The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Japanese nationals killed in Iraq
BBC News, November 29, 2003

Two Japanese citizens who may have been diplomats have died in an apparent ambush near the Iraqi city of Tikrit.

A non-Japanese driver accompanying them was wounded, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said in Tokyo, quoting the embassy in Baghdad.

The country is currently deliberating over whether to send a small contingent of troops to back the US-led coalition. [complete article]

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7 Spaniards killed in ambush in latest strike at allies in Iraq
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 30, 2003

Seven Spanish government officials were killed Saturday and one wounded in an apparent ambush south of the Iraqi capital, military officers said, marking another in a series of attacks against America's allies that clearly seem intended to drive a wedge between them. [complete article]

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Oil experts see long-term risks to Iraq reserves
By Jeff Gerth, New York Times, November 30, 2003

As the Bush administration spends hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the pipes and pumps above ground that carry Iraq's oil, it has not addressed serious problems with Iraq's underground oil reservoirs, which American and Iraqi experts say could severely limit the amount of oil those fields produce.

In northern Iraq, the large but aging Kirkuk field suffers from too much water seeping into its oil deposits, the experts say, and similar problems are evident in the sprawling oil fields in southern Iraq.

Experts familiar with the Iraqi oil industry have said that years of poor management have damaged the fields, and some warn that the current drive to rapidly return the fields to prewar capacity runs the risk of reducing their productivity in the long run. [complete article]

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Intelligence weaknesses are cited
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 29, 2003

More than 10 years' work by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or programs has "major gaps and serious intelligence problems," according to a new study by Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East and intelligence expert who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Even a cursory review" of charges the U.S. and British administrations made in white papers released before the Iraq war "shows that point after point that was made was not confirmed during the war or after the first [six] months of effort following the conflict," Cordesman found in his study, a draft of which he provided to The Washington Post.

Although the United States has the world's most sophisticated technical systems for collecting and analyzing intelligence, Cordesman found, the Iraq experience shows that U.S. intelligence is "not yet adequate to support grand strategy and tactical operations against proliferating powers or to make accurate assessments of the need to preempt." Preemption, or waging war to prevent an enemy from attacking, is a key part of the Bush war on terrorism policy. [complete article]

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Iraq exit plan: New obstacles
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, November 29, 2003

Two weeks ago, the Bush administration settled on an "exit strategy" for Iraq in which the United States committed itself to establishing self-rule there by next summer -- well ahead of its previous schedule and just as the American presidential election season will be getting under way.

But the administration's initial plan for that transfer of authority has fallen apart, raising doubts about whether the June 30 deadline for ending the American occupation authority in Baghdad is still feasible.

At stake is whether the administration can reconcile President Bush's desire for a speedy transfer of sovereignty to a friendly Iraqi government next year, with the need to have some sort of electoral process to ensure that government's validity in the eyes of Iraqis and the rest of the world.

The "process," agreed upon two weeks ago, amounted to less than an election. Instead, it was an elaborate arrangement to hold caucuses throughout Iraq and give the Iraqi Governing Council considerable oversight.

The administration's quandary sharpened this week when Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's senior Shiite cleric, laid down his own definition of a legitimate government. Nothing less than an election was acceptable, he declared -- a demand the United States and the Governing Council are now having to weigh. [complete article]

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U.S. is worried foe is tracking targets in Iraq
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, November 29, 2003

Bush administration officials are increasingly concerned that anti-American forces in Iraq are using simple but effective means to monitor activities and coordinate attacks against the American military, civilian administrators and visiting dignitaries.

As evidence, Pentagon and military officials cite a recent raid by troops of the 101st Airborne Division during which they broke up an apparent plot to assassinate an American colonel. The would-be assailants, they said, had observed and charted the Army officer's daily routine -- including his jogging route and schedule of public appearances -- to plan their attack. [complete article]

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Many Iraqis dismiss Bush's visit as political stunt
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Knight Ridder, November 28, 2003

Many Iraqis on Friday angrily dismissed President Bush's brief cloak-and-dagger Thanksgiving Day visit as a political stunt to boost his ratings at home, and others said he squandered an opportunity to meet with Iraqis and see first hand the problems they face.

"He came for only two hours. He didn't see how the Iraqis are living and suffering," said Fatima Star, 38, a housewife. "He doesn't care about the Iraqi people. He only cares about his troops."

"He wants to gain political favor from people in the United States before the elections," said Mathil Aziz, 26, a teacher. "He cares more about his own personal interest than the Iraqi people." [complete article]

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Facing the horrific every day
By Theola Labbe, Washington Post, November 29, 2003

Since the largest U.S. Army hospital in Iraq opened its doors on April 10, nearly all U.S. casualties have passed through its first-floor emergency room. Some come already dead. Some arrive with one arm instead of two, a shattered leg or a face wiped away by an explosion.

Assaults on U.S. troops have numbered as many as 45 a day in recent weeks. For the staff at the 28th Combat Support Hospital, located within the U.S.-led occupation authority's headquarters at one of former president Saddam Hussein's palaces, that translates into a dozen patients some days. Twenty-four hours in the hospital's emergency room with soldiers stripped of their uniforms and gritty exteriors revealed the physical and emotional toll. [complete article]

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November deadliest month in Iraq
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, November 29, 2003

More U.S. troops have died in Iraq in November than in any month since the war began in March, according to Defense Department figures.

With November nearly over, the official death count yesterday stood at 79, surpassing March (65) and April (73), when the invasion was underway and fighting was most intense and widespread. [complete article]

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A prisoner of panic after 9/11
By Michael Powell, Washington Post, November 29, 2003

Benamar Benatta sits in a whitewashed cell, lost in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Jailed the night of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Algerian air force lieutenant with an expired visa has spent the past 26 months in federal prisons, much of that time in solitary confinement -- even though the FBI formally concluded in November 2001 that he had no connection to terrorism.

Since the government first took Benatta into custody, the United States has apprehended and released about 760 domestic detainees. More than 80 prisoners have been released from the military jail where alleged al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It appears that no detainee has been locked up as long as Benatta, although it is impossible to know because of secrecy surrounding some material witnesses who may still be in government custody.

He remains behind bars, awaiting a deportation hearing, unable to post a $25,000 bond.

"Two years ago, I had hopes. I was okay," said Benatta, 29, a pale, handsome man who wore loose-fitting orange prison pajamas and spoke slightly French-accented English during a two-hour interview at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility. "Now I lie in my cell and think: 'What has become of me?' " [complete article]

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Straw is left red-faced after leak of deal over military headquarters for E.U.
By Stephen Castle and Andrew Grice, The Independent, November 29, 2003

Britain has, for the first time, accepted the idea of an independent operational military headquarters for the EU - apparently without squaring its plans with the US.

