The War in Context  
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F.B.I. scrutinizes antiwar rallies
By Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, November 23, 2003

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used "training camps" to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.

F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters. [complete article]

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Turks blame US policy for blasts
Reuters (via The Age), November 23, 2003

Several thousand Turks gathered in Istanbul and other cities yesterday to condemn this week's suicide bombings, with many protesting against what they see as the root cause of the attacks - the United States.

Police in riot gear looked on in Turkey's business capital as unions, political parties and community groups peacefully joined those affected by the blasts to share their sadness and anger at the four attacks, which killed more than 50 people.

"Curse this terrorism, it killed my friend," said retired businessman Ismail Yildirim. "The imperialist powers are behind this, they are turning the Middle East into a bloodbath. They want to drag Turkey into it, but they will fail." [complete article]

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West must help Turkey fight back
By Jonny Dymond, The Observer, November 23, 2003

Turkey is staring into the abyss. Parts of Istanbul, one of the jewels of the East, resemble Beirut in the bad old days. The government, once sure-footed, is shaken. And among the population, once reliably pro-Western, there is anger - not just at the bombers who killed so many of their citizens and injured many more, but at the actions of the West, which some believe have stirred up terrorism.

Some of the newspapers here described the bombings as 'our 9/11'. It is at first sight a strange comparison. Domestic terrorism was largely unknown in the United States before the destruction of the World Trade Centre. But in Turkey there are metal detectors in all large government buildings, hotels and shopping malls. Kurdish, Islamist and Marxist groups have all fought the Turkish state.

But there is something in the comparison. Because if anyone in Turkey thought that being a Muslim country would protect it from Islamist terror, then the dozens of dead and the hundreds more injured will have served notice that they were wrong. [complete article]

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Army is planning for 100,000 G.I.'s in Iraq till 2006
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, November 22, 2003

Army planning for Iraq currently assumes keeping about 100,000 United States troops there through early 2006, a senior Army officer said Friday. The plans reflect the concerns of some Army officials that stabilizing Iraq could be more difficult than originally planned.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that maintaining a force of that size in Iraq beyond then would cause the Army to "really start to feel the pain" from stresses on overtaxed active-duty, Reserve and National Guard troops.

The officer was offering a senior-level Army view on the issue, but the size of any future American force in Iraq will ultimately be decided by President Bush and a new provisional Iraqi government that is expected to assume control from an American administrator by June. The Army plans nevertheless give a view of top-level Pentagon thinking about the size of the American force that may be needed in Iraq well beyond the time next year when Washington expects to turn political control of Iraq back to Iraqi leaders. [complete article]

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Turkey's latest terrorism act hatched in Internet cafe
By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Knight Ridder, November 21, 2003

Turkey's latest outbreak of terrorism was hatched in an Internet cafe in this mountain-ringed southeastern Kurdish town, investigators say.

A sign on the wall of the Bingol Internet Merkezi Cafe warns users that it is "definitely banned to enter sites ... targeting the state, country and its inseparable integrity and constitutional order." Most of the users, teenage boys engrossed in noisy games of computer soccer, seem happy to comply.

But two other young men - the son of one cafe owner and the brother of the other - who came here regularly, blew themselves up in the suicide bombings last weekend that set Turkey reeling. Police raided the cafe this week and confiscated files, apparently on suspicion that the cafe may have linked the bombers to the larger world of Islamic terrorism, including al-Qaida. [complete article]

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Istanbul blasts fan antiwar feelings in Britain
By William Wallace, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2003

"Most of the original Al Qaeda targets were American but frankly, when our prime minister became such a chum of George Bush and decided we must pay the blood price in support, we became the second targets," Nicholas Barrington, a former British high commissioner [ambassador] to Pakistan, said in an interview. "I'm quite convinced that if it hadn't been for the attack on Iraq with which we were associated, [Roger Short,] our consul general in Istanbul would still be alive. No doubt about it at all." [...]

Some of Blair's harshest critics are former British diplomats who have served in the Middle East.

"It's as plain as a pikestaff that the invasion of Iraq has not helped, but has accentuated, the war on terrorism," said Harold Walker, a onetime ambassador to Iraq.

Those who study Muslim terror networks say the U.S.-led occupation is spawning a radical movement much broader than Al Qaeda. Iraq "risks becoming a crystallizing point" for radical Muslims, August Hanning, head of Germany's intelligence service, said Thursday in a speech at a conference on the Middle East in Munich. "Success on the military front alone will not lead to a solution. We are in the process of losing the battle for people's minds." [complete article]

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U.S. seeks advice from Israel on Iraq
By Esther Schrader and Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2003

The contacts between the two governments on military tactics and strategies in Iraq are mostly classified, and officials are reluctant to give the impression that the U.S. is brainstorming with Israel on the best way to occupy Iraq. [Undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, Stephen] Cambone said there is no formal dialogue between the two allies on Iraq, but they are working together.

Indeed, the U.S. is loath to draw any comparison between what it says is its liberation of Iraq and what the international community has condemned as Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Israeli and American officials confirm that with extremists carrying out suicide bombings and firing rocket-propelled grenades and missiles on U.S. forces in Iraq, the Pentagon is increasingly seeking advice from the Israeli military on how to defeat the sort of insurgency that Israel has long experience confronting. [complete article]

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A beacon in dark times
By Caryl Phillips, The Guardian, November 22, 2003

Some years ago I decided that I too wanted to live in the United States, albeit for a short while, in part because of the idealised optimism of the country's national motto, E Plurubus Unum (Out of Many, One). Thirteen years later I still live in the United States, in recklessly hybrid New York City, where 40% of the population is foreign-born, where 120 languages are daily spoken, where every major religion is practised.

In this teeming metropolis, rich and poor, black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Jew and Christian, citizen and refugee are thrown together and compelled to interact with each other. The tension and energy of the city is positive, if not quite annealing - and then came September 11, 2001. A different United States began to emerge, and the new national mood is undeniably having a great effect upon the city of New York.

Immigrants have come from all corners of the world and sailed past the Statue of Liberty and into the heart of the global city. On that mournful September morning, people from more than 90 different countries lost their lives in the twin towers. Immigrant city. But after September 11, immigrant city betrayed. In truth, the national motto should now be "Out of Some, One." This is not the programme I signed up for. [complete article]

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Skepticism greets U.S. protestations over Iran
By Greg Miller and Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2003

For the second time in a year, the United States is trying to persuade a skeptical international community to confront a Middle Eastern nation that the Bush administration believes is bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

This time, the target is Iran instead of Iraq, but much of the script is the same. The administration believes that intelligence shows beyond a doubt that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that the United Nations should respond with punitive action. Key members of the international community disagree on what to do.

And this time, the U.S. must contend with the skepticism raised by its failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraq war providing a boost to al-Qaida
By Mark Matthews, Baltimore Sun, November 22, 2003

The American invasion and occupation of Iraq has provided al-Qaida with a powerful propaganda tool in its holy war against the West, injecting new energy into the worldwide network even though many of its key operatives are in jail or dead, its top leadership is on the run and its sources of money are shrinking, according to international security analysts.

While exhorting Muslims to turn Iraq into a new anti-American battleground, the network has staged spectacularly bloody bombings in neighboring Turkey and Saudi Arabia in hopes of undermining their pro-U.S. governments and demonstrating that it remains a dangerous force, analysts say.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida and related groups have used Web sites, videos and publications throughout the Muslim world to seek new warriors, proclaiming its message that Islam is under threat from the United States and that the region's governments are powerless to defend it.

"Iraq is a rallying cause for al-Qaida - it's allowed them to attract new recruits," said Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism specialist at the Congressional Research Service, the think tank for the House and Senate. "This was an organization that was under enormous pressure. Iraq has put new wind in its sails, definitely." [complete article]

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Ramadan fervor fuels militant mayhem in Mideast
By Miral Fahmy, Reuters (via Wired), November 21, 2003

Muslim militants have turned Ramadan -- Islam's traditional month of piety -- into a season of death and destruction and some fear worse is yet to come.

Some analysts expect militants to intensify their attacks as the lunar month of Ramadan draws to a close early next week.

"They (militants) were told that particularly the end of Ramadan should be the period of jihad and the period of rebirth of jihad," said Roland Jacquard, head of the Paris-based International Observatory on Terrorism, referring to militant leaders. [complete article]

Four dead in grenade attack
Agence France Presse (via, November 22, 2003

Four people were killed, including a child, and 20 others injured today in a grenade attack on a stall in south Baghdad selling alcohol on the Muslim day of rest during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, hospital officials said. [complete article]

Bombs found in Iraqi Christian schools
Assist News Service, November 20, 2003

Bombs have been discovered and leaflets found demanding that Christian students become Muslims or face death at schools in Baghdad and Mosul in northern Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraq suicide bombers kill 14, wound scores; first missile hit on plane
Agence France Presse, November 22, 2003

Fourteen people were killed and more than 50 wounded in twin suicide attacks on Iraqi police stations, as a civilian cargo plane was forced to make an emergency landing after the first successful missile strike on a plane in the seven-month-old insurgency.

The scale of the carnage from the almost simultaneous car bombings against the two police stations north of Baghdad overwhelmed local hospital staff. Police were forced to fire in the air to disperse anguished residents so they could evacuate the wounded and clear the human remains.

International express courier firm DHL confirmed that all of its staff were unhurt after what the US military said was a SA-7 surface-to-air missile strike on its Airbus A-300 aircraft. [complete article]

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A war that can never be won
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, November 22, 2003

Terrorism is a technique. It is not an ideology or a political philosophy, let alone an enemy state. Our leaders' failure to understand that point emerged immediately after September 11 2001 when they reacted to the attacks in New York and Washington by confusing the hunt for the perpetrators with the Afghan "state" that allegedly "harboured" them. The Taliban ran avicious regime, but Afghanistan was a disastrously failed state and its nominal leader, Mullah Omar, had no control over al-Qaida.

