|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture
Editorial, Washington Post, September 15, 2006
President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.
Of course, Mr. Bush didn't come out and say he's lobbying for torture. Instead he refers to "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogation. But the administration no longer conceals what it wants. It wants authorization for the CIA to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the International Committee of the Red Cross won't have access. It wants permission to interrogate those detainees with abusive practices that in the past have included induced hypothermia and "waterboarding," or simulated drowning. And it wants the right to try such detainees, and perhaps sentence them to death, on the basis of evidence that the defendants cannot see and that may have been extracted during those abusive interrogation sessions. [complete article]
Comment -- The tone with which President Bush yesterday responded to questions on his lobbying efforts suggested that this is a man angry about not getting his way. The president of the United States of America sounds like a petulant brat. Even so, my sense is that the core issue here is one of legal necessity - not a necessity to create a legal framework that facilitates combating terrorism, but the necessity to provide legal cover for those (including Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld) who have already placed themselves in jeopardy by sanctioning the use of torture. Bush says he wants to protect the interrogators yet if any end up on trial, are shown to have broken the law and have clearly been following directives from the highest level of government, then in the course of time the legal repercussions may work themselves all the way back to Bush.
If Bush now sounds like he feels cornered it may not simply be that his current efforts are frustrated but that he foresees the day when as a former president he might be held legally accountable. Rebelling against torture and Bush
By Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe, September 16, 2006
My father was a machine gunner with the Army's 28th Infantry Division, which was among the first units to march down the Champs-Elysťes after the Allied liberation of Paris . In December 1944, having landed at Normandy and fought across France and Belgium, he was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, and sent hundreds of miles through northern Germany in an unheated boxcar in the dead of winter to a prison camp at Muhlberg in the east.
My father survived the war not because of the generosity of the Nazis to Jewish soldiers. The Germans must have been tempted to send captured Jewish American soldiers to Auschwitz along with Polish, German, and Dutch Jews and kindred human garbage. But they did not. My father survived because, amazingly, even the Nazis respected the reciprocal agreements on humane treatment of prisoners.
The doctrine was simple: You don't abuse my soldiers when you take them prisoner, and I won't abuse yours. Mostly, despite the multiple atrocities of World War II, the doctrine held. [complete article]
See also, The question of liability stirs concern at the CIA (NYT). Better paid, better armed, better connected - Taliban rise again
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, September 16, 2006
It was not meant to be like this. When American troops started to flounder in Iraq after 2003 President George Bush lauded Afghanistan as a major victory. When presidential and parliamentary elections passed peacefully, his generals wrote the insurgency off. "The Taliban is a force in decline," declared Major General Eric Olson 18 months ago.
Today, to many observers those words look foolish. While northern and western Afghanistan remain stable, President Hamid Karzai is isolated and unpopular. Comparisons of the southern war with Vietnam are no longer considered outlandish. And dismayed western diplomats - the architects of reconstruction - are watching their plans go up in smoke. "Nobody saw this coming. It's pretty dire," admitted one official in Kabul.
No single factor explains the slide. But some answers can be found in Ghazni, a central province considered secure until earlier this year. Now it is on the frontline of the Taliban advance, just a two-hour drive from Kabul.
In the past two months the Taliban has swept across the southern half of the province with kidnappings, assassinations and gun battles. American officials believe Andar district, a few miles from their base in Ghazni town, is the Taliban hub for four surrounding provinces. This week they launched a drive in Andar, searching houses and raking buildings with helicopter gunship fire into a Taliban compound. At least 35 people died including a mother and two children.
"We've warned people they may see soldiers shooting in their villages. I tell them this is the price of peace and freedom," said US commander Lieutenant Colonel Steven Gilbert.
Travel along the Kabul-Kandahar highway that slices through Ghazni - once a symbol of western reconstruction - has become a high-stakes game of power. The Taliban sporadically mount checkpoints, frisking Afghans for ID cards, phone numbers or any other sign of a link to the government or foreign organisations. Those caught are beaten, kidnapped or killed. Foreigners travel south by plane, passing high over the road they once boasted about. [complete article] Pressures mount on Bush to bomb Iran
By Patrick Seale, Daily Star, September 16, 2006
President George W Bush is coming under enormous pressure from Israel - and from Israel's neoconservative friends inside and outside the US administration - to harden still further his stance toward Iran. They want the American president to commit himself to bombing Iran if it does not give up its program of uranium enrichment - and to issue a clear ultimatum to Tehran that he is prepared to do so. They argue that mere rhetoric - such as Bush's recent diatribe, in which he compared Iran to al-Qaeda - is not enough, and might even be counter-productive, as it might encourage the Iranians to think that America's bark is worse than its bite.
Hard-liners in Israel and the United States believe that only military action, or the credible threat of it, will now prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, with all that this would mean in terms of Israel's security and the balance of power in the strategically vital Middle East.
Fears that Bush might succumb to this Israeli and neoconservative pressure is beginning to cause serious alarm in Moscow, Beijing, Berlin, Paris, Rome and other world capitals where, as if to urge caution on Washington, political leaders are increasingly speaking out in favor of dialogue with Tehran and against the use of military force. [complete article]
In a replay of Iraq, a battle is brewing over intelligence on Iran
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, McClatchy, September 15, 2006
In an echo of the intelligence wars that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a high-stakes struggle is brewing within the Bush administration and in Congress over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and involvement in terrorism.
U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Bush political appointees and hard-liners on Capitol Hill have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear program as more advanced than it is and to exaggerate Tehran's role in Hezbollah's attack on Israel in mid-July. [complete article]
Iran nukes: Why a compromise may be in the works
By Tony Karon, Time.com, September 14, 2006
When it comes to anticipating Middle East crises, the oil futures market plays the canary in the coalmine. And the political risk factor that has done most to propel oil prices to record highs over the past six months has been the prospect of war between the United States and Iran. It's not hard to see why: Iran is the fourth-largest supplier in an already tight world market, and its threat to respond to any attack by closing the Straits of Hormuz -- the maritime bottleneck through which oil from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States must pass -- could send oil markets into shock. But oil futures fell to just under $64 a barrel this week, from close to $77 a month ago, suggesting that oil markets are not expecting a confrontation with Iran any time soon. [complete article] Avoiding the essential issues in Palestine
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 16, 2006
Sometimes wishful thinking dominates rational hard work. This is probably what is going on with the expectation that a Palestinian national unity government will be formed any day now, comprising Hamas, Fatah and some technocrats and respected independents. This has already generated speculation about the possibility of breaking the diplomatic stalemate with Israel, and ending the American-European-Israeli boycott and economic sanctions against the present Hamas-led government. We should be clear about what this process is all about. It is emphatically not a self-generated Palestinian national step forward on the road to a coherent, consensus policy on domestic governance or relations with Israel. That is unfortunate, because the Palestinians need, and are capable of, defining their national priorities, agreeing on policies to achieve their goals, and mobilizing public opinion to either negotiate peace with Israel or resist it effectively. This is not what is happening.
Rather, the national unity government being contemplated is a show of Palestinian weakness, vulnerability and irresoluteness. It is largely a desperate response to the Israeli-American-European financial embargo that is slowly starving the Palestinians. To avoid death by strangulation and malnutrition, the Palestinians must practice diplomatic submission and subservience to Israeli-American positions. In return for a resumption of aid and normal diplomatic contacts, the Palestinians must meet the three conditions that were set after the Hamas election victory in January. The Middle East "Quartet" established those conditions as: recognition of Israel's right to exist, renunciation of violence, and recognition of previous peace accords with the Israelis.
These are reasonable and logical demands; but they are made unreasonable and illogical by being unilaterally imposed on the Palestinians in a context of siege and starvation warfare. The Palestinians are responding in a way that will not work. [complete article] Pope 'sorry' for offence to Islam
BBC News, September 16, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI has said he is sorry that a speech in which he referred to Islam has offended Muslims.
In a statement read out by a senior Vatican official, the Pope said he respected Islam and hoped Muslims would understand the true sense of his words. [complete article]
Comment -- The Vatican is an extremely influential political institution and has no shortage of erudite and careful thinkers including the man at the top. At the same time, it clearly suffers from an insularity that probably stems from maintaining too great a distance from "the world." Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's statement of apology on behalf of the pope, explains that in quoting Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, the pope was not endorsing the latter's opinion:
He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come.That's fine, but is the pope, or are his advisors, so naive as to imagine that press coverage of his speeches will be based on a complete and attentive reading of the pope's text?
No one gets a free pass just because the media doesn't function the way they might wish it would. This pope -- or any pope -- should know better. Muslim anger grows at Pope speech
BBC News, September 15, 2006
A statement from the Vatican has failed to quell criticism of Pope Benedict XVI from Muslim leaders, after he made a speech about the concept of holy war.
Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things. [complete article]
Comment -- Pope Benedict XVI might feel like a victim of the shortcomings of the media right now, but a 21st century pope should know full well that his words, phrases, and sentences will likely receive wider attention than any erudite thesis he might be trying to make.
The context in which the pope quoted Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, was a speech at his old university in which he was challenging secularist reason. His appeal was for a marriage of faith and reason; his stated purpose to provide a foundation for a "dialogue of cultures." It sounds like a noble endeavor, yet rather than cite a conflict between faith and violence and pointing a critical finger at Islam, he should have been addressing those of his fellow Christians whose addiction to faith undermines their ability to reason.
Right now, there is just as much violence in the world being committed by people who call themselves Christians as by anyone else. It's hardly surprising that armies manned by Christians fighting in the Middle East are perceived by many Muslims as being engaged in a war on Islam. The violent acts of a handful of jihadists in the West have resulted in only a fraction of the amount of suffering that Muslims have experienced in recent years. As an Iraqi wrote this week, "With 3,000 civilians killed every four weeks, my country suffers its own 9/11 on a monthly basis."
Another passage in the text that the pope quoted says, "Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..." Those are words that George Bush should reflect upon.
As for the pope, if he really wants to open up a dialogue of cultures, he should work on opening up the culture he represents rather than antagonizing those with whom he hopes to promote an exchange.
A dialogue of cultures requires our willingness to talk, to listen, to reflect, to reason, to engage in self-criticism and self-analysis, but above all that we have a respectful interest in cultures that we sincerely hope to better understand.
When it comes to dialogue between members of different faiths, it should be a conversation between people. Religion should not hide behind sacred text; it manifests itself in the intersection between faith and action. Christianity is what Christians do. The same applies to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus or whoever else. In recognizing that each faith is nothing more than the expression it finds through people's lives, there should be enough humility to go around and hold in check the tendency everyone seems to have of elevating their own faith above all others. EU agrees to back Palestinian unity government
By David Brunnstrom and Mark John, Reuters, September 15, 2006
European Union foreign ministers agreed on Friday to back a Palestinian national unity government being formed by President Mahmoud Abbas with the Hamas Islamist movement, despite U.S. misgivings.
"We agreed that we have to support the new Palestinian government. It's a very important turning point for the situation," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told Reuters.
"(EU foreign policy chief) Javier Solana told us in the platform there will be recognition by the new government of the treaty signed by the Palestinian Authority in the past -- it means recognize Israel as a partner," D'Alema said. [complete article]
U.S. moves to scuttle Arab plan for international peace conference
By Nathan Guttman, Jerusalem Post, September 14, 2006
The US is trying to block attempts by Arab countries to turn the UN Security Council into a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the upcoming General Assembly opening next week.
