The magazine you need to read on Afghanistan
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Claus Christian Malzahn, Berlin bureau chief of SPIEGEL ONLINE, the website of Der Spiegel, got to thinking about how Germans see the world when he noticed this recent poll result:
Forty-eight percent of Germans think the United States is more dangerous than Iran, a new survey shows, with only 31 percent believing the opposite.But as Malzahn goes on to point out, the German's don't exactly have a track record that suggests any genius in these matters:
The Germans have believed in many things in the course of their recent history. They've believed in colonies in Africa and in the Kaiser. They even believed in the Kaiser when he told them that there would be no more political parties, only soldiers on the front.
Not too long afterwards, they believed that Jews should be placed into ghettos and concentration camps because they were the enemies of the people. Then they believed in the autobahn and that the Third Reich would ultimately be victorious. A few years later, they believed in the Deutsche mark. They believed that the Berlin Wall would be there forever and that their pensions were safe. They believed in recycling as well as in cheap jet travel. They even believed in a German victory at the soccer World Cup.
Friday, March 30, 2007
From the INSI press release:
The death toll of journalists and other professionals in the newsgathering team, such as translators, guides and drivers, has risen dramatically since the war began on 20 March 2003.
It mushroomed in 2006-7 -- and Iraqis increasingly have borne the brunt as it has become ever more difficult for foreign correspondents to travel independently outside their protected compounds.
Twenty-three journalists and other news media staff died in 2003, 42 in 2004, 36 in 2005, 70 in 2006 and 16 this year so far. Seventy-five have fallen in the past year since the third anniversary of the start of the war.
Most of the casualties in 2003 were international, when the war was in its conventional invasion phase. But as the conflict turned into a full-blown insurgency and increasingly towards civil war the Iraqi casualties began to mount -- 36 in 2004, 35 in 2005, 68 in 2006 and all 16 this year.
With foreigners largely confined to their bases, Iraqis have become the eyes and ears of the world on the biggest news story of the day...
"The bravery of the Iraqi journalists is astonishing," commented INSI Director Rodney Pinder. "They are not only being killed in horrifying numbers because of their dedication to their craft, but they are being beaten and exiled and their families threatened. Yet without them the rest of us would be blind.
"Their's is one of the truly outstanding stories of modern journalism."
A wall running through an Arab neighborhood in East Jersulam built to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks.
While this wall is obviously de-humanizing, the right to live has to be the most fundamental civil right, yes?
Shown here at the Western Wall, the remains of the Jewish Second Temple (515 BCE - 70 CE).
According to Judaism's religious texts, when the legions of Titus destroyed the Temple, only a part of an outer court-yard "western wall" remained standing. Jewish texts teach that Titus left it as a bitter reminder to the Jews that Rome had vanquished Judea. The Jews, however, attributed it to a promise made by God that some part of the holy Temple would be left standing as a sign of God's unbroken bond with the Jewish people in spite of the catastrophes which had befallen them...
The site is also holy to Muslims, who believe Solomon to be a Holy Prophet of God. Muslims also believe that Mohammed made a spiritual journey to "the farthest mosque," which they hold to be Jerusalem, in 620 CE on a winged creature from God named al-Buraq, a journey which is referred to as Isra and Mi'raj. While there, it is believed he tethered the horse to a wall, which some Muslims believe to be the Western Wall. Hence the Arabic name for the wall is the al-Buraq Wall. To commemorate the same belief, in 687 CE Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque ("the farthest mosque") on the Temple Mount, encompassed by the wall.
According to today's New York Times:
Israel reacted with a degree of ambivalence to the vote on Thursday. A statement issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry stopped short of endorsing the proposal. “Israel is sincerely interested in pursuing a dialogue with those Arab states that desire peace with Israel, this in order to promote a process of normalization and cooperation,” it said. “Israel hopes that the Riyadh summit will contribute to this effort.”
It said that for a successful two-nation solution, “a direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary.”
The Arab leaders weren't exactly thrilled with Israel's reaction to their declaration:
“This does not express a positive stand of a country that wants peace,” Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister was reported as saying.
“The Arab world is in a state of agitation and cannot accept the way of procrastination any more," the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, told reporters.
But as the Times went on to note:
Deputy Prime Minister appeared on the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera to encourage Arab and Israeli leaders to hold direct talks on peace. “Let’s sit together as we are supposed to and work on it as we did before with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians,” he said.
Why not bring all the interested parties to the negotiating table?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The leaders of the Arab nations concluded their two-day summit in Riyadh by issuing a declaration that according to the Reuters' report, "endorses an Arab peace initiative launched in 2002 but makes no direct mention of key issues such as the fate of Palestinian refugees."
According to Reuters, these were the key excerpts of the statement:
- (The summit) "affirms a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option for the Arab nation and the Arab peace initiative that draws the right path for reaching a peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the principles and resolutions of international legitimacy and the land for peace formula."I haven't seen the official Israeli response yet to this declaration but political consultant Zalman Shapira had this to say in an editorial piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz:
- (The summit) "stresses the importance of freeing the region from weapons of mass destruction without double standards, warning against starting a dangerous and destructive nuclear arms race in the region and emphasising the right of all countries to peaceful nuclear power."