By the same token the "war" on terror should have remained what it initially was, a metaphor like the "war" on drugs. But instead of being harmless linguistic exaggeration to describe a broad campaign encompassing a range of political, economic and police counter-measures, it was narrowed down to real war and nothing else. The slippery slope that began with Afghanistan quickly led to the invasion of Iraq, a symbolic and political enormity whose psychological impact Bush and Blair have not yet grasped. [complete article]

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Altered states
By Louise Williams, Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2003

The new world disorder has caught us out. The designated keeper of the international peace, the United Nations Security Council, stands by stunned, its armoury of outdated legal instruments hanging by its side.

The US, where it perceives its interests are threatened, does not stand by. Globalised terrorism, despotism and chaos demand a new response, declares Washington. States that harbour terrorists or terrorise their own people will no longer be able to shelter behind national borders.

The logic goes like this: "Terrorists do not respect borders, so neither can the US. Countries which harbour terrorists, either by consent or because they are unable to enforce their laws effectively, forfeit their rights of sovereignty," writes G. John Ikenberry, professor of geopolitics and global justice at Georgetown University, Washington.

But America's "emerging grand strategy", as he describes it, contains a double standard: "Sovereignty becomes more absolute for America even as it becomes more conditional for countries which challenge Washington's standards of internal and external behaviour." [complete article]

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G.O.P. to run an ad for Bush on terror issue
By Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, November 21, 2003

After months of sustained attacks against President Bush in Democratic primary debates and commercials, the Republican Party is responding this week with its first advertisement of the presidential race, portraying Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days. It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists." [complete article]

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Turkey's militant minority
By Ebru Dogan, BBC News, November 21, 2003

Radical Islam has never been strong in Turkey, a country which is predominantly Muslim but has maintained a strict tradition of secularism since it was established in 1923.

The general view is that the radicals are a small minority even within the Islamist community in Turkey.

According to one analyst, Faik Bulut, there are about 100 religious associations of various sizes in Turkey, the most powerful of which are known as tariqats, but only six to 10 of them are believed to be militant.

He says it is precisely because the radicals could not get the support of the tariqats to overthrow the secular system that they have sought outside support - possibly from al-Qaeda. [complete article]

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Parliament urged to probe 'disinformation operation'
By Andrew Woodcock, PA News (via The Scotsman), November 21, 2002

A former senior member of US intelligence today urged Parliament to hold an inquiry into what he alleges was a campaign of disinformation by British secret agencies in the run-up to war in Iraq.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter said he was involved with MI6 officers working on a secret operation codenamed Mass Appeal, designed to secure public support for action against Iraq by leaking dodgy intelligence to the media suggesting that Saddam Hussein continued to possess weapons of mass destruction.

And he said that disinformation was also supplied by a little-known body within the Defence Intelligence Staff called the Rockingham Cell, which provided intelligence officers to work as inspectors with the UN’s Unscom team. [complete article]

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Joined at the hip
By Tom Segev, Haaretz, November 21, 2003

Thousands of good Jews from America converged on Jerusalem this week to show their solidarity with some rather vague thing they called "Israel." They were careful not to specify whether they meant Ariel Sharon's Israel or Yossi Beilin's Israel, rich Israel or poor Israel, the Israel of Shas or the Israel of Yosef Lapid. They just said "Israel," the way people say "love," without really working out in their minds what they mean. That's their way of dodging real partnership. [complete article]

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And down comes the statue... but this time it's Trafalgar Square
By Jamie Wilson and Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, November 21, 2003

At first George Bush gently rocked, then he began to sway, before finally the figure started toppling, slowly but inexorably on to the pavement below.

The symbolic end of the five-metre (17ft) tall effigy - a riposte to the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad - brought the biggest cheer of the day: louder than the boos when the seemingly never ending procession made its way past Downing Street; bigger even than the shouts and whistles that rang out when Britain's sixth anti-war demonstration in a year began its snaking path through London to Trafalgar Square.

Yesterday was by far the biggest turnout since the million-plus march in February; along with the crowds, the anger and conviction were back with a vengeance. [complete article]

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Terrorism Inc.
By Douglas Farah and Peter Finn, Washington Post, November 21, 2003

Leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network have franchised their organization's brand of synchronized, devastating violence to homegrown terrorist groups across the world, posing a formidable new challenge to counterterrorism forces, according to intelligence analysts and experts in the United States, Europe and the Arab world.

The recent attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iraq show that the smaller organizations, most of whose leaders were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, have fanned out, imbued with radical ideology and the means to create or revitalize local terrorist groups. They also are expanding the horizons of groups that had focused on regional issues. [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!
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Local groups giving Qaeda strength, analysis finds
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, November 21, 2003

Al Qaeda's senior leadership and support base has suffered major blows since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the extremist movement has adapted quickly to mount more frequent strikes than before by recruiting local groups to hit more varied and vulnerable targets, according to a recent US intelligence analysis and current and former intelligence officials.

The twin bombings yesterday against British targets in Turkey -- the fourth coordinated suicide attack with suspected Al Qaeda fingerprints in less than two weeks -- were yet another hallmark of an evolving terror network that has become more decentralized and less reliant on a top-down structure, but is also harder to rein in, the officials said.
[complete article]

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Turkey bombings reflect new-look al-Qaeda
By Tony Karon, Time, November 20, 2003

Istanbul has now joined Riyadh -- and Casablanca and Jakarta and Karachi and Mombasa, among others -- as a new theater of al-Qaeda's global jihad. A brace of suicide bombings killed some 27 people at the city's British consulate and the headquarters of the London-based bank HSBC on Thursday, following on last Saturday's attacks on two synagogues that killed 25 people. The attacks, for which al-Qaeda affiliated groups have claimed responsibility are a reminder both of the group's resilience, but also of its new form. And the fact that Thursday's targets were British served a dual purpose: They sent a defiant message to Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush, meeting in London, that al-Qaeda has survived the U.S.-led onslaught; and they also issue a violent challenge to the status quo in Turkey, a relentlessly secular Muslim state affiliated with NATO and allied with Israel, and in the process of joining the European Union. [complete article]

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Our curious immunity is over - now we are in the front line
By Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, November 21, 2003

Britain and Turkey, apart from both being close allies of the United States, have had another thing in common in the months since Iraq was invaded. They have both enjoyed a rather astonishing run of luck, a run which came to a sudden end for both of them with yesterday's bombs in Istanbul. [complete article]

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Rockets hit key Baghdad buildings
BBC News, November 21, 2003

A series of rocket attacks have hit hotels and the oil ministry in the centre of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Rocket-propelled grenades launched from a donkey cart hit the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, in a heavily-guarded area in the heart of the city.

At least one person was wounded at one of the hotels, which are both used by foreign reporters and US companies.

Blasts were also reported at the oil ministry building, where a fire broke out, sending up thick black smoke. [complete article]

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Attack on Sheik is blow to city that has plan for Iraqi police
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 21, 2003

When the American general in charge of this restive city announced earlier this week that he would hand over power to a group of cooperative Iraqi sheiks, he challenged them to rein in the guerrillas without American help.

Little more than 24 hours later, the first results came in.

A car bomb exploded late Wednesday outside the home of Sheik Majid Ali Suleiman, the powerful tribal leader the Americans were depending on to make their experiment work.

Sheik Suleiman survived the blast, which killed his nephew and an 8-year-old boy who was riding by on a bicycle when the bomb went off. But the broken and blood-splattered walls that surrounded Sheik Suleiman's compound sent a message he did not miss. [complete article]

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U.S. future in Iraq a growing concern
By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2003

Americans of every stripe are worried that the U.S. occupation of Iraq could turn into a quagmire, and most are unconvinced that President Bush has a clear plan to handle the problem, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

But voters' concerns about the war do not necessarily translate into support for Bush's Democratic rivals in the 2004 presidential campaign, the poll found. Despite their misgivings, a narrow majority of respondents said they still trusted Bush to make the right decisions on Iraq, and a solid majority gave him high marks for his conduct of the war on terrorism.

Overall, most appear deeply unhappy about Iraq and uncertain that Bush's strategy is succeeding — but they also are willing to give him more time to try. [complete article]

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U.S. keeps intelligence secret from allies
By Michael Smith, The Telegraph, November 21, 2003

The Americans are preventing the British and other key allies in the war on terrorism from seeing intelligence that could save lives, a US conference on military intelligence has been told.

British and Australian officers working in allied command centres during the war in Iraq were not allowed access to the intelligence they needed to do their job, one Australian complained.

RAF and RAAF officers were asked to leave the room during briefings, though some of the information they were prevented from seeing had been provided by the British or Australian intelligence services. [complete article]

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Attacks show reinvented al-Qaida remains as lethal as ever
By Dave Montgomery and Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, November 20, 2003

With three devastating attacks in Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the past two weeks, al-Qaida is leaving a new signature as an increasingly decentralized and unpredictable terrorist network that appears harder to fight.

Experts and diplomats said the resurgence of al-Qaida violence over the past two weeks also shows that Osama bin Laden's 14-year-old terrorist fraternity is as lethal as ever, despite the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The organization essentially is reinventing itself to compensate for losses in its ranks. At the same time, U.S. intelligence officials said, the United States has diverted more than half the manpower and technology that had been targeted on al-Qaida to the war in Iraq. [complete article]

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Blasts in Turkey trace new pattern
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2003

"For Al Qaeda, we can understand why Turkey makes sense. It is the only well-functioning country in the Muslim world, and the Islamists who lead the government are trying to take Turkey into the European Union," says Soli Ozel, a political scientist at Istanbul Bilgi University. "The extremists want to make sure that this experiment doesn't succeed."