In discussions among Israeli and US officials over the past few days, it was agreed that the US will use its diplomatic power to sideline the Arab League initiative, which intends to use the Security Council as the main vehicle for convening an international peace conference to deal with the conflict.
Instead, US diplomats are working to convince the Arab members of the UN to agree to a presidential statement instead of a UN resolution. The wording of such a statement is now in the works and it will be finalized in a meeting of the Quartet next Wednesday, a day before the Security Council takes on the issue. [complete article] Bush's message to Iran
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, September 15, 2006
Our discussion followed the 12-day visit to the United States by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. I asked Bush why he had approved this visit by a high-level Iranian and what he thought it had accomplished.
"One of the dilemmas facing [American] policymakers is to understand the nature, the complex nature of the Iranian regime," he said. "And I thought it would be beneficial for our country to receive the former leader, Khatami, to hear what he had to say. And as importantly for him, to hear what Americans had to say."
He wanted Khatami to understand that on the nuclear issue and Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, "It's not just George W. Bush speaking."
The Khatami visit "said that the United States is willing to listen to voices," Bush explained. "And I hope that sends a message to the Iranian people that we're an open society, and that we respect the people of Iran." Clearly, the White House wants to reach out to segments of Iranian opinion beyond the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I asked Bush what next steps he would favor in opening dialogue with Iran. "I would like to see more cultural exchanges," he said. "I would like to see university exchanges. I would like to see more people-to-people exchanges."
"I know that the more we can show the Iranian people the true intention of the American government," Bush concluded, "the more likely it is that we will be able to reach a diplomatic solution to a difficult problem."
I came away with a sense that Bush is serious about finding a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis, and that he is looking hard for ways to make connections between America and Iran. [complete article]
Comment -- David Ignatius exudes common decency, but that's not why he got invited to the White House - they knew he'd give the president an easy ride. Bush said that allowing Khatami to visit demonstrated that "United States is willing to listen to voices." OK. So, what's the follow up question? "Mr. President. Which members of your administration met with Khatami?" Ignatius failed to ask, but presumably the answer would have been, "no one." Is that how the United States listens? An unexpected collision over detainees
By Carl Hulse, New York Times, September 15, 2006
President Bush and Congressional Republicans spent the last 10 days laying the foundation for a titanic pre-election struggle over national security, and now they have one. But the fight playing out this week on Capitol Hill is not what they had in mind.
Instead of drawing contrasts with Democrats, the president's call for creating military tribunals to try terror suspects -- a key substantive and political component of his fall agenda -- has erupted into a remarkably intense clash pitting some of the best-known warriors in the Republican Party against Mr. Bush and the Congressional leadership.
At issue are definitions of what is permissible in trials and interrogations that both sides view as central to the character of the nation, the way the United States is perceived abroad and the rules of the game for what Mr. Bush has said will be a multigenerational battle against Islamic terrorists. [complete article]
See also, Bush stance on al-Qaida suspects is morally wrong, says Colin Powell (The Guardian). In search of the Taliban's missing link
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 16, 2006
Despite spending many millions of dollars, US intelligence, five years after the ouster of the Taliban from Kabul, remains in the dark over the command structure of the Taliban.
The Taliban have a tight high command from where - and this is the mystery - precise orders, such as targets, are relayed to the fighters in the field. Cracking this code is key to putting a brake on the insurgency that gathers strength by the day.
When the Taliban's spring offensive began in June, the US-led coalition's intelligence identified the people in the Taliban's command council and their usual modus operandi and location in the guerrilla war. [complete article] Queuing up to die
By Ashfaq Yusufzai, Asia Times, September 16, 2006
One morning in late August, a group of about 15 men from the Hizbul Mujahideen jihadist group walked into Lal Faqir's home to congratulate him for the "martyrdom" of his son Bahar Ali, who, they said, had died after ramming an explosives-laden car into a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) vehicle in Afghanistan.
"I am not repentant over what my son has done. It's the easiest way to get the blessings of God Almighty and enter paradise," Lal Faqir told Inter Press Service, trying desperately to hide the grief at having lost his 23-year-old son.
Ali, said his father, was a calm person but religious to the core. He first left his family two years ago to take part in the jihad in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory long disputed between India and Pakistan. [complete article] Months after seizing power, Mogadishu's Islamist rulers slowly reveal agenda
By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy, September 14, 2006
More than three months after a federation of Islamic clerics came to power in Somalia, the group, as expected, has established strict religious rule in the capital, Mogadishu, and the wide swath of the country it controls.
But Somalis, diplomats and regional analysts say the group also has shown a willingness to negotiate, and that that has eased fears that its rule would turn the anarchic country into another training ground and safe haven for Islamic terrorists.
"There was a feeling in the international community that the Taliban was taking over and there would be a big fight over Somalia in the region," said Mario Raffaeli, Italy's special envoy to Somalia.
"But three months later there is no war; there is dialogue. So I have to be more optimistic." [complete article] Afghanistan: a lost cause?
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram Weekly, September 14, 2006
Brigadier Ed Butler was blunt. "The violence in Afghanistan is now worse than in Iraq," he told a meeting of NATO's defence chiefs last week. He was referring to the ferocious battles that have assailed NATO troops since they took over most combat operations in Afghanistan from US-led forces in August.
Butler is head of NATO's 4,500 strong British contingent. He says "hundreds" of Taliban guerrillas have been killed in the fighting. But so have dozens of NATO soldiers and scores of civilians, including 14 in a suicide attack in Kabul on 8 September. Canadian Defence Minister, Gordon O Connor, was more sober in his assessments gleaned from a tour of NATO Canadian troops in Afghanistan's restive southern provinces. "We cannot eliminate the Taliban," he said simply.
This will come as news to his people, as well as to those of the 25 other NATO nations. For regime change in Afghanistan has been sold as one of the few unalloyed successes of the new world born of the 9/11 attacks on America. [complete article]
Expert advice on Afghanistan
By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, September 14, 2006
Brahimi, 72, the world-renowned United Nations envoy, is a former foreign minister of Algeria, who in 1990 helped the Arab League end the Christian-Muslim civil war in Lebanon.
Post-Taliban, he organized the Bonn conference (November 2001), then the loya jirga, the traditional gathering of tribes (June 2002), and stayed on until December 2004 trying to turn the failed state into a functioning one.
Since then, he has been a UN envoy to Iraq (2004) and Darfur (2006).
I reached him in his Paris apartment.
"We have expected miracles in Afghanistan but miracles don't happen very often on Earth. A country that has systematically been destroyed for 25 years is not going to become paradise in 25 or 35 months.
"The Taliban had never been defeated. They had been pushed out of Kabul. They scattered all over and were demoralized but now some of them have regrouped and are reminding the world that they exist."
The Taliban are back because of the mistakes made by the United States and the allies.
"One of my own biggest mistakes was not to speak to the Taliban in 2002 and 2003.
"It was not possible to get them in the tent at the Bonn conference because of 9/11 and they themselves were not eager. But immediately after that, we should've spoken to those who were willing to speak to us.
"That I consider to be my mistake -- a very, very big mistake." [complete article] U.S., Israel cool to proposal for Palestinian unity government
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, September 14, 2006
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reacted skeptically yesterday to a proposed unity Palestinian government that would include Hamas, saying the militant group must first renounce terrorism and accept Israel's right to exist before restrictions on international aid can be lifted.
"The outcome of the process is not clear," Rice said. "It goes without saying that it's hard to have a partner for peace if you don't accept the right of the other partner to exist. It goes without saying that it's hard to have a process for peace if you do not renounce violence." [complete article]
Comment -- If Hamas was to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and was to unilaterally renounce violence, where's the evidence that Israel or the U.S. would reciprocate in any meaningful way? Hamas has every reason to believe that not only is its own right to exist not acknowledged, but that its Israeli and American opponents have actively pursued and continue to pursue the organization's destruction. That's not exactly a way of promoting the possibility for any future "partnership." Perhaps as a small trust-building exercise, the Israeli government could agree that after Gilad Shalit is released, it will end its policy of assassinating Hamas' leaders.
New Palestinian government hangs on detainees: Abbas
By Indalecio Alvarez, AFP, September 14, 2006
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said the formation of a new government of national unity was linked to the fate of Hamas officials held by Israel and the Israeli soldier captured by militants in the Gaza Strip.
"Before this government is announced, several things need to be resolved: the problem of the Israeli soldier and that of the detained Palestinian prisoners, MPs and ministers," Abbas told journalists after meeting visiting French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.
He added that the announcement of a new government also depended on a complete lack of violence in the Palestinian territories. [complete article]
West Bank: a government in jail
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, September 14, 2006
Mohammed Barghouthi was coming home from a late-night meeting when he found himself at a makeshift Israeli army checkpoint. The soldiers were stopping Palestinians, checking their IDs, and telling them to strip.
"I said no. I am a Palestinian government minister and I will not be treated like this," recalls Barghouthi, the Palestinian Authority's minister of labor. So began his arrest and detention on June 28, three days after Cpl. Gilad Shalit of the Israeli Defense Forces was kidnapped by militants.
With dozens of Palestinian officials held in Israeli jails and five cabinet ministers behind bars, the government is operating in absentia. Barely able to function, its problems are further exacerbated by severe travel restrictions and a financial crunch.
Barghouthi was one of scores of Palestinian officials arrested by Israel after Shalit's abduction, including 33 elected members of the Palestinian legislative council and five cabinet ministers. Most have been held without charges, as Israeli law permits when someone presents a security threat. Some, according to a request by the Monitor for information on their cases from the IDF, are accused of "membership in an illegal organization" - Hamas.
Barghouthi, an independent who is not a member of Hamas but was appointed to the Ministry of Labor because of his professional management credentials, was released more than six weeks later on Aug. 14. By then, he was so thin and disheveled, his family recalls, that when he came home his children cried and his mother collapsed. [complete article]
Cut off, Gazan economy nears collapse
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, September 14, 2006
For the last week, Zidan Abu Reziq has been sleeping outside, next to his plantings on a small square of sand he expropriated.
The Abu Reziqs, like many of the large, destitute refugee families in this shrapneled, tumbledown slum, need to plant to eat. They took the land and planted it with vegetables, an investment of about $50, most of the money that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency gave them to buy school uniforms for the children.
Zidanís wife, Tamam, admits her 51-year-old husband sleeps with his plants because he needs to protect their investment in the lawless chaos of Gaza, where his own small theft of land, 20 square yards that belongs to the government, is dwarfed by the huge expropriations by gangs and families and militia groups that have taken over much of the best land left behind when the Israelis pulled out their settlers a year ago.
It is difficult to exaggerate the economic collapse of Gaza, with the Palestinian Authority cut off from funds by Israel, the United States and the European Union after Hamas won the legislative elections on Jan. 25. [complete article] Death toll soars in Baghdad
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2006
On a day in which nearly 100 bodies attested to Iraq's unbridled violence, Democrats stepped up their response to President Bush's policies, with former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski calling the war "unwinnable."
Iraqi officials announced they had found the bodies of 60 men, some of whom had been shot in the head after being tortured, over the previous 24 hours. They said there was no single massacre or mass execution. Rather, the slaughter in two Baghdad neighborhoods was probably the result of multiple roving assassination teams, they said.
