The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
'Down with America' chants crowd as Shia Muslims mourn dead
By Damien McElroy, The Telegraph, August 31, 2003

Packed into buses, pick-up trucks, taxis and cars, an estimated 500,000 mourners descended on the holy city of Najaf yesterday for the burial of Iraq's leading Shia cleric who was among at least 80 people killed by a car bomb on Friday.

From dawn, a ceaseless stream of traffic clogged the roads around the sprawling cemetery of mud brick tombs. Devastated followers of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim walked the final mile to the sacred shrine of Imam Ali where the huge blast claimed the life of the key American ally.

The crowds beat their chests in sorrow and denounced the American-led occupation of Iraq. Chants of "down with America" filled the air as two white lorries carried away the charred remains of the cars used in the attack. Some carried coffins wrapped in black shrouds bearing verses from the Koran.

In turn abject and ecstatic, mourners demanded that Iraqi Shi'ites seize control of the country. "We cannot remain silent any more," said Hassan Abu Ali. "We must do something I will not allow our enemies to sleep peacefully any more." [complete article]

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Chaos reigns as Saddam's plan unfolds
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, August 31, 2003

What we all are asking now is whether this audacious and destabilising attack [in Najaf] will plunge the country into a maelstrom of violence, from which what many now call the Saddam network can emerge victorious.

The picture of that network of terrorists and guerrilla fighters, between 5,000 and 7,000 strong, which has been emerging in the past few weeks is of groups that are organising but not yet organised, with local command structures, money, weapons and expertise. Its fighters, by and large, are ex-members of Saddam's former security forces and Baath Party, bolstered with manpower and expertise by Arab fighters joining the new jihad against America - unlikely bedfellows with the secular Baathist cause.

The network is described in recovered documents and by captured senior Saddam officials who have disclosed that, while Iraq's dictator had few military plans for opposing the coalition forces, what he left was a time bomb designed to blow up in the coalition's face. It is a campaign of attacks that reached a crucial watershed last week as the number of US soldiers to die in Iraq in the post-invasion period overtook the number killed in action in the 'war proper'. Now even that perhaps has been overshadowed by Friday's events. [complete article]

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Poll: U.S. losing grip in Iraq
CBS News, August 29, 2003

Americans express growing concern that things are not going well for the U.S. in Iraq. More now than at any time since the war ended think things are going badly for the U.S. there, and an increasing number see U.S. control of events there slipping away. Americans continue to support the United Nations having a lead role in Iraq.

Although the public expresses more concern about U.S. involvement in Iraq, and American troops continue to experience casualties -- the number of American lives lost in Iraq since the war was officially declared over has now surpassed the casualties experienced during combat -- the public still supports a U.S. troop presence. Only a third want U.S. troops brought back home.

As they have for many months, Americans support a multilateral approach to rebuilding and governing Iraq, and that support has grown in this poll. 69% of Americans think the United Nations, and not the United States, should have the lead responsibility for setting up a new government in Iraq, even more than felt that way last April. 25% want the U.S. to be responsible for building an Iraqi government. [complete article]

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At least 19 arrested in deadly Iraq blast
By Tarek al-Issawi, Associated Press, August 30, 2003

Police have arrested 19 men -- many of them foreigners and all with admitted links to al-Qaida -- in the car bombing of the Imam Ali shrine in the holy city of Najaf, a senior Iraqi investigator told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two Iraqis and two Saudis grabbed shortly after the Friday attack gave information leading to the arrest of the others. They include two Kuwaitis and six Palestinians with Jordanian passports. The remainder were Iraqis and Saudis, the official said, without giving a breakdown.

"Initial information shows they (the foreigners) entered the country from Kuwait, Syria and Jordan," the official said.

"All those arrested belong to the Wahhabi sect, and they are all connected to al-Qaida," the official said. Wahhabism is the strict, fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam from which al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden draws spiritual direction. [complete article]

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Death and hesitation in Iraq
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, August 30, 2003

The car bomb that killed one of Iraq's most important spiritual leaders today was apparently met by a political vacuum in the nation's capital, where the Iraqi and American officials charting the country's future seemed unsure who should respond and how.

Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, a symbol of moderation in this restive land, was dead. Religious leaders called for blood and vengeance, and in some places the ayatollah's mourners took to the streets. Yet here in Baghdad, the Iraqi and American officials charged with shepherding this country toward democratic rule went about their business as if little had changed.

There were no speeches calling for calm and few public appearances by anyone in charge. L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator, was on vacation. Nobody seemed to know when exactly he would return. The American military command here said nothing. [complete article]

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A top aide to Blair resigns as a dispute over Iraq rages
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, August 30, 2003

Alastair Campbell, the influential and combative director of communications and strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced his resignation today as controversy raged over his role in portraying the nature of Iraq's threat to the West. [complete article]

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North Korea and Iran want the Bomb
Wouldn't you, too?

By Fred Kaplan, Slate, August 29, 2003

The remaining two axes of evil have been spinning their terrible wheels this week. The North Koreans proclaimed, at disarmament talks no less, that they will soon test a nuclear weapon. The Iranians were caught in an awkward fix, if not an outright lie, when traces of bomb-grade uranium were found on a centrifuge at a nuclear reactor that they claim to use strictly for peaceful purposes. There are ambiguities in both stories. The North Koreans also said at those talks that they would dismantle their nuclear-weapons program if the United States dropped its hostile policy and resumed economic assistance. The Iranians expressed surprise at the news about the centrifuge, explaining that they bought the equipment elsewhere and that it must have come precoated with enriched-uranium residue (dubious but not impossible, given that the source was probably Pakistan).

The world's indignant response in both cases ignores the main questions: Why shouldn't nations like Iran and North Korea try to build A-bombs? Isn't building the bomb a logical policy in the post-Cold War era? Why do some nations try to go nuclear, while other nations (even those with the technical ability) do not? And what should be done to lure the nuclear-wannabes away from their desires? [complete article]

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U.S. decree strips thousands of their jobs
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 30, 2003

Tarik al-Kubaisy, vice-president of the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists, is a worried man. It's not just that the queue of patients suffering from severe stress disorders in Iraq's war-torn society is growing longer by the day.

Nor that a country of 25 million has fewer than 100 psychiatrists and many are planning to emigrate now that Saddam Hussein's restrictions on foreign travel have gone.

The other concern for Dr Kubaisy, who was awarded a London University PhD after four years at the Maudsley hospital, is that the Americans have taken away his job.

Like many young Iraqi professionals, he joined the Ba'ath party several years before Saddam became its leader and turned Iraq into a one-party state. But under Order Number One, issued by Paul Bremer, Iraq's US administrator - the so-called "de-Ba'athification" decree - Dr Kubaisy's position as a professor in Baghdad University's college of medicine has ended. [complete article]

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Ayatollah's death deepens U.S. woes
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 30, 2003

The death of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, a rare cleric with political acumen and religious pedigree, may pose the greatest challenge yet to U.S. efforts to court Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and bring stability to Iraq.

