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Author Topic: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why  (Read 65138 times)
Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #50 on: September 17, 2007, 07:46:23 PM »

Buz, GM, anyone:

Any comments on my Red October post of earlier today?
Power User
Posts: 15532

« Reply #51 on: September 17, 2007, 10:55:12 PM »

I'd cut a deal with Putin to be our jr. partner in the GWOT. It's only our pressure that has kept him from burning Chechnya off the planet. I'd give him free reign to do as he wishes with the Chechen problem in exchange for cutting off support to Iran and Syria.

The Russians and Chinese have done much better in the past in dealing with jihadists. I'd use that to our advantage.
Power User
Posts: 9464

« Reply #52 on: September 18, 2007, 12:30:50 AM »

"Any comments on my Red October [Stratfor] post of earlier today?"

From my point of view it answered a central question I've had about Russia - why do we pretend they are still relevant.  Russia is a second rate power, a third world country, a potentially failed new democracy, a lousy ally of the US, if they are one at all. They are not in the top 15 economies in the world yet are included in the big 'G8' talks every year and they are a 'permanent' member of the UN security council.

Friedman put in very clear terms why they are still relevant and strategic.  They are capable of building and selling weapons and defense products to our worst enemies that could cost us real casualties and problems in future conflicts that are no doubt already under consideration.

They prove false George Bush's doctrine: "Either you are with us or you are against us."  Like the swing vote senators, they could go either way at any time on the biggest issues and thus take on an importance larger than they spinelessly deserve.  When France did not back us or help us in Iraq, they also did not take up arms against us.  Russia is different.  Friedman describes with specificity how Russia could be supporting the wrong side in the next conflict.  Even if Russian arms and defense systems sold to enemy nations turn out to be defective and inferior, the false confidence the weapons provide removes a portion of the deterrent for avoiding full-scale war.

From the piece:
"In Ukraine and Belarus, the Russians will expect an end to all U.S. support to nongovernmental organizations agitating for a pro-Western course.

In the Baltics, the Russians will expect the United States to curb anti-Russian sentiment and to explicitly limit the Baltics' role in NATO, excluding the presence of foreign troops, particularly Polish.

Regarding Serbia, they want an end to any discussion of an independent Kosovo.

The Russians also will want plans abandoned for an anti-ballistic-missile system that deploys missiles in Poland. "

To each I would say - how is that any of their business?

I was not familiar with details of the Russia-Georgia tensions.  Here is a pretty good overview for anyone else who is curious:

GM's comment is a little blunt.  "I'd give him free reign to do as he wishes with the Chechen problem in exchange for cutting off support to Iran and Syria."  The back room negotiations might go something like that and then the public pronouncements would come out a little softer.

Players like Russia in the global security picture sure make diplomacy an ugly and difficult business.
Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #53 on: September 18, 2007, 08:29:00 AM »


Have you seen this thread?
Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #54 on: October 25, 2007, 06:58:06 AM »

Security: Power To The People

The myth of American omnipotence fell in the Iraqi desert, laid low by an
agile new enemy. We have a chance now to rethink the systems that protected
us in the past. It's one we cannot miss.

By: John Robb

The next decade holds mind-bending promise for American business.
Globalization is prying open vast new markets. Technology is plowing ahead,
fueling--and transforming--entire industries, creating services we never
thought possible. Clever people worldwide are capitalizing every which way.
But because globalization and technology are morally neutral forces, they
can also drive change of a different sort. We saw this very clearly on
September 11 and are seeing it now in Iraq and in conflicts around the
world. In short, despite the aura of limitless possibility, our lives are
evolving in ways we can control only if we recognize the new landscape. It's
time to take an unblinking look.

We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid
and Nigeria to Russia, stateless terrorist groups have emerged to score blow
after blow against us. Driven by cultural fragmentation, schooled in the
most sophisticated technologies, and fueled by transnational crime, these
groups are forcing corporations and individuals to develop new ways of
defending themselves. The end result of this struggle will be a new, more
resilient approach to national security, one built not around the state but
around private citizens and companies. That new system will change how we
live and work--for the better, in many ways--but the road getting there may
seem long at times.

Open-Source Warfare

The conflict in Iraq has foreshadowed the future of global security in much
the same way that the Spanish Civil War prefigured World War II. Unlike
previous insurgencies, the one in Iraq is comprised of 75 to 100 small,
diverse, and autonomous groups of zealots, patriots, and criminals alike.
These groups, of course, have access to the same tools we do--from satellite
phones to engineering degrees--and use them every bit as well. But their
single most important asset is their organizational structure, an
open-source community network very similar to what we now see in the
software industry. It is an extremely innovative structure, sadly, and
results in decision-making cycles much shorter than those of the U.S.
military. Indeed, because the insurgents in Iraq lack a recognizable center
of gravity--a leadership structure or an ideology--they are nearly immune to
the application of conventional military force. Like Microsoft, the software
superpower, the United States hasn't found its match in a competitor similar
to itself, but rather in a loose, self-tuning network.
The second insight Iraq gives us is that the convergence of international
crime and terrorism will provide ample fuel and a global platform for these
new enemies. Al Qaeda's attack on Madrid, for example, was funded by the
sale of the drug Ecstasy. And Moisés Naím, in his new book, Illicit, details
how globalization has fostered the development of a huge criminal economy
that boasts a technologically leveraged global supply chain (like
Wal-Mart's) and can handle everything from human trafficking (Eastern
Europe) to illicit drugs (Asia and South America), pirated goods (Southeast
Asia), arms (Central Asia), and money laundering (everywhere). Naím puts the
value of that economy at between $2 trillion and $3 trillion a year. He says
it is expanding at seven times the rate of legitimate world trade.

This terrorist-criminal symbiosis becomes even more powerful when considered
next to the most disturbing sign coming out of Iraq: The terrorists have
developed the ability to fight nation-states strategically--without weapons
of mass destruction. This new method is called "systems disruption," a
simple way of attacking the critical networks (electricity, oil, gas, water,
communications, and transportation) that underpin modern life. Such
disruptions are designed to erode the target state's legitimacy, to drive it
to failure by keeping it from providing the services it must deliver in
order to command the allegiance of its citizens. Over the past two years,
attacks on the oil and electricity networks in Iraq have reduced and held
delivery of these critical services below prewar levels, with a disastrous
effect on the country, its people, and its economy.
The early examples of systems disruption in Iraq and elsewhere are ominous.
If these techniques are even lightly applied to the fragile electrical and
oil-gas systems in Russia, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere in the target-rich
West, we could see a rapid onset of economic and political chaos unmatched
since the advent of blitzkrieg. (India's January arrest of militants with
explosives in Hyderabad suggests that the country's high-tech industry could
be a new target.) It's even worse when we consider the asymmetry of the
economics involved: One small attack on an oil pipeline in southeast Iraq,
conducted for an estimated $2,000, cost the Iraqi government more than $500
million in lost oil revenues. That is a return on investment of 25,000,000%.

Now that the tipping point has been reached, the rise of global virtual
states--with their thriving criminal economies, innovative networks, and
hyperefficient war craft--will rapidly undermine public confidence in our
national-security systems. In fact, this process has already begun. We've
seen disruption of our oil supply in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Colombia;
the market's fear of more contributes mightily to the current high prices.
But as those disruptions continue, the damage will spill over into the very
structure of our society. Our profligate Defense Department, reeling from
its inability to defend our borders on September 11 or to pacify even a
small country like Iraq, will increasingly be seen as obsolete. The myth of
the American superpower will be exposed as such.

Then, inevitably, there will be a series of attacks on U.S. soil. The first
casualty of these will be another institution, the ultrabureaucratic
Department of Homeland Security, which, despite its new extra-legal
surveillance powers, will prove unable to isolate and defuse the threats
against us. (Its one big idea for keeping the global insurgency at
bay--building a fence between Mexico and the United States, proposed in a
recent congressional immigration bill--will prove as effective as the
Maginot Line and the Great Wall of China.)

But the metaphorical targets of September 11 are largely behind us. The
strikes of the future will be strategic, pinpointing the systems we rely on,
and they will leave entire sections of the country without energy and
communications for protracted periods. But the frustration and economic pain
that result will have a curious side effect: They will spur development of
an entirely new, decentralized security system, one that devolves power and
responsibility to a mix of private companies, individuals, and local
governments. This structure is already visible in the legions of private
contractors in Iraq, as well as in New York's amazingly effective
counterterrorist intelligence unit. But as we look out to 2016, the
long-term implications are clearer.
  Like Microsoft, the United States hasn't found its match in a competitor
similar to itself, but rather in a loose, self-tuning network.

  [Continued in next post}


Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for,
much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals and
multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of our collective
system, opting instead to hire private military companies, such as
Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their homes and facilities and
establish a protective perimeter around daily life. Parallel transportation
networks--evolving out of the time-share aircraft companies such as Warren
Buffett's NetJets--will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from
one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next. Members of the middle class
will follow, taking matters into their own hands by forming suburban
collectives to share the costs of security--as they do now with
education--and shore up delivery of critical services. These "armored
suburbs" will deploy and maintain backup generators and communications
links; they will be patrolled by civilian police auxiliaries that have
received corporate training and boast their own state-of-the-art
emergency-response systems. As for those without the means to build their
own defense, they will have to make do with the remains of the national
system. They will gravitate to America's cities, where they will be subject
to ubiquitous surveillance and marginal or nonexistent services. For the
poor, there will be no other refuge.

Until, that is, the next wave of adaptive innovation takes hold. For all of
these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative destruction we
need to move beyond the current, failed state of affairs. By 2016 and
beyond, real long-term solutions will emerge. Cities, most acutely affected
by the new disruptions, will move fastest to become self-reliant, drawing
from a wellspring of new ideas the market will put forward. These will range
from building-based solar systems from firms such as Energy Innovations to
privatized disaster and counterterrorist responses. We will also see the
emergence of packaged software that combines real-time information (the
status of first-responder units and facilities) with interactive content
(information from citizens) and rich sources of data (satellite maps).
Corporate communications monopolies will crumble as cities build their own
emergency wireless networks using simple products from companies such as


By 2016, we may see the trials of the previous decade as progress in
disguise. The grassroots security effort will do more than just insulate our
gas lines and high schools. It will also spur positive social change:
So-called green systems will quickly shed their tree-hugger status and be
seen as vital components of our economic and personal security. Even those
civilian police auxiliaries could turn out to be a good thing in the long
run: Their proliferation--and the technology they'll adopt--will lead to
major reductions in crime.
  All of these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative
destruction we need.
Some towns and cities will go even further. In an effort to bar the door
against expanding criminal networks, certain communities will move to
regulate, tax, and control everything from illegal immigration to illicit
drugs, despite federal pressure to do otherwise. A newly vigilant and
networked public will push for much greater levels of transparency in
government and corporate operations, using the Internet to expose, publish,
and patch potential security flaws. Over time, this new transparency, and
the wider participation it entails, will lead to radical improvements in
government and corporate efficiency.

On the national level, we'll see a withering of the security apparatus, but
quite possibly a flowering in other areas. Energy independence and the
obsolescence of conventional war with other countries will reduce tensions
between the United States and the rest of the world. The end of oil will
also force corrupt states, now propped up by energy income, to make the
reforms they need to be accepted internationally, improving life for their

Perhaps the most important global shift will be the rise of grassroots
action and cross-connected communities. Like the Internet, these new
networks will develop slowly at first. After a period of exponential growth,
however, they will quickly become all but ubiquitous--and astonishingly
powerful, perhaps as powerful as the networks arrayed against us. And so we
will all become security consultants, taking an active role in deciding how
it is bought, structured, and applied. That's a great responsibility and,
with luck, an enormous opportunity. Choose wisely.

John Robb was a mission commander for a "black" counterterrorism unit that
worked with Delta Force and Seal Team 6 before becoming the first Internet
analyst at Forrester Research and a key architect in the rise of Web logs
and RSS. He is writing a book on the logic of terrorism.
Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #55 on: October 30, 2007, 11:21:00 PM »

Russia, Iran: The Next Step in the Diplomatic Tango

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is paying a brief visit to Tehran on Oct. 30 to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His trip comes just two weeks after a major Russian-Iranian summit in Tehran, during which Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly conveyed that he had every intention of entangling Russia in Iran's showdown with the United States over Iraq. Though this love triangle is filled with more drama than a Brazilian telenovela, each step carries significant implications for U.S., Iranian and Russian foreign policy.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Tehran on Oct. 30 paying a brief visit to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. This is the second major Iranian-Russian meeting this month. At the Oct. 15-16 Caspian Summit in Tehran, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his unequivocal support for Iran against U.S. aggression. Ahmadinejad also is expected to visit Moscow soon.

Lavrov's surprise visit to Tehran is likely intended to work out the details of an alleged offer Putin made to the Iranians during the Caspian Summit. Before a discussion of what this murky Iranian-Russian deal could entail, the Lavrov-Ahmadinejad meeting needs some context.

Russia has a fine-tuned strategy of exploiting its Middle Eastern allies' interests for its own political purposes. Iran is the perfect candidate. It is a powerful Islamic state that is locked into a showdown with the United States over its nuclear program and Iraq. Though Washington and Tehran are constantly battling in the public sphere with war rhetoric, they need to deal with each other for the sake of their strategic interests. Russia, meanwhile, has its own turf war with the United States that involves a range of hot issues, including National Missile Defense, renegotiating Cold War-era treaties, and Western interference in Russia's periphery. By demonstrating that Moscow has some real sway over the Iranians, Russia gains a useful bargaining chip to use in its dealings with the United States.

The Iranians, on the other hand, are focused on Iraq. The fall of Saddam Hussein gave Iran a historic opportunity to extend a Shiite buffer zone into Iraq, but Tehran still must contend with the United States, which remains the primary obstacle to Iran's expansionist ambitions. Iran has used its nuclear program as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq, but is engaged in an intense internal debate over how to best use the nuclear issue in talks with Washington.

Iran knows the United States -- not Russia -- has leverage in Iraq. Why, then, are the Iranians so interested in cozying up to Russia, a country they deeply distrust? The Iranians appear to be searching for a way to bolster their deterrent strategy against the United States before Tehran makes any bold moves in Iraq. Russia has offered itself as Iran's backup, providing the necessary diplomatic cover and military support to ward off U.S. aggression against Iran. With Russian support, the Iranians have more leverage in their negotiations with the United States.

But the Russian offer does not come without a price. For Moscow to demonstrate that it has actual leverage in its relationship with Tehran, the Iranians must offer cooperation on the nuclear issue. After all, Russia is just as interested as the United States is in preventing a nuclear Iran from becoming a reality. This way, Russia extracts political benefits from the United States, and Iran has an opening to move forward in serious negotiations with Washington over Iraq.

Lavrov is likely playing the role of messenger during this brief visit. Stratfor would love nothing more than to know what he reports back to Putin, and it will be interesting to see if this visit sets off another political storm in Tehran as the internal policy debate there rages on. In the meantime, Stratfor will be prowling for any clues surrounding this latest step in the Iranian-U.S.-Russian tango.
Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #56 on: October 30, 2007, 11:32:21 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: Russia Swings Between the U.S. and Iran
October 31, 2007 03 00  GMT

It was a day of diplomacy, with people shuttling around and hints of proposals and counterproposals. About two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew to Tehran for a follow-on visit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. It was a very short meeting, raising questions as to what message was being delivered and why it required Lavrov to fly there personally.

At the same time, rumors circulated -- some in the media, some from pretty good sources -- that the United States is putting together a package of concessions for Russia in order to induce Moscow not to support the Iranians and to participate in sanctions against them. One report, published in the International Herald Tribune, says the United States is getting ready to make concessions on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. The only part of conventional forces in Europe Russia is interested in is making sure that NATO forces are not based in the former Soviet Union, particularly in the Baltics, and that limits are placed on troops in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It would take concessions on that order to interest the Russians. Whether the United States is willing to make such guarantees, and what this would do to U.S. relations with these countries, of course, are open questions.

Finally, there are reports from multiple sources that Iraqi Sunni tribal sheikhs have flown to Washington for meetings on the future of their country. The willingness of Sunni leaders to visit Washington constitutes a continuation of a sea change in U.S.-Sunni relations that has been under way for months.

It is hard to read this activity, but it seems to us that the following happened: After Putin's visit to Iran, the United States saw itself being squeezed diplomatically and losing its options against Tehran. The Russians wanted the Americans to feel that way. Putin kept his options open on Iran, simultaneously demanding that the Americans not attack and telling the Iranians that they need not necessarily abandon their long-term attempts to build nuclear weapons by leaving the question of the Bushehr nuclear facility open-ended.

Moscow has positioned itself neatly, siding with Iran on one hand and making itself Washington's intermediary for Iran's nuclear program on the other. By aligning with the Iranians, Russia has made itself the only practical conduit for pressuring Iran over its nuclear program. The United States needs that conduit, and also for the Russians to back away from Iran. To induce the Russians, the United States must make concessions in an area of fundamental interest to Russia -- the regional conventional military balance. Now, it is speculative whether Washington actually has made any overtures in this area. We just don't know. But if the reports of CFE concessions are correct, this is the only thing that would really interest Moscow.

We don't know what message Lavrov delivered on Tuesday, but it was important and had to be conveyed face-to-face. We suspect that the Russians increased their pressure on the Iranians concerning nuclear weapons while inviting Ahmadinejad to Moscow to continue the discussions that began Oct. 16. Ahmadinejad undoubtedly has heard the same rumors and read the same newspapers. A short meeting like that shows respect, but not necessarily warmth.

At the same time, the United States wanted to pressure the Iranians directly. Tehran's worst nightmare is a heavily armed Sunni government in Baghdad. We are far from that, but it must be remembered that the Sunnis, under Saddam Hussein, dominated Iraq for a reason: the underlying weakness of and divisions among the Shia. The U.S.-Sunni talks are far from Iran's worst-case scenario, but at the same time, they can't simply be dismissed.

A couple of weeks ago, Iran and the Russians were squeezing the United States. Now, the United States is squeezing Iran back, working with the Russians and the Sunnis. The most important thing to see here is not the details, which are to a great extent opaque, but the general outline. The Russians and Sunnis now are the swing players in a very complicated situation. They have the options. The Russians, in particular, have freedom of action and are moving between the two sides.

Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #57 on: November 01, 2007, 07:34:25 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Lead-up to a Diplomatic Orgy

Wednesday was another day of geopolitical drama involving the usual suspects: Iran, the United States and Russia. The highlights included:
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Baghdad for talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. During the discussions, Mottaki said his country is open to holding a new round of talks with the United States over Iraq's security, and that Tehran plans to bring a new proposal to the table. Mottaki was so busy in Baghdad that he even canceled a trip to Lebanon scheduled for the same day.

The Tajik Foreign Ministry said U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Adm. William Fallon had unexpectedly postponed his two-day visit to Tajikistan by a few weeks. No explanation followed. This announcement comes as the United States and Russia move toward a compromise over ballistic missile defense (BMD) and the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. CENTCOM visits to Tajikistan generally unnerve Russia, and the sudden cancellation of Fallon's trip appears to be a polite U.S. gesture to Moscow.

Following Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's Oct. 30 trip to Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed his commitment to cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency on his country's nuclear program. While this might prove to be merely talk, it is a notable shift in Iran's tone.

A Kremlin spokesman said Turkey needs to exercise restraint in its pursuit of Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq so as not to stir up greater instability in the country -- a statement that could very well have come from the White House. There is no need for Russia to comment on this issue, in which it has no real stake -- unless it was attempting to throw a bone to the Americans.
Alone, each of these developments makes little sense. But Stratfor readers by now are well aware of the three-way game being played by the Americans, Russians and Iranians. The United States is looking for a comprehensive agreement with the Iranians over Iraq, and the Russians are looking to compromise with Washington over BMD and CFE (and Moscow is more than willing to use the Iranians as a tool to achieve this). Finally, the Iranians are looking to bolster their deterrent strategy by aligning with the Russians before engaging in serious talks with the United States over Iraq.

Each of these powers is playing the other two off one another in pursuit of its own interests -- with a very murky idea of how all this will play out. There is definite movement on all sides, but it is still anyone's guess as to where things will end up. Two weeks ago, the Iranians and Russians were squeezing the Americans. But things have taken a turn in the past week, with the Russians and the Americans now putting the squeeze on Iran. Soon enough, the Iranians and the Americans could end up working together, leaving the Russians in a tight spot.

And if you think Wednesday's chaos was something, just wait until Nov. 2, when all of these players will meet in the same room. A two-day international conference on Iraqi security is set to be held in Istanbul, and foreign ministers from each of the U.N. Security Council member countries -- as well as from Iraq's neighbors and a host of other states -- will attend. Though Ankara called this meeting to discuss the ongoing tensions in northern Iraq, the Iranians, Russians and Americans have bigger things on their minds. With this many powers in one place, there will be ample opportunities for private chats, secret handshakes and unsolicited intervention, making this diplomatic orgy all the more intriguing.

Power User
Posts: 42467

« Reply #58 on: November 26, 2007, 11:19:03 AM »

Obama Is Right on Iran
Talking with Tehran may help us wage the wars we need to fight.
Monday, November 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

After a recent Democratic presidential debate, Barack Obama proclaimed that were he to become president, he would talk directly even to America's worst enemies. One could imagine President Obama as a kind of superhero taking off in Air Force One for Tehran, there to be greeted on the tarmac by the villainous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Was this a serious foreign policy proposal or simply a campaign counterpunch? Hillary Clinton had already held up this idea as evidence of Mr. Obama's naiveté. Wasn't he just pushing back, displaying his commitment to "diplomacy"--now the most glamorous word in the Democratic "antiwar" lexicon?

Whatever Mr. Obama's intent, history has given his idea a rather bad reputation. Neville Chamberlain springs to mind as a man who was famously seduced into the wishful thinking that seems central to the idea of talking to one's enemies. Today few Americans--left or right--would be comfortable with direct talks between our president and a character like Mr. Ahmadinejad. Wouldn't such talk only puff up extremist leaders and make America into a supplicant?

On its face, Mr. Obama's idea seems little more than a far-left fantasy. But perhaps it looks this way because we are viewing it through too narrow a conception of warfare. We tend to think of our wars as miniature versions of World War II, a war of national survival. But since then we have fought wars in which our national survival was not immediately, or even remotely, at stake. We have fought wars in distant lands for rather abstract reasons, and there has been the feeling that these were essentially wars of choice: We could win or lose without jeopardizing our nation's survival.

Mr. Obama's idea clearly makes no sense in a context of national survival. It would have been absurd for President Roosevelt to fly to Berlin and talk to Hitler. But Mr. Obama's idea does make sense in the buildup to wars where survival is not at risk--wars that are more a matter of urgent choice than of absolute necessity.

I think of such wars as essentially wars of discipline. Their purpose is to preserve a favorable balance of power that is already in place in the world. We fight these wars not to survive but--once a menace has arisen--to discipline the world back into a balance of power that best ensures peace. We fight as enforcers rather than as rebels or as patriots fighting for survival. Wars of discipline are pre-emptive by definition. They pre-empt menace to the peaceful world order. We don't sacrifice blood and treasure for change; we sacrifice for constancy.

Conversely, in wars of survival, like World War II, we fight to achieve a favorable balance of power--one in which a peace is established that guarantees our sovereignty and survival. We fight unapologetically for dominance, and we determine to defeat our enemy by any means necessary. We do not harry ourselves much over the style of warfare--whether the locals like us, where the line between interrogation and torture might lie, whether or not we are solicitous of our captive's religious beliefs or dietary strictures. There is no feeling in society that we can afford to lose these wars. And so we never have.

