic Justification for Al-Qa'ida's Jihad Against the U.S.
"The religious arguments on which we base ourselves in our Jihad against the Americans - the explanations that inspire us with confidence in the triumph of our religion, our belief, and our faith - are many, and this is not the place to enumerate them, as they are included in the books of the sages."

"No one disagrees with these explanations, except he who lives [in] fear … he who asks for shelter, thinking that he has distanced himself from evil … or he who kneels as a doorman before the doors of the tyrants to gain a position, advancement, or a gift!!"

"These people have not, Allah be praised, dissuaded us, not even for a single day, from continuing in our path, from our Jihad, and from our mission. Allah willing, they will not prevent us [in the future]."

"In this article I will present one explanation that suffices [to wage] Jihad against the Americans, the Jews, and anyone who has gone in their path…"

"Allah said, 'He who attacked you, attack him as he attacked you,' and also, 'The reward of evil is a similar evil,' and also, 'When you are punished, punish as you have been punished.'"

"The words of the sages on these verses are clear: Ibn Taimiyya [in his book] Al Ikhtiyarat Wa-Al-Fatawi; Ibn Al-Qayim in I'lam Al-Muqi'in and in Al-Hashiya; Al-Qurtubi in his Tafsir, Al-Nawawi in Al-Muhazab; Al-Shukani in Nayl Al-Awtar; and others, may Allah's mercy be upon them."

"Anyone who peruses these sources reaches a single conclusion: The sages have agreed that the reciprocal punishment to which the verses referred is not limited to a specific instance. It is a valid rule for punishments for infidels, for the licentious Muslims, and for the oppressors."

Islamic Law Allows Reciprocation against the U.S.
"If by religious law it is permitted to punish a Muslim [for the crime he committed] - it is all the more permitted to punish a Harbi infidel [i.e. he who belongs to Dar Al-Harb 'the domain of disbelief'] in the same way he treated the Muslim."

"According to the numbers I noted in the previous section of the lives lost from among the Muslims because of the Americans, directly or indirectly, we still are at the beginning of the way. The Americans have still not tasted from our hands what we have tasted from theirs. The [number of] killed in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were no more than fair exchange for the ones killed in the Al-'Amiriya shelter in Iraq, and are but a tiny part of the exchange for those killed in Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines, Bosnia, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Afghanistan."

We Have the Right to Kill 4 Million Americans
"We have not reached parity with them. We have the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons."

"America knows only the language of force. This is the only way to stop it and make it take its hands off the Muslims and their affairs. America does not know the language of dialogue!! Or the language of peaceful coexistence!! America is kept at bay by blood alone…"

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 7, 2002.

[2] Koran 9:24.
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« Reply #111 on: February 03, 2009, 11:32:10 AM »

Imagine yourself as Barack Obama, gazing at a map of the greater Middle East and wondering how, and where, the United States can best make a fresh start in the region.

 
AP
An Iraqi man holds up an ink-stained finger after casting his vote in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Jan. 31.

Your gaze wanders rightward to Pakistan, where preventing war with India, economic collapse or the Talibanization of half the country would be achievement enough. Next door is Afghanistan, where you are committing more troops, all so you can prop up a government that is by turns hapless and corrupt.

Next there is Iran, drawing ever closer to its bomb. You're mulling the shape of a grand bargain, but Israel is talking pre-emption. Speaking of Israel, you're girding for a contentious relationship with the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, the all-but certain next prime minister.

What about Israel's neighbors? Palestine is riven between feckless moderates and pitiless fanatics. Lebanon and Hezbollah are nearly synonyms. You'd love to nudge Syria out of Iran's orbit, but Bashar Assad isn't inclined. In Egypt, a succession crisis looms the moment its octogenarian president retires to his grave.

And then there is Iraq, the country in the middle that you would have just as soon banished from sight. How's it doing? Perplexingly well.

The final tallies for Saturday's provincial elections aren't in yet. But a few conclusions are warranted. This time, the election seems to have been mostly free of fraud; four years ago, it was beset by fraud. This time, there was almost no violence; four years ago, there were 299 terrorist attacks. This time, 40% of voters in the overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar went to the polls; four years ago, turnout was 2%.

In 2005, Iraqis voted their sectarian preferences. Now sectarian parties are out of fashion. "Those candidates who campaigned under the banner of religion should be rejected," Abdul Kareem told Al Jazeera. "They corrupted the name of religion because they are notorious for being thieves. Religion is not politics." Mr. Kareem is a Shiite cleric.

Also out of fashion: Iran, previously thought to be the jolly inheritor of our Iraq misadventure. In 2005, Tehran's political minions in the Iranian-funded Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- itself the funder of the dreaded Badr brigade -- swept the field. Candidates loyal to anti-American fire-breather Moqtada al-Sadr also did well. This time, Sadr didn't even dare to field his own slate, and early reports are that the Supreme Council was trounced.

What's in fashion, electorally speaking, are secular parties, as well as the moderately religious Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Palestinian parliamentary election of 2006 that put Hamas in power was taken in the West as proof that Arab democracy was destined to yield illiberal results. Saturday's election suggests otherwise, assuming there is a structure that guarantees that Islamists must stand for election more than once.

What about security? A month ago, Gen. Ray Odierno predicted that "al Qaeda will try to exploit the elections because they don't want them to happen. So I think they will attempt to create some violence and uncertainty in the population." But al Qaeda was a no-show on Saturday. Meanwhile, more U.S. soldiers died in accidents (12) than in combat (4) for the month of January. The war is over.

So what are you going to do about the one bright spot on your map -- an Arab country that is genuinely democratic, increasingly secular and secure, anti-Iranian and, all-in-all, on your side? So far, your only idea seems to bid to it good luck and bring most of the troops home in time for Super Bowl Sunday, 2010.

That's a campaign promise, but it isn't a foreign policy. Foreign policy begins with the recognition that Iraq has now moved from the liability side of the U.S. ledger to the asset side. As an Arab democracy, it is a model for what we would like the rest of the Arab world to become. As a Shiite democracy, it is a reproach to Iranian theocracy. As the country at the heart of the Middle East, it is ideally located to be a bulwark against Tehran's encroachments.

There was a time when American strategists understood the role countries could play as "pillars" of a regional strategy. Israel has been a pillar since at least 1967; Iran was one until 1979. Turkey, too, is a pillar, but it is fast slipping away, as is Egypt.

Within the Arab world, Iraq is the only country that can now fulfill that role. For that it will need military and economic aid, and lots of it. Better it than futile causes like Palestine, or missions impossible like winning over the mullahs. With Saturday's poll, Iraq has earned a powerful claim to our friendship.

Yes, you'd rather look elsewhere on the map for a Mideast legacy. But Iraq is where you'll find it. Don't miss your chance.
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« Reply #112 on: February 03, 2009, 04:45:40 PM »

Obama will piss this away. It's an article of faith on the left that Iraq must be a failure. Obama was elected to ensure this.
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« Reply #113 on: February 04, 2009, 08:39:07 AM »



Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands
By GEORGE FRIEDMAN
Published: February 3, 2009
Washington

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THE Taliban didn’t wait long to test Barack Obama. On Tuesday, militants bombed a bridge in the Khyber Pass region in Pakistan, cutting off supply lines to NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. This poses a serious problem for President Obama, who has said that he wants more American troops in Afghanistan. But troops need supplies.

The attack was another reminder that the supply line through Pakistan is extremely vulnerable. This means that the Obama administration might have to consider alternative routes through Russia or other parts of the former Soviet Union. But the Russians were unhappy about the Bush administration’s willingness to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, and they will probably not want to help with American supply lines unless Mr. Obama changes that position.

In addition to our guaranteeing that NATO will not expand further, the Russians seem to want the United States to promise that NATO forces will not be based in the Baltic countries, and that the United States will not try to dominate Central Asia. In other words, Russia wants the United States to pledge that it will respect the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They will probably want this guarantee to be very public, as a signal to the region — and the Europeans — of Russian dominance. This is one guarantee that Mr. Obama will not want to give.

There is also no certainty that countries in the Russian sphere of influence, like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, would agree to let the United States use these routes without Russian permission.

Here is where Mr. Obama could use some European help. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to come soon. Many Europeans, particularly Germans, rely on Russia’s natural gas. In January, the Russians cut natural gas shipments to Ukraine. As much of the Russian natural gas that goes to Europe runs through Ukraine, the cutoff affected European supplies — in the middle of winter. Europeans can’t really afford to irritate the Russians, and it’s hard to imagine that the Germans will confront them over supply routes to Afghanistan. Pakistan, unfortunately, is hardly a reliable partner either.

So how can Mr. Obama reconcile the two goals of strengthening the American presence in Afghanistan while curbing Russian expansionism? The answer is to rely less on troops, and more on covert operations like the C.I.A. Covert operators are far more useful for the actual war that we are fighting (and they can carry their supplies on their backs). The primary American interest in Afghanistan, after all, is preventing terrorist groups from using it as a base for training and planning major attacks. Increasing the number of conventional troops will not help with this mission.

What we need in Afghanistan is intelligence, and special operations forces and air power that can take advantage of that intelligence. Fighting terrorists requires identifying and destroying small, dispersed targets. We would need far fewer forces for such a mission than the number that are now deployed. They would make us much less dependent on supply deliveries, which would help solve our Russian problem.

Winding down the conventional war while increasing the covert one will demand a cultural change in Washington. The Obama administration seems to prefer the conventional route of putting more troops on the ground. That would be a feasible strategy if supply lines to Afghanistan were secure. The loss of that bridge yesterday demonstrates very clearly that they are not.

George Friedman is the chief executive of Stratfor, a global intelligence company, and the author of “The Next 100 Years.”

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« Reply #114 on: February 08, 2009, 09:12:38 PM »

Iran's launch last week of a satellite using a homegrown rocket is another reminder of why Europe needs a missile defense -- and needs to start building it now. Combine Iran's improving missile technology with its nuclear aspirations, and it's a lethal mix. This is especially timely given the debate inside the Obama Administration over whether to walk away from the U.S. promise to provide a defense shield for our European allies.

 
APIran now joins eight countries with indigenous space-launch capability -- an advance that, on the military side, translates into a step forward for its ballistic-missile technology. The threat isn't immediate, as the satellite was small and lightweight compared to a nuclear warhead, but neither is Europe's missile defense set to be deployed immediately. The reason to start early is precisely to be prepared, and not to have to scramble, if Iran develops its capability faster and the mullahs aren't as benign as some think.

That's why the Bush Administration pushed forward with a Europe-wide missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and built over the next six years. It's also why every NATO country has endorsed the U.S.-led effort. They have done so twice -- first among heads of state in Bucharest in April and again at a meeting of foreign ministers after the U.S. election. NATO also plans to pursue its own missile defenses in conjunction with the Polish and Czech sites.

The question now is whether the Obama Administration will stand by its predecessor's promise or, as is widely anticipated, suspend the European program. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama suggested missile defense was either ineffective or too expensive, or both. His nominee for the third-ranking position at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy, has indicated that the deployment plans for Europe will be reviewed. In a speech over the weekend at the annual Munich security conference, Vice President Joseph Biden was ambiguous: "We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost effective."

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Suspending the program would have serious consequences. It would send a signal of American weakness to Iran, which the Obama Administration says it wishes to engage. If the mullahs watch the U.S. back down on confronting its missile threat, who could blame them for assuming it will also back down over its nuclear aspirations?

A suspension would also send a message of American irresolution to Russia, which opposes deploying the antimissile system in countries it considers part of its sphere of influence. This kind of Cold War thinking was on display again last week with the news that Moscow had bribed Kyrygyzstan to close a key U.S. air base for supplying Afghanistan. Backing down on missile defense would only encourage more such Russian behavior.

The U.S.-led missile defense program for Europe is aimed at the Iranian threat, and in no way diminishes Russia's own nuclear deterrent. Moscow knows this, yet it nonetheless threatens to deploy missiles in the Kalingrad enclave between NATO members Poland and Lithuania if the U.S. goes through with the defense system. Moscow has spurned U.S. invitations to participate in the program.

Hillary Clinton's State Department may hope to get more Russian cooperation against Iran in return for disavowing its commitment to Europe. But that's not worth the message it sends about the U.S. willingness to cave in the face of Russian intimidation. Russia may be prepared to cooperate on a modest scale on Iran -- but only if the U.S. forgoes the defense of Europe. That's no bargain.

The biggest fallout of a suspension would be among America's allies in Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic agreed at some political risk to host missile interceptors and a radar. If the U.S. reneges now, these newly free countries will have reason to doubt that they can trust any U.S. security commitments. Other NATO nations are also watching to see if the U.S. will remain a reliable partner against Russia.

Now that he has the responsibility of governing, Mr. Obama may reach a better understanding of the recent technological progress on a defensive shield. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been a firm supporter of a missile defense for Europe. National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a former NATO commander, knows how important the antimissile system is to the alliance.

The new Administration will also have to make a decision about whether to proceed with the planned expansion of the missile defense site at Fort Greely, Alaska, where 10 interceptors are stationed. Last week's news that North Korea may be planning another test of its long-range Taepodong-2 missile ought to make that an easy call.

Friend and foe alike are trying to take the measure of Mr. Obama, and to test him. Mr. Obama made the nurturing of U.S. alliances a major campaign theme, and, along with trade, the missile defense pact with Europe is the first test of whether he meant it.
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« Reply #115 on: February 10, 2009, 12:19:34 AM »

Barack Obama has now been president for 21 days, following an inauguration that was supposed to have pressed the reset button on America's relations with the wider world and ushered in a new period of global cooperation against common threats. Here's what pressing reset has accomplished so far:

- Iran. Since President Obama's inauguration, Iran has launched a satellite into space and declared (with an assist from Russia, which is providing the nuclear fuel) that it would complete its long-delayed reactor at Bushehr later this year. At the Munich Security Conference last week, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani promised a "golden opportunity for the United States" in its relations with the Islamic Republic. He proceeded to make good on that opportunity by skipping Joe Biden's speech the next day.

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Also, as if to underscore that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial is merely emblematic of his regime's outlook, Mr. Larijani offered that there could be "different perspectives on the Holocaust." Mr. Larijani is widely described as a "moderate."

- Afghanistan. This is the war Mr. Obama has said "we have to win" -- as opposed to Iraq. Our NATO allies are supposed to feel the same way.

So what was NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer doing at the Munich conclave? Why, reproaching our allies. "When the United States asks for a serious partner, it does not just want advice, it wants and deserves someone to share the heavy lifting," he said.

But the plea fell on deaf ears. Germany will not, and probably cannot, commit more than 4,500 soldiers to Afghanistan, and then only to areas where they are unlikely to see combat. The French have no plans to increase their troop commitment beyond the 3,300 now there. Mr. Obama, by contrast, may double the U.S. commitment to 60,000 troops.

- North Korea. A constant liberal lament about the Bush administration was that its supposed hard line on Pyongyang had yielded nothing except five or six North Korean bombs.

So what is Kim Jong Il to do now that the Obama administration is promising a friendlier approach? In late January, Pyongyang announced it was unilaterally withdrawing from its 1991 nonaggression pact with the South.

Satellite imagery later showed the North moving a Taepodong 2 missile -- potentially capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast -- to a launch pad. "The missile is pointing at Obama," Baek Seung-joo, a director at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, told the L.A. Times. "North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy."

- Pakistan. Perhaps the most unambiguous of the Bush administration's successes was rolling up the nuclear proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, who was kept under house arrest for five years.