Hakim, 64, a member of one of Iraq's most prominent clerical families, headed the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an opposition group he founded in 1982 while exiled in Iran.

Though his ties to the Islamic government in Iran long made him suspect in the eyes of U.S. officials, his decision to enroll his movement in the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and, by default, act as a proponent of U.S. efforts here, counted as one of the true achievements of American diplomacy in postwar Iraq. [complete article]

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Condi's phony history
Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq

By Daniel Benjamin, Slate, August 29, 2003

Werwolf [-- a Nazi resistance plan aimed to sabotage US occupation of Germany --] tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today. As Antony Beevor observes in The Fall of Berlin 1945, the Nazis began creating Werwolf as a resistance organization in September 1944. "In theory, the training programmes covered sabotage using tins of Heinz oxtail soup packed with plastic explosive and detonated with captured British time pencils," Beevor writes. "… Werwolf recruits were taught to kill sentries with a slip-knotted garrotte about a metre long or a Walther pistol with silencer. …"

In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing. [complete article]

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Shia leader concerned over pace of change
By Gareth Smyth, Financial Times, August 29, 2003

Friday's murder in Najaf of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim has removed one of the most important Shia Muslim leaders advocating critical engagement with the US occupation of Iraq.

Ayatollah Hakim had led the Shia Muslim group Sciri - the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq - through a tortuous political process that began with a conference of Iraqi opposition groups in London last December, continued at Salahaddin in Kurdish-held northern Iraq in February and led in July to the formation, under US supervision, of a 25-strong Governing Council.

But Ayatollah Hakim had grown uneasy with the speed of change. "Until now there is not really a state," he told the Financial Times in one of his last interviews. "This vacuum allows everyone to move - looters as well as good people. The Americans have not occupied the vacuum and they have not allowed the Iraqi parties to occupy it." [complete article]

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Dreaming of Baghdad
By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, February 3, 2003

Early this year, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Jon Lee Anderson went to Tehran to meet leading members of the exiled Iraqi Shia community. Whilst there he interviewed Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who was assassinated in Najaf today.

The story of the Hakim family is one of the most tragic sagas in the bloody history of modern Iraq. Ayatollah Hakim has been waiting many years and has paid a very high price to bring about an Islamic revolution in his country. When I asked him to tell me about his early life, he shook his head, as if to say, "Where to begin?" When I insisted, he gave me an impressionistic version: "I was born in Iraq, went to a madrasah in Iraq, went to prison in Iraq, was tortured in Iraq. . . . I was married when I was eighteen; when the monarchy was toppled I was nineteen. I had grown up in a kind of poor family, but at the same time it was respected. I grew up during the Second World War, and I saw demonstrations in the streets over the establishment of Palestine" -- he meant Israel. "I saw the arrival of Communist ideas. I was pulled by a rope through the streets when I was twenty years old. And . . . things have moved this way until now. All this period was characterized by killings, imprisonments, and I was tortured. I was burned with cigarettes, electroshocked. My head was put into a metal vise; I was beaten very harshly and imprisoned in a cell where I couldn't distinguish between night and day. All of this happened when I was in my youth. When I was an older man, five of my brothers and nine of my nephews were killed. Fifty of my relatives were killed or disappeared. I've had seven assassination attempts against me, but I depend on the Almighty to cleanse my soul, and I am not tired, I will continue." [complete article]

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Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim: Spiritual and political leader of the Iraqi Shias
The Guardian, August 29, 2003

The death of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim marks the loss of "the most influential and charismatic religious and political leader in Iraq", according to one leading commentator.

His assassination is a major blow not only for the millions of Iraqi Shias who considered him their spiritual and political leader, but also for the campaign to establish peace and security in the war-shattered nation.

Hamid Ali Alkifaey, an expert on Iraqi affairs, said: "It is indeed bad news that Ayatullah Muhammed Baker Al Hakim has been killed. He was by far the most influential and charismatic religious and political leader in Iraq.

"With his assassination, the Iraqi religious establishment has been bereft of an astute politician as well as a senior religious leader, whose influence transcends the sectarian and political divide." [complete article]

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Bush administration examining ways to change course in Iraq
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Knight Ridder, August 28, 2003

Alarmed by mounting casualties and staggering costs in Iraq, a growing number of top Bush administration officials have concluded that the current U.S. strategy is unsustainable and are looking for ways to increase United Nations involvement, American officials and foreign diplomats said.

The sharp course corrections under consideration, they said, include creating a multinational U.N. peacekeeping force with continued U.S. military command, giving the world body a larger role in rapidly transferring governance back to Iraqis, and seeking greater international financial contributions.

The proposals would mark a dramatic departure for President Bush and his top aides, who went to war in Iraq without explicit U.N. approval and have insisted on tight American control of virtually every aspect of the postwar occupation.

None of the proposals has been adopted yet. Officials in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and some civilian officials who work for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are resisting any broader international involvement in Iraq, which, in their view, would disrupt plans for an American-initiated remaking of the Middle East. [complete article]

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Iraqi Shia leader killed
BBC News, August 29, 2003

Many people have been killed by a car bomb in the holy city of Najaf - among them leading Shia Muslim politician Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.

A local doctor told the BBC 80 people were killed and 100 injured in the bomb which blew up near the Tomb of Ali in the central Iraqi city, one of the holiest shrines for Shia Muslims.

No group has admitted carrying out the attack, which took place just as main weekly prayers were ending. [...]

The leader of an Iran-backed group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), Ayatollah Hakim had returned to Iraq in May, after spending more than two decades in exile in Iran.

A Sciri spokesman in London, Hamid al-Bayati, told the BBC he suspected that supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "could be behind this attack".

He added that when visiting Baghdad in May and June, he had told the US occupation authorities that protection of holy places and leading clerics should be stepped up.

"The allies did not respond to this proposal," Mr Bayati said. "I blame them for negligence in not protecting holy places and holy men." [complete article]

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The last to know
By Ian Traynor, The Guardian, August 29, 2003

When 10 governments in central and eastern Europe lined up behind Washington last February in support of the war in Iraq, the general publics from Lithuania to Albania were the last to know.

Leading politicians and diplomats across the region, indeed, found out about their governments' backing for war from American press reports.

Hardly surprising, given that the "Vilnius declaration" of the 10 states was penned not in eastern Europe, but in New York and Washington.

In Hungary this week, the same thing happened again. A New York Times report from Baghdad triggered apprehension and bafflement in Budapest with the news that some 28,000 Iraqi policemen were to be trained by the Americans at a Hungarian airbase.