All this points to one of the great foreign policy dilemmas of our time: In the eyes of many around the world, and many Americans as well, we lack the moral authority to fight the wars that we actually fight because they are wars more of discipline than of survival, more of choice than of necessity. It is hard to equate the disciplining of a pre-existing world order--a status quo--with fighting for one's life. When survival is at stake, there is no lack of moral authority, no self-doubt and no antiwar movement of any consequence. But when war is not immediately related to survival, when a society is fundamentally secure and yet goes to war anyway, moral authority becomes a profound problem. Suddenly such a society is drawn into a struggle for moral authority that is every bit as intense as its struggle for military victory.
America does not do so well in its disciplinary wars (the Gulf War is an arguable exception) because we begin these wars with only a marginal moral authority and then, as time passes, even this meager store of moral capital bleeds away. Inevitably, into this vacuum comes a clamorous and sanctimonious antiwar movement that sets the bar for American moral authority so high that we must virtually lose the war in order to meet it. There must be no torture, no collateral damage, no cultural insensitivity, no mistreatment of prisoners and no truly aggressive or definitive display of American military power. In other words, no victory.

Meanwhile our enemy is fighting all out to achieve a new balance of power. As we anguish over the possibility of collateral damage, this enemy practices collateral damage as a tactic of war. In Iraq, al Qaeda blows up women and children simply to keep alive the chaos of war that gives it cover. This enemy's sense of moral authority--as misguided as it may be--is so strong that it compensates for its lack of sophisticated military hardware.

On the other hand, our great military might is not enough to compensate for our weak sense of moral authority, our ambivalence. If we have the greatest military in history, it is also true that we lack our enemy's talent for true belief. Our rationale for war is difficult to articulate, always arguable, and distinctly removed from immediate necessity. Our society is deeply divided and there is a vigorous antiwar movement ready to capitalize on our every military setback.

This is the pattern of disciplinary wars: Their execution is always undermined by their inbuilt lack of moral authority. In the end, our might neutralizes our might. Our vast power makes all such wars come off as bullying, even when we fight selflessly for the freedom of others.

Great power scares unless it is exercised within a painstaking moral framework. Thus, moral authority is the single greatest challenge of American foreign policy. This is especially so in wars of discipline, wars fought far away and for abstract reasons. We argue for such wars as if they were wars of survival because we want the moral authority that comes so automatically to them. But Iraq is a war of discipline, and no more. If we left Iraq tomorrow there would be terrible consequences all around, but we would survive.

Our broader war against terror, on the other hand, is a war of survival. And it is rich in moral authority. September 11 introduced necessity and, in its name, we have an open license to destroy that stateless network of terrorism that attacked us. America is not divided over this. It was Iraq--a war of discipline--that brought us division. This does not mean that the Iraq war is invalid. Ultimately, it may prove to be a far more important war in preserving a balance of power favorable to America than our war against al Qaeda.

The point is that wars of discipline will always have to be self-consciously fought on a moral as well as a military front. And the more we engage the moral struggle, the more license we will have to fight these wars as wars of survival. In other words, our military effectiveness now requires nothing less than a smart and daring brinkmanship of moral authority.

If Mr. Obama's idea was born of mushy idealism, it could work far better as a hard-nosed moral brinkmanship. Were an American president (or a secretary of state for the less daring) to land in Tehran, the risk to American prestige would be enormous. The mullahs would make us characters in a tale of their own grandeur. Yet moral authority would redound to us precisely for making ourselves vulnerable to this kind of exploitation. The world would witness not the stereotype of American bullying, but the reality of American selflessness, courage and moral confidence.
If we were snubbed, if all our entreaties to peace were flouted, if war became inevitable, then we would have the moral authority to fight as if for survival. Either our high-risk diplomacy works or we have the license to fight to win. In the meantime, we give our allies around the world every reason to respect us.

This is not an argument for Mr. Obama's candidacy, only for his idea. It is a good one because it allows America the advantage of its own great character.

Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is the author, most recently, of "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win," published next week by Free Press.

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« Reply #59 on: November 28, 2007, 08:42:48 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Announcements and Jockeying for Power

With the world focused on the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., on Tuesday, Iran's rhetoric about a new medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) seemed patently business-as-usual. However, this announcement came on the heels of a statement from Iran's navy about its latest capability expansion. In other words, in quick succession, senior Iranian military officials made a point of unveiling several defense-related developments that, even under normal circumstances, would trouble the rest of the world (and particularly now, as oil flirts with $100 per barrel).

First, Iranian navy commander Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayari said Nov. 24 that the force will receive a new submarine Nov. 28 and has scheduled naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman for February. During this announcement, Sayari went out of his way to point out that Iran does not plan to close the Strait of Hormuz but is prepared to guard its interests -- essentially reminding the world of Tehran's control over a major transit point through which 20 percent of the world's energy supplies pass. Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar then marked the opening of the Annapolis peace conference with the revelation that Iran's extensive missile program has produced a new MRBM capable of hitting not only Israel but also probably Moscow.

Of course, Najjar provided no evidence to support this claim. And Iran's capability to close the gulf is questionable, though no one doubts that it could make Hormuz a very unpleasant place to be. Iran fields a handful of submarines and a small armada of gun and missile boats; has massive stores of naval mines; and has positioned along the coast the same kind of anti-ship missiles that struck the INS Hanit off Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Additionally, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman are favorable to submarine operations, and the Strait of Hormuz is tight water for ultra large crude carriers, as well as for U.S. Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Groups.

However, it remains unclear how much of this capacity Iran actually could bring to bear in short order, as well as how much might be taken out in-port by a pre-emptive strike. Ultimately, any such action would incur Washington's immediate and unmitigated wrath; aside from the economic and energy security issues involved in threatening the free flow of one-fifth of the world's oil production, there are elements within the U.S. administration that are just aching for an excuse to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age. Basically, this is a card Tehran wields but has no intention of playing unless severely provoked.

Yet, it is a powerful capability of which to remind the world -- especially the United States. And that is just what Iran needs to do right now: seek out new leverage as the next round of negotiations begins between Tehran and Washington over the future of Iraq.

This is an especially crucial time for Iran. Several positive trends in Iraq unexpectedly have left the United States in a better negotiating position than it has seen for more than a year. Meanwhile, Baghdad and Washington are hammering out agreements behind Iran's back over the future status of U.S. forces in Iraq (read: permanent military bases). In fact, Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim -- the chief of Iraq's largest Shiite party and a close ally of Tehran -- was in Washington on Tuesday to negotiate just such a long-term bilateral pact.

In other words, the most important negotiations in the region are still those between the United States and Iran, and they are getting serious. Tehran needs to regain its former negotiating position, and fast. Washington is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

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« Reply #60 on: December 03, 2007, 07:32:32 PM »

The NIE Report: Solving a Geopolitical Problem with Iran
By George Friedman

The United States released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Dec. 3. It said, "We judge with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." It went on to say, "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005." It further said, "Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

With this announcement, the dynamics of the Middle Eastern region, Iraq and U.S.-Iranian relations shift dramatically. For one thing, the probability of a unilateral strike against Iranian nuclear targets is gone. Since there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program, there is no rationale for a strike. Moreover, if Iran is not engaged in weapons production, then a broader air campaign designed to destabilize the Iranian regime has no foundation either.

The NIE release represents a transformation of U.S. policy toward Iran. The Bush administration made Iran's nuclear weapons program the main reason for its attempt to create an international coalition against Iran, on the premise that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. If there is no Iranian nuclear program, then what is the rationale for the coalition? Moreover, what is the logic of resisting Iran's efforts in Iraq, rather than cooperating?

In looking at the report, a number of obvious questions come up. First, how did the intelligence community reach the wrong conclusion in the spring of 2005, when it last released an NIE on Iran, and what changed by 2007? Also, why did the United States reach the wrong conclusions on Iran three years after its program was halted? There are two possible answers. One is intelligence failure and the other is political redefinition. Both must be explored.

Let's begin with intelligence failure. Intelligence is not an easy task. Knowing what is going on inside of a building is harder than it might seem. Regardless of all the technical capabilities -- from imagery in all spectra to sensing radiation leakage at a distance -- huge uncertainties always remain. Failing to get a positive reading does not mean the facility is not up and running. It might just have been obscured, or the technical means to discover it are insufficient. The default setting in technical intelligence is that, while things can be ruled in, they cannot simply be ruled out by lack of evidence.

You need to go into the building. Indeed, you need to go into many buildings, look around, see what is happening and report back. Getting into highly secure buildings may be easy in the movies. It is not easy in real life. Getting someone into the building who knows what he is seeing is even harder. Getting him out alive to report back, and then repeating the process in other buildings, is even harder. It can be done -- though not easily or repeatedly.

Recruiting someone who works in the building is an option, but at the end of the day you have to rely on his word as to what he saw. That too, is a risk. He might well be a double agent who is inventing information to make money, or he could just be wrong. There is an endless number of ways that recruiting on-site sources can lead you to the wrong conclusion.

Source-based intelligence would appear to be the only way to go. Obviously, it is better to glean information from someone who knows what is going on, rather than to guess. But the problem with source-based intelligence is that, when all is said and done, you can still be just as confused -- or more confused -- than you were at the beginning. You could wind up with a mass of intelligence that can be read either way. It is altogether possible to have so many sources, human and technical, that you have no idea what the truth is. That is when an intelligence organization is most subject to political pressure. When the intelligence could go either way, politics can tilt the system. We do not know what caused the NIE to change its analysis. It could be the result of new, definitive intelligence, or existing intelligence could have been reread from a new political standpoint.

Consider the politics. The assumption was that Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons -- though its motivations for wanting to do so were never clear to us. First, the Iranians had to assume that, well before they had an operational system, the United States or Israel would destroy it. In other words, it would be a huge effort for little profit. Second, assume that it developed one or two weapons and attacked Israel, for example. Israel might well have been destroyed, but Iran would probably be devastated by an Israeli or U.S. counterstrike. What would be the point?

For Iran to be developing nuclear weapons, it would have to have been prepared to take extraordinary risks. A madman theory, centered around the behavior of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was essential. But as the NIE points out, Iran was "guided by a cost-benefit approach." In simple terms, the Iranians weren't nuts. That is why they didn't build a nuclear program.

That is not to say Iran did not benefit from having the world believe it was building nuclear weapons. The United States is obsessed with nuclear weapons in the hands of states it regards as irrational. By appearing to be irrational and developing nuclear weapons, the Iranians created a valuable asset to use in negotiating with the Americans. The notion of a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands appeared so threatening that the United States might well negotiate away other things -- particularly in Iraq -- in exchange for a halt of the program. Or so the Iranians hoped. Therefore, while they halted development on their weapons program, they were not eager to let the Americans relax. They swung back and forth between asserting their right to operate the program and denying they had one. Moreover, they pushed hard for a civilian power program, which theoretically worried the world less. It drove the Americans up a wall -- precisely where the Iranians wanted them.

As we have argued, the central issue for Iran is not nuclear weapons. It is the future of Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 was the defining moment in modern Iranian history. It not only devastated Iran, but also weakened the revolution internally. Above all, Tehran never wants to face another Iraqi regime that has the means and motivation to wage war against Iran. That means the Iranians cannot tolerate a Sunni-dominated government that is heavily armed and backed by the United States. Nor, for that matter, does Tehran completely trust Iraq's fractured Shiite bloc with Iran's national security. Iran wants to play a critical role in defining the nature, policies and capabilities of the Iraqi regime.

The recent U.S. successes in Iraq, however limited and transitory they might be, may have caused the Iranians to rethink their view on dealing with the Americans on Iraq. The Americans, regardless of progress, cannot easily suppress all of the Shiite militias. The Iranians cannot impose a regime on Iraq, though they can destabilize the process. A successful outcome requires a degree of cooperation -- and recent indications suggest that Iran is prepared to provide that cooperation.

That puts the United States in an incredibly difficult position. On the one hand, it needs Iran for the endgame in Iraq. On the other, negotiating with Iran while it is developing nuclear weapons runs counter to fundamental U.S. policies and the coalition it was trying to construct. As long as Iran was building nuclear weapons, working with Iran on Iraq was impossible.

The NIE solves a geopolitical problem for the United States. Washington cannot impose a unilateral settlement on Iraq, nor can it sustain forever the level of military commitment it has made to Iraq. There are other fires starting to burn around the world. At the same time, Washington cannot work with Tehran while it is building nuclear weapons. Hence, the NIE: While Iran does have a nuclear power program, it is not building nuclear weapons.

Perhaps there was a spectacular and definitive intelligence breakthrough that demonstrated categorically that the prior assessments were wrong. Proving a negative is tough, and getting a definitive piece of intelligence is hard. Certainly, no matter how definitive the latest intelligence might have been, a lot of people want Iran to be building a nuclear weapon, so the debate over the meaning of this intelligence would have roared throughout the intelligence community and the White House. Keeping such debate this quiet and orderly is not Washington's style.

Perhaps the Iranians are ready to deal, and so decided to open up their facility for the Americans to see. Still, regardless of what the Iranians opened up, some would have argued that the United States was given a tour only of what the Iranians wanted them to see. There is a mention in the report that any Iranian program would be covert rather than overt, and that might reflect such concerns. However, all serious nuclear programs are always covert until they succeed. Nothing is more vulnerable than an incomplete nuclear program.

We are struck by the suddenness of the NIE report. Explosive new intelligence would have been more hotly contested. We suspect two things. First, the intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program consisted of a great number of pieces, many of which were inherently ambiguous and could be interpreted in multiple ways. Second, the weight of evidence for there being an Iranian nuclear program was shaded by the political proclivities of the administration, which saw the threat of a U.S. strike as intimidating Iran, and the weapons program discussion as justifying it. Third, the change in political requirements on both sides made a new assessment useful. This last has certainly been the case in all things Middle Eastern these past few days on issues ranging from the Palestinians to Syria to U.S. forces in Iraq -- so why should this issue be any different?

If this thesis is correct, then we should start seeing some movement on Iraq between the United States and Iran. Certainly the major blocker from the U.S. side has been removed and the success of U.S. policies of late should motivate the Iranians. In any case, the entire framework for U.S.-Iranian relations would appear to have shifted, and with it the structure of geopolitical relations throughout the region.

Intelligence is rarely as important as when it is proven wrong.
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« Reply #61 on: December 04, 2007, 09:19:23 AM »

The new NIE is a very interesting development and Stratfor covers it as well as anywhere I have seen.  If an agency reports a conclusion totally opposite of what they reported 2 years ago, how do we know it is accurate now and wrong then?  Also, why do they conclude that the nuclear weapons program was ended because of diplomatic efforts and sanctions when it could have been ended, as Stratfor points out, because of a certainty that it would have been blown up militarily by the Israelis or Americans. Thirdly I do not assume that the biases within the agency reporting are in lockstep with the powers within the administration.  Leaking and undermining policy is also part of what they do.

Consequences of this will be interesting.  Every time Ahmadinejad threatened to blow up the region and redraw the middle east map, oil prices went up on fear and uncertainty.  Now that we 'know' he is rational and peace-seeking, oil price should plummet (kidding).
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« Reply #62 on: December 05, 2007, 07:34:46 AM »

Good observations.

Apparently not everyone is persuaded by the NIE.


Posted December 04, 2007 01:47 PM  Hide Post

December 5, 2007
Israel Unconvinced Iran Has Dropped Nuclear Program

JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 — Israel today took a darker view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than the assessment released by United States intelligence agencies on Monday, saying it was convinced that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.

It said Iran had probably resumed the nuclear weapons program the American report said was stopped in autumn 2003. “It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. “But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program to produce a nuclear weapon.”

Israel led the reaction around the world today to the new intelligence assessment released in the United States on Monday that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Iran welcomed the report. “It is natural that we welcome it,” the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told state-run radio. “Some of the same countries which had questions or ambiguities about our nuclear program are changing their views realistically.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said the new assessment should now help ease the international confrontation with Iran and prompt it to cooperate fully with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The agency had been criticized in the past by the Bush administration for not pressing Iran hard enough on its nuclear intentions.

"This new assessment by the U.S. should help to defuse the current crisis," the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in a statement.

"At the same time, it should prompt Iran to work actively with the IAEA to clarify specific aspects of its past and present nuclear program as outlined in the work plan and through the implementation of the additional protocol."

But the United States, Britain and France urged the international community to maintain pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment activities despite the new assessment.

"We think the report’s conclusions justify the actions already taken by the international community to both show the extent of and try to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and to increase pressure on the regime to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activities," a spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"It confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons and shows that the sanctions program and international pressure were having an effect,” he said.

France expressed a similar opinion. "It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations," a French foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"We must keep up the pressure on Iran,” the spokeswoman said, adding that France “will continue “to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations.”

At a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, today in Moscow, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Iran should ensure its nuclear activities are "open and transparent," Bloomberg reported. Mr. Putin’s spokesman said that Russia is offering to supply Iran fuel for the Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr, in southern Iran, with the intention of persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, Bloomberg reported.

“The sooner we ship it, the less they will have a need for their own program," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted as saying.

The new American intelligence assessment comes at a sensitive time, when the six powers involved in negotiating with Iran — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany — have decided to press ahead with a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

Iran had maintained since 2003, when it started negotiations with the three European countries, France, Germany and Britain, that its program was peaceful and not meant for military purposes. It insisted that it wanted to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel for its nuclear reactors.

However, the West had accused Iran of having a clandestine nuclear program. The Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran for its defiance to halt its enrichment program.

With his comments today, Mr. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, came close to contradicting the American assessment of “moderate confidence” that Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program by mid-2007 and that the halt to the weapons program “represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.”

In other words, while the Americans think Iran has stopped its nuclear weapons program while continuing to enrich uranium as rapidly as it can, Israel thinks that Iran has resumed its nuclear weapons program with the clear aim of building a nuclear bomb.

Israel must act in accordance with its intelligence estimates, Mr. Barak suggested. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the right steps are taken against the Iranian regime. As is well known, words don’t stop missiles.”

Assessments may differ, Mr. Barak said, “but we cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend.”

Mr. Barak also said that the apparent source for the new American assessment on the weapons program was no longer functioning. “We are talking about a specific track connected with their weapons building program, to which the American connection, and maybe that of others, was severed,” Mr. Barak said cryptically.

It was only today that Israel received and began to assess a copy of the classified American report, which is believed to run some 130 pages, Israeli officials said.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that diplomacy remained the correct path for now to deter Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. But he was explicit about the Israeli conclusion that Iran’s intention is military, not civilian.

“We believe that the purpose of the Iranian nuclear program is to achieve nuclear weapons,” Mr. Regev said. “There is no other logical explanation for the investment the Iranians have made in their nuclear program.”

Some of the differences on estimates for when Iran could be capable of producing a bomb are slight, a matter of a few months, between Israel’s estimate of late 2009 or early 2010 to Washington’s 2010-2015. “A lot of it is splitting hairs,” Mr. Regev said. “Is it 2009 or 2010? Is it likely or very likely? These words are vague.”

Mr. Olmert, who had been briefed on the new assessment in Washington last week, tried to play down the gap in judgments with Washington. “According to this report, and to the American position, it is vital to continue our efforts, with our American friends, to prevent Iran from obtaining non-conventional weapons,” he said.

The American assessment said that Iran probably halted the weapons program “primarily in response to international pressure,” a judgment Israel embraced as a call for further diplomatic action.

But Israeli experts on Iran said that the American report will make any action against Iran less likely, whether diplomatic or military, and would probably kill or dilute American-led efforts to pass another sanctions resolution through the United Nations Security Council.

Efraim Kam, former Israeli military intelligence official on Iran and deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that the report “makes it very hard for anyone in the United States or Israel who was thinking of going for a military option.”

If American intelligence thinks there is no military nuclear program, “that makes it harder for Israel to go against it,” he said, since an Israeli attack would require operational coordination with Washington, “and will also make it harder to pass tougher sanctions. A lot of countries will be happy to go along with that — Russia, China — it’s a gift for the Iranians.”

He said the American assessment surprised him. “The report says its assessment is correct for now, but it could change any time,” he said. “Maybe the Iranians assessed that it was better for them to halt the military program and concentrate on enriching uranium,” which takes a long time, “and then go back to it.”

Iran was shocked this week when Chinese banks refused loans to Iranian businessmen, probably because of American pressure.

The head of the Iran-China chamber of commerce said Monday that over the past week Chinese state banks had refused to open a letter of credit for Iranian businessmen, the daily Etemad reported.

“The banks have not given any reason for these restrictions yet,” he said, adding that a trade delegation was in Beijing to discuss the restriction and that Iran’s central bank was also negotiating with the Chinese.

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.
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« Reply #63 on: December 05, 2007, 08:16:09 AM »

The second post of the morning.

'High Confidence' Games
The CIA's flip-flop on Iran is hardly reassuring.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In his press conference yesterday, President Bush went out of his way to praise the "good work" of the intelligence community, whose latest National Intelligence Estimate claims the mullahs of Iran abandoned their nuclear weapons program in 2003. "This is heartening news," Mr. Bush said. "To me, it's a way for us to rally our partners."

We wish we could be as sanguine, both about the quality of U.S. intelligence and its implications for U.S. diplomacy. For years, senior Administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, have stressed to us how little the government knows about what goes on inside Iran. In 2005, the bipartisan Robb-Silberman report underscored that "Across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors." And as our liberal friends used to remind us, you can never trust the CIA. (Only later did they figure out the agency was usually on their side.)

As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates"--the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies--are conducted and accorded gospel status.
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull--.'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

No less odd is the NIE's conclusion that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to "international pressure." The only serious pressure we can recall from that year was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the time, an Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of a covert Iranian nuclear program to mill and enrich uranium and produce heavy water at sites previously unknown to U.S. intelligence. The Bush Administration's response was to punt the issue to the Europeans, who in 2003 were just beginning years of fruitless diplomacy before the matter was turned over to the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Bush implied yesterday that the new estimate was based on "some new information," which remains classified. We can only hope so. But the indications that the Bush Administration was surprised by this NIE, and the way it scrambled yesterday to contain its diplomatic consequences, hardly inspire even "medium confidence" that our spooks have achieved some epic breakthrough. The truth could as easily be that the Administration in its waning days has simply lost any control of its bureaucracy--not that it ever had much.

In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale--that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.

The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.

Mr. Bush's efforts to further sanction Iran at the U.N. were stalled even before the NIE's release. Those efforts will now be on life support. The NIE's judgments also complicate Treasury's efforts to persuade foreign companies to divest from Iran. Why should they lose out on lucrative business opportunities when even U.S. intelligence absolves the Iranians of evil intent? Calls by Democrats and their media friends to negotiate with Tehran "without preconditions" will surely grow louder.

The larger worry here is how little we seem to have learned from our previous intelligence failures. Over the course of a decade, our intelligence services badly underestimated Saddam's nuclear ambitions, then overestimated them. Now they have done a 180-degree turn on Iran, and in such a way that will contribute to a complacency that will make it easier for Iran to build a weapon. Our intelligence services are supposed to inform the policies of elected officials, but increasingly their judgments seem to be setting policy. This is dangerous.
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« Reply #64 on: December 21, 2007, 11:02:05 AM »

Our Friends in Baghdad
Can't Mrs. Clinton move beyond Bush-bashing on America's interests in the Middle East?
Friday, December 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Will the United States remain committed to supporting its friends and opposing its enemies in the Muslim world?