In addition to the apparent executions, a pair of car bombs and other violence took at least 35 lives and left scores injured Wednesday, officials said. U.S. authorities reported the deaths of two more American soldiers, one killed by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad and the other killed in action in Al Anbar province, the hotbed of the Sunni Arab insurgency in western Iraq. [complete article]
U.S. troop levels in Iraq reach 147,000
By Gordon Lubold, Army Times, September 13, 2006
Troop levels in Iraq have topped 147,000, a big jump over the number of troops deployed there over the last several months, but Pentagon officials say it's only a temporary spike as commands change over.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq as of Sept. 13 marks a 16 percent increase over the number of troops reported by the Pentagon in late July, when it was around 127,000.
Although troop levels fluctuate routinely as troops move in and out of the Iraqi theater, the 20,000-troop increase from two months ago is a far more sizeable jump than usual. Part of the increase can be attributed to the decision to extend 3,500 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade, based in Alaska, for another four months to help stem the violence in Baghdad. The remaining increase is a result of other American units transferring command to follow-on forces. [complete article]
Why we can't send more troops
By Lawrence J. Korb and Peter Ogden, Washington Post, September 14, 2006
In "Reinforce Baghdad" [op-ed, Sept. 12], William Kristol and Rich Lowry argue that the United States needs to deploy "substantially" more troops to Iraq to stabilize the country. Aside from the strategic dubiousness of their proposal -- Kristol and Lowry's piece might alternatively have been titled "Reinforcing Failure" -- there is a practical obstacle to it that they overlook: Sending more troops to Iraq would, at the moment, threaten to break our nation's all-volunteer Army and undermine our national security. This is not a risk our country can afford to take.
In their search for additional troops and equipment for Iraq, the first place that Kristol and Lowry would have to look is the active Army. But even at existing deployment levels, the signs of strain on the active Army are evident. In July an official report revealed that two-thirds of the active U.S. Army was classified as "not ready for combat." When one combines this news with the fact that roughly one-third of the active Army is deployed (and thus presumably ready for combat), the math is simple but the answer alarming: The active Army has close to zero combat-ready brigades in reserve.
The second place to seek new troops and equipment is the Army National Guard and Reserve. But the news here is, if anything, worse. When asked by reporters to comment on the strain that the active Army was under, the head of the National Guard said that his military branch was "in an even more dire situation than the active Army. We both have the same symptoms; I just have a higher fever." [complete article] The al-Qaida myth
By Martin Sieff, UPI, September 13, 2006
Al-Qaida has been decapitated in Iraq, yet the war there is raging worse than ever. Why?
U.S. military authorities have now revealed that Hamed Jumaa Faris Juri al-Saedi, al-Qaida's number two man in Iraq, was captured in June. He was caught not long after U.S. and allied Iraqi security forces finally hunted down and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's veteran director of operations in Iraq and the dark mastermind behind its merciless and unrelenting terror campaign against Iraqi civilians, including women and children, as well as against U.S. and other forces.
The killing of Zarqawi made headline news around the world right after it happened. U.S. security authorities sat on the details of the killing of Saedi for two-and-a-half months after it happened. Meanwhile, as we have regularly noted in our companion "Iraq Benchmarks" column, the level of attrition inflicted upon U.S. forces in Iraq by Sunni insurgents has remained relatively high, and while it has not metastasized to new levels, the insurgents have been able to keep up the rate of casualties they have been inflicting on U.S. forces. [complete article] Terrorist network disconnect
By Gareth Porter, TomPaine.com, September 13, 2006
George Bush's new argument that Iran and Hezbollah are part of the same terrorist network as al-Qaida turns the recent history of international politics on its head to cover up a truth that makes the Bush administration extremely uncomfortable.
In two speeches on August 31 and September 5, Bush said there is no difference between Iran and Hezbollah, on one hand, and al-Qaida, on the other, as terrorist enemies of the United States. This is fraud so brazen that it makes even the outrageous 2002 Bush administration effort to portray Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as allies pale by comparison. [complete article] Blair hit by Lebanon backlash as minister admits ceasefire 'mistake'
By Andy McSmith, The Indepedent, September 14, 2006
A Foreign Office minister has conceded that Tony Blair's refusal to call for a ceasefire during 34 days of slaughter in Lebanon may have been a mistake.
The admission by Kim Howells, minister for the Middle East, reflects the growing worries of senior figures in government that Mr Blair's defence of US foreign policy at every turn is damaging his administration at home and abroad.
Mr Howells also conceded that the decision to oppose - with the US - the international demand for an immediate ceasefire was not properly explained to the British public.
Mr Blair's isolated stance is seen as a major reason for the revolt that forced him to announce last week that he would be standing down within 12 months. [complete article]
Hizbollah leader attacks Lebanon PM
Financial Times, September 13, 2006
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, used Tony Blair's recent visit to Beirut to launch a stinging attack against Fouad Siniora, Lebanonís prime minister, and the pro-western parliamentary majority that backs him.
In unusually blunt remarks that will raise already strained political tensions in the nation as it seeks to rebuild after the 34-day conflict between the Shia movement and Israel, Mr Nasrallah said the "government neither stopped the war, nor protected Lebanon." [complete article]
One month on, uneasy truce holds in battle-scarred border villages
By Clancy Chassay, The Guardian, September 14, 2006
In the dusty, broken village of Aita al-Shaab, where almost every house bears scars from the battle between Israel and Hizbullah, the war still lingers a month after it officially ended.
Israeli tanks and bulldozers roam back and forth across the border at night, locals say, while Hizbullah fighters patrol the thick green hills above the village. The sound of Israeli drones is familiar to the people of southern Lebanon, who report daily over-flights.
According to Alexander Ivanko, spokesman for the UN interim force in Lebanon (Unifil), there have been more than 100 recorded ceasefire violations by Israeli forces in the last month. These have been mostly over-flights and incursions by tanks, troops and bulldozers. Mr Ivanko said that 24 Lebanese civilians - including four men from Aita al-Shaab - had been detained at gunpoint by Israeli troops. All were later released. [complete article] Amnesty: Hezbollah committed war crimes
By Katie Fretland, AP, September 14, 2006
Hezbollah militants broke international law by firing thousands of rockets into Israel and killing dozens of civilians during the recent conflict with Israel, Amnesty International charged Thursday.
The human rights group called for a United Nations inquiry into what it called war crimes by Israel and Hezbollah, but its report focused on the actions of the Lebanese militants during the 34-day conflict.
Hezbollah launched nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel in July and August, killing at least 39 civilians. [complete article]
Comment -- Amnesty's recent report, Deliberate destruction or "collateral damage"? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure provoked a predictable tirade from Alan Dershowitz to which AI gave this response. Somehow I doubt that AI's latest report will lead Dershowitz to recant his charge that AI has a "nefarious anti-Israel agenda" and acknowledge that they are fair and balanced.
Meanwhile, although Hezbollah asserts that all its rocket attacks were launched as reprisals to Israeli attacks, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev says that, "It is also important to remember that the leaders of Hezbollah have spoken on many occasions about their desire to destroy the state of Israel." On the other hand, Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert claims that a measure of Israel's success in the war is that "half of Lebanon is destroyed." So let's see if I've got this straight: Israel can through its actions (but not words) threaten the existence of a state and that's OK, but Hezbollah can through its words (but not actions) threaten the existence of a state and world civilization is in jeopardy? I see. U.N. inspectors dispute Iran report by House panel
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, September 14, 2006
U.N. inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of the document "outrageous and dishonest" and offering evidence to refute its central claims.
Officials of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements." The letter, signed by a senior director at the agency, was addressed to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, which issued the report. A copy was hand-delivered to Gregory L. Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna.
The IAEA openly clashed with the Bush administration on pre-war assessments of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Relations all but collapsed when the agency revealed that the White House had based some allegations about an Iraqi nuclear program on forged documents. [complete article]
U.S. seeks Iran sanctions now
By Mark Heinrich, Reuters, September 13, 2006
The United States said on Wednesday Iran was "aggressively" pursuing atom bombs and should face sanctions now, but EU allies stressed it was not too late for talks on a negotiated solution to its disputed nuclear work.
The Western partners in a group of six powers dealing with Iran appeared to differ over the urgency of sanctions in their statements to the U.N. nuclear watchdog's board of governors.
And a minister from Washington's staunchest ally, Britain, warned Tehran probably had the resources to endure sanctions. [complete article]
Iranian president willing to negotiate
Reuters, September 14, 2006
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said early today that he thought his dispute with the West over his country's nuclear program could be resolved through negotiations, and that he was open to "new conditions."
"We are partial to dialogue and negotiation, and we believe that we can resolve the problems in a context of dialogue and of justice together," Ahmadinejad said at a midnight news conference during a brief visit to Senegal's capital.
He was asked about a U.S. statement Wednesday that Iran was "aggressively" pursuing nuclear weapons through its controversial uranium enrichment program, and that the country should face economic sanctions because of it.
"I don't believe there will be sanctions because there is no reason to have sanctions. It would be preferable for the U.S. officials not to speak in anger," he said, flashing a smile. [complete article] Poland to send more troops to Afghanistan
By Bonnie Malkin, The Guardian, September 14, 2006
Poland is to send another 900 troops to bolster the Nato peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, the Polish defence minister announced today.
The US and UK yesterday urged Nato nations to send more troops to Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban insurgency after a Nato commander called for reinforcements last week.
Poland already has a 100-strong contingent in the country.
"As of February next year, over 1,000 Polish soldiers are going to be serving in Afghanistan," the defence minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, told Polish television. [complete article] Syria, US shrouded in the fog of war
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, September 15, 2006
Starting with what is fact, four attackers and one security guard died in the unsuccessful attack on the US Embassy in the Rawda neighborhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday morning. And, contrary to some reports, all of the attackers were Syrian, and not jihadis from neighboring countries.
After this, it all gets a bit murky.
Minutes after the attack, Syrian opposition leader Ali Sadr al-Din al-Baynouni of the banned Muslim Brotherhood spoke from his London exile to Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV, saying the attack was fabricated by Syrian intelligence. The reasons, he said, were to score points with the Americans and prove to Washington that Syria and the US had the same enemy in radical political Islam.
Then a senior Syrian government official accused the United States of being behind the assault on its own embassy. One unidentified Ba'ath Party official was quoted in the media as saying, "Only the Americans can succeed in carrying out an attack just 200 meters from President [Bashar al-]Assad's residence in the most heavily guarded section of Syria." [complete article] Al-Qaeda 'issues France threat'
BBC News, September 14, 2006
Al-Qaeda's deputy leader has claimed that a radical Algerian Islamist group had joined al-Qaeda and is being urged to punish France, it has emerged.
Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in a video on a website on the fifth anniversary of the 11 September attacks.
In the tape, he issued a warning of new attacks targeting Israel and the Gulf. [complete article] The folly of exporting democracy
By Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, TomPaine.com, September 12, 2006
A certain awareness of the limits on American power is growing among the wiser U.S. policy elites as a result of the disasters into which the Bush administration has led the United States. Even in these circles, however, a very widespread belief exists that in the former Soviet Union and in the Muslim world, America can compensate for these weaknesses by encouraging the spread of democracy. The idea that "democracy" will solve all problems is also used as a conscious or unconscious excuse to avoid having to think seriously about negotiating compromise solutions to a range of disputes in the Middle East, and especially, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- since this would require a willingness to show moral courage in facing the inevitable backlash within the U.S. [complete article] Guantanamo an 'affront to democracy'
By Alyssa Braithwaite, The Australian, September 13, 2006
A key British judicial figure and senior Cabinet minister has denounced Guantanamo Bay as a "shocking affront to democracy" and says nations must not sacrifice values in the fight against terrorism.
