The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Taliban campaigns for Muslim support
By Paul Haven, Associated Press (via Newsday), October 16, 2003

The Taliban have launched an unprecedented campaign to win money and support from Muslim militants outside Afghanistan amid a resurgence by the group marked by roadside killings, ambushes and public statements boasting of their successes.

After remaining relatively quiet for months, a bevy of Taliban spokesmen have been turning up on Arab TV and the Pakistani media, and a handful have started making direct phone calls to the international press, including The Associated Press.

The calls have increased in step with a bolder, bloodier insurgency that has shaken faith in the Washington-backed Afghan government's ability to assert its control, and the U.S. military's resolve at crushing the rebels. [complete article]

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An unofficial peace plan worthy of support
By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, October 18, 2003

The people who drafted the Geneva plan - with Swiss support - have reached detailed compromise agreements on all of the key obstacles to past agreement. The general form of any acceptable peace agreement always was known. Now this draft gives the details.

Everyone understands that Israel must choose between three possibilities.

One is to accept the principle upon which this Geneva draft plan is based: retirement from the territories seized in 1967 (with modest modifications, as detailed in the plan), so as to live as a democracy alongside an independent Palestinian state.

The second is to continue military control of the territories while the current Palestinian population, within five to eight years, comes to outnumber the Jewish population. In that case a democratic Israel will cease to be a Jewish state, or the Jewish state will cease to be a democracy, dominating (if it can) an enlarging Arab majority deprived of civic rights.

The third option is the one the Sharon government obviously has chosen, with Bush administration acquiescence. As New York University's Tony Judt puts it, it is for Israel to become "the first modern democracy to conduct full-scale ethnic cleansing as a state project," and thus to become a permanent "international pariah." [complete article]

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Turkey cools towards Iraq role
BBC News, October 18, 2003

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he may reverse a decision to send troops to Iraq if Iraqis continue to oppose the idea.

Turkey's parliament had voted in favour of sending troops to Iraq at the request of the US, but the Iraqi Governing Council responded with firm opposition to the presence of troops from surrounding nations.

"If the Iraqi people say: 'We don't want anybody,' then there's nothing else we can do. If wanted, we'll go, if not wanted, we won't go. We haven't made a definite decision," Mr Erdogan said on Saturday. [complete article]

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Bush's 'dream team' plagued by infighting, backstabbing
By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren Strobel and William Douglas, Knight Ridder, October 17, 2003

In the days before he assumed the presidency in 2001, George W. Bush liked to boast about the foreign policy "Dream Team" he had assembled.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were all "smart people" who would compensate for the former Texas governor's lack of international experience.

"General Powell's a strong figure, and Dick Cheney's no shrinking violet, nor Condi Rice," Bush said in December 2000. "I view the four as being able to complement each other."

But after nearly three years in office, Bush's dream team is beset by infighting, backstabbing and maneuvering on major foreign policy issues involving North Korea, Syria, Iran and postwar Iraq. The result has been paralysis, inconsistency and a zigzagging U.S. policy that confuses lawmakers on Capitol Hill and disturbs America's friends, allies and would-be partners. [complete article]

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Many Japanese see no choice on Iraq
By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, October 17, 2003

Nursing a beer at a sports bar in Tokyo's neon-studded Shibuya district, Yutaka Noguchi looked up and sighed when asked about President Bush's official visit to Japan on Friday.

"Bush is coming here because he wants support on Iraq, and Japan does not have any choice -- we have to comply," said Noguchi, 35, a video game magazine editor. "When it comes to the United States, we are stuck in the role of yes-man. No matter how much we disagree with America on this issue, we are not in a position to say no."

Noguchi is far from alone in his feelings about the American president, who is beginning a seven-day Asian tour. Public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Japanese oppose involvement in Iraq. But spurred by Bush's visit, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is nevertheless set to buck public opinion and pledge on Friday to dispatch a token military force. [complete article]

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A solid vote that buttresses 'Made in USA'
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, October 17, 2003

The Bush administration, having won unanimous approval yesterday of a U.N. Security Council resolution that backs the U.S.-appointed Iraqi leaders, was muted in its celebration -- and for good reason.

President Bush greeted the vote with one sentence, thanking the Security Council, toward the end of a speech in California and an 80-word written statement. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, while calling it "a great achievement," was careful to add: "I don't see this vote as opening the door to troops." [complete article]

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Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor
By Mark Benjamin, UPI, October 17, 2003

One month after President Bush greeted soldiers at Fort Stewart -- home of the famed Third Infantry Division -- as heroes on their return from Iraq, approximately 600 sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses.

The Reserve and National Guard soldiers are on what the Army calls "medical hold," while the Army decides how sick or disabled they are and what benefits -- if any -- they should get as a result.

Some of the soldiers said they have waited six hours a day for an appointment without seeing a doctor. Others described waiting weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment. [complete article]

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Sending Turkish troops to Iraq is 'a bad idea'
Zaman interview, October 16, 2003

Graham Fuller, former deputy chairman of CIA's National Intelligence Council and author of The Future of Political Islam, said 'under present circumstances and conditions it's a bad idea to send Turkish troops to Iraq'.

Fuller is concerned Turkish troops would be targeted by radical Sunni Arab and Kurdish groups, and even might intimidate Iran and Iraqi Shiite.

Mr. Fuller criticizes Bush administration for thinking in very 'short-term' and 'tactical' terms by requesting Turkish troops 'to replace the American troops who are being killed', and warns of 'great conflicts and disagreements between Turkey and Washington in the future over the Turkish role in Iraq' because two countries interests do not exactly converge.

Fuller also claims neo-cons in Washington push Turkish troops towards Iraq so that Turkey stays solely on the U.S. orbit rather than European Union (EU). According to Mr. Fuller, Israel as well as neo-cons do not want to see Turkey oriented towards the E.U. [complete article]

See also the March 2002 Foreign Relations article on which Fuller's book of the same title is based, The Future of Political Islam.

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Senior federal prosecutors and F.B.I. officials fault Ashcroft over leak inquiry
By David Johnston and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, October 16, 2003

Several senior criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department and top F.B.I. officials have privately criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft for failing to recuse himself or appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity.

The criticism reflects the first sign of dissension in the department and the F.B.I. as the inquiry nears a critical phase. The attorney general must decide whether to convene a grand jury, which could compel White House officials to testify.

The criminal justice officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, represent a cross section of experienced criminal prosecutors and include political supporters of Mr. Ashcroft at the department's headquarters here and at United States attorneys' offices around the country. [complete article]

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Brewing power struggle in Kabul
By Halima Kazem, Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2003

Carving a pathway for travelers and warriors alike, Afghanistan's crystalline Panjshir River has long been the guide through the mountainous northern provinces.

Today, many of the valley's lush fields are lined with rows of new Russian military tanks and rocket launchers. This new stockpile, along with most of the country's artillery reserves and a 50,000-strong militia, are under the thumb of the Afghan minister of defense, Mohammed Qasim Fahim.

As a top leader in the Northern Alliance - the primary military faction that joined with the US to oust the Taliban - Mr. Fahim is making no secret of the fact that he and his fellow ethnic Tajiks are not willing to be sidelined during the run-up to next year's elections. A power struggle between Fahim and President Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, has Western diplomats and coalition commanders concerned. Any change in leadership is seen as an unwanted distraction from the process of nationbuilding and the war on terrorism. [complete article]

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CIA and Pentagon split over uranium intrigue
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 17, 2003

A bitter row has broken out between the CIA and Pentagon over reports that Iraqi uranium was smuggled to Iran, demonstrating that the rifts between the US agencies are as deep as ever.