- (The summit) "decides to spread the culture of moderation, tolerance, dialogue and openness, to reject all forms of terrorism and extremism as well as all exclusionary, racist trends, campaigns of hatred and endeavours to question our humanistic values or defame our religious beliefs and holy places, and to warn against growing sectarianism for political purposes that aims to divide our nation and ignite destructive sedition and civil strife."
For the first time in the history of the conflict, not only Egypt and Jordan but the entire Arab League is proposing peace, but Israel is turning its back.His conclusion? "It is not the Arabs who have changed, but the circumstances." As Shapira writes:
Has something changed in the Arab world? Have the Arabs really changed?
A new enemy is confronting the Arab elite, even more frightening and dangerous than Israel. Radical Islam threatens not only the public survival of the elite, but its physical survival as well. Ostensibly the military-civil establishment is still in control, with the support of the intellectual elite, but the masses are already captivated by radical Islam...
Every society needs an ethos to survive properly. With the help of the ethos the elite maintains its control over society...The ethos of Islam is coming back into power. When the ethos changes, so do the elites. At the end of the era of Mubarak, Assad and the other secular rulers, the victory of Islam will be unavoidable, either through elections or through a popular Iran-style revolution.Shapira argues that:
That is the reason for the Arab elite's desperate cry for peace. It is also the reason for the Saudi initiative and for the willingness of the Arab League for a normalization with Israel. The Arab elite is convinced... that Israel Defense Forces activities in the territories are causing unrest among the masses. Arab satellite television, which broadcasts from every corner of the territories, is bringing the victims of the intifada into every home in the Arab world. This unrest is fertile ground for the growth of radical Islam.
[Israel] cannot stop the domination of Islam, but it must prepare for its advent. Israel's national interest requires determining the borders of the country and getting them recognized by the Muslim world before the Islamic storm floods the region. Only legitimate borders will constitute an impenetrable obstacle to radical Islam.He goes on to suggest that Israel's only hope to negotiate such borders now lies with the Arab League because:
Israel's only partner, the representative of Palestinian nationalism, Fatah, is out of power. Hamas, which represents radical Islam, is not a partner for setting the final borders due to its refusal to recognize Israel.Shapira suggests that because the Arabs face a new reality themselves, namely the ascendance of revolutionary Islam, they are now themselves eager for the first time in history to work out a peace plan:
The Arab countries will help to reach diplomatic arrangements and to make peace in the Middle East because the Arab elite believes an end to the conflict will contribute to stopping radical Islam and checking Iranian influence in the region.
In all Israel's 59 years there has not been such a favorable diplomatic atmosphere for ending the conflict. This is a final historic opportunity before the Islamic storm sweeps away the last vestiges of moderation in the Middle East.
The International Crisis Group has concluded its study of Pakistan's madrasas. According to its report:
Pakistan's "well-financed networks of madrasas...pose a significant threat not only to the city’s residents but also to domestic stability and regional and international security."
Despite well-publicized intentions to reform the madrasa sector, Pakistan's madrasas continue to thrive because of "poverty and lack of job opportunities; deplorable public schools; the sectarian tilt of state institutions; and the military government’s reliance for political survival on the religious parties and its attempts to marginalise moderate voices and forces."
The ISG suggests that the Pakistani government should at the very least (and I paraphrase here):
• close extremist and jihadi madrasas;Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any such reforms will happen any time soon. The ISG sees Pakistan's madrasa problem as symptomatic of the country's lack of democracy:
• [monitor the schools'] teachers and students, financial flows and expenditures;
• reform the madrasas' curriculum to exclude sectarian and pro-jihad teachings; and
• enforce existing laws that ban hate speech and incitement to violence.
So long as the military continues to rely on the mullahs to retain power, madrasas and the violent extremism they encourage are likely to become even more powerful in Pakistani society, undermining the security of the state and beyond. Real reform – of the education system and madrasas alike – will only be possible through the strengthening of the country’s moderate parties and forces, with free and fair national elections an essential precondition and first step.
Labels: Pakistan's madrasas
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The New York Times reports:
Gunmen attacked a car carrying Harith Thahir Khamees al-Dari and fired a rocket-propelled grenade, killing him and wounding his driver, in Abu Ghraib, the authorities said.
“We accuse Al Qaeda,” said a relative of the family, Abu Abdullah. “The sheik has his stands against Al Qaeda, as Al Qaeda started targeting the innocent, civilians and children, police and army.”
And of course there's more:
In another attack, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt at a bus stop near a restaurant in Ramadi, west of Baghdad in Al Anbar province. At least 10 people were killed and 20 wounded, according to Col. Tariq Yusuf, the security supervisor in the city.
Reuters reported that at least 17 people were killed and 32 wounded in the attack, in an area frequented by the Iraqi police and where local tribes have joined the tribal alliance against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the insurgent group that claims ties to the Qaeda organization and has been associated with some of the most destructive attacks in Iraq.
Look, the Washington Post has a story today about the growing number of Sunni tribes lining up to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq:
Not long ago it would have been unthinkable: a Sunni sheik allying himself publicly with American forces in a xenophobic city at the epicenter of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.
Today, there is no mistaking whose side Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi is on...
The 36-year-old sheik is leading a growing movement of Sunni tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Anbar province. The dramatic shift in alliances may have done more in a few months to ease daily street battles and undercut the insurgency here than American forces have achieved in years with arms.