This question has been asked for decades by people from Indonesia to Morocco and throughout the Middle East. And there is no clear answer. American engagement in the Muslim world has been fitful and incoherent, leaving our friends and our opponents believing that we are at best unreliable. In the past, supporting our friends has been taken to mean Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In the case of the last three, it has meant helping more or less authoritarian governments retain power in exchange for their help in stabilizing the region.

But today, new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq--democracies the U.S. made possible--struggle to survive against attacks from our common enemies. Both are reaching out to the U.S. and asking for a commitment of our support.

This is an epochal moment: The U.S. has a chance to break away from failed policies of the past and throw itself behind two new constitutional democracies that occupy critical geostrategic positions in the most dangerous part of the world. Will we seize this moment or let it pass?

In Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be seizing it. Recently, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a joint communiqué in which the U.S. committed to helping Iraq defend its government against internal and external threats. In response, the Maliki government asked for a one year renewal of the current United Nation's Security Council Resolution that governs U.S. forces operating in Iraq. Mr. Maliki is also committed to working out bilateral relations with the U.S. to govern future American operations in his country.
The joint American-Iraqi communiqué marks the beginning of the normalization of relations between allies in a common fight against al Qaeda, and against Iranian efforts to dominate the Middle East. It doesn't commit the U.S. to specific force levels and it allows future governments in Washington and Baghdad to decide the role the U.S. will play in the coming years in Iraq. It is, however, an important statement of America's resolve. Even more important, it is a statement of Iraq's desire to align itself with us.

The U.S. hasn't charted as wise a course in Afghanistan. Since the establishment of Hamid Karzai's government in 2004, the Afghans have sought a bilateral agreement committing the U.S. to protect Afghanistan against foreign and domestic threats. The speaker of Afghanistan's parliament, Younos Qanuni, reiterated that desire within the past month.

But, despite a 2005 joint communiqué similar to the recent Bush-Maliki exchange, the Bush administration has deflected Kabul's request for a bilateral relationship into a much more nebulous and less effective relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A relationship with NATO is not what the Afghans want or need.

The transition of the Afghan security and reconstruction missions from U.S. to NATO control was undertaken more with an eye on what is good for NATO than for what is good for Afghanistan, and the Afghans have not benefited from it. They still want an American commitment. Given their centrality in the fight against al Qaeda and their determination in the face of our common enemies, they deserve it.

Unfortunately, opposition to the war in Iraq and partisan politics prevent a reasoned discussion of America's interests in the Muslim world. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a leader of the liberal internationalist wing of the Democratic Party (whose husband wisely committed American forces to the Balkans in the 1990s to stop genocide and establish constitutional government there), immediately attacked the Bush-Maliki communiqué.

She joined the unthinking chorus of war opponents who saw it simply as another way of institutionalizing "George Bush's endless war." Rather than pressing the administration to offer similar guarantees to another key ally at the heart of the fight against terrorism, liberal internationalists instead attacked the administration.

What sort of strategy is this? Shall we refuse our help to democratic states we helped bring into existence when they are attacked by our common foes? Shall we make a statement that we will not support our friends or that we prefer to support authoritarian regimes?
Mrs. Clinton has said that she expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq until the end of her administration, and quite rightly. But under what terms will they be there, if we do not establish a bilateral relationship with an Iraqi state eager to assert its own sovereignty, and therefore unwilling to continue in the sort of international receivership to which the Security Council subjects it?

As U.S. forces move into former insurgent strongholds in Iraq, the local people, both Sunni and Shiite, ask our soldiers not "When are you leaving?" but "Will you stay this time?" The rise of Iran's power has frightened many Gulf Arab states so much that they now ask the same question: Will the U.S. stand by them this time?

The notion that attacks on America result from the American presence in the Muslim world is nonsensical. America and its allies have been attacked when we had troops in the Middle East and when we did not; when we intervened in regional crises and when we ignored them. But our policies over the past few decades have resulted in the worst of both worlds--we have generated whatever irritant our presence in the region creates without giving our friends (and enemies) the assurance that we will actively pursue our interests and those of our allies.

It was one thing to debate how much support to offer authoritarian regimes providing questionable support to our efforts. Refusing now to defend states trying to establish constitutional and democratic government will be quite another. The immorality of such a decision is apparent. It would also be strategic stupidity.

It is time to move beyond reflexive Bush-bashing and antiwar sloganeering and consider our real interests in the Muslim world and how to secure them. It starts by declaring that we will stand by our friends in defense of common goals and against common enemies.

Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "No Middle Way: The Challenge of Exit Strategies from Iraq" (AEI Press, 2007).

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« Reply #65 on: January 01, 2008, 10:07:16 PM »

Al Qaeda in 2008: The Struggle for Relevance
December 19, 2007 | 1814 GMT
On Dec. 16, al Qaeda’s As-Sahab media branch released a 97-minute video message from al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the message, titled “A Review of Events,” al-Zawahiri readdressed a number of his favorite topics at length.

This video appeared just two days after As-Sahab released a 20-minute al-Zawahiri message titled “Annapolis — The Treason.” In that message, al-Zawahiri speaks on audio tape while a still photograph of him is displayed over a montage of photos from the peace conference in Annapolis, Md. As the title implies, al-Zawahiri criticizes the conference.

Although the Dec. 14 release appeared first, it obviously was recorded after the Dec. 16 video. Given the content of the Dec. 14 message, it most likely was recorded shortly after the Nov. 27 Annapolis conference and before the Dec. 11 twin bombings in Algeria. The two latest releases are interrelated, however, given that the still photo of al-Zawahiri used in the Dec. 14 message appears to have been captured from the video released two days later.

After having been subjected to two hours of al-Zawahiri opinions in just two days, we cannot help but wonder whether anyone else is listening to this guy — and, if so, why? This question is particularly appropriate now, as we come to the time of the year when we traditionally prepare our annual forecast on al Qaeda. As we look ahead to 2008, the core al Qaeda leadership clearly is struggling to remain relevant in the ideological realm, a daunting task for an organization that has been rendered geopolitically and strategically impotent on the physical battlefield.


The theme of our 2007 al Qaeda forecast was the continuation of the metamorphosis of al Qaeda from a smaller core group of professional operatives into an operational model that encourages independent “grassroots” jihadists to conduct attacks, or into a model in which al Qaeda provides the operational commanders who organize grassroots cells. We referred to this shift as devolution because it signified a return to al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 model.

We noted that the shift gave al Qaeda “the movement” a broader geographic and operational reach than al Qaeda “the group,” but we also said that this larger, dispersed group of actors lacked the operational depth and expertise of the core group and its well-trained terrorist cadre.

Looking back at the successful, attempted and thwarted attacks in 2007, this prediction was largely on-target. The high-profile attacks and thwarted attacks were plotted by grassroots groups such as the one responsible for the attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, or by regional affiliates such as al Qaeda’s franchise in Algeria, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The core al Qaeda group once again failed to conduct any attacks.

British authorities have indicated that the men responsible for the failed London and Glasgow attempts were linked in some way to al Qaeda in Iraq, though any such links must have been fairly inconsequential. The al Qaeda franchise in Iraq has conducted hundreds of successful bombings and has a considerable amount of experience in tradecraft and bombmaking, while the London and Glasgow attempts showed a decided lack of tradecraft and bombmaking skills.

Regional Franchises

The al Qaeda nodes in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and Indonesia were all quiet this year. The Egyptian node has not carried out a successful attack since announcing its allegiance to al Qaeda in August 2006. Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s Indonesian franchise, has not conducted a successful attack since the October 2005 Bali bombing, and the Sinai node, Tawhid wa al-Jihad, did not conduct any attacks in 2007. Its last attack was in April 2006.

The Saudi franchise conducted only one successful operation in 2007, a small-arms attack against a group of French and Belgian nationals picnicking near Medina, which resulted in the deaths of four Frenchmen. This is a far cry from the peak of its operational activities during the summer of 2004. The Yemen node also conducted one attack, as it did in 2006, a July 2 suicide car bombing against a tourist convoy that resulted in the deaths of eight Spaniards. The Moroccan element of AQIM attempted to carry out attacks in March and April, though the group’s inept tactics and inadequate planning resulted in the deaths of more suicide bombers than victims.

These regional nodes largely have been brought under control by a series of successful campaigns against them. Police operations in Saudi Arabia, the Sinai and Indonesia have provided some evidence that the groups have been trying to regroup and refit. Therefore, the campaigns against these regional nodes will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future to ensure that these organizations do not reconstitute themselves and resume operations.

We noted in our 2007 forecast that AQIM had not yet proven itself. However, the series of attacks by AQIM this year demonstrated that the group is resourceful and resilient, even in the face of Algerian government operations and ideological divisions. In fact, AQIM was the most prolific and deadly group in 2007 outside of the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. With al Qaeda in Iraq facing serious problems, AQIM is in many ways carrying the torch for the jihadist movement. With other regional nodes seemingly under control, the U.S. and other governments now can pay more attention to AQIM. Throughout the coming year, the Algerian government likely will receive much more assistance from the United States and its allies in its efforts to dismantle the group. AQIM — the former Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) — has existed since the early 1990s and its dedicated cadre has survived many attempts to eliminate it — though it likely will be pressed hard over the next year.

In a Nov. 3 audio message, al-Zawahiri said the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda has a large number of Libyan cadre, including Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi and Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.) The LIFG-al Qaeda link became apparent in September 2001, when the U.S. government identified the LIFG as a specially designated terrorist entity (along with the GSPC and others.)

Although Libyans have played a large role in al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement, the LIFG itself has been unable to conduct any significant attacks. Historically, Libyan security forces have kept the LIFG in check to the point that most high-profile Libyan jihadists operate outside Libya — unlike the AQIM leadership, which operates within Algeria. It will be important to watch this new node to see whether it can ramp up its capabilities to conduct meaningful operations inside Libya, or even in other countries where the group has a presence — though we doubt it will be able to pose a serious threat to the Libyan regime.

Another relatively new jihadist presence appeared on the radar screen Feb. 13, when the Fatah al-Islam group bombed two buses in the Lebanese Christian enclave of Ain Alaq, killing three people. Following the Lebanese army’s efforts to arrest those group members believed responsible for the bombing, the group holed up in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where it endured a siege by the Lebanese army that began in March and lasted until early September. Shaker al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah al-Islam, is said to have links to former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Along with al-Zarqawi, al-Abssi was sentenced to death in Jordan for his suspected involvement in the 2002 killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman. He served a three-year jail sentence in Syria and then moved into Nahr el-Bared to establish Fatah al-Islam, which is believed to be controlled by Syrian intelligence. While Fatah al-Islam lost many of its fighters during the five-month siege, we have received intelligence reports suggesting that the Syrians are helping the group recover. The intelligence also suggests that the more the Syrians cooperate with U.S. objectives in Iraq, the more they will press the use of their jihadist proxies in Lebanon. In pursuing such a course, the Syrians are playing with fire, which may well come to haunt them, as it has the Saudis and Pakistanis.

Iraq’s Contribution

Events in Iraq likely will have a significant impact on the global jihadist movement in the coming year. Since the death of al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s operational ability steadily has declined. Furthermore, the organization appears to be losing its support among the Iraqi Sunnis and apparently has had problems getting foreign fighters into the country as of late. This could indicate that there will soon be an exodus of jihadists from the country. These jihadists, who have been winnowed and hardened by their combat against the U.S. military, might find the pastures greener in the countries they enter after leaving Iraq. Like the mujahideen who left Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, they could go on to pose a real threat elsewhere.

Additionally, since 2003 Iraq has been a veritable jihadist magnet, drawing jihadists from all over the world. If there is no possibility of seeking “martyrdom” in Iraq, these men (and a few women) will have to find another place to embrace their doom. The coalition’s list of foreign jihadists killed in Iraq shows that most of the fighters have come to the country from places such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco, but jihadists also have come from many other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. Jihadists in these places might opt to follow the example of the July 2005 London bombers and martyr themselves in their countries of residence.

Jihadists in Iraq have had the luxury of having an extensive amount of military ordnance at their disposal. This ordnance has made it relatively simple to construct improvised explosive devices, including large truck bombs. This, in turn, has made it possible to engage hard targets — such as U.S. military bases and convoys. Jihadists without access to these types of weapons (and the type of training they received in Iraq) will be more likely to engage soft targets. In fact, the only group we saw with the expertise and ordnance to hit hard targets outside of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 was AQIM. As we forecast for 2006 and 2007, we anticipate that the trend toward attacking soft targets will continue in 2008.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Despite U.S. and NATO forces’ repeated tactical victories on the battlefield, al Qaeda’s Afghan allies, the Taliban, continue to survive — the critical task for any guerrilla force engaged in an insurgent war. Following a pattern that has been repeated many times throughout Afghan history — most recently in the war following the Soviet invasion — the Taliban largely seek to avoid extended battles and instead seek to engage in hit-and-run guerrilla operations. This is because they realize that they cannot stand toe-to-toe with the superior armaments of the foreign invaders. Indeed, when they have tried to stand and fight, they have taken heavy losses. Therefore, they occasionally will occupy a town, such as Musa Qala, but will retreat in the face of overwhelming force and return when that superior force has been deployed elsewhere.

Due to the presence of foreign troops, the Taliban have no hope of taking control of Afghanistan at this juncture. However, unlike the foreign troops, the Taliban fighters and their commanders are not going anywhere. They have a patient philosophy and will bide their time until the tactical or political conditions change in their favor. Meanwhile, they are willing to continue their guerrilla campaign and sustain levels of casualties that would be politically untenable for their U.S. and NATO rivals. The Taliban have a very diffuse structure, and even the loss of senior leaders such as Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund has not proven to be much of a hindrance.

Just over the border from Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed the rapid spread of Talibanization. As a result, Islamabad now is fighting a jihadist insurgency of its own in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier Province. The spread of this ideology beyond the border areas was perhaps best demonstrated by the July assault by the Pakistani army against militants barricaded inside the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Since the assault against the mosque, Pakistan has been wracked by a wave of suicide bombings.

Pakistan should be carefully watched because it could prove to be a significant flash point in the coming year. As the global headquarters for the al Qaeda leadership, Pakistan has long been a significant stronghold on the ideological battlefield. If the trend toward radicalization continues there, the country also could become the new center of gravity for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield. Pakistan will become especially important if the trend in Iraq continues to go against the jihadists and they are driven from Iraq.

The Year Ahead

Given the relative ease of getting an operative into the United States, the sheer number of soft targets across the vast country and the simplicity of conducting an attack, we remain surprised that no jihadist attack occurred on U.S. soil in 2007. However, we continue to believe that the United States, as well as Europe, remains vulnerable to tactical-level jihadist strikes — though we do not believe that the jihadists have the capability to launch a strategically significant attack, even if they were to employ chemical, biological or radiological weapons.

Jihadists have shown a historical fixation on using toxins and poisons. As Stratfor repeatedly has pointed out, however, chemical and biological weapons are expensive to produce, difficult to use and largely ineffective in real-world applications. Radiological weapons (dirty bombs) also are far less effective than many people have been led to believe. In fact, history clearly has demonstrated that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective at killing people than these more exotic weapons. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks has more recently underscored the problems associated with the use of improvised chemical weapons — the bombs killed far more people than the chlorine they were meant to disperse as a mass casualty weapon.

Al-Zawahiri’s messages over the past year clearly have reflected the pressure that the group is feeling. The repeated messages referencing Iraq and the need for unity among the jihadists there show that al-Zawahiri believes the momentum has shifted in Iraq and things are not going well for al Qaeda there. Tactically, al Qaeda’s Iraqi node still is killing people, but strategically the group’s hopes of establishing a caliphate there under the mantle of the Islamic State of Iraq have all but disappeared. These dashed hopes have caused the group to lash out against former allies, which has worsened al Qaeda’s position.

It also is clear that al Qaeda is feeling the weight of the ideological war against it — waged largely by Muslims. Al-Zawahiri repeatedly has lamented specific fatwas by Saudi clerics declaring that the jihad in Iraq is not obligatory and forbidding young Muslims from going to Iraq. In a message broadcast in July, al-Zawahiri said, “I would like to remind everyone that the most dangerous weapons in the Saudi-American system are not buying of loyalties, spying on behalf of the Americans or providing facilities to them. No, the most dangerous weapons of that system are those who outwardly profess advice, guidance and instruction …” In other words, al Qaeda fears fatwas more than weapons. Weapons can kill people — fatwas can kill the ideology that motivates people.

There are two battlegrounds in the war against jihadism: the physical and the ideological. Because of its operational security considerations, the al Qaeda core has been marginalized in the physical battle. This has caused it to abandon its position at the vanguard of the physical jihad and take up the mantle of leadership in the ideological battle. The core no longer poses a strategic threat to the United States in the physical world, but it is striving hard to remain relevant on the ideological battleground.

In many ways, the ideological battleground is more important than the physical war. It is far easier to kill people than it is to kill ideologies. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the ideological battleground to determine how that war is progressing. In the end, that is why it is important to listen to hours of al-Zawahiri statements. They contain clear signs regarding the status of the war against jihadism. The signs as of late indicate that the ideological war is not going so well for the jihadists, but they also point to potential hazards around the bend in places such as Pakistan and Lebanon.
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« Reply #66 on: January 08, 2008, 10:54:07 AM »

Bush of Arabia
This U.S. president is the most consequential the Middle East has ever seen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST

It was fated, or "written," as the Arabs would say, that George W. Bush, reared in Midland, Texas, so far away from the complications of the foreign world, would be the leader to take America so deep into Arab and Islamic affairs.

This is not a victory lap that President Bush is embarking upon this week, a journey set to take him to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, the Saudi Kingdom, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Bush by now knows the heartbreak and guile of that region. After seven years and two big wars in that "Greater Middle East," after a campaign against the terror and the malignancies of the Arab world, there will be no American swagger or stridency.

But Mr. Bush is traveling into the landscape and setting of his own legacy. He is arguably the most consequential leader in the long history of America's encounter with those lands.

Baghdad isn't on Mr. Bush's itinerary, but it hangs over, and propels, his passage. A year ago, this kind of journey would have been unthinkable. The American project in Iraq was reeling, and there was talk of America casting the Iraqis adrift. It was then that Mr. Bush doubled down--and, by all appearances, his brave wager has been vindicated.
His war has given birth to a new Iraq. The shape of this new Iraq is easy to discern, and it can be said with reasonable confidence that the new order of things in Baghdad is irreversible. There is Shiite primacy, Kurdish autonomy in the north, and a cushion for the Sunni Arabs--in fact a role for that community slightly bigger than its demographic weight. It wasn't "regional diplomacy" that gave life to this new Iraq. The neighboring Arabs had fought it all the way.

But there is a deep streak of Arab pragmatism, a grudging respect for historical verdicts, and for the right of conquest. How else did the ruling class in Arabia, in the Gulf and in Jordan beget their kingdoms?

In their animus toward the new order in Iraq, the purveyors of Arab truth--rulers and pundits alike--said that they opposed this new Iraq because it had been delivered by American power, and is now in the American orbit. But from Egypt to Kuwait and Bahrain, a Pax Americana anchors the order of the region. In Iraq, the Pax Americana, hitherto based in Sunni Arab lands, has acquired a new footing in a Shiite-led country, and this is the true source of Arab agitation.

To hear the broadcasts of Al Jazeera, the Iraqis have sinned against the order of the universe for the American military presence in their midst. But a vast American air base, Al Udeid, is a stone's throw away from Al Jazeera's base in Qatar.

There is a standoff of sorts between the American project in Iraq on the one side, and the order of Arab power on the other. The Arabs could not thwart or overturn this new Iraq, but the autocrats--battered, unnerved by the fall of Saddam Hussein, worried about the whole spectacle of free elections in Iraq--survived Iraq's moment of enthusiasm.

They hunkered down, they waited out the early euphoria of the Iraq war, they played up the anarchy and violence of Iraq and fed that violence as well. In every way they could they manipulated the nervousness of their own people in the face of this new, alien wave of liberty. Better 60 years of tyranny than one day of anarchy, goes a (Sunni) Arab maxim.

Hosni Mubarak takes America's coin while second-guessing Washington at every turn. He is the cop on the beat, suspicious of liberty. He faced a fragile, democratic opposition in the Kifaya (Enough!) movement a few years back. But the autocracy held on. Pharaoh made it clear that the distant, foreign power was compelled to play on his terms. There was never a serious proposal to cut off American aid to the Mubarak regime.

In the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, a new oil windfall has rewritten the terms of engagement between Pax Americana and the ruling regimes. It is a supreme, and cruel, irony that Mr. Bush travels into countries now awash with money: From 9/11 onwards, America has come to assume the burden of a great military struggle--and the financial costs of it all--while the oil lands were to experience a staggering transfusion of wealth.

Saudi Arabia has taken in nearly $900 billion in oil revenues the last six years; the sparsely populated emirate of Abu Dhabi is said to dispose of a sovereign wealth fund approximating a trillion dollars. The oil states have drawn down the public debt that had been a matter of no small consequence to the disaffection of their populations. There had been a time, in the lean 1990s, when debt had reached 120% of Saudi GDP; today it is 5%. There is swagger in that desert world, a sly sense of deliverance from the furies.

The battle against jihadism has been joined by the official religious establishment, stripping the radicals of their religious cover. Consider the following fatwa issued by Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdallah al-Sheikh, the Mufti of the Kingdom--the highest religious jurist in Saudi Arabia--last October. There is evasion in the fatwa, but a reckoning as well:

"It has been noted that over the last several years some of our sons have left Saudi lands with the aim of pursuing jihad abroad in the path of God. But these young men do not have enough knowledge to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and this was one reason why they fell into the trap of suspicious elements and organizations abroad that toyed with them in the name of jihad."

Traditional Wahhabism has always stipulated obedience to the ruler, and this Wahhabi jurist was to re-assert it in the face of freelance preachers: "The men of religion are in agreement that there can be no jihad, except under the banner of wali al-amr [the monarch] and under his command. The journey abroad without his permission is a violation, and a disobedience, of the faith."
Iraq is not directly mentioned in this fatwa, but it stalks it: This is the new destination of the jihadists, and the jurist wanted to cap the volcano.

The reform of Arabia is not a courtesy owed an American leader on a quick passage, and one worried about the turmoil in the oil markets at that. It is an imperative of the realm, something owed Arabia's young people clamoring for a more "normal" world. The brave bloggers, and the women and young professionals of the realm, have taken up the cause of reform. What American power owes them is the message given them over the last few years--that they don't dwell alone.

True to the promise, and to the integrity, of his campaign against terror, Mr. Bush will not lay a wreath at the burial place of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. This is as it should be. Little more than five years ago, Mr. Bush held out to the Palestinians the promise of statehood, and of American support for that goal, but he made that support contingent on a Palestinian break with the cult of violence. He would not grant Arafat any of the indulgence that Bill Clinton had given him for eight long years. It was the morally and strategically correct call.

The cult of the gun had wrecked the political life of the Palestinians. They desperately needed an accommodation with Israel, but voted, in early 2006, for Hamas.

The promise of Palestinian statehood still stood, but the force, and the ambition, of Mr. Bush's project in Iraq, and the concern over Iran's bid for power, had shifted the balance of things in the Arab world toward the Persian Gulf, and away from the Palestinians. The Palestinians had been reduced to their proper scale in the Arab constellation. It was then, and when the American position in Iraq had been repaired, that Mr. Bush picked up the question of Palestine again, perhaps as a courtesy to his secretary of state.

The Annapolis Conference should be seen in that light: There was some authority to spare. It is to Mr. Bush's singular credit that he was the first American president to recognize that Palestine was not the central concern of the Arabs, or the principal source of the political maladies.