Leaks of an accord struck by London, Paris and Berlin, published in the French press yesterday, embarrassed the Government, catching the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, off guard at an EU meeting. The document, which EU foreign ministers expected to see last night, was kept under wraps despite the fact that most of its contents appeared in the French daily newspaper Le Monde.

Asked if the problem was the lack of agreement with the US, a British official replied: "We are in the process of discussing with allies and partners." Behind the scenes, diplomats have been struggling to convince the different players in Washington that their accord with Paris and Berlin does not threaten Nato. Amid disarray last night, they did not rule out the prospect that the document may have to be changed. [complete article]

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Pilgrims flock to Kabul to pay tribute to the Afghan Elvis
By James Astill, The Guardian, November 28, 2003

They come in small groups, old men and young couples, streaming into the cemetery, three miles outside Kabul. The pilgrims hush and head for a concrete mausoleum among the cluttered graves. Its design is unremarkable: six concrete arches reaching up to a four-metre (15ft) marble-tiled dome. Yet, to Afghan music lovers, this is Memphis.

Five months ago a group of fans rebuilt the tomb of Ahmed Zahir - a pop sensation of the 1960s and 70s - which had been obliterated by the music-hating Taliban. Zahir's devotees now flock in their thousands to pay tribute to Afghanistan's only modern celebrity, a man popularly called the "Afghan Elvis". [complete article]

Listen to Ahmed Zahir's cover of Mary Hopkin's Those Were The Days

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U.S. officials were reluctant to call troops occupiers
By John J. Lumpkin and Dafna Linzer, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), November 27, 2003

American military commanders did not impose curfews, halt looting or order Iraqis back to work after Saddam Hussein's regime fell because U.S. policymakers were reluctant to declare U.S. troops an occupying force, says an internal Army review examined by The Associated Press.

As a result, the Bush administration's first steps at reconstruction in Iraq were severely hampered, creating a power vacuum that others quickly moved to fill, and a growing mistrust on the part of ordinary Iraqis, the report said.

Since those first days, the U.S. effort in Iraq has been hampered by a growing insurgency with persistent and deadly attacks against U.S. forces.

The review, a postwar self-evaluation by the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), said the political decision to call the U.S. forces that arrived in Baghdad "liberators" instead of "occupying forces" left the division's officers uncertain about their legal authority in postwar Baghdad and other cities. Under international law, the report says, the troops were indeed an occupation force and had both rights and responsibilities. [complete article]

See the complete 281-page report, Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) After Action Report (PDF format).

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An Iraqi's likely story
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, November 28, 2003

Bush administration hard-liners have a dangerous habit of selectively using intelligence to support the policy conclusions they favor. The latest example of that tendentious approach comes in the leaked Pentagon memo on alleged operational links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that was summarized last week by the Weekly Standard.

To understand why the memo sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith was misleading, a little background is necessary. [complete article]

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Hush, hush about Israel's bomb
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram, November 27, 2003

At midday on Friday, 24 October, Issam Makhoul, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, and his wife Suad got into their two cars outside their home in the centre of Haifa. Issam Makhoul reversed his Knesset-supplied Ford out of the driveway as his wife started the engine of the family Honda to collect their twin children from school.

Seconds later an explosion flooded Suad Makhoul's car with flames. She leapt from the vehicle moments before the fire could engulf her.

Today, Makhoul's house is under a 24-hour guard and he is escorted everywhere in public by an army-trained bodyguard -- of the kind usually accompanying senior government ministers and defence officials.

The Shin Bet security services, who have told Makhoul that the explosion was caused by a small bomb placed under the car, have refused to comment further. There has been almost no coverage in either the Israeli or foreign media, and a Haifa court has issued a gag order on information related to the case. [...]

According to Israeli Army Radio, Knesset security officials are working on the assumption that criminal elements within the Arab minority were responsible for the attack. That seems far less probable than that the would-be assassins selected Makhoul because he has been an almost solitary critic of Israel's most sensitive -- if widely known -- secret: that it has stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including nuclear arms. [complete article]

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Israel army warned by UN for shooting at aid workers
By Eric Silver, The Independent, November 28, 2003

The United Nations and other international relief agencies have warned that they may have to cease operating in the occupied territories unless Israel eases the closures that severely restrict their movement through the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The aid agencies have complained bitterly to Israel about soldiers firing on their relief workers, even when traffic has been co-ordinated in advance. "Several organisations are now seriously considering whether they should continue to work at all under these circumstances," they said. [complete article]

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Sharon goes back on settlements pledge
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, November 28, 2003

Ariel Sharon has gone back on a personal commitment to George Bush to dismantle illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank by saying he would allow some to remain for security reasons.

Israel's prime minister offered contradictory signals about his intent while speaking to journalists yesterday, as he once again said he was prepared to make painful concessions for peace. But he threatened to impose a solution on the Palestinians if they did not meet his demands.

Mr Sharon breached his undertaking to Mr Bush and Israel's commitment under the US-led road map to dismantle illegal outposts by saying that those established "to provoke the government" would be removed, but that others were crucial to the security of bigger settlements and would remain. [complete article]

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Top Shiite says Iraq plan isn't democratic enough
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2003

A U.S.-backed plan to quickly give Iraqis sovereignty over their country again appeared to be unraveling Thursday as a leading politician backed complaints by Shiite Muslim authorities that the process was not democratic enough.

Jalal Talabani, current president of the Iraqi Governing Council, emerged from a meeting with the country's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, saying that he agreed with Sistani's criticism and that he expected an appendix to be added to the plan.

"I see the views of his grace as logical and reasonable, and I agree with them," said Talabani, a Sunni Muslim and the leader of one of Iraq's two main Kurdish parties.

Sistani's grievances are a serious setback for the Americans. Renegotiating the deal could delay the hand-over of power, jeopardizing efforts to diminish the U.S. presence in Iraq and undercutting the White House's insistence that it is in control of the situation. [complete article]

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Elderly cleric emerges as Iraq's most influential leader
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), November 27, 2003

He receives a select few, and hasn't left his home since April. His public pronouncements on politics are rare. He has refused to meet with American officials, including chief Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer.

But Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani -- a frail, 70-something Shiite Muslim cleric with a heart condition -- has emerged in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq as the land's most influential figure, something U.S. planners may not have counted on.

Iraq's American occupiers took their first measure of al-Sistani's influence when he issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in June that only an elected assembly should draft a new constitution. At the time, the Americans appeared hardly to notice the decree. [complete article]

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How British charity was silenced on Iraq
By Kevin Maguire, The Guardian, November 28, 2003

One of Britain's most high-profile charities was ordered to end criticism of military action in Iraq by its powerful US wing to avoid jeopardising financial support from Washington and corporate donors, a Guardian investigation has discovered.