After the weekend synagogue bombings, authorities tightened security at Jewish establishments and for other religious minority groups such as Greek and Armenian Christians.

But Thursday's bombings fired what some feared is a first shot at political and economic targets, causing panic and a skid in the Istanbul stock market. [complete article]

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'Phase shift' in terror's war on West
By Peter Grier and Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2003

Al Qaeda may have a new twist in its strategy: bomb attacks designed to blow up alliances as well as buildings.

Thursday's sobering truck explosions in Istanbul were but the latest in a series of strikes aimed at US allies in the war on terror.

This doesn't mean Washington is certain Al Qaeda is behind all the latest violence. It's possible that Iraqi insurgents sneaked across the border and carried out Thursday's Istanbul attacks.

Nor might cleaving allies away from the US be Al Qaeda's only goal. Osama bin Laden has long excoriated the leaders of Muslim nations that he deems to have wandered from the true faith.

But the recent bombs bear traces of known Al Qaeda tradecraft. There is a pattern emerging, say some experts, that indicates the terror group is determined to wage a sort of world war. [complete article]

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At the corner shop, consul's wife watched as truck rolled by and blew her world apart
By Pelin Turgut, The Independent, November 21, 2003

Yesterday, just after 11am, Roger Short, the 58-year-old British consul general, and his wife, Victoria, walked in the wintry morning sunshine from Istanbul's bustling Beyoglu district to his temporary offices, a small annexe next to the main consulate building, which was being renovation.

Mrs Short was brewing coffee when she realised there was no milk. Slipping on a coat, she walked to the corner shop. The café owner across the street greeted her cheerily: "Good morning, Victoria Hanim (Madam)", and offered her a cup of tea. As she sipped it, she saw a van marked as a catering truck - which was packed with explosives - slam into the consulate gates, shattering the building where she had just left her husband. The explosion set the premises on fire. [complete article]

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Case decidedly not closed
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, November 19, 2003

A leaked Defense Department memo claiming new evidence of an "operational relationship" between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein's former regime is mostly based on unverified claims that were first advanced by some top Bush administration officials more than a year ago -- and were largely discounted at the time by the U.S. intelligence community, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

CASE CLOSED blared the headline in a Weekly Standard cover story last Saturday that purported to have unearthed the U.S. government's "secret evidence of cooperation" between Saddam and bin Laden. Fred Barnes, the magazine's executive editor, touted the magazine's scoop the next day in a roundtable chat on "Fox News Sunday." (Both the Standard and Fox News Channel are owned by the conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.) "These are hard facts, and I'd like to see you refute any one of them," he told a skeptical Juan Williams of National Public Radio.

In fact, the tangled tale of the memo suggests that the case of whether there has been Iraqi-Al Qaeda complicity is far from closed. [complete article]

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Wrong turn at a postwar crossroads?
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, November 20, 2003

Seven months after the fall of Baghdad, a single Iraqi army battalion exists to reinforce overstretched U.S.-led occupation troops. As casualties climb and large foreign armies remain on the sidelines, U.S. authorities are racing to recruit a credible Iraqi force to bolster the authority of a future Baghdad government.

Before the war, President Bush approved a plan that would have put several hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers on the U.S. payroll and kept them available to provide security, repair roads and prepare for unforeseen postwar tasks. But that project was stopped abruptly in late May by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, who ordered the demobilization of Iraq's entire army, including largely apolitical conscripts.

Bremer reversed himself a month later, but by then the occupation had lost not merely time and momentum but also credibility among former soldiers and their families, an important segment of Iraq's population. [complete article]

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Top British diplomat in Istanbul was Turkey specialist
Agence France Presse, November 20, 2003

Roger Short, the British consul general killed in the latest double suicide bomb attack in Istanbul, was a career diplomat and a specialist on Turkey.

A fluent Turkish speaker, Short, 59, was on his third posting to Turkey and knew the country well.

"He was a great British diplomatic professional and a very nice man," said French counterpart Jean-Christophe Peaucelle. "He loved Turkey and was very happy in Istanbul."

As many as 14 staff at the consulate, including British and Turkish nationals, were among the fatalities in the most brazen attack on British interests since the Iraq war, according to the Foreign Office. [complete article]

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Speech fails to bridge policy divide
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, November 20, 2003

President Bush made a play for a more charitable view of U.S. foreign policy Wednesday, but the silence that greeted one of his most forceful lines said much about the limits of the support he can expect from Europeans already worried about his approach to the world.

Near the end of his address at the government's Banqueting House, Bush said Europeans "should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays his cause."

The allusion to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was unmistakable, and the direct declaration that other leaders should take certain actions was vintage Bush, reminiscent of his last two speeches to the U.N. General Assembly.

Isolating Arafat is a central component of Bush's strategy for achieving peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet to many Europeans -- including Bush's staunchest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- the U.S. refusal to deal with the elected president of the Palestinian Authority undercuts prospects for progress and belies the democratic ideals Bush advocates for the Middle East. [complete article]

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Israelis leave their land, forced out by a battered economy and years of violence
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, November 20, 2003

New figures from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry stunned the establishment. Those figures show 760,000 Israeli citizens now live abroad. The ministry says its figures are an informal estimate, based on research by Israeli embassies around the world.

Even so, for a country of just 6,600,000, it is a large number. But the big surprise was the growth in the number of Israelis living abroad: in 2000, it was 550,000. That increase has undoubtedly been fuelled by the suicide bombings and other attacks by Palestinian militants over the past three years, and by the severe recession into which the Israeli economy has been plunged.

But in few countries in the world are immigration and emigration so politically charged as in Israel. At a recent conference of American-Jewish supporters of Israel in Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon made a speech that has become familiar during his three years as Prime Minister. "We need you," he told the American delegates, urging them to emigrate to Israel. He made the same appeal to visitors from the British-Jewish community last year, and he has made it repeatedly. [complete article]

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The bubble of American supremacy
By George Soros, Atlantic Monthly, December, 2003

It is generally agreed that September 11, 2001, changed the course of history. But we must ask ourselves why that should be so. How could a single event, even one involving 3,000 civilian casualties, have such a far-reaching effect? The answer lies not so much in the event itself as in the way the United States, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, responded to it.

Admittedly, the terrorist attack was historic in its own right. Hijacking fully fueled airliners and using them as suicide bombs was an audacious idea, and its execution could not have been more spectacular. The destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center made a symbolic statement that reverberated around the world, and the fact that people could watch the event on their television sets endowed it with an emotional impact that no terrorist act had ever achieved before. The aim of terrorism is to terrorize, and the attack of September 11 fully accomplished this objective.

Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. [complete article]

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Many die in Istanbul blasts
BBC News, November 20, 2003

Bomb attacks on the British consulate and the HSBC bank headquarters in Istanbul have left at least 15 dead and more than 300 injured.

The explosions come just days after 23 people died in suicide bombings on two synagogues in the city.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned what he described as an "appalling act of terrorism" saying it had all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda and associated organisations. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda's reach grows, with help from Web
By Faye Bowers and Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2003

Emboldened and perhaps even inspired by the insurgency in Iraq, extremists linked to Al Qaeda are broadening their war against the West and taking an even more ruthless course in doing so.

This past weekend's attacks on Jewish synagogues in Turkey, which government officials now link to Turkish militants trained by Al Qaeda, underscore the point. The secular Muslim country that exists at the crossroads of East and West has had its share of home-grown terror attacks in the past two decades. But it hasn't been hit this hard, with the expertise required to pull off two suicide bombing attacks simultaneously - an Al Qaeda hallmark. [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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Afghanistan's lessons for Iraq
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2003

The young Soviet soldier was bewildered, and in the hands of Afghan guerrillas, when he spoke a few years after Moscow's Christmas Day 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

"Everybody [in Afghanistan] used to say to me, 'Friend, friend,' " the POW told Anthony Davis, a military analyst with Jane's Intelligence Review. "Then they turned around and stabbed us in the back."

As America's ambitious nation- building campaign in Iraq comes under more frequent attack from increasingly sophisticated forces, analysts are drawing some lessons from another conflict: the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and its defeat at the hands of the US-backed mujahideen. [complete article]

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Four killed in suicide blast in northern Iraq
By Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press (via WP), November 20, 2003

An explosion at the offices of a Kurdish political party in the northern town of Kirkuk killed four people on Thursday, and officials said a pro-U.S. politician was assassinated in the southern port city of Basra, the latest in a string of attacks against Iraqis who support American efforts in Iraq.

Jalal Johar, an official with the party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said several other people had been injured in the blast which he attributed to a bomb. All the casualties were civilians, he said.

The PUK is a group that supports American efforts in Iraq. Party chief Jalal Talabani is the current head of the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council. [complete article]

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Sensing Shiites will rule Iraq, U.S. starts to see friends, not foes
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, November 20, 2003

The Bush administration, which was wary earlier this year of installing a government dominated by Shiites in Iraq, has concluded that such a development is virtually inevitable and not necessarily harmful to American interests, administration officials said Wednesday.

The officials said that fears of an Iranian-style -- and Iranian-influenced -- theocracy in Baghdad have faded because it has become clear that Iraq's Shiite population is not a monolithic bloc and not necessarily dominated by Tehran.

"Our basic position is that as we get to know more of Iraqi society, we're more comfortable with a democratic process, and if that emerges with a predominant Shiite role, so be it," said an administration official. "There's been a steady education process here." [complete article]

Comment -- Now the most frequently-stated war aim -- especially since no WMD have been found -- is "to establish democracy in Iraq." Eight months into the process and the US government is saying that it is getting "more comfortable with a democratic process." Who is meant to be persuading who, that democracy is desirable? Did America invade Iraq so that the Shiites could convince the Americans that democracy is a good thing? Maybe it's time to invite a delegation of Iraqi Shiites to the States to see if they have some suggestions for democratic reform over here.