The Americans used the same base, at Taszar in south-western Hungary, earlier this year for an experiment in training an exiled Iraqi militia to help in the war. Although the plan was to train 3,000 Iraqi exiles, no more than 200 had gone through the course when the plan was abruptly dropped. Again, the Hungarians were the last to know. [complete article]

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Blair: Off the hook - for now
By Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, August 29, 2003

If the prime minister had bought an evening paper as he stepped out of the law courts yesterday, there was the headline: "50th British soldier killed in Iraq as mob opens fire with guns and grenades." News from Iraq gets worse by the day, aid workers are withdrawn and all the US promises is that electricity might return to its pre-war inadequacy in a month or two. Why he took Britain to war gets more pressing every day. He is lucky the important questions are not on the agenda in the Hutton courtroom. His performance yesterday helps get the government off the Hutton hook, but his greatest political danger now lies beyond his control on the dusty ground of Iraq. [complete article]

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Four-star rating for a Wesley Clark campaign
By Robert Kuttner, Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2003

Wesley Clark has told associates that he will decide in the next few weeks whether to declare for president. If he does, it will transform the Democratic race. Call me star-struck, but I think he'd instantly be in the top tier.

Clark, in case you've been on sabbatical in New Zealand, is all over the talk shows. He's the former NATO supreme commander who headed operations in Kosovo, a Rhodes scholar who graduated first in his class at West Point and a Vietnam vet with several combat medals, including a Purple Heart.

He has been a tough critic of the Bush foreign policy, including the Iraq war. His domestic positions are not as fully fashioned, but he would repeal President Bush's tax cuts and revisit the so-called Patriot Act.

More interesting, many of Clark's progressive views on domestic issues come by way of his military background. Though it is very much a hierarchy, the military is also the most egalitarian island in this unequal society. Top executives -- four-star generals -- make about nine times the pay of buck privates. In corporate life, the ratio of many chief executives' compensation to worker bees' is more like 900 times. [complete article]

See also, General poised to enter race for White House.

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Socio-economic roots of radicalism?
Towards explaining the appeal of Islamic radicals
(PDF format)
By Alan Richards, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, July, 2003

Why do "Islamic radicals" -- including the partisans of al-Qaeda and other followers of Osama bin Laden -- enjoy so much sympathy in the Middle East and wider Muslim world? Obviously, understanding such a phenomenon is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for crafting a strategy to cope with the murderous violence of September 11, 2001. Some analysts -- including this one -- believe that explaining this -- or any other -- large-scale social movement requires a nuanced, complex historical analysis of social, economic, political, and cultural factors. Space and professional competence sharply constrain the analysis offered here, which will focus more on economic, social, and political factors than on cultural and ideological aspects.

Any reader of journals and op-ed pages of newspapers knows, however, that perspectives such as this have hardly gone unchallenged. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, attempts at analysis of any kind were often denigrated as symptoms of cowardice or treason. Pundits and policymakers suggested that to argue that phenomenon such as al-Qaeda had social roots was to excuse, or even condone, their apocalyptic actions. As the political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon pointed out, such arguments are "grade-school non sequiturs." After all, historians who study Nazism do not justify Auschwitz, and students of Stalinism do not exonerate the perpetrators of the Gulag. Understanding is simply better than the alternative, which is incomprehension. If we fail to grasp the forces behind the attacks of September 11, we will fail to respond wisely. [complete report (PDF format)]

The conclusions of this 35-page report have been summarized by David Isenberg for Asia Times, in Exploring the roots of radicalism.

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Musharraf's army breaking rank
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, August 30, 2003

...the [Pakistani] army's role in politics has been dramatically shaped by the unprecedented events of September 11, 2001. The army under Musharraf has been forced, because of the global fallout from the terrorist attacks on the United States, to make decisions that have seriously split the armed forces.

Well-placed sources within the army have revealed to Asia Times Online that recently several top officers have been arrested. These arrests have been kept secret as no charges have been laid. The officers, according to the sources, were seized after being fingered by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as probably having links with international Islamic militants.

The FBI has been given a free hand to interrogate the officers at its cell in the capital, Islamabad, or at any other location of its choosing in order to establish ties between the officers and militant networks.

Asia Times Online investigations have established the names of two of those arrested: Assistant Adjutant-General and Quartermaster-General, Lieutenant-Colonel Khalid Abbassi (posted in Kohat, North-West Frontier Province) and one Major Atta.

The investigations show that neither the family of the officers nor their subordinates know where they are being detained. Senior officers in the army, when contacted by this correspondent, remained tight lipped and their advice was, "stay away from this matter". [complete article]

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On going home
By Omar al-Qattan, Open Democracy, August 28, 2003

The popular saying among Palestinians, one I have heard so often from older people when talking about the land or house or entire village they have lost, is: fishi haq bidi’ warahi mtalib – no right disappears as long as someone puts a claim to it. And it is one of the great human achievements of the last fifty or so years that the Palestinians, despite a massive disadvantage on every level, have been able to maintain this claim. We have done it through poetry, song, film, art but above all through maintaining the popular resistance to Israel’s denials and expansionism.

Yet the reality – the one that is undeniable and observable and utterly appalling – is that we own less and less of the land, have access to less of it than we did even three years ago, and are faced with one of the cruellest colonial projects of land-grabbing in modern history. [complete article]

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The right of return: the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
By Ghada Karmi, Open Democracy, August 27, 2003

That initial act of dispossession [in 1948], which destroyed Palestinian society and led to the manifold depredations that have beset the Palestinians ever since: the refugee camps, the dispersal to other countries, the statelessness, the struggle for recognition of their cause, and the fight against their current occupation and repression, is the heart and basis of the conflict. By today’s estimates, the total registered refugee Palestinian population numbers 4 million (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and Palestinian sources put it at nearly 6 million.

These sufferings have been compounded by Israel’s persistent and inflexible refusal to acknowledge any responsibility in the matter and its rejection of any notion of compensation or restitution for Palestinian losses. This is in marked contrast to Israeli demands for compensation for damage inflicted under Nazism and the holocaust. More recently, Israel has been demanding compensation from Arab countries for the losses of the Jews who left their homes there after 1948. [complete article]

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Operation Perfect Storm: The press and the Iraq war
By W. Lance Bennett, Political Communication Report, Fall, 2003

If the first Iraq war was named Desert Storm, the second might be called Perfect Storm. The run-up to the 2003 war witnessed an extraordinary convergence of factors that produced near perfect journalistic participation in government propaganda operations. What comes in the aftermath of a messy military occupation -- clouded by reports of a war promoted through high level intelligence deceptions -- may well be another matter. I would not be surprised to see the press "beast" turn angrily against its former feeders. However, the main focus of this analysis is on press cooperation in implementing administration communication strategies during the period between September 11, 2001, and George W. Bush's dramatized tail hook landing of May 1, 2003 on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln -- the Top Gun moment in which Bush declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," adding that "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on." [ complete article ]

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U.S. finds tables turned at U.N.
By Michael Moran, MSNBC News, August 27, 2003

Having launched the Iraq War in defiance of the United Nations Security Council and repeatedly vowed to "go it alone," the Bush administration finds itself back at U.N. headquarters seeking help in stemming the costs, both in blood and dollars, of occupying Saddam Hussein's former realm.