The tangled tale of contraband, radiation sickness, two shifty middlemen, secret meetings and demands for cash is the stuff of Hollywood, though it might make a better comedy than an action movie.

Yet no uranium was found, the distrust between the CIA and the defence department leadership has worsened, and the hunt for banned weapons to justify the Iraq invasion is growing even more desperate. [complete article]

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U.S. should accept inevitable, return Iraq to the Iraqis
By Daniel Pipes, Chicago Sun-Times, October 17, 2003

[The] divergences between Iraqis and their liberators are likely to increase over time.

What to do?

It's simple, actually: Turn power over to the Iraqis. Let them form a government. Reduce the scope of presidential envoy Paul Bremer's role.

Take coalition forces off their patrols of city streets and away from protecting buildings, and put them in desert bases. From there, they can undertake the key tasks of controlling the borders, guaranteeing the oil and gas infrastructure, chasing down Saddam Hussein, and providing the ultimate authority for the Iraqi government -- without being in the Iraqi population's face. [complete article]

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Perle's horizons
Michael Oren and Bret Stephens interview Richard Perle, Jerusalem Post, October 17, 2003

Oren: What do you think the American position should be vis-a-vis Syria?

Perle: Syria is itself a terrorist organization. America should be much tougher on the Syrians…. There's a leak coming out of Washington which seems to come from the Treasury that there is a substantial amount of Saddam’s money in Syria and some of it is being used to finance these acts of terror in Iraq.

Stephens: If that is substantiated, do you think it will prompt the US to take action against Syria?

Perle: I hope so.
Stephens: There's a story told about Bush's visit to the World Trade Center, right after the attack.

He was chatting with some hard hats, and he looked at this one guy and said, "What can I do for you?"

And the man said, "Help the widows and orphans."

And Bush said, "No, what can I do for you?"

And the man said, "You go find whichever m--f-- did this and you kill him and his wife and his mother and his children and his dog and everyone who so much as served him a cup of coffee."

And Bush said, "You won't be disappointed."

Perle: That story sounds right to me. You know, a lot of our guys in Iraq carry around pieces of the World Trade Center. The chattering classes are talking about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. These guys are under no illusions. It's all part of the same war. [complete article]

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Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq
Danny Postel interviews Shadia Drury, Open Democracy, October 16, 2003

What was initially an anti-war argument is now a matter of public record. It is widely recognised that the Bush administration was not honest about the reasons it gave for invading Iraq.

Paul Wolfowitz, the influential United States deputy secretary of defense, has acknowledged that the evidence used to justify the war was "murky" and now says that weapons of mass destruction weren't the crucial issue anyway (see the book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: the uses of propaganda in Bush's war on Iraq (2003.)

By contrast, Shadia Drury, professor of political theory at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, argues that the use of deception and manipulation in current US policy flow directly from the doctrines of the political philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973). His disciples include Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives who have driven much of the political agenda of the Bush administration. [complete article]

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Behind a widening U.S.-Arab clash
By Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2003

Two years into the war on terrorism, the US and the Arab world are as estranged as ever, and appear to be drifting further and further apart.

The situation may not yet be the "clash of civilizations" foreseen by Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington in a now-famous 1993 journal article. But on both sides, opinions seem to be hardening, while conflict spreads to new fronts. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld's spin on a Stars and Stripes survey revealing low moral among the troops was to say that "it was an informal and admittedly nonscientific poll." Nonscientific or not, the response to question nine is the one that will worry the Pentagon:

How likely is it that you will stay in the military after your current obligation is complete?

Very likely 18% (no. of responses 340)
Likely 13% (245)
Possible 18% (353)
Not likely 17% (333)
Very unlikely 32% (611)

Survey indicates U.S. troop morale problems in Iraq
By Charles Aldinger, Reuters, October 17, 2003

The Pentagon's top general expressed concern on Thursday over a survey suggesting major morale problems among the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, saying he was sometimes allowed to talk only to "happy" troops.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was personally worried that when he and other top officers visited troops, they were only allowed to talk to "all the happy folks."

"I want to see the folks that have complaints. And sometimes they won't let them near me," Myers said when pressed about the Stars and Stripes newspaper survey in which half of 1,939 troops responding said morale in their unit was low or very low and that they did not plan to reenlist in the military. [complete article]

See also Ground truth: Conditions, contrasts and morale (Stars and Stripes).

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Bush orders officials to stop the leaks
By Joseph L. Galloway and James Kuhnhenn, Philadephia Inquirer, October 16, 2003

Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used. [complete article]

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Palestine/Israel: One state for all its citizens
By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, October 16, 2003

Peace in Palestine through territorial partition is a doomed fantasy and the time has come to discard it. While it may once have worked on paper, in practice the Israeli state has succeeded, through the relentless colonization of the Occupied Territories and lately its grotesque separation barrier, in its long-standing goal of rendering any workable partition impossible.

While Israel was conceived as a state for Jews, Edward Said explained in 1999, the "effort to separate (Israelis and Palestinians) has occurred simultaneously and paradoxically with the effort to take more and more land, which has in turn meant that Israel has acquired more and more Palestinians." The result is that Israel can in the long run only remain a "Jewish state" through apartheid or, as some Israeli Cabinet ministers demand, ethnic cleansing. [complete article]

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Bomb attack highlights pivotal role of U.S. in region
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 16, 2003

In the back streets of Gaza's refugee camps they have little doubt about why they believe Ariel Sharon has a free hand to bulldoze their homes, rocket their neighbourhoods, and cage the West Bank behind a vast "security fence".

It is because America lets him to do so.

Within the Palestinian political class, a distinction is drawn between Americans. There are those seen as the real villains of the piece - the neoconservatives in the US security and military establishment, and a Congress in the pocket of the pro-Israel lobby. And there are those, led by Colin Powell, the secretary of state, who are acknowledged to take a more sceptical view of Israel's prime minister.

But the result is the same.

The sheer scale of American influence, its dual and contradictory role as the principal mediator in the conflict while at the same time remaining Israel's strongest ally, make the US an obvious target for the more extreme Palestinian factions. [complete article]

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Palestinian attack on American envoys a 'political disaster'
By Conal Urquhart, Chris McGreal and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, October 16, 2003

Palestinian militants took their war to the Americans yesterday by launching a large bomb attack on a US embassy convoy driving through Gaza, killing three American security guards and severely wounding a diplomat.

It was the first such attack on a foreign target during the past three years of intifada, and drew a threat from Washington to "pursue the perpetrators until they are caught and brought to justice".

A source close to the Palestinian Authority, who regularly met members of the American missions to Gaza City, said the bombing was disastrous for the Palestinians.

"No one wants to widen the conflict and I can't believe even Hamas or Islamic Jihad would be stupid enough to do it," he said. [complete article]

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Spies attack White House secrecy
By Noah Shachtman, Wired, October 16, 2003

There's a "total meltdown" in America's intelligence services -- and the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy is one of the major reasons why, current and former top U.S. spooks charged Tuesday.

George W. Bush's White House has pushed like few before it to put government information out of the public's grasp. Moves to classify documents are up 400 percent from a decade ago, to more than 23 million such actions in 2002, according to the Information Security Oversight Office, a division of the National Archives.