Internal emails reveal how Save the Children UK came under enormous pressure after it accused coalition forces of breaching the Geneva convention by blocking humanitarian aid.

Senior figures at Save the Children US, based in Westport, Connecticut, demanded the withdrawal of the criticism and an effective veto on any future statements blaming the invasion for the plight of Iraqi civilians suffering malnourishment and shortages of medical supplies. [complete article]

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Bombs on Istanbul
By Murat Belge, Open Democracy, November 27, 2003

After the bombing of the two synagogues in Istanbul on 15 November 2003, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declaimed against the attack in bombastic style. If this were meant to be a "message", he said, his government was not going to "take" such a message under any conditions and could only trample on it.

But it is one thing to understand a "message", and another to do as it bids. Let us then try to understand what it meant before we trample on it.

The synagogue attacks, and then the bombing of the British consulate and HSBC bank which followed on 20 November, were in an obvious sense aimed at Jewish and British people. However, more Turkish Muslims than either Jews or British were killed and this was, of course, predictable. So Turkey was not merely the site, but also the major target of the attacks. Why? [complete article]

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C.I.A. seeks guns-for-hire in terror fight
By John J. Lumpkin, Associated Press (via The Guardian), November 27, 2003

The recent deaths of two paramilitary operatives tracking terrorists in Afghanistan opened a small window into one of the CIA's secret methods in fighting the war on terror: using guns-for-hire.

The agency has turned more frequently to contractors - often retired Green Berets or Navy SEALs - as it has worked to rapidly expand its covert paramilitary force, boosted by a big increase in funding in the two years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

William Carlson and Christopher Glenn Mueller were retired military commandos hired by the CIA as contractors to hunt al-Qaida and Taliban fighters near Shkin, in the wilds of eastern Afghanistan. They died Oct. 25 when they were ambushed while taking part in a larger military offensive in the area. [complete article]

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When foreign policy aims and campaign needs clash
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, November 28, 2003

Just shy of 12 months from Election Day, Mr. Bush's political team and his foreign policy team are emphasizing opposite messages, leading one senior State Department official to say this week, in exasperation, "Karl Rove ought to learn that any ad he broadcasts in Iowa gets rebroadcast in Italy."

None of the foreign policy advisers interviewed for this article agreed to be quoted by name, largely out of fear of appearing at odds with Mr. Rove, the White House political adviser.

But the issue is not simply Mr. Rove, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the advertisement. Mr. Bush is singing very different tunes, depending on the audience.

Raising money around the country, he emphasizes his go-it-alone decisions, never mentioning the United Nations, an institution many in his conservative base say they would like to see disappear.

"In Afghanistan and Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes," he told an audience in Phoenix on Tuesday, using a line he has repeated dozens of times at dozens of dinners. "Those regimes chose defiance, and those regimes are no more."

It is a line that usually brings the audience to its feet, cheering. "It's the red-meat part of the speech," said one of the officials responsible for shaping such campaign messages. [complete article]

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The art of denial

One of the less widely reported details of George Bush's big adventure yesterday was that the cloak of secrecy surrounding his trip almost fell apart when a British Airways pilot spotted Air Force One.

As Air Force One headed for Iraq, the BA pilot said on his radio: "Did I just see Air Force One?"

Air Force One captain, Colonel Mark Tillman responded: "Gulfstream Five" - referring to a much smaller plane.

One assumes that the British pilot got a good view of the other aircraft before guessing that it was Air Force One. In other words, he was in no doubt that he'd just passed a Boeing 747 and based on its markings it bore a clear resemblance to a very famous Boeing frequently used by the U.S. President. But instead of refuting that identification by claiming that this particular four-engine behemoth was someone else's Jumbo, Colonel Tillman claimed that he was piloting an 14-seater business jet. Tillman is obviously well-tutored in White House techniques of denial. He understands that a wildly absurd statement makes it difficult for your inquisitor to come up with a penetrating follow-up question.

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Some Iraqis welcome Bush, others wish him in hell
By Khaled Oweis, Reuters (via Wired), November 27, 2003

Some Iraqis were happy President Bush came to their country Thursday, others wished he had gone to hell instead.

"As far as I'm concerned he's welcome to come and he's more than welcome to leave," said Abu Mohammed, 57, a cigarette and chewing gum vendor on the streets of the capital. [complete article]

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Europe's Muslims treated as outsiders
By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, November 27, 2003

Fatima Yaakoub, 24 years old, born in Morocco, living in the Netherlands since she was 12, says she wants nothing more than to fit in. She works hard, cleaning offices in the early mornings, going to college during the day, taking English classes on weekends -- trying to get ahead, trying to do what is expected of a good citizen in her adopted homeland.

But three years ago, she began wearing a head scarf, the sign of a devout Muslim woman, and got a rapid education on how much of an outsider she remains.

Whenever she left her largely Muslim immigrant neighborhood, she discovered that the scarf, known in Arabic as a hijab, marked her as a subjugated Muslim woman, a foreigner, or buitenlander in Dutch. And since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the discovery of al Qaeda cells among Western Europe's 15 million Muslims, Yaakoub has found that the scarf raises suspicions among native Dutch that she is a terrorist, a threat. [complete article]

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Why anti-US attacks have spread to Iraq's north
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, November 28, 2003

In recent weeks, Mosul has witnessed a spate of roadside bombings, assassinations, and rocket attacks against American troops and their Iraqi allies.

The recent violence plaguing Iraq's third-largest city comes in marked contrast to the relatively peaceful months immediately after the war, when American troops were greeted with smiles, and Iraqi children would say in broken English "Mr. Bush, good."

According to Iraqi authorities in Mosul, the upsurge in attacks is part of a deliberate strategy by the insurgents to expand guerrilla operations northward from the so-called Sunni triangle, until now the focus of most anticoalition violence. [complete article]

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Attacks on G.I.'s in Mosul rise as good will fades
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 27, 2003

Since the Americans came to town seven months ago, the firefighters in this northern Iraqi city have gotten new trucks and new uniforms, American training and salaries 10 times larger than they used to be.

But when word came Sunday afternoon that two American soldiers had been shot in the head and killed a block away, the men of Ras al Jada fire station ran to the site and looked on with glee as a crowd of locals dragged the Americans from their car and tore off their watches and jackets and boots.

"I was happy, everyone was happy," Waadallah Muhammad, one of the firefighters, said as he stood in front of the firehouse. "The Americans, yes, they do good things, but only to enhance their reputation. They are occupiers. We want them to leave."

It was not supposed to be this way in Mosul, an ethnically diverse city of two million people and the economic and cultural center of northern Iraq. [complete article]

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Bridging a divide, but only in language
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, November 27, 2003

Toleration for Americans, such as it is, persists in part because Iraqis fear worse to come. Baqubah, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, lies in the Sunni Muslim heartland, where many Iraqis are devoted to deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. They are afraid of domination by the country's Shiite Muslim majority in the south. Shiites fear a return of the control that Sunnis exercised when Hussein ruled.