According to the U.S. commanding officer in Ramadi, Col. John W. Charlton, the Sunni tribesmen, the new U.S. strategy to fight the insurgency, and the addition of thousands of Sunni police have reduced the number of attacks in Ramadi by half in recent months.
Why have the tribes turned against Al Qaeda? The Post reports:
Al-Rishawi, whose father and three brothers were killed by al-Qaida assassins, said insurgents were "killing innocent people, anyone suspected of opposing them. They brought us nothing but destruction and we finally said, enough is enough....
"I was always against these terrorists," al-Rishawi said in an interview inside his American-guarded compound, adjusting a pistol holstered around his waist. "They brainwashed people into thinking Americans were against them. They said foreigners wanted to occupy our land and destroy our mosques. They told us, 'We'll wage a jihad. We'll help you defeat them.'"
The difficult part was convincing others it wasn't true, and that "building an alliance with the Americans was the only solution," al-Rishawi said.
Not every Sunni tribe has joined al-Rishawi's movement, the Anbar Salvation Council, but as the Post goes on to describe the situation:
[V]iolence in some districts of Ramadi previously hit by daily street battles has dwindled to a degree so low that American soldiers can walk on the streets in some areas and hand out soccer balls without provoking a firefight _ apparently a direct result of the sheik's influence.
"If I had the tools, I could wipe al-Qaida from Anbar within five months," al-Rishawi was reported as saying.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Zeyad Kasim at Iraqslogger posted this news today:
Sot Al-Iraq reports ongoing clashes between Zoba’ tribesmen and insurgents affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Islamic State of Iraq in Abu Ghraib, Al-Zaidan and Amiriyat Al-Fallujah west of Baghdad. The clashes were in response to the assassination attempt against Deputy Prime Minister Salam Al-Zobai, who is a member of the tribe, several days ago and a failed assassination attempt against a Zoba’ tribal leader in Mosul yesterday.
Again Al Qaeda missed their mark, but they did manage to kill the tribal leader's 24-year-old son. As if this wasn't enough, as Kasim goes on to report:
Local sources and the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV reported that two suicide bombers attacked the residence of another Zoba’ tribal leader at Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad this morning. The attacks targeted Sheikh Dhahir Al-Dhari, a cousin of Sheikh Harith Al-Dhari, the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq.Now why if all the violence in Iraq is related to sectarian differences are we seeing these clashes between the Sunni tribals and their coreligionists and why would Al-Dhari have recently joined the Anbar Salvation Council against Al-Qaeda in Iraq? As Kasim reports, up to recently, the Zoha' tribe had "strongly supported the Sunni-led insurgency against the U.S."
Could the tide be turning in Iraq?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Jay Nordlinger, in the NRO, pokes some holes in popular perceptions:
The conventional line is that this is a Sunni-Shiite civil war; but the news pages often tell us that it’s a war by terrorists on any and all wanting a decent life.As an example of a story that doesn't fit into this narrative, Nordlinger cites the case of the attempted assassination of Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaieas on Saturday.
If Iraq has truly descended into a sectarian civil war, why then, as Nordlinger points out, were Al-Zubaieas' would-be assassins not Shiite? Shouldn't they have been given that he is the ranking Sunni leader in the Iraqi goverment?
So why do you think his would-be assassins turned out to be his fellow Sunnis? Yes,that's right, the folks at Al Qaeda. In addition to seriously wounding the Deputy PM, they killed nine people in the car bombing timed to go off while the men were praying. Among the dead was al-Zubaieas' brother.
This news clearly took Nordinger's breath away:
I have said it before, and must say it again: Those who serve in the Iraqi government are among the bravest people in the world. They are constantly ducking murder, and their loved ones are having to do the same. But these officials get nothing but grief, from all quarters. They should really have our gratitude and admiration, whatever the mistakes they have made.Then there is the myth of the noble insurgents in Iraq, those who are only resisting occupation as the conventional thinking would have it. But as Nordlinger points out, these noble insurgents, who he calls terrorists are, to quote him, "[now] using children in their suicide bombings — leaving them in the backseats of cars, to be blown to bits, along with other innocents." As Nordlinger asks:
What does it take to awaken the world at large to the nature of this enemy? A lot, apparently. Many people in this country are convinced that George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Al Gonzales are the enemy. One should be so lucky.
And, by the way, above, I should have said “terrorists in Iraq,” rather than “Iraqi terrorists.” The terrorists in that country are as likely as not to be foreign — fighting one, everywhere jihad.
Iraqslogger posted this VOI report today:
Iraqi security forces arrested a so-called amir (leader) of al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq and two of his aides in Abu Ghraib area in western Baghdad, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan said on Monday.
"A force from the 3rd Brigade raided Abu Ghraib area and arrested Ahmad Farhan and two of his close associates last Tuesday," Brig. Qassem Atta said in a press conference he held on Monday in Baghdad.
Atta played a videotape showing Farhan confessing to his ties with a wanted man called Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.Centcom seems to be confirming the story. It seems like this would be an important enough story, so where is all the coverage in the mainstream media?
"I receive support from Syria and Jordan and have got four groups with an amir and 25 members for each," Farhan said in his videotaped confessions.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Mohammed at Iraq the Model, live from Baghdad, explains why we shouldn't compare Iraq to Afghanistan:
Iraq can simply not be equated with Afghanistan which the bulk of al-Qaeda largely abandoned after few weeks of battles—that doesn't sound like al-Qaeda!