Britain's Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, delivering a lecture today at the NSW Supreme Court, questioned the constitutional basis of the US's treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
He said the response to terrorism must be conducted in accordance with fundamental principles of human rights. [complete article]
See also, The battle for Guantanamo (NYT). Taliban adopting Iraq-style jihad
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2006
Even in near-total darkness, the wounded Taliban fighter insists on masking his identity, his head and face covered by a tightly wound white cloth. Only two bright eyes and a confident voice tell how Afghanistan's Islamist militants are ramping up their fight against US and NATO forces.
He speaks a warning, of how the "new" Taliban has become more radical, more sophisticated, and more brutal than the Taliban ousted by US-led forces in 2001 - and of how its jihadist agenda now mirrors that of Al Qaeda, stretching far beyond Afghanistan.
Among the keys to the Taliban resurgence - which is sparking lethal violence on a scale unknown here for almost five years - are crucial lessons drawn from Iraq.
"That's part of our strategy - we are trying to bring [the Iraqi model] to Afghanistan," says the fighter. "Things will get worse here." [complete article]
See also, Osama's on the move again (Asia Times). Soldiers reveal horror of Afghan campaign
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, September 13, 2006
Soldiers deployed in Helmand province five years on from the US-led invasion, and six months after the deployment of a large British force, have told The Independent that the sheer ferocity of the fighting in the Sangin valley, and privations faced by the troops, are far worse than generally known.
"We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming. We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border," one said. "We have used B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s. We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches [helicopter gunships] ran out of missiles they have fired so many. Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed. We need an entire battle group to move things. Yet they will not give us the helicopters we have been asking for. [complete article]
Taliban exposes cracks in Nato
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, September 13, 2006
Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's public plea yesterday for up to 2,500 additional soldiers to fight alongside British, Canadian and Dutch forces in southern Afghanistan has highlighted deep internal strains in the alliance caused by unexpectedly fierce Taliban resistance in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
The Nato secretary-general's appeal followed an unsuccessful attempt to drum up more support from leading members such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain in Warsaw at the weekend. A formal force generation conference will be held today. "We are working on getting nations to do what they promised," Mr De Hoop Scheffer said. "I am calling for alliance solidarity because some nations are carrying more of the burden than others." [complete article]
See also, Blair tells Nato: send more troops to Afghanistan (The Guardian). In Iran, Iraqi Is offered aid in trying to quell violence
By Nazila Fathi and Edward Wong, New York Times, September 13, 2006
In his first state visit to Iran, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki discussed the security situation in Iraq with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and asked for his support in quelling the violence that threatens to fracture Iraq.
"We had a good discussion with Mr. Ahmadinejad," Mr. Maliki said at a news conference here on Tuesday, after the two met. "Even in security issues, there is no barrier in the way of cooperation."
For his part, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, "Iran will give its assistance to establish complete security in Iraq, because Iraq's security is Iran's security." It was not clear what form Iranian support on security would take, or how it would be received by the American authorities here. [complete article]
65 bodies found in latest Iraq bloodshed
By Sameer N. Yacoub, AP, September 13, 2006
Police found the bodies of 65 men who had been tortured, shot and dumped, most around Baghdad, while car bombs, mortar attacks and shootings killed at least 30 people around Iraq and injured dozens more.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed, one by an attack in restive Anbar province Monday, and the other Tuesday by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the U.S. military command said.
Police said 60 of the bodies were found overnight around Baghdad, with the majority dumped in predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods, police said. Another five were found floating down the Tigris river in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of the capital.
The bodies were bound, bore signs of torture and had been shot, said police 1st Lt. Thayer. Such killings are usually the work of death squads -- both Sunni Arab and Shiite -- who kidnap people and often torture them with power drills or beat them badly before shooting them. [complete article]
Mideast sees Iraq 'disaster,' Annan says
By Nick Wadhams, AP, September 13, 2006
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday that most leaders in the Middle East believe the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath "a real disaster" for the region.
Annan said many leaders believed the United States should stay until Iraq improves, while others, such as Iran, said the United States should leave immediately. That means that the United States has found itself in the difficult position where "it cannot stay and it cannot leave."
"Most of the leaders I spoke to felt the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath has been a real disaster for them," Annan said. "They believe it has destabilized the region." [complete article] Hamas Cabinet resigns, seen as key step
By Sarah El Deeb, AP, September 13, 2006
The Palestinian Cabinet resigned Wednesday to clear the way for a new unity government, and President Mahmoud Abbas said he plans to send a delegation to the U.N. to try to revive a Mideast peace plan.
The mass resignation is the first step in forming a government that would include both the Islamic militant group Hamas and Abbas' moderate Fatah faction.
Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the ministers handed their portfolios to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader. The next step would be Haniyeh's resignation. Abbas would then pick a candidate to form a new government -- probably Haniyeh. [complete article]
U.S. wary of Palestinian plan
By Paul Richter and Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2006
Palestinian plans to form a coalition government have created a quandary for the Bush administration, which wants to ease suffering in the Gaza Strip and West Bank without lifting pressure on Hamas.
Leaders of the radical Islamic group, and those of the rival Fatah faction, announced this week that they were close to completing a deal that they hoped would persuade the West to end an aid cutoff that had bankrupted the government and set off factional fighting.
U.S. officials, who consider Hamas a terrorist group, have halted all but direct humanitarian aid since Hamas came to power in January elections. U.S. officials have said they want to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the territories, but noted Tuesday that the Palestinian proposal might not be enough to end the aid ban.
The U.S. bind was complicated by Europe's warm reaction to the Palestinian unity government plan, posing a risk that a new transatlantic rift could develop over the issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this week after a visit to the region that it might be possible for the West to deal with a unified government. [complete article]
Hamas declares EU to lift PA siege
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, September 13, 2006
European states have signaled to the Hamas government that they intend to lift the economic embargo on the Palestinian Authority once a national unity government is established, according to Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
"The European states have promised to reconsider their stance regarding the boycott of the Palestinian government. Following the war in Lebanon there is greater understanding in Europe that they must present a more balanced stance regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict," Yusef said in an interview with Haaretz yesterday. [complete article]
More Palestinians urging an end to paralyzed governing authority
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, September 13, 2006
As the young editor of Hamas's weekly newspaper, Sari Orabi is a careful monitor of what he describes as the "surprisingly frank" debate underway within the party that took control of the Palestinian Authority just over five months ago.
Orabi, sporting blue jeans and bristling hair, said he was among those who argued that the radical Islamic movement should not compete in last January's parliamentary elections, fearing victory would bring sanctions from Israel and international donors that classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
That prediction has proved true, bankrupting the authority and raising questions within party ranks over whether the government Hamas won the right to run is worth maintaining at all.
"The situation we face is proof that the Palestinian Authority under the occupation is an illusion," Orabi, 26, said recently over tea in an office smashed earlier this year by rampaging members of the security services controlled by the rival Fatah movement. "What is the reason behind this authority? A majority now says it is all a big lie." [complete article] Iran offers talks on nuclear issue
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, September 13, 2006
Iran's confidential response three weeks ago to an international proposal over its nuclear program offered extensive negotiations to resolve the standoff, but only if proceedings against Iran in the U.N. Security Council were stopped.
In a detailed and sometimes rambling document given to foreign governments, Iran stopped short of rejecting demands to halt its nuclear enrichment program, saying the issue could be resolved in talks. The response, closely held for weeks, was made public on a Web site Monday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not intend to reject the whole issue unilaterally, and is ready to provide an opportunity for both sides to share their viewpoints on this issue and try to convince each other and reach a mutual understanding," the document says. [complete article] House GOP leaders fight wiretapping limits
By Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, September 13, 2006
House leaders moved yesterday to temper many of the controls that a bill headed toward rapid passage would have imposed on the Bush administration's program for wiretapping terrorism suspects without court approval.
The bill, set for Judiciary Committee consideration today, would have forced the administration to seek a warrant for surveillance within 60 days and bolstered consultations with Congress on the program. But last-minute changes pushed by senior Republicans may allow warrantless surveillance to largely continue without those controls. Instead, House Republican leaders brought their bill in line with legislation agreed to by the White House and the Senate, which would allow but not require the administration to submit the program to a secret court for a constitutional review. [complete article]
Democrats call NSA's input to Senate panel inappropriate
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, September 13, 2006
Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are complaining that the National Security Agency has played politics in support of the secret program to intercept phone calls between alleged terrorists in the United States and abroad.
On July 27, shortly after most members of the committee were briefed on the controversial surveillance program, the NSA supplied the panel's chairman, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), with "a set of administration approved, unclassified talking points for the members to use," as described in the document.
Among the talking points were "subjective statements that appear intended to advance a particular policy view and present certain facts in the best possible light," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said in a letter to the NSA director. [complete article] What 9/11 means to Iraqis
By Ali Hamdani, The Times, September 12, 2006
For Iraqis, 9/11 led us to our current life of death and destruction.
A sad moment for Americans was the reason for a sad life for us. With 3,000 civilians killed every four weeks, my country suffers its own 9/11 on a monthly basis.
A few months before 9/11 my sister bought some American medical books because she was planning to study in the States.
I called her after I saw the towers burning on TV and said: "Forget it - you are not going to make it there any more."
How would it affect our life? Or how my people would come to suffer for Saudis attacking American buildings? I didn't bother finding answers for all these questions that day. The only thing I said to my sister before ending the conversation: "We will be in big trouble soon."
Last week thugs tortured and killed my friend Mahmoud, a 51 year old father of three children, just for being an unlucky Shia who by accident drove by a Sunni neighborhood.
To me those thugs are no different from the American soldiers who killed the family of a 10-year-old girl named Iman in Haditha last November.
I think about Iman watching her parents die. Then I remember seeing the body of my friend Mahmoud last week at the morgue, with burns and bruises covering every part of his body.
Terror is terror, no matter how it is dressed up, or who performs the act.
Terrorists don't need to wear balaclavas or grow beards. They sometimes come in proper uniforms, and call themselves Marines, like the 10-year old- girl's family killers.
Whether it was the collapse of the Twin Towers or the missile from an F-16 plane hitting a wedding party in Anbar in the west of Iraq more than a year ago, innocent people have lost their lives.
The other night, I was watching a documentary on the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel about the September 11 attack. Listening to the stories told by the survivors was terrifying for me. The scene of that airplane hitting the tower was as horrible as the scene of the wreckage of a red old Passat car that I saw after it was run over by an American tank in west Baghdad in 2004, crushing the mother, father and their young child.
Those people who died under the rubble of the Twin Towers looked similar to those Iraqis who died under the American barrage. We all lost loved ones - but here we continue to lose them.
Who knows why President Bush, Saddam Hussein and even Bin Laden did what they did? But Americans need to understand that 9/11 is not only theirs anymore, after they chose to make the suffering sharable.
At least in their case they still have the chance every year to hold a memorial for the sad event and to pray for the victims. For us the event is still going on - and it's not clear yet who should be praying for whom, as any of us is a victim waiting for his 9/11 to come.