"The general public lives with too much uncertainty," Ali said.

Many U.S. military officers express bewilderment at their contacts with the Iraqi world. "It's frustrating. You don't know who you can trust. You don't know who is who," said Lt. Robert Small, a military liaison officer at the civil affairs office. [complete article]

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Khamenei calls Iraqi occupation a quagmire for Americans
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), November 26, 2003

Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the occupation of Iraq, which he called a "quagmire" for Americans, in a sermon for the end of Ramadan to tens of thousands of worshippers at Tehran's main mosque.

"The United States came to Iraq in the name of human rights and the struggle against weapons of mass destruction, but they have tightened the vice around Iraqis so much that the latter must show their claws every day," Khamenei said Wednesday.

"The American people should know that their government has led them into a quagmire in Iraq," he added in the sermon for Eid al-Fitr which was broadcast on state television.

He said the if the US-led coalition lets Iraqis vote freely, "a large majority would choose people who would not tolerate one more day of US presence." [complete article]

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U.S. to shift some experts from arms to antiterror
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 27, 2003

Dozens of the American intelligence experts and linguists sent to Iraq to search for illicit weapons have been reassigned to an expanding effort to learn more about the insurgents attacking United States troops, senior government officials said Wednesday.

The shift in the last two weeks appears to reflect a decision that the hunt for insurgents is becoming a more urgent task than the quest for chemical and biological weapons, which has so far proved unsuccessful despite the involvement of hundreds of people in the search.

In recent weeks as many as 40 attacks a day have been conducted against American troops in Iraq, and American commanders have acknowledged that they know relatively little about the attackers. [complete article]

COMMENT -- Shifting resources to antiterror? Sounds like a swift response to the criticisms raised in Warren Strobel's article below. Don't be confused. The New York Times is merely echoing the administration's unwillingness to acknowledge that meaningful distinctions can be made between "terrorism" and "insurgency."

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Iraq war diverting resources from war on terror, experts say
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, November 26, 2003

A growing number of counter-terrorism experts are challenging President Bush's assertion that Iraq is a major battle in the war against terrorism and are questioning whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq has hurt rather than helped the global battle against al-Qaida and its affiliates.

Experts who have served in top positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations are increasingly suggesting that the Iraq war has diverted momentum, troops and intelligence resources from the worldwide campaign to destroy the remnants of al-Qaida.

They note that the presence of U.S. troops in an Arab homeland is serving as a major recruiting tool for signing up and motivating new jihadis, or Islamic holy warriors. [complete article]

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Israel: Iran is now danger No. 1
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, November 28, 2003

Even as the US and European nations press Iran harder to comply with international law on its nuclear program, Israel is moving ahead with its own program to check its powerful Middle Eastern neighbor.

Israel is working on a wide range of measures to undermine Iran's nuclear program, with senior leaders hinting that Israel may take preemptive action if that is deemed necessary. Analysts here suggest that action may include a strike similar to Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor. [complete article]

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Iran's hard-liners mourn ascendancy of secular influence
By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 2003

Conservatives are widely predicted to win a major victory in February's parliamentary elections, retaking control from reformers loyal to President Mohammad Khatami whose public support has evaporated because of political deadlock. It is expected that millions of disillusioned pro-reform voters will stay home, driving abstention to near-record highs, while the highly organized conservative machine brings its voters to the polls.

But the pace of social change -- mainly driven by the people themselves, not the government -- has gone so far that some say the reform process will continue even if the rightists regain power. Developments such as the Internet and the proliferation of illegal satellite TV dishes have irrevocably changed people's views on lifestyle issues such as the hijab, dating, music and freedom of speech.

"We are changing," said Parviz Esmaeli, editor in chief of Tehran Times, which is controlled by the nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"There is a spectrum of conservatives, among them many high-ranking officials, who realize they must have access to high technology and domestic and foreign investment," Esmaeli said. "The traditional clerics from the revolution are now at the age of retirement. There's a change of generations to a moderate center. In the next elections, you will see convergence of young moderate reformers and conservatives." [complete article]

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U.N. nuclear monitor compromises on Iran
By Judy Dempsey and Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, November 26, 2003

The 35 board members of the United Nations' nuclear monitor on Wednesday reached what could prove a landmark compromise on Iran, by agreeing a resolution that condemned its clandestine nuclear programme but held back from sending it to the UN Security Council, where it could face sanctions.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a news conference in Vienna that the board was "sending a serious and ominous message that failures in the future will not be tolerated".

At issue for the main negotiators - the US and the three European governments that struck an agreement with Iran - was how to find a balance between condemning Iran's history of deceit over its nuclear programme while allowing space for future co-operation. [complete article]

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U.S. plan in Iraq to shift control hits major snag
By Joel Brinkley and Ian Fisher, New York Times, November 27, 2003

The American plan to turn over power in Iraq more quickly was thrown into disarray on Wednesday when the country's most powerful cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, made public his opposition to a proposal for indirect elections.

"All of us are groping around right now," an administration official said in Washington, acknowledging that the plan worked out earlier this month by the Iraqi Governing Council and L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator of Iraq, would have to be revised.

Spokesmen for Ayatollah Sistani, who exercises strong influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, said he insisted that the election, planned for June, be a direct ballot and not the caucus-style vote called for in the American plan. He also insists that the new Iraqi government have a more overtly Islamic character. [complete article]

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Top cleric faults U.S. blueprint for Iraq
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, November 27, 2003

Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim cleric believes a new American plan to form a sovereign provisional government in Iraq does not give Iraqis a large enough role in shaping the transition and lacks safeguards for the country's "Islamic identity," a prominent Shiite political leader said Wednesday.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani expressed "deep concern over real loopholes" in the plan "that must be dealt with, otherwise the process will be deficient and will not meet the expectations of the people of Iraq," Abdul Aziz Hakim, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said at a news conference in the holy city of Najaf. Officials with Hakim's political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said he recently met with Sistani.

Sistani's reported displeasure with the U.S. plan for the transfer of power in Iraq could complicate the Bush administration's efforts to create a transitional government that would assume sovereignty by next summer, allowing the United States to end its occupation of the country. [complete article]

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How cleric trumped U.S. plan for Iraq
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, November 26, 2003

The unraveling of the Bush administration's script for political transition in Iraq began with a fatwa.

The religious edict, handed down in June by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim cleric, called for general elections to select the drafters of a new constitution. He dismissed U.S. plans to appoint the authors as "fundamentally unacceptable."