The realists have always doubted this Bush campaign for freedom in Arab and Muslim lands. It was like ploughing the sea, they insisted. Natan Sharansky may be right that in battling for that freedom, Mr. Bush was a man alone, even within the councils of his own administration.

He had taken up the cause of Lebanon. The Cedar Revolution that erupted in 2005 was a child of his campaign for freedom. A Syrian dominion built methodically over three decades was abandoned in a hurry, so worried were the Syrians that American power might target their regime as well. In the intervening three years, Lebanon and its fractious ways were to test America's patience, with the Syrians doing their best to return Lebanon to its old captivity.

But for all the debilitating ways of Lebanon's sectarianism, Mr. Bush was right to back democracy. For decades, politically conscious Arabs had lamented America's tolerance for the ways of Arab autocracy, its resigned acceptance that such are the ways of "the East." There would come their way, in the Bush decade, an American leader willing to bet on their freedom.

"Those thankless deserts" was the way Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about this region, described those difficult lands. This is a region that aches for the foreigner's protection while feigning horror at the presence of strangers.

As is their habit, the holders of Arab power will speak behind closed doors to their American guest about the menace of the Persian power next door. But the Arabs have the demography, and the wealth, to balance the power of the Persians. If their world is now a battleground between Pax Americana and Iran, that is a stark statement on their weakness, and on the defects of the social contract between the Sunnis and the Shiites of the Arab world. America can provide the order that underpins the security of the Arabs, but there are questions of political and cultural reform which are tasks for the Arabs themselves.

Suffice it for them that George W. Bush was at the helm of the dominant imperial power when the world of Islam and of the Arabs was in the wind, played upon by ruinous temptations, and when the regimes in the saddle were ducking for cover, and the broad middle classes in the Arab world were in the grip of historical denial of what their radical children had wrought. His was the gift of moral and political clarity.
In America and elsewhere, those given reprieve by that clarity, and single-mindedness, have been taking this protection while complaining all the same of his zeal and solitude. In his stoic acceptance of the burdens after 9/11, we were offered a reminder of how nations shelter behind leaders willing to take on great challenges.

We scoffed, in polite, jaded company when George W. Bush spoke of the "axis of evil" several years back. The people he now journeys amidst didn't: It is precisely through those categories of good and evil that they describe their world, and their condition. Mr. Bush could not redeem the modern culture of the Arabs, and of Islam, but he held the line when it truly mattered. He gave them a chance to reclaim their world from zealots and enemies of order who would have otherwise run away with it.

Mr. Ajami teaches at Johns Hopkins University. He is author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq," (Free Press, 2006), and a recipient of the Bradley Prize.

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« Reply #67 on: March 18, 2008, 02:19:32 PM »

U.S. Adapts Cold-War Idea to Fight Terrorists

Published: March 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — In the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, members of President Bush’s war cabinet declared that it would be impossible to deter the most fervent extremists from carrying out even more deadly terrorist missions with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Since then, however, administration, military and intelligence officials assigned to counterterrorism have begun to change their view. After piecing together a more nuanced portrait of terrorist organizations, they say there is reason to believe that a combination of efforts could in fact establish something akin to the posture of deterrence, the strategy that helped protect the United States from a Soviet nuclear attack during the cold war.
Interviews with more than two dozen senior officials involved in the effort provided the outlines of previously unreported missions to mute Al Qaeda’s message, turn the jihadi movement’s own weaknesses against it and illuminate Al Qaeda’s errors whenever possible.

A primary focus has become cyberspace, which is the global safe haven of terrorist networks. To counter efforts by terrorists to plot attacks, raise money and recruit new members on the Internet, the government has mounted a secret campaign to plant bogus e-mail messages and Web site postings, with the intent to sow confusion, dissent and distrust among militant organizations, officials confirm.

At the same time, American diplomats are quietly working behind the scenes with Middle Eastern partners to amplify the speeches and writings of prominent Islamic clerics who are renouncing terrorist violence.

At the local level, the authorities are experimenting with new ways to keep potential terrorists off guard.

In New York City, as many as 100 police officers in squad cars from every precinct converge twice daily at randomly selected times and at randomly selected sites, like Times Square or the financial district, to rehearse their response to a terrorist attack. City police officials say the operations are believed to be a crucial tactic to keep extremists guessing as to when and where a large police presence may materialize at any hour. “What we’ve developed since 9/11, in six or seven years, is a better understanding of the support that is necessary for terrorists, the network which provides that support, whether it’s financial or material or expertise,” said Michael E. Leiter, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

“We’ve now begun to develop more sophisticated thoughts about deterrence looking at each one of those individually,” Mr. Leiter said in an interview. “Terrorists don’t operate in a vacuum.”

In some ways, government officials acknowledge, the effort represents a second-best solution. Their preferred way to combat terrorism remains to capture or kill extremists, and the new emphasis on deterrence in some ways amounts to attaching a new label to old tools.

“There is one key question that no one can answer: How much disruption does it take to give you the effect of deterrence?” said Michael Levi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a new book, “On Nuclear Terrorism.”

The New Deterrence

The emerging belief that terrorists may be subject to a new form of deterrence is reflected in two of the nation’s central strategy documents.

The 2002 National Security Strategy, signed by the president one year after the Sept. 11 attacks, stated flatly that “traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents.”

Four years later, however, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism concluded: “A new deterrence calculus combines the need to deter terrorists and supporters from contemplating a W.M.D. attack and, failing that, to dissuade them from actually conducting an attack.”

For obvious reasons, it is harder to deter terrorists than it was to deter a Soviet attack.

Terrorists hold no obvious targets for American retaliation as Soviet cities, factories, military bases and silos were under the cold-war deterrence doctrine. And it is far harder to pinpoint the location of a terrorist group’s leaders than it was to identify the Kremlin offices of the Politburo bosses, making it all but impossible to deter attacks by credibly threatening a retaliatory attack.

But over the six and a half years since the Sept. 11 attacks, many terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have successfully evaded capture, and American officials say they now recognize that threats to kill terrorist leaders may never be enough to keep America safe.


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So American officials have spent the last several years trying to identify other types of “territory” that extremists hold dear, and they say they believe that one important aspect may be the terrorists’ reputation and credibility with Muslims.

Counterterrorism officials seek ways to deter attacks by Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden, left, and Ayman al-Zawahri.

Under this theory, if the seeds of doubt can be planted in the mind of Al Qaeda’s strategic leadership that an attack would be viewed as a shameful murder of innocents — or, even more effectively, that it would be an embarrassing failure — then the order may not be given, according to this new analysis.

Senior officials acknowledge that it is difficult to prove what role these new tactics and strategies have played in thwarting plots or deterring Al Qaeda from attacking. Senior officials say there have been several successes using the new approaches, but many involve highly classified technical programs, including the cyberoperations, that they declined to detail.

They did point to some older and now publicized examples that suggest that their efforts are moving in the right direction.

George J. Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in his autobiography that the authorities were concerned that Qaeda operatives had made plans in 2003 to attack the New York City subway using cyanide devices.

Mr. Zawahri reportedly called off the plot because he feared that it “was not sufficiently inspiring to serve Al Qaeda’s ambitions,” and would be viewed as a pale, even humiliating, follow-up to the 9/11 attacks.

And in 2002, Iyman Faris, a naturalized American citizen from Kashmir, began casing the Brooklyn Bridge to plan an attack and communicated with Qaeda leaders in Pakistan via coded messages about using a blowtorch to sever the suspension cables.

But by early 2003, Mr. Faris sent a message to his confederates saying that “the weather is too hot.” American officials said that meant Mr. Faris feared that the plot was unlikely to succeed — apparently because of increased security.

“We made a very visible presence there and that may have contributed to it,” said Paul J. Browne, the New York City Police Department’s chief spokesman. “Deterrence is part and parcel of our entire effort.”

Disrupting Cyberprojects

Terrorists hold little or no terrain, except on the Web. “Al Qaeda and other terrorists’ center of gravity lies in the information domain, and it is there that we must engage it,” said Dell L. Dailey, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief.

Some of the government’s most secretive counterterrorism efforts involve disrupting terrorists’ cyberoperations. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, specially trained teams have recovered computer hard drives used by terrorists and are turning the terrorists’ tools against them.

“If you can learn something about whatever is on those hard drives, whatever that information might be, you could instill doubt on their part by just countermessaging whatever it is they said they wanted to do or planned to do,” said Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, director of cyberoperations for the Air Force and a former deputy director of the antiterrorism office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since terrorists feel safe using the Internet to spread ideology and gather recruits, General Schissler added, “you may be able to interfere with some of that, interrupt some of that.”

“You can also post messages to the opposite of that,” he added.

Other American efforts are aimed at discrediting Qaeda operations, including the decision to release seized videotapes showing members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely Iraqi group with some foreign leaders, training children to kidnap and kill, as well as a lengthy letter said to have been written by another terrorist leader that describes the organization as weak and plagued by poor morale.

Dissuading Militants

Even as security and intelligence forces seek to disrupt terrorist operations, counterterrorism specialists are examining ways to dissuade insurgents from even considering an attack with unconventional weapons. They are looking at aspects of the militants’ culture, families or religion, to undermine the rhetoric of terrorist leaders.

For example, the government is seeking ways to amplify the voices of respected religious leaders who warn that suicide bombers will not enjoy the heavenly delights promised by terrorist literature, and that their families will be dishonored by such attacks. Those efforts are aimed at undermining a terrorist’s will.

“I’ve got to figure out what does dissuade you,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the Joint Chiefs’ director of strategic plans and policy. “What is your center of gravity that we can go at? The goal you set won’t be achieved, or you will be discredited and lose face with the rest of the Muslim world or radical extremism that you signed up for.”


Page 3 of 3)

Efforts are also under way to persuade Muslims not to support terrorists. It is a delicate campaign that American officials are trying to promote and amplify — but without leaving telltale American fingerprints that could undermine the effort in the Muslim world. Senior Bush administration officials point to several promising developments.

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Asheik, gave a speech last October warning Saudis not to join unauthorized jihadist activities, a statement directed mainly at those considering going to Iraq to fight the American-led forces.

And Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, a top leader of the armed Egyptian movement Islamic Jihad and a longtime associate of Mr. Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda official, has just completed a book that renounces violent jihad on legal and religious grounds.

Such dissents are serving to widen rifts between Qaeda leaders and some former loyal backers, Western and Middle Eastern diplomats say.

“Many terrorists value the perception of popular or theological legitimacy for their actions,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser. “By encouraging debate about the moral legitimacy of using weapons of mass destruction, we can try to affect the strategic calculus of the terrorists.”

Denying Support

As the top Pentagon policy maker for special operations, Michael G. Vickers creates strategies for combating terrorism with specialized military forces, as well as for countering the proliferation of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Much of his planning is old school: how should the military’s most elite combat teams capture and kill terrorists? But with each passing day, more of his time is spent in the new world of terrorist deterrence theory, trying to figure out how to prevent attacks by persuading terrorist support networks — those who enable terrorists to operate — to refuse any kind of assistance to stateless agents of extremism.

“Obviously, hard-core terrorists will be the hardest to deter,” Mr. Vickers said. “But if we can deter the support network — recruiters, financial supporters, local security providers and states who provide sanctuary — then we can start achieving a deterrent effect on the whole terrorist network and constrain terrorists’ ability to operate.

“We have not deterred terrorists from their intention to do us great harm,” Mr. Vickers said, “but by constraining their means and taking away various tools, we approach the overall deterrent effect we want.”

Much effort is being spent on perfecting technical systems that can identify the source of unconventional weapons or their components regardless of where they are found — and letting nations around the world know the United States has this ability.

President Bush has declared that the United States will hold “fully accountable” any nation that shares nuclear weapons with another state or terrorists.

Rear Adm. William P. Loeffler, deputy director of the Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction at the military’s Strategic Command, said Mr. Bush’s declaration meant that those who might supply arms or components to terrorists were just as accountable as those who ordered and carried out an attack.

It is, the admiral said, a system of “attribution as deterrence.”
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« Reply #68 on: March 24, 2008, 09:25:44 AM »

Why do terrorists stop?

Michael Jacobson asks why some high-profile terrorist attacks didn’t happen, and relates how defections and resignations plague even the most extreme terror organizations — and the petty reasons why. One terrorist quit the follow-up to the 9/11 attacks because he tired of the extremism. Another al-Qaeda terrorist quit because Osama bin Laden wouldn’t pay for his wife’s C-section. Jacobson wants us to find a pattern that we can use to defuse the biggest weapons AQ and other terror groups have:

Why do some terrorists drop out? We rightly think of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups as formidable foes, but the stories of would-be killers who bail give us some intriguing clues about fault lines that counterterrorism officials should exploit. The reasons for a change of heart can be strikingly prosaic: family, money, petty grievances. But they can also revolve around shaken ideology or lost faith in a group’s leadership.

It’s become a truism of counterterrorism that we must understand how and why individuals become jihadists in the first place. But almost nobody is studying the flip side of radicalization — understanding those who leave terrorist organizations. We’d do well to start. Figuring out why individuals walk away from terrorist groups can help governments predict whether an individual — or even a cell — is likely to go through with a plot. Understanding the dropouts should also make it easier for governments to determine which terrorists might be induced to switch sides, help stop radicalization and craft messages that could peel away people already in terrorist organizations. The more we know about why terrorists bail, the better we can fight them.

So where to start? Despite al-Qaeda’s reputation for ferocity and secrecy, plenty of wannabes wind up dropping out from it and its affiliates[.]

One obvious point comes from Jacobson’s essay, although Jacobson doesn’t offer a way to capitalize on it. AQ handlers impress on their suicide jihadists to keep from contacting their families. Jacobson notes that Ziad Jarrah, who piloted United 93 on 9/11, almost dropped out of the plot because of his relationship with his German fiancée. Ramzi Binalshibh had to talk him into staying in the plot, but another potential member dropped out when he returned to his family in Saudi Arabia after leaving the training camp in Afghanistan. Family ties, therefore, should provide a means to negating the attraction to the nihilistic strain of Islam.

But how could the US leverage that? We can’t. Even though it is the most effective manner in disarming the human time bombs produced by terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the US has little influence on whether jihadists contact their families, or even whether the families would want to disarm their brainwashed members if they made contact. That leaves us with other methods of squeezing the terrorist groups, especially financially but also operationally.

Here we can have some direct impact. The loss of funds makes it harder for AQ and other organizations to pay their people, and that creates dissent. One early AQ member “fumed” over the lack of compensation he received and began embezzling from Osama. When Osama demanded restitution, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl — who at one point tried to acquire uranium for AQ — went on the run, fearing for his life. L’Houssaine Kerchtou wanted to kill bin Laden when he got turned down for the $500 reimbursement for his wife’s C-section in Morocco.

Others have left over tactics and lack of success. Osama’s own son Omar left after 9/11, asking what good the mass murder had accomplished, telling a journalist that the organization consisted of “dummies”. Another AQ leader left during the Afghan jihad, resentful that people with less military experience than himself were in command and botching the job in late 2001. Failure breeds resentment and a lack of confidence in leadership.

Jacobson wonders whether we can learn from these lessons, but in fact we already have. It shows that terrorists don’t stop when people surrender; rather, they stop when they start losing. The myth that fighting terrorists breeds more terrorists ends with Jacobson’s essay. If we cut off their funds, kill them on the field, and stop their attacks before they begin, terrorists get the message. It won’t stop the Osamas and the Baitullah Mehsuds, but it eventually cuts them off from their recruiting base and their experienced underlings. It takes longer than some attention spans can handle, but that is the path to victory for the West.
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« Reply #69 on: May 31, 2008, 01:51:56 AM »

Al Qaeda on the Run
May 31, 2008
A year ago in July, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability," meaning it could be poised to strike America again. The political reaction was instantaneous and damning. "This clearly says al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer, the former CIA spook turned antiterror scold.

What a difference 10 months – and a surge – make.

CIA Director Michael Hayden painted a far more optimistic picture in an interview yesterday in the Washington Post. "On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said. "Near strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally – and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' – as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam."

What happened? To certain sophisticates, this is all al Qaeda's doing: By launching suicide attacks on Shiite and even Sunni targets, and ruling barbarically wherever they took control, the group has worn out its welcome in the Muslim world.

There's some truth in this. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq was in part a reaction by local clan leaders against al Qaeda's efforts to subjugate and brutalize them. The Arab world took note when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ordered the November 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, in which nearly all of the victims were Sunni Arabs. Extremist Islamic parties took an electoral drubbing in Pakistan's elections earlier this year following a wave of suicide bombings, one of which murdered Benazir Bhutto.

It's also true that al Qaeda finds itself on the ideological backfoot, even in radical circles. As our Bret Stephens reported in March, Sayyed Imam, a founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and once a mentor to Ayman al Zawahiri, has written an influential manifesto sternly denouncing his former comrades for their methods and theology. This was enough to prompt a 215-page rebuttal from Zawahiri, who seems to have time on his hands. Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker and Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank in the New Republic have recently written about similar jihadist defections.

But the U.S. offensives in Afghanistan and especially Iraq deserve most of the credit. The destruction of the Taliban denied al Qaeda one sanctuary, and the U.S. seems to have picked up the pace of Predator strikes in Pakistan – or at least their success rate. This has damaged al Qaeda's freedom of movement and command-and-control.

As for Iraq, Zawahiri himself last month repeated his claim that the country "is now the most important arena in which our Muslim nation is waging the battle against the forces of the Crusader-Zionist campaign." So it's all the more significant that on this crucial battleground, al Qaeda has been decimated by the surge of U.S. forces into Baghdad. The surge, in turn, gave confidence to the Sunni tribes that this was a fight they could win. For Zawahiri, losing the battles you say you need to win is not a way to collect new recruits.

General Hayden was careful to say the threat continues, and he warned specifically about those in Congress and the media who "[focus] less on the threat and more on the tactics the nation has chosen to deal with the threat." This refers to the political campaign to restrict wiretapping and aggressive interrogation, both of which the CIA director says have been crucial to gathering intelligence that has blocked further terrorist spectaculars that would have burnished al Qaeda's prestige.

One irony here is that Barack Obama is promising a rapid withdrawal from Iraq on grounds that we can't defeat al Qaeda unless we focus on Afghanistan. He opposed the Iraq surge on similar grounds. Yet it is the surge, and the destruction of al Qaeda in Iraq, that has helped to demoralize al Qaeda around the world. Nothing would more embolden Zawahiri now than a U.S. retreat from Iraq, which al Qaeda would see as the U.S. version of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

It is far too soon to declare victory over al Qaeda. Still, Mr. Hayden's upbeat assessment is encouraging, and it suggests that President Bush's strategy of taking the battle to the terrorists is making America safer.

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« Reply #70 on: May 31, 2008, 03:27:32 PM »

May 29, 2008

The great war against nothing in particular

Andy McCarthy wonders, since "war" and "terror" are no good, if it's okay if we call this present conflict the "On" -- "or would that offend all the moderate prepositions?"

"War on terror" has always been a stupid and misleading term. But this recommendation to abandon it is even more stupid and misleading.

New adventures in Washington's absurd flight from reality: "Security chief decries ‘war on terror,’" by Demetri Sevastopulo in the Financial Times, May 28 (thanks to Jed Babbin):

The west needs a more comprehensive strategy to counter al-Qaeda propaganda and the US should stop using the term “war on terror”, according to a top intelligence official.
Charles Allen, the senior intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, says the phrase is counter-productive because it creates “animus” in Islamic countries.

“[It] has nothing to do with political correctness,” Mr Allen said in an interview. “It is interpreted in the Muslim world as a war on Islam and we don’t need this.”...

It has everything to do with political correctness, Mr. Allen. The jihadists say they are fighting an Islamic jihad. Understanding the jihad theology gives us unique insight into the motives and goals of the jihadists. If the Muslim world sees our resistance to these people as a war on Islam, maybe they aren't all that reliable as friends of the United States in the first place. But if they're really upset about this, they ought to be directing their ire against the Muslims who use Islam in this way -- which they are not doing -- instead of against non-Muslims who merely take note of the usage.

Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary, does not agree with suggestions that the phrase is equated with a war on Islam, says Russ Knocke, his spokesman.
“We are at war with terrorism, and its underlying ideology – not Islam – and we’ve gone out of our way to make that point,” says Mr Knocke. “In truth, war has been declared upon us.”

Indeed you have gone out of your way to make that point, Mr. Knocke -- even to the point of dealing in half-truths and comforting falsehoods and avoiding unpleasant truths. But in truth, war has been declared upon us -- by Muslims, in the name of Islam. No amount of denial or sugarcoating this fact will make it go away.

Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, in an interview said the phrase ”war on terror” was the “dumbest term…you could use”. The Michigan lawmaker, who criticises the Bush administration for using an overly aggressive tone, says he has urged Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, not to use the expression.
It is indeed a "dumb" term. It is war on a tactic, not on a foe. But this foe we are afraid to name.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Mr Hadley, said the White House recognises that “the use of the word ‘Islamic’ before the word terrorist can be heard by Muslims…as lacking nuance, which may incorrectly suggest that all Muslims are terrorists or that we are at war with Islam”.
"Islamic terrorists" suggests neither, although the fear of using it suggests knee-knocking abject dhimmitude in the White House. "Islamic terrorists" no more suggests that all Muslims are terrorists than the phrase "Italian fascists" suggests that all Italians are fascists, or than the phrase "courageous intelligence analysts" suggests that all intelligence analysts are courageous. And it doesn't suggest we are at war with Islam, either, unless all Muslims are terrorists -- which is the very point that these politically correct mau-mauers would strenuously deny.

“While we want to be mindful to the way our messages are heard by Muslim audiences, we also think war on terror accurately describes the fight we are in,” he added.
Well, think again. It no more accurately describes this fight than "war on bombs" or "war on hijacked airplanes that crash into skyscrapers" would.

While the military in general tends to echo the langauge [sic!] of the president, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs who recently met with moderate Muslim leaders to hear their concerns, tries to ensure his language does not create the perception of a war against Islam, Captain John Kirby, his spokesman, said.
“The chairman is aware of the concerns voiced by many in the Muslim community about the phrase ‘war on terror’,” Captain Kirby said.

“He is committed – when speaking of it – to focusing his language and efforts on the violent extremists we are fighting. This is not a war on Islam. It’s a war against lethal enemies who are using a warped view of that faith to justify killing innocent civilians.”

And part of their warped view is that they present themselves to peaceful Muslims as the true and pure Muslims, as we have seen again and again -- and they get recruits that way. But that is too politically incorrect a fact for us to notice, much less try to counter. We are to swallow the dogma that the jihadists' Islam is warped, and that virtually all Muslims see it as such, no matter what the evidence to the contrary.

That is part of the message that Mr Allen would like the US to emphasise in countering al-Qaeda propaganda around the globe. He says the west needs to orchestrate a “very structured”, almost cold war-style communications strategy to accomplish this....
In the Cold War we were against Communism. There was not this politically correct word-mincing going on at high levels.

Frank Cilluffo, a terrorism expert at George Washington University and former special assistant to Mr Bush for homeland security, says the US government can take a series of steps to help counter al-Qaeda. He agrees that the US should abandon the concept of a “war on terror” – which “fuels the adversaries narrative” – and “decouple religion from ideology”.
Cilluffo is terminally naive if he thinks the U.S. can accomplish this and have any credibility among Muslims in doing so. He is also apparently unaware (although he has heard a couple of presentations by me, and I was in there pitching, folks) that Islam traditionally has had a political and social, i.e., an ideological component. This aspect of Islam wasn't invented by bin Laden, or Khomeini. It is as old as Muhammad, and central to Islam. Does he really think that the U.S, by playing word games, can eliminate or "decouple" it from Islamic piety? Good luck with that.