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Destruction of Iraqi homes within 'rules of war,' spokesman says
By Jeff Wilkinson, Knight Ridder, November 18, 2003

The decision to destroy at least a dozen homes belonging to family members of guerrilla suspects in and around Tikrit was "within the rules of war" and was approved by the commander of the 4th Infantry Division and probably by the overall commander for U.S. forces in Iraq, a spokesman for the division said Tuesday.

But some military officers acknowledged that the tactic had caused debate over whether it would inflame opposition rather than tamp it down. One officer referred to the demolitions as "unprecedented."

The destruction of the homes is a sensitive issue because the tactic resembles a controversial Israeli practice of destroying the houses of families of suicide bombers in the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. State Department previously has denounced the Israeli actions. [complete article]

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You gotta have friends
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, November 20, 2003

So I step off the plane in London and the British customs guy sees on my form that I'm a journalist and asks, "Is it true there are more police to protect your president in London than there are in Baghdad?" Then I pick up The Independent to read in the taxi and I see that London's left-wing mayor, Ken Livingstone, has denounced President Bush as "the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen." Then I check out The Guardian, which carried open letters to the president, one of which is from the famous playwright Harold Pinter, who says: "Dear President Bush, I'm sure you'll be having a nice little tea party with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches down with a glass of blood."

No, Dorothy, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

We're in the U.K., our closest ally in the Iraq war -- a country where Mr. Bush still has many supporters, but also a legion of detractors. But if this is how some of our best friends are talking, imagine how difficult it is going to be to win over America's more ambivalent allies -- to widen support for the rebuilding of Iraq. [complete article]

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Why Blair took the risk of making war on Iraq
By Ivo H. Daalder, New York Times, November 20, 2003

President Bush's state visit to Britain this week highlights the paradoxical position Prime Minister Tony Blair has found himself in ever since the Iraq issue emerged on the international radar screen. Unlike other foreign leaders, who may have supported Mr. Bush rhetorically and in a few instances with token military support, Mr. Blair has stood shoulder to shoulder with America on this issue from Day 1. In so doing, he defied the wishes of much of his own public and many within his own party who deeply distrusted Mr. Bush's motives in pursuing a highly controversial policy. Why take this political risk? [complete article]

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Memo exacerbates Defense-CIA strains
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 20, 2003

A leaked top-secret memo that Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith sent the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last month listing and analyzing raw intelligence reports on alleged connections between Iraq and al Qaeda has reopened a long-simmering behind-the-scenes battle between Pentagon and CIA officials.

At issue is whether Defense Department analysts, who Feith organized in October 2001, have uncovered evidence that may have been missed or ignored by CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies that proved a closer operational relationship between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam Hussein's government than believed. [complete article]

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More proof of Iraq-Qaeda link, or not?
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 20, 2003

Late last month, a top Pentagon official fired off the latest salvo in the politically charged debate about whether there were links between Saddam Hussein's government and the Qaeda terrorist network.

The Oct. 27 memorandum from Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy and planning, to the Senate intelligence committee listed 50 points of raw intelligence that, he said, pointed to an operational link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

The letter itself was highly classified, but its contents were reported over the weekend by The Weekly Standard, a journal with close ties to administration hawks. At a time when Democrats have been crowing about the administration's failure so far to find illicit weapons in Iraq, conservatives have seized on the claim as evidence that, because of its ties to Al Qaeda, Iraq did indeed pose a real danger to the United States. [complete article]

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Nuclear board said to rebuff Bush over Iran
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, November 20, 2003

The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency appears prepared to approve a resolution on Iran's 18 years of secret work on a nuclear program that will stop short of recommending United Nations Security Council action, a setback to President Bush, senior officials from several countries said here Wednesday.

Only hours after Mr. Bush, in Britain, declared that the agency must hold Iran to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, officials here said that the board was likely to adopt a European-sponsored resolution that was being strengthened on Wednesday to include wording that would likely "deplore" Iran's deceptions and declare that they amounted to a "breach" of its obligations.

But Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was unable to persuade more than three of the board's 35 member countries -- Canada, Australia and Japan -- to vote for a formal censure of Iran. Even the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush's host, sided with France and Germany and said that the best way now to deal with Iran is to encourage its sudden conversion to openness. [complete article]

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Israelis to get the message on peace proposals
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, November 20, 2003

The architects of a groundbreaking peace initiative, denounced by Ariel Sharon as akin to treason, are distributing copies of the document to every Israeli home this week in an attempt to exploit eroding public confidence in the government and to force negotiations with the Palestinians.

Three million copies of the Geneva Accord are being delivered before a ceremony in Switzerland in a fortnight at which former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and Nelson Mandela, have been invited to endorse the fledgling pact.

Mr Sharon's office refused to accept a hand-delivered copy of the draft agreement, which includes an unprecedented Palestinian renunciation of the right of refugees to settle back in Israel in return for a state on most of the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Advertisements urging the public to read the agreement had been banned from the radio but yesterday the Israeli supreme court ordered the broadcasting authority to run the adverts. [complete article]

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War critics astonished as Perle admits invasion was illegal
By Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger, The Guardian, November 20, 2003

International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable. [complete article]

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Iraqis say Saddam not leading attacks
By Scheherazade Faramarzi, Associated Press, November 19, 2003

A former Iraqi general who claims to be part of the insurgency against U.S. troops says the guerrilla war around this "Sunni Triangle" city is being waged by small groups fighting on their own without direction from Saddam Hussein or others.

He and two other Samara men, who said they are in separate guerrilla units, insisted in interviews with The Associated Press that their fight isn't aimed at returning Saddam to power. They said it's about ending the U.S.-led occupation and restoring Iraqi rule.

"I am fighting for my country -- not Saddam Hussein -- to get rid of the infidels. Very few people are fighting for him. They gave up on him at the end of the war," said one of the men, an unemployed electrical engineer. [complete article]

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U.S. occupation forces launch media offensive to counter reports on Iraqi resistance
By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press, November 18, 2003

As American troops step up their attacks on Iraqi resistance, U.S. occupation officials also are launching a media offensive under pressure from the White House to do a better job promoting the military campaign against insurgents.

Part of the idea is to give the American public a better sense that U.S. troops are on the offensive and not just passively facing daily, deadly attacks from Iraqi guerrillas.

In effect, the idea is to return to the type of briefing operations that occurred during the war's major combat phase, defense officials said Tuesday. That included daily briefings, by high-level officers, who explained daily military missions in some detail at U.S. Central Command war headquarters in neighboring Qatar, with video hookups for reporters in the Pentagon. [complete article]

Comment -- As Donald Rumsfeld might say, the absence of attacks (from insurgents) is not proof of the absence of attackers. The counterinsurgency might provide the Pentagon with some new opportunities to showcase its military might, but the insurgents who meanwhile lie low will likely reappear before very long.

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Shiite criticizes Iraq sovereignty plan
By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press, November 19, 2003

A leading Shiite Muslim member of the Iraqi Governing Council complained Wednesday that a deal to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis by July was rushed to approval without discussion and said he had reservations about the agreement.

Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim is the first member of the 25-member council to publicly express misgivings over the sovereignty formula. His comments could signal problems between the Iraqis and coalition officials as they two sides begin steps to implement the plan. [complete article]

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Top Justice aide approved sending suspect to Syria
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 19, 2003

A senior Justice Department official personally approved sending a Syrian-born Canadian citizen suspected of terrorist links to Syria last year after consulting with CIA officials, according to U.S. officials.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, in his capacity as acting attorney general, signed the highly unusual order, citing national security and declaring that to send the man, Maher Arar, home to Canada would be "prejudicial to the interests of the United States," according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. [complete article]

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Experts see major shift in Al Qaeda's strategy
By Sebastian Rotella and Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2003

A spate of suicide bombings in several countries illustrates that Al Qaeda has survived by mutating into a more decentralized network relying on local allies to launch more frequent attacks on varied targets, experts say.

In bombings from Turkey to Morocco, experts say, evidence suggests that Al Qaeda provided support through training, financing or ideological inspiration to local extremists. Through an evolving and loose alliance of semiautonomous terrorist cells, the network has been able to export its violence and "brand name" with only limited involvement in the attacks themselves. [complete article]

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Mosul's pacification messages
By Jonny Dymond, BBC News, November 18, 2003

Mosul could have become a very bad place to be. The northern city, Iraq's third largest, was a Sunni Muslim stronghold.

Mosul was where Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay were found and killed.

It was where many of the senior officer in the Iraqi army were drawn from.

And through the city runs an ethnic fault line - there are long simmering tensions between the Kurdish and Arabic population.

Go to Mosul now and you find as close to normality as you can get in Iraq today. [complete article]

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U.S. tough tactics risk inflaming Iraq insurgency
By Luke Baker, Reuters, November 18, 2003

U.S. forces in Iraq have launched their fiercest military campaign since major combat ended in May, but experts fear the aggressive "show of force" may inflame an anti-American insurgency rather than douse it.

In the past 10 days, fighter jets have dropped 500 lb. (230 kg) bombs, satellite-guided missiles have been fired, and tanks have pounded suspected guerrilla hideouts in a display that may be spectacular but could ultimately backfire.

"I don't think this present campaign is going to produce what the Americans want, which is security on the ground for Iraqis and U.S. forces," said Phillip Mitchell of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"It's only going to ensure that the population becomes more allied with the pro-Saddam, anti-American insurgency... The risk is that these sort of actions will actually inflame hatred." [complete article]

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Key Shiites soften tone toward U.S.
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2003

At the gold-domed Kufa Mosque in this holy city south of Baghdad, the young firebrand imam, Moqtada al-Sadr, known for condemning the Americans as Iraq's enemies, has softened and redirected his words.