Iraq, weak after a war that toppled the regime but rich-relatively-with resources and scientific base is a greater temptation than Afghanistan, and at the same time the possibility of a democracy arising in Iraq posed a great threat to the ideology of caliph state. Therefore al-Qaeda and whoever is backing it directly or indirectly felt they had to move the front to Iraq instead of staying in Afghanistan.
Let's imagine that the world left Iraq alone before the country is able to defend itself and let it fall in the hands of extremists, what would happen then?
Can we compare the opium fields with the massive oilfields of Mesopotamia? Can we afford to leave these resources in the service of the terrorists?
[...The infrastructure of Iraq], while still humble compared to advanced countries, could be very dangerous if captured by terrorists.
An Islamic state in Iraq whether to be led by al-Qaeda or one of the local extreme religious parties would be an enormous threat to the security of the region and the world and a turning point that might encourage fence-sitters to join the terrorists…the tide would be much more difficult to stop then.
It's true that what's happening in Iraq doesn't meet the ambitions of Iraqis or Americans and everyone admits that many mistakes were made...
But abandoning this front or failing to recognize its priority is a terrible mistake that can lead to disastrous consequences to all of us.
Sherry Ricchiardi in the American Journalism Review has a must-read report on why
Americans are still so confused as to what is really happening in Iraq. Some excerpts:
The relentless violence in Iraq has seriously compromised coverage of arguably the most important story in the world today...
Though journalists struggle mightily to cut through the fog and spin, Americans are left without a complete account of a prolonged, bloody war that is devouring billions of taxpayers' dollars. Correspondents are hamstrung when it comes to independently verifying information from military press briefings or rhetoric from the Pentagon. Without risking their lives, they can't go into the festering city of Fallujah or certain Baghdad neighborhoods to conduct their own investigations. Embedding is an alternative, but it offers a limited view under scrutiny of the military...
To blend in, female journalists often don an abaya, a long robe worn by Muslim women, and a head scarf. Some male reporters with dark features grow moustaches and beards and try to emulate the attire of Iraqi men. Some blondes dye their hair black. Many operate on the 15-minute rule: They never stay longer in any one place for fear that someone with a cell phone will alert killers that a soft target is in play. Sometimes the smallest things can expose them. Wearing a seatbelt in a car is a clear giveaway: Iraqis rarely use them.
The high-pitched paranoia is justified. During the past four years, members of the press corps have been beheaded, gunned down at close range, blown apart by car bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices), targeted for assassination and kidnapped for ransom. Some have been wounded or died alongside coalition troops during combat missions. Sometimes they have shown up in grainy videos, flanked by masked executioners, tearfully begging for their lives....
For the fourth consecutive year, Iraq in 2006 ranked as the world's deadliest spot for the media, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since the invasion, 133 journalists and media support workers have been killed; 83 percent were locals, many with ties to Western media outlets. The Associated Press lost two Iraqi staffers in December and January. CPJ reports that for the first time, murder has overtaken crossfire as the leading cause of deaths...
Peter Osnos, who covered the war in Vietnam for the Washington Post, says Iraq is far riskier. "American journalists have never seen a war like this before--the extraordinary danger, the vast expense and the extraordinary set of circumstances. Every inch of terrain is a potential battlefield," says Osnos, now a senior fellow for media at the Century Foundation as well as founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs Books. "People underestimate how dangerous it is."
There's a lot more to this story so be sure and read the whole thing.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I guess you could call him resolute: President Bush reiterated his promise to veto the Democrat's war spending bill:
Here in Washington, members of both parties recognize that our most solemn responsibility is to support our troops in the war on terror. Yet, today, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing a war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law, and brings us no closer to getting our troops the resources they need to do their job.
The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. They set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal without regard for conditions on the ground. And they tacked on billions for pet projects that have nothing to do with winning the war on terror. This bill has too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal.
As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops. A narrow majority has decided to take this course, just as General Petraeus and his troops are carrying out a new strategy to help the Iraqis secure their capital city.
Amid the real challenges in Iraq, we're beginning to see some signs of progress. Yet, to score political points, the Democratic majority in the House has shown it is willing to undermine the gains our troops are making on the ground.
Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough. These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen. Our men and women in uniform need these emergency war funds. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April the 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so would their families.
The Democrats have sent their message, now it's time to send their money. This is an important moment -- a decision for the new leaders in Congress. Our men in women in uniform should not have to worry that politicians in Washington will deny them the funds and the flexibility they need to win. Congress needs to send me a clean bill that I can sign without delay. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people -- and so do the good men and women standing with me here today.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Aside from Thomas Friedman column in today's New York Times, there is this hopeful news regarding the Saudi king's peace proposal in the Washington Post:
The United States has quietly joined Israel in urging Arab leaders to reformulate their 2002 peace offer in an effort to end the decades-long Middle East conflict, Arab diplomats said Thursday. So far, some Arab heavyweights are publicly resisting the idea.
"The Saudi initiative is interesting, and has many sections that I would be willing to accept _ though, understandably, not all of them _ and it could certainly be a convenient basis for continued dialogue between us and Arab moderates," Olmert is reported as saying.