His pronouncement, underestimated at first by the Bush administration, doomed an elaborate transition plan crafted by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer that would have kept Iraq under occupation until a constitution was written, according to American and Iraqi officials involved in the process. While Bremer feared that electing a constitutional assembly would take too long and be too disruptive, there was a strong desire on his own handpicked Governing Council to obey Sistani's order. [complete article]

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Iraqi police chief paid for friendship with U.S.
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2003

Ali Karim Abbas was eager for a new Iraq.

Despite being in frail health, the veteran police officer worked with U.S. soldiers to improve security in this rural zone south of Baghdad and was named chief of police this month. "He always wanted to do the right thing," said 1st Sgt. Terry Schneider of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Instead, Abbas, a 52-year-old father of eight, became at least the fifth police chief assassinated in cities across Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. A team of killers with a heavy, Russian-made machine gun opened fire on his vehicle Saturday, U.S. authorities said, taking his life and wounding two of his officers. [complete article]

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Guerrillas hit Iraqis instead of U.S. troops
By Jeff Wilkinson, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 2003

U.S. offensives have blunted attacks on coalition troops, but violence against Iraqi civilians is up, U.S. Central Command's top general and Iraq's chief civilian administrator said yesterday. [complete article]

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Privatisation won't make you popular
By Kamil Mahdi, The Guardian, November 26, 2003

The war against Iraq began with simultaneous marches by the military and by Bechtel and Halliburton - the corporations coming as planners, consultants, contractors and public accountants all in one. From the outset, the US assumed that Iraq's public institutions were, at best, superfluous. There was little interest in rehabilitation and reform, let alone empowerment. Instead, key Iraqi establishments were subjected to the command of private US enterprises under cover of a war emergency.

The US corporations were granted protection by the military, while state institutions and public property were left to face the onslaught of a destructive mob. Not for the first time in the history of the Middle East, imperial interference both unleashed and benefited from chaos. [complete article]

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A deadly alliance forged in hometown
By Aydin Arik, Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2003

Mesut Cabuk grew up reclusive and angry, people who knew him here recall. In the decade before he blew up Istanbul's largest synagogue, he made several secretive trips to Pakistan, authorities said.

His associate, Azad Ekinci, went on trips too. "Each time he came back sounding more militant, religious and anti-Western than in the past," a relative said.

Ekinci has been identified as one of two suicide bombers who attacked the British Consulate and a crowded British-owned bank Thursday in Istanbul. The blasts came five days after the suicide bombings of two synagogues in the city that authorities said were carried out by Cabuk and an acquaintance. More than 50 people were killed in the four blasts. [complete article]

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Aid gets political for Red Cross
By Cameron W. Barr, Christian Science Monitor, November 26, 2003

Earlier this year, the ICRC, the Swiss-based charity mainly known for its efforts to promote respect for the laws of war, decided it could no longer maintain a food- distribution program in the West Bank, which it initiated in mid-2002. "This program was not designed to substitute for the responsibility of the occupying power, which is Israel," says Vincent Bernard, ICRC spokesman in Jerusalem.

Israel has long denied that its presence in the Palestinian territories - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - constitutes occupation, arguing that no country was a sovereign power in those lands before 1967, when Israel seized them during a war with Arab countries. But in recent months Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has acknowledged that Israel keeps the people in the territories under occupation.

The ICRC's step has caused aid workers and donor countries to reconsider their role. "A number of people within the assistance community, both the UN and donors, are looking at the costs of subsidizing the occupation," says David Shearer, a UN official who runs the Jerusalem branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "The ICRC decision raised the volume" of the discussion, he adds. [complete article]

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U.S. uses loan to punish Israel for West Bank construction
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 26, 2003

The Bush administration will deduct $289.5 million from loan guarantees to Israel to penalize it for building settlements in Palestinian territories and constructing a fence snaking through the West Bank, administration officials said yesterday.

The largely symbolic decision -- which was officially characterized as a voluntary reduction in a $1.4 billion loan Israel will float next week -- comes as the administration has also stepped up pressure on both Israeli and Palestinian officials to restart the stalled peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has indicated some flexibility in the past week in dealing with Palestinian concerns, and U.S. officials increasingly believe Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is close to agreeing to implement six security steps sought by the administration. [complete article]

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One man against secrecy
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 26, 2003

Around lunchtime on Sept. 26, a security officer at the Space Vehicles Directorate on Kirtland Air Force Base shot an e-mail to Steven Aftergood, who was sitting in his frayed tweed chair at his computer, in his office on K Street.

"Questions/concerns have been voiced by our scientists and engineers regarding material on your web," the officer informed him. "Please advise on your collection methods and who provides authorization to you allowing publication of what is presently on your web site."

"Collection methods?" Aftergood chuckled, then responded: "Authorization for publication of material on our web site is contained in U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1.


"If you have other specific concerns, let me know." [complete article]

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FBI publicly denies spying on protesters
By Curt Anderson, Associated Press, November 26, 2003

Senior FBI officials took the unusual step Tuesday of publicly declaring that agents are not using the war against terrorism as a cover to collect information on people who demonstrate against the government.

John Pistole, assistant FBI director for counterterrorism, told The Associated Press in an interview that recent allegations by civil liberties groups and some members of Congress about such an intelligence effort are "flat-out wrong."

"We have to have some type of predicate, some foundation, some basis for saying, 'This person poses some type of threat,'" Pistole said. "The endgame is not to collect intelligence for political purposes. The endgame is to prevent terrorism or criminal activity." [complete article]

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How do we get out of Iraq?
The Guardian, November 26, 2003

Winning the war was the easy bit. But since the fall of Baghdad the news from Iraq has gone from bad to worse: daily attacks on US troops, mounting public hostility to the occupation, no credible government in sight. So how can Britain and America escape the quagmire? And how can we prevent Iraq descending into violent chaos as soon as the troops pull out? We asked eight experts with very different viewpoints for an 'exit strategy.'

Part One
The historian - Paul Kennedy
The negotiator - David Owen
The Iraqi - Mustafa Alrawi
The Washington insider - James Rubin

[complete article]

Part Two
The Iraq expert - Said Aburish
The soldier - Tim Garden
The defence expert - Dan Plesch
The dissenter - Clare Short

[complete article]

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Holding the line in Afghanistan
By Mansoor Ijaz and Malalai Wassil, Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 2003

With Iraq's reconstruction mired in Al Qaeda's well-planned guerrilla warfare, and Taliban remnants resurgent throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, there seems scant room in US policyplanning these days to focus on long-term strategies aimed at stabilizing countries ravaged by radicalism. But by not doing so, US policymakers are showing signs of forgetting the reasons Osama bin Laden's legions were willing to strike out and die for their cause.