But if some latent fear of the 43rd American president prevented the Pakistani government from releasing their dubious national hero, that fear clearly vanished with the arrival of the 44th. Mr. Khan was released last week, ostensibly by order of a Pakistani court, plainly with the consent of the government. So far, the Obama administration has done little more than issue a muted statement of concern.

- Russia. At the Munich conference, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov praised the "very positive" tone set by Mr. Biden. And Mr. Ivanov's tone? Less positive. Russia will continue to build military bases in Georgia's breakaway republics. It will press ahead with the fueling of the Bushehr reactor.

Russia also won't hesitate to complicate the U.S. position in Afghanistan -- and then lie about what it has done in a manner worthy of the late Andrei Gromyko. "There is no correlation between the decision of the Kyrgyz republic and the loans that the Russian federation granted," Mr. Ivanov said, referring to Kyrgyzstan's oddly timed decision to close an airbase used by the U.S. to supply Afghanistan after securing a $2 billion Russian "loan."

- The Arab street. "I have Muslim members of my family," Mr. Obama recently told Al-Arabiya. Yet so far his efforts at outreach have been met with derision from Arab hard-liners and "liberals" alike.

"We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza," wrote Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in a New York Times op-ed. "We also wanted Mr. Obama . . . to recognize . . . the right of people in occupied territory to resist military occupation." In other words, the price of Arab support for Mr. Obama is that he embrace Hamas and its terrorist tactics.

And so it goes. True, Mr. Obama has made the U.S. popular in places like Montreal and Berlin, where our unpopularity never mattered much to begin with. But foreign policy is not about winning popularity contests. And woe to the president who imagines he needn't inspire fear among the wicked even as he embraces the adulation of the good.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com
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« Reply #116 on: February 11, 2009, 01:07:39 PM »

Russia Shouldn't Have a Veto on Missile Defense
European leaders relied on U.S. commitments.Article
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By MILAN VODICKA
Prague

If the United States builds a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of the missile defense program developed by the Bush administration, it's likely that the Russians will target the Czech Republic with their tactical nuclear missiles. But many Czechs are fearful of an even greater danger than Russia: The possibility that the U.S. may decide not to deploy the defense system. Unfortunately, Vice President Joseph Biden suggested this prospect last week in Munich when he said, "We will wait for what the experts say and then we will see."

Czech politicians and their Polish counterparts have invested a lot of political capital in the missile defense project. If the Obama administration doesn't follow through, supporters of the missile shield would feel abandoned by the U.S.

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What's worse, Czech and Polish leaders would lose credibility among their opponents and, most importantly, Russia. Moscow would see the failure to build the radar system as proof of its influence over Central Europe, and as recognition of its veto power over European security policy.

Mr. Biden doesn't seem to appreciate that the missile defense project isn't just about American interests. It's about the Czechs and the Poles, too.

The Americans wanted the radar and the interceptors, and they wanted them within the borders of our countries. Our leaders went to great lengths to meet Washington's requests. They stood firm in the face of passionate protests at home and intimidation from Russia. Recently, Moscow backed down from its threat to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, but it stands ready to follow through if missile defense becomes a reality.

It's beginning to look as though the Americans were taking us for a ride. Now that there's a new driver in the White House, they think they can just drop us off at the curb.

Even if the Obama administration wants to backtrack on missile defense, doing so won't return relations with Russia to the status quo ante. This is because Russia has transformed the issue of the missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland into evidence of its growing influence. Russia has turned this into a question of its power beyond its borders.

If it weren't for Russia, there would be little difficulty in Washington's change of heart. Yet Russia's involvement makes the game a different one entirely. While several interceptors in Poland can stop individual missiles, they can't prevent a massive strike by a nuclear power like Russia. This is because the system is aimed at Iran, not Russia.

Moscow's rigid position has hardened the resolve of Prague and Warsaw, which fear that the Kremlin is attempting to dictate the limits of Czech and Polish sovereignty and foreign policy. We have experienced this before.

This, at least, is how the situation appears from the Czech point of view. I can already anticipate the Obama administration's conclusion: that missile defense is an expensive diversion with uncertain benefits and unpleasant side effects. Such an outcome is all the more likely given the global economic crisis and the difficult fiscal situation in the U.S.

There's no doubt that Russia would profit from a scenario in which the U.S. put the missile defense project on hold. Just consider the situation in Georgia last summer.

During the conflict in South Ossetia, it was alarming how many observers in the U.S. press implied that NATO enlargement was a mistake. The tone of these articles strongly suggested that expansion of the Atlantic alliance only caused the U.S. more trouble with Russia. They also implied that the U.S. and other Western powers were less than fully committed to their new eastern partners.

In this light, it's clear that American retreat on the missile defense program would hand Moscow a huge victory. Washington can't afford to leave the Czechs out in the cold.

Mr. Vodicka is senior writer for the Czech newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes.

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« Reply #117 on: February 12, 2009, 10:42:56 PM »

- Chesler Chronicles - http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler -

President Obama Believes He Can Charm the Barbarians.
Posted By Phyllis Chesler On February 11, 2009 @ 12:14 pm In Uncategorized | 61 Comments

Western liberals — and in the past I have been a very good one — still refuse to describe any culture other than their own as “barbaric” lest they be maligned as “racists.” Now, America’s first (half) African-American president, whose first order of business was to reach out to the Muslim world on Al-Arabiya, has said he will actively negotiate with the Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Saudis.

I wish him well. But I also fear for him and hope he reads what I have to say.

He must understand that he will be dealing with barbarians. Like all good liberals, he may not understand what that means. But what word other than “barbaric” describes the systematic incitement to violence that takes place in mosques and on television and which has led to mob rampages and episodes of “wilding” against Muslim girls and women who are group-groped, gang raped, kidnapped into sexual slavery, set on fire, buried alive, blinded by acid for daring to go to school, work as a newscaster, a hairdresser, or for a foreign company, refuse to wear a shroud, or choose to marry someone of their own choice. Few Muslim clerics and even fewer fabled Muslim “moderates” have loudly and perilously condemned such behavior towards their sisters–or towards Christians, Jews, and other infidels who routinely fall prey to such mobs.

President Obama is in favor of women’s rights as is his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. How in God’s name do they think they can persuade barbarians who behave in such ways to change their behaviors? If I were Obama and Clinton, I’d hold these diplomatic meetings with lots of American security guards and in neutral countries.

What word other than “barbaric” can even begin to characterize the 2002 kidnapping and video-ed beheading of Jewish-American [1] Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, in Pakistan and the 2006 three week-long torture of French citizen, [2] Ilan Halimi, in Paris by African Muslims, ostensibly for ransom money? Many North African Muslim neighbors dropped in to watch or even to take a hand in Halimi’s torture and murder.

The presumably civilized and non-”barbaric” western media was reluctant to describe either Pearl’s or Halimi’s murder-torture as an act of Muslim “racism.” How can it be “racist” when both the perpetrator and the victim are Semites? Or Africans?

The western liberal media is not so much reluctant as it is terrified to further offend the rampaging Muslims whose religion is, presumably, one of peace. But not telling the truth, keeping one’s head deep in the sand, does not abolish the barbarism. It only makes it more difficult for us to name it and to defend ourselves against it. For example, despite all the liberal media cautiousness,  in 2009, a Polish engineer, [3] Piotr Stanczak, was kidnapped, then beheaded on video in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

And, the “barbarism” is hardly confined to Muslim countries. In Scotland there is an alarming pattern of Muslim or “Asian” murderous attacks upon young white boys. In the infamous 2004 case of 15 year-old Kriss Donald:

“The court had heard that Kriss was jumped on as he walked down a street near his home with a friend. As he was bundled into a car, he screamed: “Why me? I’m only 15.” His mutilated body was found the next day on a walkway in the east end of the city. The slightly built boy had been beaten, held down and stabbed 13 times, then set on fire while he was still alive. Bleeding to death and burning, he tried to crawl towards the river Clyde but died in a ditch. A passerby who found his body the following day thought he had stumbled across the carcass of a dead animal.”

The British media was–and still is–reluctant to describe the killers as “Muslims;” they prefer the more neutral “Asians.” More serious is the fact that just yesterday, the heroic Muslim MK, Mohammed Sarwar, (Britain’s first Muslim in Parliament), announced his retirement from Parliament due to the many death threats he has received. Sarwar was instrumental in negotiating the return of Donald’s three Muslim-Asian killers from Pakistan.

Once again, squeamishness has not won the day. Just this month, a second Muslim racist attack upon white boys took place on Kriss Donald’s street. Mercifully, [4] this time only bones were broken.

Let me be clear. “Barbarism” is not only a mob or youth-gang phenomena. It defines the very nature of Muslim religious law.

For example, on February 11, 2009, a [5] Saudi judge ordered that a young woman who was gang raped and impregnated be imprisoned for one year. He also ordered that she be given 100 lashes after she gives birth, (which is often a death sentence), because she talked with and followed a man who was not her relative and who turned out to have planned the attack.

What can President Obama do? Refuse to talk, talk anyway, dare to craft an economic deal that is pegged to the abolition of [6] Sharia law?

And according to the [7] British Telegraph, early in 2009, a Pakistani Muslim cleric blinded a young boy with acid because he spurned the cleric’s sexual advances.

Is America imperfect? Absolutely. Is murder committed on our shores? Do people abuse their power in such a way that others suffer and die? Absolutely. But we do not lynch people in the streets, our clerics do not provoke such acts and when injustice is called to our attention, sometimes–sometimes–the rule of law prevails. In the Muslim Bad Lands, there is no rule of law, or rather, the law itself demands “cruel and usual punishment” as my good friend Nonie Darwish has said in her latest book which bears this exact title.

Folks: Beginning with President Obama, and including the American and western media, we had better start connecting the dots. We are not only facing “barbarians,” but, as I wrote [8] yesterday, we are facing barbarians who brilliantly and viciously employ non-conventional, asymmetrical, non-proportionate, and terrorist means of warfare–which unbelievably, our own media finds….thrilling, romantic.

Article printed from Chesler Chronicles: http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler/2009/02/11/president-obama-believes-he-can-charm-the-barbarians/

URLs in this post:
[1] Wall Street Journal : http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/pearl-022102.htm
[2] Ilan Halimi: http://www.nysun.com/foreign/tale-of-torture-and-murder-horrifies-the-whole/27948/
[3] Piotr Stanczak: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/02/10/europe/EU-Poland-Hostage-Killed.php
[4] this time : http://theopinionator.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/02/another-muslim-race-hate-attack-on-kriss-donald-
street-1.html

[5] Saudi judge: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1141267/Saudi-judge-sentences-pregnant-gang-rape-v
ictim-100-lashes-committing-adultery.html#

[6] Sharia law: http://www.religioustolerance.org/islsharia.htm
[7] British Telegraph: http://vladtepesblog.com/?p=5185
[8] yesterday: http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler/2009/02/10/conventional-versus-non-conventional-warfare-and-w
hy-israel-did-not-lose-in-gaza/
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« Reply #118 on: February 13, 2009, 12:23:33 AM »

While in great sympathy with the larger point, I found this passage rather unpersuasive:

"And according to the [7] British Telegraph, early in 2009, a Pakistani Muslim cleric blinded a young boy with acid because he spurned the cleric’s sexual advances."

Let us remember too the vast history of the vast pediophile conspiracy within the Catholic Church.  The pattern is, quite obviously, systemic.  To speak frankly, this vile disgrace has been enabled at the highest levels of the Church.
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« Reply #119 on: February 17, 2009, 11:15:47 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: Iran the Sacrificial Lamb?
February 17, 2009
The Russian government confirmed Monday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time in Geneva on March 6. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also commented on recent “signals sent by the U.S. administration” and stated clearly that removing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program could lead to “more profound talks on cooperation on missile defense.” Ryabkov added that Russia has shown no signs that it will toughen its position on Iran just now, but that diplomatic efforts should be stepped up in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.

The signals that Ryabkov was referring to were statements by Clinton and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns that linked negotiations on U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Central Europe to the Iranian nuclear issue. In short, the Obama administration has been signaling that if Russia does its part to cooperate in containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Washington will be open to addressing Moscow’s concerns over its plans to install BMD facilities in Europe.

In what appears to be the first public Russian response to the BMD-Iran proposal, Russia is hinting that it might throw Iran under the bus, but is waiting to see what kind of a deal Clinton offers when she meets with Lavrov in Geneva. Moscow has a long list of demands for Washington that includes everything from BMD to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe to the renegotiation of nuclear arms treaties. The United States, meanwhile, needs Russia’s cooperation in its efforts to establish non-Pakistan supply routes for troops in Afghanistan and curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. This is where the BMD connection comes in: The BMD installations being planned for Europe are designed primarily to thwart a possible intercontinental ballistic missile attack from Iran. If the Iranian nuclear threat could be eliminated with Moscow’s help, the entire justification for BMD in Europe dissolves — giving Russia the breathing space it has been seeking.

While the Poles, the Czechs and the Baltic states — all of whom have been counting on the BMD plan to shield them from Russia — are feeling some trepidation as these statements emanate from Washington and Moscow, the Iranians should be feeling especially fearful just now. There is no love lost between Russia and Iran. The brief Soviet occupation of northern Iran during World War II is still remembered, and the Iranians know that Russia’s current interest in Tehran is born out of Moscow’s tactical desire to capture U.S. attention on strategic issues such as BMD. So, whenever Russia feels the need to catch Washington’s ear, it issues vague threats about supplying Iran with the S-300 air defense system or completing the Bushehr nuclear facility.

Though Tehran knows that nine times out of 10 its support from its Russian allies is more rhetorical than material, it relies on Moscow’s backing as a means of leverage against the West, particularly on issues concerning its nuclear program and Iraq. At the same time, Russia is well aware of all the talk about the United States and Iran patching up their differences and publicly engaging each other. From Moscow’s point of view, it could be only a matter of time before Iran starts shifting toward the West, so the Kremlin might as well derive as much tactical utility from its relationship with Tehran as possible, while it still can.

A visit by Iran’s defense minister to Moscow on Monday gave Russia and Iran another chance to highlight their relationship and concern Washington with ambiguous talk of greater missile cooperation — but Iran might not be able to count on the Russians for much longer. Ultimately, Moscow’s core concerns revolve around protecting Russian influence in the former Soviet region, so that it can survive in the long term as a regional power. That means doing whatever it takes to ensure that EU enlargement and BMD plans for Europe are scrapped, so the Russians don’t have to worry about having American troops within a few miles of their borders. If Russia must sacrifice its relatively superficial relationship with Iran to make that happen, Iran could soon be left without a great power backer.

The Iranians are facing presidential elections in June and have yet to decide exactly which direction they will steer in negotiations with the United States, but Tehran could use the support of an ally like Russia if and when it chooses to engage with Washington over the future of Iraq. There are a number of issues still to discuss with the United States: Tehran wants guarantees of influence in Iraq and the wider region and security assurances that Iraq’s U.S.-backed military force will not become a problem for Iran down the road. At the same time, the Iranians are hoping they can get through these negotiations without having to concede a great deal on their nuclear program. A withdrawal of Russian support — no matter how symbolic that support might be — would deflate Tehran’s negotiating position. It would either lead to a lonely Iran dealing with the United States or give Iran more reason to stall until it can find some way to reboot, perhaps through the use of its militant proxies in various parts of the world.

In any case, this appears to be a gamble that Washington is willing to take while it forges ahead in dealing with the Russians.
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« Reply #120 on: February 20, 2009, 03:08:19 PM »

**Aside from tanking the economy, Ogabe is tanking our national security. You Obots will have a lot to answer for.**

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/19/AR2009021902579_pf.html

Obama's Supine Diplomacy
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, February 20, 2009; A23

The Biden prophecy has come to pass. Our wacky veep, momentarily inspired, predicted in October that "it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama." Biden probably had in mind an eve-of-the-apocalypse drama like the Cuban missile crisis. Instead, Obama's challenges have come in smaller bites. Some are deliberate threats to U.S. interests, others mere probes to ascertain whether the new president has any spine.