The Wapo recaps what this plan offers:
The offer, initiated in 2002 by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, offers Israel recognition and permanent peace with all Arab countries in return for full Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war. It also calls for setting up a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to former homes in Israel.
As the Post reports, "Israel rejects full withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and it strongly opposes the influx of large numbers of Palestinian refugees into the Jewish state."
So how much room will Israel have to move on this plan? According to the Post's sources:
"Nobody is talking about returning 5 million Palestinians to Israel," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa's chief of staff, Hesham Youssef, is reported as saying. "But giving into one-sided demands will be a strategic blunder."
Egyptian and Saudi leaders have said they want the offer to stand as is, and Syrian Vice President Farouk al Sharaa has been touring Arab countries urging no changes.
But Jordan's King Abdullah II, a key partner in the peace efforts, has called for "Arab consensus on moving the peace process forward" _ widely interpreted as a sign of flexibility on Israeli demands.
The alleged head of the 21 July London bombing suspects has been accused in court of collaborating with the 7 July suicide bombers.
The lead bomber in the plot, Mukhtar Ibrahim, was in Pakistan at the same time as the ringleader of the 7/7 bombings, Mohammed Sidique Khan and fellow 7/7 suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer.
This detail was brought out during cross-examination of Ibrahim by a counsel for another defendant, Manfo Asiedu, in the trial.
Ibrahim had earlier claimed that he had only "planned to cause panic with realistic but fake bombs but had no intention to hurt anyone" according to the BBC report. But as the BBC goes on:
When the authorities analysed the explosives that Mr Ibrahim is accused of making for the alleged 21 July attack, they realised that they had only seen them once before, alleged Mr Kamlish - on 7 July 2005.
The allegations put to Mr Ibrahim in court represent the first time that a link has attempted to be made between the 7 July suicide bombers and the alleged attacks of 21 July.
Ibrahim's codefendant, Asiedu, "broke ranks with the other five defendants when his lawyer told the court that Mr Ibrahim had allegedly planned to carry out something 'bigger and better than 7/7'."
According to Ibrahim, he learned how to make bombs from the Internet and has asserted that he does not believe in suicide bombing.
Labels: London subway bombings
There's no news yet on the British sailors over at the official Iranian news service, only this telling headline and lede:
Rich Cultured, Civilized Iranian Nation will Overcome All Bottlenecks
Tehran (FARS News Agency)- Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the mighty and tyrannized Iranian nation insists on its nuclear rights and will manage to overcome all bottlenecks without harm by making use of its rich culture and civilization.
The BBC reports that fifteen British sailors on routine patrol in the Persian Gulf were captured at gunpoint this morning by Iranian forces when they boarded a boat they suspected was smuggling cars.
The frigate's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a "simple mistake" over territorial waters."There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they [British personnel] were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may claim they were in Iranian territorial waters. "We may well find that this is a simple misunderstanding at the tactical level."...
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett summoned the Iranian ambassador in London to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in an attempt to negotiate the men's release. There has been no immediate response so far from Iran, where many ministries and official buildings were closed for a public holiday.As the BBC goes on to suggest, this couldn't have happened at a worse time:
The incident comes at a time of renewed tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme, which Western powers fear could be used to develop a nuclear weapon. British Army Colonel Justin Maciejewski, who is based in Iraq, said most of the violence against UK forces in Basra is being engineered by Iranian elements.
The New York Times reports:
Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie was seriously wounded today when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a hall behind Mr. Zobaie’s house, where the deputy prime minister was attending prayers.Four people were killed in the blasts and ten people were wounded. The Mr. Zobaie was taken to a U.S. military hospital in the Green Zone for emergency surgery. His condition had not been stabilized by the time the report was issued.
As the Times notes:
Mr. Zobaie is one of two deputy prime ministers and is the highest ranking Sunni Arab in the government. His party, the Accordance Front is the main Sunni Arab grouping in the Shiite-led national unity coalition.
Insurgents have frequently tried to kill leaders of the American-backed Iraqi government. Last month, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi. a Shiite, was wounded by shrapnel when a bomb killed six people inside the public works ministry.
Labels: Iraqi insurgency
Thomas Friedman asks an interesting question in his New York Times column this morning: "Is Saudi Arabia becoming the new Egypt?"
What he is wondering is whether Saudi Arabia, led by King Abdullah, is replacing Egypt as the traditional leader of the Arab world. Friedman cites the reasons why he asks this question:
In recent months, we’ve seen Saudi Arabia publicly blast Hezbollah for launching an unprovoked war on Israel; we’ve seen King Abdullah forge a cease-fire between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza; we’ve seen him try to tame Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and there are rumors that a top Saudi official met with Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. That meeting was apparently in preparation for the Arab summit in Riyadh, March 28-29, which King Abdullah will be hosting to revive his February 2002 peace overture to Israel of full normalization of relations in return for full withdrawal from the occupied territories.
By contrast, he writes, "Egypt, for now, seems to be adrift."
Friedman suggests that what King Abdullah needs to do to give the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks an "emotional breakthrough" is "fly from the Riyadh summit to Jerusalem and deliver the offer personally to the Israeli people."
Friedman, with his typical optimism, suggests that this single move "could end this conflict once and for all."
Friedman is encouraging the Saudi king to do at this juncture is make four stops:
His first stop should be to Al Aksa Mosque in East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. There, he, the custodian of Mecca and Medina, could reaffirm the Muslim claim to Arab East Jerusalem by praying at Al Aksa.