Life in Iraq wasn't great under Saddam but there was only one way to suffer, decided by the dictator. With the American freedom that was offered to my nation, people got the choice of how to suffer, but to suffer is a must.
Freedom can not be offered to a dead nation. Unfortuanately, what America was looking for has never been in my country.
Now I sit in Baghdad and listen to American commentators debating about whether their nation is now safer. It probably is, but they have messed up our lives, as if they exported their troubles to us. IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon
By Meron Rappaport, Haaretz, September 12, 2006
"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.
Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.
In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.
The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate.
MLRS is a track or tire carried mobile rocket launching platform, capable of firing a very high volume of mostly unguided munitions. The basic rocket fired by the platform is unguided and imprecise, with a range of about 32 kilometers. The rockets are designed to burst into sub-munitions at a planned altitude in order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the ground with smaller explosive rounds.
The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit.
The cluster rounds which don't detonate on impact, believed by the United Nations to be around 40% of those fired by the IDF in Lebanon, remain on the ground as unexploded munitions, effectively littering the landscape with thousands of land mines which will continue to claim victims long after the war has ended. [complete article]
Comment -- Last week Ehud Olmert challenged his Israeli critics by saying, "The claim that we lost is unfounded. Half of Lebanon is destroyed; is that a loss?"
While over the coming years, these American-manufactured cluster bomblets continue to maim and kill Lebanese children, Olmert and his friends in Washington should see the carnage as constant reminders of Israel's success in his war of choice. Democrats answer Cheney
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, September 12, 2006
[Recent] speeches [by John Kerry and Joe Biden] reflect a growing consensus within a broad swath of Democratic opinion: First, that Iraq is a blind alley, a distraction from the war on terrorism, not its "central front." Second, that the United States needs a responsible way to disengage from Iraq, reengage in Afghanistan and prepare itself to deal with the rising power of Iran, so far a real winner from Bush's Iraq policies.
The administration, in the meantime, is offering -- stasis. It seems to define victory as maintaining our troops in Iraq through the end of Bush's term without telling us exactly why doing so will make the situation there any better.
A debate about alternative futures is what the country needs. Who can be surprised that Vice President Cheney doesn't want it to happen? [complete article]
Comment -- What's pathetic about Cheney's desire to stifle debate is that his administration feels threatened by the lamest forms of dissent. And what's disturbing about the Democratic "alternatives" is that they make it sound like all we have to decide about is which is our favorite war.
When oh when, is someone in Washington going to have the guts to challenge the terror/war narrative?! Al Qaeda has no need to launch any more attacks; Washington is happy to do the job for them. For five years America has very effectively been terrorized by its own leaders.
The national security threat that no one wants to address is the one created by the United States' propensity to create enemies. The canard that so many in this country are so willing to swallow is the idea that anti-Americanism is rooted in envy and the hatred of freedom, yet America has a habit of inserting itself into the lives of people who would otherwise happily give not a single thought to this nation or its citizens. That doesn't mean that America should isolate itself but simply that it should stop having such a flagrant disregard for the well-being of others and the health planet on which we all depend. Four killed in attack outside U.S. embassy in Syria
By Rhonda Roumani and Debbi Wilgoren, Washington Post, September 12, 2006
At least three armed assailants and a Syrian security guard were killed Tuesday outside the U.S. Embassy building here in what Syrian authorities said was a foiled plot to storm the compound. No Americans were injured.
An explosion was heard about 10 a.m. (3 a.m. EDT) on the street outside the embassy, officials said. Although the area was quickly cordoned off to journalists, the charred remains of a parked vehicle could be seen, along with pools of blood. At one point, a plume of smoke was visible from inside the embassy compound.
Syrian officials said one Syrian security guard was killed, and another critically injured, in the effort to stop the planned attack. They said the attackers appeared to be religious extremists, who shouted "Allahu Ahkbar! (God is Great) during the confrontation. [complete article]
U.S. hopes Syria will join war on terror after embassy attack
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, September 12, 2006
The United States, which has long had tense relations with Syria, expressed gratitude on Tuesday to the Syrian government for going after men who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and said it hopes Syria will join the war on terror.
"Syrian officials came to the aid of the Americans, the U.S. government is grateful for the assistance the Syrians provided in going after the attackers," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
"We are hoping they will become an ally and make the choice of fighting against terrorists." [complete article] Top aide to Sadr outlines vision of a U.S.-free Iraq
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, September 12, 2006
In a shabby but spotless living room in the holy city of Najaf, a top deputy of Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr quietly sketched out his vision of the Iraq to come, after the Americans withdraw.
First, "there will be a civil war," said the aide, Mustafa Yaqoubi, as his three young children wandered in and out of the room. The rising violence and rivalries under the American occupation make a shaking-out all but inevitable once foreign forces go, Yaqoubi said. "I expect it."
"No matter the number of people who would lose their lives, it is better than now," he added. "It would be better than the Americans staying."
When the tumult ends, the Sadr aide said, Iraq's Shiite majority will finally be able to claim its due, long resisted by the Americans -- freedom to usher in a Shiite religious government that Yaqoubi said would be moderate and perhaps comparable in some ways to Iran's. The bespectacled, bearded cleric's mild tone buffered his talk of the blood that would have to be spilled to achieve this goal. No matter when the Americans withdraw, "the first year of transition, it will be worse," Yaqoubi warned. "After that, it will gradually improve." [complete article]
See also, Sadr holds out against plan to divide Iraq (WP).
Iraqi militias seen as spinning out of control
By Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, September 12, 2006
As U.S. and Iraqi officials seek a way to disarm Shiite militias involved in the sectarian violence driving Iraq toward civil war, the paramilitary forces are splintering into more extreme groups that militia leaders say they are powerless to control.
U.S. officials had hoped that an ongoing military sweep in the capital would curtail the Sunni Arab insurgency and convince the Shiite Muslim militias -- armed partisan brigades that guard neighborhoods, mosques and political offices -- that they could leave security to the Iraqi government.
"I think when the people begin to feel more confidence in their security forces, they'll feel less need to rely on the militias," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said during a recent news conference.
But a series of devastating paramilitary strikes against Shiite neighborhoods has eroded early gains attributed to the security sweep and severely undermined U.S. arguments for disarming militias. [complete article]
Iraqi elections believed to have worsened divisions, report says
By Drew Brown, McClatchy, September 11, 2006
Iraq's political process has sharpened the country's sectarian divisions, polarized relations between its ethnic and religious groups, and weakened its sense of national identity, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.
In spite of a sharp increase in Sunni-Shiite violence, however, attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces are still the primary source of bloodshed in Iraq, the report found. It was the latest in a series of recent grim assessments of conditions in Iraq.
But the report was unusual in its sweep, relying on a series of other government studies, some of them previously unpublicized, to touch on issues from violence and politics to electricity production. Published on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the GAO report [PDF] was downbeat in its conclusions - underscoring how Iraq's deteriorating security situation threatens the Bush administration's goal of a stable and democratic regime in Baghdad. [complete article] A peace of the lame for the Middle East?
By Tony Karon, Time.com, September 11, 2006
There appeared to be a veritable flock of lame ducks gathering in the Middle East last weekend, as Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Blair just officially inaugurated the twilight of his tenure, announcing that he will quit within the year amid mounting unpopularity, especially over his close ties with the Bush Administration. Olmert has been badly -- critically, even -- wounded by his inconclusive war in Lebanon, and his election promise of redrawing of Israel's borders by withdrawing from some West Bank settlements has been postponed for the foreseeable furture. Abbas, for his part, not only presides over a Palestinian government dominated by Hamas; his authority even over his own Fatah movement has frayed. [complete article]
18 Hamas lawmakers ordered released
By Sarah El Deeb, AP, September 12, 2006
An Israeli military court on Tuesday ordered the release of 18 imprisoned Hamas lawmakers, including three Cabinet ministers, and raised questions about the army's case. Also, a spokesman for the outgoing Hamas-led administration said the group is prepared to back peace efforts with Israel as part of the new coalition government being formed by the Palestinians.
The men ordered released will remain behind bars for at least two more days pending an appeal by prosecutors. The court is scheduled to issue a final ruling on Thursday.
Still, the order was a rare setback for military prosecutors, whose arguments are usually upheld by the court. [complete article] Iran text hints at flexibility on nuclear talks
By Carol Giacomo, Reuters, September 11, 2006
Iran has indicated some flexibility in its formal reply to a major powers' incentive package for resolving the nuclear crisis but the response has many conditions, according to a text made public on Monday.
The 21-page document described the June 6 proposal by the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany as "containing useful foundations and capacities for comprehensive and long-term cooperation between the two sides."
It also raised the possibility that Iran would discuss, during negotiations, suspending uranium enrichment as the major powers' have demanded and that it would allow expanded inspections of its nuclear program by U.N. inspectors. [complete article] Cameron hits out at U.S. foreign policy
By Miranda Green, Financial Times, September 11, 2006
David Cameron, leader of Britain's opposition Conservative party, on Monday launched an outspoken attack on the failures of American foreign policy, calling for a "rebalancing" of the close relationship between the US and the UK.
"We will serve neither our own, nor America's, nor the world's, interests if we are seen as America's unconditional associate in every endeavour," Mr Cameron said, calling for a new approach to promoting the shared values of Britain and America abroad -- human dignity, personal freedom and national self-determin-ation. "A moral mission requires moral methods. Without them we are merely warmakers," he added.
The Tory leader argued that the military and diplomatic partnership between the allies since the attacks, and the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he and his party supported, had been part of a foreign policy approach that lacked humility and patience.
"I and my party are instinctive friends of America and passionate supporters of the Atlantic alliance," he said, warning against the "intellectual and moral surrender" of anti-Americanism. But he added that being an uncritical ally was dangerous for Britain: "I fear that if we continue at present we may combine the maximum of exposure with the minimum of real influence over decisions." [complete article] Bush: Nation in struggle to preserve civilization
CNN, September 12, 2006
President Bush told the American people Monday night that the country faces "a struggle for civilization" as it fights the war on terrorism sparked by the 9/11 attacks five years ago.
In an address from the Oval Office, the president stressed the necessity of victory, tying together conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq to Lebanon as a "struggle between tyranny and freedom" that rivaled World War II.
"The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation," he said
"Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia?" Bush asked. [complete article]
Comment -- In a similar vein as Gandhi responded when asked what he thought of Western civilization ("I think it would be a good idea"), I'd say if it's a civilization being defended by George Bush, count me out.
Preservationists are by definition in the business of attempting to prop up things that would otherwise fall apart. So rather than worrying ourselves about defending something that lacks the vitality to sustain itself, I think it would be much more useful to acknowledge that "Western civilization" is an idea that has outgrown its usefulness.
Europe, the cultural heartland of the West, is no longer European. As it struggles to come to terms with the aftermath of centuries of colonialism, it must either embrace its multicultural nature or it will implode.
Far preferable to seeing a European implosion or a war for cultural supremacy, genuine cultural evolution points in the direction of a post-European era. Instead of Europe hesitantly expanding its boundaries to draw in quasi-European nations such as Turkey, it would be better to envision and embrace the prospect of the dissolution of those most artificial divisions between West (Europe) and East (Asia), and between North (Europe) and South (Africa).