Preliminary X-rays are not very encouraging.

Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:

(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.

(b) Announcing the formation of a "rapid reaction force" with six former Soviet republics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.

(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.

(d) Declaring its intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.

President Bush's response to the Kaliningrad deployment -- the threat was issued the day after Obama's election -- was firm. He refused to back down because giving in to Russian threats would leave Poles and Czechs exposed and show the world that, contrary to post-Cold War assumptions, the United States could not be trusted to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying.

The Obama response? "Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal," as the New York Times headlined Biden's Feb. 7 Munich speech to a major international gathering. This followed strong messages from the Obama transition team even before the inauguration that Obama was not committed to the missile shield. And just to make sure everyone understood that the Bush policy no longer held, Biden said in Munich that the United States wanted to "press the reset button" on NATO-Russian relations.

Not surprisingly, the Obama wobble elicited a favorable reaction from Russia. (There are conflicting reports that Russia might suspend the Kaliningrad blackmail deployment.) The Kremlin must have been equally impressed that the other provocations -- Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the rapid-reaction force -- elicited barely a peep from Washington.

Iran has been similarly charmed by Obama's overtures. A week after the new president went about sending sweet peace signals via al-Arabiya, Iran launched its first homemade Earth satellite. The message is clear. If you can put a satellite into orbit, you can hit any continent with a missile, North America included.

And for emphasis, after the roundhouse hook, came the poke in the eye. A U.S. women's badminton team had been invited to Iran. Here was a chance for "ping-pong diplomacy" with the accommodating new president, a sporting venture meant to suggest the possibility of warmer relations.

On Feb. 4, Tehran denied the team entry into Iran.

Then, just in case Obama failed to get the message, Iran's parliament speaker rose in Munich to offer his response to Obama's olive branch. Executive summary: Thank you very much. After you acknowledge 60 years of crimes against us, change not just your tone but your policies, and abandon the Zionist criminal entity, we might deign to talk to you.

With a grinning Goliath staggering about sporting a "kick me" sign on his back, even reputed allies joined the fun. Pakistan freed from house arrest A.Q. Khan, the notorious proliferator who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. Ten days later, Islamabad capitulated to the Taliban, turning over to its tender mercies the Swat Valley, 100 miles from the capital. Not only will sharia law now reign there, but members of the democratically elected secular party will be hunted as the Pakistani army stands down.

These Pakistani capitulations may account for Obama's hastily announced 17,000-troop increase in Afghanistan even before his various heralded reviews of the mission have been completed. Hasty, unexplained, but at least something. Other than that, a month of pummeling has been met with utter passivity.

I would like to think the supine posture is attributable to a rookie leader otherwise preoccupied (i.e., domestically), leading a foreign policy team as yet unorganized if not disoriented. But when the State Department says that Hugo Chávez's president-for-life referendum, which was preceded by a sham government-controlled campaign featuring the tear-gassing of the opposition, was "for the most part . . . a process that was fully consistent with democratic process," you have to wonder if Month One is not a harbinger of things to come.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com
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« Reply #121 on: February 20, 2009, 03:11:33 PM »

Aside from all that, he's doing a great job....
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« Reply #122 on: February 20, 2009, 04:45:41 PM »

- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com -

An Open Letter to President Obama on Appeasing Iran
Posted By 'Reza Kahlili' On February 20, 2009 @ 12:30 am In . Column1 01, . Positioning, Iran, Middle East, Politics, US News, World News | 54 Comments

Three decades after the Islamic revolution, the West still fails to understand the political structure of Iran and the mentality behind it. That ignorance endangers the world, for the madmen who rule Iran in their iron grip are bent upon launching Armageddon.

Several U.S. presidents underestimated the crazed policies that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini forced on the Iranian people beginning in 1979. If Barack Obama doesn’t take this nightmarish threat seriously, Israel could very well be destroyed — and that destruction could expand to Europe and America.

We only have to look at history to see all too clearly Washington’s folly at trying to appease Tehran.

President Carter and his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, began America’s misguided policy toward radical Islam, Carter by calling Khomeini “a man of God” and Brzezinski with his plan to help Islamic militants confront the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, that policy of negotiation and hope for a moderate leader in Iran who would open the doors to the West continued under President Reagan.

While I was writing coded messages under dimmed light in the middle of the night informing the CIA about the mullahs’ terrorist activities and the Revolutionary Guards’ expansion in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, the U.S. government was meeting in private with the Revolutionary Guards in Geneva, Brussels, Frankfort, and Mainz during the mid-1980s. The Guards negotiators at these meetings, close associates of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were assigned the names “the Engine” and “the Relative” and had met with U.S. negotiators several times, including Oliver North. The CIA facilitated a trip for “the Relative” to Washington, D.C., where he was even given a tour of the White House.

At the time, the CIA knew that the barracks bombing in Lebanon, which killed 241 American servicemen, was the work of the Guards under Rafsanjani, then the speaker of parliament; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president at the time; and Imam Khomeini, the supreme leader. The CIA was aware of all the kidnappings, torture, and killing of hostages, such as CIA agent William Buckley, who was executed by Islamic Jihad — a front name for the Guards and their activity in Lebanon. But despite Iran’s treachery, the U.S. government entertained a long list of demands by the Guards to clear the way for improved relations.

Washington’s efforts resulted in securing the release of only a few hostages, and in return the Guards received many shipments of American weapons, some of which ended up in the hands of the terrorist group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon. Later, many more hostages were taken and more demands made.

Kazem, my then-commander in the Guards, had told me, “The dumb cowboys think we will help release their hostages in Lebanon and improve our relationship with them. They are giving us arms, lots of arms. Haj Agha Rafsanjani knows how to play with these bastards and how to milk them.”

This shortsightedness continued with President George H.W. Bush, who ignored the Iranian involvement in the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie (as I had reported to the CIA) in his secret negotiations with Rafsanjani, the Iranian president at the time, who had promised better relations. That effort also failed, just as President Clinton (who looked the other way at Iran’s involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia) failed in negotiating with Mohammad Khatami, the next Iranian president, with another promise of cooperation while secretly purchasing parts for Iran’s nuclear project.

The Revolutionary Guards recently performed multiple tests on surface-to-surface missiles fired from a ship. One needs to ask what the purpose is for such tests. Could it be that they intend to launch missiles against an enemy far from Iran, perhaps from a ship closer to that enemy’s border?

With the help of North Korea, the Guards are working on long-range ballistic missiles in tests that are concealed by their space project. Other tests include expanding the reach of their Shahab-3 missiles to cover Europe, which currently are capable of targeting Tel Aviv, Riyadh, U.S. bases in Iraq, and the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. The Guards now have more than 100 Shahab-3 missiles in stock while working to develop a nuclear warhead. At the same time, the Iranians are increasing the number of centrifuges (over 5,000 as of November 2008) for the enrichment of uranium while enough nuclear material has already been produced to make a nuclear bomb.

A nuclear-armed Iran under the thugocracy of the mullahs is near, maybe in a matter of months, and any misconception about their intentions will have grave consequences.

Several hadiths (statements by Prophet Mohammed and his successors/descendants) compiled by Islamic scholars form the ideology of radicals most faithful to Mahdaviat. This belief currently rules every aspect of the Iranian government, and its members believe that it is their sacred duty to prepare for the reappearance of Mahdi, the 12th Shi’ite imam. The coming of Mahdi only awaits the last sign, as all of the following events have already taken place:

A Seyyed rising to power in the land of Fars (Fars is the original homeland of the Persian people) carrying the flag of Allah: Ayatollah Khomeini, a Seyyed (descendant of Prophet Mohammed), came to power by the revolution in Iran establishing the Islamic Republic in 1979.

A major war between the Fars and Arabs in which God will deny both a victory: Time and place in this hadith refer to the Iran and Iraq war in the 1980s; neither side won.

Storming the Ka’bah and the subsequent bloodshed: In 1987, Khomeini ordered a clash during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca to bring about Mahdi’s return. I informed the CIA beforehand. This bloody incident (402 people were killed, mostly Iranian pilgrims) bore a close resemblance to the climate described in the relevant hadith.

A light in the sky striking the enemy in the name of Allah: The hadith speaks of an event in which a thunderous light from the sky strikes the enemy of Islam in praise of Allah. The mullahs believe the September 11, 2001, suicide attacks by al-Qaeda in the United States relate to this hadith.

The occupation of Afghanistan: This hadith refers to the invasion of Afghanistan, now underway, before the reappearance of Mahdi.

The sky over Iraq becoming red from the bloodshed: This hadith reveals a war in Iraq where many men, women, and children are slaughtered by the enemies of Islam. Shi’ites believe the occupation of Iraq by the United States is the subject of this hadith.

Economic meltdown: This hadith reveals that before the end of time and the coming of Mahdi, the world will experience extreme hardship; people will suffer economically and will not be able to make ends meet. Trade will come to a standstill. Strife will multiply. Both Iran and al-Qaeda take credit for the current global economic crisis. Al-Qaeda calls the 9/11 attacks the onset of this crisis and Iran takes credit for having the American forces tied up in Iraq. The mullahs in Iran had already done an evaluation of a prolonged war in Iraq and how it would hurt the U.S. financially.

A black man gaining power in the West and ruling the largest army on Earth: This hadith, relating to Imam Ali, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and the most revered figure in Shi’ite Islam, says: “Before the return of Mahdi, a tall black man will rule the West and the largest army on Earth. He will carry a ‘clear sign’ from my son, Hussein Ibn Ali [the third Shi'ite imam].” Shi’ites believe Barack Obama, with his middle name Hussein, is this man.

And the last sign before the coming of Mahdi:

Chaos, famine, and havoc will engulf the Earth. Major wars with dark clouds (atomic wars) will burn the Earth. One-third of the Earth’s population will be killed and the rest will suffer hunger and lawlessness: The mullahs believe it is their responsibility to bring about an atomic war, which will fulfill the last sign and facilitate the coming of Mahdi.

It is hard for the West to understand this ideology or to even consider such a ridiculous belief. However, one needs only to look back at 9/11 and think of why they did what they did. Was it just hatred for what America stands for or what the West has done to them? Or is it a belief — a self-sacrifice to bring glory to Islam?

Barack Obama and his administration must not fall prey to another Iranian tactic of mixed signals in negotiations. He must realize what every administration before his has failed to understand: the ideology of the mullahs is deeply rooted in a fanatical belief and time is running out. Radical Islamists are earnest in their dedication to their cause. I know. I spent years in the foxholes with them.

“Jihad on infidels, killing them until there are no more sinners on Earth and all are believers of Allah.” (Quran: Sura 2:192)

Can President Obama dissuade Iran from destabilizing the world and prevent it from launching Armageddon? I pray for his success.

Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/an-open-letter-to-president-obama-on-appeasing-iran/
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« Reply #123 on: February 20, 2009, 11:09:46 PM »

February 20, 2009
NATO defense ministers met Thursday in Krakow, Poland, to discuss critical topics ranging from Afghanistan to Russia to Iran. The meeting ended in disappointment for the United States — which had been looking for a consolidated position and increased support from its allies — while the other NATO members are still waiting to hear from Washington what exactly is the game plan for each of the issues.

The meeting comes just two days after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that 17,000 more U.S. soldiers and Marines would deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Krakow to ask NATO for more alliance troops as well. The hope in Washington was that Gates would be able to capitalize on the new president’s commitment to Afghanistan and receive a similar pledge from the European allies.

But no such guarantee materialized. True, there were some small pledges of troops from the Europeans, but these numbered in the hundreds, not thousands. Even the large NATO states with the biggest troop contingents are sending relative handfuls — 600 from Germany and 500 from Italy. The other heavyweights of Europe — France, Poland and the United Kingdom — have made it clear that they have no plans to send more troops at all.

The lack of enthusiasm for the Afghanistan surge was matched by growing questions among the Europeans over the military plan itself — both the overarching strategy and the lines of supply. Moreover, the Europeans are anxious to know how and to what extent the U.S. plan involves the Russians.

With Russia at its back door, Europe has been divided on its ability to work within a U.S.-dominated NATO. The lines were drawn during the Cold War — though, since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded and pushed right up against Russia’s borders. This has complicated the issue and caused a rift among the European members of the alliance on how to handle Moscow. The larger European NATO members have teetered between wanting a united stance against Russia on one hand, and wanting to prevent any confrontation on the other.

But the United States has further complicated things by sending mixed signals about its position on Russia.

Washington has been negotiating with Moscow about using Russian and (formerly Soviet) Central Asian territory for an alternative route to supply troops in Afghanistan. The United States made some headway on this front when it hinted that it is open to negotiating a new arms-control treaty and that it might be willing to reconsider its position on ballistic missile defense (BMD) efforts in Central Europe. As NATO ministers were meeting Thursday, the first train of American non-military supplies left a port in Latvia to travel across Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to support forces in Afghanistan.

In some ways, however, the old antagonism remains. Russia is still looking for concrete evidence that Washington is stepping back from installing BMD sites in Poland and the Czech Republic — and that it is erecting firm barriers to NATO expansion, especially where Ukraine and Georgia are concerned.

There is a very real split among the Europeans on this new and confusing relationship between Washington and Moscow. Some of the European heavyweights, notably France and Germany, see the U.S.-Russian negotiations as something to be nurtured into a real rapprochement. At the Munich Security Conference earlier in February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy each emphasized the importance of cutting a deal with Russia on security and international issues. Merkel said that Russia should be included in any European security structure, and Sarkozy emphasized that NATO needs Russia in any serious international negotiation, such as talks aimed at securing an alternate supply route to Afghanistan through Iran.

Meanwhile, other European states are horrified that the United States and Russia could be forming a new relationship. Poland refuses to give up on the prospect of getting an American BMD deployment on its turf to solidify U.S. military protection against Russia. Also, the British defense secretary proposed Thursday that NATO create a 3,000-strong rapid-deployment force to defend Europe. The proposal is aimed at Russia, which recently announced a similar plan to create an agile, multinational military formation within its own security alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Both the British and Russian proposals are mainly rhetoric for the time being, but London and Moscow are clearly eyeing each other.

The confusion and anxiety over the U.S.-Russia relationship has nearly frozen the Europeans on all matters. The Europeans want a clear answer on the nature of the evolving relationship between Washington and Moscow before they can formulate a firm policy on any matter involving NATO — such as Afghanistan, BMD or Iran.

The resulting uncertainty has spilled over into every other calculation being made by the Europeans, whether that involves EU structures or energy deals. Neither Europe nor its constituent states can formulate a policy on any major security issue until the United States has made a clear decision about where and how to cooperate with Russia, and where and how to oppose it.

============

By the way, in the discussion on this I would like to suggest that we remember that Bush, IMHO left us seriously out of position with Russia , , , and that interfaces with our being seriously out of position in Afpakia.  Sure BO said that Afpakia is "the right war" instead of Iraq, which he now seeks to throw away, but we need to discern what it is we need to do and not just complain about him.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2009, 11:21:01 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #124 on: February 22, 2009, 05:37:58 PM »

February 21, 2009, 7:00 a.m.

From Islamabad to Bradford
Degrees of accommodation.

By Mark Steyn

‘It is hard to understand this deal,” said Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy. And, if the special envoy of the so-called smartest and most impressive administration in living memory can’t understand it, what chance do the rest of us have?