While the terrorist challenge will not easily fade, as multiple, indiscriminate terrorist attacks in Turkey and Saudi Arabia have now shown, it is vital to limit the scope and impact of its threat by focusing on educating future generations in countries that are today's havens for terrorists. US policymakers must focus on cutting the terrorists' recruitment cords by rehabilitating the education systems of countries like Afghanistan so the pursuit of jihad becomes one of seeking knowledge and becoming productive members of society, not joining terrorists in their quest to destroy humanity. [complete article]

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U.S. plans war on al-Qaida's Afghan opium
By James Astill, The Guardian, November 24, 2003

American forces in Afghanistan are planning an offensive against the next opium crop, predicted to be the country's biggest ever, after calculating that drugs are now al-Qaida's main source of income.

A senior American official in Kabul told the Guardian that current British efforts to temper Afghanistan's opium output had had "absolutely no impact" on the amount of opium produced since the fall of the Taliban two years ago.

According to separate reports by the UN and the CIA, about 3,600 tonnes of opium resin were produced this year in an unprecedented 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces. The crop earned the country's poppy farmers and traffickers some £2bn.

This year's harvest was up on last year's bumper poppy crop - the first since the Taliban's fall - despite two devastating crop diseases, a ham-fisted government eradication campaign and British-led efforts to train local police and provide poppy farmers with alternative livelihoods at an estimated cost of £65m. [complete article]

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No regrets or culprits, just cash for series of random killings
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, November 26, 2003

For more than an hour Siham al-Tamimi has been waiting in a muddy field marked "holding area" at the entrance to an American military base. A forlorn figure, she is surrounded on three sides by barbed wire and sits perched on a small breeze block. She is dressed in black, her head covered with a black scarf, her hands in small black gloves neatly clasped together.

Siham has come, like so many others be fore her, to the headquarters of the Second Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in south-western Baghdad to understand why American soldiers shot dead her husband 12 days earlier.

In the months since America's war in Iraq, an uncounted number of ordinary Iraqis have been killed or maimed by the army that boasts daily of its swift "liberation" victory.

The US military has not punished any soldier for shooting an unarmed civilian and refuses even to keep count of the civilians its soldiers kill. Yet for several months now, American officers have been quietly paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to relatives of the dead and injured, offering polite but carefully-worded condolences and promising investigations that lead nowhere. [complete article]

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Top U.K. judge slams Camp Delta
BBC News, November 26, 2003

One of Britain's most senior judges has condemned the US over the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Lord Steyn said conditions at Camp Delta were of "utter lawlessness", in a speech seen by Channel 4 News.

The Law Lord said the US was guilty of a "monstrous failure of justice" and challenged UK ministers to condemn the decision to hold any prisoners there.

He said detainees were "beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors". [complete article]

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The patriotism refuge
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, November 25, 2003

If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said, then it is the first refuge of politicians. That at least is the case with the Republican National Committee -- and by implication the White House -- which has started running a television commercial defending George Bush's handling of the Iraq war, saying the president's various Democratic opponents are attacking him "for attacking the terrorists." Not really. It's for doing such a bad job of it.

This despicable attempt to muffle criticism by throwing the flag over it may or may not work. Whatever the case, it does not change the fact that the United States went into Iraq for reasons that now appear specious and so distantly related to the war on terrorism that the connection seems merely rhetorical. Saddam Hussein lives and Osama bin Laden lives and yet somehow the Bush White House wants nothing but congratulations. Mine will have to wait. [complete article]

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Iraqis' impatience, guarded hope
By David Clark Scott, Christian Science Monitor, November 26, 2003

The before and after of the Hussein era is still crystallizing for most Iraqis. This is a nation caught in the eddies of a monumental transition. Ask an Iraqi if he's better off almost eight months after the arrival of US troops, and the answers are often contradictory - and based purely on personal experience. The attacks on US soldiers, say some, reflect a simmering anger over how Iraqi civilians are abused in the hunt for what the coalition calls "noncompliant" forces. But the same Iraqis say they would shoot Hussein if they found him. [complete article]

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Rightists preparing plan to counter road map, peace bids
Haaretz, November 25, 2003

The settlement movement's Yesha Council said Tuesday that rightists within Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's own Likud party would create a political "iron wall" to block mount any attempt by Sharon to unilaterally dismantle settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The council has unveiled its campaign to fight evacuation of settlements, titled "In Netzarim, Israel will be victorious," referring to the isolated, embattled Gaza Strip settlement that has been a focus of bloodshed foryears, and the subject of increasing calls for evacuation. [complete article]

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U.S., allies agree on Iran move
By Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 25, 2003

The Bush administration reached agreement with key European allies yesterday on a resolution that "strongly deplores Iran's past failures and breaches" in disclosing its nuclear program and establishes a fast-track procedure to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council if any additional violations are discovered, senior administration officials said. [complete article]

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Nuclear theft case raises fears about Russia
As official is tried for taking uranium, U.S. backs plan to send more

By Anna Badkhen and James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 2003

Nobody knows why Alexander Tyulyakov, a high-placed official at a Russian nuclear facility, kept more than 6 pounds of enriched uranium in his car, his garage and his summer cottage in Russia's northern port of Murmansk.

But at a time when the United States is considering shipping highly enriched uranium from 20 Soviet-built research reactors in Eastern Europe countries to Russia, the fact that Tyulyakov, deputy director of Atomflot, a state-owned Russian company that maintains the country's nuclear-powered icebreakers, admitted in court last week to having stored the radioactive material at home raises troubling questions about whether thousands of pounds of uranium would be safe in Russia's nuclear facilities.

Under the terms of an agreement with the United States that was signed in Washington on Nov. 7, Russia will retrieve, within the next five to 10 years, uranium from research reactors in 17 countries. These reactors, which are used for such civilian uses as research, materials testing and medicine rather than power generation, are among the 100-plus research nuclear installations that the United States and the Soviet Union placed in about 40 countries around the globe at the height of the Cold War. [complete article]

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On the job with a Taliban recruiter
By Massoud Ansari, Asia Times, November 26, 2003

Abdul Zahir's day starts with morning visits to a number of mosques in the Pakistani border area with Afghanistan, where the faithful gather for the first of their five daily prayer sessions. And once his morning session is over, he goes to some of the many madrassas (religious schools) in the area, or shows up at social gatherings, such as weddings, if there are any taking place.

Abdul is unflagging in his rounds because he has an almost missionary zeal: to find recruits for jihad - or holy war - waged by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Himself blinded in one eye from action in Afghanistan, Abdul tells prospective recruits: "You might fight at the front line, or you might stand guard at night. You can cook for other Islamic warriors, or you can be a male nurse. Or you can give the fighters money or grain - everything is welcome because the jihad has started." [complete article]

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At the grass roots, an unlikely alliance for Mideast peace
By Charles A. Radin, Boston Globe, November 23, 2003

Huda al-Tardi, a passionate young believer in holy war, is a nightmare for Middle East peacemakers. Alia Salim, a hard-nosed but war-weary middle-aged woman who is ready to stop the fighting, is a hope.