Instead of Europe expanding, it needs to dissolve in the sense of relinquishing this notion that it is the bastion of Western civilization. In the process a cross-cultural unification could take place through which the Mediterranean would become the hub of a circle of interconnected nations. Ironically, the very Europeans who now feel threatened by a perceived clash of cultures would likely see a revitalization of European culture as Europe's neighbors in West Asia and North Africa grow in prosperity. In this cultural interlinking based on geographical realities -- as opposed to contested claims for cultural supremacy -- Israel could of course no longer claim special status as a self-defined outpost of the West.
I know... It's all pie in the sky. But in 1940, who would have imagined that just a decade later, France and Germany would start laying the foundations for a united Europe?! Israeli political leader urges ethnic cleansing
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz, September 11, 2006
"We will have to expel the great majority of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria," [Knesset Member Effi] Eitam urged, referring to the whole of the West Bank.
According to Eitam, experience showed that Israel cannot give up the area of the West Bank. "It is impossible with all of these Arabs, and it is impossible to give up the territory. We've already seen what they're doing there."
Turning to the subject of Israeli Arabs, Eitam said, "We will have to take another decision, and that is to sweep the Israeli Arabs from the political system. Here, too, the issues are clear and simple.
"We've raised a fifth column, a league of traitors of the first rank. Therefore, we cannot continue to enable so large and so hostile a presense within the political system of Israel." [complete article] Palestinian unity cabinet agreed
BBC News, September 11, 2006
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said a deal has been struck with the militant group Hamas on the programme of a national unity government.
Hamas confirmed the agreement, though its details are unclear.
Palestinians are hoping that a national unity government will open the way for international aid donors to end their boycott of the Palestinian authority. [complete article]
Livni: If Abbas joins Hamas terror government, we will have a problem
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, September 11, 2006
The current Hamas-led Palestinian government will be dissolved within 48 hours and a new prime minister appointed, a Palestinian Authority spokesman said Monday. The new government is expected to be a unity government including both Hamas and Fatah factions.
"Hopefully in the coming days we will begin forming the government of national unity," the spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeinah said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in response that Abbas "can establish a government in any manner he pleases, but Hamas is a terror organization, and in order for it to become legitimate, it must accept the conditions of the Quartet, including recognizing Israel." [complete article]
Palestinians, Israelis more open to talk
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 2006
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert say that, in principle, they're ready to meet with each other. In practice, political observers say, such a summit meeting is not around the corner.
But the two leaders are heading toward a common turning point, born of new realities that have become apparent after a long, war-riddled summer: from Gaza in June to northern Israel and Lebanon in July and August. Both sides appear to be moving toward a realization that the conflict might be more manageable if they forgo a go-it-alone approach. And yet, both sides are grappling with their own internal struggles that might weigh down diplomatic efforts to resume the Israeli-Palestinian political process. [complete article] Olmert: Half of Lebanon is destroyed; is that a loss?
By Gideon Alon, Haaretz, September 6, 2006
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz), who called Olmert's appearance before the [Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense] committee "haughty," said everyone in Israel knows the war is the forerunner for the next one. "This war ended in complete failure," Cohen added.
Banging on the table angrily in response to the criticism, Olmert said, "I'm sorry that some MKs have lost their sense of proportion. Stop exaggerating.
"No danger to Israel was revealed during the past month. You didn't know that Hezbollah had 12,000 missiles in Lebanon? You didn't know that Iran supported them?"
Olmert also told the committee that "there were failures in the war, but there were also amazing achievements. Has the U.S. collapsed after three years in Iraq? What's the panic? We all make mistakes, I first of all."
"What did you think, that there would be a war and nothing would happen to our soldiers," Olmert asked the committee. "The claim that we lost is unfounded. Half of Lebanon is destroyed; is that a loss?" [complete article]
'He is a dog and if we see him we will kill him'
By Clancy Chassay, The Guardian, September 11, 2006
Hundreds of angry demonstrators waving Lebanese flags and chanting "down with Blair" gathered to protest at Tony Blair's meeting with Fouad Siniora at the prime minister's office in the heart of Beirut today.
Held back by a line of Lebanese troops and security personnel enforcing a 1km buffer zone around the office, some protesters carried posters reading "Blair, you killer, go to hell" and "The blood of Qana is splashed across your ugly face" in reference to an Israeli attack on a village in south Lebanon during the war that killed 34 children.
National music blared from nearby speakers. "We must take revenge on Blair," one of the organisers roared into the microphone, mirroring an earlier call by the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt to take revenge on the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.
"He is a dog and if we see him we will kill him," said a group of young boys wrapped in the flags of Hizbullah and Amal, Lebanon's two main Shia parties. "We want to kill him, really we do," one of them insisted. [complete article] 9/11 and the children of a lesser god
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, September 10, 2006
Dalia Eshkenazi, like me and hundreds of thousands of other Jewish kids around the world, grew up believing that the Palestinians had simply fled their homes in 1948, miraculously making way for a Jewish State -- either out of ignorance and fear; mostly in response to radio broadcasts urging them to leave so that Arab armies could wipe out Israel. That's when the Palestinians were discussed at all. Israel preferred (and still prefers) not to think too much about the fact that much of the "Jewish State" is built on the ruins of homes, lands and villages seized at gunpoint from others, before laws were passed legalizing what was, in a moral sense, essentially theft, and then simply flattening and building over them. Dalia, whose family had emigrated from Bulgaria in 1948 when she was an infant, often wondered about the previous inhabitants of the beautiful old stone house in which she'd grown up in Ramla.
Then, one day in 1967, one of them showed up and knocked on her door. Bashir Khairi, whose family -- like most others in the town -- had been loaded onto buses at gunpoint and driven out of town and then forced to walk miles to Ramallah, had taken advantage of Israel's conquest of the West Bank to travel to Jerusalem, and then to his old home. Dalia allowed him in, and immediately understood his connection with the house. Thus began a fraught and complex friendship that allowed for a dialogue quite unique between an Israeli and a Palestinian. There's no happy ending or simple outcome. But her engagement with Bashir allows to Dalia to adopt what I would consider a more Jewish attitude to her country's predicament: She is a committed Zionist, but is nonetheless forced to dispense with the web of self-serving myths propagated by the Zionist movement over Israel's creation, and instead confront the reality that it occurred at the cost of a crime perpetrated against another people. For Dalia, the dilemma is to find a solution that avoids turning her own people into refugees. For Bashir, it's a simple case of the "right of return" and the belief that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in a single democratic polity -- a position for which, by the end of the book, he's spent about a third of his life in prison, as a leader of the PFLP. [complete article] The day that changed everything wasn't 9/11
By Ira Chernus, TomDispatch, September 10, 2006
Yes, it changed everything -- not September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers collapsed, but November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and left the U.S. at sea, drifting without an enemy in a strange new world.
Through four decades of the Cold War, Americans had been able to feel reasonably united in their determination to fight evil. And everyone, even children, knew the name of the evildoers: "the commies." Within two years after the Wall fell, the Soviet Union had simply disappeared. In the U.S., nobody really knew how to fight evil now, or even who the evildoers were. The world's sole remaining superpower was "running out of demons," as Colin Powell complained.
Amid the great anguish of September 11, 2001, it was hard to sense the paradoxical but very real feeling of relief that flooded across the country. After a decade adrift with no foes to oppose, Americans could sink back into a comfortingly black-and-white world, neatly divided into the good guys and the bad guys, the innocent and the guilty. In the hands of the Bush administration, "terrorists," modest as their numbers might have been, turned out to be remarkably able stand-ins for a whole empire-plus of "commies." They became our all-purpose symbol for the evil that fills our waking nightmares.
Today the very word "terrorist" conjures up anxiety-ridden images worthy of the Cold War era -- images of an unpredictable world always threatening to spin out of control. As then, so now, sinister evil is said to lurk everywhere -- even right next door -- always ready to spring upon unsuspecting victims. [complete article] War's critics abetting terrorists, Cheney says
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post, September 11, 2006
Vice President Cheney offered a veiled attack yesterday on critics of the administration's Iraq policy, saying the domestic debate over the war is emboldening adversaries who believe they can undermine the resolve of the American people.
"They can't beat us in a stand-up fight -- they never have -- but they're absolutely convinced they can break our will, [that] the American people don't have the stomach for the fight," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The vice president said U.S. allies in Afghanistan and Iraq "have doubts" the United States will finish the job there. "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists." [complete article]
Cheney reasserts Iraq/al-Qaeda links (FT). Situation called dire in west Iraq
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, September 11, 2006
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."
The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document's sensitivity. [complete article]
Sunni bloc denounces legislation to split Iraq
By Amit R. Paley and K.I. Ibrahim, Washington Post, September 11, 2006
The main Sunni Arab political bloc boycotted parliament Sunday to protest legislation supported by Shiite Muslims and Kurds that would carve Iraq into a federation of three autonomous states.
The bill would create a predominantly Shiite region in the south of Iraq much like the largely independent zone currently controlled by the Kurds in the north. Sunnis vigorously oppose the plan, which would leave them with the center of the country, a vast desert devoid of the oil reserves of the other regions. [complete article]
Tortured screams ring out as Iraqis take over Abu Ghraib
By Ali Saber and Gethin Chamberlain, The Telegraph, September 11, 2006
The notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is at the centre of fresh abuse allegations just a week after it was handed over to Iraqi authorities, with claims that inmates are being tortured by their new captors.
Staff at the jail say the Iraqi authorities have moved dozens of terrorist suspects into Abu Ghraib from the controversial Interior Ministry detention centre in Jadriyah, where United States troops last year discovered 169 prisoners who had been tortured and starved.
An independent witness who went into Abu Ghraib this week told The Sunday Telegraph that screams were coming from the cell blocks housing the terrorist suspects. Prisoners released from the jail this week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects and on Wednesday, 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. [complete article]
Sadr, a question mark etched in black
By Sudarsan Raghavan and Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, September 11, 2006
A mother's sad wail pierced the stillness of the Cemetery of the Martyrs, where green and black resistance flags fluttered over the graves of hundreds of Shiite Muslim militiamen. Kneeling on the hot, chalk-like dirt, Abbas Sabah, 17, didn't stir. His mind was focused on his brother Anwar, 29, killed in a clash with U.S. troops, like many of the dead here. He poured water on Anwar's gravestone and gently wiped it clean.
"We want vengeance," said Sabah, who was dressed in the black uniform of the Mahdi Army, the militia of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "I want to fight or die for the cause."
In another neighborhood, Mustafa Yaqoubi, a top Sadr deputy who also lost a brother in a battle with U.S. soldiers, was waging a different kind of war.
"We have entered a political game," said Yaqoubi, who wore a black turban signifying his descent from the prophet Muhammad. "We entered this government to use it as a weapon to make pressure on the occupiers."
Sabah and Yaqoubi embody the dilemma Sadr poses for the Bush administration and Iraq's fragile government. Though Sadr and his followers hold more seats in Iraq's parliament than any other faction, their attitude toward the U.S.-led occupation remains belligerent. They participate in government, but they remain outsiders, keenly aware that their authority is derived from their independence and their opposition to the occupation. [complete article] Hezbollah gives hope to Palestinians
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, September 11, 2006
Last month, in the midst of this Biblical landscape, Murad abu Shadi Marshoud had a revelation.