Nevertheless, let’s try. In the Swat Valley, where a young Winston Churchill once served with the Malakand Field Force battling Muslim insurgents, his successors have concluded the game isn’t worth the candle. In return for a temporary ceasefire, the Pakistani government agreed to let the local franchise of the Taliban impose its industrial strength version of sharia across the whole of Malakand Region. If “region” sounds a bit of an imprecise term, Malakand has over five million people, all of whom are now living under a murderous theocracy. Still, peace rallies have broken out all over the Swat Valley, and, at a Swat peace rally, it helps to stand well back: As one headline put it, “Journalist Killed While Covering Peace Rally.”

But don’t worry about Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of “extremists”: The Swat Valley is a good hundred miles from the “nation”’s capital, Islamabad — or about as far as Northern Vermont is from Southern Vermont. And, of course, Islamabad is safely under the control of the famously moderate Ali Zardari. A few days before the Swat deal, Mr. Zardari marked the dawn of the Obama era by releasing from house arrest A. Q. Khan, the celebrated scientist and one-stop shop for all your Islamic nuclear needs, for whose generosity North Korea and Iran are especially grateful.

From Islamabad, let us zip a world away to London. Actually, it’s nearer than you think. The flight routes between Pakistan and the United Kingdom are some of the busiest in the world. Can you get a direct flight from your local airport to, say, Bradford?

Where?

Bradford, Yorkshire. There are four flights a week from Islamabad to Bradford, a town where 75 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins. But don’t worry, in the country as a whole, only 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to first cousins.

Among that growing population of Yorkshire Pakistanis is a fellow called Lord Ahmed, a Muslim member of Parliament. He was in the news the other day for threatening (as the columnist Melanie Phillips put it) “to bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the House of Lords” if it went ahead with an event at which the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders would have introduced a screening of his controversial film Fitna. Britain’s Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, reacted to this by declaring Minheer Wilders persona non grata and having him arrested at Heathrow and returned to the Netherlands.

The Home Secretary is best known for an inspired change of terminology: Last year she announced that henceforth Muslim terrorism (an unhelpful phrase) would be reclassified as “anti-Islamic activity.” Seriously. The logic being that Muslims blowing stuff up tends not to do much for Islam’s reputation — i.e., it’s an “anti-Islamic activity” in the same sense that Pearl Harbor was an anti-Japanese activity.

Anyway, Geert Wilders’s short film is basically a compilation video of footage from various recent Muslim terrorist atrocities — whoops, sorry, “anti-Islamic activities” — accompanied by the relevant chapter and verse from the Koran. Jacqui Smith banned the filmmaker on “public order” grounds  — in other words, the government’s fear that Lord Ahmed meant what he said about a 10,000-strong mob besieging the Palace of Westminster. You might conceivably get the impression from Wilders’s movie that many Muslims are irrational and violent types it’s best to steer well clear of. But, if you didn’t, Jacqui Smith pretty much confirmed it: We can’t have chaps walking around saying Muslims are violent because they’ll go bananas and smash the place up.

So, confronted by blackmail, the British government caved. So did the Pakistani government in Swat. But, in fairness to Islamabad, they waited until the shooting was well underway before throwing in the towel. In London, you no longer have to go that far. You just give the impression your more excitable chums might not be able to restrain themselves. “Nice little G7 advanced western democracy you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.” Twenty years ago this month, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative ministry defended the right of a left-wing author Salman Rushdie to publish a book in the face of Muslim riots and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s attempted mob hit. Two decades on, a supposedly progressive government surrenders to the mob before it’s even taken to the streets.


In his first TV interview as president, Barack Obama told viewers of al-Arabiya TV that he wanted to restore the “same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.” I’m not sure quite what golden age he’s looking back to there — the Beirut barracks slaughter? the embassy hostages? — but the point is, it’s very hard to turn back the clock. Because the facts on the ground change, and change remorselessly. Even in 30 years. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30 percent of the global population to just over 20 percent, while the Muslim world increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. And in 2030, it won’t even be possible to re-take that survey, because by that point half the “developed world“ will itself be Muslim: In Bradford — as in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and almost every other western European city from Malmo to Marseilles — the principal population growth comes from Islam. Thirty years ago, in the Obama golden age, a British documentary-maker was so horrified by the “honor killing” of a teenage member of the House of Saud at the behest of her father, the king’s brother, that he made a famous TV film about it, Death Of A Princess. The furious Saudis threatened a trade boycott with Britain over this unwanted exposure. Today, we have honor killings not just in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but in Germany, Scandinavia, Britain, Toronto, Dallas, and Buffalo. And they barely raise an eyebrow.

Along with the demographic growth has come radicalization: It’s not just that there are more Muslims, but that, within that growing population, moderate Islam is on the decline — in Singapore, in the Balkans, in northern England — and radicalized, Arabized, Wahhabized Islam is on the rise. So we have degrees of accommodation: surrender in Islamabad, appeasement in London, acceptance in Toronto and Buffalo.

According to ABC News, a team of UCLA professors have used biogeographic theories to locate Osama bin Laden’s hideout as one of three possible houses in the small town of Parachinar, and have suggested to the Pentagon they keep an eye on these buildings. But the problem isn’t confined to three buildings. It ripples ever outwards, to the new hardcore sharia state in Malakand, up the road to nuclear Islamabad, over to Bradford on that jet-speed conveyor-belt of child brides, down to the House of Lords and beyond.

Meanwhile, President Obama has removed Winston Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office and returned it to the British. Given what Sir Winston had to say about Islam in his book on the Sudanese campaign, the bust will almost certainly be arrested at Heathrow and deported as a threat to public order.


— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone.

© 2009 Mark Steyn
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NmVhYzRmOGYzYmQ3ODRhYjBiMzllYzc2NDNhZmZjMzU=
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« Reply #125 on: February 23, 2009, 12:36:34 PM »

Iran announced on Sunday that it plans to “pre-commission” its nuclear power plant at Bushehr this week. The ceremony is to be attended by Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear company. This announcement came two days after Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar completed a five-day trip to Russia. The Iranians were not clear on what a “pre-commissioning” is, but they did say it would lead to launching the reactor (though no timetable for the launch was given). The pre-commissioning process appears to be some sort of operational simulation. That is less important than the politics of the matter.

During the Munich security meetings, the question of the U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland and the Czech Republic came up, with the United States indicating that the deployment was going to proceed, pending discussions with the Russians. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton then floated the idea that if the Russians were to help rein in Iran’s nuclear program, the need for the deployment would be eliminated. The Russians’ decision to send Kiriyenko to the pre-commissioning signals that the proposal did not immediately excite the Russians and that they are going forward with at least the civilian side of Iranian nuclear power development. There is a distinction between the civilian and military side, but coming on the heels of a German delegation’s visit to Iran to discuss the program — and to float the idea of the internationalization of Iran’s nuclear development — Kiriyenko’s plan to attend the ceremony clearly indicates that the Russians are not ready to cooperate.

The reasons for that are fairly simple. For the United States, Iran’s nuclear program represents a major challenge and a priority issue. For the Russians, the BMD system in Poland is an irritant, but it is not by itself a fundamental national security issue. The United States was asking the Russians to help solve a major problem in return for Washington getting rid of a minor problem for Russia. Not surprisingly, the Russians signaled this weekend that this proposal, as it stands, is not enough to stop them from cooperating with Iran.

Iran is a significant lever for the Russians in managing their relations with the Americans. It is the one sure way to get Washington’s attention and some flexibility in other areas. The Russians are not eager to lose that lever — and if they do give it up, it will have to be for substantially more than BMD in Poland. For the Russians, BMD is not a threat. They are fully aware that they can overwhelm it with a tiny fraction of their systems. What is a threat is the idea of the United States arming Poland and moving U.S. forces into Poland.

The Russians want a buffer in Poland. If they accept BMD there, they know that in due course, they will see a highly militarized Poland. Thus, the Russians don’t simply want BMD gone from Poland; they want much firmer guarantees about the future of that country. The Russians want the Americans to abandon NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union. Indeed, they want the Americans to work in the former Soviet Union through Moscow, rather than through bilateral relations with individual countries — a point that was just demonstrated in Kyrgyzstan in the context of the Manas air base, which the Americans were told to leave.

The Russians are not going to help shut down the Iranian nuclear program simply for a concession on BMD. They will want a lot more for it. That is why they agreed to attend a pre-commissioning at Bushehr. Indeed, that is why a pre-commissioning is taking it place. It allows a Russian government official to attend the ceremony, thereby signaling to the Obama administration that Clinton’s offer did not even come close to the Russian price. And Iran was likely quite happy to arrange a pre-commissioning in order to send this message, given its own interests in negotiating with the United States.

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« Reply #126 on: February 26, 2009, 10:51:21 AM »

Summary
A flurry of activity at Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power facility Feb. 25 marked another slow step in the long-delayed plant’s activation. But the final delivery of Russian fuel late last month and Iran’s current testing at the facility are not taking place in a vacuum. Washington is watching closely.

Analysis
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Iran reportedly started running tests at its nuclear power plant at Bushehr on Feb. 25, heralding the facility’s pre-commissioning stage, according to the deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Mohammad Saeedi. Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear agency, stood beside Saeedi and told reporters that while the construction phase is complete, he did not yet have a specific schedule for when the plant would be brought online (though in an earlier statement he did allude to a “trial run” later this year). The head of the AEOI, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, has stated that these tests will take between four and seven months.

Geopolitically, the Bushehr nuclear power plant has been one of the key bargaining chips that the Russians like to use in their negotiations with the United States. By making moves that Washington could see as threatening — such as providing Iran with the tools to jump-start a nuclear power plant or selling Iran — Moscow attempts to command Washington’s attention on issues deemed vital to Russian interests.

This is not to say that the Russians are particularly keen on seeing a nuclear-armed Iran. On the contrary, Russia has a common interest with the West in keeping its southern neighbor contained and has worked to ensure that Russian fuel shipments will not be repurposed for military uses, and that spent fuel will be repatriated to Russia.





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At the same time, Russia is not afraid to use the Iranian nuclear issue to up the ante when it feels the need to push the United States into making certain concessions in the much broader range of issues on the table, from ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Europe to assurances about the integrity of a Russian sphere of influence. The continued work on Bushehr (Russia could hardly have put it off for any longer) will not go unnoticed in Washington.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. began to signal that its controversial European BMD system in Europe might be up for negotiation as part of a larger understanding with Russia. Indeed, on Feb. 12, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton linked the two issues of European BMD and Iran. While negotiations of such magnitude and gravity do not happen overnight, the celebrations at Bushehr on Feb. 25 are a reminder of the reach and scope of Russian foreign policy and how pressure can be brought to bear on the Americans in any number of places and issues around the world.

Iran will continue to be an issue. And Moscow still has a very powerful lever with Iran because of the latter’s reliance on the Russians for fuel. Iran lacks the mineral resources to sustain any sort of meaningful nuclear power production facility on its own — to say nothing of a 1 gigawatt reactor. So while estimates suggest that Iran now has sufficient nuclear fuel for the initial fueling of Bushehr, Tehran will continue to depend on Moscow for the fuel to sustain operations. This provides Russia with a long-term lever — a lever than can either be used to make things more problematic or more manageable for Washington. Even Russian non-interference would be a welcome development in Washington.

But that non-interference will come with a price elsewhere.
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« Reply #127 on: February 27, 2009, 11:33:46 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Turkish and Iranian Balance of Power

Turkish President Abdullah Gul announced on Thursday that he will make a one-day trip to Iran on March 10 to attend the Economic Cooperation Organization summit. While the summit aims to improve economic and commercial relations among the member states, the leaders will also discuss bilateral relations and regional issues. Of the two items on Gul’s agenda, his bilateral meetings with the Iranians hold far more interest for STRATFOR than anything that the summit will generate.

Both Turkey and Iran are on the rise. Until relatively recent times, both have been contained by various forces, most notably Iraq and the Soviet Union. Between the end of the Cold War and American defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, however, many restrictions on the power of both states evaporated. Both Turkey and Iran are looking for wider roles in their region. Both have grand imperial pasts. Both have ambitions. And both are somewhat oddballs in the world of geopolitics.

Most nations are oriented around a piece of flat, core territory where the nationality was not just born, but has entrenched itself. For France, Germany and Poland, that core is their respective portions of the Northern European Plain. The core territory of the United States is the coastal Atlantic strip east of the Appalachians. Argentina is centered on the bountiful flatlands around Buenos Aires. The defining territory of China comprises the fertile regions between the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.

Such flatness is critical to the development of a nation because the lack of internal geographic barriers allows the dominant culture to assimilate or eliminate groups that would dilute or challenge its power. Additionally, plains regions tend to boast river systems that allow thriving agricultural, transportation and trade opportunities that mountainous regions lack. Very few states count mountains as their core simply because mountains are difficult to pacify. It is very easy for dissident or minority groups to root themselves in such regions, and the writ of the state is often weak. Consequently, most mountainous states are defined not by success but by failure. Lebanon, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Laos come to mind.



Turkey and Iran are different. Their core lands are mountainous regions — the Anatolian Peninsula for Asia Minor and the Zagros Mountains of Persia. Even though the Turks are not original descendants of their their Anatolian power base, they were able to secure their central lands when they swept in as conquerors a millennium ago and have since destroyed or assimilated most of the natives. The Persians ruled through a dizzyingly complex system of interconnected elites that succeeded in instilling a common Persian culture that extended somewhat beyond mere ethnicity, all while keeping the base of power in the Persians’ hands.

But that is where the similarities end. As these two states both return to prominence, it is almost inevitable that Turkey that will fare better than Iran, simply because the Turks enjoy the advantage of geography. Anatolia is a plateau surrounded by water on three sides and enjoys the blessing of the Golden Horn, which transforms the well-positioned city of Istanbul into one of the world’s best — and certainly most strategically located — ports. Turkey straddles Europe and Asia, the Balkans and the Islamic world, the former Soviet Union and the Mediterranean Basin. The result is a culture not only incredibly aware of international events, but one steeped in trade whether via its land connections or —by virtue of being a peninsula — maritime trade. Unsurprisingly, for a good chunk of the past 2,000 years, Anatolia — whether under the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines or most recently under the Turks themselves — has been at or nea r the center of human development.

By comparison, Iran got shortchanged. Although Iran has water on two sides, it has a minimal maritime tradition. Its plateau is a salt desert. The Caspian Sea is landlocked and boasts no major population centers aside from Baku — the capital of another country with a hostile ethnic group. The Persian Gulf coast of Iran is not only lightly populated, but it is easy for powers on the gulf’s southern coast to block Iranian water access to the wider world. While Anatolia has a number of regions that are well watered — even though it does not have many rivers — Persia is predominately an arid region.

The Turks also enjoy demographic advantages. Only one-fifth of Turkey’s population is non-Turkish, while roughly half of Iran is non-Persian. Iran requires a large army simply to maintain rule at home, while Turkey has the relative freedom to expend resources on power projection tools such as an air force and navy. The difference shines through in their respective economies as well. Despite having nearly identical populations in terms of size, Iran’s economy is only two-fifths the size of Turkey’s. Even in the battle of ideologies, Turkey retains the advantage. The Arab majority in the region prefer Turkey — a fellow Sunni power — to take the lead in managing regional affairs, whereas Shiite Persian Iran is the historical rival of the Arab world.