One a mother, the other a grandmother, they sat side by side at a women's association meeting in this village near Hebron last week with 40 other women, debating the presentation they had just heard from a campaigner for the latest and possibly the most novel Mideast peace initiative yet -- a joint Palestinian-Israeli effort to create such a huge demand for peace that even Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon could not ignore it.

"Jihad is in our religion, you cannot cancel it," said Tardi, juggling one child and then another in the folds of her head-to-toe black robes. "I am breast-feeding my children the love of martyrdom. If you drop jihad, we will never get our rights."

Jamil Rushdi, a former Palestinian fighter who spent 10 years in Israeli prisons, presented the peace initiative to the women. Rushdi told Tardi she had a right to her opinion. But, he asked, how many of the other women agree? Not one responded.

"We are ready to stop everything," Alia Salim said, "if you can give us a guarantee that Israel will give us our rights." [complete article]

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Iraqi police walk most perilous beat
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 2003

They never found Jassem Mohammed. The body of the 25-year-old policeman simply vanished when the white Land Cruiser packed full of TNT and rockets exploded five yards from him at the entrance of a police station in this dusty town 30 miles north of Baghdad.

It was one of two nearly simultaneous suicide bombings on Saturday against Iraqi police stations in Baquba and a neighboring town that killed up to 17 people, 10 of them policemen.

Iraq's lightly armed and ill-equipped police force represent easy pickings for the guerrillas operating in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the volatile sector north and west of Baghdad that is witnessing the bulk of violence against American troops and their Iraqi allies. [complete article]

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Bank data for Saudi Embassy subpoenaed
By Douglas Farah, Washington Post, November 23, 2003

The FBI, in an unprecedented move that has strained relations with a close ally in the war on terrorism, has subpoenaed records for dozens of bank accounts belonging to the Saudi Embassy, part of an investigation into whether any of the hundreds of millions of dollars Riyadh spends in the United States each year end up in the hands of Muslim extremists, U.S. and Saudi officials said. [complete article]

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Iraqi security forces torn between loyalties
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 25, 2003

At the sprawling Baiji train station, long ago looted of everything but rail cars, the men of the city's Iraqi Civil Defense Corps lamented their first two months as a pillar of the U.S.-trained security forces that will inherit responsibility for keeping order in Iraq.

In a Sunni Muslim town suspicious of U.S. forces and often the scene of armed opposition, villagers have derided the men of the 3rd Patrol as traitors, pelting them with rocks as their trucks pass. Some were stopped in the market by men in checkered head scarves and warned that their commander faced death. Last month, U.S. Special Forces mistook them for guerrillas or thieves -- that point remains in dispute -- and opened fire on them. Worse, they feared, was what lay ahead if U.S. forces withdrew from this northern town.

"I swear to God, we'll be killed," said Hamid Yusuf, holding a secondhand Kalashnikov rifle.

"We all have the same opinion," insisted one of his commanders, Qassim Khalaf. [complete article]

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U.S. wages media war as Iraq insurgency deepens
By Luke Baker, Reuters, November 24, 2003

As U.S. forces battle a deepening guerrilla insurgency on the ground in Iraq, they are also waging a major media offensive to try to cast the contested occupation in a more positive light.

The media blitz coincides with a sharp rise in attacks by guerrillas against American interests and comes amid signs that both U.S. troops and the American-led civilian administration are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis. [complete article]

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The moral myth
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, November 25, 2003

It is no use telling the hawks that bombing a country in which al-Qaida was not operating was unlikely to rid the world of al-Qaida. It is no use arguing that had the billions spent on the war with Iraq been used instead for intelligence and security, atrocities such as last week's attacks in Istanbul may have been prevented. As soon as one argument for the invasion and occupation of Iraq collapses, they switch to another. Over the past month, almost all the warriors - Bush, Blair and the belligerents in both the conservative and the liberal press - have fallen back on the last line of defence, the argument we know as "the moral case for war". [complete article]

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U.S. targets opposition clerics in Mosul
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, November 25, 2003

The US military is acting to stem the rising tide of radical Islamism in Iraq's third largest city and rooting out preachers held to be using their sermons to incite attacks on Americans.

Alarmed by a surge of deadly attacks in Mosul, a Sunni Muslim stronghold of 1.7 million Arabs and Kurds, coalition forces are running what the US commander, Major General David Petraeus, calls a "race to win over the hearts and minds of the people".

A team of US army chaplains is liaising with imams at the city's main mosques in an attempt to reassure the once dominant Sunni Arabs that they have not lost their stake in the new Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraqi council asks to keep its power
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times (via IHT), November 25, 2003

Leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council, just nine days after vowing to dissolve their body when a provisional government is elected in June, are now lobbying to stay in power and serve as a second legislative body, perhaps as a senate.

Many details remain to be resolved, and not every council member agrees with this idea.

But Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who is serving as president of the council this month, said in an interview Monday that a majority of the council members "want to keep the Governing Council as it is now." Some council members who oppose this idea say they believe that the proposal is being promoted by members who are afraid that they may not fare well in the coming elections. Opponents of the idea also say they fear that staying on will be a public relations disaster for the nascent rebuilt Iraqi state. [complete article]

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Detention of Iraqis creates hostility, resistance
By Maureen Fan, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 24, 2003

U.S.-led coalition forces raided Abdul Rahman Mohammed Saleh al-Dulame's home in northern Baghdad three times this summer, then arrested the low-level Ministry of Trade employee on a bogus tip that he had been a member of Saddam Hussein's personal paramilitary force.

Dulame, 36, spent three months in detention, during which he said he was poorly fed and beaten for leading prisoner demonstrations. His family didn't know where he was until he was released in September. Since his release, he has been unable to trace other detainees he met while imprisoned.

"I am not afraid to say it, frankly. I hate the Americans, my daughter hates the Americans, my neighbors hate the Americans," said Dulame, sitting in his living room in an olive brown traditional robe, his jet black hair and mustache neatly trimmed, his eyes on a portrait of his late father, a tribal sheik.

With the Red Cross gone, detainees' families are increasingly unable to get basic information about them, human rights agencies say. And as U.S. troops crack down on armed opponents in Iraq, the growing number of detainees is breeding more hostility and resistance. [complete article]

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Families, military seek reasons for soldiers' suicides
Associated Press (via Achorage Daily News), November 22, 2003

Since April, the military says, at least 17 Americans - 15 Army soldiers and two Marines - have taken their own lives in Iraq. The true number is almost certainly higher. At least two dozen non-combat deaths, some of them possible suicides, are under investigation according to an AP review of Army casualty reports.