In the long term, however, Mr Cilluffo says the solution will have to come from within the Muslim community, partly by imams and Islamic scholars stressing that al-Qaeda has deliberately misinterpreted the Koran to justify violence, which he adds will help “take the jihadi cool out of the narrative”.
Here again is that ever-elusive unicorn, the interpretation of the Qur'an that rejects violence. Frank Cilluffo and everyone else in Washington fervently believe it exists, and are ready to buy all kinds of snake oil in search of it. Unfortunately, there is no such traditional or mainstream understanding of the Qur'an that fits this bill. One could conceivably be invented, although then it will be denounced in Islamic communities as bid'a -- innovation.

One would think that it would be worthwhile to understand all this, so as to formulate a realistic strategy based on genuine reality. But instead, official Washington is retreating farther and farther into Fantasy Based Policymaking.

Posted at May 29, 2008 6:37 PM
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« Reply #71 on: May 31, 2008, 05:48:27 PM »

Woof GM:

My hearty concurrence on the essence of the piece you post.

I'm going to start a thread on this right now.  evil

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« Reply #72 on: June 03, 2008, 12:33:14 AM »

There Is a Military Solution to Terror
June 3, 2008; Page A19
Sadr City in Baghdad, the northeastern districts of Sri Lanka and the Guaviare province of Colombia have little in common culturally, historically or politically. But they are crucial reference points on a global map in which long-running insurgencies suddenly find themselves on the verge of defeat.

For the week of May 16-23, there were 300 "violent incidents" in Iraq. That's down from 1,600 last June and the lowest recorded since March 2004. Al Qaeda has been crushed by a combination of U.S. arms and Sunni tribal resistance. On the Shiite side, Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army was routed by Iraqi troops in Basra and later crumbled in its Sadr City stronghold.

In Colombia, the 44-year-old FARC guerrilla movement is now at its lowest ebb. Three of its top commanders died in March, and the number of FARC attacks is down by more than two-thirds since 2002. In the face of a stepped-up campaign by the Colombian military (funded, equipped and trained by the U.S.), the group is now experiencing mass desertions. Former FARC leaders describe a movement that is losing any semblance of ideological coherence and operational effectiveness.

In Sri Lanka, a military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wrested control of seven of the nine districts previously held by the rebel group LTTE, better known as the Tamil Tigers. Mr. Rajapaksa now promises victory by the end of the year, even as the Tigers continue to launch high-profile terrorist attacks.

All this is good news in its own right. Better yet, it explodes the mindless shibboleth that there is "no military solution" when it comes to dealing with insurgencies. On the contrary, it turns out that the best way to end an insurgency is, quite simply, to beat it.

Why was this not obvious before? When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.

There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.

The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.

This isn't to say that political strategies shouldn't be pursued in tandem with military ones. Gen. David Petraeus was shrewd to exploit the growing enmity between al Qaeda and their Sunni hosts by offering former insurgents a place in the country's security forces as "Sons of Iraq." (The liberal use of "emergency funds," aka political bribes, also helped.) Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has more than just extended amnesty for "demobilized" guerrillas; he's also given them jobs in the army.

But these political approaches only work when the intended beneficiaries can be reasonably confident that they are joining the winning side. Nobody was abandoning the FARC when Mr. Pastrana lay prostrate before it. It was only after Mr. Uribe turned the guerrilla lifestyle into a day-and-night nightmare that the movement's luster finally started to fade.

Defeating an insurgency is never easy even with the best strategies and circumstances. Insurgents rarely declare surrender, and breakaway factions can create a perception of menace even when their actual strength is minuscule. It helps when the top insurgent leaders are killed or captured: Peru's Shining Path, for instance, mostly collapsed with the capture of Abimael Guzmán. Yet the Kurdish PKK is now resurgent nine years after the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, thanks to the sanctuary it enjoys in Northern Iraq.

Still, it's no small thing that neither the PKK nor the Shining Path are capable of killing tens of thousands of people and terrorizing whole societies, as they were in the 1980s. Among other things, beating an insurgency allows a genuine process of reconciliation and redress to take place, and in a spirit of malice toward none. But those are words best spoken after the terrible swift sword has done its work.

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« Reply #73 on: June 04, 2008, 08:57:23 PM »

The Unraveling
 by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank
The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.
Post Date Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalized by Qaddafi, had known bin Laden from their days fighting the Afghan communist government in the early '90s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

Credit: Courtesy of Noman Benotman
 View Larger Image
Noman Benotman on a Libyan government private jet bound for Tripoli on a secret mission in January 2007.
The night of Benotman's arrival, bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal Al Qaeda leader. As bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within Al Qaeda."

Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the United States in 1998. Over the next five days, bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past twenty years."

Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilized the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the '90s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told bin Laden that the Al Qaeda leader's decision to target the United States would only sabotage attempts by groups like Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."

Benotman says that bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit"--an apparent reference to September 11. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralize the whole organization," Benotman remembers bin Laden saying.

After the attacks, Benotman, now living in London, resigned from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, realizing that the United States, in its war on terrorism, would differentiate little between Al Qaeda and his organization.


Benotman, however, did more than just retire. In January 2007, under a veil of secrecy, he flew to Tripoli in a private jet chartered by the Libyan government to try to persuade the imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the regime. He was successful. This May, Benotman told us that the two parties could be as little as three months away from an agreement that would see the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group formally end its operations in Libya and denounce Al Qaeda's global jihad. At that point, the group would also publicly refute recent claims by Al Qaeda that the two organizations had joined forces.

This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of Al Qaeda in an open letter to Zawahiri, absorbed and well-received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on Al Qaeda to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanor making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Although Benotman's public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda's leaders, and who--alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda's barbaric tactics in Iraq--have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.

After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.


Two months before Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was publicized in the Arab press, Al Qaeda received a blow from one of bin Laden's erstwhile heroes, Sheikh Salman Al Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar. Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Al Oudah addressed Al Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"

What was noteworthy about Al Oudah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of September 11, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. In Saudi Arabia in February, one of us met with Al Oudah, who rarely speaks to Western reporters. Dressed in the long black robe fringed with gold that is worn by those accorded respect in Saudi society, Al Oudah recalled meeting with bin Laden--a "simple man without scholarly religious credentials, an attractive personality who spoke well," he said--in the northern Saudi region of Qassim in 1990. Al Oudah explained that he had criticized Al Qaeda for years but until now had not directed it at bin Laden himself: "Most religious scholars have directed criticism at acts of terrorism, not a particular person. ... I don't expect a positive effect on bin Laden personally as a result of my statement. It's really a message to his followers."

Al Oudah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the '80s. His sermons against the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped turn bin Laden against the United States. And bin Laden told one of us in 1997 that Al Oudah's 1994 imprisonment by the Saudi regime was one of the reasons he was calling for attacks on U.S. targets. Al Oudah is also one of 26 Saudi clerics who, in 2004, handed down a religious ruling urging Iraqis to fight the U.S. occupation of their country. He is, in short, not someone Al Qaeda can paint as an American sympathizer or a tool of the Saudi government.

Tellingly, Al Qaeda has not responded to Al Oudah's critique, but the research organization Political Islam Online tracked postings on six Islamist websites and the websites of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya TV networks in the week after Al Oudah's statements; it found that more than two-thirds of respondents reacted favorably. Al Oudah's large youth following in the Muslim world has helped his anti-Al Qaeda message resonate. In 2006, for instance, he addressed a gathering of around 20,000 young British Muslims in London's East End. "Oudah is well known by all the youth. It's almost a celebrity culture out there. ... He has definitely helped to offset Al Qaeda's rhetoric," one young imam told us.

More doubt about Al Qaeda was planted in the Muslim world when Sayyid Imam Al Sharif, the ideological godfather of Al Qaeda, sensationally withdrew his support in a book written last year from his prison cell in Cairo. Al Sharif, generally known as "Dr. Fadl," was an architect of the doctrine of takfir, arguing that Muslims who did not support armed jihad or who participated in elections were kuffar, unbelievers. Although Dr. Fadl never explicitly called for such individuals to be killed, his takfiri treatises from 1988 and 1993 gave theological cover to jihadists targeting civilians.

Dr. Fadl was also Zawahiri's mentor. Like his protégé, he is a skilled surgeon and moved in militant circles when he was a member of Cairo University's medical faculty in the '70s. In 1981, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Zawahiri was jailed in connection with the plot, Dr. Fadl fled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he operated on wounded mujahedin fighting the Soviets. After Zawahiri's release from jail, he joined Dr. Fadl in Peshawar, where they established a new branch of the "Jihad group" that would later morph into Al Qaeda. Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist then living in Peshawar, recalls that there was little doubt about Dr. Fadl's importance: "He was like the big boss in the Mafia in Chicago." And bin Laden also owed a deeply personal debt to Dr. Fadl; in Sudan in 1993, the doctor operated on Al Qaeda's leader after he was hurt in an assassination attempt.

So it was an unwelcome surprise for Al Qaeda's leaders when Dr. Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialized in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad ... was blemished with grave Sharia violations during recent years. ... [N]ow there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of Jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that Al Qaeda's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on Al Qaeda's leaders directly in an interview with the Al Hayat newspaper. "Zawahiri and his Emir bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."

Dr. Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons signed on and promised to end their armed struggle. In December, Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer" Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he replied at greater length, portraying Dr. Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favor with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening."


Ultimately, the ideological battle against Al Qaeda in the West may be won in places such as Leyton and Walthamstow, largely Muslim enclaves in east London, whose residents included five of the eight alleged British Al Qaeda operatives currently on trial for plotting to bring down U.S.-bound passenger jets in 2006. It is in Britain that many leaders of the jihadist movement have settled as political refugees, and "Londonistan" has long been a key barometer of future Islamist trends. There are probably more supporters of Al Qaeda in Britain than any other Western country, and, because most British Muslims are of Pakistani origin, British militants easily can obtain terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Al Qaeda's main operational hub since September 11. And now, because it is difficult for Al Qaeda to send Middle Eastern passport holders to the United States, the organization has particularly targeted radicalized Muslims in Britain for recruitment. So the nexus between militant British Muslims, Pakistan, and Al Qaeda has become the leading terrorist threat to the United States.

Over the last half-year, we have made several trips to London to interview militants who have defected from Al Qaeda, retired mujahedin, Muslim community leaders, and members of the security services. Most say that, when Al Qaeda's bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.

In Leyton, the neighborhood mosque is on the main road, a street of terraced houses, halal food joints, and South Asian hairdressers. Around 1,000 people attend Friday prayers there each week.

Usama Hassan, one of the imams at the mosque, has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from Imperial College in London, read theoretical physics at Cambridge, and now teaches at Middlesex University. But he also trained in a jihadist camp in Afghanistan in the '90s and, until a few years ago, was openly supportive of bin Laden. And, in another unusual twist, he is now one of the most prominent critics of Al Qaeda. Over several cups of Earl Grey in the tea room next to the mosque, Hassan--loquacious and intelligent, every bit the university lecturer--explained how he had switched sides.

Raised in London by Pakistani parents, Hassan arrived in Cambridge in 1989 and, feeling culturally isolated, fell in with Jamiat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al Sunnah (JIMAS), a student organization then supportive of jihads in Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. In December 1990, Hassan traveled to Afghanistan, where he briefly attended an Arab jihadist camp. He was shown how to use Kalashnikovs and M-16s and was taken to the front lines, where a shell landed near his group's position. "My feeling was, if I was killed, then brilliant, I would be a martyr," he recalls. Later, as a post-graduate student in London, Hassan played a lead role in the student Islamic Society, then a hotbed of radical activism. "At the time I was very anti-American. ... It was all black and white for us. I used to be impressed with bin Laden. There was no other leadership in the Muslim world standing up for Muslims." When September 11 happened, Hassan says the view in his circle was that "Al Qaeda had given one back to George Bush."

Still, as Al Qaeda continued to target civilians for attacks, Hassan began to rethink. His employment by an artificial intelligence consulting firm also integrated him back toward mainstream British life. "It was a slow process and involved a lot of soul-searching. ... Over time, I became convinced that bin Laden was dangerous and an extremist." The July 2005 bombings in London were the clincher. "I was devastated by the attack," he says. "My feeling was, how dare they attack my city."

Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, "As far as I'm concerned, fifty dead kuffar is not a problem."

In Friday sermons since then, Hassan says that he has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-Al Qaeda militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp. ... Jihadist experience is especially important for young kids because otherwise they tend to think he is just a sell-out who is a lot of talk." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young Muslims in Great Britain about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.


Such counter-radicalization efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for Al Qaeda--the only way the organization can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits more than hundreds of supporters." In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.

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« Reply #74 on: June 04, 2008, 08:58:12 PM »

Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by Al Qaeda after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan. ... I'm sure he was from Al Qaeda," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear ... he touched all my emotional buttons." Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: A truck, carrying wounded fighters, approached them from the other direction. Among them was a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "[W]e came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a u-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," recalls Qadir. "When I landed back in the U.K., I wanted to find [the Al Qaeda recruiters] and cut their heads off."

Qadir never found them, but he became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community center in the Walthamstow neighborhood of east London. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.

The scale of the challenge was quickly clear. Soon after the center opened, he got wind that pro-Al Qaeda militants were secretly booking rooms there for their meetings. Worse, in the summer of 2006, several of those arrested in connection with the Al Qaeda airlines plot, including alleged ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, were found to have attended his gym. But, rather than shutting the radicals out, Qadir continued to allow them to meet. "Sometimes our youngsters get into debates with these people, for example on jihad, and make them look ridiculous in front of their followers," he says. Qadir believes his approach is finally starting to pay off: "The extremists are burning out: The number of radicals in Walthamstow is diminishing, not growing."

At another mosque in London, the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with the British authorities to reclaim the institution from pro-Al Qaeda militants. The Brotherhood is the most powerful Islamist group in the Arab world, with chapters throughout Europe and North America. It has long opposed Al Qaeda's jihad, a stance that so angered Zawahiri that he published a book, The Bitter Harvest, condemning the organization in 1991. From the late '90s, the Finsbury Park mosque in London had been dominated by the pro-Al Qaeda cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri. During that time, few selfrespecting jihadists traveling through London passed up the free accommodation in its basement. Visitors included Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker" of the September 11 plot, and Richard Reid, who tried to down a U.S.-bound airliner with a shoe bomb in December 2001.

In 2003, British police shut the mosque, but Abu Hamza's followers continued to have a strong presence in the area. In February 2005, police helped broker a deal for the mosque to re-open under the leadership of the local chapter of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood group. No sooner had the moderates gained control of the Finsbury Park mosque than they were confronted by Abu Hamza's angry followers, led by the pugnacious Atilla Ahmet, who calls himself "the number-one Al Qaeda in Europe" and who, in October, pled guilty to providing British Muslims with terrorist training. "They brought sticks and knives with them," recalls Kamal El Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque.

Undeterred, a few days later Helbawy gave the first Friday sermon, explaining that this was a new start for the mosque and stressing how important it was for Muslims to live in harmony with their neighbors. Detective Inspector Lambert, the Metropolitan police officer who helped broker the takeover, says that, because of its social welfare work and its track record supporting the Palestinian cause, the MAB has "big street cred in the area and [has] made an impact on Abu Hamza's young followers."

Salman Al Oudah, the Saudi preacher, spoke at the re-opened mosque in 2006, as has Abdullah Anas, an Algerian former mujahedin fighter based in London who has been a critic of Al Qaeda for years. Anas worked with bin Laden in Pakistan during the '80s, fought in Afghanistan for almost a decade against the communists, and married the daughter of a Palestinian cleric who is still lionized as the spiritual godfather of the jihadist movement, the most radical wing of which would morph into Al Qaeda. Anas told us that his critiques of Al Qaeda were not well-received in 2003, but that, "in the last two or three years, there has been a change in opinion," citing the Madrid and London bombings as turning points. In 2006, Anas went public with his criticisms of Al Qaeda, in an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arab world, criticizing the London subway bombings as "criminal deeds ... prohibited by the Sharia."

Detective Inspector Lambert told us preachers like Anas and Al Oudah "can't be discounted. ... When you have Muslim leaders who are attacked both by Al Qaeda supporters and by commentators who oppose engagement [with Islamists], then they are in a useful position."


In December, Al Qaeda's campaign of violence reached new depths in the eyes of many Muslims, with a plot to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia while millions were gathered for the Hajj. Saudi security services arrested 28 Al Qaeda militants in Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh, whose targets allegedly included religious leaders critical of Al Qaeda, among them the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abd Al Aziz Al Sheikh, who responded to the plot by ruling that Al Qaeda operatives should be punished by execution, crucifixion, or exile. Plotting such attacks during the Hajj could not have been more counterproductive to Al Qaeda's cause, says Abdullah Anas, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca himself. "People over there ... were very angry. The feeling was, how was it possible for Muslims to do that? I still can't quite believe it myself. The mood was one of shock, real shock."

Is Al Qaeda going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. As one of us reported in The New Republic early last year, Al Qaeda, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe ("Where You Bin?" January 29, 2007). And, last summer, U.S. intelligence agencies judged that Al Qaeda had "regenerated its [U.S.] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5, said that record numbers of U.K. residents are now supportive of Al Qaeda, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety." That means that Al Qaeda will threaten the United States and its allies for many years to come.

However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups like Al Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: Their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't precisely share their world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful movements because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

Which means that the repudiation of Al Qaeda's leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in World War II, "[T]his is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Noman Benotman, bin Laden's Libyan former companion-in-arms, assesses that Al Qaeda's recent resurgence, which he says has been fueled by the Iraq war, will not last. "There may be a wave of violence right now, but ... in five years, Al Qaeda will be more isolated than ever. No one will give a toss about them." And, given the religio-ideological basis of Al Qaeda's jihad, the religious condemnation now being offered by scholars and fighters once close to the organization is arguably the most important development in stopping the group's spread since September 11. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell tacitly acknowledged this in his yearly report to Congress in February, when he testified that, "Over the past year, a number of religious leaders and fellow extremists who once had significant influence with Al Qaeda have publicly criticized it and its affiliates for the use of violent tactics."

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda's leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do. Juan Zarate, a former federal prosecutor and a key counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, acknowledged as much in a speech in April when he said, "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for Al Qaeda."

These new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda's ideology. According to Pew polls, support for Al Qaeda has been dropping around the Muslim world in recent years. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the last five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 percent now have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank. Following a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year, support for suicide operations amongst Pakistanis has dropped to 9 percent (it was 33 percent five years ago), while favorable views of bin Laden in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, around where he is believed to be hiding, have plummeted to 4 percent from 70 percent since August 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda's leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that "the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders ... are not the intended targets." Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the "nullifiers of Islam," which is helping the "infidels against the Muslims."

Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda's days may be numbered: "No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals ... you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise."

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know.

© The New Republic 2008
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« Reply #75 on: July 03, 2008, 11:48:53 AM »

Crossroads in History: The Struggle against Jihad and Supremacist Ideologies

Too long to post here, but a must read!
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« Reply #76 on: July 04, 2008, 04:29:56 PM »

Another must read.
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« Reply #77 on: September 04, 2008, 12:44:00 PM »

Washington has gone quiet on Iran in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia war. In essence, the Russian action was a declaration that Russia intends to dictate precisely what its near abroad looks like, and pro-American governments are simply not welcome in the mix. If the United States is going to challenge this, it must find a way to free up significant military resources as quickly as possible. Since the vast bulk of American land forces are involved in the Iraq conflict, that means winding that war down.

Which, in turn, cannot be done without Iranian cooperation. It is Iran via its proxies that has the ability to influence the pace and heat of the Iraqi conflict — it played a very real role in both the escalation of violence in 2006 and its marked decline in 2007-2008. So for the United States to have the capacity to counter Russia, it must first strike a deal with Iran.

Stratfor finds it very interesting that the normal noise out of Washington concerning all things Iranian has gone nearly silent. In the past two weeks, only U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has issued so much as a peep on the issue, and even that was oblique and in the context of Washington’s planned missile defense systems in Europe.

So Stratfor is watching the movements of the senior American and Iranian leadership very closely. Currently, Vice President Dick Cheney is in Georgia after having visited Azerbaijan. Tomorrow he flies to Italy for a four-day visit. Any of these locations would be excellent places for Cheney to meet with Iranian counterparts and hammer out the final stages of a deal (negotiations have been ongoing for months now).

Our focus is on the Italy trip right now. Publicly, Cheney will be meeting with senior European intelligence officials over the weekend, and we have picked up a rumor that some Iranian officials will be making a discreet appearance. We cannot emphasize enough that this rumor is unconfirmed, but it makes sense. Everything about this makes sense. The location, the format, the timing, and Russia’s rearranging of the geopolitical constellation.

That, of course, does not mean that it is true. But it makes perfect sense.
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« Reply #78 on: September 08, 2008, 04:08:41 AM »

How to Manage Savagery
September 5, 2008

"Islam has bloody borders." So wrote Samuel Huntington in "The Clash of Civilizations?," his 1993 Foreign Affairs article later expanded (minus the question mark) into a best-selling book. Huntington argued that, eclipsing past eras of national and ideological conflict, "the battle lines of the future" would be drawn along the "fault lines between civilizations." Here, according to Huntington, was where current and coming generations would define the all-important "us" versus "them."

At the time of its writing, "The Clash of Civilizations?" had, beyond the virtues of pithiness and historical sweep, something to recommend it on purely empirical grounds. It seemed especially plausible as applied to the "crescent-shaped Islamic bloc" from the Maghreb to the East Indies.

In the Balkans, for example, Orthodox Serbs were at the throats of Bosnian and later Kosovar Muslims. In Africa, Muslims were either skirmishing or at war with Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In the Caucasus, there was all-out war between Orthodox Russia and Muslim Chechnya, all-out war between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan, and violent skirmishes between Orthodox Ossetia and Muslim Ingushetia.

In the Middle East, some 500,000 U.S. troops had intervened to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Israel had just endured several years of the first Palestinian intifada, soon to be followed by a fraudulent peace process leading, in turn, to a second and far bloodier intifada. Further to the east, Pakistan and India were at perpetual daggers drawn over Kashmir. There were tensions—sometimes violent—between the Hindu majority and the large Muslim minority in India, just as there were between the Christian minority and the Muslim majority in Indonesia.

For Huntington, all this was of a piece with a pattern dating at least as far back as the battle of Poitiers in 732, when Charles Martel turned back the advancing Umayyads and saved Europe for Christianity. Nor was the pattern likely to end any time soon. "The centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline," he wrote. To the contrary: "It could become more virulent."

As predictions go, Huntington's landmark thesis seemed in many ways to have been borne out by subsequent events. Long before 9/11, and long before George W. Bush came to office, anti-American hostility within the Muslim—and, particularly, the Arab—world was plainly on the rise. So was terrorist activity directed at U.S. targets. Meanwhile, the advent of satellite TV brought channels like al-Jazeera and Hizballah's al-Manar to millions of Muslim homes and public places, offering their audience a robust diet of anti-American, anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic "news," propaganda, and Islamist indoctrination.

It should have come as no surprise, then, that Muslim reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 tended toward the euphoric—in striking confirmation, it would seem, of Huntington's bold thesis. And that thesis would seem to be no less firmly established today, when opinion polls show America's "favorability ratings" plummeting even in Muslim countries once relatively well-disposed toward us: in Turkey, for example, descending from 52 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2008, and in Indonesia from 75 percent to 37 percent in the same period (according to the Pew Global Survey). These findings are all the more depressing in light of the massive humanitarian assistance provided to Indonesia by the U.S. after the 2004 tsunami. The same might be said of Pakistan where, despite similarly critical U.S. assistance after the 2005 earthquake, already low opinions of the U.S. have sunk still further.