"We were the only enemy of Saddam Hussein, and now the Baathists who still support him are our only enemy," he tells rows of fellow Shiites baking in the hot sun at Friday prayers. "We must resist them and the terrorists."

The US soldiers who recently arrested members of Mr. Sadr's paramilitary army are still "occupiers," he says. But Iraqi supporters of the young sheikh - who rose to the world stage in July, calling for an Iranian-style theocracy - have taken note of his softer tone. The cleric who once called the Americans "infidels" says he is now ready to work with them, spelling hope for the US-led coalition as it looks to transition to Iraqi rule. Last Friday, Sadr praised the American about-face that now favors a faster turnover of authority to the Iraqi people. [complete article]

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Attacks may trip up Iraq power transfer
By Scheherazade Faramarzi, The Associated Press (via WP), November 18, 2003

When the U.S. Army unexpectedly withdrew most of its troops from this central Iraq town [Samara] full of Saddam Hussein loyalists, guerrillas firing machine guns, mortars and grenades overran abandoned U.S. bases, leaving a shaken Iraqi civil defense chief pleading for the Americans' return.

"We cannot handle this on our own," Capt. Ihsan Aziz told The Associated Press after the weekend pullout of U.S. troops.

The redeployment of American troops to a garrison about six miles north of Samara may be a harbinger of things to come in Iraq as the U.S.-led coalition moves to turn over security and more authority to Iraqis inside cities and towns, despite worries by some residents that they're ill-prepared to handle insurgents. [complete article]

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Few signs of infiltration by foreign fighters in Iraq
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times, November 19, 2003

The commanding general of the United States Army division that patrols much of Iraq's western borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that his men had encountered only a handful of foreign fighters trying to sneak into the country to attack American and allied forces.

"I want to underscore that most of the attacks on our forces are by former regime loyalists and other Iraqis, not foreign forces," said the officer, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

His view was echoed by Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which controls northern Iraq and parts of its borders with Syria, Turkey and Iran. [complete article]

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U.S. plans new Iraq proposal for U.N.
By Robin Wright and Colum Lynch, Washington Post, November 19, 2003

The United States is preparing to seek another U.N. resolution to back its new plan for Iraq and ensure that the first postwar Iraqi government does not fail for lack of international recognition, according to U.S. officials and European and U.N. diplomats. [complete article]

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Not too late for the U.N.
By Salim Lone, Washington Post, November 19, 2003

F-16s are bombing civilian neighborhoods in pro-resistance cities. U.S. military commanders in Iraq are threatening mayors, tribal chiefs and farmers with stern measures unless they curb the militants attacking coalition troops. And from across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Tony Blair labels all those fighting occupation forces as "fanatics." Even as the new and potentially laudable strategy of giving primacy to quick Iraqi sovereignty is being embraced, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer reassures the world that the interim Iraqi constitution will embody "American values." [complete article]

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Israel now a top defense exporter
By Peter Enav, Associated Press (via Newsday), November 19, 2003

With an arsenal ranging from the Uzi to attack drones and airborne early warning systems, Israel has quietly transformed itself into one of the world's top defense exporters.

Defense News has ranked Israel as No. 3 based on 2002 contracts, and an Israeli expert told The Associated Press the country was now considered to be in the top five. Growing sales to Turkey and India, two major new markets for Israel, have driven the surge.

The country's success as a weapons exporter comes against the backdrop of three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has stifled Israel's economic development and deepened its isolation. [complete article]

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Fanning the flames of hatred
By Roman Bronfman (member of Knesset), Haaretz, November 19, 2003

Another day of Jewish victims somewhere in the world, and this time in a terrible attack on synagogues in Istanbul. The number of violent incidents worldwide against anything identified with the State of Israel and the Jewish people no longer leaves any doubt that this is a real wave.

Even a quick glance at the newspapers in recent weeks indicates the worrisome change in world public opinion: Israel as a symbol - and Jews, in general - have been transformed from the helpless victims of the Nazi extermination machine into "the most dangerous country to world peace," as defined by the latest European Union Commission survey. This was a problematic survey from a structural point of view, so I shall reword the statement - Israel has become the most hated nation in the world. [complete article]

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Turkish Jews search for answers
By Ilene Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2003

Berta Rayna goes to synagogue only on special occasions - like the bar mitzvah she was attending on Saturday when powerful suicide bombings hit two of the city's main synagogues. The attacks killed 25 people and injured over 300 in a strike that authorities say was perpetrated by Turks trained by Al Qaeda. [complete article]

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U.N. Agency Begins Afghan Withdrawl
By Paul Haven, Associated Press, November 18, 2003

The U.N. refugee agency began pulling foreign staff out of large swaths of southern and eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the wake of the killing of a French worker, a decision that could affect tens of thousands of Afghan returnees.

Some 30 foreign staff members were being withdrawn, and refugee centers in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Kandahar were being closed, said Filippo Grandi, the chief of mission in Afghanistan with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. [complete article]

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CIA seeks probe of Iraq-Al Qaeda memo leak
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 18, 2003

The CIA will ask the Justice Department to investigate the leak of a 16-page classified Pentagon memo that listed and briefly described raw agency intelligence on any relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, according to congressional and administration sources. [complete article]

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Laura, me and 700 friends
By Michael White and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, November 19, 2003

George Bush was safely installed behind the high walls of Buckingham Palace last night at the start of a controversial state visit that will devote just 150 minutes to direct talks with Tony Blair on Iraq and other thorny problems.

Mr Bush, his wife, Laura, and a 700-strong entourage worthy of a travelling medieval monarch, flew into Heathrow airport slightly late, at 7.22pm. The couple were greeted by the Prince of Wales, then whisked to the palace by US military helicopter.

With up to 100,000 anti-war protesters planning to march through the heart of Whitehall tomorrow - and the cost of 5,123 police officers protecting the president likely to top £5m - Downing Street maintained a stiff upper lip in the face of predictions that the four-day visit could prove a major public relations disaster. [complete article]

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Why Britain's Foreign Office advised Prince Charles to steer clear of America
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, November 19, 2003

Prince Charles, who welcomed George Bush to Britain last night, has not been to the US for the last six years on the advice of the Foreign Office, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

It emerged last night that the Prince of Wales has strong pro-Palestinian views and is privately critical of US policy in the Middle East conflict.

British diplomats, acting in conjunction with Downing Street, fear that Prince Charles's views might have created embarrassment on a visit to Washington. [complete article]

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Attacks will continue until day the Americans leave, says report
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, November 19, 2003

As George Bush arrived in London last night, an unprecedented and bleak assessment of the deteriorating military situation in Iraq was circulating among policymakers in Washington.

The report - contradicting many claims by the US administration - is based on briefings by Paul Bremer, the US de facto governor of Iraq; military commanders, unnamed intelligence officers and David Kay, the American who leads the hunt for Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction. It says attacks on Americans by Sunni Iraqis will continue "until the day the US leaves". [complete article]

See Anthony Cordesman's report, Iraq: Too uncertain to call (PDF format).

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Iraq leaders 'get' Iran support
BBC News, November 19, 2003

The current leader of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Jalal Talabani, says Iran has agreed to help it fight terrorism in Iraq.

Mr Talabani was speaking to the BBC after talks in Tehran - the first overseas visit by an IGC delegation.

He said the Iranians had accepted that the current wave of attacks in Iraq was not resistance to occupation but the work of indiscriminate killers.

The Americans have often accused Tehran of exercising a hostile influence. [complete article]

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The epicenter of anti-U.S. hatred
By Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday, November 18, 2003

Fallujah also has a strong tribal tradition and a conservative Islamic bent that flourished even under Hussein's secular regime. It is a place where the nationalist forces of the Iraqi resistance have converged with Islamic radicals calling for a jihad, or holy war, against foreign occupiers.

This city is a case study in how U.S. war planners appear to have underestimated the complexity of Iraqi society, including the role of tribes and different ethnic and religious groups. As casualties grow, the Americans are discovering how hard it will be to create a government of these disparate interests.

"There are three main forces in Fallujah: the mosques, the religious leaders and the tribes," said Sheik Mohammed Zoubaiyi, a professor at the Islamic Studies College in Baghdad and a resident of Fallujah. "The tribal forces are telling people to reject the occupation, and the religious forces are pushing them to fight it." [complete article]

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Explosions, shortages, instability: In Baghdad, it's back to the future
By Phil Reeves and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 19, 2003

US jets pounding Iraqi positions. City-wide power cuts. And long, long petrol queues.

Yesterday was flashback time for Iraq's disgruntled, unstable and unsafe capital. As night fell the city was repeatedly rattled by the sounds of heavy explosions, part of what the US military said was its largest air bombardment in central Iraq since President George Bush declared an end to major combat in May. [...]

In the daily reports of conflict, the British have become the forgotten army. And news of the Americans unleashing their ferocious firepower on the cities is greeted with raised eyebrows. Washington, twice, asked for British soldiers, paratroopers to be sent to Baghdad, and twice has been refused. [complete article]

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U.S. exit may lead to Iraqi civil war
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, November 19, 2003

The Pentagon says it must be allowed to control Iraq's security forces, even with a provisional government in place. But fresh from the victory of Washington's cave-in, some members of the existing Iraqi Governing Council want a significantly reduced security brief for the US.

Council members believe the proposed provisional government, to be appointed by June next year, should control counter-insurgency. Some of its members argue that Iraqi Kurdish forces in the north and the Shiite militias in the south could be used to undermine the Sunni fighters from the centre.