Over the past week, efforts by senior American diplomats -- including a personal visit to U.N. headquarters last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell -- failed to win new pledges of money or troops from any of the world's major powers. With the United States determined to control both the military occupation and the distribution of reconstruction contracts, many large nations are treating Washington to a taste of its own hardball tactics. [ complete article ]

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Iraqi council's most pressing task: Legitimacy
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2003

They don't know their term of office, their resources, their compensation or their clout.

About the only thing the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council seem sure of is that American occupiers are suddenly eager to hand them a share of responsibility -- some would say blame -- for running a country suspended in a dangerous vacuum.

Appointed by the U.S. six weeks ago and viewed by some Iraqis as merely putting a local face on the occupation, the council now is being looked to by U.S. officials as the best hope for getting the idle machinery of government and industry moving. [ complete article ]

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Classified spending on the rise
By Dan Morgan, Washington Post, August 27, 2003

"Black," or classified, programs requested in President Bush's 2004 defense budget are at the highest level since 1988, according to a report prepared by the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The center concluded that classified spending next fiscal year will reach about $23.2 billion of the Pentagon's total request for procurement and research funding. When adjusted for inflation, that is the largest dollar figure since the peak reached during President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup 16 years ago. [ complete article ]

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All sides failed to follow 'road map'
By John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore, Washington Post, August 28, 2003

When President Bush announced his support of an ambitious Middle East peace plan four months ago in the Oval Office, he offered an admonition to everyone concerned: "In order for peace to occur, all parties must assume their responsibilities."

Today, a new wave of violence has erupted in Israel and the Palestinian territories because none of the participants -- including the United States -- did what was expected of it or accepted responsibilities critical to advancing the peace initiative, known as the "road map," according to Israeli and Palestinian officials, diplomats and analysts. [ complete article ]

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Halliburton's deals greater than thought
By Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, August 28, 2003

Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents.

The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed and demonstrate the U.S. military's increasing reliance on for-profit corporations to run its logistical operations. Independent experts estimate that as much as one-third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is going to independent contractors. [ complete article ]

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U.S. suspects it received false Iraq arms tips
By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2003

Frustrated at the failure to find Saddam Hussein's suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have launched a major effort to determine if they were victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war.

The goal, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, "is to see if false information was put out there and got into legitimate channels and we were totally duped on it." He added, "We're reinterviewing all our sources of information on this. This is the entire intelligence community, not just the U.S." [ complete article ]

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Bush's war goes global
By Naomi Klein, Globe and Mail, August 27, 2003

The Marriot Hotel in Jakarta was still burning when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, explained the implications of the day's attack.

"Those who criticize about human rights being breached must understand that all the bombing victims are more important than any human-rights issue."

In a sentence, we got the best summary yet of the philosophy underlying President George W. Bush's so-called war on terrorism. Terrorism doesn't just blow up buildings; it blasts every other issue off the political map. [ complete article ]

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Arab reform minus the U.S. sledgehammer
By Ali Abunimah, Daily Star, August 27, 2003

The Arab states are in desperate need of reform. Their hundreds of millions of people -- the vast majority of them under age 30 -- lack the basic freedoms and opportunities that they crave. In no Arab country are the people free to change their government by peaceful means. No Arab country observes the rule of law, and each society is riven by fundamental inequalities that seem only to be growing. Education and scientific and social research lag, and many of the best and brightest emigrate at the earliest opportunity. [ complete article ]

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A Jew among 25,000 Muslims
By Jonathan Cook, The Guardian, August 27, 2003

She makes an incongruous figure, waiting in front of the central mosque in the northern Israeli town of Tamra. There is no danger I will miss her. She has short blonde hair, in contrast to the rest of the women who cover their dark hair with scarves, and is wearing a loose-fitting floral kaftan, better suited to the streets of Wimbledon, her former home, than here in the Middle East.

The difference runs much deeper than mere looks: Susan Nathan is the only Jew among 25,000 Muslims in Tamra, one of the country's dozens of Arab communities whose council is run by Islamic fundamentalists. She is one of only two Israeli Jews known to have crossed the ethnic divide: the other is the controversial academic Uri Davis, who lives in nearby Sakhnin. [...]

But since her move from Tel Aviv [-- where she first lived after moving to Israel from London four years ago --] to work as an English teacher in deprived Tamra seven months ago, she has lost her Jewish friends. "At first they thought I was just being provocative," she says. "Then they thought I was suffering some sort of mental breakdown. Now they realise I am serious, they have turned their backs. What I have done is far too threatening." [...]

Paradoxically, her stance has also earned her the enmity of the Israeli peace movement. "The Jewish left is totally in thrall to the idea of two states for two people. What I am doing by showing that Jews and Arabs can live together in peace undermines their argument." [ complete article ]

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Asia's most-wanted man lived life of a backpacker
By Mark Baker, Sydney Morning Herald, August 26, 2003

He liked Coca Cola, the BBC news and Marlboro cigarettes. Sometimes he would play with the children, but mostly the man in Room 10 at the Boeng Kak Guest House kept to himself.

He said he was a Thai businessman, and residents of the dollar-a-day backpacker lodge in Phnom Penh had no idea the smiling man who called himself Mizi was Asia's most-wanted. [ complete article ]

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Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but still dangerous
International Crisis Group Report, August 26, 2003

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the South East Asian terrorist organisation based in Indonesia, remains active and dangerous, despite the mid-August 2003 arrest of Hambali, one of its top operatives.

Though more than 200 men linked or suspected of links to it are now in custody in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, JI is far from destroyed. Indonesian police and their international counterparts have succeeded in seriously damaging the network, but the bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta on 5 August provided clear evidence that the organisation remains capable of planning and executing a major operation in a large urban centre.

The information emerging from the interrogation of JI suspects indicates that this is a bigger organisation than previously thought, with a depth of leadership that gives it a regenerative capacity. It has communication with and has received funding from al-Qaeda, but it is very much independent and takes most, if not all operational decisions locally. [ complete article ]

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U.S. denies any chance for Iraq-Israel oil pipeline
By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz, August 27, 2003

The U.S. State Department yesterday denied plans to send Iraqi oil to Israel, refuting reports of such a possibility earlier this week.

A senior State Department source said that not only is there no such plan, but also there is no intention or possibility for such a scenario, adding that there will be no discussion of the sort in the next two years. The United States believes it is not possible that any new government formed in Iraq would immediately agree to divert oil to Israel, the source said.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for economics was asked by a Pentagon official about Israel's position on the possibility of a project that would transmit Iraqi oil from Kirkuk to Haifa and the estimated cost of such an endeavor. Sources in Jerusalem yesterday said that the State Department was probably unaware of this communication. [ complete article ]

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Bush, speaking to veterans, says Iraq may not be last strike
By David Stout, New York Times, August 26, 2003

President Bush defended his policy on Iraq today, declaring that the United States had struck a blow against terrorism in overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein. And Mr. Bush said the United States might carry out other pre-emptive strikes.