Nor is the phenomenon of "Muslim rage" directed against America alone. In Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and Germany—countries with widely varying foreign policies toward, and colonial histories in, the Muslim world—terrorist plots, terrorist attacks, spectacular murders, and mass rioting have made vivid the gulf that separates embittered and often radicalized Muslim minorities from the societies around them. Even in tiny, inoffensive Belgium, whose government was among the most vocal in opposing the war in Iraq and has bent over backward to respect the sensitivities of the Muslim community, the entire Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, according to the Flemish newspaper Het Volk, has been turned into a "breeding ground for thousands of jihad candidates."


And yet even as these trends unfolded, and continue to unfold, a second and almost opposite set of trends can be perceived today. Contrary to Huntington's forecast, much of world conflict is now overwhelmingly characterized by fighting and competition not between or among civilizations but within them. And nowhere is this truer than in the Muslim world.

Look again at the peripheries of the Islamic crescent where Huntington perceived a collision course between Islam and the West. In the Balkans, NATO intervention in Bosnia and later in Kosovo secured Muslim populations and ultimately ended the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. In Africa, U.S. diplomatic mediation helped to bring an end to the 22-year second Sudanese civil war and to initiate de-facto autonomy—with the ultimate goal of independence—for that country's largely Christian south. In Israel, the second intifada with its wave of suicide bombings was all but stopped cold by a combination of aggressive counterinsurgency operations and the building of a separation fence.

In the Caucasus, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended with a ceasefire that has held to this day, while Chechnya was brought to heel by a brutal military campaign directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Kashmir, there has been no direct fighting between India and Pakistan; the head of the main jihadist group lamented this past July that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had "murdered the Kashmir cause." Even as far afield as Mindanao in the Philippines, the radical Islamist Abu Sayyaf movement has been crippled by a combination of Filipino and American arms.

True, not all the wars of the Islamic periphery have ended: Hamas's Kassam rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel, and Hizballah, itself an Iranian proxy, has fully re-armed following the summer 2006 Lebanese war. In January 2007, Ethiopia invaded neighboring Somalia to depose a Taliban-like regime. Bombay was hit with a Madrid-style bombing attack on its commuter rails in 2006. Thailand's Muslim minority has been restive and violent.

Remarkably, however, the wars that chiefly roil the Islamic world today are no longer at its periphery. They are at the center, and they pit Muslims against other Muslims. The genocide in Darfur is being perpetrated by a regime that is every bit as Muslim—and black—as its victims. The Palestinians went from intifada to civil war: in 2006 and 2007, nearly as many Palestinians died violently at the hands of other Palestinians as at the hands of Israelis. In Lebanon, there have been bloody clashes this year among Shiites, Sunnis, and Druze. Last year, the Lebanese government had to send troops into Palestinian refugee camps to suppress an insurrectionary attempt by a Syrian-sponsored terrorist group.

It does not end there. Saudi Arabia has been under attack by al Qaeda since 2003. In November 2005, Jordan suffered devastating suicide bombings at three Amman hotels in which nearly all the victims were, like their murderers, Sunni Muslims. In Afghanistan, a Muslim government led by Hamid Karzai—a Pashtun—fights an Islamist rebellion by Taliban remnants and their allies, also mostly Pashtun. In Pakistan, the axis of conflict has shifted from the east to the west, where sizable areas are under the control of Islamist militants; in 2007 alone, some 1,500 Pakistanis were killed in terrorist attacks, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto notably among them.

Then there is Iraq. Though Americans naturally focus on the more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen killed so far since the country was liberated in April 2003, that figure pales in comparison with the number of Iraqis killed in inter- and intra-sectarian violence: Sunnis against Shiites and Kurds, Sunnis against Sunnis, Shiites against Sunnis, Shiites against Shiites. Cumulatively, the number of civilian deaths since early 2006, when sectarian fighting got under way in earnest, now stands at just over 100,000 (according to the Brookings Institution).

All this serves as a useful reminder of another significant fact. In the years immediately prior to 9/11, non-Muslims tended to be the likeliest targets of terrorism. In recent years, Muslims themselves have overwhelmingly been their co-religionists' primary victims. In 2007, of the nearly 8,000 deaths due to terrorism in the Middle East, only a handful were Israeli. Similarly, of the roughly 270 suicide bombings in 2007, some 240 took place in predominantly Muslim countries. Nearly 100 mosques were also the targets of terrorist attack, many at the hands of Muslims.


Taking the long view, one might note that intra-Islamic feuding is as old as the religion itself. Of Muhammad's immediate successors—the "righteous caliphs," according to Sunni tradition—the first, Abu Bakr, may have been poisoned; the next three are all known to have been assassinated, with the murder of the third caliph (Othman) resulting in the schism from which the Shiite branch of Islam emerged. The Abassid revolt destroyed the Umayyad caliphate in the 8th century; the early 9th century was marked by civil war between the sons of the fifth Abassid caliph, Haroun al-Rashid. Al Qaeda itself has ancient Islamic antecedents: the 8th-century Kharajites, for instance, were notorious for their extreme puritanism, frequent recourse to violence, and the belief that they could declare their Muslim opponents to be infidels and treat them accordingly.

To be sure, endless feuding is hardly unique to Islamic civilization: the history of the West is also one of intense competition, bitter conflict, and outbursts of religious fanaticism. On the whole, though, these conflicts have dissipated and evanesced as the West has almost universally adopted democratic forms of governance. By contrast, Islam's foundational patterns not only persist into the present day but in many ways have intensified.

There have been devastating civil wars in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, and an even more terrible war between Iran and Iraq. Even a partial list of prominent political assassinations in the Muslim world since World War II runs to over 100 names. It includes two prime ministers and a president of Egypt; two presidents and a prime minister of Bangladesh; three prime ministers and a president of Iran; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; two presidents, a president-elect, a prime minister, and a former prime minister of Lebanon; a president of Syria; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; a king and a former prime minister of Iraq; a president, a prime minister, and former prime minister of Pakistan; a king of Saudi Arabia. And these are just the successful attempts. The list of coups in the Muslim world is about as long. In Syria alone there have been no fewer than nine since 1949.

Several explanations have been offered for this history of violence. There is the absence of democracy, which forecloses opportunities for non-violent political change and pushes most forms of dissent into the mosque. There is the oil curse, which allows states like Saddam Hussein's Iraq to finance expensive wars, buy political support, sustain huge sclerotic bureaucracies, and prevent the diversification and modernization of their economies. There is the endemic tribalism of Muslim, and particularly Arab, societies, and the values that go with it: the claims of kinship, the premium on familial honor, the submission to established hierarchies, suspicion of those outside the clan. There is the moral abdication of the Muslim intellectual class, which, with some notable exceptions, fell prey to nearly every bad idea that came its way, from fascism to socialism to third-worldism. And there is the history of Islam itself, which has made a virtue of military conquest, dealt sharply with heretics, and, until the abolition of the caliphate in 1924 by Turkey's Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, typically combined political with religious authority.

There is also the fact that European colonial regimes overstayed their welcome in their Middle Eastern possessions, with the effect that more or less liberal movements like the Egyptian Wafd came to be seen as stooges of the West, incapable of achieving national goals through nonviolent means. Partly as a result of this failure, the Muslim world soured on liberalism before it ever really tasted it, and traditional liberal parties and policies were discredited in favor of more radical alternatives: the Muslim Brotherhood, the violent Arab nationalisms of the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq, Gamal Abdel Nasser and the "Free Officers" in Egypt, Algeria's National Liberation Front, and so on. Despite the manifest failings of these movements, and the triumph of liberal politics from Mexico City to Warsaw to Seoul, liberalism has never really recaptured its good name in the Muslim world beyond a handful of courageous individuals.

Exactly how to weigh the relative importance of these factors is hard to say; plainly they are mutually reinforcing. And while Muslim and especially Arab societies are not alone in suffering from them, they have come together in a unique way in those societies to produce a culture of perpetual failure and worsening crisis.


Should this have been more apparent to Huntington when he wrote "The Clash of Civilizations?" Perhaps. It may have been obscured, in part, by what later turned out to be the Muslim world's own version of a holiday from history. The Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in the following year seemed to cool Iran's revolutionary ardor. Civil wars in Lebanon and Yemen were brought to an end, leaving most existing Arab regimes as entrenched as ever. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the Middle East was no longer a cold-war battleground. Socialism lost favor, and some Middle Eastern regimes began expressing an interest in reforming their economies. From the outside, at least, one could almost begin imagining a "New Middle East," as Israel's Shimon Peres did with consummate naiveté in a 1993 book.
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« Reply #79 on: September 08, 2008, 04:09:38 AM »

Part two

But the Soviet (and Yugoslav) collapse had another important consequence: it reshaped the map of the Muslim world by bringing newly independent post-Soviet states into its fold. Some independence movements, notably in Chechnya and Bosnia, took on an Islamic coloration. Elsewhere, a pan-Islamic consciousness, which had already gained considerable momentum with the 1979 Iranian revolution and the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, was spreading rapidly. It was aided immeasurably by advances in mass communication and by the worldwide establishment of thousands of Saudi-funded madrassas preaching an inflexible version of desert Islam. If, previously, the very idea of an "Islamic civilization" would have seemed at most a remote abstraction to most Muslims living within it, in the 90's it became at least possible to imagine this as an expression not only of common religious identity but also of shared political aspirations.

Most deeply invested in the concept were the Islamist radicals for whom the abolition of the caliphate represented not the passing of an outdated institution but a historical calamity. To them, the 90's presented its own set of opportunities. Unable to dislodge the "apostate regimes" of the Middle East through terrorist campaigns, they decided to focus on dislodging their patron—the United States—from the region.

The idea of killing large numbers of Westerners, particularly Americans, had the additional advantage of being both plausible and popular. Plausible, because the Reagan administration's precipitous withdrawal from Beirut after the 1983 bombings of our Marine barracks and embassy, followed a decade later by the Clinton administration's equally precipitous withdrawal from Somalia, suggested a superpower easily frightened. And popular because the U.S. really was broadly detested throughout the Muslim world, not least on account of its support for the selfsame apostate regimes that were detested by the radicals.

The strategy of an "escalating sequence" of terrorist attacks on American targets was explicitly laid out by the jihadist theoretician Abu Bakr Naji (the name is almost certainly a pseudonym) in a document, The Management of Savagery, published on the Internet in 2004. Predicated on the idea that everyone loves a winner, it was not, in its own terms, a bad strategy.

In the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration and other governments had been quick to brand Osama bin Laden as an outcast among Muslims. But the overwhelming weight of evidence suggested differently. There were large public demonstrations of support for bin Laden in the Philippines and Indonesia. In the Muslim areas of Thailand, the name "Osama" became suddenly popular among newborn boys and girls, according to an October 2001 report in the Hindustan Times. Portraits of bin Laden were hot-selling items from Bangladesh to Nigeria. A poll found that fully 42 percent of Kuwaitis, whose country the U.S. had liberated only a decade earlier, considered bin Laden a "freedom fighter." Among Palestinians, 9/11 made bin Laden "the most popular figure in the West Bank and Gaza, second only to Arafat," according to a Fatah leader in Nablus.

Al Qaeda's popularity would not soon fade. In 2004, the Pew Global Survey found 55 percent of Jordanians and 65 percent of Pakistanis holding a favorable view of bin Laden. Nor was al Qaeda slow to capitalize on its stardom. By 2002, European intelligence agencies were reporting a sharp uptick in the organization's recruitment efforts. More worrisomely, al Qaeda was able to transform itself from a group into a movement. Some jihadist outfits, like Abu Musab al Zarqawi's Tawhid wal-Jihad and the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, swore loyalty oaths directly to bin Laden. Others, including Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, began imitating al Qaeda's methods by attacking prominent Western targets. Cells sprang up in Gaza. Al-Qaeda "wannabes" murdered 52 people in the London bombings of July 2005 and plotted to murder the prime minister of Canada.

But it was the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that, as Naji wrote in The Management of Savagery, had the most galvanizing effect on would-be jihadists. Even before the U.S. toppled the Taliban, the radical televangelist Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi had decreed: "Islamic law says that if a Muslim country is attacked, the other Muslim countries must help it, with their souls and their money, until it is liberated." His call was widely heeded. By late 2006, al Qaeda could count on as many as 5,000 to 10,000 active members in Iraq, many of whom (including nearly all the senior leadership) had come from abroad. And while they were never the major part of the Sunni insurgency that gripped the country until last year, they accounted for an estimated 90 percent of all suicide bombings.

Late 2006 was also the moment when it became at least conceivable that Naji's strategy, which foresaw the creation of "liberated zones" under the dominion of al-Qaeda-like groups, might actually succeed on the ground. Al Qaeda in Iraq had largely "liberated" Anbar province through an unbridled campaign of terror against other Sunnis. It had also pursued a policy of deliberate carnage against Iraq's Shiites, with the intent, and effect, of creating all-but ungovernable chaos in the country. In the United States, the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, recommended that no more U.S. troops be committed to Iraq, while the Democratic party, which had largely supported the initial decision to invade Iraq, began issuing increasingly hectic calls for immediate withdrawal.

Had those calls become U.S. policy, Naji's strategy might have been vindicated. The "fall of prestige of America" that he prognosticated would have accelerated dramatically throughout the Muslim world. Precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would have been seen by jihadists and their fellow travelers in a similar light to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988—as proof that it was possible to defeat a superpower, and as a harbinger of their enemies' complete rout. Al Qaeda would have had every incentive to apply the Iraq model—the "management of savagery"—to other Muslim states, particularly weaker secular states like Jordan, deemed guilty of "apostasy." And al Qaeda's own prestige would have been hugely boosted, offering a large pool of new recruits to replenish those who had been lost.


That, however, is not how matters have turned out, at least so far. President Bush pushed ahead with his "surge" strategy, under a new commanding officer using tried and true counterinsurgency tactics. Its effects were soon felt. Al Qaeda's ranks were decimated, and the flow of foreign fighters dried up.

In late 2007, the U.S. military captured letters from two of al Qaeda's "emirs" in Iraq. One of them appraised his situation thus:

There were almost 600 fighters in our sector before the [Sunni] tribes changed course 360 [sic] degrees. . . . Many of our fighters quit and some of them joined the deserters. . . . As a result of that the number of fighters dropped down to 20 or less. We were mistreated, cheated, and betrayed by some of our brothers who used to be part of the jihadi movement, therefore we must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely.

The second emir offered similar testimony:

The Islamic State of Iraq [al Qaeda] is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar province. Al Qaeda's expulsion from Anbar created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear, and the unwillingness to fight.

Nor was it only in Iraq that al Qaeda found itself on the run. In summer 2007, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that the terrorist group was once again in a position to strike the U.S. Yet less than a year later, CIA Director Michael Hayden offered a strikingly different assessment to the Washington Post. "On balance, we're doing pretty well," he said. "Near-strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near-strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally . . . as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on [its] form of Islam." Polls found declining levels of support for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups in several places in the Muslim world; in Pakistan, Islamist parties were trounced in February's parliamentary elections. Key al-Qaeda leaders were also killed in Predator strikes in the Pakistani hinterland bordering Afghanistan.

In short, al Qaeda's star has dimmed considerably, and it is important to consider the reasons why. Though there can be little question that the surge accounts for a large part of the explanation, it is equally true that the surge would not have succeeded without the support of the very Sunnis who, until 2007, had provided sanctuary and support to men like Zarqawi and his minions. This switch is in turn explained by al Qaeda's barbaric treatment of ordinary Sunnis and their tribal leaders during the period of the "Anbar caliphate."

And that raises a question: why did al Qaeda put itself "in a state of war with the masses in the region" (in Naji's words) rather than using those masses as allies or pawns in their war against America and the so-called apostate governments? The answer, it turns out, is inscribed in the very nature of the jihadist movement.


"All existing so-called Muslim societies are also Jahili societies," wrote Sayyid Qutb, al Qaeda's intellectual godfather, in his 1964 book Milestones. By "Jahili societies," Qutb was referring to the pre-Islamic, pagan world of Arabia that lived in "ignorance of divine guidance." Put simply, Qutb, his fellow travelers, and his spiritual heirs were, and are, not merely at war with the modern world, as defined by liberal democratic government and Western social mores. They are also murderously inclined toward "heretical Muslims," particularly Shiites. They object violently to Muslim attempts to fashion a kind of compromise modernity between Western and Islamic norms. They seek to overthrow secular Muslim regimes like Indonesia and Jordan, and religious Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia that maintain relations with the West.

They are also—crucially—at war with the pre-modern world: traditional tribal societies in which authority is handed down from father to son and in which Islam is a religion and not a binding legal code or political ideology. Typically, Muslim regimes have been careful to accommodate their tribes, plying them with money, government jobs, small arms, and other tokens of honor, and above all by allowing them to govern their internal affairs. This was (generally) true even in Saddam's Iraq. To the jihadists, however, tribal structures represent a twofold political challenge: first, they instill a powerful sense of local identity as opposed to a strictly pan-Islamic one; second, their systems of patronage and charity get in the way of the jihadists' agenda of radical social change.

It was this anti-tribalist attitude, combined with the utter savagery with which the jihadists put it into practice, that proved to be al Qaeda's undoing in Iraq. And that was not the only manner of its undoing. Precisely because of the post-9/11 transformation from a group to a movement, al Qaeda's leadership lost control of what in the West would be called message discipline.

"I repeat the warning against separating from the masses, whatever the danger," wrote Ayman al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi in an intercepted 2005 letter, stressing the need to avoid killing other Muslims, including Shiites. Zarqawi ignored the advice. The mass killings of fellow Muslims reversed the popular support previously garnered through attacks on Western targets. Worse, al Qaeda picked fights with countries that might have otherwise looked the other way at its activities. As late as early 2002, for example, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, was flatly denying that al Qaeda even existed in his country. Four years later, after spectacular al-Qaeda attacks on the kingdom, the same prince was threatening to "cut off the tongues" of bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Most significantly, al Qaeda's failures and reversals began to sow deeper doubts about its basic purposes. The breakthrough came with the publication of The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World, a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, a/k/a "Dr. Fadl." The importance of this work derived from the standing of its author. Dr. Fadl was the first "emir" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the author of the 1988 Foundations for the Preparation of Holy War, a bible among jihadists.

There are various theories as to why Dr. Fadl—now imprisoned in Egypt—wrote the book; these range from a long and bitter personal feud with Zawahiri to coercion by the Egyptian government to a genuine ideological volte face. Whatever the case, its chief significance lies in its insistence that jihadist activities must be subordinate to ordinary moral considerations. The jihadi, Dr. Fadl writes, cannot steal for the sake of jihad, or murder Muslim civilians, religious minorities, or foreign tourists, or seek the overthrow of existing Muslim governments, or cavalierly decree the apostasy of others, or disobey his parents. ("We find parents," Dr. Fadl states severely, "who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspaper as a fatality or a prisoner.")
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« Reply #80 on: September 08, 2008, 04:10:21 AM »

Even now, after his "conversion," Dr. Fadl is no one's idea of a modern secular thinker. Rather, his manifesto rejects the inherent radicalism of jihadism in favor of more orthodox conservative values, a return to a kind of Islamic mean. More than that, it is a frank recognition of reality—namely, that the jihadist fervor of men like Zawahiri can only lead Muslims down one dead-end street after another.


How widespread is this recognition? That remains to be seen, as do its consequences. As Max Boot has noted in COMMENTARY,1 it takes neither a large organization nor particularly deep pockets to perpetrate devastating terrorist attacks, and terrorist groups have shown considerable resilience even in the face of the most devastating setbacks. Furthermore, although al Qaeda may have been gravely wounded in the past year, Hizballah has grown considerably stronger and more confident. The Bush administration kept its nerve in Iraq, and may finally have won the war. But it seems to have lost its nerve vis-à-vis Iran's quest to become a nuclear power. Israel defeated Yasir Arafat's second intifada, but it may soon be beset by a third one, this time planned and instigated by Hamas.

Still, al Qaeda's decline offers a kind of portrait-in-miniature of a civilization that seems perpetually to be collapsing in on itself. Here is a movement in which suicide—that is, self-destruction—is treated as the ultimate act of self-assertion. A movement that sees itself as an Islamic vanguard, leading the way toward a genuine Muslim umma, but is permanently at war with the Muslim communities it inhabits. A movement whose attacks beyond the Islamic world have mainly had the effect of accelerating the very forces by which it is sealing its own fate. To use an inexact astronomical analogy, this is a movement with the quality of a supernova: even as an envelope of superheated gas rapidly expands outward, its core is compressing and ultimately implodes.

A similar pattern played out with the pan-Arabist regimes of the 1950's and 60's. And the same forces are at work today in Iran, where the regime's outward-directed, "revolutionary" activities—from supporting Hamas to engineering Hizballah's de-facto takeover of Lebanon to developing nuclear weapons—seem almost purposely designed to counterbalance the weight of the regime's manifold domestic discontents.

As for how the United States and its allies should attempt to deal with this new reality, one temptation is simply to stay away, on the theory that no good can come from putting our hands in such a mess. This is roughly the view of the libertarian and paleoconservative Right, and perhaps a majority of the Left. But the view hardly bears discussion: all mention of Israel aside, access to Middle Eastern energy resources is a vital American interest and will almost certainly remain so for decades. The Muslim world is also inextricably a part of the Western one, particularly in Europe. Nor is the global terrorist threat likely to go away even if al Qaeda does. The possibility that a regime that sponsors or supports terrorists might be in a position to supply them with weapons of mass destruction is a direct threat to us.

A second option, associated with the so-called realist school, contends that with rare exceptions, the U.S. should deal with the Muslim world more or less as it is, without seeking to change it.2 This is a view that has much to recommend it—at least in the hands of a master diplomatic practitioner. But Metternichs are hard to come by, and in the hands of lesser statesmen, realism easily slides into passive acquiescence in an intolerable status quo—or into intolerable changes to it. Witness the readiness of Colin Powell, as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the first Bush administration, to accept Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a fait accompli.

A third view, shared to varying degrees by neoconservatives and liberal internationalists, is that the U.S. and the West have no choice but actively to seek domestic reforms in Muslim countries. Needless to say, such a course is fraught with risks and often prone to mishandling, overreaching, and failure. But some version of it is the only approach that can, if not heal the pathologies of the Muslim world, then at least ameliorate and contain them so that they do not end up arriving unbidden on our doorstep, as they did one morning in September 2001.

This is not the place to lay out precisely how the U.S. might go about pursuing such a course with greater success than it has achieved thus far. But a few points are worth noting in light of the experience detailed above:

First, while we should pursue democratic (and economic) openings wherever we realistically can do so, our overarching and primary aim is to make the Muslim world unsafe for radicalism—whether that radicalism is of the Islamist, pan-Arabist, or Baathist variety. This means a policy of unyielding opposition to groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and to the Iranian and Syrian regimes, despite growing calls to come to terms with all of them. But we must also come to terms with the limits of what intervention in Muslim politics can plausibly achieve. In particular, we need to be attentive to the fact that Western-style political or social prescriptions can often be counterproductive.3

Second, the experience of the so-called Anbar Awakening of tribal leaders against al Qaeda is an instructive reminder that the Muslim world does not, as was widely asserted in the wake of September 11, divide merely between a handful of extremists and a "vast majority" of moderates who can easily be rallied to our side. Instead, Muslim societies typically divide into at least three significant blocs: a "pre-modern" element, consisting mainly of tribesmen, peasants, nomads, and the like; a "modern" element, typically urban, educated, and, by the standards of their societies, middle-class; and an "anti-modern" element, consisting mostly of Islamists but also of members of the Baath party and other fascistic groups.