As he watched the mighty Israeli army held at bay by a small band of Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, Marshoud said he understood its implications for the Palestinians' own resistance movement. "We've been doing everything wrong," the 26-year-old said. "Hezbollah has shown us the way. After years in the wilderness, Hezbollah has given us hope."
Marshoud and other Palestinians involved in the fight against Israel say they must emulate Hezbollah's guerrilla war tactics and training, its political savvy and its abundant funding from outside sources if it is to challenge Israel with any effectiveness. [complete article]
Khatami slams bin Laden, defends Hezbollah
AP, September 11, 2006
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami condemned Osama bin Laden and suicide bombing but also defended groups such as Hezbollah for what he characterized as resistance against Israeli colonialism.
In a 30-minute speech given under tight security at Harvard University, Khatami repeatedly praised the concept of democracy but said American politicians, since World War II, have been infatuated with "world domination." [complete article] Europe should revise its Middle East policy
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 11, 2006
One of the frightening recent developments in Middle Eastern-Western relations has been the common feeling among many in this region that Europe has abandoned its centrist position and has moved closer to the American-Israeli one. This reflects Middle Eastern perceptions of European positions on several important issues: the Danish cartoons controversy, Iran's nuclear industry, the election of Hamas in Palestine, the long delay in pushing for a cease-fire in Lebanon in July, and - especially in London - adopting the American tendency to exaggerate the "global war on terror" and to view every issue in the Middle East through that distorted lens.
European positions on Middle Eastern issues before 2005 tended to fall squarely in between Arab and Israeli sentiments, and usually offered a more sensible and nuanced policy approach to addressing key issues in the region, such as peace-making (the Venice Declaration) or democratization and economic development (the Barcelona Process). That impartiality seems to have eroded, as reflected in the strong popular anger and occasional violence against European symbols during the cartoons controversy. [complete article]
Sarkozy may cause global ripple
By Katrin Bennhold and Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune, September 11, 2006
Nicolas Sarkozy, his eyes firmly set on France's presidency, might have thought more about French voters than about geopolitics when he said that Turkey should never become a member of the European Union.
But his remarks Friday risk creating ripples in Turkey and the Muslim world as a whole with potentially far-reaching strategic implications for Europe, officials and political analysts said Sunday.
Should Turkey's planned accession falter, it could strengthen fundamentalist elements in Turkey and beyond and prompt Istanbul to look east rather than west. Already, European behavior appears to be stoking an anti-EU backlash. Recent polls show that Turks have become increasingly wary of their American and European allies, while warming toward Iran. [complete article] The hunt
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, September 11, 2006
Rarely has so much brought so little. The US has spent billions on the search. It has mobilised armies, bribed informers, bullied allies, emptied bank accounts, tapped phones, abducted suspects and assassinated his henchmen. It has, without a doubt, seriously damaged al-Qaida's ability to carry out terrorist attacks. Yet still the scarlet pimpernel of jihad roams free.
The foolhardy words of the American general who promised a scalp by the end of 2004 have been quietly forgotten. Embarrassment has crumbled into recrimination. The Americans blame the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis blame the Afghans. The Afghans shrug their shoulders. President Bush wanted to invade their country and catch Bin Laden, they say. So why hasn't he?
Guessing the location of Bin Laden's lair is the favoured parlour game of south Asia, played out along the 1,500-mile Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the participants - spies, soldiers and journalists - believe he is hiding. It is a massive and daunting arena. Scraps of intelligence and educated guesswork slim the odds, but not much. Theories shift with the seasons. Three years ago, some put Bin Laden in Pakistan's Waziristan, nested behind serried ranks of flinty pro-Taliban fighters. Last year it was Bajaur, a tribal agency further north, where a group of harried Arabs were spotted lugging supplies up a mountainside. This year's hot bet is closer to the Chinese border, in Chitral. [complete article] Doubts intensify over Afghanistan's future
By Rachel Morarjee, Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 2006
When the Taliban suicide car bomb struck the center of Kabul on Friday, it found grandmother Amena Wahidi in the wrong place at the wrong time - and signaled that five years after Sept. 11, the first chapter in the US war on terror is far from over.
Mrs. Wahidi died, along with 13 other Afghan civilians and two US soldiers, when the explosion in central Kabul - the first such Taliban attack in the Afghan capital - targeted a US military convoy. The attack coincides with heavy resistance from Taliban fighters to the new NATO presence in southern Afghanistan. NATO forces say they have killed some 420 fighters over the past week alone.
"The Taliban are showing that they can operate anywhere at will, even in very high security areas," says Joanna Nathan, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kabul. "It is a not a popular uprising at the moment, but people are sitting on the fence waiting to see who will be the winning side." [complete article]
Top soldier quits as blundering campaign turns into 'pointless' war
By Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times, September 10, 2006
The former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan has described the campaign in Helmand province as "a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency".
"Having a big old fight is pointless and just making things worse," said Captain Leo Docherty, of the Scots Guards, who became so disillusioned that he quit the army last month.
"All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British," he said. "It's a pretty clear equation -- if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would.
"We've been grotesquely clumsy -- we've said we'll be different to the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages, then behaved exactly like them." [complete article]
Suicide bomber kills a governor in Afghanistan
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, September 11, 2006
A provincial governor and close friend of President Hamid Karzai was killed along with two staff members by a suicide bomber as they drove away from the governor's office on Sunday, government officials said.
The governor, Hakim Taniwal of Paktia Province, southeast of the capital, is the highest-ranking official to be killed since the Taliban began a campaign of suicide bombings last year, especially singling out senior government officials. At least two other governors and the chairman of the upper house of Parliament have narrowly escaped death in similar attacks.
The bombings have come at a furious rate this year, with 47 so far, including the suicide attack that killed 14 Afghan civilians and two American soldiers in the capital on Friday. They have unnerved the public and Mr. Karzai's government, raising fears of an Iraq-style escalation of violence in large cities. [complete article]
Coke on the front line of Afghan war zone
By Terry Friel and Noor Khan, Scotsman, September 11, 2006
To the sound of a haunting Arabic prayer chant, Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai opened a $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kabul yesterday, marking the only major international company to come to the country in a decade.
Karzai's visit to the new facility - franchised to one of the country's richest men - came as NATO and Afghan forces announced that 94 Taleban fighters had been killed in airstrikes and ground fighting this weekend in the south of the country, and that two NATO soldiers had also died.
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As if to highlight the background of uncertainty and violence any investor, even in comparatively safe Kabul, must face, the US military said they had identified a suicide bomber cell in the city targeting foreign troops. "This cell is alive and working and remains very much a threat," Colonel Tom Collins, the chief US spokesman, told a news conference. [complete article] How U.S. merchants of fear sparked a $130bn bonanza
By Paul Harris, The Observer, September 10, 2006
Five years after the World Trade Centre fell, a highly lucrative industry has been born in America - homeland security. There has been a goldrush as companies scoop up government contracts and peddle products that they say are designed to make America safe.
The figures are stunning. Seven years ago there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890. The money is huge. Since 2000, $130bn (£70bn) of contracts have been dished out. By 2015 annual federal spending on the industry could be $170bn.
But state officials want in on the government handouts too. That is why Indiana ended up identifying 8,591 potential terrorism targets (including Lehman's farm) inside its Midwestern borders. But they went too far.
Indiana's total was the most of any state - twice as many as California and 30 per cent more than New York.
The reason is simple. With so much money on offer and such riches being made, there is a powerful economic incentive to exploit the threat to America. The homeland security industry has an army of lobbyists working for its interests in Washington. It grows bigger each year and they want to keep the money flowing. America is in the grip of a business based on fear. [complete article]
Why are we suddenly at war with "Islamic fascists"? A neologism that signals a change in strategy as elections near
By John W. Dean, FindLaw, September 8, 2006
As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, a New York Times poll shows that while a high percentage (69%) of New York City residents remain very concerned about another terror attack, elsewhere in the nation, the overwhelming majority (78%) of Americans are not worried about another terror attack. This is not good news for Republicans, who have been winning elections because of their tough talk about fighting terrorists.
In addition, more and more studies are showing that when reality and reason are employed to assess the dangers from terrorists (that is, when fear and emotions are set aside), the likelihood of any given American being killed (or injured) by a terrorist, or in a terror attack, is nominal. The risk of death from an act of a terror is at the bottom of any realistic risk assessment list.
For example, John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State University, asserts in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that "the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 - about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor." [complete article]
See also, Now death comes to the men who cleaned up Ground Zero (The Observer).
Comment -- It's perhaps to be expected that Americans would concern themselves first and foremost with their own safety, but we should not forget that this was always billed as a "global" war on terrorism - global not simply in the reach of America's military forces, but global in the sense that the world needed protecting from the global menace of terrorism. Thus, in assessing the success of five years of war on terrorism the conclusion seems indisputable: the war on terrorism has wrought vastly greater damage than terrorism itself. Rather than wondering whether we feel safer, perhaps we should be asking what we should fear more: terrorism or counter-terrorism? 62,006 - the number killed in the 'war on terror'
By David Randall and Emily Gosden, The Independent, September 10, 2006
The "war on terror" - and by terrorists - has directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on earth.
If estimates of other, unquantified, deaths - of insurgents, the Iraq military during the 2003 invasion, those not recorded individually by Western media, and those dying from wounds - are included, then the toll could reach as high as 180,000.
The extraordinary scale of the conflict's impact, claiming lives from New York to Bali and London to Lahore, and the extent of the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan, has emerged from an Independent on Sunday survey to mark the fifth anniversary of 11 September. It used new, unpublished data supplied by academics and organisations such as Iraq Body Count and Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire, plus estimates given by other official studies. [complete article]
Understand 9/11 in its full historical context
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, September 9, 2006
To understand 9/11 in its full meaning and consequence today, we must be more historical, comprehensive, and linear: We should start around 1990; trace the rise of these small, isolated criminal terrorist bands; grasp why they could not appeal to Arab publics in the way that Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood have done; see the symbiotic interaction between their deeds and the fury of Anglo-American-Israeli militarism in the region; and follow the larger story of countries and political systems in the Middle East that remain stressed and distorted because of the cruel combination of their own extremism and chronic foreign military interference. [complete article]
Is the U.S. winning this war?
By Doyle McManus, Los Angles Times, September 10, 2006
Five years after Sept. 11, is the United States winning the war against Al Qaeda? President Bush says yes, but most experts -- including many inside the U.S. government -- say no.
An all-out effort by the United States and its allies has succeeded in making life difficult for Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, and has probably disrupted any plans they had for further terrorism on the scale of the attacks in 2001, the experts say.
But as even Bush acknowledged last week, Al Qaeda is far from dead. [complete article]
Bin Laden trail 'stone cold'
By Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world -- no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image -- has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
"The handful of assets we have have given us nothing close to real-time intelligence" that could have led to his capture, said one counterterrorism official, who said the trail, despite the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history, has gone "stone cold." [complete article] CIA said to find no Hussein link to terror chief
By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, September 10, 2006
The Central Intelligence Agency last fall repudiated the claim that there were prewar ties between Saddam Husseinís government and an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a report issued Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The disclosure undercuts continuing assertions by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Republican-controlled committee, in a second report, also sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the prelude to the war in Iraq.