Iran may be junior to Turkey in a geopolitical contest, but Iran is still a power that Turkey has to take into consideration. In a major historical reversal, the Iranians have regained influence over Iraq with the rise of a Shia-dominated government that they had lost to the Turks in the mid-1550s, bringing the two powers closer into contact. When two expansionary powers interact closely — as Turkey and Iran are now — they can be either driven to conflict or come to an understanding regarding their respective spheres of influence. In the present day, there are probably more causes for cooperation than conflict between Ankara and Tehran. Iran’s westward expansion gives Turkey and Iran good reasons to cooperate in order to contain Iraq’s Kurdish population in the north. Moreover, Turkey’s bid to become a major energy transit state would improve significantly through a better relationship with Iran.

Given this dynamic, Gul’s upcoming trip to Iran is likely to be the first of many. The Turks and the Persians have much to sort out on the bilateral level as each seeks to expand their geopolitical influence.
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« Reply #128 on: March 02, 2009, 03:32:10 AM »

For all of his lavish new spending plans, President Obama is making one major exception: defense. His fiscal 2010 budget telegraphs that Pentagon spending is going to be under pressure in the years going forward.

The White House proposes to spend $533.7 billion on the Pentagon, a 4% increase over 2009. Include spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, which would be another $130 billion (or a total of $664 billion), and overall defense spending would be around 4.2% of GDP, the same as 2007.

 
APHowever, that 4% funding increase for the Pentagon trails the 6.7% overall rise in the 2010 budget -- and defense received almost nothing extra in the recent stimulus bill. The Joint Chiefs requested $584 billion for 2010 and have suggested a spending floor of 4% of GDP. Both pleas fell on deaf ears. The White House budget puts baseline defense spending at 3.7% of GDP, not including Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget summary pleads "scarce resources" for the defense shortfall, which is preposterous given the domestic spending blowout.

More ominously, Mr. Obama's budget has overall defense spending falling sharply starting in future years -- to $614 billion in 2011, and staying more or less flat for a half decade. This means that relative both to the economy and especially to domestic priorities, defense spending is earmarked to decline. Some of this assumes less spending on Iraq, which is realistic, but it also has to take account of Mr. Obama's surge in Afghanistan. That war won't be cheap either.

The danger is that Mr. Obama may be signaling a return to the defense mistakes of the 1990s. Bill Clinton slashed defense spending to 3% of GDP in 2000, from 4.8% in 1992. We learned on 9/11 that 3% isn't nearly enough to maintain our commitments and fight a war on terror -- and President Bush spent his two terms getting back to more realistic outlays for a global superpower.

American defense needs are, if anything, even more daunting today. Given challenges in the Mideast and new dangers from Iran, an erratic Russia, a rising China, and potential threats in outer space and cyberspace, the U.S. should be in the midst of a concerted military modernization. Mr. Obama's budget isn't adequate to meet those challenges.

That means Secretary of Defense Robert Gates faces some hard choices when he finishes his strategic review this spring. An early glimpse will come soon when the Pentagon must decide whether to continue to purchase more Lockheed F-22 Raptors. The Air Force is set to buy 183 of the next generation fighters, though it wanted 750, which would be enough to give the U.S. air supremacy over battlefields over the next three decades. Now the fighter may be prematurely mothballed.

Weapons programs, such as missile defense or the Army's Future Combat Systems, are also in danger. Others have been ridiculously delayed. The Air Force flies refueling tankers from the Eisenhower era. Mr. Obama's own 30-something Marine One helicopter is prone to break down and technologically out of date.

The Pentagon shouldn't get a blank check, though much of its procurement waste results from the demands made by Congress. Mr. Gates has also rightly focused on the immediate priority of irregular warfare and counterinsurgency. But history also teaches that a nation that downplays potential threats -- such as from China in outer space -- is likely to find itself ill-prepared when they arrive.

The U.S. ability to project power abroad has been crucial to maintaining a relatively peaceful world, but we have been living off the fruits of our Cold War investments for too long. We can't afford another lost defense decade.

 
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« Reply #129 on: March 03, 2009, 07:50:48 AM »

Raising Jihad
by Andrew J. Bacevich

03.02.2009

David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 384 pp., $27.95.

 

IN WASHINGTON, protracted crisis creates opportunities. The cold war gave rise to a national-security elite whose members flourished for decades while rotating in and out of government. To this very day, the Arab-Israeli “peace process” performs a similar function, supporting the existence of various research institutes and advocacy groups while providing fodder for endless conferencing and endlessly repetitive studies, essays and op-eds.

The Long War—the Pentagon’s preferred name for the global war on terror—promises to do much the same. Whatever else one may say of this conflict, it has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to generate jobs. Established federal agencies have expanded. New ones have come into existence. Think tanks have proliferated. Contractors and lobbyists have prospered. Given the assumption—shared by mainstream Democrats and Republicans alike—that the Long War will continue for decades if not generations, its potential as an engine for career opportunities appears vast indeed.

Protracted crisis also produces its own cult of celebrity, exalting the status of figures perceived to possess inside knowledge or to exercise particular clout. During the early days of the cold war, functionaries like George Kennan and Paul Nitze suddenly became boldfaced names. As the great struggle with the Soviet Union dragged on, the list of notable cold warriors lengthened. Some of these Washington celebrities—presidential assistants, politically savvy generals, agency heads, and “whiz kids” with sharp elbows and a knack for self-promotion—quickly flamed out, left town and were soon forgotten. Others fell from grace and yet continued to haunt the city where they once exercised power. (A few years ago I came across Robert McNamara lunching alone at the Old Ebbitt Grill; it was like suddenly encountering a spirit from the netherworld—and about as welcome.) A few celebs manage to retain enduring influence. The peace process may be a niche market, but even today on just about anything related to Arabs and Israelis, Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross head the short list of go-to guys. Like Cher and Madonna—or like Zbig and Henry—they’ve been at it so long that surnames are no longer required: Martin and Dennis will do just fine.

So too with the Long War. It is producing its own constellation of celebrities, of whom General David Petraeus is far and away the brightest, but that also includes the likes of Colonel H. R. McMaster, the hero of Tal Afar; retired–Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, author of the influential book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife and now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the best of the think tanks spawned by the Long War; and Dr. David Kilcullen, who is perhaps the most interesting of this select group.

Kilcullen was once a soldier and now classifies himself as a “counterinsurgency professional.” A former officer in the Australian army with a PhD from the University of New South Wales (his dissertation dealt with Indonesian terrorists and guerrilla movements), Kilcullen has served as an adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and to former–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington. As the Bush administration left office, he signed on with CNAS and also became a partner with the Crumpton Group, a Washington-based consulting firm founded by former–CIA official and terrorism specialist Henry “Hank” Crumpton. The Long War has been good to Dr. Kilcullen.

For perhaps just that reason, when it comes to taking stock of that conflict, Kilcullen is someone to reckon with. In his new book The Accidental Guerrilla, we actually encounter three Kilcullens. First there is Kilcullen the practitioner, who draws on considerable firsthand experience to offer his own take on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this regard, Accidental Guerrilla resembles dozens of other Washington books, blending memoir with policy analysis, generously laced with spin. Then there is Kilcullen the scholar, presenting his own grand theory of insurgency and prescribing a set of “best practices” to which counterinsurgents should adhere. In this regard, the book falls somewhere between academic treatise and military field manual: it is dry, repetitive and laced with statements of the obvious. Last, however, there is Kilcullen the apostate. With the administration whose policies he sought to implement now gone from office, Kilcullen uses Accidental Guerrilla to skewer those he served for gross strategic ineptitude. His chief finding—that through its actions the Bush administration has managed to exacerbate the Islamist threat while wasting resources on a prodigious scale—is not exactly novel. Yet given Kilcullen’s status as both witness and participant, his indictment carries considerable weight. Here lies the real value of his book.

 

ON IRAQ, Kilcullen the practitioner is generally bullish. As a member of Petraeus’s inner circle during the period of the so-called surge, he makes two points. First, the surge is working. Second, credit for this success belongs to those who served in Baghdad, above all General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, rather than to paper pushers back in the White House or kibitzers congregating over lunch at the American Enterprise Institute.

The surge, Kilcullen contends, pulled Iraqi “society back from the brink of total collapse.” In terms of security, he describes the progress achieved as “substantive and significant.” U.S. efforts prior to February 2007, when Petraeus took command in Baghdad, had been almost entirely counterproductive. An excessive reliance on force had accomplished little apart from “progressively alienating village after village” while “creating a pool of people who hate the U.S.” Sectarian violence was driving the minority Sunni community into the arms of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other extremist groups. As a result, by 2006 Iraq was drowning in “an immense tide of blood.”

The Joint Campaign Plan for 2007 and 2008, devised under Petraeus’s direction, reversed that tide. The new approach, according to Kilcullen, began with a detailed political strategy aimed at reconciling Iraq’s various sectarian and ethnic factions. Improved security would create conditions making reconciliation possible. The key to improving security was to pay less attention to killing the enemy and more attention to protecting the Iraqi people. This in turn required a wholesale shift in the way that U.S. and other coalition forces were doing business. President Bush’s decision to deploy a half-dozen additional brigades combined with Petraeus’s implementation of a newly revised (or freshly rediscovered) counterinsurgency doctrine made all the difference.

Here the triumphal narrative constructed by the Bush White House (and enshrined in neoconservative circles) ends. Kilcullen makes it clear that the actual story is more complicated and by implication more problematic.

Napoleon once remarked that the best generals were the ones favored by good luck. Petraeus is clearly a capable general; in Iraq circa 2007 he may well have been an especially lucky one as well.

Some months prior to his arrival in Baghdad, the character of the Iraq War had begun to change. Beginning in western Anbar Province, Sunni tribal leaders, whose followers provided the insurgent rank and file, began to turn on AQI. The Americans misleadingly dubbed this the Sunni Awakening, as if our adversaries had begun to see the light. As Kilcullen makes clear, Sunni behavior was utterly pragmatic. “Only a naif,” he writes, would interpret the Sunni tribal revolt as “indicating support for the Iraqi government or for Coalition forces.” Still, in exchange for guns and money, Sunni sheikhs promised to desist from attacking U.S. troops and to collaborate in efforts to target AQI. They proved as good as their word. In terms of reducing the overall level of violence, this development—which U.S. officials stumbled on belatedly and then scrambled to harness—proved crucial.

How long will this marriage of convenience endure and what sort of offspring will it produce? The truth is that it’s probably too soon to tell. When it comes to anything touching on Iraq’s future, Kilcullen, whose usual mode of expression does not suggest a want of self-confidence, becomes notably circumspect. He concedes that expectations of improved security producing a top-down political settlement have not panned out: the Iraqi government in Baghdad remains divided and dysfunctional. Yet as a stalwart defender of the surge, he nurtures hopes that deals being cut with local tribal leaders might foster an “Iraqi-led, bottom-up” process of reconciliation.

Kilcullen makes no promises on that score, instead acknowledging the self-evident: despite six years of prodigious effort, the Americans are along for the ride. The Iraqis are in charge. The Sunni Awakening, he writes, “was their idea, they started it, they are leading it, it is happening on their terms and their timeline.” By extension, the Iraqis will decide where things go from here, with Kilcullen venturing only that events “will play out in ways that may be good or bad, but are fundamentally unpredictable.” In short, the second-order benefits of a success that Kilcullen hails as undeniable, substantive and significant turn out to be partial, precarious and shrouded in ambiguity—a pretty meager return on a very substantial American investment.

In 2008, Kilcullen left Baghdad and turned his attention to Afghanistan, surveying the situation there at the behest of then-Secretary Rice. More than seven years after U.S. forces first arrived, the news coming out of Kabul is almost uniformly bad. Kilcullen knows this but insists that the war “remains winnable.” In this case, winning will require the United States and its allies to commit themselves to an intensive effort, lasting “five to ten years at least,” aimed at “building a resilient Afghan state and civil society” capable of fending off the Taliban. The key to success, in his view, is to extend “an effective, legitimate government presence into Afghanistan’s 40,020 villages.” Such a presence, he concedes, is something that has never existed.

Stripped to its essentials, this is a call for Western-engineered nation building on a stupendous scale—in Kilcullen’s own words, “building an effective state structure, for the first time in modern Afghan history.” Yet even that will not suffice. Given the porous Afghan-Pakistani border, unless the United States and its partners also fix Pakistan, “a military victory in Afghanistan will simply shift the problem a few miles to the east.” With this is mind, Kilcullen calls for a “full-spectrum strategy” designed to “improve governance, security, and economic conditions” throughout the region. Although he illustrates this approach anecdotally, he offers no estimates of costs or who will pay them. Nor does Kilcullen explain why the results to be achieved in Afghanistan-Pakistan, even in the very best case, would produce an outcome any more definitive than the one he foresees in Iraq.

 

KILCULLEN THE practitioner, intent on transforming Afghanistan and Pakistan, is not entirely on the same page with Kilcullen the scholar, whose grand theory of insurgency emphasizes the unintended consequences of mucking around in traditional societies.

Mucking around by outsiders converts small problems into big ones. An appreciation of this phenomenon lies at the heart of al-Qaeda’s strategy, which Kilcullen describes as “fundamentally one of bleeding the United States to exhaustion, while simultaneously using U.S. reaction to incite a mass uprising within the Islamic world.” With that end in mind, al-Qaeda conspires to lure the West into launching ill-advised military actions, confident that one result will be to antagonize the local population, which will then respond to al-Qaeda’s calls to expel the intruders. In essence, Western intervention serves as al-Qaeda’s best recruiting tool. This is Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla Syndrome.

Kilcullen emphasizes that accidental guerrillas fight not to reinstitute the caliphate or to convert nonbelievers, but “principally to be left alone.” What they want above all is to preserve their way of life. The vast majority of those who take up arms against the United States and its allies do so “not because they hate the West and seek our overthrow, but because we have invaded their space to deal with a small extremist element.”

Of course, rather than depicting the threat posed by al-Qaeda as small, the Bush administration chose to cast it as equivalent to Nazi Germany. The premise underlying the administration’s Long War was that the Islamic world could not be “left alone.” Instead, it had to be coerced into changing. The administration invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq to jump-start that process of change. In doing so, however, the United States was playing directly into enemy hands. The decision to go after Saddam Hussein in particular, Kilcullen writes, was “a deeply misguided and counterproductive undertaking, an extremely severe strategic error.” The ostensible success of the surge notwithstanding, the Iraq War remains a “sorry adventure.”

The improved counterinsurgency techniques now being implemented by the United States military do not redeem that error. They merely offer, in the judgment of Kilcullen the apostate, “the best way out of a bad situation that we should never have gotten ourselves into.”

Here we arrive at the nub of the matter. According to a currently fashionable view, the chief operative lesson of the Iraq War is that counterinsurgency works, with U.S. forces having now mastered the best practices required to prevail in conflicts of this nature. Those who adhere to this view expect the Long War to bring more such challenges, with the neglected Afghan conflict even now presenting itself as next in line. Given this prospect, they want the Pentagon to gear itself up for a succession of such trials, enshrining counterinsurgency as the preferred American way of war in place of discredited concepts like “shock and awe.” Doing so will have large implications for how defense dollars are distributed among the various armed services and for how U.S. forces are trained, equipped and configured. Ask yourself how many fighter-bombers or nuclear submarines it takes to establish an effective government presence in each of Afghanistan’s 40,020 villages and you get the gist of what this might imply.

Yet given the costs of Iraq—now second only to World War II as the most expensive war in all U.S. history—and given the way previous efforts to pacify the Afghan countryside have fared, how much should we expect to spend in redeeming Afghanistan’s forty thousand villages? Having completed that task five or ten years hence, how many other villages in Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Egypt will require similar ministrations? And how many more accidental guerrillas will we inadvertently create along the way?

Kilcullen the apostate knows full well that an approach that hinges on wholesale societal transformation makes no sense. The consummate counterinsurgency professional understands that the application of technique, however skillful, will not suffice to salvage the Long War. Yet as someone deeply invested in that conflict, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge the conclusion to which his own analysis points: the very concept of waging a Long War as the antidote to Islamism is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed.