Others insist the Americans be confined to guard duty on Iraq's border and at oil facilities.

All that sounds like the civil war Washington said would never happen during the fierce international debate that preceded its invasion of Iraq in March this year. [complete article]

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The vanishing case for war
By Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, December 4, 2003

To justify preemptive war on Iraq the administration made three interlocking claims -- that Iraq was actively developing weapons of mass destruction including nuclear bombs; that it had a secret working relationship with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network, which had been responsible for the attacks on September 11; and that the danger that Saddam Hussein would provide terrorists with weapons of mass destruction was so grave that it amounted to an imminent threat.

There was nothing tentative or timorous about this argument; officials hammered home all three points for months. But at the same time President Bush had also pledged in a personal preamble to the National Security Strategy that any decision for war would be reached only after "using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation" -- an implicit promise we are now in a position to judge. This exercise is not academic; understanding how secret intelligence information was used to justify war can help to answer two urgent questions -- why Congress went along with so little argument, and how President Bush, if he should win a second term a year from now, might elect to deal with security threats posed by other "problem states" like Syria and Iran. [complete article]

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G.I.s raze alleged fighters' homes
By Jeff Wilkinson, Knight Ridder (Pioneer Press), November 18, 2003

In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.

At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone II, including four leveled on Sunday by tanks and Apache helicopters. Those four houses allegedly belonged to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter, in which six Americans died.

Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al-Haweda, said they were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire. [complete article]

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Israeli army engaged in fight over its soul
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, November 18, 2003

The hunt for suspected militants sent Sgt. Lirom Hakkak bashing his way through a wall into a Palestinian family's threadbare living room, his slender frame sweating under nearly 35 pounds of body armor and combat gear, his M-16 rifle ready.

He noticed the grandmother first, her creased face so blanched with terror that she appeared on the verge of collapse. A middle-aged couple huddled close by, trembling.

"They could be my parents," Hakkak, the 22-year-old son of an Israeli poet, recalled thinking. In that split second of recognition, he said, "you really feel disgusting. You see these people and you know the majority of them are innocent and you're taking away their rights. You also know you must do it." [complete article]

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The guerrilla advantage in Iraq
By Michael Keane, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2003

As recently as two weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, called the guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq "strategically and operationally insignificant."

Insignificant? Actually, it is difficult to identify any military or political objectives that the guerrillas are not making real progress toward achieving.

The insurgents have successfully struck a blow at coalition military forces. According to an extensive survey by Stars and Stripes, 49% of troops reported that their unit's morale was low or very low.

Friendly governments, like Japan's, have either delayed their troop commitments or, like the Italians, are debating their current commitments.

And there are indications that the ranks of the insurgents are swelling with every successful strike against U.S. forces and other targets. [complete article]

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Fear grows among Iraqis in U.S. employ
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, November 18, 2003

At city hall, the Iraqis who interpret for the Americans were silent, and other employees who cooperate with the United States refused to identify themselves to a reporter on Monday.

Even the media relations official who usually speaks to the Iraqi press gave his name only reluctantly. "I guess a media representative who doesn't represent himself isn't doing his job," Yaarub Ghanem said. "But you have to understand. We are all scared. We are under threat. Our families are in danger. It's easy to kill us."

Two days ago, gunmen killed Khalid Victor Paul, an interpreter, and his teenage son, Leith, as they were driving to a school. It was the third time since Oct. 29 that Iraqis supporting the occupation had been killed in Mosul, about 215 miles north of Baghdad. A journalist and a judge investigating human rights abuses under deposed president Saddam Hussein were previously gunned down. [complete article]

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There's something happening here
By Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2003

Here we go again. Only now it's the "Iraqification" rather than the "Vietnamization" of a quagmire war in another distant and increasingly hostile land.

Washington's puppets are once again said to be on the verge of getting their act together, and the American people are daily assured that we are about to turn the corner. Soon we will be able to give Iraq back to the Iraqis, and some distant day the United States will get out. In the meantime, U.S. troops must continue in a "support role" while being maimed and killed with increasing frequency.

Sorry to appear so jaded, but it has been nearly 40 years since I was briefed in Saigon by U.S. officials about the great progress being made in turning the affairs of South Vietnam over to Washington's handpicked leaders of that country. I was also told with great emotional forcefulness that it would be irresponsible to just leave, given the dire consequences for world freedom. [complete article]

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U.S. flexes its muscles in Iraq's north
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2003

U.S. forces in this northern city bombed a suspected enemy staging area Monday and conducted house-to-house searches as the military continued a nationwide show of force aimed at halting the expansion of the insurgency and capturing its organizers and financiers.

The drive to intimidate the insurgents included the firing of a missile carrying a 500-pound warhead at a target near Tikrit -- the second use of such a weapon in as many days. So far, however, the effect of the firepower is unclear, with the number of attacks on coalition forces holding about steady at 26 in the last 24 hours, a military spokesman said. [complete article]

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Council aims to cut role of US troops
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 17, 2003

Iraq's governing council wants to significantly reduce the role of the US military after the rapidly advanced handover of sovereignty in July next year.

The American-appointed governing council signed a groundbreaking agreement with the US civil administration in Baghdad on Saturday, paving the way for a new transitional Iraqi government to take power much faster than originally intended.

US officials, including the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, have insisted that American troops will stay in Iraq. But the governing council wants to limit their presence as much as possible. It envisages a much restricted role for US troops - simply guarding the national border and oil installations - leaving the majority of internal security duties to Iraqi forces.

There has also been a suggestion of inviting a UN-led multinational force to replace the coalition. [complete article]

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Iraq's new political process to be executed under close coalition scrutiny
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via San Francisco Chronicle), November 17, 2003

Already, U.S. officials have drawn up the major guidelines for the "fundamental law," including guarantees of freedom of speech, religion, equal rights of all Iraqis regardless of gender, sect and ethnicity and an independent judiciary. The law, according to the agreement [between the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council], cannot be amended.

The need to introduce a new political process arose when the Governing Council could not decide on how to proceed with drafting a new constitution, a key stage of a seven-step process envisaged by Washington to conclude with an elected government by the end of 2004.

The main stumbling block was a fatwa, or edict, issued in June by Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric saying the constitution must be drafted by delegates chosen in a general election, a process that L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, thought needed lengthy preparations.

With the process deadlocked and the Bush administration under pressure to reduce U.S. casualties in the face of a widening insurgency, Bremer had little choice but to accelerate the process. [complete article]

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The U.S. pushes 'regime change' in Syria at its peril
By John K. Cooley, International Herald Tribune, November 18, 2003

President George W. Bush's neoconservative advisers, supported enthusiastically by most of Congress and somewhat more hesitantly by Colin Powell's State Department, are drastically jacking up U.S. pressure on Syria, suspected of supporting the guerrilla and terrorist insurgency against U.S. troops next door in Iraq.

Neither the recently legislated Syria Accountability Act's draconian anti-Syrian measures, nor the implied threat of forcible "regime change" in Damascus, advocated since the mid-1990's by some neoconservatives, are likely to change how the Damascus regime of President Bashar al-Assad does business. A better way to deal with today's Syria would be to learn lessons from the past and engage in meaningful diplomacy with Damascus. [complete article]

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Senate panel wants Justice Department review of leak
By Ken Guggenheim, Associated Press (via San Francisco Chronicle), November 17, 2003

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders plan to ask the Justice Department to investigate who leaked a top-secret Pentagon memo sent to the committee.

The Oct. 27 memo from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith provided details of intelligence linking Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and the toppled Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. Details of the memo were published in the Nov. 24 issue of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. [complete article]

See also Case closed from The Weekly Standard and a statement from the Department of Defense on news reports of al-Qaida and Iraq connections.

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Bush's war strategy looks like a steal of Nixon's
By James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, November 18, 2003

On the one hand, the White House said, America would be getting its troops out of harm's way. On the other hand, the United States was going to win. Just a few days before the election, the incumbent sealed the deal; his top diplomat came home from negotiations with the enemy, bringing news of an honorable end to the war. That peace pledge cut the legs out from under the anti-war Democrat. The Republican was overwhelmingly re-elected.

We don't know yet if this is the scenario for the 2004 presidential campaign, but we do know that it was the scenario for the 1972 campaign, in which the Republican president was Richard Nixon, the Democratic challenger was George McGovern, and the war was Vietnam. Today, it looks as if Nixon's role will be played by George W. Bush, McGovern's by Howard Dean - and Iraq is the new Vietnam.

Interestingly, the mastermind of Bush's '04 campaign, White House politico-in-chief Karl Rove, remembers that '72 election contest quite well. He was a young Nixon campaigner back then, but he was old enough to see what worked. [complete article]

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Media caught in Iraq's war of perceptions
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor. November 17, 2003

Just as news footage of Vietnam casualties slowly eroded public backing for that conflict, today's bold headlines on US military deaths in Iraq are revealing a ground truth that is, more swiftly, undercutting domestic support for the Iraq war.

Some polls show that most Americans no longer believe removing Saddam Hussein was worth the loss of US lives; significant majorities now consider the 400-plus US casualties in Iraq "unacceptable."

"We've reached that magic number, and now Americans are asking whether it's worth it or not," says John Zogby of Zogby International, which conducted prewar polls showing that war support would drop below 50 percent if US casualties went into the hundreds.

The stream of bad news is heightening tensions between an American media that feels duty-bound to report US losses in the headlines, and a Bush administration and Pentagon prone to castigating the negative coverage as one-sided. [complete article]

Comment on The War in Context

If the US media as a whole is guilty of portraying a negative image of the occupation of Iraq, this particular web site could be described as a distillation of the worst of the bad news.

Although focusing on the negative is often nothing more than pandering to morbid fascination, the issue of whether news is being presented in an overly negative aspect begs the question of what constitutes "balance"?

Conventional wisdom dictates that balance means telling both sides of the story. On the one hand, and on the other hand - The New York Times is the publication of balance par excellence.

Nevertheless, the demand that news be balanced, overlooks the predictive role of news. Reporting is generally cast as a dispassionate representation of events. In reality, reporting is highly interpretative. The gathering and presentation of news is, above all, a process of distinguishing the significant from the insignificant. Identifying what is significant consists, in part, in making predictions about future trends. This means that the business of news is as much about anticipating the future as it is about reporting the present.

Through its editorial slant, The War in Context is engaged in this process of interpretation to a degree that is more overt than that of the mainstream media. In part, this is because I have the freedom to gamble my credibility (what credibility?) in a way that a respectable news outlet cannot. But also, I would assert, I am making explicit the interpretive role of journalism in a way that journalists themselves would generally choose not to admit.

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NATO on trial as Afghanistan spins out of control
By John Chalmers, Reuters, November 18, 2003

Here's an astonishing fact: the 5,700-strong multinational force keeping the peace in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, has just three helicopters.

Belgium offered more choppers and then got cold feet once it realised the cost, Greece declined to send any because it was too stretched by preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics and Turkey is now sitting on a last-ditch request to fill the gap.

So much for NATO's plans to expand its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into lawless hinterlands of the country, where Taliban militia are back on the offensive and warlords are thriving on a resurgent opium drug trade. [complete article]

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Murder of U.N. worker spotlights resurgence of Taliban
By Jim Lobe,, November 18, 2003

The killing of a French UN relief worker Sunday in the Afghan provincial city of Ghazni underscores both the deteriorating security situation in much of the country two years after the ouster of the Taliban regime, and the degree to which the United Nations and aid workers in general have become targets in the ongoing "war on terrorism" between US-led western forces and Islamic radicals. [complete article]

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Stronger and more deadly, the terror of the Taliban is back
By Jason Burke, The Observer, November 16, 2003

A scatter of mud-walled houses amid dusty fields and brown-leaved plane trees 10 miles south-west of the city of Kandahar, Sangesar is indistinguishable from thousands of other such settlements scattered across the desiccated plains of south-eastern Afghanistan. It was here, nine years ago, that a one-eyed cleric named Mohammed Omar called together a few local men, told them to get their guns and led them out to end the anarchy that had gripped the region since the end of the war against the Soviet Union.

It was the core of the hardline Islamic militia movement that became known as the Taliban. Within two years, they had swept to power. Now it is 25-year-old Mullah Akhtar's turn to use Sangesar's only mosque's only microphone. 'The Taliban are good men trying to do good things for our country,' he says.

He is right to use the present tense. On the northern horizon, jagged hills are just visible. They are the stronghold of men loyal to Mullah Omar. Despite two years of effort by the US-led coalition, the cleric remains free. Indeed, he is more than just free. The hi-tech onslaught that followed the 11 September attacks in America appeared to have consigned the Taliban to the overfull dustbin of Afghan history. But in recent months they have crawled out again. The Taliban are back. And if for the moment they are confined to a few isolated, inaccessible, lawless mountain valleys, their power, military and political, is growing. [complete article]

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'Shoot-to-kill' demand by U.S. refused by U.K.
By Martin Bright, The Observer, November 16, 2003

Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week.

In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.

The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit.

These included the closure of the Tube network [London's underground railway system], the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters.

In return, the British authorities agreed numerous concessions, including the creation of a 'sterile zone' around the President with a series of road closures in central London and a security cordon keeping the public away from his cavalcade. [complete article]

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Shiites impatient for vote in Iraq
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 17, 2003

With a wispy beard and a gait weakened by age, Mohammed Baqir Nasseri, an influential cleric in Shiite-dominated southern Iraq, has lived the life of an enemy of Saddam Hussein. With other Shiite Muslim clerics, he was driven into exile in 1979 and wandered in Iraq's diaspora. Soon after, the turquoise-tiled Ahl Beit mosque he built was seized. His death sentence was commuted only by Hussein's fall as president.

But Nasseri's message today looks forward, rather than back.

"I believe absolutely in democracy," he said, sitting next to bookcases filled with volumes on jurisprudence, law and history. "Why are [U.S. officials] running away from elections? The people have a hunger for democracy, for the person who will represent them."

Nasseri's displeasure results from a decision announced this weekend by the United States and its allies to grant independence to a provisional but unelected government by next summer. Under the plan, elections for a constitutional convention will follow in March 2005 and a permanent government will follow by the end of that year. [complete article]

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U.S. wants to get tough, and get out
By Peyman Pejman, Inter Press Service, November 17, 2003

The "get tough" policy has made even some top U.S. military ranks in Baghdad uncomfortable.

"I don't know what the hell they are thinking," says a ranking U.S. officer."This is a waste of men and money. If they know where the terrorists are, it would make much more sense to surround them, flush them out and get some info out of them, not send a barrage of artillery in the dead of the night and find out in the morning the building was empty."

Coalition forces have carried out a series of high-profile apparently made-for-television raids in Baghdad in the past week, attacking suspected hideouts of sympathisers of the former regime. [complete article]

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Shiite clerics stand in constitution's path
By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2003

In the shadow of the Bush administration's decision to accelerate the shift of political power to an Iraqi government stand two reclusive Shiite clerics who could have a profound effect on the success or failure of America's plans.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a relative moderate based in the Iraqi city of Najaf, and his chief rival, Grand Ayatollah Kadim Haeri, a hard-liner in the Iranian city of Qom, almost never speak to the media, have avoided almost all contact with U.S. officials and rarely leave the hushed confines of the religious seminaries where they teach.

Sistani has quietly urged patience among his followers, but it was his insistence -- in addition to the upsurge in anti-U.S. violence and American dissatisfaction with the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council -- that contributed to the administration's decision to abandon its plans to rule Iraq until a new constitution and democratic system were in place and instead to set up a quasi-elected provisional government by June.

And it is Haeri's uncompromising stance that has inspired Shiite radicals in Baghdad's slums to overtly challenge the Americans while threatening to join the Sunni Muslim fighters who are waging a guerrilla campaign against U.S. troops.

In the first interview he has given in recent years to a Western reporter, Haeri said Sunday that the latest U.S. plan is unacceptable and only a strict Islamic government would do. [complete article]

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Lessons of 1920 revolt lost on Bremer
By Charles Clover, Financial Times, November 17, 2003

The argument between Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad from 1918-1920, and his more famous deputy, the author Gertrude Bell, shook the British colonial establishment for a time. But if the lessons were soon forgotten, they were destined to be repeated 83 years later.

Right up to the end of the bloody 1920 revolt against British rule that claimed the lives of 500 British soldiers, Mr Wilson had insisted that the answer to the "Mesopotamian question" was direct rule in Baghdad by a British high commissioner.

Ms Bell, more presciently, had thought since a year earlier that the answer was to choose an Arab head of state. "I pray the people at home may be rightly guided and realise that the only chance here is to recognise political ambitions from the first, not to try and squeeze the Arabs into our mould and have our hands forced in a year - who knows - perhaps less," she wrote to a friend in January 1920. She would prove all too correct. Mr Wilson stepped down and, in 1921, the British were forced to grant Iraq nominal independence under a provisional government headed by King Faisal I. [complete article]

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Bush: Britons' unwanted guest
By Matthew McAllester, Newsday, November 17, 2003

When American soldiers pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein from a plinth in Baghdad on April 9, it was perhaps George W. Bush's sweetest moment as president.

When British anti-war protesters pull down a statue of Bush from a plinth in London on Thursday during Bush's full state visit to this country, they hope it will be one of his bitterest moments.

"This is the least-welcome guest these shores have seen since William the Conqueror," said George Galloway, a left-wing member of the British parliament who was recently expelled from the ruling Labor Party and is a leading anti-war and anti-Bush campaigner. "This is the most dangerous man in world politics today. This is a giant with the mind of a child." [complete article]

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French to Bush: 'We were right' on Iraq
By Elizabeth Bryant, San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2003

As President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell head off to Europe this week, French commentators are savoring the headline in Washington's prestigious policy magazine, the National Journal, that "the French were right" all along in opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Even before Americans counted their latest casualties -- 17 dead in Saturday's dual helicopter crash -- France's leading newspaper, Le Monde, was reporting with satisfaction that french fries and French bread are back in favor in Washington, and "the Congressional French Caucus has become one of the capital's choicest clubs."

"Of course, there's a feeling we were right and they were wrong," said Etienne Schweisguth, a researcher for the Center for the Study of French Political Life in Paris.

Whether such feelings of vindication will translate into magnanimous offers of French help to its beleaguered Atlantic ally is far more doubtful. [complete article]

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Wanted: Fanatical moderates
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, November 16, 2003

The Geneva Accord fleshes out the peace initiative first outlined by President Clinton. You don't have to accept every word to see its basic wisdom and fairness: In return for peace with Israel, the Palestinians get a nonmilitarized state in the West Bank and Gaza. They also get the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but under a permanent international security force, with full Jewish access. The Israelis get to keep settlements housing about 300,000 of the 400,000 Jews in the West Bank (in return for an equivalent amount of land from Israel), including virtually all the new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem built in the Arab side of the city. About 30,000 Palestinian refugees get to return to their homes in Israel proper, and all refugees receive compensation. Polls show 35 to 40 percent of Israelis and Palestinians already support the deal, without either government having endorsed it.

"Our agreement is virtual, because we are not the government and do not pretend to be," said Mr. Beilin [former Israeli justice minister], whose deal was co-signed by a former Israeli Army chief of staff, a former deputy Mossad chief and leaders from Mr. Arafat's Tanzim militia. "But we need to create a virtual world that will impact the real world by demonstrating that a workable deal is possible. It is inconceivable that for the past three years there have been no official meetings between Israelis and Palestinians about a permanent solution."

By 2010 or so, there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza put together. "We will fairly soon be losing the Jewish majority," added Mr. Beilin. "This may not interest President Bush, but it interests me and should interest Sharon. If we don't do something to create a border with the Palestinians, we're going to put an end to the Zionist dream." [complete article]

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Turkey probes al-Qaeda bomb claim
BBC News, November 17, 2003

Turkish officials are investigating claims that the al-Qaeda network carried out Saturday's attacks against synagogues in Istanbul.

On Sunday the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds said it had received a statement from al-Qaeda in an email.

It said the group targeted the synagogues because Israeli agents were working there, Al-Quds Editor Abdel-Bari Atwan told the BBC.

At least 23 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the bombings. [complete article]

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Attacks in Afghanistan are on the rise
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 15, 2003

Two years after the Taliban regime fled Kabul in the face of U.S.-led coalition forces, Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, has described daily combat operations in Afghanistan as "every bit as much and every bit as difficult as those that go on in Iraq."

As if to punctuate Abizaid's Thursday statement, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed yesterday when his vehicle hit a homemade bomb in eastern Afghanistan, while a Romanian soldier, part of the 11,500-person U.S.-led coalition force, died this week from wounds received in fighting in the south. In a northeastern province, a remote-controlled bomb exploded Thursday near a U.S. vehicle, killing four Afghans.

With most public attention focused on the growing insurgence in Iraq, Afghanistan is also heating up. In contrast to President Bush's Veterans Day declaration that "in Afghanistan we're helping to build a free and stable democracy as we continue to track down and destroy Taliban and al Qaeda forces," the U.S. intelligence community recently reported stepped-up activities by those forces. [complete article]

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U.S. agrees to international control of its troops in Iraq
By Leonard Doyle and Stephen Castle, The Independent, November 17, 2003

The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the "coming days", Mr Solana told The Independent.

The comments, signalling a major policy shift by the US, precede President George Bush's state visit this week to London, during which he and Tony Blair will discuss an exit strategy for forces in Iraq.

Mr Solana underlined the change of mood in Washington, saying: "Everybody has moved, including the United States, because the United States has a real problem and when you have a real problem you need help." There is a "growing consensus" that the transfer of power has to be accelerated, he said. "How fast can it be done? I would say the faster the better." [complete article]

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We don't know how to build democracy
By Stephen D. Krasner, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003

In a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy this month, President Bush outlined the country's commitment to promoting democracy throughout the world, saying that "the advance of freedom" is both "the calling of our time" and "the calling of our country."

The president articulated clearly where we would like to end up: in a world composed of functioning, sovereign, democratic states. The advantages of such a world are obvious. In mature democracies, domestic institutions are stable and leaders accountable. The rule of law prevails and corruption is limited. Economic policy is constructive and incomes and opportunities increase. The appeal of terrorism lessens.

But with all our determination to promote democracy, the truth is, we don't have a very good idea of how to do it. Neither the United States nor anyone else has much experience in creating democracy where there was none. [complete article]

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Top Iraqi scientist flees
By Dafna Linzer, Associated Press, November 16, 2003

The Iraqi scientist who headed Saddam Hussein's long-range missile program has fled to neighboring Iran, a country identified as a state sponsor of terrorism with a successful missile program and nuclear ambitions, U.S. officers involved in the weapons hunt told The Associated Press.

Dr. Modher Sadeq-Saba al-Tamimi's departure comes as top weapons makers from Saddam's deposed regime find themselves eight months out of work but with skills that could be lucrative to militaries or terrorist organizations in neighboring countries. U.S. officials have said some are already in Syria and Jordan.

Experts long feared the collapse of Saddam's rule could lead to the kind of scientific brain-drain the United States tried to prevent as the former Soviet Union collapsed. But the Bush administration had no plan for Iraqi scientists and instead officials suggested they could be tried for war crimes. [complete article]

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Job one: Solve the Sunni problem
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, November 24, 2003

The only thing Arabs understand is force: this is the central dictum that has governed the Bush administration's foreign policy in the Middle East, an old line peddled by traditionalist scholars of the region. But it seems to be a better description of the Bush administration. Two months ago, the administration heaped scorn on a European proposal to transfer power more quickly to Iraqis. "They are not ready," administration officials explained, outlining what they said was a more orderly process of transfer. Two months of escalating attacks against American forces, however, and suddenly the administration has discovered that the Iraqis are ready for self-rule after all. This does not bode well for a democratic Iraq; it is not even likely to solve America’s most urgent problem -- winning the guerrilla war. [complete article]

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The war on terror may open a Turkish front
By Yigal Schleifer, Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2003

As investigators continue to sift for clues through the rubble at the sites of Saturday's truck-bomb attacks on two Istanbul synagogues, Turkey is being forced to confront what may be a harsh new reality.

With Turkish officials strongly suggesting that the sophisticated attacks were organized by an international terrorist organization, possibly Al Qaeda, the country could find itself becoming another front in the war on terrorism. That could push Turkey into even closer cooperation with the US and Israel, analysts say - as well as widen Turkey's Islamic-secular divide. [complete article]

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'Saddam' tape taunts U.S. military
BBC News, November 16, 2003

A recording purportedly of Saddam Hussein says the occupying forces in Iraq have reached "a dead end".

The audio tape urging Iraqis to step up resistance against the US-led coalition was broadcast on the Dubai-based Arabic TV station al-Arabiya.

"The US thought and made others think that they were going on a picnic to occupy Iraq," the speaker said. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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... No, Kabul today bears a strong resemblance to the Kabul of 1981.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

'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.

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.

Defining the resistance in Iraq -- it's not foreign and it's well prepared
By Scott Ritter, Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 2003
What I saw - and passed on to US intelligence agencies - were what might be called the blueprints of the postwar insurgency that the US now faces in Iraq.

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.

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.

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Iraq's dangerous identity crisis
By Sandra Mackey, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003

"Iraqification" is the Bush administration's latest plan for extricating a major portion of American soldiers from Iraq. After hastily arranged meetings with L. Paul Bremer III, the top U.S. official in Iraq, the White House announced a political version last week. The transfer of power to Iraqis will be accelerated, with the goal of creating an "interim government that can bear the weight of sovereignty and authority" by next summer. But no matter how much political power and military responsibility are transferred to the Iraqis, the situation in Iraq will not dramatically improve until Iraqis agree on a national identity, a goal that has eluded them since the state was created by British diplomats some 80 years ago. [complete article]

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Iraqi security forces far from ready
By John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003

For the most part, the Iraqi police and guards who make up most of the nation's forces have little to no training, only light weapons, virtually no communications or heavy military equipment, and no demonstrated expertise or will to take on the insurgents. In fact, many of the recruits say they have joined up primarily out of economic need and acknowledge that many among their comrades sympathize with the insurgents fighting to rid Iraq of U.S. troops.

Until the Iraqi forces reach full strength, [Police Gen.] Ibrahim argued, Americans should not consider pulling out or they would dishonor those who have already died fighting in Iraq.

"What will we say to the American families and the British families who have lost loved ones?" said Ibrahim, who is also deputy interior minister. "That they fought for nothing?" [complete article]

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U.S. ignores this Ayatollah in Iraq at its own peril
By Andrew M. Cockburn, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003

The various plans under discussion in the Bush administration for handing more power to Iraqis -- either in the form of a single ruler or a bolstered Governing Council -- all appear to share a common element: No one wants to let the Iraqi people vote on the matter just yet.

This determination to postpone the Iraqi democracy we were supposedly fighting for ignores the views of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's 15 million Shiite Muslims. No one should have any doubts about either his influence or the fact that we may be ignoring him at our peril.

Just about the time that the U.S. Marines were pulling down Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, an event occurred that should have attracted more attention from Iraq's conquerors than it did. The BBC reported (erroneously) that Sistani's modest house in Najaf was under threat from a hostile mob. The news spread like wildfire.

"I was sleeping in a village near Basra that night," one of Sistani's advisors recalled. "Suddenly I saw the villagers grabbing their guns and preparing to rush to Najaf, hundreds of miles away. 'Sistani is under attack,' they told me. That was all they needed to know. The same thing happened all over Iraq." [complete article]

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Many obstacles lie ahead on Iraqi road to democracy
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003

Since the U.S.-led coalition took control of this country, one of its biggest enemies has been time. The agreement reached Saturday to hasten the hand-over of sovereignty to Iraqis, if it works, has the advantage of speed. But whether democratic efforts will prevail remains in doubt.

The new approach holds huge risks for the coalition because democracy has shallow roots in Iraq and there will be numerous obstacles at each step of the process, not least of all the destabilizing violence that now seems to be touching nearly every corner of the country. [complete article]

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America's gamble: A quick exit plan for Iraq
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, November 16, 2003

The announcement of a firm date to create an interim Iraqi government and end the formal American occupation -- though not the American military presence -- promises the Iraqis the sovereignty they have clamored for, and offers President Bush the political symbol he needed: the beginnings of an exit strategy that he can explain to American voters.

But the price of a speedy transfer of power, Mr. Bush's own top aides worry, may be a rapid loss of control -- control over the drafting of a constitution, and over the effort to make democracy flower in a land where it had never been cultivated. Now that Mr. Bush himself has redefined America's mission in Iraq -- from disarming Saddam Hussein to creating "a free and democratic society" that will be a model for the rest of the Middle East -- any plan that grants Iraq its sovereignty before it adopts full-fledged democracy risks derailing that grander mission. [complete article]

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