"No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos,'' Mr. Bush told members of the American Legion gathered in St. Louis for the group's convention.

"We've adopted a new strategy for a new kind of war,'' Mr. Bush said, to loud applause. "We will not wait for known enemies to strike us again. We will strike them in their camps or caves or wherever they hide, before they hit more of our cities and kill more of our citizens.'' [ complete article ]

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India's great divide
By Alex Perry, Time Asia, August 11, 2003

Surveying the sunset over Bombay's southern coastline from the calm of his palatial first-floor office, police joint commissioner Ahmad Javed could scarcely look less like an outsider. His uniform is stiff with starch, his shoes impeccably shined, and when the 45-year-old smoothes his neatly clipped moustache, he does so with perfectly manicured fingers. On his polished wood desk, an In tray bulges with the responsibilities of the second-most-senior policeman in India's biggest metropolis; meanwhile, outside a nervous line of saluting adjutants waits for signatures, permissions and orders in triplicate. When Javed speaks, it is with the erudite polish and faintly Victorian manner of India's finest private school, St. Stephen's College in New Delhi. The consummate insider, Javed is a man whose instincts and hopes -- whose entire being -- are governed by the system he serves. "We have a saying in the service," he says. "Once you don your khakis, they become your religion."

Looking down at the same shoreline from the top floor of a nearby hotel, 44-year-old "Umar" is reflecting on a life spent almost entirely outside the Indian mainstream. Affable, neatly bearded and smartly dressed, Umar (a pseudonym given to him by TIME) holds the senior rank of ansar, or guide, in India's loosely knit Muslim militant movement. In that capacity, he told Time, he has played a central role in a string of deadly bomb blasts that have rocked Bombay in the past eight months. Just last week, a bus was blown apart as it drove through eastern Bombay, killing three people and injuring 42. The police blame the attack on Umar's organization, an unnamed fundamentalist group made up primarily of former members of the outlawed Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Umar and Javed, both Indian Muslims, began their careers simultaneously in the mid-'70s. But they could hardly have chosen more different paths. While the policeman was taking his civil-service exams, Umar was being admitted as a full-time activist in SIMI, a fundamentalist group formed in the late 1970s and banned by New Delhi after 9/11. [ complete article ]

(Note - This article was published three weeks prior to the recent bombings in Bombay.)

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Hamas ready to meet Abbas, despite hits
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz, August 27, 2003

Hamas is prepared to continue dialogue with Palestinian Authority officials about renewing the recently-ended hudna, despite ongoing Israeli assassinations and attempted assassinations of Hamas leaders.

Hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Gaza yesterday for meetings with the Palestinian government and possibly with Hamas leaders, Israeli helicopter missiles launched at a car carrying Hamas operatives in northern Gaza City missed their target but killed a 65-year-old Jabalya man driving a donkey cart and wounded
20 others, including four children. [ complete article ]

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Bremer: Iraq effort to cost tens of billions
By Peter Slevin and Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, August 27, 2003

Iraq will need "several tens of billions" of dollars from abroad in the next year to rebuild its rickety infrastructure and revive its moribund economy, and American taxpayers and foreign governments will be asked to contribute substantial sums, U.S. occupation coordinator L. Paul Bremer said yesterday.

Bremer said Iraqi revenue will not nearly cover the bill for economic needs "almost impossible to exaggerate." [ complete article ]

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Even the optimists are losing heart as Iraq goes from bad to worse
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, August 27, 2003

I left [in late June] believing that against all the odds there was still a chance Iraq would succeed.

Nearly two months later, I have returned to Iraq and so much has changed. A wave of fury and despair among Iraqis has drowned out the few voices that filled me with hope. Those of my Iraqi friends who clung resolutely to their optimistic dreams are finally losing heart. They shrug their shoulders and begin to list the unrelenting failures of the new Iraq.

It is not that the power supply has still not improved. It has worsened. Four months after television screens across the world showed the victorious toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdous Square, power cuts are more frequent, not less. In many Baghdad homes the water that flows from the taps is brackish and undrinkable. Water treatment plants, short of electricity and poisoned by their own rusting pipes, are failing.

How could a country, the Iraqis ask, that spent $9bn (£5.73bn) a month fighting the war against Saddam not restore the power supply to a city within four months? [ complete article ]

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Iraq's leaky border with Iran
By James Hider, The Christian Science Monitor, August 27, 2003

Iraq's border with Iran is an open door for thousands of Iranian Shiite pilgrims being smuggled across the frontier, say Iraqi police. And their numbers may also be swollen by Arab fighters.

Iraqi border police at the northeastern crossing point of Al Munthriya say that members of two leading Shiite parties in Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council are helping the illegal pilgrim trade, unwittingly aiding the passage of terrorists, spies, and saboteurs into the country.

Police say that Arab fighters from Afghanistan and members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda may also be exploiting clandestine routes through the arid hill country on the frontier, where pilgrims dodge scant border controls with support from members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Islamic Dawa. [ complete article ]

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North Korea: Six countries in search of a solution
By John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus, August 26, 2003

War so far has not returned to the Korean peninsula. Negotiators from six countries--North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States--are about to sit down in Beijing to keep it that way. In a world dominated by military "solutions" to obdurate problems, even the muted vote for diplomacy represented by the upcoming Six-Party Talks should be cause for celebration.

But few are optimistic about this latest attempt to solve the current Korean crisis. Most pundits believe that the best possible outcome of the August 27-29 meetings would be a time and a date for the next parley. If one of the six doesn't storm out, the meeting will be a success. The United States has refused to offer any inducements; North Korea has not diminished its harsh rhetoric toward the United States. Japan, meanwhile, has insisted on introducing the issue of abductees, which may very well torpedo the discussions. Although South Korea, China, and Russia are eager for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, they are the least influential of the six. [ complete article ]

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Governing Iraq
International Crisis Group Report, August 25, 2003

The horrific bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 has focused renewed attention on the question of who, if anyone, is capable of governing Iraq in the current highly volatile environment and, in particular, on what ought to be the respective roles, during the occupation period, of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the Interim Governing Council and the United Nations. This report proposes a new distribution of authority between the three – potentially acceptable to the United States, the wider international community and the majority of Iraqis – which would enable Iraq's transitional problems, including the critical issue of security, to be much more effectively addressed. [ complete article ]

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U.S. exhausts seized Iraqi assets, may seek more aid
By Adam Entous, Reuters, August 26, 2003

U.S. authorities in Iraq have all but exhausted the seized assets they have used to pay Iraqi civil servants, and some administration and congressional officials said on Tuesday that extra money may be needed sooner than expected for U.S. efforts in the occupied state.