If counterinsurgency is useful chiefly for digging ourselves out of holes we shouldn’t be in, then why not simply avoid the holes? Why play al-Qaeda’s game? Why persist in waging the Long War when that war makes no sense?

When it comes to dealing with Islamism, containment rather than transformation should provide the cornerstone of U.S. (and Western) strategy. Ours is the far stronger hand. The jihadist project is entirely negative. Apart from offering an outlet for anger and resentment, Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk have nothing on offer. Time is our ally. With time, our adversary will wither and die—unless through our own folly we choose to destroy ourselves first.

 

Andrew J. Bacevich, a contributing editor to The National Interest, is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

http://www.nationalinterest.org/PrinterFriendly.aspx?id=20932
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« Reply #130 on: March 06, 2009, 10:37:00 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Change in U.S. Foreign Policy
March 6, 2009 | 0410 GMT
The foreign ministers of NATO states gathered Thursday in Brussels to discuss the pressing geopolitical topics of the day: Russia, Afghanistan and Iran. For some, it was a summit filled with hope; for others, intense fear; for all, groundbreaking change.

At the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first leaked — and then openly announced — that she would like to invite Iran to an international conference on March 31 to map out a strategy for Afghanistan. This marks the first real sign from the Obama administration that it intends to follow through with its pledge to extend a hand to Iran, should Tehran “unclench its fist” — beginning with a multilateral setting in which Iran’s regional influence would be recognized.

Although this is clearly a break from Washington’s past pattern of dealings with Tehran, it should not come as a surprise. The toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003 presented the Iranians and the Americans with a menu of mutual interests, particularly in shaping post-Baathist Iraq. Relations over the years have been rocky (to say the least), but various bouts of behind-the-scenes cooperation have brought them to a point that it’s now politically acceptable to talk about diplomatic engagement in both Iran and the United States. In other words, this is much more of an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, change.

The real revolutionary change lies in the U.S. administration’s plans for dealing with Russia. When the NATO meeting began Thursday morning, Lithuania — on behalf of the Baltic states — tried to block a resolution that would restore ties with Moscow, under the guise of the NATO-Russia Council. Lithuania — along with Estonia, Latvia and Poland — has made it abundantly clear to Washington that it does not trust the Russians. These countries are all relying heavily on the planned U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Central Europe to guarantee their security against a resurgent Russia. By early afternoon, however, Lithuania’s protests had been swept aside and NATO states voted unanimously — in line with the wishes of Washington and other heavyweights — to restore ties with Moscow.

Then, Clinton moved on to the more contentious item on her agenda: breaking the news to the Georgian delegation – in a hastily scheduled meeting that took place shortly after the NATO-Russia Council vote — that the United States needs some space in their relationship. This means Tbilisi will more or less need to fend for itself the next time Russia starts rumbling in its neighborhood. In other words: The Georgians should forget about NATO membership for now, because the Americans have bigger problems to work on with the Russians.

This is Barack Obama’s biggest break from Bush administration policies. Even during the Russo-Georgian war last August and the shutoff of natural gas to Ukraine and downstream customers this winter, the Bush administration did not falter from its (at least rhetorical) position that the United States would stand behind the two former Soviet republics and continue pushing for their inclusion in NATO, at Russia’s expense. But the Obama administration, still fresh from the inauguration, is forging ahead with two big issues that require the Russians’ cooperation: developing an alternate supply route to Afghanistan and compelling Iran to curb its nuclear program. In order to win that cooperation, the Obama administration is very clearly signaling to Russia that it is willing to make concessions to get negotiations moving.

By disappointing the Georgians at this summit, the United States just moved the line of Russian influence in the former Soviet periphery several hundred miles to the west. The United States essentially told a recently war-ravaged country on the border of Russia — whose only real protection derives from its alliance with Washington — that the need for the United States to work out a deal with Russians is a bigger priority right now than providing for Georgia’s security. That message is likely to be met with horror throughout much of central and eastern Europe and with delight in Moscow. That said, the diplomatic stage is still being set, and there is much more to be worked out in the United States’ distrust-filled relationships with both Tehran and Moscow. We will be watching for Russia’s reaction to the U.S. gestures on Friday, when Clinton meets with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and for the level of actual progress in negotiations in the month before Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev meet.

Regardless, Thursday’s events provided very clear indicators that Washington has — for the time being — chosen a new foreign policy path that will win some and lose some. Now is the prime moment for the major global powers to reposition themselves.
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« Reply #131 on: March 06, 2009, 10:41:24 AM »

Nothing like selling out friends and allies. I'm so proud.....  Frack!
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« Reply #132 on: March 06, 2009, 12:57:39 PM »

We share our POV of His Glibness, but in fairness the question must be raised-- Did not Bush overplay our hand with Russia and leave us badly off-balance?
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« Reply #133 on: March 06, 2009, 01:07:49 PM »

What was the better path for Bush to take with Russia?
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« Reply #134 on: March 06, 2009, 01:22:30 PM »

Well, supporting the breakaway of Bosnia seemed unsound to me.

So too did failing to increase the size of the US military in 2003-2004.  Even candidate Sen. Kerry was calling for an increase of 50,000 IIRC.  The failure to expand meant that the % of our capabilities we already had committed meant we couldn't back up what we were doing in Eastern Europe and Georgia.    Don't start what you can't finish-- Bush left us looking bad and weak in Georgia when the Russian busted their move, and his Afg strategy (strategy, what strategy?!?) now leaves us fcuked.  I don't think selling out eastern Europe in order to depend on the Russians in great part for supplies during a war that apparently we are expanding is anything near a plausible idea, but still the conversation needs to acknowledge it seems to me that Bush did not leave us well situated with Russia.
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« Reply #135 on: March 06, 2009, 02:46:15 PM »

I'll concede those points.
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« Reply #136 on: March 06, 2009, 03:42:50 PM »

**Meanwhile, this administration can't even lick Putin's boots competently.**

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/19719.html

Clinton gift gaffe: 'Overcharge'

By DAVID S. CLOUD | 3/6/09 3:58 PM EST



GENEVA—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened her first extended talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by giving him a present meant to symbolize the Obama administration’s vow to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.

She handed a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said.

Instead of "reset," Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.”

Clinton and Lavrov laughed.

“We won’t let you do that to us,” she said. Trying to recover, Clinton said the new administration was serious about improving relations with Moscow. “We mean it, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Lavrov said he would put the button on his desk and he and Clinton pushed the button together, before sitting down for their meeting.

A State Department official said the misspelling on the button was being corrected, in time for the post-meeting news conference.
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« Reply #137 on: March 06, 2009, 04:58:38 PM »

Ummm GM, that hardly qualifies as "Big Picture WW3"  cheesy
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« Reply #138 on: March 06, 2009, 05:11:01 PM »

I'd argue that the big picture is seriously impacted by the empty-suit running things now.
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« Reply #139 on: March 06, 2009, 05:26:55 PM »

OF COURSE IT IS!

But may I suggest that the discussion here should be more about the actual strategies being pursued, their merits, their alternatives, etc.?

For example, the merits vel non of Russia being a supply line for us to Afg, what are the alternatives?  What about the idea of persuading Russia to work with us against Iranian nukes instead of for them?  Should we seek the collapse of Pak?  Should we be in Afpakia? etc etc
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« Reply #140 on: March 09, 2009, 07:06:24 AM »

OF COURSE IT IS!

But may I suggest that the discussion here should be more about the actual strategies being pursued, their merits, their alternatives, etc.?

For example, the merits vel non of Russia being a supply line for us to Afg, what are the alternatives?  What about the idea of persuading Russia to work with us against Iranian nukes instead of for them?  Should we seek the collapse of Pak?  Should we be in Afpakia? etc etc

I think Russia is going to take advantage of Obama being in office the same way an obnoxious 7 years old tests their baby siitter.  When the Oval office is again occupied by someone with integrity who actually loves the concept of America, Russia will already be accustomed to having the run of the house.  That will result in conflict.
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« Reply #141 on: March 09, 2009, 08:58:29 AM »

I am sad for our country to say that I fear that you are entirely correct.
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« Reply #142 on: March 11, 2009, 01:25:02 AM »

Obama's Diplomatic Offensive and the Reality of Geopolitics
March 10, 2009
By Reva Bhalla

Special Series: Obama’s Foreign Policy Landscape

The Obama administration is only one and a half months into the job, but between pressing “reset buttons” with the Russians, reaching out to the Europeans, talking about reconciling with the Taliban, extending invitations to the Iranians and rubbing elbows with the Syrians, this is already one of the most diplomatically active U.S. administrations in quite some time.

During the campaign, now-President Barack Obama made the controversial statement that he was prepared to speak to adversaries, including countries like Iran. This position was part of a general critique by Obama of the Bush administration, which Obama said enclosed itself diplomatically, refusing to engage either adversaries or allies critical of the United States. Now, Obama is sending emissaries across the globe to restart dialogue everywhere from Europe to the Middle East to South Asia to Russia. For Obama, these conversations are the prelude to significant movement in the international arena.

From a geopolitical perspective, that people are talking is far less important than what they are saying, which in turn matters far less than what each side is demanding and willing to concede. Engagement can be a prelude to accommodation, or an alternative to serious bargaining. At the moment, it is far too early to tell which the present U.S. diplomatic flurry will turn out to be. And of course, some of the diplomatic initiatives might succeed while others fail.

Nevertheless, as the global diplomatic offensive takes place, we must consider whether Obama is prepared to make substantive shifts in U.S. policy or whether he will expect concessions in exchange for a different diplomatic atmosphere alone. Since Obama and his foreign policy team are too sophisticated to expect the latter, we must examine the details of the various conversations. In this case more than others, the devil is very much in the details.

Russia

The Obama administration has made clear to Russia its desire to reset its relations with Russia, with Clinton even presenting a red “reset button” as a gift to her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on March 6 at a NATO summit in Geneva. But the Russians want to clarify how far the Americans really intend to rewind the tape. The 2004 Orange Revolution and NATO’s reach to the Baltics crystallized Moscow’s fears that the United States intends to encircle and destabilize Russia in its former Soviet periphery through NATO expansion and support for the color revolutions. Since then, Russia has been resurgent. Moscow has worked aggressively to reclaim and consolidate its influence in the Russian near abroad for its long-term security while the United States remains preoccupied in its war with the jihadists.

The Russians are pushing for a grand deal that guarantees a rollback of NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, scraps plans for U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD), maintains some semblance of Russian nuclear parity in post-Cold War treaties, and ensures Western noninterference in a region that runs from the Baltics down through Eastern Europe and across the Caucasus and Central Asia — what Russia views as its rightful sphere of influence. Only then can Russia feel secure from the West, and confident it will remain a major player in Eurasia in the long run. In return, the Russians theoretically could make life easier for the Americans by cooperating with Washington against Iran and increasing support for U.S. operations in Afghanistan through the expansion of an alternate supply route — two key issues that address the most pressing threats to U.S. national security interests in the near term, but which may not be entirely worth the strategic concessions Moscow is demanding of Washington.

So far, the Obama administration has responded to Russia’s demands by restarting talks on the START I nuclear armaments treaty in exchange for Moscow allowing U.S. nonmilitary goods bound for Afghanistan to transit Russia and Central Asia. The Russians responded by permitting some supplies bound for Afghanistan to pass through the former Soviet Union as an opening toward broader talks. The United States then privately offered to roll back its plans for BMD in Central Europe if Russia would pressure Iran into making concessions on Tehran’s nuclear program. But the Russians have signaled already that such piecemeal diplomacy will not cut it, and that the United States will need to make broader concessions that more adequately address Moscow’s core national security interests before the Russians can be expected to sacrifice a relationship with a strategic Middle East ally.

At the Geneva NATO summit, Clinton upped the offer to the Russians when she signaled that the United States might even be willing to throw in a halt to NATO expansion, thereby putting at risk a number of U.S. allies in the former Soviet Union that rely on the United States to protect them from a resurgent Russia. This gesture will set the stage for Obama’s upcoming trip to Russia to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, but the Russians will be watching closely to see if such gestures are being made for the sake of public diplomacy or if the United States really intends to get down to business.

Europe

In Europe, Obama is dealing with allies rather than adversaries, but even here his administration’s work does not get any easier. The willingness of Obama to talk with the Europeans far more than his predecessor is less important than what Obama intends to demand of NATO, and what those NATO members are capable of delivering.

A prime example is how Washington is requesting the Europeans to commit more NATO forces to the war in Afghanistan now that the United States feels ready to shift gears from Iraq. Despite their enthusiasm for Obama, the Europeans are not on the same page as the Americans on NATO, especially when it comes to Afghanistan. The U.S. argument for strengthening NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan is that failure to do so would recreate the conditions necessary for al Qaeda to rebuild its ability to carry out transcontinental attacks against the West, putting both European and American cities at risk. But the Europeans (for the most part) view a long-term war effort in Afghanistan without a clear strategy or realistic objectives as a futile drain on resources. After all, the British — who currently have the largest European contingent in Afghanistan — remember well their own ugly and drawn-out efforts to pacify the region in three brutal wars in the 19th and early 20th centuries, each won by Afghan tribesmen.

This disagreement goes beyond the question of Afghanistan to a long-standing debate over NATO’s intended security mission. NATO was formed during the Cold War as a U.S.-dominated security alliance designed to protect the European continent from internal and external Soviet aggression. Since the end of the Cold War, however, NATO’s scope has widened, with only limited agreement among members over whether the alliance should even be dealing with the broader 21st century challenges of counterterrorism, cyberattacks, climate change and energy security. More important, NATO has pushed up against Russia’s borders with its expansion to the Baltics and talk of integrating Georgia and Ukraine, worrying some states that they may need to bear the burden of Washington’s hardball tactics against the Russians. Germany, which is dependent on Russians for energy, has no interest in restarting another Cold War. The French have more room to maneuver than the Germans in dealing with a powerful player like Russia. But the French can only work effectively with the Russians as long as Paris avoids getting (permanently) on Moscow’s bad side, something U.S.-dominated policy of trying to resurrect NATO as a major military force could bring about.

Before taking any further steps in Afghanistan, the Europeans, including those Central and Eastern Europeans who mostly take a hard-line stance against Moscow, first want to know how Obama intends to deal with the Russians. Even with the Poles going one way in trying to boost NATO security and the Germans going the other in trying to bargain with Russia, none of the European states can really move until U.S. policy toward Russia comes into focus. The last thing the Poles would want to do is to take an unflinching stance against Moscow only to have the United States cancel BMD plans, for example. Conversely, the United States is unable to formulate a firm policy on Afghanistan or Russia until it knows where the Europeans will end up standing on NATO, their commitment to Afghanistan and their relationship with Russia. Add to this classic chicken-and-egg dilemma a financial crisis that has left Europe much worse off than the United States, and the gap between U.S. and European interests starts to look as wide as the Atlantic itself.

Iran

Talking to Iran was a major theme of Obama’s campaign, and the first big step in following through with this pledge was made March 5 when Clinton extended an invitation to Iran to participate in a multilateral conference on Afghanistan, thereby recognizing Iran’s influential role in the region. There is also an expectation that after Iran gets through elections in June, the United States could move beyond the multilateral setting to engage the Iranians bilaterally.