From there, he could travel to Ramallah and address the Palestinian parliament, making clear that the Abdullah initiative aims to give Palestinians the leverage to offer Israel peace with the whole Arab world in return for full withdrawal. And he might add that whatever deal the Palestinians cut with Israel regarding return of refugees or land swaps — so some settlements might stay in the West Bank in return for the Palestinians getting pieces of Israel — the Arab world would support.
From there, King Abdullah could helicopter to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. A visit there would seal the deal with Israelis and affirm that the Muslim world rejects the Holocaust denialism of Iran. Then he could go to the Israeli parliament and formally deliver his peace initiative.
Friedman thinks that King Abdullah could be the person who can turn Hamas around and make it back away from its stated goal to destroy the state of Israel. As Friedman points out: "It is one thing for Hamas to reject the Oslo peace accords. But how could it reject a peace overture to Israel presented by Saudi Arabia?"
Friedman reminds the reader that it was to him that King Abdullah first unveiled his peace proposal back in 2002. Friedman recalls that day:
As we sat by his desk, he told me he was motivated to propose full peace for full withdrawal to the Israelis because “I wanted to find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don’t reject or despise them. But the Arab people do reject what their leadership is now doing to the Palestinians, which is inhumane and oppressive. And I thought of this as a possible signal to the Israeli people.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
The New York Times reports that House Democrats scrambled today to find the 218 votes they need tomorrow to pass legislation that would set a timetable to bring American troops home from Iraq.
This is in spite of the fact that as White House spokesman, Tony Snow, put it, the legislation will have "zero chance" of surviving a presidential veto. The Pentagon's has also warned that the legislation could harm the troops.
Snow went on to point out that: “You have people on Capitol Hill trying to buy or cajole votes for a bill that’s not going to pass.”
According to the Times:
The House Republican leader, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, said that passage would “without question lead to failure” in Iraq. He predicted that Congress ultimately would provide the war-fighting money without conditions...
“We will no longer be a rubber stamp for a failing policy that has cost us so much in blood and treasure,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader.
Powerline reports that Rep. Steven Pearce (R-NM) and ten cosponsors have introduced legislation to protect the John Does from liability.
The John Does are the citizens who were alarmed enough about certain behaviors of the imams to alert the airlines to what they feared might be a possible hijacking.
In the press release introducing the draft legislation, Rep. Pearce issued this statement:
It is a sad day in America when our own institutions of freedom are being used against us in the battle against terrorism. When I first heard about the lawsuit brought by the 'imams' in Minnesota, it was clear to me that this was an injustice against Americans who were simply trying to protect themselves. These brave citizens should be recognized as heroes for their efforts to report suspicious activity, particularly activity that has been associated with previous terror attacks.
As Americans, we must not allow ourselves to be bullied by individuals who seek to disrupt our way of life. We can not allow the sympathizers of terrorism to make Americans wonder if they could be sued before reporting possible terrorist activity. Whether it is an intimidation tactic or a full scale attack, Americans have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. I introduced this legislation to protect Americans and keep all citizens alert and vocal as they serve on the front line in our battle against terrorism here in America.
The New York Times reports that in exchange for a journalist held hostage in "lawless southern Afghanistan" as the Times put it, Italy admitted that it traded five Taliban prisoners.
As the Times writes, this "appears to be the first time prisoners have been openly exchanged for a hostage in the wars that the United States and its allies are fighting there and in Iraq." The move was criticized from Washington to London to Amsterdam.
“We don’t negotiate with terrorists, and we don’t advise others to do so either,” State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said, paraphrasing U.S. policy.
The U.S. and many other governments believe that by conceding to the demands of hostage takers, while one life may be saved, you effectively make hostage-taking profitable, and thus create a market.
As Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, expressed this idea, "When we create a situation where you can buy the freedom of Taliban fighters when you catch a journalist, then in the short term there will be no journalists anymore."
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I don't know if this is an accurate photo or not. But notice that the photographer offered this caption: "Mahdi fighters/Human shields."
The Associated Press is reporting that "Shiite militia may be disintegrating":
The violent Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army is breaking into splinter groups, with up to 3,000 gunmen now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, adding a potentially even more deadly element to Iraq's violent mix.Hundreds of these fighters are alleged to have gone to Iran for training by the elite Quds force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. This is the same force that is believed to have trained Hezbollah as well as jihadists in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Al-Sadr has not been seen in Iraq since early February. "Conditions are not suitable for him to return," one of his aides told the AP. "His safety will not be guaranteed if he returns."
According to the AP:
In recent weeks, Mahdi Army fighters who escaped possible arrest in the Baghdad security push have received $600 each upon reaching Iran. The former Mahdi Army militiamen working for the Revolutionary Guards operate under the cover a relief agency for Iraqi refugees, they said.Estimates of the strength of Mahdi Army fighters range between 10,000 and 60,000 men.
Once fighters defect, they receive a monthly stipend of $200, said the commanders.
But as the AP observes, "Like many of Iraq's warring parties, it's a loosely knit force."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard explains to Parliament House Down Under why Australia must stay the course in Iraq. His whole speech is worth reading, but here are some key excerpts:
For the record, let me state clearly why I believe a timetable for premature withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq would invite disastrous strategic and humanitarian consequences.