U.S. Treasury Department spokesman Tony Fratto said a cash shipment of $419 million would be made in the next week from a New York Federal Reserve account that once held $1.7 billion and this would "nearly exhaust the available vested funds."

One key U.S. lawmaker, after high-level meetings in Baghdad on the funding issue, said other ways would be found to pay Iraqi worker salaries and pensions, but a senior congressional aide called the situation "a mess." [ complete article ]

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Mumbai blasts ignite mosque debate
By Ranjit Devraj, Asia Times, August 27, 2003

Monday's blasts seemed to echo a series of bombings that hit Mumbai [Bombay] in 1993 as part of nationwide sectarian violence that erupted after Hindu fundamentalist groups demolished the 16th century Babri masjid at Ayodhya town in northern Uttar Pradesh state. At least 2,000 people died in the post-demolition violence.

Many Hindus believe, or have been led to believe, that the Babri masjid was built by invading Muslims over a temple which marked the birthplace of the Hindu warrior deity Ram 10,000 years ago.

In the decade since the demolition, politics in India seemed to revolve around plans to build a grand temple to Ram on the site where the mosque stood. The issue, an emotional one, helped the pro-Hindu, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to come to power in 1998 under Vajpayee. [ complete article ]

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New U.N. resolution on Iraq jeopardized by fierce resistance: U.S. officials
By Agence France-Presse, August 26, 2003

The United States is rethinking plans to press ahead with a new UN resolution that would expand the mandate of the stabilization force in Iraq after meeting fierce resistance from opponents of the war, US officials said.

Although the officials stressed the idea was not dead they said the initial reaction to US suggestions presented last week had not been positive and that their hopes for passing a new resolution in early September had dimmed. [ complete article ]

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How the Taliban builds its army
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, August 27, 2003

Progress in science and technology has a direct impact on battlefields, where missile technology, supreme aircraft, nuclear bombs, chemical weapons and the like have changed the dynamics of fighting over the years.

However, despite such advancements in technology, the human element, notably inspiration, remains a decisive force in any struggle. The Taliban, perhaps, realized this a long time ago, and in their period in power in Afghanistan from 1996-2001 they placed much emphasis on generating the human resources that would be committed to their cause. [ complete article ]

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Ethnic violence simmers in Kirkuk, Iraq
By Tarek al-Issawit, Associated Press, August 26, 2003

Kirkuk, until ethnic violence broke out over the weekend, appeared to be the American ideal for a postwar Iraqi city.

Rich in oil, Kirkuk seemed a law-abiding metropolis where ethnic Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians live side by side, interacting and doing business. The city is perhaps the only one in Iraq where drivers stop for traffic lights, a far cry from the chaos of Baghdad.

Scratch the surface, as Saturday's events showed, and the reality of Kirkuk is troubled with deeply rooted ethnic violence.

While U.S. troops in other Iraqi cities are busy dealing with attacks against them, in Kirkuk, a traditionally Kurdish city, they are preoccupied with acting as riot police. [ complete article ]

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Key U.S. official quits ahead of North Korea talks
By Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, August 26, 2003

One of the United States' most experienced North Korea negotiators has resigned ahead of what may be the start of a key cycle of talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials said on Monday.

Charles "Jack" Pritchard, the U.S. special envoy to North Korea, stepped down on Friday, just days before this week's six-party talks in Beijing designed to persuade Pyongyang to give up its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The State Department praised Pritchard's "distinguished career" and said he decided to join the private sector after years of government service. But the timing of the decision was unusual, coming just as what may be the administration's first substantive talks with the communist regime were to start.

Pritchard advocated engaging the North in negotiations in an administration deeply divided on the issue. A holdover from the Clinton administration, he was viewed as an adversary by some Bush hard-liners, who have resisted talks with Pyongyang. [ complete article ]

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Palestinian security feud heats up
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, August 26, 2003

After months of seemingly being in the background, Yasser Arafat has asserted his primacy in Palestinian politics at a critical moment in the Middle East conflict.

Following a Hamas bombing that killed 21 people in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Colin Powell called publically last week on Mr. Arafat to make the security apparatus under his control available to Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. But Arafat appears to have moved in the opposite direction, tightening his grasp on the forces. [ complete article ]

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Debunking the myth of the 'Arab street'
By Ari Melber, Baltimore Sun, August 26, 2003

Politicians in the Middle East and the United States agree on one thing: The occupation of Iraq will shape how America is viewed in the infamous "Arab street."

But any examination of public opinion in the region should begin by discarding this misleading cliche. [ complete article ]

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Unprepared for peace in Iraq
By Senator Robert C. Byrd, Washington Post, August 26, 2003

Today I urge President Bush to review his options. It is time to ask the world community not only for assistance in restoring peace and security in Iraq but also for participation in moving Iraq toward self-government. While the secretary of state has opened a dialogue with the United Nations, it must be a true exchange and not a U.S. monologue.

What has become tragically clear is that the United States has no strong plan for turning Iraq over to the Iraqi people and is quickly losing even its ability to maintain order. The administration is stumbling through the dark, hoping by luck to find the lighted path to peace and stability.

Despite the best hopes for an Iraqi democracy, the Iraqi people and the world see only the worst fears of occupation. Instead of inspiring steps toward self-government, we witness hit-and-run murders of U.S. soldiers, terrorist attacks and sabotage. Our military action in Iraq has forged a caldron of contempt for America, a dangerous brew that may poison the efforts of peace throughout the Middle East and result in the rapid invigoration of worldwide terrorism. [ complete article ]

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New industry in Baghdad: Kidnapping for ransom
By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, August 26, 2003

One morning last month, Martin Shukur was standing outside his family's home when a gray Mercedes-Benz sedan rolled up to the front gate with four well-dressed men inside.

"Are you Adnan's son?" one of them asked.

Martin, a tall, baby-faced 17-year-old whose father is a wealthy businessman, said yes. One of the men pulled out an AK-47 and demanded that Martin get into the car. It was the beginning of a 16-day ordeal that ended only when Martin's father paid a $30,000 ransom -- a vast sum in Iraq. Martin was returned alive, though badly beaten.

He is the latest reported victim in a wave of kidnappings, Iraqi officials say, by members of Saddam Hussein's security and intelligence services. The kidnappers are well armed and organized, and often use torture techniques similar to those used against political prisoners under the old government. The kidnappers seem to have access to information about the capital's wealthiest families and have been paid as much as $100,000 in ransom. [ complete article ]

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Beware the bluewash
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 26, 2003

The US government's problem is that it has built its foreign policy on two great myths. The first is that it is irresistible; the second is that as time advances, life improves. In Iraq it is trapped between the two. To believe that it can be thwarted, and that its occupation will become harder rather than easier to sustain as time goes by, requires that it disbelieves all that it holds to be most true.