So far, many of our democracy-promotion efforts have been aimed at the middle group, the one most familiar to us. But this is not, in all cases, politically the most consequential element. What we have learned in Iraq is that it is possible, indeed necessary, to isolate anti-moderns by creating political alliances between the urban middle class and the tribes.

Third, we can seek ways to cultivate nationalist sentiment in the Muslim world, not least because jihadists detest, and fear, the notion of Arab and Muslim nationalism as yet another locus of loyalty that has nothing to do with Islam. In hindsight, Iraq's near-miraculous soccer victory in last year's Asian Cup was a significant moment in its evolution as a post-Baathist state, confirming that there really is such a thing as an Iraqi nationalism shared by Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds alike.

Finally, although the internal factors that ultimately did so much to cripple al Qaeda were, so to speak, written into its very DNA, they were not triggered until the United States proved itself capable of defeating the bin Laden gang militarily—first incompletely in Afghanistan, later decisively in Iraq. The importance of these confrontations lay not only in the actual killing or capture of al Qaeda's leadership and its foot soldiers but also in the demonstration to a watching Muslim world of the full extent of American power and the comparative weakness of al Qaeda. Its defeat finally pricked the Muslim myth that the jihadists were a military match for the U.S., just as Israel's victory in the Six-Day war of 1967 made a mockery of the martial pretensions of pan-Arabism and dealt Nasser a near-fatal blow.

Now the government of neighboring Iran has invested some $20 billion of scarce national treasure, and the weight of the regime's prestige, in its nuclear programs. Aside from the inherent case for getting rid of these programs for the threat they pose to core U.S. interests, it ought at least to be considered that their swift destruction might, far from rallying Iranians to their leaders' side, produce precisely the opposite effect.

These suggestions are only a sketch of a policy. But effective policy depends above all on a correct understanding of the people, places, and things toward which it is being applied. To speak of an Islamic civilization is to speak in error. Rather, there is a Muslim world. It is fractured, and fractious. At times, Muslim causes or conflicts spill over into the non-Islamic world, as they did in the 1990's. Today, thanks in no small part to our actions, they remain internal—expression not, or not merely, of a clash of civilizations, but of the convulsion of one. In this internal disunity lie our strength and our opportunity—and ultimately, perhaps, the reform of the Muslim world itself.

Bret Stephens is a member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and the author of the paper's "Global View," a weekly column.

« Reply #81 on: September 18, 2008, 11:09:25 PM »

Kill'em all and let our God sort them out.
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« Reply #82 on: October 03, 2008, 03:22:46 PM »

Oct 3, 10:52
The CIA and The Looming Threats for the Next President

CIA director Mike Hayden gave an an interesting interview to Fox News identifying the the greatest security challenges to the next administration.

One of the identified threats (after the increasingly unstable but nuclear-armed North Korea) is what Hayden dubbed the “Axis of Oil,” that dangerous mix of petro-fueled dollars giving Russia, Iran and Venezuela the economic means to become increasingly reckless militarily.

This is correct, and, I believe, a healthy recognition that there are serious threats outside the Iraq and radical Sunni Islamist threat. The alliance of a radical Shiite Islamist state, a radical populist government and a nation correctly described as one that is reversing democratic gains and ruled by officially sanctioned organized crime, indeed poses a threat.

What gives that Axis its power is the money we pay for foreign oil. What binds them together is this money and their avowed and public desire to go after not just the United States, but Western democracies in other places.

None of them would be able to retain their oppressive state structures and fuel instability abroad (particularly aimed at Latin America) if they didn’t have the billions of petro-dollars to do it.

Unfortunately, a full transcript of Hayden’s remarks has not been posted, so all we have is a snippet of Hayden noting that oil prices, which are still hovering around $100 per barrel, have emboldened these oil-rich nations. “Oil, at its current price … gives the Russian state a degree of influence and power that it would have not otherwise had,” he said.

He noted that Russia’s invasion of Georgian territory in August and Iran’s continued work on acquiring nuclear weapons only compound the threat.

While this threat matrix seems obvious looking at it from the Latin American context, it is not a widely voice priority in the intelligence community. I have been to numerous events recently, hosted by an array of U.S. government agencies and departments, and have been baffled by the failure to look at the very matrix Hayden names.

Two of the countries, Iran and Venezuela, openly support terrorist groups that have a long history of striking at Americans. Russia has a long history (and now a rapidly-quickening pace) of arming both nations. Russia has nuclear weapons, Iran is working hard to get them, and Venezuela has the type of leader who would like to use one.

So it is heartening to see someone finally, if only briefly, acknowledging this threat exists and needs to be a priority for whomever wins in November.

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« Reply #83 on: October 29, 2008, 10:37:13 AM »

Caveat lector, its the NYT.

Gates Gives Rationale for Expanded Deterrence

Published: October 28, 2008
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that the United States would hold “fully accountable” any country or group that helped terrorists to acquire or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took questions after speaking Tuesday in Washington.
The statement was the Bush administration’s most expansive yet in trying to articulate a vision of deterrence for the post-Sept. 11 world. It went beyond the cold war notion that a president could respond with overwhelming force against a country that directly attacked the United States or its allies with unconventional weapons.

“Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group or other nonstate actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction — whether by facilitating, financing or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts,” Mr. Gates said.

The comments came in an address in which he said it was important to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal as a hedge against what he described as “rising and resurgent powers” like Russia or China, as well as “rogue nations” like Iran or North Korea and international terrorists.

By declaring that those who facilitated a terrorist attack would be held “fully accountable,” Mr. Gates left the door open to diplomatic and economic responses as well as military ones. And, to be sure, the United States has acted forcefully before against those who sheltered terrorists, with the invasion of Afghanistan to oust Al Qaeda and its Taliban government supporters after the attacks of Sept. 11.

His speech here before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was the latest signal that the administration was moving in its closing months to embrace more far-reaching notions of deterrence and self-defense.

On Monday, senior officials justified a weekend attack against a suspected Iraqi insurgent leader in Syria by saying the administration was operating under an expansive new definition of self-defense. The policy, officials said, provided a rationale for conventional strikes on militant targets in a sovereign nation without its consent — if that nation were unable or unwilling to halt the threat on its own.

By law, the new president must conduct a review of the nation’s nuclear posture, and Mr. Gates’s address could be viewed as advocating a specific agenda for the next occupant of the White House.

The first public indication that the administration was expanding the traditional view of nuclear deterrence came in a statement by President Bush in October 2006 that followed a test detonation of a nuclear device by North Korea. Mr. Bush said North Korea would be held “fully accountable” for the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to any nation or terrorist organization.

The president was not as explicit then as Mr. Gates was on Tuesday in saying that the administration would extend the threat of reprisals for the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to all countries, not just North Korea. Mr. Gates also expanded the threat to nations or groups that provide a broader range of support to terrorists.

Early this year, in a little-noticed speech at Stanford University, Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, also spoke of how the president had approved an expanded deterrence policy.

In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Gates argued for modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal because “as long as other states have or seek nuclear weapons — and potentially can threaten us, our allies and friends — then we must have a deterrent capacity.”

Although Mr. Gates earlier this year fired the Air Force secretary and chief of staff after the discovery of shortcomings in the service’s stewardship of nuclear weapons and components, he stressed that the nuclear arsenal was “safe, secure and reliable.”

“The problem is the long-term prognosis — which I would characterize as bleak,” he said.

Veteran weapons designers and technicians are retiring, and Congress has not voted for the money to build replacement warheads for an aging arsenal that can be produced without abandoning the nation’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests, he said.

To that end, he endorsed a comprehensive test ban treaty if adequate verification measures could be negotiated.

Mr. Gates praised efforts to reduce the number of warheads, and predicted that the United States and Russia would at some point conclude another agreement limiting their arsenals.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting.
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« Reply #84 on: October 29, 2008, 05:12:34 PM »

The only thing an Obama administration would deter is investment in the US.
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« Reply #85 on: October 29, 2008, 05:26:24 PM »

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Putin: Might treat sick economy with war.

Last updated: 4:40 am
October 29, 2008
Posted: 3:59 am
October 29, 2008

FEELING gleeful at the misfortunes of others is an ugly-but-common human characteristic. The world delighted in our crashing economy, then we got our own back as Euro-bankers and Russian billionaires proved at least as greedy as our own money-thugs.

Of all the pleasures to be found in the pain of others, though, none seems more justified than smugness over the panic in Moscow, Caracas and Tehran as oil prices plummet.

We may need to be careful what we wish for.

Successful states may generate trouble, but failures produce catastrophes: Nazi Germany erupted from the bankrupt Weimar Republic; Soviet Communism's economic disasters swelled the Gulag; a feckless state with unpaid armies enabled Mao's rise.

Economic competition killed a million Tutsis in Rwanda. The deadliest conflict of our time, the multi-sided civil war in Congo, exploded into the power vacuum left by a bankrupt government. A resource-starved Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The crucial point: The more a state has to lose, the less likely it is to risk losing it. "Dizzy with success," Russia's Vladimir Putin may have dismembered Georgia, but Russian tanks stopped short of Tbilisi as he calculated exactly how much he could get away with.

But now, while our retirement plans have suffered a setback, Russia's stock market has crashed to a fifth of its value last May. Foreign investment has begun to shun Russia as though the ship of state has plague aboard.

The murk of Russia's economy is ultimately impenetrable, but analysts take Moscow's word that it entered this crisis with over $500 billion in foreign-exchange reserves. At least $200 billion of that is now gone, while Russian markets still hemorrhage. And the price of oil - Russia's lifeblood - has fallen by nearly two-thirds.

If oil climbs to $70 a barrel, the Russian economy may eke by. But the Kremlin can kiss off its military-modernization plans. Urgent infrastructure upgrades won't happen, either. And the population trapped outside the few garish city centers will continue to live lives that are nasty, brutish and short - on a good day.

Should oil prices and shares keep tumbling, Russia will slip into polni bardak mode - politely translated as "resembling a dockside brothel on the skids." And that assumes that other aspects of the economy hold up - a fragile hope, given Russia's overleveraged concentration of wealth, fudged numbers and state lawlessness.

Should we rejoice if the ruble continues to drop? Perhaps. But what incentive would Czar Vladimir have to halt his tanks short of Kiev, if his economy were a basket case shunned by the rest of the world?

Leaders with failures in their laps like the distraction wars provide. (If religion is the opium of the people, nationalism is their methamphetamine.) The least we might expect would be an increased willingness on Moscow's part to sell advanced weapons to fellow rogue regimes.

Of course, those rogues would need money to pay for the weapons (or for nuclear secrets sold by grasping officials). A positive side of the global downturn is that mischief-makers such as Iran and Venezuela are going to have a great deal less money with which to annoy civilization.

Some analyses calculate that, for Caracas and Tehran to sustain their already-on-life-support economies, the price of oil needs to stay above $90 a barrel. But average prices will probably remain below that for at least two years.

Iran and Venezuela may respond very differently to impoverishment, however. Tehran could turn to regional military aggression in an attempt to keep the population behind the regime - and may the Lord help Israel, if a dead-broke Iran gets nukes.

On the other hand, even devout Muslim businessmen don't like to go bankrupt. Iran's power-broker mullahs have relied on the support of the (much bribed) bazaaris, the nation's merchants. While we obsess about feeble student protests, the bazaaris form the constituency the mullahs dare not alienate. Regime change may come from within.

By contrast, Venezuela's power is a charade. The regime of Hugo Chavez can't survive without a constant transfusion of petrodollars. Chavez buys votes - and you can't buy votes with empty pockets.

Chavez is far more bluster than bravery. Facing empty coffers, his rhetoric will intensify - but he's not going to invade anyone (he'd lose). And the left-wing regimes that rely on him will have to find a new sugar daddy.

A bankrupt Chavez won't survive long - he's no Fidel Castro. The question is whether he'd respect a popular vote that went against him or go out in a splash of blood.

Bottom line on bankrupt enemies: Russia's dangerous; Iran's dangerous, but vulnerable; Venezuela's just vulnerable. There may be serious trouble ahead.

For now, though, it's satisfying to watch the wicked suffer.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Looking for Trouble."
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« Reply #86 on: October 29, 2008, 05:30:20 PM »

An economic downturn that causes major job losses in China may well push Beijing to do lots of ugly things to retain power, including try to take Taiwan. N. Korea might just disintergrate in the same time horizon. Interesting times we live in.
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« Reply #87 on: November 11, 2008, 11:38:23 AM »

Happy Veterans' Day   
By Robert Spencer | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not too long ago Ayaan Hirsi Ali was being interviewed by a Canadian tool (who ultimately went to work for Al-Jazeera), and he kept asking her why she didn't seem to think that American militarism and imperialism and such were just as dangerous as the threat of Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism. Finally, after several go-rounds about this, she told him that since he had grown up with freedom, he didn't value it, or understand how seriously it was being threatened.

And it was true: for him, and for so many in the U.S. today, Constitutional law, including the non-establishment of religion, is as certain as the air we breathe, and we cannot conceive of the possibility that anything could weaken the principles upon which this nation was founded. The freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law -- all these things are unassailable, aren't they?

No, they are being assailed today by increasingly assertive global forces, even as many in the U.S. who once had been aware of the threat turn to other matters. Some have lost interest, others have decided that other issues are more important. Still others have even turned on former allies and comrades-in-arms, opting to pursue imaginary threats rather than actual ones -- or, maybe because they see the way the wind is blowing, they have switched sides. Very few people today are even aware of, much less interested in, the Muslim Brotherhood's "grand jihad" to eliminate and destroy Western civilization "from within, sabotaging its miserable house." And that unawareness and indifference allows this endeavor to proceed apace.

Today, then, we should remember and be grateful to those who gave their lives to secure and protect these freedoms for us -- as if our gratitude could ever be sufficient or adequate. We should ponder the fact that they had to give their lives in order to secure these freedoms. We should remember that if we are not willing to give our own lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to protect the unalienable rights enumerated at the founding of this Republic, we will most assuredly lose both them and the Republic itself -- lose them for ourselves and for our children.

Let us never shrink from the task before us: the great struggle to defend human rights, human dignity, and freedom from oppression and injustice -- particularly the oppression and injustice, and assaults to human dignity that are enshrined in the Sharia that is coming, step-by-step, steadily and apparently inexorably, to a willfully ignorant and indifferent West.

Happy Veterans' Day.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His next book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is coming this November from Regnery Publishing.
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« Reply #88 on: November 13, 2008, 03:59:56 PM »

Responding to a Terrorist Energy Crisis   

By William W. Beach, James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., David Kreutzer, Ph.D. and Karen Cam
Heritage Foundation | Thursday, November 13, 2008

In June 2008, The Heritage Foundation invited energy scholars and policy experts to participate in a computer simulation and gaming exercise assessing the economic effects of a global petroleum energy crisis. The exercise was similar to the previous energy study conducted from 2006 to 2007, but larger in geographic and economic scope.[1]

The Heritage team simulated the effects on world oil supplies, demand, and prices after a major terrorist attack on oil exports from Saudi Arabia and resulting disruption of oil shipping lanes between the Middle East and major Asian economies. Analysts at The Heritage Foundation's Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies developed the crisis scenario, while analysts in Heritage's Center for Data Analysis (CDA) measured the effects of these disruptions on the U.S. economy and found:

The price of petroleum in the U.S. spiked very quickly from the price of $127 per barrel on the day of the game to a high of $244 per barrel just days later.
This price increase caused a rapid slowing of the U.S. economy, seen in a drop in employment of approximately 1.5 million jobs in the first year and an average drop in inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) in the first year of $119 billion.
The scholars and policy experts recommended steps the U.S. and other countries could take to mitigate such adverse economic effects. CDA members analyzed these policy recommendations with the same economic model used to make the initial impact estimates. They found that:

Petroleum prices fell by 15 percent after implementation of the recommendations.
The U.S. economy recovered approximately 970,000 jobs in the first year and recovered $112 billion of output in the first year.
The results of this second game are described in detail in the following sections:

Situation and Strategic Environment
The Crisis Scenario
Conduct of the Game
Outcome Trends
Global Economic Effects
Lessons Learned and Conclusion
This project was a "proof-of-principle" investigation. It combined computer modeling and gaming to capture the economic impact of a sudden petroleum-supply disruption. By design, the magnitude of the disruption was to be catastrophic--well beyond what excess petroleum capacity and strategic petroleum reserves could easily absorb.

The purpose of the gaming exercise was to provide input data for an economic model to estimate net impacts of 1) the shock (the terrorist actions) and 2) the policy responses. As such, the study focused on the economic and diplomatic reactions of the player nations, and the subsequent implications. Military reactions by players were minimal. The exercise incorporated a plausible scenario that caused an immediate petroleum-supply interdiction of approximately 10 to 15 percent of global production, or 8 to 12 million barrels per day (mbd), with residual effects that would disrupt approximately 4 mbd for several months.

The project demonstrated the feasibility of modeling the economic consequences of crisis decision making and responses during an oil-price shock induced by a terrorist attack. At the same time, the game emphasizes that much more exploration is needed of how various combinations of political, military, diplomatic, and economic initiatives might affect the course of a global energy crisis. The Heritage Foundation plans to expand and refine its simulation and modeling tools to evaluate international responses, environmental consequences, and private- and public-sector responses to other foreign policy challenges.

Why This Exercise?

Demand for oil is no longer driven exclusively by developed economies like the United States. China, India, other developing countries, and energy producers themselves are transforming global energy markets through their sheer size and pace of growth. According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), between now and 2030, China and India will account for 70 percent of the new global oil demand; their combined oil imports will skyrocket from 5.4 mbd in 2006 to 20 mbd in 2030--overtaking the current combined imports of Japan and the United States.[2] Thus, an evaluation of any potential responses to an energy crisis must include exploration of the actions of major consumer nations, energy producers, and geo-strategic powers as well as of sub-state and transnational non-state actors that will shape the military and diplomatic agendas, as well as energy policies. The goal of this proof-of-principle exercise was to model a multi-player response to an energy crisis.

Situation and Strategic Environment. Catastrophic destruction of the Ras Tanura port and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia would achieve a loss of more than 4 mbd for at least several months, and as long as the terminal remains non-functioning. Two principal choke points--the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia--transport a combined 28 million barrels of petroleum per day. Interdicting either of these choke points would cause a short-term loss of global petroleum supply on the order of 8 to 12 mbd. Together, these events achieved the desired results for the purpose of the exercise and study.

Represented in the game were the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, India, Australia, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). They were chosen both because they represented major energy-producing and -consuming nations, and because they are key geo-strategic players in responding to regional events in the Middle East and South Asia. In particular, each player is a significant energy consumer or producer, with the exception of Australia, which was chosen due to its strategic proximity to the Strait of Malacca.[3] During the game, the players were represented by teams of policy and academic experts. Each national player was represented by a team of two to four subject-matter experts. In some cases, the teams represented more than one nation, such as OPEC or the European Union. To limit the complexity of the exercise, several nations, including Russia, Brazil, and Venezuela, were omitted.[4]

The United States was among the most important of the players. The United States receives most of its imported petroleum from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela, and less than 20 percent of U.S. imports are from the Middle East. But as the world's largest consumer of petroleum, the United States would be affected by any loss of global supply that cannot be absorbed by the limited excess capacity. Oil prices around the world are set by the globalized markets. Any reduction in global supply will elevate prices for all consumers, including those in the Western Hemisphere.

European nations import slightly more than 3 mbd from the Middle East. Like the United States, they would be affected by any supply interruption, since a reduction in global supply affects all consumers as prices increase. This is especially true for the EU, since its other major supplier is Russia (6 mbd), which has shown no reluctance to raise prices for oil and natural gas exports when given the opportunity.

Japan and China are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, specifically on petroleum transported by tanker through the Strait of Malacca. China imports approximately 4 mbd, of which 2.2 mbd traverse the Strait; while 4.2 mbd of Japan's imported 5.4 mbd traverse the Strait. The energy vulnerability of Japan and China is also mirrored by other developed nations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as South Korea and Taiwan.

India imports nearly 2 mbd of the 2.5 mbd it consumes. Most of this petroleum comes from the Middle East through the Strait of Hormuz. India is also dependent on Mideast liquefied natural gas (LNG) for electric energy generation to fuel its rapidly growing economy. India has one of the largest economies in the world and would be doubly affected by production degradation in the Persian Gulf and by supply interdiction of the Strait of Hormuz.

Australia plays a unique role in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the largest Western nation near the Strait of Malacca, it maintains close diplomatic and economic ties to other developed nations in the region, especially China, and it has been the previous target of attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.[5] Australia is very active in offshore exploration and production of oil and natural gas, and has recently started importing small amounts of crude oil due to a growing economy. Tankers that bypass the Straits of Malacca and Sunda must travel by the island of Bali, much closer to Australia.

OPEC remains an influential organization with a pivotal role in the global economy. Members of OPEC provide approximately 41 percent of global oil production with key members located in the Middle East, and much of its petroleum exports flowing through the Strait of Hormuz. The most prominent member of OPEC is Saudi Arabia--the largest exporter of crude oil and the historic provider of global excess capacity, the production "cushion," that has kept oil prices relatively stable for decades. Of the 86 mbd of global production, 17 mbd (nearly 20 percent) flow through the Strait of Hormuz from OPEC nations.

The Crisis. For this exercise, players were given a supply-disruption scenario that was caused by a plausibly successful coordinated terrorist attack conducted by the remnants of al-Qaeda and an affiliated political group operating in Pacific Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah. The intent of the attack is to cause an immediate shock to the global petroleum transportation system, with persistent effects that reduce petroleum throughput from producing nations to consuming nations. The desired result of this coordinated attack is to cause economic failure of oil-consuming nations, fracture Western alliances, and cause economic and political confrontation between Western nations and the Middle Eastern Islamic states. This result is consistent with al-Qaeda's previously established strategic goals.

The Road to Crisis

Al-Qaeda takes 300 pupils hostage at the Ras Tanura Middle School. The next morning the hostage-takers begin executing students.
While Saudi security forces are distracted, al-Qaeda launches simultaneous attacks on oil-processing and shipping facilities. These are thermobaric explosive attacks on the Ras Tanura and Abu Qaiq facilities, destroying parts of each. (Improvised thermobaric weapons are containers of fine explosive particles or liquids that burst open the container and disperse the contents in a cloud and then ignite, creating a downward destructive wave of over-pressure.)
An explosives-laden plane attacks the Saudi Aramco headquarters, destroying the Intenet facilities there and killing portions of the company's leadership.
Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah begins speedboat attacks on oil tankers crossing the Strait of Malacca.
Jemaah Islamiyah places EM-52 mines in the Strait of Malacca (near Singapore). The mines are coated with polymer to reduce the likelihood of detection.
All oil traffic through the Strait of Malacca is stopped because insurers will not give coverage to hydrocarbon cargo.
Al-Qaeda affiliates place mines in the Strait of Sunda to further disrupt traffic.
The results of the coordinated attack were: 1) the catastrophic destruction of the Ras Tanura terminal and subsequent reduction in traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, and 2) the closure of the Straits of Malacca and Sunda with traffic detouring more than 1,000 kilometers to reach the refineries and terminals of Southeast Asian consumers. Transportation delays and costs increase across the globe as producer and consumer nations implement increased security measures in order to cope with the new types, sophistication, and brutality of al-Qaeda- Jemaah Islamiyah attacks.