First, it would undercut the forces of moderation in Iraq at the precise moment when they have a chance – perhaps the last chance – to stabilise their country. Sectarian violence would escalate, with the Sunnis abandoning the unity government and parliament.
Second, it would lead to more widespread and extreme human rights abuses, more internally displaced Iraqi civilians and further outflow of refugees to neighbouring states.
Third, a precipitate withdrawal would give a green light to those looking to make Iraq a platform for global terror. With Al Qaeda and other extremists claiming withdrawal as a victory, this would likely inspire more terrorism outside Iraq, including in South East Asia. Iraq is undeniably a frontline in the fight against international terrorism. The terrorists view it as such.
Fourth, it would further destabilise what is already the world's most unstable region, perhaps igniting a wider war in the Middle East. Any prospect of resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict would lie in tatters.
And fifth, it would be a crushing blow to America's global leadership, emboldening those who, like Osama Bin Laden, have argued all along that America is a "weak horse" on which no one should depend.
...As such, it may be clever politics to portray Afghanistan as the 'good war' and Iraq as the 'bad war', but it is a position cloaked in folly.
Why is it right that Australia and its allies prevail in Afghanistan but fail in Iraq? Why is it okay for Iraq to become a safe haven for global terror but not Afghanistan?
Why is building Afghanistan's security capability more compelling than building Iraq's? And why is a massive setback to American global leadership fine in one place but not in another?
...The Opposition's current position on Iraq is that the conflict is a civil war, requiring solely a political solution. Labor argues that the key to that political solution is a 'staged' withdrawal of Australian and US military forces to create pressure for the Sunni and the Shia to reach a political accommodation.
In my view, both the analysis and the policy prescription are fundamentally flawed. Success in Iraq requires both a military and a political strategy, each reinforcing the other.
Sectarian violence in Iraq is clearly a major problem. But despite being put under enormous pressure neither the Iraqi Army nor the national government have split along sectarian lines. That really would be a disaster, and it is this disaster that our strategy seeks to avert.
...We will be able to leave Iraq. But we cannot do so responsibly until we have some confidence that the Iraqi security forces are in a position to defend Iraq'sdemocratically-elected government and the Iraqi people, whether from terrorists, insurgents or sectarian strife.
Major Megan McClung, Specialist Vince Pomante, Captain Travis Patriquin, Killed in Action, December 6, 2006 in Ramadi.
Iraqi children playing with a U.S. Army Soldier's helmet while he asks their family how the Army can help.
On Saturday, Omar at Iraq the Model blogged from Baghdad:
And then yesterday, Omar followed up with this report:
With this series of dirty chemical bombings a war between al-Qaeda and the tribes in Anbar is no longer a possibility. It just became a fact...
Al-Qaeda's terrorists-whom AP insists on calling insurgents-expended three suicide bombers and precious resources against their supposedly sympathetic civilian Sunni hosts instead of American and Iraqi soldiers and Shia civilians; their usual enemies....
The reason: al-Qaeda is sensing a serious threat in the change of attitude of the tribes toward them...
The tribes in Anbar are stubborn and they have many ruthless warriors. That's a proven fact and it looks like Al-Qaeda had just made their gravest mistake—their once best friends are just about to become their worst enemy.
The Al-bu Issa tribes in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, backed by local police and the MNF, clashed today with members of the al-Qaeda linked “Islamic State in Iraq” terror organization, according to al-Hurra TV. The battles that are still ongoing have so far left 39 terrorists killed including the “ministers of oil and war” of the terror organization. Six policemen and 11 tribal fighters were also killed during the fighting.Maybe it's not so great living in the Islamic State in Iraq run by Al Qaeda after all.
Today's Washington Times reports:
Lawyers and a Muslim group say they will defend at no cost airline passengers caught up in a lawsuit between a group of imams and U.S. Airways if the passengers are named as "John Does" and sued for reporting suspicious behavior that got the Muslim clerics booted from a November flight.Why is this Muslim group stepping forward? "It's so important that America know there are Muslims who understand who the victims are in air travel," said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, head of the group, American Islamic Forum for Democracy told the Times.
And why are lawyers offering their services for free? One such lawyer, Gerry Nolting, from the Minnesota law firm of Faegre & Benson LLP told the Times that in this case, the judicial system is being "used for intimidation purposes" and that it is "just flat wrong and needs to be strongly, strongly discouraged."
As he went on to point out, "As a matter of public policy, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] presently tells traveling passengers to report suspicious behavior as part of its homeland security program. This has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but trying to intimidate and discourage reporting of suspicious behavior and [also discourage] the promotion of safe travel."
Labels: Flying imams
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Majid Mohammadi recognizes how important fashion is, in this case in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Contemporary Fashion, Islamic Ideology, and the Ambiguities of Identity:
The Islamic regime’s opposition to clothing fashion is tantamount to opposing diversity. Iranian totalitarians who, especially under the rule of Khamenei, control a significant share of power in Iran, are aware that diversity is a prologue to, and the companion of, alternative thinking
When I read the poll results just released by the BBC, where 51 percent of Iraqi resondents said they found attacks on the coalition forces to be acceptable, my first thought was it's definitely time to pose the question to Iraqis in a national referendum: Should the coalition forces stay? Vote yes or no and live with the consequences.