The idea of the United States talking to Iran is not a new concept. In fact, the United States and Iran were talking a great deal behind the scenes in 2001 in the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban and in 2003 during the precursor to the war in Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. In both of these cases, core mutual interests brought the two rivals to the negotiating table. Iran, facing hostile Sunni powers to its west and east, had a golden opportunity to address its historical security dilemma in one fell swoop and then use the emerging political structures in Iraq and Afghanistan to spread Persian power in the wider region. The United States, knocked off balance by 9/11, needed Iranian cooperation to facilitate the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions to uproot al Qaeda and intimidate al Qaeda state-sponsors into working with Washington.

U.S.-Iranian relations have been rocky (to say the least), but have reached a point where it is now politically acceptable for both openly to discuss U.S.-Iranian cooperation on issues related to Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Iranians hold influence and where the United States is still engaged militarily.

Iran knows that even with the United States drawing down from Iraq, Washington will still maintain a strategic agreement with Baghdad that could be used as a launchpad for U.S. designs in the region as it works to protect Sunni Arabs from Iranian expansionist goals. At the same time, Washington has come to realize that its influence in Baghdad will have to be shared with the Iranians given their geographic proximity and clout among large segments of the Iraqi Shia.

Though U.S. and Iranian interests overlap enough to the point that the two cannot avoid working with each other, negotiating a power-sharing agreement has not come easily. In Iraq, Tehran needs to consolidate Shiite influence, contain Sunni power and prevent the country from posing a future security threat to Iran’s western frontier. In addition, the Iranians are looking for the United States to recognize its regional sphere of influence and accept the existence of an Iranian nuclear program. The United States, on the other hand, needs to defend the interests of Israel and its Sunni allies and wants Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions (or at least place real curbs on its nuclear program) and end its support for militant proxies. Though Washington and Tehran have made some progress in their diplomatic dialogue, the demands of each remain just as intractable. As a result, the U.S.-Iranian negotiations start and stop in spurts without any real willingness on either side to follow through in addressing the other’s respective core demands.

In reaching out to Iran over Afghanistan, the Obama administration is now trying to inject more confidence into the larger negotiations by recognizing Iran as a player in Kabul in return for intelligence sharing and potential logistical cooperation in supporting the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. But as much as Iran enjoys the recognition and shares an interest in preventing jihadist spillover into its territory, the Iranian regime is not about to offer its full cooperation on an issue as big as Afghanistan as long as the United States avoids addressing issues that the Iranians deem more central to their national security interests (e.g., Iraq.) Complicating matters further at this juncture is Iranian displeasure over U.S. talk of speaking to the Taliban, a long-time enemy of Tehran that the Iranians will fight to keep contained, but with which the United States needs to engage if it has any hope of settling Afghanistan.
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« Reply #143 on: March 11, 2009, 01:25:45 AM »



The Taliban

Obama told the New York Times in a March 6 interview that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, and that in addition to sending more troops, his strategy for the war might include approaching elements of the Afghan Taliban. While he acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan is more complex, he related the idea to the successful U.S. strategy of reaching out to Iraqi Sunni nationalists to undercut the al Qaeda presence in Iraq.

The idea of negotiating with the Taliban to split the insurgency has been thrown around for some time now, but just talking about talking to the Taliban raises a number of issues. First, the United States is fighting a war of perception as much as it is fighting battles against die-hard jihadists. So far, Obama has approved 17,000 additional U.S. troops to be deployed to Afghanistan, but even double that number is unlikely to convince Taliban insurgents that the United States is willing or even capable of fighting this war in the long run. The Taliban and their allies in al Qaeda and various other radical Islamist groups are pursuing a strategy of exhaustion where success is not measured in the number of battles won, but rather the ability to outlast the occupier. Considering that Afghanistan’s mountainous, barren terrain, sparse population centers and lack of governance have historically denied every outside occupier success in pacifying the country, the prospects for the United States are not good in this war.

Talk of reconciliation with the Taliban from a U.S. position of weakness raises the question of how the United States can actually parse out those Taliban members who can be reconciled. It also raises the question of whether those members will be willing to put their personal security on the line by accepting an offer to start talks when the United States itself is admitting it is on the losing side of the war. Most important, it is unclear to us what the United States can actually offer these Taliban elements, especially as Washington simultaneously attempts to negotiate with the Iranians and the Russians, neither of which want to live next door to a revived Taliban and both of which must cooperate with the United States if Washington is to be able to fight the war in the first place.

Syria

After exchanging a few words with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in Egypt on March 2, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched two emissaries in what was the highest-level U.S. delegation to Syria in four years. The March 7 visit came on the heels of a British announcement that London will be resuming talks with Hezbollah’s political wing — a move likely made in close coordination with the Americans.

The Americans want Syria to end its support for militant proxies like Hezbollah and stop interfering in Lebanese affairs. But Syrian dominance over Lebanon is non-negotiable from the Syrian point of view. Lebanon historically has been Syria’s economic, political and military outlet to the Mediterranean basin, allowing Syria to play a prominent role in the region. If Damascus is not in control of Lebanon, then Syria is poor and isolated. Even though the Americans and the Syrians are holding talks again, it is still unclear that Washington is willing to accept Syrian demands regarding Lebanon. And unless the United States is, these talks are guaranteed to remain in limbo.

That said, there may be more to these talks then meets the eye. Instead of rushing to cater to Syrian demands over Lebanon, the United States is probably more interested in using the Syrian talks (largely a Turkish-backed initiative) to send a positive signal to Turkey — a resurgent regional power with the ability to influence matters in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans. Turkey is beginning to throw its weight in the region around again, and will have a major say in how the United States interacts with states that Ankara perceives are in the Turkish sphere of influence (Syria and Iraq, for example). The United States will need Turkish cooperation in the months and years ahead, particularly as it reduces its military presence in Iraq and attempts to deal with another resurgent power, Russia. It comes as little surprise, then, that one of Obama’s first major trips abroad will be to Ankara. Rather than revealing any true U.S. interest to accommodate the Syrians, the U.S. diplomatic opening to Syria is more likely a gesture to the Turks, whose agenda for the Middle East includes reshaping Damascus’s behavior through negotiations with the United States and Israel and containing Iran’s regional ambitions.

Back to Reality

Obama has put into motion a global diplomatic offensive fueled by a dizzying array of special envoys designed to change the dynamic of its relations with key allies like the Europeans and adversaries like the Russians, the Taliban, the Iranians and the Syrians. This diplomatic blitzkrieg may spin the press into a frenzy. But once we look beyond the handshakes, press conferences and newspaper headlines and drill down into the core, unadulterated demands of each player in question, it becomes clear that such a diplomatic offensive actually could end up yielding very little of substance if it fails to address the real issues.

This is not a fault of the administration, but the reality of geopolitics. The ability of any political leader to effect change is not principally determined by his or her own desires, but by external factors. In dealing with any one of these adversaries individually, the administration is bound to hit walls. In trying to balance the interests between adversaries and allies, the walls only become reinforced. Add to that additional constraints in dealing with Congress and the need to maintain approval ratings — not to mention trying to manage a global recession — and the space to maneuver becomes much tighter. We must also remember that this is an administration that has not even been in power for two months. Formulating policy on issues of this scale takes several months at the least, and more likely years before the United States actually figures out what it wants and what it can actually do. No amount of power delegation to special envoys will change that. In fact, it could even confuse matters when bureaucratic rivalries kick in and the chain of command begins to blur.

Whether the policymakers are sitting in an Afghan cave or in the Kremlin, they will not find this surprising. As is widely known, presidential transitions take time, and diplomatic engagements to feel out various positions are a natural part of the process. Tacit offers can be made, bits of negotiations will be leaked, but as long as each player questions the ability of Washington to follow through in any sort of “grand bargain,” these talks are unlikely to result in any major breakthroughs. So far, Obama has demonstrated that he can talk the diplomatic talk. The real question is whether he can walk the geopolitical walk.

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« Reply #144 on: March 22, 2009, 09:33:22 AM »

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/272acmbf.asp

Gulf Scream
Fear and loathing in Riyadh--of Tehran.
by Olivier Guitta
03/23/2009, Volume 014, Issue 26


A few weeks ago, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader called Bahrain Iran's 14th province. Not only did Bahrain react indignantly, but--more important--so did Saudi Arabia. For, even as a potential conflict between Iran and Israel grabs headlines, tensions have been building between Tehran and Riyadh. The Saudis fear both Iran's nuclear program and its expansionist agenda.

And that's not all. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 launched a far-reaching competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for control of Islam and the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, Iran has increased its expenditure of money, energy, and time on proselytizing populations, from Africa to the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia, more than any other Sunni country, feels threatened by this new wave of Shiite proselytizing. Saudi social affairs minister Abdel Mohsen al Hakas has called it unacceptable, and King Abdullah himself has accused Shiites of trying to convert Sunnis, pointing the finger at Tehran. The matter is of vital concern to the kingdom, which prizes its position as the cradle of Islam--all the more since Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are now among the most popular figures in the Arab world.

Iran's expansionist strategy is not limited to religious affairs. Hundreds of Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah fighters who got their military training in Iran have infiltrated the Gulf since last year in order to "militarize" the Shiite communities of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Their mission is to prepare to destabilize these monarchies, targeting vital national interests and Western interests (both embassies and businesses) in the event of a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran.

Citing "British sources," the Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah reported in September:

European intelligence services have located at least 450 Lebanese Shiite fighters who have already visited the Gulf between January and July 2008, often using false passports, from Lebanon or from Syria, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. Others were able to move directly from Iraq to Kuwait and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Shiite. Lebanese immigrants in these countries allegedly confirmed the presence of these agents, and have reported them to the authorities.

The situation is all the more tense in that Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran is a threat to the Saudi regime. King Abdullah sternly warned Ahmadinejad during the latter's visit to Riyadh in 2007, "We welcome cooperation and investment, but we will not tolerate interference in internal affairs."

In fact, the kingdom's Shiite minority, about 10 percent of the population, is concentrated in the oil-rich eastern region of the country. The regime cannot afford a rebellion or terror attacks there. In 2007, to protect its oil installations, Riyadh created a 35,000-man specialized security force.

While Saudi Shiites remain cautious, they are nonetheless listening to their Iranian big brother and may be ready to contest their second-class citizenship. In December, clashes erupted in the Saudi province of Al-Qatif between the police and Shiite demonstrators responding to Hezbollah's call to support the Palestinians in Gaza. And on February 23, violence broke out in Medina between Shiite and Sunni worshippers.

Iran is threatening Riyadh, moreover, not only by playing the Shiite card, but also by playing the terrorism card. Tehran helps various arms of al Qaeda with funding, supplies, training, and sanctuary, and al Qaeda is a deadly enemy of the Saudi regime.

Thus, some Saudi prisoners who belong to Al Qaeda in Iraq have confessed that they were trained in camps supervised by the Al Quds Brigades, a special branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In Lebanon, some Saudi terrorists from the al Qaeda-linked Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam, which is supported by Syria and fought the Lebanese army in 2007, entered Lebanon via Iran. Among them was a high level target, Abdallah Al Bichi, one of al Qaeda's religious theorists, who had been living in Iran.

Finally, close to 40 percent of the 85 terrorists on Riyadh's "most wanted" list are based in Iran, having entered the Islamic republic just in the past six months. Of the 85, 83 are Saudis and 2 Yemenis. In a country as controlled as Iran, it is inconceivable that the regime is not complicit in hosting these men, most of them affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose goal is the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy.

To counter Iran, Saudi Arabia has built a Sunni axis, cultivating relations with the six Gulf monarchies (though Qatar is wobbly), Jordan, and Egypt. This development was supported by the Bush administration and even implicitly by Israel. (High-level "secret" meetings between Saudis and Israelis have taken place since 2006, and it is not by chance that Riyadh publicly supported Jerusalem in its war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.)

At this point though, the Saudis are concerned about the Obama administration's overtures to Iran and are afraid that a deal will be done to their detriment. Hence the Saudi diplomatic offensive to rally support in the region. Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal recently exhorted his Arab counterparts to stand up to Iran's regional and nuclear ambitions. And Riyadh is courting Iran's main ally in the Middle East, Syria, in the hope of isolating Tehran: The March 11 meeting in Riyadh between King Abdullah and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, along with the heads of state of Egypt and Kuwait, suggested a rapprochement.

Tehran's two-pronged strategy of military/terrorist expansion and Shiite proselytizing is aimed at controlling the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia is seeking to defend itself, both physically and spiritually. Riyadh's jitters are a reminder that the Iranian regime remains a source of concern not just in Western capitals but also in large portions of the Muslim world.

Olivier Guitta is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant. His work appears at www.thecroissant.com.
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« Reply #145 on: March 23, 2009, 04:15:05 PM »

March 23, 2009




By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
U.S.-Iran Negotiations
The Iranian Nuclear Game
Iraq, Iran and the Shia

U.S. President Barack Obama released a video offering Iran congratulations on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday. Israeli President Shimon Peres also offered his best wishes, referring to “the noble Iranian people.” The joint initiative was received coldly in Tehran, however. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the video did not show that the United States had shifted its hostile attitude toward Iran.

The video is obviously part of Obama’s broader strategy of demonstrating that his administration has shifted U.S. policy, at least to the extent that it is prepared to open discussions with other regimes (with Iran being the hardest and most controversial case). The U.S. strategy is fairly straightforward: Obama is trying to create a new global perception of the United States. Global opinion was that former U.S. President George W. Bush was unwilling to engage with, and listen to, allies or enemies. Obama’s view is that that perception in itself harmed U.S. foreign policy by increasing suspicion of the United States. For Obama, offering New Year’s greetings to Iran is therefore part of a strategy to change the tone of all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

Getting Peres to offer parallel greetings was undoubtedly intended to demonstrate to the Iranians that the Israelis would not block U.S. initiatives toward Iran. The Israelis probably were willing to go along with the greetings because they don’t expect them to go very far. They also want to show that they were not responsible for their failure, something critical in their relations with the Obama administration.

The Iranian response is also understandable. The United States has made a series of specific demands on Iran, and has worked to impose economic sanctions on Iran when Tehran has not complied. But Iran also has some fairly specific demands of the United States. It might be useful, therefore, to look at the Iranian view of the United States and the world through its eyes.

From the Iranian point of view, the United States has made two fundamental demands of Iran. The first is that Iran halt its military nuclear program. The second, a much broader demand, is that Iran stop engaging in what the United States calls terrorism. This ranges from support for Hezbollah to support for Shiite factions in Iraq. In return, the United States is prepared to call for a suspension of sanctions against Iran.

For Tehran, however, the suspension of sanctions is much too small a price to pay for major strategic concessions. First, the sanctions don’t work very well. Sanctions only work when most powers are prepared to comply with them. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are prepared to systematically comply with sanctions, so there is little that Iran can afford that it can’t get. Iran’s problem is that it cannot afford much. Its economy is in shambles due more to internal problems than to sanctions. Therefore, in the Iranian point of view, the United States is asking for strategic concessions, yet offering very little in return.

The Nuclear Question
Meanwhile, merely working on a nuclear device — regardless of how close or far Iran really is from having one — provides Iran with a dramatically important strategic lever. The Iranians learned from the North Korean experience that the United States has a nuclear fetish. Having a nuclear program alone was more important to Pyongyang than actually having nuclear weapons. U.S. fears that North Korea might someday have a nuclear device resulted in significant concessions from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The danger of having such a program is that the United States — or some other country — might attack and destroy the associated facilities. Therefore, the North Koreans created a high level of uncertainty as to just how far along they were on the road to having a nuclear device and as to how urgent the situation was, raising and lowering alarms like a conductor in a symphony. The Iranians are following the same strategy. They are constantly shifting from a conciliatory tone to an aggressive one, keeping the United States and Israel under perpetual psychological pressure. The Iranians are trying to avoid an attack by keeping the intelligence ambiguous. Tehran’s ideal strategy is maintaining maximum ambiguity and anxiety in the West while minimizing the need to strike immediately. Actually obtaining a bomb would increase the danger of an attack in the period between a successful test and the deployment of a deliverable device.