The findings are part of a continuing inquiry by the committee into prewar intelligence about Iraq. The conclusions went beyond its earlier findings, issued in the summer of 2004, by including criticism not just of American intelligence agencies but also of the administration. [complete article]
See also, Rice stands by claims of Al-Qaeda-Saddam links (AFP), Senate: Saddam saw al-Qaida as threat (AP), and Cheney's power no longer goes unquestioned (NYT). The basis for Iran's belligerence
By Shlomo Ben-Ami, Haaretz, September 9, 2006
The "Iranian syndrome" is Israel's present fixation. For years, Israel has been telling the world about the Iranian danger, demanding that the international community ostracize the ayatollahs' regime and enlisting it to fight Iran's nuclear program. But, like previous preventive strategies, this one is not likely to succeed either.
Once it became clear that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was on its way to becoming a nuclear power, and once Pakistan became such a power, the countdown toward Iran's becoming a nuclear power began. The limitations of Israel's deterrence, as exposed in the war in Lebanon, did not help to stop the Iranian race toward nuclear power. There is also no chance that the international community would follow the U.S. into an all-out confrontation with Tehran, or even impose sanctions in it. America lost its ability to form international coalitions in Iraq, and it lost its legitimacy for independent action as well.
The question today is not when Iran will have nuclear power, but how to integrate it into a policy of regional stability before it obtains such power. Iran is not driven by an obsession to destroy Israel, but by its determination to preserve its regime and establish itself as a strategic regional power, vis-a-vis both Israel and the Sunni Arab states. The Sunnis are Iran's natural foe, not Israel. The answer to the Iranian threat is a policy of detente, which would change the Iranian elite's pattern of conduct. [complete article] Iraqi premier will visit Iran to 'enhance' ties
By Edward Wong, New York Times, September 10, 2006
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki plans to visit Iran on Monday to discuss security and political matters with Iranian leaders, his spokesman said Saturday. The visit would be the first by Mr. Maliki to Iran since he took office in late May.
The visit is expected to last two days. A delegation led by Barham Salih, a deputy prime minister, traveled to Iran last week to pave the way for Mr. Maliki's visit. Mr. Maliki lived for some time in Tehran, the Iranian capital, while in exile during Saddam Hussein's rule. [complete article]
See also, Iraq PM's first visit to Iran delayed (AFP).
U.S. count of Baghdad deaths excludes car bombs, mortar attacks
By Mark Brunswick and Zaineb Obeid, McClatchy, September 8, 2006
U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.
In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.
That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.
But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. [complete article]
Army official: Rumsfeld forbade talk of postwar
By Stephanie Heinatz, Daily Press, September 9, 2006
Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a postwar Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.
In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan.
Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure postwar Iraq.
Scheid, who is also the commander of Fort Eustis in Newport News, made his comments in an interview with The Daily Press. He retires in about three weeks. [complete article] At a secret interrogation, dispute flared over tactics
By David Johnston, New York Times, September 10, 2006
Abu Zubaydah, the first Osama bin Laden henchman captured by the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was bloodied and feverish when a CIA security team delivered him to a secret safe house in Thailand for interrogation in the early spring of 2002. Bullet fragments had ripped through his abdomen and groin during a firefight in Pakistan several days earlier when he had been captured.
The events that unfolded at the safe house over the next few weeks proved to be fateful for the Bush administration. Within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques -- he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music -- the genesis of practices later adopted by some within the military, and widely used by the Central Intelligence Agency in handling prominent terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons.
President Bush pointedly cited the capture and interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah in his speech last Wednesday announcing the transfer of Mr. Zubaydah and 13 others to the American detention center in GuantŠnamo Bay, Cuba. And he used it to call for ratification of the tough techniques employed in the questioning.
But rather than the smooth process depicted by Mr. Bush, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed on the process show, the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA that has yet to heal. [complete article]
Bush's detainee plan assailed
By Charles Babington and R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
President Bush's campaign to sharply limit the courtroom rights of suspected terrorists ran into opposition Thursday from key Republican senators and even top uniformed military lawyers, who said it would violate basic principles of justice.
The military lawyers told a House panel that they particularly object to Bush's bid to allow terrorism suspects to be convicted on secret evidence that is withheld from the defendants, an objection embraced by at least three prominent members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
One of those is John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Vietnam War prisoner and a 2008 presidential hopeful who faces a political dilemma. He has won acclaim for standing up to Bush on issues such as humane treatment of detainees, but he also is eager to build conservative support for the GOP primaries. Several colleagues cautioned McCain and the others to stick with Bush on the tribunals question, and House leaders scheduled a vote in two weeks on legislation likely to mirror the White House's proposal.
The day's events suggest that Republicans may spend a good portion of the 109th Congress's final weeks trying to resolve an issue that could factor heavily in the Nov. 7 elections. Earlier divisions among Senate Republicans on issues such as immigration have contributed to legislative stalemates, and party leaders are eager to avoid a similar impasse over detainee trials. [complete article]
New Army manual recalls abuse
By Josh White, Washington Post, September 9, 2006
The chief architect of the new Army field manual on interrogations said yesterday that the document aims to preserve the memory of the detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere so future generations of U.S. soldiers do not repeat the same mistakes.
Thomas Gandy, a senior civilian Army intelligence official, told reporters at the Pentagon that the new manual's explicit guidelines on what U.S. military personnel can and cannot do when questioning detainees arose out of the alarming photographs from Abu Ghraib and the dozen military investigations that examined abuse reported in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. He said it was important to "keep these things vivid" so soldiers understand their boundaries and the effects of crossing them.
The manual, which is an extensive volume covering U.S. human intelligence collection operations, reads far more like direct instructions to military interrogators than did the previous field manual. It even includes highlight boxes filled with vital points top leaders wanted to make crystal clear. One such section warns troops that acts of violence or torture could lead to criminal charges and information of questionable value. [complete article]
See also, A terror trial, with or without due process (Jeffrey Rosen). Afghanistan needs 2,500 more troops, says general
By Michael Evans, The Times, September 9, 2006
A NATO military chief asked yesterday for another 2,500 troops to be sent to southern Afghanistan to reinforce the Canadian and British battlegroups that have been under fierce attack by the Taleban for the past two months.
Appealing to the chiefs of staff of the alliance's 26 nations at a meeting in Warsaw, General James Jones, the American head of Nato in Europe, said that he also wanted more helicopters and transport aircraft. He wanted another battlegroup of about 1,000 soldiers as well as the necessary support units to back it up.
There were no immediate offers. [complete article]
The Taliban, regrouped and rearmed
By Peter Bergen, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
When I traveled in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, the Taliban threat had receded into little more than a nuisance. But now the movement has regrouped and rearmed. Bolstered by a compliant Pakistani government, hefty cash inflow from the drug trade and a population disillusioned by battered infrastructure and lackluster reconstruction efforts, the Taliban is back -- as is Afghanistan's once forgotten war.
In the past three months alone, coalition forces have killed more than 1,000 Taliban fighters, according to Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. military spokesman, while the religious militia has killed dozens of coalition troops and hundreds of Afghan civilians, spreading a climate of fear throughout the country. And suicide attacks in Afghanistan have risen from single digits two years ago to more than 40 already this year. [complete article]
Suicide bomber kills 16 in Kabul near embassy
By Carlotta Gall and Abdul Waheed Wafa, New York Times, September 10, 2006
A suicide bomber smashed his car into an American military vehicle just yards from the United States Embassy in downtown Kabul on Friday morning, killing as many as 16 people and wounding 29, Afghan and American officials said.
The bombing was one of the most powerful to shake the capital since American forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001. The United States military issued a statement confirming the deaths of two American soldiers and said two others were wounded.
The Afghan police at the scene put the death toll at 11 civilians and 5 American soldiers. Witnesses said they saw three American soldiers lying in the street. Other soldiers might also have been killed, they said, as the blast ripped apart the armored Humvee, making it hard to believe that anyone inside could have survived. [complete article] U.S. accused of covert operations in Somalia
By Anthony Barnett and Patrick Smith, The Observer, September 10, 2006
Dramatic evidence that America is involved in illegal mercenary operations in east Africa has emerged in a string of confidential emails seen by The Observer. The leaked communications between US private military companies suggest the CIA had knowledge of the plans to run covert military operations inside Somalia - against UN rulings - and they hint at involvement of British security firms.
The emails, dated June this year, reveal how US firms have been planning undercover missions in support of President Abdullahi Yusuf's transitional federal government - founded with UN backing in 2004 - against the Supreme Islamic Courts Council - a radical Muslim militia which took control of Mogadishu, the country's capital, also in June promising national unity under Sharia law.
Evidence of foreign involvement in the conflict would not only breach the UN arms embargo but could destabilise the entire region. [complete article] Lebanon left to face most basic of issues
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
From the terrace of former president Amin al-Gemayel's ancestral mansion, Lebanon appeared so beautiful that it seemed it should go on forever. Traditional houses of ocher stone huddled far below in close-knit villages, and churches with tiny domes stood sentinel along the twisting roads. In the distance, the Mediterranean gleamed under a warm Middle Eastern sun.
But the recent 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah has raised fundamental questions about Lebanon's future and its identity, straining the political institutions on which the country was built, perhaps to the breaking point. In Bikfaya, Gemayel's tranquil little town in the hills behind Beirut, and across the rest of Lebanon, people have begun to think that their country and its historic melding of Christians with Muslims may not prevail after all.
"Lebanon is at a crossroads," said Gemayel, who was president during wars from 1982 to 1988. "Either we draw the lessons from the war and build a Lebanon that is genuinely democratic and liberal, and an example of intercommunal coexistence, or we are headed for the disintegration of Lebanon." [complete article] Blair supports Hamas unity goverment
By Beth Gardiner, AP, September 10, 2006
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday the world should restore contacts with the Palestinians if the ruling Hamas group forms a government with more moderate factions.
But the militant Islamic group immediately rejected his conditions for establishing dialogue with such a government -- that it renounce violence and recognize Israel.
In a boost for the resumption of broader peace talks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at a news conference with Blair, said he was prepared to meet unconditionally with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel said it would work to bring about the meeting soon. [complete article] U.N. leader picks up task closed to U.S.
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, September 9, 2006
"It was the longest and most strenuous and most demanding trip that I have done in my ten years in office," Secretary General Kofi Annan said as his plane began its descent to Madrid Wednesday night, ending an 11-day Middle Eastern marathon.
While he spoke, an aide brought him word of the exhausting journey's crowning achievement - Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, had just agreed on the telephone from Jerusalem to Mr. Annan's plan to lift the air, land and sea blockade of Lebanon.
Mr. Annan, by habit soft-spoken and formal, appeared in the main cabin in a casual red cardigan and saluted his team of advisors with champagne. Minutes later, they received personally signed keepsake copies of the typed six-point sequenced arrangement that produced the agreement. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
9/11 in a movie-made world
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch (and The Nation), September 7, 2006
Muslims victims of new anti-Semitism as Americans talk of 'Islamic fascists'
By Fawaz Turki, The War in Context, September 4, 2006
The Long War: A self-fulfilling prophecy of protracted conflict -- and defeat
By Michael Vlahos, The National Interest, September 5, 2006
Pakistan: Hello al-Qaeda, goodbye America
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 8, 2006
Analysis: Terror war may need name change
By Pamela Hess, UPI, September 5, 2006
The "new Orientalism"
By Alastair Crooke, Bitterlemons, August 31, 2006
Political Islam takes center stage since 9-11
By Andrew Hammond, Reuters, September 5, 2006
Iraq loses its voice of reason
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, September 6, 2006
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