But those who oppose its foreign policy appear to have responded with a myth of equal standing: that what unilateralism cannot solve, multilateralism can. The United Nations, almost all good liberals now argue, is a more legitimate force than the US and therefore more likely to succeed in overseeing Iraq's reconstruction and transition. If the US surrendered to the UN, this would, moreover, represent the dawning of a fairer, kinder world. These propositions are scarcely more credible than those coming out of the Pentagon.

The immediate and evident danger of a transition from US occupation to UN occupation is that the UN becomes the dustbin into which the US dumps its failed adventures. The American and British troops in Iraq do not deserve to die any more than the Indian or Turkish soldiers with whom they might be replaced. But the governments that sent them, rather than those that opposed the invasion, should be the ones that have to answer to their people for the consequences. [ complete article ]

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Shiite clerics clashing over how to reshape Iraq
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, August 26, 2003

The clerics who hold sway over Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority are locked in a violent power struggle pitting the older, established ayatollahs counseling patience with the occupation against a younger, more militant faction itching to found an Islamic state.

The militants are suspected of carrying out a series of attacks, including one over the weekend, engineered to eliminate or at least unsettle Najaf's religious scholars just as Shiites feel their moment has come. The bloodshed started in April with the murder of a prominent young cleric, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, inside the city's most holy shrine. That slaying remains such a tinderbox issue that the police and prosecutors only reluctantly confirmed for the first time today that some 12 suspects had been rounded up this month and more arrests were pending.

The tense standoff, as described by clerics from both factions, is playing out among the twisting alleyways of this holy seat, a battle for the leadership of Iraq's Shiite community, which accounts for 60 percent of the country's population of about 25 million. [ complete article ]

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Fear hangs over funeral for cleric's aides in Najaf
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 26, 2003

Hundreds of mourners surged through this holy city today, the stifling air laden with their sweat and grief. Green, red and white flags symbolic of Shiite Muslim devotion flew over the crowd. Some called for revenge for a bombing that slightly wounded a senior cleric and killed three of his bodyguards. Others chanted simply, "There is no god but God."

In the funeral march that wound toward the cleric's house, Nizar Yusuf stayed quiet. He was glum, he said, and afraid.

"It's already started," said Yusuf, wearing the white turban of a Shiite cleric and the youthful beard of the religious students who call this southern city home. "We know from reading history that when it becomes bad, it only gets worse."

The bombing Sunday that tore a four-foot hole in the brick-and-plaster wall of the office of Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed Hakim sent a shudder through this city, the spiritual home of Iraq's Shiite majority. Rumors about who was responsible swirled through the streets. Religious leaders called for calm and unity. But from the shrine of Imam Ali, which makes Najaf sacred, to the shops along its warren of alleys, there was anxiety over what lay ahead. [ complete article ]

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For Al Qaeda, Iraq may be the next battlefield
By Nicholas Blanford and Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 2003

Jihad in Iraq? The devastating Al Qaeda-style suicide bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad has given new heft to declarations by US officials that there is mounting evidence of Islamist fighters crossing Iraq's borders.

It's also spurring analysts to ask if Iraq is becoming the new Afghanistan - a magnet for Islamic extremists bent on waging jihad against the United States in the heart of the Arab world.

"Iraq is developing as Al Qaeda's new battlefield," says Rohan Gunaratna, an author and terrorism expert. "Without a theater of jihad, they cannot produce terrorists for operations anywhere else. They lost Afghanistan, so they needed a new combat theater in which to train and inspire. And the US invasion gave it to them." [ complete article ]

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Groping in the dark
By Evan Thomas, Newsweek, September 1, 2003

Iraq may be spinning out of control, but in the Bush administration, the spin was strictly controlled. From Baghdad to the White House, administration spokesmen went to elaborate lengths to argue that the presence of terrorists in Iraq was somehow a positive development.

Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, adopted a tone of "we've got 'em right where we want 'em." Bremer said: "Better to fight it here than to fight it somewhere else, like the United States." At a White House briefing, a senior administration official echoed, "I would rather fight them in Baghdad than in New York." If Al Qaeda has popped up in Baghdad, the Bushies defiantly proclaimed, it only goes to show that the administration was right all along to label Iraq as a terrorist haven. "Those who said there was no link between Iraq and the war on terror were dead wrong," said the White House official. (Writing in The New York Times, Harvard lecturer and former Clinton national-security official Jessica Stern caustically observed, "America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.") [ complete article ]

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The face of Afghanistan's resistance
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, August 26, 2003

The significant increase in the number and nature of attacks on US targets, as well as on the Afghan administration, provides indisputable evidence that the Taliban are back with a vengeance, especially in the south of the country. It is now as clear as broad daylight that neither an indigenous force nor a foreign force (not even one with massive bombers ruling the skies) can control the resistance movement.

On the face of it, the Taliban are the most isolated guerrilla fighters in the world, with no moral or material help from outside the country. However, there is an intriguing world within Afghanistan and Pakistan that supports and facilitates the struggle against foreign troops. [ complete article ]

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A tally of U.S. taxpayers' tab for Iraq
By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 2003

Looking at Iraq alone, one congressional expert puts the cost for this fiscal year (ending next month) at $80 billion, of which $62 million is charged to the Defense Department.

That works out to $281 per man, woman, and child in this country. This sum doesn't include the extra gasoline and other fuel costs, nor Afghanistan.

Most experts expect the occupation costs to continue indefinitely. [ complete article ]

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Fractious Shiites keep U.S. invasion forces guessing
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, August 26, 2003

Another of the great unknowns in Iraq's postwar equation raised its ugly head at the weekend when a crude gas-cylinder bomb exploded outside the home of a prominent Shiite cleric in the holy city of Najaf.

In a country where the remnants of the former regime are accused of everything, it came as no surprise that followers of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Said al-Hakim blamed the attack on members of the outlawed Baath Party, accusing them of attempting to divide the powerful and majority Shiites.

But already there are deep divisions in the Hawza, the combined Shiite religious movement. It sits like a time bomb on the table at every planning meeting in which the Americans wrestle for control of Iraq.

The great unknown is how the Shiites will place their bets in the coming months. [ complete article ]

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The philosophers of chaos reap a whirlwind
By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, August 23, 2003

The intensification of violence in Iraq is the logical outcome of the Bush administration's choice in 2001 to treat terrorism as a military problem with a military solution - a catastrophic oversimplification.

Choosing to invade two Islamic states, Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inflated the crisis, in the eyes of millions of Muslims, into a clash between the United States and Islamic society.

The two wars did not destroy Al Qaeda. They won it new supporters. The United States is no more secure than it was before. [ complete article ]

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A weapons cache we'll never see
By Scott Ritter, New York Times, August 25, 2003

Some 1,500 American investigators are scouring the Iraqi countryside for evidence of weapons of mass destruction that has so far eluded them. Known as the Iraq Survey Group and operating under the supervision of a former United Nations weapons inspector, David Kay, they are searching mostly for documents that will help them assemble a clear, if somewhat circumstantial, case that Iraq had or intended to have programs to produce prohibited weapons.

It is a daunting task. And according to many Iraqi scientists and officials I have spoken to, it is not being done very well. [ complete article ]

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Intelligence agencies in a swamp of doubt
By Jonathan D. Pollack, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2003

On Wednesday, diplomats from six nations will convene in Beijing in the most ambitious attempt to date to resolve the festering North Korean nuclear crisis. Among the crucial questions to ask: What nuclear capabilities does Pyongyang have? What can it produce and when? And how can the United States judge North Korea's answers?

Enter the American intelligence process. But after the controversial estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, will the intelligence community be able to deal with these questions, and with what degree of confidence?

For many reasons, political ones not the least, the community's track record does not offer much encouragement. [ complete article ]

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Shi'ites march in Iraqi city after attack on cleric
By Michael Georgy, Reuters, August 25, 2003

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims thronged the streets of the holy city of Najaf Monday for the funerals of three bodyguards killed in a bomb attack on the office of a top cleric.

Carrying posters of Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim, who suffered light neck wounds in Sunday's bombing, some blamed the attack on supporters of rival Shi'ite leader Moqtada al Sadr and called for revenge.

"This was Moqtada al Sadr. His people did it," said 60-year- old Muslim Raadi, part of the angry crowd of at least 2,000 which swarmed behind the three wooden coffins.

"Now there will be revenge. The only way to stop this is for the people of Najaf to stop it. We will have to form our own militia."

Power struggles in Najaf are a key influence on the political future of majority Shi'ite Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Red Cross cuts Iraq operations
By BBC News, August 24, 2003

The International Committee of the Red Cross is cutting back its operations in Iraq after warnings that it could be targeted for attack.

The number of foreign staff in Baghdad is being reduced to about 50 as the level of violence throughout the country has failed to abate and the organisation fears that US-led forces cannot ensure security. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis celebrate 'martyrs' of the resistance movement
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2003

When Azadeen Abdullah Ani was buried, thousands poured out to celebrate a new martyr.

Azadeen died trying to kill American soldiers. Part of a festering and, by all accounts, widening guerrilla resistance to U.S. occupation, Ani, 44, one evening last month stood on a ramshackle market street not far from his brothers' house, pointed a grenade launcher at a convoy of U.S. military vehicles and opened fire. The Americans gunned him down immediately.

At the funeral, men fired guns into the air and shouted "Allahu akbar!" -- "God is great!" -- as they converged on the New Samarra Cemetery. Hours earlier, Ani's brothers had retrieved his bloodied body from the hospital morgue and put up the black posters announcing his death.

They received hundreds of neighbors paying visits to express not condolences, the brothers stressed, but congratulations. [ complete article ]

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U.S. recruiting Hussein's spies
By Anthony Shadid and Daniel Williams, Washington Post, August 24, 2003

U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a covert campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces here after months of increasingly sophisticated attacks and bombings, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The extraordinary move to recruit agents of former president Saddam Hussein's security services underscores a growing recognition among U.S. officials that American military forces -- already stretched thin -- cannot alone prevent attacks like the devastating truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters this past week, the officials said.

Authorities have stepped up the recruitment over the past two weeks, one senior U.S. official said, despite sometimes adamant objections by members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, who complain that they have too little control over the pool of recruits. While U.S. officials acknowledge the sensitivity of cooperating with a force that embodied the ruthlessness of Hussein's rule, they assert that an urgent need for better and more precise intelligence has forced unusual compromises. [ complete article ]

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A war without end? - Any illusion that the occupation might be working lies in the ruins of the U.N.'s H.Q.
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, August 24, 2003

Bulldozers are still carefully sifting through the rubble of the Canal Hotel, the UN's headquarters in Iraq, in case there are any more bodies to find from last week's bombing. Those UN staff brave enough to stay on are working in tents outside the wreckage, under the searing sun.

But more than just the Canal Hotel is in ruins. Down among the rubble lay the last illusions that the American occupation of Iraq might be working. After a week in which Iraq's main oil pipeline to the north was set on fire, the water supply to Baghdad was sabotaged, and the UN's chief envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was murdered along with at least 22 other people in what many are calling the worst attack on the UN in its history, no one doubts any more that the occupation here is in trouble.

It was made clear in the most savage way last week that the Americans and their allies are facing ruthless and organised resistance to their occupation. Yet it was also one of the Americans' most successful weeks in terms of their hunt for the former members of Saddam's regime. Both Saddam's former vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, and, more importantly, Al Hassan al-Majid, the man known as Chemical Ali, were captured. That the news of their capture was overshadowed by the week's other events shows how successfully those responsible for the bombing of the UN headquarters have been able to change the agenda in Iraq. The story is no longer about the hunt for Saddam and his henchmen - it is about an occupation in danger of turning into a nightmare. [ complete article ]

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Bomb targets key Iraqi Shiite cleric
By Steven R. Hurst, Associated Press, August 24, 2003

A bomb exploded outside the house of one of Iraqi's most important Shiite clerics on Sunday, killing three guards and injuring 10 others. The fresh violence comes as the U.S.-led coalition quietly recruits former Iraqi spies to work with American intelligence officials in the country, according to Iraqis.

The gas cylinder bomb was placed along the outside wall of the home of Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim in Najaf, one of Shiite Islam's holiest cities. It exploded after noon prayers.

The cleric suffered scratches on his neck, said Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, a member of Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council and leader of what was the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headquartered in Iran before the war. [ complete article ]

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Even while Rumsfeld continues to insist that the U.S. has enough troops in Iraq, leading neo-conservatives William Kristol and Robert Kagan are making a u-turn on their pre-war assumptions.

Do what it takes in Iraq
By William Kristol and Robert Kagan, The Weekly Standard, September 1, 2003

...while it is indeed possible that, with a little luck, the United States can muddle through to success in Iraq over the coming months, the danger is that the resources the administration is devoting to Iraq right now are insufficient, and the speed with which they are being deployed is insufficiently urgent. These failings, if not corrected soon, could over time lead to disaster. [ complete article ]

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Ethnic tensions flare in northern Iraq
By Joseph Logan, Reuters, August 24, 2003

Iraqi police patrolled the streets of Kirkuk Sunday after ethnic violence in northern Iraq left several dead, stoking further tension in a country already grappling with lawlessness and a guerrilla insurgency.

Clashes between Kurds and Turkmen erupted Friday in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, and unrest spread on Saturday to Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city that is a key oil industry hub.

Funerals for some of those killed in the violence were due to be held on Sunday, creating more potential flashpoints.

The mayor of Tuz Khurmatu, about 40 miles south of Kirkuk, said the fighting was sparked when Turkmen accused Kurds of desecrating a revered Shi'ite shrine outside the city. [ complete article ]

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