What the Iranians get out of this is exactly what the North Koreans got: disproportionate international attention and a lever on other topics, along with something that could be sacrificed in negotiations. They also have a chance of actually developing a deliverable device in the confusion surrounding its progress. If so, Iran would become invasion- and even harassment-proof thanks to its apparent instability and ideology. From Tehran’s perspective, abandoning its nuclear program without substantial concessions, none of which have materialized as yet, would be irrational. And the Iranians expect a large payoff from all this.

Radical Islamists, Iraq and Afghanistan
This brings us to the Hezbollah/Iraq question, which in fact represents two very different issues. Iraq constitutes the greatest potential strategic threat to Iran. This is as ancient as Babylon and Persia, as modern as the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Iran wants guarantees that Iraq will never threaten it, and that U.S. forces in Iraq will never pose a threat to Iran. Tehran does not want promises alone; it wants a recognized degree of control over the Iraqi government, or at least negative control that would allow it to stop Baghdad from doing things Iran doesn’t want. To achieve this, Iran systematically has built its influence among factions in Iraq, permitting it to block Iraqi policies that Iran regards as dangerous.

The American demand that Iran stop meddling in Iraqi policies strikes the Iranians as if the United States is planning to use the new Baghdad regime to restore the regional balance of power. In fact, that is very much on Washington’s mind. This is completely unacceptable to Iran, although it might benefit the United States and the region. From the Iranian point of view, a fully neutral Iraq — with its neutrality guaranteed by Iranian influence — is the only acceptable outcome. The Iranians regard the American demand that Iran not meddle in Iraq as directly threatening Iranian national security.

There is then the issue of Iranian support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamist groups. Between 1979 and 2001, Iran represented the background of the Islamic challenge to the West: The Shia represented radical Islam. When al Qaeda struck, Iran and the Shia lost this place of honor. Now, al Qaeda has faded and Iran wants to reclaim its place. It can do that by supporting Hezbollah, a radical Shiite group that directly challenges Israel, as well as Hamas — a radical Sunni group — thus showing that Iran speaks for all of Islam, a powerful position in an arena that matters a great deal to Iran and the region. Iran’s support for these groups helps it achieve a very important goal at little risk. Meanwhile, the U.S. demand that Iran end this support is not matched by any meaningful counteroffer or by a significant threat.

Moreover, Tehran dislikes the Obama-Petraeus strategy in Afghanistan. That strategy involves talking with the Taliban, a group that Iran has been hostile toward historically. The chance that the United States might install a Taliban-linked government in Afghanistan represents a threat to Iran second only to the threat posed to it by Iraq.

The Iranians see themselves as having been quite helpful to the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as they helped Washington topple both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. In 2001, they offered to let U.S. aircraft land in Iran, and assured Washington of the cooperation of pro-Iranian factions in Afghanistan. In Iraq, they provided intelligence and helped keep the Shiite population relatively passive after the invasion in 2003. But Iranians see Washington as having betrayed implicit understandings that in return for these services, the Iranians would enjoy a degree of influence in both countries. And the U.S. opening to the Taliban is the last straw.

Obama’s Greetings in Context
Iran views Obama’s New Year greetings within this context. To them, Obama has not addressed the core issues between the two countries. In fact, apart from videos, Obama’s position on Iran does not appear different from the Bush position. The Iranian leadership does not see why it should respond more favorably to the Obama administration than it did to the Bush administration. Tehran wants to be very sure that Obama understands that the willingness alone to talk is insufficient; some indications of what is to be discussed and what might be offered are necessary.

Many in the U.S. administration believe that the weak Iranian economy might shape the upcoming Iranian presidential election. Undoubtedly, the U.S. greetings were timed to influence the election. Washington has tried to influence internal Iranian politics for decades, constantly searching for reformist elements. The U.S. hope is that someone might be elected in Iran who is so obsessed with the economy that he would trade away strategic and geopolitical interests in return for some sort of economic aid. There are undoubtedly candidates who would be interested in economic aid, but none who are prepared to trade away strategic interests. Nor could they even if they wanted to. The Iran-Iraq war is burned into the popular Iranian consciousness; any candidate who appeared willing to see a strong Iraq would lose the election. American analysts are constantly confusing an Iranian interest in economic aid with a willingness to abandon core interests. But this hasn’t happened, and isn’t happening now.

This is not to say that the Iranians won’t bargain. Beneath the rhetoric, they are practical to the extreme. Indeed, the rhetoric is part of the bargaining. What is not clear is whether Obama is prepared to bargain. What will he give for the things he wants? Economic aid is not enough for Iran, and in any event, the idea of U.S. economic aid for Iran during a time of recession is a non-starter. Is Obama prepared to offer Iran a dominant voice in Iraq and Afghanistan? How insistent is Obama on the Hezbollah and Hamas issue? What will he give if Iran shuts down its nuclear program? It is not clear that Obama has answers to these questions.

Rebuilding the U.S. public image is a reasonable goal for the first 100 days of a presidency. But soon it will be summer, and the openings Obama has made will have to be walked through, with tough bargaining. In the case of Iran — one of the toughest cases of all — it is hard to see how Washington can give Tehran the things it wants because that would make Iran a major regional power. And it is hard to see how Iran could give away the things the Americans are demanding.

Obama indicated that it would take time for his message to generate a positive response from the Iranians. It is more likely that unless the message starts to take on more substance that pleases the Iranians, the response will remain unchanged. The problem wasn’t Bush or Clinton or Reagan, the problem was the reality of Iran and the United States. Only if a third power frightened the Iranians sufficiently — a third power that also threatened the United States — would U.S.-Iranian interests be brought together. But Russia, at least for now, is working very hard to be friendly with Iran.
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« Reply #146 on: April 01, 2009, 06:48:52 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: What Russia Will and Won't Trade With Washington
March 31, 2009

The Russians have been projecting optimism about upcoming meetings with the Americans in Europe, reinforcing the “reset button” theme that the Obama administration had introduced. However, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave a speech Sunday night with a somewhat different sensibility. Regarding the U.S. proposal that Washington would make concessions on ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Europe in return for pressure against Iran by Moscow, Medvedev said, “I don’t think that any trade-offs are possible in this respect. Any information as to replace one issue with another one is not true; this is not a serious talk. But I have no doubt that we shall discuss both issues — that of ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense and of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program. I believe that President Obama thinks the same way.”

Medvedev went on to say, “As regards the ABM, as regards the deployment of the notorious capabilities in Europe, our position has always been clear: We should not create ABM elements — a comprehensive antimissile system is required. And Russia is ready to become engaged in this system, because we are also interested in securing our country and our citizens from threats posed by certain problematic states. But the point is that this should be done through common efforts rather than by deploying any missiles or radars along our borders when a real doubt arises as to what lies behind all this. Is it done to make us nervous or in order to really prevent some threats?”

In other words, there can be no quid pro quo on Iran. However, the Russians would entertain a comprehensive ABM system, jointly developed and presumably under some sort of international control, as opposed to American BMD installations along Russian borders, since the Russians have doubts about the real motives behind the deployment.

We translate the Russian position in this way. First, Russia’s relationship with Iran is too valuable to Moscow — and too painful for Washington — to be traded for a BMD installation in Poland. The price for Iran will be much higher than that. Second, the real issue is not the BMD system in Poland but the longer-range plans the United States might have on the Russian border. The Russians are far more concerned about other U.S. bases in Poland and other arms deliveries to the Polish military and to the Baltic states that are part of NATO. It is the unstated plans that make the Russians nervous, not the BMD system.

The solution Moscow proposes would eliminate the problem — for Russia. First, it either would eliminate the need for bases in Poland or at least place those facilities under international control. Second, it would represent a transfer of critical technology to Russia and to all participants. The United States is not going to internationalize its hard-won and costly BMD technologies entirely. Washington has offered to share some technology to enable the Russians to build their own system, but not to write a blank check, or to avoid placing installations in Poland that make Russia nervous.

This last is the critical point. The Russians don’t want the United States using Poland as a base for containing Russia, and they fear the BMD is simply the first of many military installations. Even less do they want U.S. and NATO forces deploying into the Baltic states. They might trade pressure against Iran in return for guarantees that Poland and the Baltics would serve as a neutral buffer zone, but not for anything less.

If the Americans concede on this point, then NATO — under internal pressure already — would be dead. It would mean that the guarantees built into NATO membership would not apply to Poland and the Baltics, given that NATO would have guaranteed the Russians not to deploy defensive forces there. Moreover, the Americans are not certain the Russians have all that much influence in Iran. They might trade BMD for a major Russian effort. The United States won’t neutralize part of NATO in exchange for a good try.

As with the rest of the meetings, there is a superficial collegiality in place. Beneath the surface, it is a very different meeting. Obama tabled his Afghanistan plan on Friday, setting up a discussion of European contributions to the effort. Medvedev rejected the American proposal on BMD-Iran last night, letting the Americans know — if they didn’t already — that there would be no deal. Everyone is putting their cards on the table. It is not clear whose cards are better at the moment, but it is clear the stakes are getting higher.
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HUSS
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« Reply #147 on: April 01, 2009, 07:39:40 AM »

If Nato had balls they would tell the Russians they dont trust them and thats why we need the shield. Why should we trust Russia? The Russians are opening a sea port in Syria, bases in the Arctic, Bomber bases in Cuba and Venezuala (while asking us to stay out of Eastern Europe), are helping Iran develop Nukes and shielding them from sanctions and action by the UN.  If i were calling the shots i would ramp up oil production and drive oil down to $25 a barrel, even if it means subsdizing Saudi.  I would build the missle shield and form joint bases with Canada in the arctic.  I would also park a couple nuke subs off the coast of russia and let them know we can also play that game.  I would also help Israel get their new gas discoveries to market in europe as quickly as possible.  Within a couple years Russia could be cut off at the knees and be left bankrupt.  Lets see them fund terror or threaten a war with $25 per barrel oil and their natural gas sales halved.  Iran is the tool with which the middle east could be alligned against Russia. 
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #148 on: April 07, 2009, 04:26:41 PM »

Will the Military Industrial Complex Save American Foreign Policy?

Posted by Benjamin H. Friedman

Missing from most of the commentary on the Secretary of Defense’s big defense spending speech yesterday is the fact that the program cuts he proposed are largely a result of freezing the topline — keeping defense spending level (once you adjust for inflation) for the next decade.

For nearly a decade the country has really had two defense budgets – one for imagined conventional wars against states like China, another from nation-building, peacekeeping and counterinsurgency. The first budget requires a small ground force and lots of big platforms operated by the Air Force and Navy. The latter requires much larger ground forces, a few niche capabilities like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, and less high technology wonders.

The current American love affair with counterinsurgency has resulted in a gradual shift of dollars from the conventional budget to the unconventional one. We are reversing the old idea that the American way of war is to replace labor with capital, or manpower with technology. We are becoming a land power first.  We have been increasing manpower in the Army and Marines — adding 90,000 new troops — and paying them way more (compensation per service member is up by almost half since 1998). Personnel costs are taking more of the budget.  And for more complex reasons, including health care costs, the operations and maintenance part of the budget – essentially the day to day cost of running the military — has also been growing fast when measured per service member.  (For details on these issues, read this testimony by Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service.)

That was bound to squeeze the other big parts of the defense budget — research, development and procurement of new weapons systems. There is too much future cost in the budget for everything to fit without topline growth, so something had to give. Big weapons programs are where the most give is, if you don’t want to cut manpower.

That conflict was delayed while the budget topline grew, but now that it is flat, it erupts. The manpower intensive military that follows from our current policies is eating into the conventional military that delivers manufactoring jobs across the country and the high-technology dreams of our military leaders. The Navy and Air Force are losing out to the ground forces.

What will be interesting to see is whether this shift encourages those services and their friends on the Hill to take up the arguments that people like me have been making for years: that small wars are mostly dumb wars.  Preparation for these wars didn’t much hurt the military industrial complex before, now it does.

An additional note: Gates’ criticism of the acquisition process was on the mark. Rather than blaming out of control weapons costs on the kind of contracts we write or crafty contractors, as the President seems to, Gates noted correctly that the trouble is the requirements process — what we want, not how we buy it.

Benjamin H. Friedman • April 7, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/04/07/will-the-military-industrial-complex-save-american-foreign-policy/
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G M
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« Reply #149 on: April 10, 2009, 11:01:38 PM »

http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=324083981359948#

America The Patsy?
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, April 08, 2009 4:20 PM PT

National Security: Russia tells the U.S. not to worry about a nuclear Iran and not to punish nuclear North Korea. Fidel Castro wants to help the president, Russia's "new comrade." Are we being set up?

Some of the most obvious threats to life and liberty in the historical record were, at the time they were happening, vehemently denied by those in positions of decision-making.
Isolationists and pacifists believed that Hitler's imperialism could be appeased by territorial gains. During the early Cold War, American Soviet spy Alger Hiss' integrity was vouched for by U.S. officials reaching a level as high as future Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Those, such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, suggesting that Hiss was only one of a massive group of Communist spies within the U.S. government were targeted (in McCarthy's case literally targeted for elimination by the CIA, as noted in Pulitzer-winning journalist Tim Weiner's book "Legacy of Ashes"), marginalized, even ruined.
M. Stanton Evans' 2007 book "Blacklisted by History" convincingly and meticulously exonerated McCarthy on most counts, but in other such episodes scholarly review has been unnecessary. Three decades of the ugly reality of Islamist revolution in Iran, for instance, have indelibly discredited the belief in 1979 by Andrew Young, the Carter administration's United Nations ambassador, that the Ayatollah Khomeini was "some kind of a saint."
Today, it takes willful blindness not to recognize Iran as the greatest threat to life and freedom in the world. Tehran is apparently now on the verge of announcing that it has mastered the final, most technically challenging stage of nuclear fuel production: the industrial-scale enrichment of uranium, which allows nuclear fuel to be generated in large quantities.
The Islamofascist regime in Iran has denied inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency access to its Arak heavy water reactor, which could be geared to produce plutonium from spent uranium fuel rods.
Yet we heard soothing words this week from Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.
"I don't see any threat to the United States coming from Iran anytime soon," he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — ironically, the organization Hiss was president of when Whittaker Chambers testified in 1948 that he and Hiss committed espionage together.
In a similar vein, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "any threat of sanction" against North Korea in response to its Sunday launch of a multistage rocket over Japan, a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, "would be counterproductive."
More talk for a regime possessing as many as eight nuclear warheads after it sends up a missile reaching twice as far as anything it has launched previously?
Clearly, Russia wants to lull us into complacency regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among hostile regimes. Do Moscow and other adversaries of the free world sense an uncommon opportunity in the year 2009?
With an unprecedented financial crisis battering the West's economic system, and a man of the left in the White House, is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's description of Barack Obama as "my new comrade" more than a clever sound bite?
Ailing Cuban dictator Castro, having granted an audience to members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday, seemed to share Medvedev's sentiment, asking, "How can we help President Obama?"
When longtime foes of the world's lone superpower behave in such fashion, it isn't because they've been converted to the cause of world peace; it is because they see a chance to change the dangerous global power game in their favor — and at our expense.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, always unguarded in expressing himself, claimed this week on a visit to Beijing that "the power of the U.S. empire has collapsed."
"Every day, the new poles of world power are becoming stronger: Beijing, Tokyo, Tehran," he said. "It's moving toward the East and toward the South."
Toward danger and away from security would be a more accurate description.
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