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« Reply #89 on: November 13, 2008, 04:01:54 PM »

The following occurred as a result of the disruptions.

Six million barrels per day of oil production has stopped.
Fifteen million barrels per day can no longer be shipped through the most direct routes.
Saudi Aramco insists on being the only contractor for repairs at the damaged facilities.
The U.S., U.K., Japan, India, China, and Australia deploy naval and special forces operations to the Strait of Malacca to hunt down sea-borne and land-based terrorist teams and to conduct de-mining operations. This takes three months.

Conduct of the Exercise

After the players read and discussed the initial scenario and its effects on their nation or organization, they separated into break-out groups. In the first break-out, each team of nation players further discussed and recorded its short-term actions. Limited communication was allowed between nation players to replicate diplomatic dialogue.

After the first break-out discussion, all teams of nation players reconvened to brief each other on their respective actions. Nation players were not required to reveal their diplomatic dialogue. Once the actions were discussed by Heritage staff, the teams returned to their break-out groups to determine long-term actions.

Player responses were organized into three subcategories:

Diplomatic. The actions of a nation player have a dominant diplomatic component if, for example, they encourage actions primarily by other nations or organizations. Encouraging imposition of economic sanctions, for instance, is listed as a diplomatic action in spite of its obvious economic effects and possible military implications necessary for enforcement.
Economic. These responses have a dominant economic component, such as modifying production quotas, price controls, or rationing.
Military. Actions include those that directly involve a nation's military assets, or intelligence assets normally under military control.
Table 1 summarizes the actions taken.

Click to view Table 1
Outcome Trends

In exploring how crisis decisions might be made in a multi-player environment, the following practices and trends emerged over the course of the game:

Nation players tended to seek cooperation with other nation players and took few unilateral actions to secure energy resources. Not one nation player stated he would take military action to seize or capture additional energy resources.
Several non-U.S. players advocated engagement with Iran in order to fill supply void.
Only India and Japan mentioned possible domestic social or political tensions created by energy scarcities and rapid price increases.
Most nation players sought actions to develop more diverse sources of energy supply, also greater efficiency measures and technology leaps. The exception was OPEC.
Nations with pre-existing pipelines to developed supplies will have a distinct competitive advantage over those who rely on seaborne tankers to import energy. The United States and the European Union have more secure energy supplies than do China, Japan, or Asia. This may produce tensions among competing consumers in the Asian region. It may also produce military alliances that have energy security as their basis.
Global Economic Effects

The interruption of the energy supply results in a dramatic increase in the world prices of petroleum. Absent any credible national and multi-national policies, there will be major declines in the economic output of the United States and other industrial countries, as well as rapid impoverishment of developing economies. Without enough energy to maintain current GDP levels, 592,000 workers lose their jobs at the outset and household income falls by $309 billion in the quarter with the lowest income. These effects were simulated using the Global Insight model. Heritage analysts worked with energy specialists at Global Insight, a prominent forecasting company, to determine what the reduced supply would mean for the world price of crude oil. The analysts then set up a simulation experiment to forecast the effects on some of the major U.S. macroeconomic variables.[6]

The U.S. and other countries' responses were then analyzed by the Heritage team in terms of their likely economic impact. Oil withdrawals from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves made up for part of the lost world supply and mitigated the increase in the world price of oil. The simulation experiment was then re-run with the effects of these economic responses incorporated. The effectiveness of the players' responses to the crisis are illustrated in Chart 1. The graphs show both the devastating economic impact of the attacks on the U.S. economy without any policy response, and the less severe economic decline with a policy response.

The combined effect of responses by the U.S. and other participating countries helps to counter some of the effects of the attack.

Job losses recover a year after the attack--compared to continued significant job losses two years after the attack if the U.S. and other countries do not respond.
Inflation-adjusted GDP recovers within a year-- compared to persistently lower output for two years after the attack.
Inflation-adjusted disposable income recovers within two years after the attack--compared to continued lowered inflation-adjusted income two years after the attack.
The immediate and effective economic responses of the various countries make it possible for them to accommodate much of the short-term energy demands, while investment is mobilized for swift recovery efforts in the meantime. The military deployments in conjunction with all the investments made to rebuild damaged infrastructure help contain job losses by mobilizing the labor force for these reconstruction projects. Without these economic, diplomatic, and military responses, an average of 406,000 jobs are lost in the first year compared to an average of 164,000 jobs lost with the response. These investments allow inflation-adjusted GDP to grow, and finally real-income growth as investments start to pay off in positive returns around two years after the attack.

Lessons Learned

The consequences of an energy disruption on a scale depicted in this exercise were devastating and would no doubt have a profound and lasting impact on the global economy. Without question, the United States and its allies would have to exercise decisive and effective leadership to deal with the crisis. The results of this exercise illustrate the magnitude of the challenge:

As governments and the private sector direct national resources to deal with the second- and third-order effects, they will have more success following the market than with a command economy. That is, the more that nations rely on market principles to direct resources, the faster the global economy will recover. But reliance on market principles is unlikely. Expecting market-based responses ignores most of recorded history, and is counterintuitive to human nature. All nations will have domestic constituencies that advocate greater centralized control of national assets for the sake of national security. Contrary to the game's players, it will be extraordinarily difficult for national leaders who advocate liberal economic policies to survive their own internal politics. After the crisis begins, it will be too late to educate the general population about market principles. They must have this understanding beforehand. Public information on handling energy crises needs to be developed in advance and promptly implemented as the crises erupt.
While nations contemplate short-term and long-term economic and diplomatic responses, military contingences, such as destroying the most dangerous terrorist organizations' cells, deploying naval assets to conduct mine-sweeping operations, and escorting tankers through maritime choke points, need to be implemented.
During a period of crisis, non-Mideast petroleum exporters, such as Russia, Norway, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Brazil, could well have greatly increased influence as consumer nations compete for scarce energy supplies.
Global economic disruptions would make many long-term actions improbable, such as Japan's proposed regional strategic reserve in northeast Asia, or India's proposed pipelines to connect to Central Asian energy reserves through Pakistan.
Nations will contend for breakthrough energy research and development (R&D), but will have fewer national resources to allocate to development given declining economies. Thus, looking to a crisis to spur the drive for alternative energy sources appears an impractical strategy. Alternative energy R&D needs to be undertaken during peacetime and relative economic prosperity.

The Heritage game demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the global system's capacity to produce and deliver oil supplies to a concerted transnational terrorist threat. This exercise also suggests that major producer and consumer nations and key geo-strategic allies acting in concert with one another while protecting their own national interests could ameliorate the severity of long-term disruptions. Reliance on market forces and coordinated security activities did much to help restore the confidence of markets and consumers.

William W. Beach is Director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation; James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation; Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies; David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst for Energy Economics and Climate Change in the Center for Data Analysis; Karen A. Campbell, Ph.D., is Policy Analyst in Macroeconomics in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation; and Hopper Smith is a consultant to The Heritage Foundation.


Simulation Methodology

This energy simulation was built on the simulation of a previous game, during which the impact of the U.S. response was estimated. The technique used to introduce the effects of the oil price shock and the contribution to domestic oil supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) can be found in the report by James Carafano and William Beach. [7] The procedure for the initial simulation on which this current simulation is based was performed in three steps. Each step produced a new state of the economy (from the original baseline) in order to simulate the new economic reality the U.S. economy would face if such a crisis occurred. Given this new state, policy recommendations from the participants were implemented and the impact of these recommendations on the "crisis state" of the economy could thus be studied. Following is a description of this process from the original report [8] and then the method used in the present study for incorporating the policy recommendations from the rest of the world and assessing their impact.

Step 1. To simulate the effects of the oil price shock, the Heritage Foundation economics team introduced the change in oil prices and the contribution to domestic oil supply from the SPR into the Global Insight model. They then directly changed three separate oil prices in the model: the weighted average price of imported crude, the weighted average price of domestic crude, and the average price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude. All three were assumed to deviate from baseline levels by the same amount; namely, the change in WTI crude oil prices forecast by Global Insight.

The contributions to the domestic oil supply from the SPR were also calculated by Global Insight. They were converted to quadrillion BTU before they were input into the GI model.

In Step 1, the team assumed that the Federal Reserve would adjust the effective federal funds rate in response to changes in the civilian unemployment rate and the rate of Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation. They next imposed the model's monetary reaction function that mimics the actions of the Federal Reserve.XREF Heritage economists excluded the GI model's exchange rate variables, solved the model, and used this new forecast as the starting point for Step 2.

Step 2. The team adjusted the response of real non-residential investment in mines and wells on the advice of economists at Global Insight. Global Insight recommended this move because in the current version of the Global Insight model, this variable is very responsive to oil price shocks. As a result of these discussions, the team cut the mines and wells variable by half from the baseline forecast. They then ran the model again with these adjustments, and the new forecast was used as a starting point for Step 3.

Step 3. Next, the team neutralized the relative price effects of oil-related energy products and adjusted world GDP to be consistent with these prices. U.S. trading partners would likely face the same price changes as the U.S. and take similar hits to their GDP from an oil price shock. Neutralizing the relative price effects and adjusting world GDP helped to ensure that the final simulation results reflect these shared effects.

The team neutralized the relative price effects by adjusting the baseline. They made adjustments, first, by calculating the deviation from baseline in the Global Insight model's variable for the U.S. Producer Price Index excluding energy and, second, by applying that deviation to the model's two variables for foreign producer price indices.

They adjusted foreign GDP in the model by modifying key indices of the real trade-weighted GDP of U.S. trading partners. The team then solved the model and saved the forecast. This new forecast was used to generate the summary results spreadsheets.

The policy prescriptions of all teams were analyzed for quantifiable impacts on the U.S. economy. These impacts came from two main areas: 1) policies that affect petroleum price and 2) domestic policies that change U.S. government spending. The economic impact of the world's response in conjunction with the U.S. response on the U.S. economy was simulated using the Global Insight 30-year macroeconomic model as follows:[9]

a) Building on the previous simulation, the Heritage team estimated the impact of the world's increased supply response on the import price of oil by assuming a short-run vertical supply curve and an elasticity of demand equal to 0.08. The effect of 3 million barrels per day released into the world market lowered the import price of oil by 15 percent. The previous import price (estimated from the reduction in supply from the attack) is also reduced by 15 percent and made exogenous.

b) The United States military response has an economic impact since higher military involvement will increase government spending. This increased spending was estimated by the team to be $30 billion per quarter for 10 quarters (until the end of 2010). The national defense spending variable was increased by this amount and made exogenous.

c) The model was solved and results obtained with and without the national responses. The forecast was used to generate the summary results reported above.

[1] James Jay Carafano, William W. Beach et al., "If Iran Provokes an Energy Crisis: Modeling the Problem in a War Game," Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No. 07-03, July 25, 2007, at
[2] International Energy Agency, "World Energy Outlook 2007: China and India Insights," 2007, p. 48.

[3] Figures for individual and regional petroleum production, transportation, and consumption taken from: International Petroleum Encyclopedia 2007, Joseph Hilyard, ed. (Tulsa, Okla.: PennWell Corporation, 2007). Table 7, World Oil Trade Movements, on page 418 was particularly useful.

[4]While these nations certainly have a significant interest in the flow of global petroleum, they were not in proximity to the Straits of Hormuz or Malacca. For the purpose of the exercise, their reactions were assumed to be rational, and that they would continue maximum petroleum production at elevated prices.

[5] The 2002 Bali bombing was conducted by Jemaah Islamiyah in support of al-Qaeda's strategic goals. It targeted Australian tourists vacationing in Indonesia, resulting in 202 civilian deaths. For more information, see numerous articles by Dana Robert Dillon including, "Bali Bombings: Self Inflicted Wounds?" Heritage Foundation Press Commentary, October 18, 2002, at Also see "Bali Nightclub Bombing,", at (October 16, 2008).

[6]See the Appendix for the experiment methodology.

[7] Carafano and Beach, "If Iran Provokes an Energy Crisis: Modeling the Problem in a War Game."

[8] Ibid.

[9] The methodologies, assumptions, conclusions, and opinions presented here have not been endorsed by and do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners of the Global Insight model or their employees. Fortune 500 companies and numerous government agencies use Global Insight's Short-Term Macroeconomic Model to forecast how changes in the economy and public policy will likely affect major economic indicators. Additional information on the simulation methodology is available upon request.
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« Reply #90 on: November 13, 2008, 05:11:33 PM »


Would you please summarize in 25-100 words?

Thank you.
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« Reply #91 on: November 13, 2008, 07:32:18 PM »

The global energy infrastructure has key points of vulnerability which can be readily struck by low cost, high impact, asymmetrical warfare attacks. This vulnerability of nation-states is understood both by the nation-states as well as the non-state actors, and al qaeda has discussed and made attempts at launching this attack on the Saudi oil production centers in the past.

The ripple effect of such an attack would negativly impact the global economy and potentially cause confrontations between nation-states. The plan for such an attack may be referred to below:

 According to the report, bin Laden is himself closely following preparations for an attack against the US and aims to "change the face of world politics and economics".
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« Reply #92 on: November 13, 2008, 08:52:30 PM »

Volume 4, Issue 4 (February 23, 2006)

Saudi Oil Facilities: Al-Qaeda's Next Target?

By John C. K. Daly

At a time of record-high oil prices, analysts are beginning to consider the implications of possible terrorist attacks on Middle Eastern oil facilities. The crown jewel of these facilities is Saudi Arabia's oil production infrastructure. It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia possesses 261.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

On January 19, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden broke a 14-month-long silence to warn that his organization is preparing further attacks against Western targets. Bin Laden said, "The war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq…As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They are in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete" (al-Jazeera, January 19).

Saudi Arabia and its oil have long been in bin Laden's thoughts; in 1996, he said, "The ordinary Saudi knows that his country is the largest oil producer in the world, yet at the same time he is suffering from taxes and bad services…Our country has become a colony of America…Saudis know their real enemy is America" (UPI Intelligence Watch, March 21, 2005).

Neighboring Iraq demonstrates the crippling effects of an insurgency on oil installations. Since June 2003, there have been 298 recorded attacks against Iraqi oil facilities (Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, As of December 2005, Iraqi production was averaging around 1.9 million barrels per day as compared with its January 2003 2.58 million barrels per day production rate (U.S. Energy Information Administration, December 2005). Moreover, the costs of infrastructure attacks are becoming staggering, with the Iraqi oil ministry announcing on February 19 that insurgent attacks had cost the oil industry $6.25 billion in lost revenue during 2005.

Aside from Saudi crude oil production capacity being the world's largest, at 10.5-11 million barrels per day, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, controls the world's only significant excess production capacity, an extra 2.5-3 million barrels per day. This makes the kingdom the world's only guarantor of liquidity in the oil market. The Saudi economy is heavily dependent on energy, with oil export revenues bringing in around 90-95 percent of total Saudi export earnings, and generating around 40 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

The country's hydrocarbon infrastructure, with its massive production fields, ports and 10,000 miles of pipelines, presents a number of opportunities for potential attackers, whose success would have implications far beyond the kingdom, driving the world into recession or depression as energy costs soar.

Over half of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are contained in just eight massive fields, including the huge 130-mile long, 20-mile wide Ghawar field, covering 2,600 square miles. Ghawar alone accounts for nearly half of Saudi Arabia's total oil production capacity. Aramco's skein of pipelines depends on 30 pumping stations, powered by six generators, which would shut down the flow if destroyed. Port facilities are concentrated on a 20-mile stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline from Juaymah to al-Khobar.

Saudi Arabia's offshore Safaniya oilfield is the largest of its kind in the world, with estimated reserves of 35 billion barrels. Continuing the trend toward gigantism, the Abqaiq refinery 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Bahrain processes about two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's crude oil. On the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia's Ras Tanura facility is the world's largest offshore oil loading facility, accounting for a tenth of the world's daily oil supply. A second loading facility is at Ras al-Juaymah, while Yanbu terminal is located on the Red Sea, supplied from Abqaiq via the 750-mile East-West pipeline.

Terrorist attacks could be easily launched against onshore facilities and tankers. Over 60 percent of the world's oil is shipped on 3,500 tankers through a small number of "chokepoints" including the Strait of Hormuz, which alone transits 13 million barrels of oil per day.

Al-Qaeda has already carried out maritime attacks on both warships and tankers. On October 6, 2002, the 299,364 DWT-ton French Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) tanker Limburg, carrying a cargo of 397,000 barrels of crude from Iran to Malaysia, was rammed by an explosives-laden boat off the port of Ash Shihr at Mukalla, 353 miles east of Aden. A crewman was killed and the double-hulled tanker was breached. The impact on the Yemeni economy was immediate, as maritime insurers tripled their rates.

Al-Qaeda issued a statement following the attack warning that it "was not an incidental strike at a passing tanker but...on the international oil-carrying line in the full sense of the word," prompting the U.S. Navy's Maritime Liaison Office in Bahrain to issue a warning stating that "Shipmasters should exercise extreme caution when transiting...strategic chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz, or Bab el-Mandeb, or...traditional high-threat areas such as along the Horn of Africa."

Al-Qaeda's cadre of maritime specialists recently received a boost when on February 3, 23 prisoners escaped from a jail in Sanaa. Five days later, Interpol issued a global security alert, a Red Notice, to its 184 member states, as law enforcement officials believe that at least 13 of the fugitives have links to al-Qaeda. Among those who broke out of the prison was Jamal al-Badawi, who was serving a 10-year sentence for his part in the October 12, 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbor during a refueling stop; 17 sailors died and 39 more were injured in the attack.

The most worrisome scenario revolves around al-Qaeda crashing a hijacked commercial passenger jet into an oil installation. To consider just one scenario, a jetliner crashing into the Ras Tanura facility could remove 10 percent of the world's energy imports in one shot.

Former CIA agent Robert Baer has considered the implications of terrorist attacks on Saudi oil facilities, writing, "At the least, a moderate-to-severe attack on Abqaiq would slow average production there from 6.8 million barrels a day to roughly a million barrels for the first two months post-attack, a loss equivalent to approximately one-third of America's current daily consumption of crude oil. Even as long as seven months after an attack, Abqaiq output would still be about 40 percent of pre-attack output, as much as four million barrels below normal—roughly equal to what all of the OPEC partners collectively took out of production during the devastating 1973 embargo" (see Robert Baer's Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold our Soul for Saudi Crude). An al-Qaeda assault on Abqaiq would have the added propaganda effect of killing Americans. Abqaiq is an oil-company town; in 2005, nearly half of its approximately 2,000 inhabitants were U.S. citizens.

In the last few years, the Saudis have moved to tighten security around their oil installations. Unlike in Iraq, where insurgent attacks are focused mainly on the country's hydrocarbon infrastructure, thus far al-Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia have focused on "soft targets," namely the 3,000 foreign oil workers employed in the kingdom.

On December 16, 2004, bin Laden released an audiotape making an explicit connection between U.S. forces in Iraq and the region's oil reserves; in the audiotape, he praised the terrorists who attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. Bin Laden said, "Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later. One of the most important reasons that led our enemies to control our land is the theft of our oil. Do everything you can to stop the biggest plundering operation in history—the plundering of the resources of the present and future generations in collusion with the agents and the aliens...Be active and prevent them from reaching the oil, and mount your operations accordingly, particularly in Iraq and the Gulf, for this is their fate" (BBC, December 16, 2004). Three days later, the "al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula" posted a message on its website urging its members "to strike all foreign targets and the hideouts of the tyrants to rid the peninsula of the infidels and their supporters. We call on all the mujahideen to target the sources of oil which do not serve the Islamic nation but serve the enemies of the nation" (Agence France Press, December 19, 2004).

Judging by al-Qaeda's pronouncements, an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities seems to be only a matter of time. In terms of the global impact of such a strike, Robert Baer provides an extreme but not altogether improbable scenario: "Such an attack would be more economically damaging than a dirty nuclear bomb set off in midtown Manhattan or across from the White House in Lafayette Square…[and] would be enough to bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees, America's along with them."
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Power User
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« Reply #93 on: November 14, 2008, 09:00:50 AM »

This is an interesting theme you focus on here GM.

I note the date of the most recent of your posts.  It was sometime around that time that Stratfor had a piece which focused on the vulnerability of the Saudi installations and IIRC it noted that there were some variables about the installations themselves that made it harder to blow the whole thing up than one might think.  That said, they did regard it as a very legitimate security concern. 

With the oil price spike one can easily imagine AQ dusting off their plans in this regard and even with the bursting of the bubble still thinking about it.
Power User
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« Reply #94 on: November 14, 2008, 09:24:42 AM »

You can always harden the security of anything, however you can never harden to the point where it is truly invulnerable. In addition, it's very difficult to protect against attacks from trusted insiders gone jihadi.

A key element in contemplating AQ, they think long term and plan around redundancies and failsafe their attacks by launching multiple ones at once to ensure at least one succeeds. An additional aspect is that once the find a viable target, they will return to it until they succeed. See the first WTC attack in 1993, failed until 2001. The failed attack on the USS Sullivans was successful on the USS Cole.

In addition, Iran has a pre-existing alliance with AQ and may well have Saudi Hezbollah assets to lend to any effort.
Power User
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« Reply #95 on: November 14, 2008, 11:01:19 AM »

"In addition, Iran has a pre-existing alliance with AQ and may well have Saudi Hezbollah assets to lend to any effort."


Shia Iran has an alliance with Sunni AQ?  And the Sunni Saudi's also back Iran's pawn/partner Hezbollah?
Power User
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« Reply #96 on: November 14, 2008, 12:06:58 PM »

Much of AQ's VBIED knowledge base probably came from Imad Mugniyah.
Power User
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« Reply #97 on: November 14, 2008, 12:14:35 PM »

Is there a link between Mugniyah and al-Qaeda?

Mugniyah met with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s, according to the court testimony of Ali Abdelsoud Mohammed, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former U.S. army sergeant who later became a senior aide to bin Laden. After his arrest in 1998 in connection with the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Mohammed testified that he arranged several meetings between bin Laden and Mugniyah in Sudan. Bin Laden reportedly admired Mugniyah's tactics, particularly his use of truck bombs, which precipitated the United States' withdrawal from Lebanon. According to Mohammed, bin Laden and Mugniyah agreed Hezbollah would provide training, military expertise, and explosives in exchange for money and man power. It is not known, however, whether this agreement was carried out. The relationship between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda is not entirely friendly, as explained in this Backgrounder.
Power User
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« Reply #98 on: November 14, 2008, 12:21:34 PM »

Saudi Hezbollah

In June 1996, terrorists exploded a huge truck bomb at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, a housing complex for U.S. airmen. Nineteen Americans were killed and more than three-hundred seventy were wounded. The American airmen were stationed in Saudi Arabia to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Thanks to their courageous efforts, the former Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein was unable to use his air force to attack Shia Muslims and others in southern Iraq.

In June 2001, a U.S. federal grand jury indicted fourteen people in connection with the Khobar Towers bombing. Some are in custody and others are still at large. According to the U.S. Justice Department, thirteen of those indicted are connected to the pro-Iran Saudi Hezbollah terrorist group. The fourteenth is linked to Lebanese Hezbollah, also supported by Iran. The indictment makes clear, said Attorney General John Ashcroft, "that elements of the Iranian government inspired, supported, and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah" as they planned the bombing.

Hezbollah is not the only terrorist group supported by Iran's extremist Muslim clerical regime. Iran also provides Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command with funding, safe haven, training, and weapons.
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« Reply #99 on: November 14, 2008, 12:28:34 PM »

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