But despite their cloak-and-dagger reputation, several of the country's leading spies, past and present, aren't happy about the rush to make things secret. To counter far-reaching, stealthy terrorist cabals, the country needs more openness, not less, they said Wednesday at Geo-Intel 2003, a first-of-its-kind conference here on the use of satellites in war, intelligence and homeland security. [complete article]

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General casts war in religious terms
By Richard T. Cooper, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003

The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down and eliminating Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets to an Army general who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of covert military operations. From the bloody 1993 clash with Muslim warlords in Somalia chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" and the hunt for Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar to the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, Boykin was in the thick of things.

Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army's top-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan." [complete article]

The Pentagon unleashes a holy warrior
By William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003

In June of 2002, Jerry Boykin stepped to the pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., and described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993.

The photographs were taken shortly after the disastrous "Blackhawk Down" mission had resulted in the death of 18 Americans. When Boykin came home and had them developed, he said, he noticed a strange dark mark over the city. He had an imagery interpreter trained by the military look at the mark. "This is not a blemish on your photograph," the interpreter told him, "This is real."

"Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy," Boykin said to the congregation as he flashed his pictures on a screen. "It is the principalities of darkness It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy."

That's an unusual message for a high-ranking U.S. military official to deliver. But Boykin does it frequently. [complete article]

Pentagon defends Gen. who chided Muslims
Associated Press (via ABC News), October 16, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday he had not seen Boykin's comments, but he praised the three-star general, who is the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

"He is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had spoken in uniform at prayer breakfasts, adding he did not think Boykin broke any military rules by giving talks at churches.

"There is a very wide gray area on what the rules permit," Myers said. "At first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken." [complete article]

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Will the U.N. and the E.U. triumph over the U.S.?
By Paul Robinson, The Spectator, October 18, 2003

It is perhaps as well that we no longer have victory parades, but instead confine ourselves to memorial services for the war dead, such as the one [in London] at St Paul's Cathedral last Friday. The idea that the coalition won in Iraq would not gain wide support in this country, and is being treated with increasing scepticism in the United States.

That is not to say, of course, that the Americans failed militarily. On the contrary. They were triumphant, and remain triumphalist. That is part of the problem. Last month [BBC Television's] Panorama showed an American major confronting a civilian lying in a Baghdad hospital with a bullet wound in his chest. The officer believed that the Iraqi was responsible for an attack on American forces and wanted him to reveal the names of his supposed co-conspirators. 'Tell him,' the major said to the interpreter, 'that if he co-operates with us, we can save his life. We have good doctors. But if he doesn’t co-operate's bad for his health.' I'm happy to say that this was later revealed to be an unpleasant -- and unsuccessful -- bluff. It did, however, remind me of the reasons why America is in such trouble in Iraq; namely, its insistence on others' total submission, and its failure to comprehend the wider consequences of such hubristic behaviour. [complete article]

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The man who knew
60 Minutes II, CBS News, October 15, 2003

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, one moment seemed to be a turning point: the day Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations to make the case for the invasion.

Millions of people watched as he laid out the evidence and reached a damning conclusion -- that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Correspondent Scott Pelley has an interview with Greg Thielmann, a former expert on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Thielmann, a foreign-service officer for 25 years, now says that key evidence in the speech was misrepresented and the public was deceived. [complete article]

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A toothless resolution
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, October 15, 2003

Hip, hip, but not hurray. The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve the Bush administration's revised draft of a resolution designed to legitimize the U.S.-led occupation authority and the U.S.-commanded security force in Iraq. However, the vote will probably be close and, in any case, the support is certainly tepid.

There is good reason for this lack of enthusiasm. The resolution essentially changes nothing. Its drafters have paid lip service to accelerating the process of Iraqi self-governance and strengthening the United Nations' role in this process. But a close reading of the resolution indicates that all power remains in American hands, that no real authority is transferred to the United Nations, and that a new Iraqi government remains a long way off. [complete article]

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Iran and al-Qaeda: Odd bedfellows
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, October 17, 2003

Investigators from a special anti-terrorist cell in the European Union have expressed doubts over a Washington Post report this week in which sources claimed that Saad bin Laden, 24, Osama's eldest son, is now a top al-Qaeda member and that he runs operations out of Iran.

The paper reported its sources as saying that Saad and a close circle of about two dozen of bin Laden's trusted lieutenants are "protected by an elite, radical Iranian security force loyal to the nation's clerics and beyond the control of the central government".

Asia Times Online (see Iran lines up its al-Qaeda aces of July 2) has already reported that Iran has admitted to holding a number of al-Qaeda members in its custody.

But, Asia Times Online's European intelligence sources caution, "The leaks [to the Post], when put together, convey the impression that Iran, a Shi'ite Islamic Republic, is now supporting al-Qaeda, an Islamist, Wahhabi, terrorist, transnational organization. That is simply not true." [complete article]

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U.S. may face pressure to get tough on Palestinian militants
By Steve Goldstein, Knight Ridder, October 15, 2003

The roadside bomb that killed three U.S. private security guards traveling in an official convoy in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday may also have claimed another casualty: the argument that Palestinian militant groups are distinguishable from terrorist organizations.

Palestinian officials denounced the attack, and the militant groups denied responsibility. But members of Congress and terrorism analysts said the attack is likely to increase pressure on the U.S. government to treat Palestinian groups as kin to al-Qaida and its anti-American brethren. [complete article]

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U.S. weighs arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr
By Matt Kelley, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), October 16, 2003

US-led authorities in Iraq are preparing to confront -- and perhaps arrest -- a militant Shi'ite Muslim cleric whose militia has battled both American troops and moderate Shi'ites in recent days, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

The officials said they are growing increasingly worried that the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, is a threat to the US-led military coalition occupying Iraq. However, the Americans also want to avoid touching off rioting or other violence by moving against Sadr. [complete article]

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Tempting fate in Gaza
By Tony Karon, Time, October 15, 2003

The killings of three Americans in Gaza Wednesday may produce serious and long-lasting repercussions for the Palestinians. The first Palestinian terror attack deliberately directed at a U.S. target in more than two decades marks a fateful decision by some element in the murky underworld of Gaza's terror cells to link the Palestinian struggle against Israel to the global jihad against the U.S. That provides ammunition for Ariel Sharon's efforts to persuade Washington that Israel and the U.S. face the same terror threat. More important, while countries like Syria and Iran can provide support for groups that conduct terror attacks on Israelis, it makes it harder for countries like Syria and Iran to continue to support Palestinian terror attacks. The rush by the Palestinian Authority to denounce the attack as "an ugly crime" and by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad to distance themselves from it signals that none of the major Palestinian groups sees much good coming from bombing Americans. [complete article]

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Iraq war swells al Qaeda's ranks, report says
By Peter Graff , Reuters, October 15, 2003

War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report.

The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had turned the corner in the war on terror were "over-confident."

The report, widely considered an authoritative text on the military capabilities of states and militant groups worldwide, could prove fodder for critics of the U.S.-British invasion and of the reconstruction effort that has followed in Iraq.

Washington must impose security in Iraq to prevent the country from "ripening into a cause celebre for radical Islamic terrorists," it concluded. "Nation-building" in Iraq was paramount and might require more troops than initially planned. [complete article]

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CIA's role in peace process
By Tarik Kafala, BBC News, October 15, 2003

The Central Intelligence Agency - some of whose staff are reported to have been in the convoy attacked in Gaza on Wednesday - has a long history of involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The agency's operatives have had open contacts with the Palestinian officials since the mid-1990s.

In the current intifada, the CIA is one of the main communication channels between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The CIA's main formal activity is to monitor the compliance of both the Israelis and Palestinians with the terms of the "road map" - a peace process sponsored by the US, Russian, European Union and United Nations that is now in tatters. [complete article]

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Ex-chiefs disagree on intelligence overhaul
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, October 15, 2003

A former CIA director yesterday endorsed a drastic overhaul of the nation's intelligence system, while another said radical change could make matters worse.

The opposing views of former directors John M. Deutch and James R. Schlesinger, who testified before a bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, illustrate the depth of disagreement among experts over whether intelligence failures before the attacks can be solved through major reforms.

The debate over the creation of a domestic intelligence agency akin to Britain's is a central question facing the commission, a 10-member panel created by Congress to investigate issues related to the attacks in New York and on the Pentagon. [complete article]

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Khidhir Hamza: The bogus intelligence source
By Imad Khadduri, Yellow Times, October 15, 2003

Belatedly, in a September 29, 2003 article in the New York Times by Douglas Jehl, the Defense Intelligence Agency has awkwardly admitted that most of the intelligence and information offered by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) for the past several years, which was provided by Iraqi defectors of questionable credibility, was of little to no value, all at a cost of $150 billion, more than 300 dead American soldiers, and at least 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians.

A prominent and callous epithet of such defectors mentioned in the above article is Khidhir Hamza, the self-claimed Iraqi atomic "Bomb Maker." Given a short lived assignment in the Iraqi nuclear program in 1987 to lead the atomic bomb design team, he was kicked out a few months later for petty theft. Reduced to a non-entity in the accelerated nuclear weapons program between 1987 and the start of the 1991 war, he retired from the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission in 1989 and became a college lecturer, a stock market swindler and a shady business middle-man. [complete article]

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Turks will bring chaos, say Kurds
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, October 13, 2003

The Bush administration is in danger of scoring a disastrous own goal with its decision to bring Turkish peacekeeping troops into Iraq, a Kurdish leader has warned.

Necirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government in Irbil and a key US ally in the war to remove Saddam Hussein, said the plan to bring Turkish soldiers to Iraq had needlessly upset the pro-American Kurdish population in the north, and was also opposed by Sunni and Shia Arab communities in central and southern Iraq.

"We believe that their presence, or that of any other neighbouring country, on Iraqi soil will only create instability," Mr Barzani told the Guardian.

"The question on the table is: how much respect has the US for the will and the wish of the people of Iraq, the governing council, and the political parties of Iraq?" [complete article]

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Coalition officials say young cleric behind recent violence in Iraq
By Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, October 14, 2003

Coalition officials say a radical young cleric named Muqtada al Sadr is behind a recent spate of suicide bombings and political assassinations that he's using to try to gain power over Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. But they haven't yet decided how to deal with him for fear of touching off even worse violence.

Coalition officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say they now think that a car bombing Sunday at the Baghdad Hotel was a Sadr-inspired assassination attempt against Moffowak al Rubaie, a moderate Shiite physician who sits on Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council. Al Rubaie, who was in the hotel, was slightly wounded. Six Iraqis, mostly paramilitary police, were killed and at least 36 were injured. [complete article]

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Iraq: Good news vs. bad news
By Tony Karon, Time, October 15, 2003

Six months after U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, President Bush is working hard to convince Americans that things in Iraq are "a lot better than you probably think." The White House has launched an aggressive PR campaign to promulgate a more positive view. But accounts of emergent local commerce and the introduction of a new currency won't necessarily quiet concerns among ordinary Americans and their elected representatives over the costs of the war. The tally: 170,000 military reserves are currently on active duty, and a further 15,000 were recently mobilized, with soldiers looking at year-long tours of duty with no early end in sight. Based on trends, according to General Ricardo Sanchez, up to six of the soldiers deployed in Iraq will be killed each week, and around 40 will be wounded. Once Congress approves the $87 billion Iraq supplemental budget requested by the White House, the cost to the American taxpayer of remaking Iraq will have reached $166 billion. [complete article]

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Rafah camp hit again by Israeli bulldozers
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, October 15, 2003

Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved back into the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip yesterday, just days after the Israeli army destroyed about 100 houses, leaving some 2,000 people homeless and eight, including two children, dead. [...]

The Israeli army at first disputed the number of houses destroyed. But after the figures were confirmed by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and by independent news reports, the Israeli commander in the region, Colonel Eyal Eisenberg, said: "I want people to ask how many houses we have not demolished, not how many we have." [complete article]

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Israeli army will decide who's a resident
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, October 15, 2003

The route of the separation wall in those areas where it has already gone up and where it is planned proves once again that the Israeli security-settlement establishment never misses an opportunity to exploit the self-evident need of Israelis to feel safe in their country to expropriate huge tracts of Palestinian lands and annex them de facto to the state of Israel.

Since the route is not on the Green Line, but runs deep into the Palestinian areas, a new zone has been created between the wall and the state of Israel. It is known as "the seam area," a euphemism that prettifies and blurs the flagrant annexation process. [complete article]

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Three countries give U.S. a key Iraq concession
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, October 15, 2003

France, Russia and Germany on Tuesday dropped their demands that the United States grant the United Nations a central role in Iraq's reconstruction and yield power to a provisional Iraqi government in the coming months.

The move constituted a major retreat by the Security Council's chief antiwar advocates, and signaled their renewed willingness to consider the merits of a U.S. resolution aimed at conferring greater international legitimacy on its military occupation of Iraq. [complete article]

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At least 3 dead as blast hits U.S. convoy in Gaza
Associated Press (via NYT), October 15, 2003

A massive explosion ripped apart a U.S. diplomatic vehicle Wednesday, killing three Americans and wounding one in the first attack on a U.S. target in three years of Israel-Palestinian fighting.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The attack was condemned by Palestinian officials who said those killed were members of a U.S. monitoring team sent to the region to supervise implementation of a U.S.-backed peace plan.

Wednesday's attack could deal a major blow to Palestinian efforts to bring more international monitors to the region. [complete article]

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Iraqi Shiite split widens
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 2003

Depending on whom you talk to, Moqtada al-Sadr is either a young hot-head or a talented and pious son of one of Iraq's most revered Shiite clerics. But whomever you ask, he's clearly making waves and throwing the US-led coalition's plans for Iraq off kilter.

The radical cleric is also forcing to the surface splits within Iraq's Shiite community, oppressed under Saddam Hussein although representing about 60 percent of the population. By confronting other clerics and demanding more political power from the coalition he has revealed a patchwork of allegiances and grievances that show the Shiites are far from a monolithic political force. [complete article]

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Muqtader Sadr inspires devotion, doubts
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2003

Sadr's power base rests largely among those who have both the least to gain and the least to lose in the new Iraq -- angry, jobless, uneducated young Shiite men, recruited to his ranks primarily in the gritty streets of Sadr City, an enclave that was once called Saddam City but was renamed for Sadr's slain father after Hussein was toppled.

In Sadr City, the militant imam's fundamentalist message squares neatly with highly conservative social mores that are already in place, and an unsophisticated street audience that rarely questions his teachings that Islamic law, or Sharia, should be applied to all Iraqis and that unveiled women and immorality of all kinds should be severely punished.

Outside his flag-bedecked headquarters on a broad, rutted street, big signs advise the faithful not to talk to outsiders without first clearing it with one of the sheiks who serve as Sadr's deputies. [complete article]

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Richard Perle: U.S. may take action against Syria
Associated Press (via Jerusalem Post), October 14, 2003

Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said Tuesday that the recent Israeli attack on an alleged training camp for Palestinian militants in Syria was long overdue and that he would not rule out U.S. military action against the Arab state.

Perle, a close adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, spoke at a Jerusalem conference of conservatives from the United States and Israel.

"President Bush transformed the American approach to terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001, when he said he will not distinguish between terrorists and the states who harbor them," Perle said.

"I was happy to see that Israel has now taken a similar step in responding to acts of terror that originate in Lebanese territory by going to the rulers of Lebanon in Damascus." [complete article]

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Guerrillas in Iraq tap unsecured arms caches, officials say
By Raymond Bonner, New York Times, October 14, 2003

The two most recent suicide bombings here and virtually every other attack on American soldiers and Iraqis were carried out with explosives and matériel taken from Saddam Hussein's former weapons dumps, which are much larger than previously estimated and remain, for the most part, unguarded by American troops, allied officials said Monday.

The problem of uncounted and unguarded weapons sites is considerably greater than has previously been stated, a senior allied official said.

The American military now says that Iraq's army had nearly one million tons of weapons and ammunition, which is half again as much as the 650,000 tons that Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior American commander in the Persian Gulf region, estimated only two weeks ago. [complete article]

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Letters home
By Martha Raddatz, ABC News, October 13, 2003

In an e-mail to ABCNEWS today, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, said the "letter-writing initiative" was all his idea.

Caraccilo said he circulated the form letter to his soldiers to give them "an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk. As you might expect, they are working at an extremely fast pace and getting the good news back home is not always easy. We thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving Iraq and share that pride with people back home."

Caraccilo wrote that his staff drafted the letter, he edited it and reviewed it and then offered it to the soldiers. "Every soldier who signed that letter did so after a careful read," he said. "Some, who could find the time, decided to send their own versions, while others chose not to take part in the initiative."

Caraccilo was unapologetic, saying that the letter "perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground." [complete article]

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U.S. explores its Afghanistan exit options
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, October 15, 2003

With Afghanistan daily slipping into more anarchy and chaos, United States authorities, aware that they are unlikely to ever bring stability to the country by military means, continue to explore political avenues that ultimately could pave the way for them to withdraw from the country.

First there were the talks at the Pakistan Air Force base in Quetta with "moderate" elements of the Taliban (which immediately failed due to the US insistence on the sidelining of Taliban leader Mullah Omar). Then came the formation of Jaishul Muslim, a formal grouping of lesser Taliban lights (which failed even to enter into Afghanistan), and moves to pry some of the more powerful mujahideen commanders from the anti-US resistance movement.

And last week, former Taliban foreign minister Mullah Abdul Wakeel Mutawakil was released from US custody in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where he had been in detention since handing himself over to the US in February last year. [complete article]

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Afghans yet to lay down arms
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2003

The tank battles that claimed nearly 60 lives up in Mazar-e Sharif last week were some of the fiercest since the fall of the Taliban two years ago.

Unlike most recent fights in Afghanistan, this one did not take place between Afghan forces and the resurgent Taliban, but between the armies of two warlords who in theory both owe allegiance to the Afghan Defense Ministry, to the Northern Alliance, and to the US-led forces. [complete article]

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Spoils of war
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, October 13, 2003

For centuries, pillage by invading armies was a normal part of warfare: a way in which to reward badly-paid or unpaid troops for risking their lives in battle.

Nowadays, at least in more civilised countries, we do not let armies rampage for booty. We leave the pillaging to men in suits, and we don't call it pillaging any more. We call it economic development.

Today, the men in suits are gathering at Olympia, in London, for a two-day conference and exhibition entitled Doing Business in Iraq. Protesters will be gathering outside.

The event, which is sponsored by the US-Iraq business council, is one of a series being held in different parts of the world over the coming 12 months (another will take place in Moscow in December), culminating in a grand spoils of war exhibition in Baghdad towards the end of next year. [complete article]

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Iraqi official urges caution on imposing free market
By Thomas Crampton, New York Times, October 14, 2003

Iraq's interim trade minister warned on Monday against forcing his nation's economy to mold itself rapidly into a free-market system, saying that a swift change would fuel unemployment and heighten political instability.

"We suffered through the economic theories of socialism, Marxism and then cronyism," the official, Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's East Asia Economic Summit meeting here. "Now we face the prospect of free-market fundamentalism." [complete article]

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The Geneva Accord

The announcement of a peace proposal and the basis for a permanent agreement between Israelis and Palestinians has provoked expressions of outrage and derision from Ariel Sharon's government. The outrage is perhaps of greater significance than the derision. The mere fact that this agreement could be forged even while the Intifada and the occupation continue to exact their bloody toll, exposes the lie behind Sharon's claim that an end to violence must occur before Israel can take any concrete steps to promote peace. The irony of the Intifada is that it has provided Sharon with an excuse to disengage from the peace process, expand Jewish settlements, further entrench the occupation, and create "facts on the ground" that make the possibility of a two-state solution even more elusive.

With the Road Map in shreds, the Geneva Accord may very well represent the last opportunity for establishing a Palestinian state that can peacefully coexist with the Jewish state.

Separate and sustainable existence
Haaretz Editorial, October 14, 2003

The Geneva Accord provides a possible key to the end of the conflict. It divides the land of Israel between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine in a way that each can begin a separate and sustainable existence. It declares an end to the conflict and to demands by each side and proffers solutions to all the difficult questions, among them borders, the status of the Temple Mount, control over Jerusalem, the future of the settlements, supervision of the military power of the Palestinian army, and of the armed organizations operating within it, and more. [complete article]

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One dead in clashes between Iraqi Shiites in Karbala
By Lamia Radi, Middle East Online, October 14, 2003

One person was killed and 24 wounded in a shootout between moderate and radical Shiite Muslims in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, a doctor and witnesses said Tuesday.

One man died in hospital of his wounds, while one of the 24 wounded was in a critical condition and was taken to a hospital in Baghdad, 110 kilometers (70 miles) away, said Saleh al-Hasnawi, assistant director of the Karbala hospital.

The violence started when moderate Shiites prevented about 100 members of fundamentalist cleric Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army from taking control of holy sites in Karbala. [complete article]

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U.S. soldiers signed letters they did not write praising Iraqi war effort
Capitol Hill Blue, October 12, 2003

Identical letters claiming to be from different U.S. soldiers describing successes in Iraq were sent to newspapers around the country and soldiers whose names appeared on those letters admit they did not write them and some say they were ordered by their superiors to sign their names. [complete article]

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Interesting new Baghdad blog

Justin's Waffle is a new blog coming out of Baghdad. Justin Alexander describes himself as "a young Brit in Baghdad with Jubilee Iraq, a little NGO trying to help free Iraq from the burden of $200 billion of Saddam's unpaid bills. I'm consulting with Iraqis about their views on this issue in order to show the countries demanding payment how strongly they feel about this issue - basically everyone agrees that Iraqis should not be held responsible for loans which financed Saddam's regime and harmed rather than benefited the Iraqi people. My posts relate some of the frustrations and successes in this endeavour, along with random observations about Baghdad life."

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Despite some progress, Iraqis losing faith
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2003

Hussein al-Jubari should be the perfect illustration of President Bush's recent insistence that "Iraq is making progress." Mr. Jubari sits wedged between stacks of stereos from Japan, hair dryers from China, and satellite receivers from South Korea in his tiny shop across from Iraq's central bank. Business is picking up, he says. Sales of satellite receivers, illegal under Saddam Hussein, are particularly brisk.

But he takes a dim view of Iraq under US administration. "Sure, it's safer than it was immediately after the invasion, when looters were everywhere,'' he says. "But it's much worse than it was immediately before the invasion. Unless they can give us security immediately, America should get out." [complete article]

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Iran air-strike plan seen as bluff
By Abraham Rabinovich, Washington Times, October 13, 2003

Reports that Israel is preparing for pre-emptive air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities and is now able to fire nuclear missiles from submarines were seen as reflecting deep anxiety in Israel for Tehran's nuclear program.

Israeli newspapers said officials appear to have leaked the reports in an attempt to focus the attention of the international community on the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons development. [complete article]

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President Bush complained this week that it is hard to tell progress is being made in Iraq "when you listen to the filter" of the news media.

Bush's aides hope to elude that filter through a series of presidential interviews with local and regional news organizations, trips by Cabinet members to Iraq and hard-hitting speeches by Bush, Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Each of Bush's weekly radio addresses in October will be devoted to the subject, aides said.

"This will be a sustained effort to talk to the nation about the progress we are making and what we're achieving," a senior administration official said. Washington Post, October 8, 2003

Newspapers sent same letter signed by different soldiers
By Ledyard King, USA Today, October 13, 2003

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

But many of them are the same form letter.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters in 11 newspapers. They were signed by different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock." The five-paragraph letter relates soldiers' efforts to re-establish police and fire departments and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based. [complete article]

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The Geneva Accord, an alternative Middle East peace agreement, infuriates Israel's right
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz, October 13, 2003

A concession on the right of return for Palestinian refugees in exchange for Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount is the core of a draft peace agreement concluded by unofficial Israeli and Palestinian negotiators yesterday.

Palestinian sources said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was updated on the talks and is aware of all the details of the agreement. On the Israeli side, however, all of the negotiators were members of the opposition, acting without the government's knowledge or approval; thus the draft has no official status.

The draft, known as the Geneva Accord, is to be signed in Switzerland in the coming weeks - possibly on November 4, the anniversary of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. The Swiss Foreign Ministry financed and mediated the negotiations, which took two and a half years. In the weeks leading up to the signing, both sides intend to embark on an aggressive campaign to market the agreement to their respective publics. [complete article]

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Arafat 'has inflamed stomach'
Agence France-Presse (via Sydney Morning Herald), October 13, 2003

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is suffering from an inflamed stomach but has no plans to leave his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah for treatment, the Palestinian envoy in Paris said.

"The doctor who saw him has indicated that he had not had a heart attack and didn't have cancer, but was suffering from an inflammation of the stomach with symptoms of vomiting," Leila Shahid told French radio. [complete article]

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New rules for Israel and Syria
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, October 13, 2003

The first Israeli air raid inside Syria in three decades undermined a crucial convention of the Arab-Israeli conflict -- that these two enemies would not attack each other directly.

No matter how much violence raged around it, the Israeli-Syrian border has been quiet since the armistice agreement following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. If the bitter foes wanted to fight, they squared off on the battlefield called Lebanon, or deployed various proxy forces.

The attack last Sunday on what the Israelis said was a Palestinian terrorist training camp changed that formula, perhaps forever.

"The proxy game is over," said a senior Western diplomat familiar with all sides in the conflict. "There is a new Middle East game that we are just seeing beginning."

Diplomats and Arab analysts predict that the Sharon administration, which acted after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 20 people in Haifa, now plans to treat Damascus much as it has treated the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, during the past three years. He has been accused of orchestrating every suicide mission against Israel, attacked militarily, cut off and ultimately isolated. [complete article]

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There because he has nowhere to go
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz, October 13, 2003

For some now the Israeli public has been convinced that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is the progenitor of all our troubles. "I no longer need to convince anyone who has eyes in his head that it was Arafat who lit the fire - by giving orders," wrote television commentator Ehud Ya'ari almost two years ago). Journalist Nir Baram cites him (in a new book, 'Lords of Culture', Am Oved Publishers), arguing that Ya'ari's commentary was an important factor in creating the Israeli perception that Arafat is the source of the problems of bloody hostilities.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government ministers have adopted this approach, in part because it is convenient diplomatically. It gives the clear address of a an enemy on whom all blame can be cast. It was former prime minister Ehud Barak who first started this, but under Sharon this has become a cornerstone of Israeli policy. [complete article]

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Without a road map, no rules. Just fear
By Robert Malley, Washington Post, October 13, 2003

Coming atop the vicious suicide bombing in Haifa, threats on Yasser Arafat's life and disclosures of Iran's accelerating nuclear program, Israel's raid deep into Syria was just the latest symptom of an alarming trend: the systematic obliteration of virtually every rule, formal and informal, that has defined political behavior in the Middle East and of every barrier that sought to constrain it.

Borders -- whether physical, political or moral -- are giving way. Palestinian militants routinely strike pre-1967 Israel. They have erased any possible distinction between military and civilian targets. Israel has methodically destroyed the Palestinian Authority, sent troops into territory under the Palestinians' theoretical control and taken steps that condemn large numbers of its inhabitants to misery or worse. Targeted killing has become a matter of course, and Israel publicly considers the assassination of the Arab world's first and only democratically elected president. Even the fence now under construction is well on its way to becoming the first border in history that actually prevents separation, eliminating the possibility of a viable Palestinian state and, with it, of a sustainable two-state solution. [complete article]

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A prison that keeps getting smaller
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 12, 2003

Last Wednesday, Hoda Shadub, a woman of about 50, wanted to go home after having eye surgery at an East Jerusalem hospital. She waited for hours at the Hawara checkpoint, which blocks access to her city, Nablus, but the soldiers refused to let her through. According to the new orders, they said, only ambulances could pass. The Physicians for Human Rights association had to intervene to get an ambulance for Shadub, who finally got home - exhausted and embittered.

No one can seriously claim that security reasons are behind the decision to keep an ailing Palestinian woman from getting home. Nor can anyone find a connection between a murderous terrorist attack in Haifa and the return of an innocent resident to her hometown.

Last week, following the suicide bombing at the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa, the Israel Defense Forces again imposed harsh new restrictions on movement in the territories. In the West Bank, the ban on the use of Palestinian cars was expanded, and farmers were forbidden to work their fields across the separation barrier. The Gaza Strip was sliced into four sections, in the course of which several roads south of Gaza City were destroyed, according to a report on the weekend by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Not one suicide bombing in Israel has originated in the Gaza Strip, but that makes no difference when Israel decides to impose collective punishments on the Palestinians. [complete article]

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A heavenly match: Bush and the Christian Zionists
By Donald Wagner, Daily Star, October 11, 2003

When Israel responded to the Netanya suicide bombing in March 2002 by reinvading the West Bank and besieging Jenin, the ensuing international outcry led US President George W. Bush to order Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his forces from Palestinian areas. Bush sent a strong message to Sharon at an April 2 news conference: "Withdraw! Withdraw your troops immediately!"

At that point longtime Christian Zionist spokesman and pro-Israel advocate Jerry Falwell and other Christian Zionist leaders, working closely with pro-Israel groups, used their media and internet outlets to mobilize their constituencies to deliver tens of thousands of telephone calls, e-mails and letters to the president, telling him to refrain from pressuring Sharon and to allow Israel to finish its job. In the aftermath of that campaign, Bush did not utter another word of opposition to Israeli military actions. Falwell told the CBS news program 60 Minutes that after the incident, Israel could count on Bush to "do the right thing for Israel every time." The lesson was that even when the Bush administration criticized Israel, the Israelis, conscious of the extensive support they enjoy in the US Congress, would not take it seriously. As Falwell said: "The Bible Belt is Israel's safety net in the US." [complete article]

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The interregnum: Christian Zionism in the Clinton years
By Donald Wagner, Daily Star, October 10, 2003

In May 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu became Israel's prime minister, defeating Shimon Peres. Once again Likud ideology dominated Israeli policy. Netanyahu had long been a favorite of the Christian Zionists, a relationship that developed during his years as Israel's representative to the UN, and he was a frequent speaker at important Christian Zionist functions, whether the Feast of Tabernacles hosted by the International Christian Embassy-Jerusalem or the annual National Prayer Breakfast for Israel held in Washington.

Within a few months of his election, Netanyahu convened the Israel Christian Advocacy Council, bringing 17 American fundamentalist leaders to Israel for an update on the Mideast situation. The tour concluded with a conference and statement that reflected Likud's political platform. The fundamentalist leaders signed a pledge stating, "America will never, never desert Israel." Among the other pledges were statements of support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, and for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Each declaration was upheld by Biblical citations and a veneer of evangelical Christian language.

The Christian Zionist leaders returned to the United States and launched a national campaign with full-page advertisements in major newspapers under the banner "Christians call for a united Jerusalem." Of little concern to the Christian Zionists was the fact that their positions were in conflict with official US policy and could undermine the delicate negotiations of the Oslo process. Signed onto by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Ralph Reed, then director of the conservative Christian Coalition, prominent minister Jerry Falwell and Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable, the campaign was one of Likud's answers to the Clinton-Labor strategy. It was also a direct challenge to the mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic campaign led by Churches for Middle East Peace that called for a "shared Jerusalem." [complete article]

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Theatre of war
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, October 13, 2003

The first they hear of Specialist Brian Wilhelm is an indecipherable crackle over the walkie-talkies. It is an early October afternoon and the Black Hawk pilots and paramedics of the 54th Medical Company, one of the US army's medevac units, are lounging in a small, chilled wooden hut. A camouflage net shades them from the relentless sun and the comforts of Gatorade and chocolate snacks tempt the young soldiers to forget for a moment the bloody trials of postwar Iraq. On a small television the medics are watching re-runs of Scrubs, an US sitcom about overworked junior doctors. The helicopter pilots, with a swagger all their own, are playing Black Hawk Down, a shoot 'em up computer game based on the infamous American military operation in Mogadishu a decade ago which left 18 of their comrades dead.

"First up," shouts the voice on the radio, calling the priority medevac team to work. A convoy from the army's Eigth Infantry Regiment has come under attack yet again just outside this base at Balad, in the heart of resistance country north of Baghdad. A soldier is down, alive but badly wounded. A smoke flare marks the exact spot by a pontoon over the Tigris river. It's a "hot LZ", says the voice on the radio: the Iraqis are still shooting.

This is the hidden story of America's military adventure in Iraq. From their heavily barricaded offices in Baghdad, the US army's public relations operation did not announce the attack last week on Wilhelm. It did not describe how the Black Hawk pilots risked their lives to retrieve him and bring him to the emergency room of the 21st Combat Support Hospital at Balad where some of the army's finest nurses, medics and doctors saved his life. It did not describe the pain he is suffering, the agony his family is going through or the fact that Spc Wilhelm will never be a soldier again. [complete article]

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Inside the resistance
By Zaki Chehab, The Guardian, October 13, 2003

The suicide bomber who yesterday attacked the US-frequented Baghdad Hotel was the fourth member of the Iraqi resistance to kill themselves for the cause. The bombing came only three days after last week's suicide attack on a Baghdad police station that left at least eight people dead. From the meetings I have had with resistance fighters in different parts of Iraq, there is no doubt that there will be many more such attacks to come.

The use of suicide bombing in Iraq - the first announced target was the UN in August - signals a clear change of tactics by the growing resistance movement. The US-led coalition forces, frustrated by their inability to control the situation, blame foreign infiltrators for these attacks, emphasising the similarity between these new tactics and those of al-Qaida and other militant groups in the Middle East. Few seem to grasp the fact that Iraqis, who are well-trained militarily, have simply learned from others' experiences, and carried out the attacks themselves. [complete article]

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Senators say Bush needs to take control
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, October 13, 2003

A key Republican lawmaker urged President Bush yesterday to take control of his fractious foreign policy team and plans for Iraq's reconstruction, as one Democrat deepened his criticism of the administration's arguments for going to war.

"The president has to be president," Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries" of state and defense. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice "cannot carry that burden alone." [complete article]

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'What did we do to deserve this?'
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, October 13, 2003

Sitting on a sofa in his fourth-floor room at the Baghdad Hotel on Sunday, Mowaffak Rubaie had been talking about how to solve what he regarded as Iraq's biggest challenge: writing a new constitution that would please Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds, religious hard-liners and moderates, men and women.

"It will not be easy," Rubaie, a member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council, said with a sigh.

Then, as he was about to outline his proposed path to compromise, a thunderous blast jolted the hotel, shattering the window and sending Rubaie flying to the floor. As his security detail hustled him and a Washington Post reporter into the hallway, fearful of a second explosion or a small-arms attack from across the street, the practical challenges of politics at its highest form were eclipsed by the crudest act of dissent.

"What did we do to deserve this?" Rubaie asked as he sat on a blanket in the hallway, clutching his right arm, which had broken his fall. [complete article]

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U.S. soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, October 12, 2003

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.

Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons."

Other farmers said that US troops had told them, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves were being bulldozed to punish the farmers for not informing on the resistance which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district. [complete article]

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Crime-racked Basra calls on British troops to get tougher
By Bill Neely, The Independent, October 12, 2003

By the still waters of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, a few dozen university lecturers and professors gather with black banners to protest at the armed British troops manning the ornate gate of Basra's presidential palace. Their colleague, the head of the engineering department, has just been murdered. They know who the killers are, they say, and accuse the British of doing nothing about it.

"If you can't keep the peace," Dr Aziz al-Hilfi shouts at the soldiers, "we shall turn against you!" Like many of his colleagues, he went to university in Britain and has never demonstrated before. "You can hire a killer here for 100,000 dinars [about £40]," he says. "The Iraqi police are useless; they do nothing. The British drive around, but they aren't protecting us. Do they want the 1920s again?"

The reference is lost on no one here. The British invented modern Iraq, but in the late 1920s they were driven out by a wave of violent frustration at their rule. [complete article]

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Probe focuses on month before leak to reporters
By Walter Pincus and Mike Allen, Washington Post, October 12, 2003

FBI agents investigating the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity have begun by examining events in the month before the leak, when the CIA, the White House and Vice President Cheney's office first were asked about former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger, according to sources familiar with the probe. [complete article]

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Dick Cheney, Hard-Liner in Chief
By Joe Klein, Time, October 12, 2003

Republicans turf-wrestling like infants, playing fast and loose with national-security secrets, tripping over themselves in the rebuilding of Iraq? Weren't these guys supposed to be the grownups? Isn't the President supposed to have a bureaucratic neatness fetish? Given his famous impatience -- and his very quick temper -- why hasn't Bush taken control? I asked members of the first Bush and Reagan administrations about this. At first, they professed mystification, but then, after some consideration, they pointed fingers at one man: Dick Cheney.

Cheney is, of course, the hardest of the hard-liners -- and his intransigence is responsible for both the CIA's fury and the Pentagon leadership's arrogance. Cheney and his low-profile neoconservative chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, have been stalking the CIA for years. They have disputed the agency's negative findings on an Iraq attempt to buy African uranium and an Iraq involvement in 9/11. The failures of American intelligence have been a Cheney obsession -- which is why Republican Senator Chuck Hagel recently suggested that if the President really wants to know who the White House leakers are, he should "sit down" with his Vice President. Cheney's alliance with Rumsfeld has been at the heart of this Administration's hawkish, unilateral foreign-policy fantasies. [complete article]

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Gaza raid leaves hundreds homeless
BBC News, October 12, 2003

Up to 1,500 Palestinians have been left homeless by the Israeli army's two-day raid into the Rafah refugee camp, the UN estimates.

A senior UN official who went to assess damage at the camp in the south of the Gaza Strip said it looked like there had been a severe earthquake, with up to 120 homes completely demolished.

But according to an Israeli army spokesman, "several" buildings were destroyed, with the military targeting only structures used by militants.

Hopital officials said eight Palestinians - including two boys aged eight and 15 - were killed in the operation, which the Israeli army launched to destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons across the Egyptian border.

More than 50 were injured in the raid, codenamed Operation Root Canal, which was launched overnight on Thursday by dozens of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships. [complete article]

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Sharon acts tough, sensing U.S. assent
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, October 12, 2003

The United States has stated publicly that it opposes Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and construction of parts of a barrier to separate Jewish settlers from nearby Palestinian communities. But Israel proclaims its determination to go ahead with both actions.

A week ago, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the Bush administration was having "intense discussions" with Israel about these issues and weighing such options as a reduction in loan guarantees enacted earlier this year by Congress. But there is no sign that such a step is in the offing.

Arab, European and United Nations diplomats who have been drawn into the peace efforts through drafting a peace plan known as the road map say they fear that Mr. Sharon has assumed that, for whatever reason, Mr. Bush is not in a position to ask for a halt to Israeli actions.

Indeed, they say they doubt that Mr. Bush will re-engage in the peace efforts before the American election next year, out of fear that whatever he does will draw criticism, especially among the conservative Christian and Jewish supporters of Israel who form a part of his political base.

"The word you hear a lot of is 'disengaged,' " said a diplomat involved in the peace plan. "Sharon figured out long ago that all he has to do is the absolute minimum to keep Bush off his back and at his side. If the United States is disengaged, that's exactly what Sharon wants." [complete article]

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Der Speigel: Israel preparing strike to take out Iranian nuclear sites
By Ellis Shuman, Israel Insider, October 12, 2003

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the Mossad has marked six Iranian nuclear facilities as targets for an Israeli Air Force pre-emptive strike. An unnamed IAF pilot told the weekly that such a mission would be "complex, but feasible." The Los Angeles Times reported that Israel has modified U.S.-made Harpoon cruise missiles so it can launch nuclear warheads from submarines.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Mossad chief Meir Dagani to devote "utmost efforts" to gather information about Iran's growing nuclear capabilities, Maariv reported today. According to Maariv, Sharon told associates that "Iran is the greatest danger to Israel" and that he was coordinating intelligence gathering efforts with the United States "down to the last detail." [...]

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued an ultimatum to Iran that by October 31 it would have to open all of its nuclear facilities for IAEA inspection. Media analysts suggested that the leak of the Der Spiegel report was intended to pressure Iran into complying with the international agency.

Unnamed American officials were quoted by Army Radio as saying that the United States had no plans to launch an attack against Iran at this stage, but it was impossible to know what the "crazy" Israelis would do. [complete article]

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Israel adds subs to its atomic ability
By Douglas Frantz, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2003

Israel has modified American-supplied cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads on submarines, giving the Middle East's only nuclear power the ability to launch atomic weapons from land, air and beneath the sea, according to senior Bush administration and Israeli officials.

The previously undisclosed submarine capability bolsters Israel's deterrence in the event that Iran -- an avowed enemy -- develops nuclear weapons. It also complicates efforts by the United States and the United Nations to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Two Bush administration officials described the missile modification and an Israeli official confirmed it. [complete article]

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Leak of CIA officers leaves trail of damage
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, October 10, 2003

It's just a 12-letter name - Valerie Plame - but the leak by Bush administration officials of that CIA officer's identity may have damaged U.S. national security to a much greater extent than generally realized, current and former agency officials say.

Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush critic Joseph Wilson, was a member of a small elite-within-an-elite, a CIA employee operating under "nonofficial cover," in her case as an energy analyst, with little or no protection from the U.S. government if she got caught.

Training agents such as Plame, 40, costs millions of dollars and requires the time-consuming establishment of elaborate fictions, called "legends," including in this case the creation of a CIA front company that helped lend plausibility to her trips overseas. [complete article]

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Car bomb kills at least 10 at Baghdad Hotel
By Brian Williams and Michael Georgy, Reuters, October 12, 2003

A powerful car bomb killed at least 10 people outside a central Baghdad hotel used by U.S. officials Sunday, injuring many and filling the air with dust and thick black smoke, police said.

Eyewitnesses said they saw a car crash through the security barrier at the Baghdad Hotel and explode. The hotel is widely thought to be used by members of the CIA, officials of the U.S. -led coalition and their Iraqi partners in the Governing Council as well as U.S. contractors. [complete article]

(Fox News says that an unnamed U.S. government official in Washington says that this building is not the CIA's headquarters in Baghdad.)

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Aid workers leaving Iraq, fearing they are targets
By Ian Fisher and Elizabeth Becker, New York Times, October 12, 2003

A great majority of foreign aid workers in Iraq, fearing they have become targets of the postwar violence, have quietly pulled out of the country in the past month, leaving essential relief work to their Iraqi colleagues and slowing the reconstruction effort.

Projects that have been abandoned, at least temporarily, because of the exodus include efforts to dig village wells, repair electrical systems and refurbish health clinics and local hospitals -- all of which could bring much needed services to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

The largest reduction in staff has been at the United Nations operation in Iraq, which after two bombings at its main compound since August cut its work force to 35 from a peak of 600 in August. [complete article]

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The revenger's tragedy: why women turn to suicide bombing
By Kevin Toolis, The Observer, October 12, 2003

The blood red fruit was just beginning to ripen on the pomegranate tree when Israeli undercover soldiers came for Fardi and Salah Darajat in Jenin, the besieged 'city of martyrs', in the occupied West Bank.

After a burst of gunfire the cousins lay dying on the dusty track outside the family home. Their bodies were bundled into a Jeep and driven off. For Israeli special forces it was another successful hit against militants from Islamic Jihad. Another notch in the war against terror.

But before the pomegranates were ripe, Fardi's sister Hanadi Darajat would exact a terrible harvest of revenge by blowing herself up inside Haifa's Maxim's restaurant and murdering 19 civilians. [complete article]

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