Otherwise, I think these types of polls are just demoralizing and demeaning. The demoralize the coalition and they demean the Iraqis.
While I think it's obvious how these results might demoralize the troops, how exactly do they diminish the Iraqis?
Consider that 82% of Iraqi respondents said they lack confidence in the coalition forces. A full 69% think they actually make the security situation worse. So go figure why then a majority would go on to say that these unreliable and even dangerous forces should stay until security has been restored.
These types of conflicting answers don't make Iraqis look very rational, do they? But when you're just complaining as opposed to deciding your own fate, who cares whether or not you make sense?
By signing this petition.
Monday, March 19, 2007
The Iranian New Year this year is March 20.
Update: These aren't Ukranian Easter eggs, they're Norouz eggs. Painted eggs - like democracy? - seem to appeal to people, regardless of culture or religion.
I'm posting links to the recent papers made available by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, otherwise known as the FFI, which does some of the finest terrorism research in the world.
Political Violence in Saudi Arabia: The Rise and Fall of “al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula” by Thomas Hegghammer. Read the manuscript here.
Jihadi Web Media Production: Characteristics, Trends and Future Implications by Dr. Brynjar Lia. Read the manuscript here.
Jihadism Online: Internet Radicalisation and Recruitment by Truls Tønnessen and Anne Stenersen. View their presentation here.
For more FFI publications on terrorism and militant Islamism, see their website.
They offer free subscriptions to their newsletter at email@example.com.
Do check out the FFI website.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This isn't my headline or caption. That's how the photographer, Ali Reza Najafian labeled this photo.
Here's what else he said:
"AS IRANIAN,WE RESPECT ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD WITH ANY IDEALOGY.WE ADMIRE PEACE AND DEMOCRACY.WE HATE ALL TYPES OF TERRORISM WITH ANY MOTIVATION GOAL."I am alireza najafian. you can call me "reza"!.i live in Isfahan,one of the most beautiful cities of Iran.i am a student of medicine but i'm interested in art especially music,poem and PHOTOGRAPHY!.i use a sony cybershot P100 camera to take my photos. make me happy and send all of your comment....
Who would have thunk that it's not the Shiite militias who are causing most of the problems in Iraq?
But the New York Times is reporting that since the Baghdad Security Program began last month, "deadly bombings by Sunni Arab militants have emerged as [the] greater danger."
And exactly who might these "Sunni Arab militants" that the Times is referring to?
That's right, none other than Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
Information obtained from one of the group's captured laptops, according to the Times, suggests to U.S. intelligence officials that as far as Al Qaeda is concerned “the sectarian war for Baghdad [is] the necessary main focus of its operations.”
As the Times recalls for the reader:
In its efforts to stabilize Iraq, American commanders have had to contend with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, other Sunni Arab insurgent groups, a variety of Shiite militias, criminals and, they say, Iranian operatives. The greater Baghdad area seems to include all of them, making the mission there one of constant adjustment to adversaries who are revising their own tactics. According to American intelligence analysts, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s Baghdad strategy has gone through several changes. The overwhelming majority of the group’s members are believed to be Iraqi. But some senior commanders are foreigners, including Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian who became the leader of the organization last year after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who founded the organization.
Abu Dhabi is positioning itself to become a clean energy leader.
The New York Times reports that Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates which has 10 percent of the world's known oil reserves and is OPEC's fourth largest oil producer, wants to become a leader in the development of clean-energy technology.
The Emirate plans on investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a new program called the Masdar Initiative and is enlisting the help of major oil and technology companies, and leading universities from around the world to help it develop new forms of energy.
As the Times reports:
At first, the Masdar effort drew skepticism and a few snickers. The United Arab Emirates has been singled out as one of the world’s highest per capita emitters of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases.But Abu Dhabi as the Times reports:
From its gleaming high-rise towers to its $3 billion marble-encrusted Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi has long prided itself on being an example of what oil money, put to good use, can do. Oil helped turn Abu Dhabi from desert fishing village into an influential Arab capital. It helped build a citizens’ trust fund that is estimated to be worth up to $300 billion, whose investments are estimated to bring the emirate almost twice income as its oil sales do.As Fred Moavenzaden, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told the Times, “This is the first oil-producing state that has accepted and agreed with the concept that oil may not be the only source of energy in the future.”
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Israeli daily Haaretz reports:
Israel is worried a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq could topple the Hashemite regime in Jordan, one of the reasons why Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and others publicly oppose such a move.
..."Those who are concerned for Israel's security, for the security of the Gulf states and for the stability of the entire Middle East should recognize the need for American success in Iraq, and a responsible exit," Olmert told the AIPAC conference.
One day earlier, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told AIPAC that "in a region where impressions are important, countries must be careful not to demonstrate weakness and surrender to extremists ... It is [also] true for Iraq."
Here is what Thompson had to say:
At what point is it okay to fight dictators like Saddam or the al Qaeda terrorists who want to take his place?
It turns out that the answer, according to Gandhi, is never. During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. "The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife," he said. "They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs." "Collective suicide," he told his
biographer, "would have been heroism."
The so-called peace movement certainly has the right to make Gandhi's way their way, but their efforts to make collective suicide American foreign policy just won't cut it in this country. When Americans think of heroism, we think of the young American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to prevent another Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein.