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New policy in Iraq raises more questions
By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press (via News Observer), November 15, 2003

In a remarkably short time, the United States has radically shifted its policy in Iraq, opting to hand power quickly to an interim government that it hopes can mend sharp ethnic divides, calm a growing insurgency and serve as a democratic model for a volatile region.

But the new policy still leaves unanswered key questions that have bedeviled American efforts in Iraq, including how to create a new elected body without worsening tensions simmering between the majority Shiite population and the Sunni minority, which includes Saddam Hussein - wherever he is. Not to mention how to end the U.S. occupation and eventually bring American soldiers home.

At first the Bush administration insisted on keeping a tight grip on power in Iraq, insisting that the Iraqi Governing Council write a constitution as a way to make sure that Iraqis put a truly democratic system in place. But the rising tide of violence - the U.S. death toll topped 400 on Saturday - and the fractured council's failure to get a constitution in the works, apparently forced the administration's hand. [complete article]

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Blame Israel, says Red Cross as it ends food aid for West Bank
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, November 16, 2003

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is ending its emergency food programme in the West Bank, saying the economic collapse there is the direct result of Israeli military closures and that Israel must live up to its responsibility as the occupying power for the economic needs of the Palestinians.

The move comes as the Israeli media reported that François Bellon, the Red Cross representative, told senior Israeli generalsthat the Palestinian Authority was on the verge of an "explosion" that could lead to "the worst ever humanitarian crisis" in the occupied territories.

Israel is concerned that other international organisations may follow the Red Cross, which would leave Israel to face the cost of providing the services they currently provide - a cost that some estimates put as high as $1.1bn (£650m) a year. [complete article]

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British Olympic hope 'was Iraq suicide bomber'
By Nick Pelham, Jordan Antony Barnett and Mark Townsend, The Observer, November 16, 2003

A 22-year-old martial arts expert from Sheffield who was hoping to fight with the British Olympic tae kwon do team is suspected of being one of the suicide bombers behind the recent spate of attacks in Iraq.

The Yemeni paper Al Ayyam has reported that the parents of a British-based Muslim, Wail al Dhaleai, were telephoned by Islamic fighters in Iraq telling them their son had killed himself in an attack on US troops earlier this month.

The death of Wail al Dhaleai, also known as Wail Abd-al-Rahman, has raised fears that groups of handpicked young British Muslims are heading to Iraq to fight Coalition forces. [complete article]

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Portuguese journalist kidnapped in Iraq released: employer
Agence France Presse, November 15, 2003

A Portuguese radio journalist was released unharmed, one day after he was kidnapped by armed gunmen after crossing into southern Iraq from Kuwait, the private radio station he works for reported. [complete article]

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Two U.S. helicopters down in Iraq; at least 12 dead
By Andrew Marshall, Reuters, November 15, 2003

Two U.S. helicopters crashed in northern Iraq Saturday, killing at least 12 people aboard, after one was hit on the tail by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), a U.S. officer at the scene said.

The crashes, in which nine people on the Black Hawk helicopters were wounded, came hours after the announcement of a faster timetable for Iraqi self-rule which Washington hopes will pacify Iraqi resentment over foreign occupation.

The officer at the northern city of Mosul said: "I know one of the helicopters was hit by an RPG on the tail wing." [complete article]

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U.S. handover in Iraq by mid-2004
BBC News, November 15, 2003

The US-led coalition in Iraq will hand over power to a transitional government by June 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council has said.

The announcement came after Iraqi leaders met the US chief administrator, Paul Bremer, in Baghdad.

Mr Bremer had earlier returned from the US, where plans for a faster handover were agreed at the White House.

The transitional body will prepare for a full sovereign Iraqi government by 2005, following a general election. [complete article]

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Pentagon plans Iraq channel
By Mike Allen, Washington Post, November 15, 2003

In an escalation of White House efforts to circumvent what President Bush calls the news media "filter," the Pentagon plans to launch a 24-hour satellite channel from Baghdad to make it easier for U.S. television stations to air government-authorized news about Iraq.

The satellite link, dubbed "C-SPAN Baghdad" within the administration, is to go on the air in a week or two. It begins at a time when guerrilla violence in Iraq is increasing and the White House is revising and accelerating plans to transfer governing authority to Iraqis. [complete article]

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Metaphors in regression: First the surgical strikes; now the hammer blows

Gunships ram home might of U.S. firepower
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 15, 2003

"The Americans told us to take care of the children and to stop them running outside in the streets.

"They told us they wanted to flatten those buildings. I don't know why they did it," said Ashraf Ahmed, 19.

Several Iraqi guards from the Facility Protection Service, helping to guard the nearby US base, questioned the attack's effectiveness.

"I don't see how this is going to work. People who really want to attack the Americans are not going to stop because a building has been destroyed," said one, who declined to give his name.

"The bombing just made people afraid and it didn't achieve much. They want to make people afraid, both the resistance and civilians, and to show they are here and they are strong. It felt like the first day of the war again."

Mortars had fired back at the Americans' hilltop position during the operation, he added. [complete article]

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Plan for guerrilla action may have predated war
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 15, 2003

American intelligence agencies have found increasing evidence that the broad outlines of the guerrilla campaign being waged against American forces in Iraq were laid down before the war by the Iraqi Intelligence Service, government officials said Friday.

That view is based on interrogations of former senior Iraqi officials who are now in American custody and on documents found in Iraq, government officials said. They acknowledged that intelligence agencies had earlier underestimated the strength of the resistance and the degree to which it now appears to have reflected central planning and organization.

The conclusion that the insurgency may have been planned ahead of the war points to yet another failure to act on prewar intelligence, a prominent critic of the war effort said Friday. [complete article]

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20 people killed in two large blasts near Istanbul synagogues
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, November 15, 2003

Blasts went off at two synagogues in Istanbul at almost the same time Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 257, officials said. A militant Turkish Islamic group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Police officers at the scene of the blasts and Turkish media reports said as many as 24 people had died in the two attacks. [complete article]

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Iraqi leaders back plan for sovereignty
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2003

Leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council on Friday tentatively endorsed the outlines of a new framework for transferring power from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government as early as June.

The plan, which was under discussion in Washington this week, would attempt to transform the unwieldy 24-member council into a more efficient executive body that might be headed by a single person or a small group. The plan also calls for the creation of a legislative assembly of as many as 200 members. And it would depart from previous plans by delaying the drafting of an Iraqi constitution until after the formation of the interim government. [complete article]

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City fights back to become model of order and justice
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 15, 2003

Hilla, a city of 300,000 people reputedly built from the clay bricks of the nearby ruins of Babylon, has emerged from America's war with less violence and more hope than most places in Iraq. In Baghdad and large areas north of the capital, the violent guerrilla resistance is severely hampering attempts at reconstruction. But in Hilla, better security and the work of a group of forward-looking Iraqi officials have made the city one of the few successes of postwar Iraq.

Overwhelmingly a Shia city, Hilla suffered some of the most chilling persecution of Saddam Hussein's regime. In May villagers dug up Iraq's largest mass grave in barren fields just north of the city, containing the remains of at least 3,115 men, women and children executed by the regime during the 1991 uprising after the first Gulf war. The relief that such brutality is finally over appears to have wedded the people of Hilla more firmly than most to US promises of reconstruction and democracy. [complete article]

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Spinning in their graves
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, November 15, 2003

The fighting in Iraq is real. But there is a traditional aspect of war that Americans now see only in the movies - it is the solemn homecoming for the dead.

There was a time when the United States paused as the TV cameras panned over rows of coffins flown home from battle, when it was impossible not to share the sorrow of the families there to receive them, and when there was a genuine sense of shared pain when the president or very senior members of his team attended memorial services.

But George Bush has fenced off himself and his team from the cemetery, and there is a ban on cameramen entering the central military morgue at Dover, in Delaware, where hundreds who have died in Iraq are received. It is also difficult for the photographers to get past security at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington, where thousands of the wounded have been treated.

So the American dead and the injured from Iraq pass through a politically imposed void, until their coffin - or stretcher or wheelchair in the case of the wounded - arrives in the back blocks of Idaho or Texas, by which time they have long ceased to be a prime-time or national story. Usually only family and friends witness the handing over of the triangulated Stars and Stripes to grieving spouses or parents. [complete article]

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U.S. casualties from Iraq war top 9,000
By Mark Benjamin, UPI, November 14, 2003

The number of U.S. casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- troops killed, wounded or evacuated due to injury or illness -- has passed 9,000, according to new Pentagon data.

In addition to the 397 service members who have died and the 1,967 wounded, 6,861 troops were medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, the Army Surgeon General's office said.

That brings total casualties among all services to more than 9,200, and represents an increase of nearly 3,000 non-combat medical evacuations reported since the first week of October. The Army offered no immediate explanation for the increase. [complete article]

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American expatriates to lead the protests against Bush
By Marie Woolf, The Independent, November 15, 2003

Americans marching beneath a banner proclaiming "Proud of My Country, Shamed by My President" will lead a demonstration against George Bush during his state visit next week. The Stop the War Coalition, which is organising the rally, expects up to 100,000 people to take to the streets of London and express their hostility to the American President.

Trade union members, Muslim groups, environmentalists and peace activists will join forces for the march, with about a hundred US expats, who are adamant the event should be perceived as an indictment of their President, not a snub to their country. [complete article]

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Grand Ayatollah says Iraqis are becoming suspicious about intentions of coalition, calls for elections
By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), November 14, 2003

Iraqis are becoming suspicious of coalition forces because no elections have been held since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a senior Shiite Muslim cleric warned Friday.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi al-Modaresi said the March invasion of Iraq was supposed to promote democracy. But ''seven months have passed and there hasn't been one serious election,'' al-Modaresi said in a statement from his office in the southern holy city of Karbala. [complete article]

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Iraqi Shiites move to fill security role
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 14, 2003

Hours after a car bomb devastated the headquarters of the Italian military police here, the relatively tranquil streets took on a different cast. Barricades were thrown up across roads, cars were searched at hastily arranged checkpoints, sometimes marked by rocks in the street, and men in blazers rifled through identity papers.

Police? one of the men was asked. "No," he replied. Party? "Yes."

Religious parties, a wild card in the politics of Iraq's Shiite Muslim south, filled a perceived security vacuum after Wednesday's bombing and deployed dozens of men across Nasiriyah, signaling their intention to take security into their own hands. The show of strength underscored widely held beliefs in this Euphrates River city that occupation forces are incapable of countering an insurgency that has staged 13 vehicle bombings over three months. Only dramatic moves by local leaders can prevent more attacks, people here say. [complete article]

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Portuguese journalists attacked in Iraq, one kidnapped
By Barry Hatton, Associated Press, November 14, 2003

Gunmen opened fire on jeeps carrying Portuguese journalists in southern Iraq on Friday, wounding one reporter and kidnapping another, officials said.

U.S. and British troops as well as Portuguese police were searching for the gunmen and the missing reporter, according to a government statement.

The six journalists were traveling in a convoy of three jeeps from the Kuwaiti border to Basra when they came under attack, Lisbon-based radio TSF reported. They had no military escort. [complete article]

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Death on the road to Iraq democracy
By Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 14, 2003

Mohannad al-Kaabi was risking his life to build the kind of Iraqi democracy that President Bush has called for.

He was in danger of assassination by Saddam bitter-enders. But, in fact, he was shot dead on Monday by a U.S. soldier in Baghdad. This disaster must be studied by U.S. planners to make sure nothing like it happens again.

Kaabi was a handsome 28-year-old marine engineer who spoke excellent English. He headed the district council in Baghdad's huge Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City. His council was part of a U.S. democracy project to nurture local government. [complete article]

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New urgency, new risks in 'Iraqification'
By Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, November 14, 2003

The new approach amounts to Iraqification, or the handing over of responsibility for both a deteriorating security situation and a stalled political process to Iraqis. The goal, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters yesterday, "is that we find ways to accelerate the transfer of authority to the Iraqi people."

"They are clamoring for it; they are, we believe, ready for it. And they have very strong ideas about how that might be done," she said.

But Iraqification also poses significant hazards -- risks that emerge from the same security and political considerations that drove the administration's decision to change strategy.

As the administration sorts out a plan in talks with the Governing Council over the weekend, the first test may be in averting the appearance that the United States intends to cut and run. U.S. officials already sound defensive. [complete article]

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In U.S., fears are voiced of a too-rapid Iraq exit
By Steven R. Weisman and Carl Hulse, New York Times, November 14, 2003

The Bush administration's decision to speed the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq and replace American troops with Iraqis is bringing fresh warnings from Congress and policy experts against pulling out of Iraq too early and letting election-year considerations dictate Iraq policy.

Much of the anxiety about Iraq is being expressed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and those raising questions include both supporters and critics of the war. [complete article]

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Iraq's constitutional challenge
International Crisis Group report, November 13, 2003

As attacks against the occupying forces and suicide bombs against civilian targets intensify, the need for a new political formula that will increase the powers, legitimacy and representative quality of Iraqi governing institutions is becoming more urgent than ever. The response to date, reflected in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511, has been to tie the transfer of the exercise of sovereignty to the drafting of an Iraqi constitution, its adoption in a referendum and ensuing national elections.

This logic presents the unenviable choice of either unduly rushing the constitutional process, or unduly postponing the transfer of political power. Both would be destabilising. The transfer of authority is pressing, as is the broadening of the Iraqi Governing Council’s political base. But the constitution-making process must be done deliberately or it will be done poorly, and dangerously. Decoupling the immediate governance issue (the transfer of powers to a broader based Iraqi government working under a transitional mandate) from the constitutional process (the creation of a permanent democratic system) is the best pathway toward a stable Iraq. [executive summary]

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The sabotage of democracy
By Reuel Marc Gerecht, New York Times, November 14, 2003

The hastily called conference at the White House involving America's top man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, clearly revealed that the Bush administration knows its program in Iraq is failing. The "Iraqification" of the security forces has not dimmed the rate or deadliness of attacks against coalition troops; the Iraqi Governing Council has willfully stalled the process of drafting a new constitution; a new American intelligence report leaked to the press indicates that Iraqis are increasingly angry with the American presence. [complete article]

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Air raid sends Iraqis message, but what is it?
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 14, 2003

After the start of a well-publicized offensive against Iraqi insurgents, American commanders said Thursday that they were intent on sending the rebels "a message."

But here at the site of one of the operation's primary targets, local Iraqis said they were uncertain what that message was supposed to be.

On the southern edge of the capital, a large building that American commanders said was a "meeting, planning, storage and rendezvous point" for the insurgents still stood, despite the military's claim that it had been destroyed in an airstrike the night before.

American soldiers came to the neighborhood several hours before the attack, local residents said, warning of the impending strike and making sure that everyone in the area was evacuated. Then an American AC-130 gunship strafed the building, knocking holes in the walls and wrecking much of the textile machinery arrayed inside.

After the strike, the Americans came back but detained no suspects, not even the owner of the building, and found no weapons.

The owner, Waad Dakhil Bolane, who said the Americans had warned his guards of the impending air raid, shook his head in befuddlement. [complete article]

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U.S. forces begin 'Iron Hammer' attack against Iraqi insurgency
By Drew Brown and Jeff Wilkinson, Knight Ridder, November 13, 2003

The moves against the insurgency are highly risky because of the danger of hitting civilian targets and turning more of the population against the coalition.

"It will bring chaos," said Hazim al Jumaily, a member of the security committee for the Fallujah Tribal Council. "Chaos."

Some senior coalition officials are expressing reservations over the new strategy, agreeing that it could cause the insurgency to spiral out of control.

"The message is we're coming," said one senior official, who asked not to be named. "In the next few weeks, we're going to test the waters." [complete article]

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Signs of danger preceded bombing
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2003

In the past two weeks, Western and Iraqi officials saw signs that plans might be underway for a violent attack here but did not have enough information to prevent the suicide bombing Wednesday that killed more than 30 people, including at least 18 Italians.

It was 10 days ago that Nasiriyah police captured a high-ranking official of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime along with several former members of his Mukhabarat intelligence service, according to officials with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi police. The police also received written warnings of imminent attacks on schools. [complete article]

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Media protest treatment in Iraq
By Mark Jurkowitz, Boston Globe, November 13, 2003

The Associated Press says soldiers in Iraq detained one of its photographers and a driver in late September near the site of the Abu Ghraib prison. Knight Ridder says its photographer at the scene of the Nov. 2 downing of a Chinook helicopter had photographs destroyed by the US military. Reuters, which had a cameraman killed in August in what the US military called an accident, says another photographer was detained last month by Iraqi police alleging to be acting on orders from US forces.

Amid growing reports of journalists being harassed and intimidated by troops policing postwar Iraq, representatives of 30 media organizations, ranging from CNN and ABC to the Newhouse News Service and The Boston Globe, have signed a letter to the Pentagon raising concerns about what they view as an increasingly hostile reporting environment. [complete article]

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Saudis say lifestyle was under scrutiny
Associated Press (via USA Today), November 13, 2003

The foreigners who lived in the mainly Arab residential compound devastated by a suicide bombing say they were visited by Saudi religious police three months ago, putting them on notice that their Westernized lifestyle was under scrutiny.

Saudi and U.S. officials have blamed Saturday's attack, which killed 17 people, on al-Qaeda, the militant Muslim terror network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks and a sworn enemy of the Saudi ruling family, which it accuses of being insufficiently Islamic and too close to the United States. [complete article]

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Ex-Shin Bet heads warn of 'catastrophe' without peace deal
Haaretz, November 14, 2003

In unusually brazen criticism of the government's handling of the conflict with the Palestinians, four former heads of the Shin Bet security service warned Friday of a "catastrophe" if a peace deal is not reached with the Palestinians.

"We are heading downhill towards near-catastrophe. If nothing happens and we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves," ex-security chief Yaakov Perry told the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, reflecting a consensus among his three colleagues - Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom and Carmi Gillon. [complete article]

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Sharon's plans, made concrete
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 2003

As a 13-year-old in 1930s Palestine, Arik Scheinerman sat through inky black nights armed with his own engraved Circassian dagger, helping to guard his village fields from Arab attack. "When you work for something," his father told him, "it's your duty to protect it."

As an Israeli army commander after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Arik expanded on his father's advice, establishing a Jewish presence throughout the West Bank. "Survival ... depended on 'facts,' actually building on the land and actually defending it," he later wrote. Arik Scheinerman's name has changed - he's known today as Ariel Sharon - but Israel's prime minister still seems faithful to the lessons of his youth.

In Mr. Sharon's eyes, security means holding the land. He is making Israel's contentious barrier project part of that goal. Originally conceived to protect Israelis from Palestinian militants, the barrier's winding route through the West Bank suggests that it's also meant to buffer Israel from attack by Arab countries to the east. [complete article]

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Divide and destroy
By Alex Klaushofer, The Guardian, November 13, 2003

Over the past few months, the barrier that Israel is building to cut itself off from the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank has come to symbolise the divide between the two peoples at the heart of the Middle East crisis.

Cutting into Palestinian lands by up to six kilometres, the barrier takes different forms along its length - here an imposing concrete construction, there a steel fence and a tangle of barbed wire.

But whatever the barrier's form, its impact on the communities it dominates is devastating. In the farming villages of the northern West Bank, what was once a self-sufficient way of life is dying out because farmers cannot access their land. [complete article]

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Bitter harvest in West Bank's olive groves
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, November 14, 2003

Abdula Yusuf is too afraid to climb the rocky terraces beyond his village and see the damage for himself. "They'll kill me," he said, waving a hand at the container homes on the top of a neighbouring hill. "If they can do that thing to trees as old as the Roman times, they will not hesitate to do it to me."

The annual olive harvest in the occupied territories has once again been rocked by Jewish settlers and their now routine assaults on Palestinian pickers to plunder their crop. This year, the settlers have gone to new lengths which have brought unusual denunciations from the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and even criticism from the settlers' own leaders.

Armed Israelis are systematically wrecking trees that have stood for hundreds of years and frequently provide the only livelihood for Palestinian families. [complete article]

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Palestinian harvest protected by Rabbis, attacked by Jewish settlers
By Courtney Kealy, ABC News, November 13, 2003

It was meant to be a fruitful day. Rabbis for Human Rights had organized police protection and a group of determined volunteers to hike up a West Bank hillside and help local Palestinians harvest their olives.

Radical Jewish settlers claim the the hilltops above the Arab village of Ain Abbus as their own. Palestinians say the settlers have resorted to both threats and violence to prevent them from picking their olives. The settlers say God has called on them to settle there.

Ironically, it's another Jewish group -- Rabbis for Human Rights -- that often intervenes to help the Palestinians. [complete article]

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U.S. war dead in Iraq exceed early Vietnam years
By David Morgan, Reuters, November 13, 2003

The U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War, the brutal Cold War conflict that cast a shadow over U.S. affairs for more than a generation.

A Reuters analysis of Defense Department statistics showed on Thursday that the Vietnam War, which the Army says officially began on Dec. 11, 1961, produced a combined 392 fatal casualties from 1962 through 1964, when American troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17,000.

By comparison, a roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier in Baghdad on Wednesday brought to 397 the tally of American dead in Iraq, where U.S. forces number about 130,000 troops -- the same number reached in Vietnam by October 1965. [complete article]

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Iraq conflict at a pivotal moment
By Peter Grier and Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 2003

Faced with a deadly insurgency abroad and a tide of complaints at home, the White House is hitting the throttle - pushing for faster action on crucial aspects of its strategy toward Iraq.

Thus the US is accelerating its timetable for Iraqi self-government, redoubling military efforts against insurgents via Operation Iron Hammer, and turning up the volume on efforts to sell the American public on the long-term benefit of Iraq transformation.

This movement comes at a moment when the US effort in Iraq may have reached a turning point. A new CIA assessment portrays Iraq as a nation on a knife-edge, balanced between democracy and chaos. Absent a change in direction, the US drive to transform Iraq could still fail, it says. [complete article]

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U.S. to seek Iraqi elections in mid-2004
By Barry Schweid, Associated Press, November 13, 2003

The Bush administration is proposing elections in Iraq in the first half of next year and the formation of a government before a constitution is written, as it seeks to speed up the shift of power the Iraqis.

Also, with President Bush's approval, L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator for Iraq, will consult with the Iraqi Governing Council on the appointment of a special panel to oversee an accelerated transition to Iraqi rule, said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The revised approach is a change in course for the Bush administration, which originally insisted on a long period of transition that involved the completion of a constitution before elections were held. [complete article]

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Iran warns of international crisis if nuclear issue referred to U.N.
Agence France Presse, November 14, 2003

Iran warned there would be an international crisis if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referred Tehran's controversial nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.

Such a move by the UN's nuclear watchdog could "escalate the issue into an international crisis", said Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi.

The IAEA's board of governors is to meet next week to consider whether Tehran is in compliance with the safeguards agreement of the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The United States accuses Iran, which is building a civil nuclear power station with Russian help, of secretly developing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies. [complete article]

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For NATO, Afghanistan has priority over Iraq
Bloomberg, November 13, 2003

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the alliance must show progress in Afghanistan, its top mission, before a wider role in Iraq to support the U.S. occupation could be considered.

"If you look at the challenge in Afghanistan, it's pretty formidable,'' Robertson told reporters at a breakfast in Washington today. "We've got to get that right.''

Afghanistan is the alliance's biggest mission, and also the first ever outside of Europe. The current North Atlantic Treaty Organization role in Iraq is limited to logistical support for Polish soldiers occupying a region between Baghdad and Basra in the south. [complete article]

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'Growing concern' on Syria intentions
By Knut Royce, Newsday, November 12, 2003

In a pattern reminiscent of its pre-war reporting on Iraq's alleged nuclear program, the U.S. intelligence community has been ramping up the Syria threat, asserting this week for the first time that Syria's nuclear aspiration is of "growing concern."

"We are looking at Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern," the Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center, headed by the CIA, said in its semi-annual report to Congress this week.

The report's only explanation for the new concern was an observation that Syria now has "broader access to foreign expertise [which] provides opportunities to expand its indigenous capabilities."

"Boy, that is really thin," said Vincent Cannistraro, former director of intelligence programs at the National Security Council. "It looks like they [the intelligence officials] are tacking to the prevailing political winds generated by the neo-conservatives." [complete article]

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U.K. police say they will not stifle Iraq protests
By Mark Huband, Jean Eaglesham and Rohit Jaggi, Financial Times, November 12, 2003

President George W. Bush will not be hidden from the mass protests expected during his state visit next week, a senior police officer said on Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Police would be in full charge of security during the three-day visit despite the presence of up to 200 US secret service officers in London, said Andy Trotter, deputy assistant commissioner.

Roads would not be closed to pedestrians and protesters would not be kept away, he said. "There is no intention to spare anyone's embarrassment. It is not part of our policing plan. We will do what's necessary to balance security," he said. [complete article]

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The Green Zone blues
By Sridhar Pappu, New York Observer, November 13, 2003

In the seven months since Saddam Hussein's statue toppled in Firdaus Square in Baghdad, the Bush administration has been busy winning the country for democracy. But to competitive reporters used to exploiting the chaos of war to get the big story, the rigid control of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and its press arm, the Office of Strategic Communications, has made winning during the peace more difficult than winning during the war.

"They've taken the Bush model and applied it to Baghdad," one correspondent said.

The C.P.A., according to several reporters based in Baghdad -- many of whom requested anonymity -- has severely limited access to key officials in the provisional government. In an effort to stanch the flow of reporting on small-scale terrorist activity and the resulting injuries to U.S. troops, sources said, morgues and hospitals in Baghdad have become impenetrable to reporters. Reporters have found their access to police stations cut off. When access is granted, reporters said, the C.P.A. often assigns "minders" to accompany them. [complete article]

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'Old Europe' feels vindicated on Iraq
By Mark John, Reuters, November 13, 2003

Was France right about Iraq all along?

President Bush's new rush to hand power back to the Iraqis was seen in Paris and other "old Europe" capitals on Thursday as proof Washington cannot cope with the aftermath of a war they advised it not to wage.

But while Bush's call for a faster handover of sovereignty goes some way to meeting European demands, he should not expect them to jump in with offers of troops or cash to help the United States out of a mess they contend is of its own making.

"France has been right for months," said Paris-based analyst Francois Heisbourg of its staunch opposition to the U.S.-led war and subsequent demands that Iraqis be put back in charge of their own affairs as soon as possible.

"But to think that 'old Europe' is going to jump into the same hole that the Americans are trying to get out of -- that's fantasy land," said Heisbourg, who heads the French Foundation for Strategic Research policy institute. [complete article]

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Red Kabul revisited
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, November 13, 2003

Two years after Kabul was freed from the Taliban there's a sense of deja vu about Afghanistan. The striking comparison is not primarily with Iraq, although reminders of the trouble the Americans are having in Mesopotamia pop up constantly. Indeed, in some ways things are worse. Fighting is on a heavier scale, with US helicopters and aircraft conducting almost daily raids on Taliban groups. Swathes of the south have become no-go areas for UN aid workers and NGOs. More than 350 people have been killed by Taliban attackers or US air raids since August, a death toll greater than in Iraq.

No, Kabul today bears a strong resemblance to the Kabul of 1981. This time the men setting the model are American rather than Russian, but the project for secular modernisation which Washington has embarked on is eerily reminiscent of what the Soviet Union tried to do. Schools, hospitals, electrification, rights for women, an expansion of education - it's the same mix as the Russians were encouraging. Moscow's aid came within the framework of a one-party state and national control of fledgling industry as opposed to today's liberal democracy and an open door for private investors; but for most Afghans, then as now, the ideological trappings matter less than the practical results and the amount of money put to work. [complete article]

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U.S. appears to be losing battle for hearts, minds of many Iraqis
By Maureen Fan and Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, November 12, 2003

On the same Sunday that Iraqi guerrillas shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 16 U.S. soldiers, a less publicized battle was fought, and arguably lost, in the trash-strewn streets of the rough and tumble town of Abu Ghraib, 15 miles west of Baghdad.

A bus was set afire by tracer rounds from an American machine gun after someone threw a hand grenade at a U.S. Humvee. An hour later, dozens of men and teenage boys gathered less than 100 yards away, many of them shouting angrily as they described what they said was indiscriminate fire from the Americans.

Suddenly, an American armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle roared forward and smashed into the bus. The crowd scattered into a narrow alley full of market stalls. Then the Bradley ran over a truck, crushing one side beneath its tracks, and clattered away.

"You see how they behave, and they call us terrorists?" shouted Khassan Naim, a 32-year-old shopkeeper. "You see how they treat us? As long as they are here, and until we have an Iraqi government and are free again, we will continue to fight them." [complete article]

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Is this Hussein's counterattack?
By Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, November 13, 2003

The recent string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along.

Knowing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War that they could not take on the U.S. military with conventional forces, these officers believe, the Baath Party government cached weapons before the Americans invaded this spring and planned to employ guerrilla tactics. [complete article]

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Japan stalls Iraq deployment after suicide bombing
By Rosalind Russell, Reuters, November 13, 2003

Japan ruled out on Thursday any rapid dispatch of forces to Iraq, in another setback for U.S. stabilization efforts a day after a devastating suicide attack on Italian troops in the south. [complete article]

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Korea planning on less than 3,000 troops for Iraq
Reuters, November 13, 2003

South Korea is drafting plans for the deployment of no more than 3,000 troops to help with peacekeeping and reconstruction in Iraq -- well short of the 10,000 requested by Washington -- but a presidential spokesman would not be drawn on whether combat troops would be included. [complete article]

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History's lessons call for stamina
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 2003

Guerrilla wars of the last half century cast a sobering light on the US-led occupation of Iraq: Insurgents often win - and when they do not, quelling them can take years of hard effort.

After a spate of helicopter downings and other attacks that signify an intensifying Iraqi insurgency, military strategists say a long-term US presence is all the more vital to bolstering fledgling Iraqi security forces and bringing hope of a viable representative government.

In nondescript offices inside the Pentagon, military planners are already projecting troop deployments to Iraq as far out as 10 years. [complete article]

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U.S. moves to speed up Iraqi vote and shift of power
By David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, November 13, 2003

The Bush administration, moving up its timetable for self-government in Iraq and yielding to its own handpicked leadership there, has decided to try to hold elections in the first half of next year and turn civilian authority over to a temporary government before a new constitution is written, administration officials said Wednesday.

Increasing attacks on American and other foreign forces forced a rethinking of the administration's approach in recent days, the officials said, lending more urgency to the need for Iraqi self-rule by the middle of next year.

The new plan -- a two-step process -- was intended in part, they said, to change the political climate in Iraq and reduce the anger toward occupying forces that fosters support for violence, including attacks on American and other foreign forces, by demonstrating to Iraqis that the United States is moving more quickly to establish self-rule.

But it was not clear whether those behind the guerrilla attacks, whoever they are, would regard a changed political situation as significant if large numbers of American forces are still in Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraqi leaders seek power before drafting a charter
By Susan Sachs and Joel Brinkley, New York Times, November 13, 2003

Iraqi political leaders have decided to reject a plan to write a new constitution in the coming months, saying they will propose instead that they immediately assume the powers of a provisional government.

Members of the Iraqi Governing Council said Wednesday that they had reached a consensus that writing a constitution, and electing the drafters of a constitution demanded by the powerful Shiite clergy, would be too divisive now.

They said they would work instead on drafting what they call a "basic law" in the hope that they can win international recognition for an Iraqi government that would take over considerable authority from L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator or Iraq, and meet conditions laid down by the United Nations Security Council last month.

The new political plan has won the endorsement of most of the major players on the council, including Kurdish political leaders, the powerful Shiite Muslim parties and the minority Sunni Muslim independents, although no formal vote has been taken on it. [complete article]

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Rice clarifies stand on Iranian group
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 13, 2003

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, rebutting suggestions the Bush administration is being lenient with an Iranian opposition group operating out of Iraq, said yesterday that the Mujaheddin-e Khalq is "part of the global war on terrorism" and its members "are being screened for possible involvement in war crimes, terrorism and other criminal activities."

Rice, in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors, said she was responding to an article in The Post on Sunday that described an apparently easygoing relationship between U.S. forces and the 3,800 Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) troops. One military official, Sgt. William Sutherland, told a reporter that MEK members are patriots. "The problem is they're still labeled as terrorists, even though we both know they're not," Sutherland said. [complete article]

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Unfair tilt toward Israel
By Michael Lerner and Cornel West, Washington Post, November 11, 2003

In mid-September, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined Democratic Rep. Howard Berman of Los Angeles and several dozen other congressional Democrats in an extraordinary attempt to stop debate in the presidential primaries about America's approach to Middle East conflict. In a letter to candidate Howard Dean, the liberal Democrats criticized Dean's statement that if the United States wanted to play a positive role in bringing Israel and Palestine to peace, it would have to take a more neutral stance.

Pelosi and others insisted that these words were a violation of America's traditional tilt toward Israel, and that they could be interpreted as abandoning the U.S. commitment to Israel's survival. Of course Dean had neither intended nor implied any such thing. In fact, Dean has not been particularly courageous on Middle East peace issues, so the public hand-slap sent a powerful message: Democrats can be against the war in Iraq, but they dare not question America's almost blind support for Ariel Sharon's government. [complete article]

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One meal a day for most Palestinians
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service (via, November 13, 2003

Most Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank are eating only one meal a day, leading to malnutrition at levels found in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new United Nations report.

The area is "on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe," adds the document released Wednesday by the UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler. [complete article]

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European dreaming
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, November 13, 2003

This grass roots movement has no name, no leaders and no platform. It is published on the grapevine, because of media apathy. Nonetheless, it is sweeping up a lot families. There's been a dramatic rise over the past year in the number of Ashkenazi families who have gone to East and Central European embassies to seek passports and citizenship, based on their family history.

Grandparents' names are being signed to affidavits, and yellowing papers are being dug up. Lawyers expert in the relevant bureaucracies are being sought to help with the paperwork. In some households, the children are pressing to "get a passport" but the parents are standing firm, with memories of the Holocaust and persecution. [complete article]

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The one-state prescription for Mideast peace
By Yakov M. Rabkin, Montreal Gazette, November 12, 2003

As I was reading in bed in Jerusalem on a September night, I heard an ambulance siren. Then another, then a good dozen of them. It became clear: another terrorist act had just taken place. My daughter told me that a few days earlier she had spent an evening in the café that was now blown up.

Death is lurking literally around the corner in the Promised Land. There seems to be no end to the bloodshed that has gone on for over a century. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda's new tactic: deception and denial
By Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 2003

Al Qaeda foot soldiers seem to be everywhere. They are now claiming responsibility for the Saturday bombing in Saudi Arabia. They say they are flocking into Iraq to fight the US "occupation." They claim they were behind the massive power failure in the northeast quadrant of the US this past summer. Some may even have penetrated Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which houses Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners.

Are they really capable of pulling off all these deeds? Or is it just what they'd like everyone to believe? [complete article]

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U.N. stands by Iran nuclear report
BBC News, November 13, 2003

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has rejected US criticism of its report on Iran's nuclear programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency had come under fire for saying there was no evidence that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The top US arms control official, John Bolton, said the IAEA assessment was "impossible to believe".

But an IAEA spokesman said the agency stood by its confidential report, which has been widely leaked. [complete article]

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Surprise word on nuclear gains by North Korea and Iran
By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, New York Times, November 12, 2003

Two intelligence reports issued in recent days find that North Korea and Iran have made advances on a variety of technologies necessary to build nuclear weapons that surprised many nuclear experts and Western intelligence officials.

Overall, the reports support the consensus view that North Korea is far ahead of Iran in the production of actual weapons and poses the most urgent proliferation problems for the Bush administration.

Yet Iran's program turns out to have been even broader and deeper than American intelligence agencies suspected. A 30-page confidential report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency and sent to 20 governments on Monday describes a program that reached back at least 18 years and involved extremely complex technologies, including an exotic program to use lasers to enrich uranium. [complete article]

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The real target
By Richard Wolffe, Newsweek, November 11, 2003

Bin Laden's terrorists don't want to turn America into an Islamic state. They want to take control of Saudi Arabia and the holy cities of Islam. If that means attacking the superpower that supports the Saudi government, so be it. And apart from the events of 9/11 itself, the group's tactics look surprisingly familiar. With every attack, Al Qaeda looks more and more like a traditional terrorist group, not the fiendishly sophisticated enemy of the future. The group is simply shooting and bombing its way to topple the rulers it hates so passionately: the Saudi royal family.

"Saudi Arabia is the main front in the war on Al Qaeda," says one senior Saudi official. "There is no way in his dreams that bin Laden thought he could destroy America. But he thinks Saudi Arabia is doable. It's absolutely brilliant. If you destroy the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, you will weaken the Saudi state and it becomes ripe for the picking." [complete article]

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War declared, again
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, November 11, 2003

And so it's official: "Postwar Iraq" is just another term for "Iraq War—Phase II."

In a heavily guarded news conference in Baghdad today, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the state of conflict there a "war." John Burns, the New York Times correspondent covering the event, quotes Sanchez's aides noting that the general's choice of words was deliberate—his way of injecting realism into the debate back in Washington. "We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country," Sanchez stated. That sounds like war, all right. [complete article]

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More Iraqis supporting resistance, CIA report says
By Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, November 11, 2003

A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding that the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the resistance.

The report paints a bleak picture of the political and security situation in Iraq and cautions that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the country as a democracy could collapse unless corrective actions are taken immediately.

L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, who arrived unexpectedly in Washington for strategy sessions on Tuesday, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, said a senior administration official.

The report's bleak tone and Bremer's private endorsement differ sharply with the upbeat public assessments that President Bush, his chief aides and Bremer are giving as part of an aggressive publicity campaign aimed at countering rising anxieties at home over increasing U.S. casualties in Iraq. [complete article]

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Skepticism about U.S. deep, Iraq poll shows
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 12, 2003

More than half of Baghdad's residents said they did not believe the United States would allow the Iraqi people to fashion their political future without the direct influence of Washington, according to a Gallup poll.

With the Bush administration holding consultations on the future of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, recent analyses of the poll data, which were gathered three months ago, highlight the roots within that city's populace of many of the concerns the U.S.-led coalition now faces there.

Only 5 percent of those polled said they believed the United States invaded Iraq "to assist the Iraqi people," and only 1 percent believed it was to establish democracy there. [complete article]

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Hudna, resistance and war on Islam
Graham Usher interviews Ahmed Yassin, Al-Ahram, November 6, 2003

For a man heading Israel's death list, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin exudes an almost Buddhist-like calm. On 6 September an Israeli fighter jet tried to kill him courtesy of a 500lb bomb dropped on a residential building in Gaza City. Fifteen Palestinians were wounded. Yassin escaped with scratches. Now, there is a single armed guard. Yassin's only other nod to security is to no longer sleep at home. The interview came after a joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad attack on a Jewish settlement in Gaza that left three Israeli soldiers dead, amid talk of a new Palestinian cease-fire and a month or so after Yassin announced George Bush had "declared war on Islam". [complete article]

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Grind of war giving life to opponents of Sharon
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, November 12, 2003

Three years into war with the Palestinians, Israelis are losing patience with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. With violence continuing and peace efforts at a months-old impasse, members of Sharon's government are voicing dissent, activists are pursuing independent peace initiatives and opinion polls show his approval ratings sinking.

The military's top general has publicly challenged Sharon's handling of the conflict, and long-dormant peace groups and dovish politicians are showing signs of rejuvenation. A memorial service for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 1 drew 100,000 people and turned into the largest peace rally since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising. [complete article]

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Suicide blast wrecks Italian base
BBC News, November 12, 2003

At least 25 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on an Italian police base in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya.

Fifteen of the dead were Italian military personnel, while two Italian civilians and eight Iraqis also died.

The attack - among the worst on foreign bases in Iraq - marked Italy's first deaths in hostile action there. [complete article]

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Republicans will trumpet preemption doctrine
By Anne E. Kornblut, Boston Globe, November 12, 2003

Faced with growing public uneasiness over Iraq, Republican Party officials intend to change the terms of the political debate heading into next year's election by focusing on the "doctrine of preemption," portraying President Bush as a visionary acting to prevent future terrorist attacks on US soil despite the costs and casualties involved overseas.

The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech," Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, wrote in a recent memo to party officials -- a move designed to shift attention toward Bush's broader foreign policy objectives rather than the accounts of bloodshed. Republicans hope to convince voters that Democrats are too indecisive and faint-hearted -- and perhaps unpatriotic -- to protect US interests, arguing that inaction during the Clinton years led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The president's critics are adopting a policy that will make us more vulnerable in a dangerous world," Gillespie wrote. "Specifically, they now reject the policy of pre-emptive self-defense and would return us to a policy of reacting to terrorism in its aftermath." [complete article]

Countering the radical GOP
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, November 11, 2003

Our foreign policy debate right now pits radicals against conservatives. Republicans are the radicals. Democrats are the conservatives.

That jarring but shrewd perspective, offered by Anthony Lake, President Clinton's former national security adviser, explains much that is strange in our national discussion. And while Lake is critical of President Bush's policies, he does not use the word "radical" to make a partisan point. He is also critical of his own party's newly discovered conservatism. [complete article]

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'I'm waiting for my destiny'
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 12, 2003

Jassam's new life began on March 31, when his home was destroyed by a U.S. missile strike nine days before Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fell. In the seven months since, like the country still shadowed by that collapse, he has tried to rebuild.

In vain, he sought compensation from U.S. officials administering the occupation -- seeking $5,000, recognizing he would settle for less. In desperation, he considered asking for charity from neighborhood mosques. And in resignation, he -- like his country, perched as it is between war and peace -- waits with frayed patience for answers to uncertainties.

"How's it going to end? I'm still waiting for my fate. I'm waiting for my destiny," he said. "Only God knows." complete article]

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A valuable resource? -- As the U.S. government exercises its "muscular" approach to foreign affairs, The War in Context strives to make sense of the news. Drawing from dozens of quality international sources, through a mix of reporting, analysis and commentary, The War in Context puts the news in perspective. The lead actors capture the headlines, but The War in Context looks at their impact on the world. If this site provides you with a valuable service that you haven't found anywhere else, please offer a token of your appreciation and help keep the site running by making a donation. It's easy if you have a credit card. To donate, just hit the PayPal "donate" button below!
PayPal (with 31 million account members and available in 38 countries) is an eBay company that enables secure online transactions. If you prefer to donate by check, send an email to for more information. Thank you, Paul Woodward, Editor.

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U.S. aide in Iraq in urgent talks at White House
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, November 12, 2003

L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq, made a hurried return to Washington on Tuesday as Bush administration officials held an urgent round of meetings to discuss ways of speeding up the transfer of power to Iraqis.

The meetings reflected dissatisfaction with the pace of progress in Iraq and a growing conviction that Mr. Bremer must abandon his methodical plan to move gradually toward the election of an Iraqi government over a year or two, officials said. [complete article]

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U.S. military responding more fiercely to Iraqi guerrilla strikes
By John Daniszewski and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2003

U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police arrived at the sprawling three-family farmhouse just after 4 p.m. with orders for the 15 or so people still living there: Grab what you can in the next 30 minutes, and then leave. Your house is about to be bombed.

Two hours later on Monday, a pair of F-16 warplanes screamed overhead and dropped 1,000-pound laser-guided armaments on the boxy, concrete structure. The bombs left a deep crater strewn with smashed furniture, broken concrete and other debris. The lawn, shed and date trees around it remained intact.

U.S. military authorities said the bombing of the Najim family house was a prime example of a firm new response to those who plant roadside bombs, hide weapons or carry out ambushes that kill or harm American soldiers, and they want the people in these parts to know about it. It was the third fixed-wing bombing in a week across Iraq, pointing up a re-escalation of the war by the U.S. in response to heightened insurgency.

"The message is this: If you shoot at an American or a coalition force member, you are going to be killed or you are going to be captured, and if we trace somebody back to a specific safe house, we are going to destroy that facility," said Maj. Lou Zeisman, a paratroop officer of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division deployed here from Fayetteville, N.C. "We are not going to take these continuous attacks." [complete article]

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U.S. wants ban on protests during Bush visit to U.K.
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 12, 2003

Anti-war protesters claim that US authorities have demanded a rolling "exclusion zone" around President George Bush during his visit, as well as a ban on marches in parts of central London.

The Stop The War Coalition said yesterday that it had been told by the police that it would not be allowed to demonstrate in Parliament Square and Whitehall next Thursday - a ban it said it was determined to resist. The coalition says that it has also been told by British officials that American officials want a distance kept between Mr Bush and protesters, for security reasons and to prevent their appearance in the same television shots.

The Metropolitan Police banned the Parliament Square and Whitehall route by the use of Sessional Orders - which can be enforced for such a purpose when Parliament is in session.

MPs supporting the protests saydemonstrations have been allowed while Parliament was sitting, and, in any case, it was unlikely it will be doing so on the day of the proposed march.

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said yesterday that Mr Bush should not be shielded from public anger about the Iraq war, and Londoners should not have to pick up the £4m policing bill. He said: "To create a situation in which perhaps 60,000 people remain unseen would require a shutdown of central London which is just not acceptable." [complete article]

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U.K. cuts rainforest funding to meet Iraq costs
By Marie Woolf, The Independent, November 12, 2003

Britain is to slash its aid programme aimed at saving the Amazon rainforest and preserving the culture of its people to meet the soaring cost of rebuilding Iraq.

Environmentalists fear the Government's decision to review its £16m contribution to the international community's efforts to protect Amazonia could lead to further ecological and cultural devastation.

Britain is one of the leading backers of the G7 Pilot Programme for the Conservation of the Brazilian Rainforests, which helps indigenous peoples to manage the forest in a sustainable way and counter the effects of illegal logging.

The Department for International Development admitted it was scaling back cash for its aid projects to the Amazon in a written parliamentary reply to the Labour MP Barry Gardiner yesterday.

The number of trees felled in the Amazon region has risen by 40 per cent in the past year, with almost 10,000 square miles of virgin forest - an area 1.2 times the size of Wales - cut down. But the Government has admitted "the future" of schemes that were due to continue for another three years, "will have to be reviewed".

The move was made after the Government's decision to pour £540m into the rebuilding of Iraq, which critics say is being spent at the expense of aid projects to some of the world's poorest nations. [complete article]

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Personal agendas, conflicting interests raise friction between U.S., Iraqi Governing Council
By Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, November 12, 2003

Personal agendas, ethnic rivalries and differences over visions for a new Iraq are responsible for American dissatisfaction with Washington's own creation -- the Iraqi Governing Council.

Frustration over the U.S.-appointed council has emerged at a time of escalating attacks by Iraqi insurgents, most recently a mortar barrage late Tuesday against the coalition headquarters compound.

In response to the growing insurgency, the U.S. military has adopted a new tactic of answering guerrilla attacks with massive firepower -- which risks civilian casualties and alienating Iraqis.

Heavy-handed moves against the 25-seat Governing Council also could be seen by the already distrustful Iraqi public as a sign that the Americans aren't serious about granting Iraqis a meaningful role in their own affairs. [complete article]

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Hekmatyar asks Pakistan not to help U.S. in Afghanistan
By Rahimullah Yusufzai, News International, November 12, 2003

Former Afghan Mujahideen leader Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, who is wanted by the US has asked the Pakistan government to stop assisting America and its allies in killing innocent Afghans.

In a two-page signed statement delivered to The News the other day, he reminded Pakistan that it would have to live with Afghanistan as its neighbour because the US troops sooner or later would be forced to pull out of the region. Without elaborating, he said: "Pakistan should keep in mind the day when the Americans are gone and we Afghans and Pakistanis would still be here." [complete article]

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Bomb explodes at U.N. office in Afghanistan
By Victoria Burnett and Mark Turner, Financial Times, November 11, 2003

A car bomb exploded outside the main UN compound in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Tuesday as a top United Nations diplomat warned in New York that terrorism, factional fighting and the opium trade were hindering the Afghan peace process.

Gunter Pleuger, Germany's ambassador to the UN and the head of a recent Security Council mission to Afghanistan, said attacks by suspected Taliban, al-Qaeda and supporters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a renegade warlord, posed a "significant threat" to stability. [complete article]

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Islam's medieval outposts
By Husain Haqqani, Foreign Policy, November/December, 2003

The remarkable transformation and global spread of Madrasas during the 1980s and 1990s owes much to geopolitics, sectarian struggles, and technology, but the schools’ influence and staying power derive from deep-rooted socioeconomic conditions that have so far proved resistant to change. Now, with the prospect of Madrasas churning out tens of thousands of would-be militant graduates each year, calls for reform are growing. But anyone who hopes for change in the schools’ curriculum, approach, or mind-set is likely to be disappointed. In some ways, Madrasas are at the center of a civil war of ideas in the Islamic world. Westernized and usually affluent Muslims lack an interest in religious matters, but religious scholars, marginalized by modernization, seek to assert their own relevance by insisting on orthodoxy. A regular education costs money and is often inaccessible to the poor, but Madrasas are generally free. Poor students attending Madrasas find it easy to believe that the West, loyal to uncaring and aloof leaders, is responsible for their misery and that Islam as practiced in its earliest form can deliver them. [complete article]

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It must be Islamic democracy or it will die
By John O'Sullivan, National Post, November 11, 2003

In the battle of the Marne in 1914 Marshall Foch allegedly sent the following message to the French general staff: "My center is giving way and my right is in retreat. Situation excellent. I shall attack." There were echoes of this bravado in U.S. President George Bush's speech last week in which he outlined an ambitious strategy for establishing democracy in the Middle East as a major justification for his intervention in Iraq.

In Iraq itself the security situation is getting worse. More American soldiers are being killed by cleverly co-ordinated attacks. Weapons of mass destruction remain to be found in headline quantities (though Saddam plainly had the ability to manufacture them.) The Taliban are re-grouping on the Agfhan-Pakistan border. And both Saddam and Osama bin Laden are still at large.

Situation excellent. Let us build democracy in a part of the world that has known only despotism and anarchy -- with the qualified exceptions of Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and the interwar British and French colonies with their fledgling representative institutions -- and that must accommodate an overwhelmingly Muslim electorate. [complete article]

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Soros's deep pockets vs. Bush
By Laura Blumenfeld, Washington Post, November 11, 2003

George Soros, one of the world's richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death." [complete article]

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American civilian vanishes in Iraq
$40,000 found in car left behind by Army contractor

By Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2003

A [San Francisco Bay Area] Moss Beach man working as a contractor for the U.S. Army in Iraq has mysteriously disappeared while driving along an isolated road north of the country's violence-plagued Sunni Triangle.

Fears are growing that Kirk von Ackermann, 37, might have been abducted or killed after his car was found abandoned between the cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk. Found inside the vehicle were his satellite phone, a laptop computer and a briefcase containing around $40,000, suggesting that he had not been the victim of a robbery. There was no sign of a struggle at the scene.

Since his disappearance on Oct. 9, the Army has conducted an "aggressive" investigation aided by Iraqi police, said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, based in Virginia. But so far they are baffled. [complete article]

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Turkish Kurdish rebel groups dissolves itself, plans formation of new group
By Louis Meixler, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), November 11, 2003

The Kurdish guerrilla group that battled the Turkish army for some 15 years announced Tuesday that it was dissolving itself and was planning to form a new group that would likely would pursue Kurdish rights through negotiations.

The Kurdistan Workers Party changed its name to the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan, or KADEK, last year and announced a shift in strategy, saying it would peacefully campaign for Kurdish rights.

KADEK on Monday said it was dissolving to allow for the formation of a more democratic, broader group, but gave few details. [complete article]

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Cheney theme of Qaeda ties to Iraq bombings are questioned by some
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, November 11, 2003

Vice President Dick Cheney has in recent speeches mentioned the major bombings in Iraq this past summer in the same breath as the deadly strikes in Bali, Casablanca and Riyadh, which authorities say were carried out by Al Qaeda or groups affiliated with it.

The clear implication is that militants linked to Al Qaeda were responsible for the Iraq bombings, too. The attacks in Baghdad last month would appear to lend credence to that claim except for this: senior military, intelligence and law enforcement officials say there is no conclusive evidence pointing to a particular group - Al Qaeda or not -- as the mastermind behind any of the major attacks in Iraq. "At this point it isn't clear who's responsible for those bombings," a senior American official said. [complete article]

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G.I. kills head of council in Sadr City
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 11, 2003

The U.S. military and residents of Baghdad's largest neighborhood differ on the circumstances of Muhannad Kaabi's death. Did he reach for a gun? Did he try to wrestle a U.S. soldier to the ground? Was he killed in cold blood?

They do, however, agree on the aftermath, another potential setback in U.S. efforts to court support among the crucial constituency of Sadr City. After a shouting match and fight that lasted a few minutes Sunday, a soldier shot Kaabi, the man leading the U.S.-supervised council that runs the slum, which is home to as many as 2 million people. His death left supporters of U.S. efforts grasping for explanations and handed detractors new evidence that tranquility under the occupation is impossible. [complete article]

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Hope dies last
By Studs Turkel, Tom Engelhardt's TomDispatch, November 11, 2003

Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up. That's what Jessie de la Cruz meant when she said, "I feel there's gonna be a change, but we're the ones gonna do it, not the government. With us, there's a saying, ‘La esperanza muere última. Hope dies last.' You can't lose hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything."

She, a retired farm worker, was recounting the days before Cesar Chavez and his stoop-labor colleagues founded the United Farm Workers (UFW). It was a metaphor for much of the twentieth century.

As we enter the new millennium, hope appears to be an American attribute that has vanished for many, no matter what their class or condition in life. The official word has never been more arrogantly imposed. Passivity, in the face of such a bold, unabashed show of power from above, appears to be the order of the day. But it ain't necessarily so. [complete article]

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Iraqi tribes, asked to help G.I.'s, say they can't
By Susan Sachs, New York Times, November 11, 2003

As a tribal chieftain in Iraq's most rebellious city, Sheik Khamis el-Essawi has met more American commanders in the last seven months than he can remember.

They all make the same polite yet firm demand. He must, they say, exert his legendary tribal authority to stop guerrilla attacks on their troops.

Sheik Khamis, a dapper man whose Buessa tribe still controls a fine swath of fertile land along the Euphrates, says he keeps responding that, alas, his influence is just not what it used to be. [complete article]

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Troops find talk is key to earning trust of Iraqis
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 11, 2003

When Col Mirabile and his troops arrived in Iraq in May, their mission was supposed to be a straightforward "stability and support" operation after George Bush's declaration that major combat operations were over.

But in the weeks that followed Ramadi, a Sunni town 80 miles north-west of Baghdad, rapidly became the heartland of Iraq's violent resistance movement.

Col Mirabile and the men of the 1st Battalion of the 124th Infantry Regiment of the Florida National Guard had been trained for war but quickly found themselves struggling to secure the peace. It became a mission for which his troops were neither briefed nor trained. They have done it with notable success - but the effort has left them critical of America's postwar effort. [complete article]

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Accidents may be Iran's greatest nuclear threat
By Dan De Luce, The Guardian, November 10, 2003

Western governments worry about Iran building an atomic bomb, but safety experts say the greatest risk arising from Tehran's nuclear programme is of an accident.

"Secrecy is the biggest enemy of nuclear safety," said Professor Najmedin Meshkati of the University of Southern California in the US, who studies the causes of accidents at nuclear power plants.

With the US and European governments focused on trying to slow down Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, Professor Meshkati believes safety concerns have been largely overlooked. [complete article]

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Dreamers and idiots
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, November 11, 2003

Those who would take us to war must first shut down the public imagination. They must convince us that there is no other means of preventing invasion, or conquering terrorism, or even defending human rights. When information is scarce, imagination is easy to control. As intelligence gathering and diplomacy are conducted in secret, we seldom discover - until it is too late - how plausible the alternatives may be. [complete article]

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Iraq 'faces severe health crisis'
BBC News, November 11, 2003

The people of Iraq may have poorer health for generations as a result of the war, according to a report.
Medical charity Medact says this year's conflict disrupted immunisation programmes and destroyed water systems, increasing levels of disease.

Environmental degradation and smoke from oil fires are adding to the health problems of Iraqis, it reports.

Continuing insecurity in Iraq, along with the breakdown of public health services, are exacerbating the problem.

Entitled Continuing Collateral Damage: the health and environmental costs of war on Iraq, the report estimates that between 22,000 and 55,000 people - mainly Iraqi soldiers and civilians - died as a direct result of the war. [complete article]

See the report, Continuing collateral damage

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U.S. threatens 'new methods' in Iraq fight
By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press (via Toronto Star), November 10, 2003

A senior American military commander has warned community leaders in this Sunni Muslim city that if anti-U.S. activities continue, occupation forces will use new and unspecified methods to maintain order, an Iraqi who attended the meeting said today.

The warning was issued Saturday by Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, during a meeting in Ramadi with mayors and tribal leaders of Anbar province, Iraq's largest and the most dangerous for U.S. forces.

Abizaid described Fallujah as a "hot area" and warned that if the city refuses to co-operate "in the rebuilding process," there "might be another policy," Fallujah Mayor Taha Bedawi told The Associated Press. [complete article]

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Time to do away with the P.A.
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, November 10, 2003

This farce should have been ended long ago. If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had been blessed with a greater measure of self-respect, readiness for personal sacrifice and political audacity, they would have long since declared the PA liquidated and left all the responsibility solely in Israel's hands. [complete article]

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U.S.-appointed Iraqi council leader killed
By Anthony Shadid and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, November 10, 2003

Iraqis marched in anger through the streets here Monday after the killing of an American-appointed local Iraqi council leader by U.S. military guards under disputed circumstances. [complete article]

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Frightening winds swirl around the House of Saud
By Robert Fisk, The Independent (via NZ Herald), November 11, 2003

Osama bin Laden has an awful lot of friends in Saudi Arabia. In the mosque, among the disenchanted youth, among the security forces, even - and this is what the West declines to discuss - within the royal family.

Saudi ambassadors routinely dismiss these facts as "unfounded", but Sunday's attack in the capital, Riyadh, is part of a growing insurrection against Bin Laden's enemies in the House of Saud.

Whether or not the bombers were Saudi security force members - they were certainly wearing Saudi military uniforms - the Riyadh Government's own "war on terror" is now provoking bombings, gun battles and killings almost every day in the kingdom. [complete article]

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U.S. troops clash with 'P.K.K. rebels'
BBC News, November 10, 2003

American troops have clashed with suspected Turkish Kurd rebels based in northern Iraq.
The US military confirmed that fire was exchanged between "unknown forces" and an Iraqi border patrol supported by US forces.

The statement came after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that US forces had clashed with PKK rebels.

If confirmed, it would be the first known clash between US forces and the PKK. [complete article]

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A campaign to rattle a long-ruling dynasty
By Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, November 10, 2003

For years, Osama bin Laden called for the violent overthrow of the Saudi royal family for allowing American bases in the holiest land of Islam.

But with American forces gone, the bombs continue to explode -- signaling that the withdrawal did not address the deeper grievances among the hardened Saudi militants who were behind the car bomb attack in Riyadh late on Saturday. Those militants are now seeking to exploit the opposition that is growing within Saudi Arabia to a dynasty long immune to political challenge.

What seems ever more apparent in the attack in Riyadh that left at least 17 people dead and 122 wounded is that it is no longer Americans or even Westerners who are the targets of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, but rather stability itself in the oil-producing kingdom, as well as the writ of the House of Saud.
[complete article]

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Turkey warns of preemptive action against rebel Kurds
By Amberin Zaman, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2003

Reiterating demands that American forces take action against Turkish Kurd rebels in Iraq, Turkey warned that it might intervene to disarm and evict the guerrillas from their mountain strongholds in northern Iraq if the U.S. fails to do so.

"The U.S. has promised to remove the terrorists. We are still waiting for America to fulfill its promise. We believe that it will," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told The Times in an interview Saturday. "But Turkey has the right to take preemptive action to defend its own security interests, just as Israel and the United States do. The U.S. government must take this issue seriously."

Gul spoke a day after the U.S. and Turkey formally abandoned plans to deploy as many as 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq to help U.S. forces restore peace. [complete article]

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U.S. aides acknowledge string of missteps with Turkey
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, November 10, 2003

Even inside the Bush administration, few foreign policy aides say relations with Turkey, one of the United States' most important allies in Europe and the Muslim world, have been a great success. Some say dealings with Turkey have been clumsily handled for nearly a year.

Political miscalculations, false assumptions and what one called "an abundance of wishful thinking" led to a string of missteps, some administration officials say. American and Turkish officials maintain that relations between the two nations can be repaired, but that it will take some time and high-level attention. [complete article]

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Defining the resistance in Iraq -- it's not foreign and it's well prepared
By Scott Ritter, Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 2003

In the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib is a compound on an abandoned airstrip that once belonged to a state organization known as M-21, or the Special Operations Directorate of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. As a UN weapons inspector, I inspected this facility in June of 1996. We were looking for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While I found no evidence of WMD, I did find an organization that specialized in the construction and employment of "improvised explosive devices" - the same IEDs that are now killing Americans daily in Iraq. [complete article]

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U.S. shifts to war footing in Iraq's 'Sunni triangle'
By Howard LaFranchi and Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 2003

In at least one troublesome area of Iraq, the US military is shifting from peacekeeping and nationbuilding to the work it is designed and trained to do: fight wars.

Responding to attacks that have killed 150 of their brethren during the six-month occupation, American forces over the weekend adopted a more aggressive approach to the so-called "Sunni triangle" - the region north and west of Baghdad where most attacks against the occupation are occurring.

US authorities are wagering that security-starved Iraqis won't protest the crackdown in the triangle, a focal point of support for the otherwise widely hated former regime. Tikritis are particularly resented by the Iraqi public, since most of the top officials in Saddam Hussein's feared domestic security network were recruited from the area. [complete article]

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Cheney's long path to war
By Mark Hosenball, Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas, Newsweek, November 17, 2003

Of all the president's advisers, Cheney has consistently taken the most dire view of the terrorist threat. On Iraq, Bush was the decision maker. But more than any adviser, Cheney was the one to make the case to the president that war against Iraq was an urgent necessity. Beginning in the late summer of 2002, he persistently warned that Saddam was stocking up on chemical and biological weapons, and last March, on the eve of the invasion, he declared that "we believe that he [Saddam Hussein] has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." (Cheney later said that he meant "program," not "weapons." He also said, a bit optimistically, "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.") After seven months, investigators are still looking for that arsenal of WMD. [complete article]

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Head of Sadr City council shot
By Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), November 10, 2003

In Sadr City, the head of the municipal council, Muhanad al-Kaadi, was shot Sunday after an argument with a U.S. sentry posted at the entrance to the municipal building.

The guard apparently did not recognize al-Kaadi when he tried to enter the building, said Ahmed Hanoun, a resident of the township who said he had been waiting outside the gate to apply for a job when the incident occurred.

A military spokesman said Monday he had no knowledge of the incident. But a U.S. officer at the scene told reporters that an investigation had been launched into the killing.

U.S. authorities hand-picked members of the council soon after the fall of Baghdad. [complete article]

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Success measured in cement
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, November 10, 2003

The rumbling, rust-colored cement factory tucked into a valley in the northwest corner of the country here stands as a monument to the success of the reconstruction effort. Burned and looted in the aftermath of the war, it was up and running again by mid-September.

But it was not put back together by the U.S.-led interim government and the fleets of contractors being paid billions of dollars to fix the country. In fact, had the plant managers gone the "American way," the factory might still be in pieces. [complete article]

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Syria dusts off maps of Golan Heights battlefields following Israeli attack
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, November 10, 2003

For the past 36 years recovering the Golan Heights - 460 square miles of fertile volcanic soil stretching down to the Sea of Galilee - has been the prime goal of Syria's foreign policy, but keeping the issue in the spotlight has often proved difficult.

Since the collapse of peace talks between the late President Hafez al-Assad and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in 2000, the Palestinian uprising has diverted attention; the current road map for peace, sponsored by the US, the EU, the UN and Russia, hints at an eventual Israeli-Syrian settlement almost as an afterthought.

But in the eyes of many Syrians - as well as foreign diplomats in Damascus - the Golan is back on the agenda again. The change came on October 5, when Israel bombed an apparently abandoned building 15 miles from Damascus which it said was a training centre for Palestinian militants. [complete article]

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In a delicate balancing act, U.S. woos Iranian group in Iraq
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, November 9, 2003

Listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and bombed by U.S. warplanes during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the armed Iranian opposition group known as People's Mujaheddin remains in its customary quarters about 50 miles north of Baghdad. The sprawling, dun-colored compound is named Camp Ashraf, and the 3,800 men and women inside are technically prisoners of the United States. [...]

Inside Iraq, the mujaheddin are regarded as Hussein's private army. The Iraqi dictator gave the Iranian group Camp Ashraf and a half-dozen other installations around Iraq. He equipped them with tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.

In 1991, when Iraq's Shiite Muslim and Kurdish populations answered the call of then-President George H.W. Bush to rise up and overthrow Hussein, mujaheddin tanks rode to the dictator's rescue. [...]

Now, as the Bush administration wrestles with the question of what to do about Iran, some argue for putting the mujaheddin to use again.

"The problem is they're still labeled as terrorists, even though we both know they're not," said Sgt. William Sutherland, explaining why a reporter could not enter Camp Ashraf. "Much as I'd like to go and do a story myself on how they're not terrorists -- rather, they're patriots -- it's not going to happen until they get put on the green list." [complete article]

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Saudi bomb jars militants' support
By Cameron W. Barr, Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 2003

A terrorist bombing in the Saudi capital Saturday night suggests that Saudi Arabia's family-run government may be facing a more direct threat from within than ever before. But popular revulsion at the attack on civilians, including children, may strengthen the government's hand in confronting its opponents.

Saudi officials and analysts blamed Al Qaeda for the attack, which killed at least 11 people and injured more than 120, at a residential compound in Riyadh that houses mainly families from other Arab countries. Previous attacks of similar magnitude in Saudi Arabia have almost always targeted the US.

The militants responsible for Saturday's attack are "no longer targeting Westerners, now they just basically trying to disturb the entire country," says Hussein Shobokshi, a Saudi political analyst and businessman. [complete article]

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Iraq's firebrand cleric softens rhetoric
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via Newsday), November 9, 2003

A Shiite Muslim firebrand who has been a thorn in the side of Iraq's American administrators is showing a more conciliatory side. Gone is the talk of setting up a rival government and the denounciations of rivals. Now he says Saddam Hussein -- not America -- is the enemy of Iraqis.

Muqtada al-Sadr's new tone may have more to do with fear of arrest than any decision to abandon his quest for leadership of Iraq's Shiite majority, coalition officials believe. [complete article]

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In the sheiks' hands
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, November 10, 2003

... if there is a gulf of understanding between the Iraqis and the US, there is another dangerous fault line in the US appreciation of the power of the sheiks and their tribes -- US officers in the field seem to get it, but their more ideologically bound bosses in the Baghdad bunkers don't. Lieutenant-Colonel John J. Bryant initially defended the US effort to reconstruct Iraq. But after a pause, he said: "In terms of the resources we have, the challenge is huge."

Asked about the power of the sheiks, he said: "It's awesome -- we just don't understand it. At a meeting with a couple of sheiks and a lot of citizens, we were talking about how our colleagues in other parts of Iraq were having more problems that we did.

"What the citizens said was 'if the sheiks want us to be kind to the Americans, then we will be kind'. In a nutshell, that told me a whole lot. There is a financial part to every deal and if an aid group or the US comes into an area, then the sheik needs to be seen as having brought them in."

Further north in Falluja, where the Americans encounter some of the toughest Iraqi resistance, a youthful Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hickey, the senior coalition commander in the region, is upfront: "The hardest thing for me coming into the region is understanding the local power relations.

"I've got seven tribes here, but I'm still learning where they are and who's in charge.

"It's confusing -- I've been here for a few weeks and I ask the mayor for a meeting with the sheiks, but later I'm told that the people he lined up for me are not the real sheiks!" [complete article]

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U.S. bungling in Baghdad
By Oliver Morgan, The Observer, November 9, 2003

Anwar Diab is a frustrated man. As an Iraqi who has recently returned to his homeland from America to participate in its reconstruction, his description of winning a contract from the American authorities in Baghdad is reminiscent of K's struggles with the powers-that-be in Kafka's The Castle.

Speaking on a satellite phone from the Iraqi capital, he outlines the problems in getting any work out of the Americans - and as an English-speaker who lived in the US for 23 years, he will have had it relatively easy.

'There is no system or procedure on how to reach the Americans,' he says. 'Every ministry has an American co-ordinator, but it is very difficult for ordinary Iraqis to reach them. The system is not transparent to Iraqis.'

Diab, who started a technology company in Baghdad three months ago, says increasing numbers of small contracts are being handled by Iraqi authorities, where there is openness. But dealing with the US Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) or any of the other government agencies is truly Kafkaesque. [complete article]

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Kingdom said to launch fierce anti-Qaeda fight
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, November 9, 2003

Saudi Arabia has waged a sustained offensive against terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda over the past six months, killing and capturing hundreds of suspected militants and disrupting their operations, according to US and Saudi counterterrorism officials. But Saudi security services also have uncovered a significantly larger terrorist-cell structure than anticipated.

The attack on a Riyadh residential compound yesterday was the first successful operation for Islamic militants in the kingdom since three deadly blasts rocked similar targets May 12. Those attacks marked a watershed in the country's response to the terrorist movement, US and Saudi government officials said. [complete article]

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Hezbollah's dilemma
By Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, November 9, 2003

Talal Salman, editor-in-chief of as-Safir, Lebanon's second-largest Arabic daily newspaper, says Hezbollah's ambitions for a larger role in the Middle East hinge entirely on the outcome of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"Hezbollah is in crisis," he says. "On one hand, they are one of the biggest and most important parties in the Arab world, yet they no longer have a clear mission.

"One of the ways out of that would be to reinvent its image beyond Lebanon, but right now they find themselves in an awkward position because of Iraq.

"Remember, Saddam Hussein killed thousands of Shiites -- people who are the spiritual, and in some cases the actual, brothers of Hezbollah here in Lebanon.

"The Americans ended this nightmare. So Hezbollah, no matter what it wants to do, cannot afford to upset the balance in Iraq. If the Shiites in Iraq become more resistant to the U.S. occupation, Hezbollah is a model they could copy." [complete article]

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Alternatives to Iraqi council eyed
By Robin Wright and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, November 9, 2003

Increasingly alarmed by the failure of Iraq's Governing Council to take decisive action, the Bush administration is developing possible alternatives to the council to ensure that the United States can turn over political power at the same time and pace that troops are withdrawn, according to senior U.S. officials here and in Baghdad.

The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future, especially selecting a committee to write a new constitution, the officials added. "We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," said a well-placed U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "They just don't make decisions when they need to." [complete article]

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Another American casualty: Credibility
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, November 9, 2003

Forty years ago, an important emissary was sent to France by a beleaguered president of the United States . It was during the Cuban missile crisis and the emissary was a tough-minded former secretary of state, Dean Acheson. His mission was to brief French President Charles de Gaulle and solicit his support in what could become a nuclear war involving not just the United States and the Soviet Union but the entire NATO alliance and the Warsaw Pact.

At the end of the briefing, Acheson said to de Gaulle, "I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons." The French president responded, "I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America."

Would any foreign leader today react the same way to an American emissary sent abroad to say that country X is armed with weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States? [complete article]

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Pfc. Jessica Lynch isn't Rambo anymore
By Frank Rich, New York Times, November 9, 2003

Ah, the dazzling pyrotechnics of "shock and awe." The finality of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue. The thrill of that re-enactment of "Top Gun." The sense of closure provided by the banner reading "Mission Accomplished." Like all wars of the TV age, the war in Iraq is not just a clash of armies, but a succession of iconic images. Those who control the images, and the narratives they encapsulate, control history. At least until a new reality crashes in. [complete article]

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Iraqi insurgents take a page from the Afghan 'freedom fighters'
By Milt Bearden, New York Times, November 9, 2003

As the daily attacks against American forces in Iraq increase in number and sophistication, the Bush administration continues to portray its adversaries as an assortment of die-hard Baathists, criminals, thugs and foreign terrorists, all acting out of desperation.

Certainly, there are Baathists and foreign terrorists operating against the American-led coalition, and their ranks probably include criminals. But the overarching reality is that the American and British forces are facing a resourceful adversary whose game plan may be more fully developed than originally thought.

My own experience in war has largely been on the side of insurgents. I served as the Central Intelligence Agency's quartermaster and political agent to the Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation from 1986 until the Soviets left in 1989.

From my perspective, the Iraqi resistance has taken a page from a sophisticated insurgency playbook in their confrontations with the American-led coalition. [complete article]

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Iraq seen as al Qaeda's top battlefield
By Richard C. Paddock, Alissa J. Rubin and Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2003

Answering Osama bin Laden's call for holy war in Iraq, hundreds of followers from at least eight nations have entered the country and are playing a major role in attacking Western targets and Iraqi civilians, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

Operatives of the Al Qaeda terrorist network and affiliated extremist groups are collaborating with Saddam Hussein loyalists, officials say, forming an array of shadowy alliances that are emerging as one of the biggest challenges to U.S.-led efforts to bring stability to the war-torn country.

Some officials believe that Iraq is replacing Afghanistan as the global center of Islamic jihad and becoming the prime locale for extremist Muslim fighters who are eager to confront Americans on Arab soil. [complete article]

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Wounds of war
By Esther Schrader, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2003

The physical therapists on the fifth floor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center have a bulletin board they call their Wall of Heroes. It is crammed with photos of young soldiers in their care -- soldiers wounded in the war in Iraq.

The images of the amputees and burn victims stand out, a tragic irony of an important advance in military protective gear.

The new armored vests that soldiers are wearing in this war protect the human torso and have saved countless lives, but often at a terrible price. One day last week, all but 20 of the 250 beds at the center were taken up with casualties of the war. Fifty of them have lost limbs, often more than one. Dozens more suffer burns and shrapnel wounds that begin where their armored vests ended.

On average, they are 23 years old. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

America stirs hornet's nest of revenge
By David Blair, The Telegraph, November 8, 2003
It is unlikely that a Pentagon official will ever visit the Iraqi hamlet of al-Hussai on the western bank of the Euphrates river, but if he did he would find the views of 19-year-old Bashar Hashim Abdullah deeply troubling.

By Daniel Benjamin, Slate, November 7, 2003
By removing the locks from Iraq's enormous stores of armaments, including "vast, unknown" quantities of anti-aircraft weapons, as Air Force Gen. John Handy, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, put it several months ago, the fighting in Iraq has virtually ensured that some of these arms will wind up in the hands of terrorists who will want to use them outside the current war zone.

The one-state solution
By Virginia Tilley, London Review of Books, November 6, 2003
For some years, most people sympathetic to Palestinian national aspirations - or simply alert to their durability and the political dangers they pose - have assumed that a stable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would require the formation of a Palestinian state in the (dwindling) areas not yet annexed by Israel, in what is left of British Mandate territory.

The story of this war
By Michael Vlahos, Tech Central Station, November 6, 2003
The future may not exist, yet its prospect alone -- especially in a war -- can have authority over our lives. We give it authority by collectively accepting a particular story of the future as the preferred reality to be. The American people, by supporting the Administration and the war, accepted just such a story of the future in 2002.

Neocons: The men behind the curtain
By Khurram Husain, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December, 2003
Undeterred by their encounters with reality, the strategists who pushed for war in Iraq believed then, and still believe, that their moment has come.

A high price for a hollow victory
By Senator Robert C. Byrd, United States Senate, November 3, 2003
The Iraq supplemental conference report before the Senate today has been widely described as a victory for President Bush. If hardball politics and lock-step partisanship are the stuff of which victory is made, then I suppose the assessments are accurate. But if reasoned discourse, integrity, and accountability are the measures of true victory, then this package falls far short of the mark.

The hard-liner: Richard Pipes
By Sam Tanenhaus, Boston Globe, November 2, 2003
Over the past two years, the Bush administration has inspired one of the more stimulating scavenger hunts in recent memory -- the search for the Ur-theorist of its bold foreign policy initiatives.

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