No one in the military is saying for the record that the suicide rate among forces in Iraq is alarming. But Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American military commander in Iraq, was concerned enough, according to the Army Surgeon General's office, to have ordered a 12-person mental health assessment team to Iraq to see what more can be done to prevent suicides and to help troops better cope with anxiety and depression. [complete article]

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The waiting game
By Ahdaf Soueif, The Guardian, November 24, 2003

I thought it was bad three years ago. Now the landscape itself is changed. New settlements spring up everywhere; more than 60 since I was here last. You can watch their metamorphosis from a handful of caravans, to some Portakabins, then basic bungalows and, finally, the bristling, concrete hilltop fortress that is an Israeli settlement. Hardly a Palestinian village exists without an Israeli settlement lowering down on it from above. Everywhere there is construction going on - illegally: wide, Israeli-only highways to connect the settlements to each other, great mounds of rubble and yellow steel gates to block the old roads between Palestinian villages. And there are people waiting; waiting with bundles, with briefcases, with babies, at gates, at roadblocks, at checkpoints, waiting to perform the most ordinary tasks of their everyday lives.

All this, Israel tells the world, is in the cause of security. On my first morning here we drive up through the West Bank to see the biggest construction of all: Israel's "security fence", a monster barrier of steel and concrete that separates farmers from their land and refugees from their homes. Brute technology hacking away at a living body of land and people. It rears up to block the sunset and the evening breeze from the people of Qalqilya, then spreads out to swallow great stretches of land cultivated over hundreds of years by the neighbouring villages. [complete article]

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The occupation corrupts from above

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, November 24, 2003

Without lies, it would be impossible to talk about peace with the Palestinians for 36 years while at the same time seizing more and more Palestinian land. Without lies, it would be impossible to claim that there is no partner for the road map, while at the same time injecting more and more money into outposts that the road map calls for dismantling. Without lies, it would be impossible to promise "painful concessions" in exchange for peace, while at the same time terming people who concluded such an agreement "traitors." [complete article]

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Shiite cleric could make or break transition
By John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2003

In his first comments since plans were unveiled to speed up the naming of a provisional government for the country, [Muqtader] Sadr dismissed the proposed hand-over of power by July 1 as inadequate, and rejected any role for what he called the "vicious trinity" of the United States, Britain and Israel in Iraq's future.

"Whatever is related to occupation must be considered as 'occupation,' and must be refused by any rational and peace-loving person," he said, sitting cross-legged on cushions in a reception room near a residence he uses in this central Iraq city. The only real solution, he said, was for U.S. forces to withdraw immediately.

What remained to be seen was whether he would wield his fiery rhetoric, his popularity among youths and his skills at provoking demonstrations to try to waylay the agreement reached between civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer III and the Iraqi Governing Council. Hints from him and his supporters have been ambiguous, suggesting that Sadr was hesitating and keeping his options open in the face of U.S. warnings that incitement and insurrection would not be tolerated.

Despite Sadr's apparent rejection of the accord, a statement issued last week by the Sadr Bureau, a sort of shadow government that has wide influence in many Shiite neighborhoods, said the proposed new provisional government could be supported -- if certain conditions were met, including that the occupying powers not interfere with the new government and that it be representative of all of society. [complete article]

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Iraq's model city starts to get ugly
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2003

After months of being celebrated as the model city of postwar Iraq, [Mosul] this ancient citadel on the Tigris is enduring a wave of attacks targeting U.S. forces and their allies -- an alarming trend that intensified Sunday with the killing of two American soldiers as they drove through town in broad daylight.

Military officials confirmed that two soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were shot at as they drove between U.S. garrisons here. But witnesses and the military differed on details of the incident.

One witness, Ahmed Mohammed Ali, 21, said today that the soldiers' car was shot at and then crashed into a concrete wall on a street in an industrial area.

When American troops did not immediately appear, a crowd of teenagers began to gather, he said. Attackers pulled the driver, who was wounded, out of the vehicle, beat him and slit his throat, Ali said. [complete article]

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Bound to Iraq, Kurds eye options
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, November 24, 2003

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the northern third of the country that was virtually independent of Saddam Hussein's rule for the past 12 years, there are no bombed-out remains of the war like those that scar Baghdad. Instead, signs of an economic uptick abound. And America, which safeguarded the Kurds' autonomy from the dictator with a no-fly zone, is widely seen more as a liberator than an occupier.

Despite the bustle and optimism, questions remain for many Kurds about their future with an Iraq that looks more chaotic and worrisome each day. The concern has deepened after last Thursday's truck bombing outside the Kirkuk offices of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), one of two leading Kurdish political parties. The bombing, which killed five people and injured several more, is part of an upsurge in attacks on the local population that some authorities and experts see as a strategy to disrupt an accelerated transfer of authority to Iraqis. [complete article]

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Briton is held in Iraq drive on terror
By Antony Barnett and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, November 23, 2003

A British Muslim has been captured in northern Iraq by Kurdish security forces after being suspected of fighting with the Islamic terror group Ansar-al-Islam.

British authorities in Baghdad were contacted last week by Kurdish forces who arrested a British national two weeks ago and have been interrogating in him in Erbil, a northern Iraqi town near the Syrian border. Foreign Office officials will attempt to gain consular access to the man this week.

Last week, The Observer revealed that a Yemeni-born martial arts expert from Sheffield, Wail al-Dhaleai, was suspected of having taken part in a suicide attack against US forces in Iraq.

Like al-Dhaleai and other foreign fighters heading for Iraq, it is suspected that the captured Briton travelled via Syria. Security services in this country are trying to unravel the trail taking young British Muslim radicals to Iraq through Syria. Investigators are also seeking connections between other British-based bombers, including two men who staged a suicide attack in Tel Aviv in April. [complete article]

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Hezbollah, in Iraq, refrains from attacks on Americans
By James Risen, New York Times, November 24, 2003

Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group, has established a significant presence in Iraq, but is not taking part in attacks on American forces inside the country, according to current and former United States officials and Arabs familiar with the organization.

Iran is believed to be restraining Hezbollah from attacking American troops, and that is prompting a debate within the Bush administration about Iran's objectives, administration officials said. [complete article]

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Moving targets
By Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, December 1, 2003

For all the spy satellites and high-tech listening devices that can home in on the terrorists' chatter, and despite enormous increases in the "black budget" spent on intelligence-gathering in the war on terror, the true threat to the American homeland remains murky. In part, the intelligence community has spread itself thin trying to wage war in Iraq while tracking down Al Qaeda around the world. But the real problem is that small cells of fanatics tied by religion and blood are difficult to penetrate, especially for Western spies. [complete article]

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Islamist Turks still blame West
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, November 24, 2003

While thousands of Turks edged through this city's trendiest districts, glimpsing the devastation left by four deadly bombings last week, thousands of others streamed into mosques in humbler quarters - where the view of the attacks looks markedly different.

"It can't be Al Qaeda because they wouldn't launch an attack that would hurt Muslims," says Suleyman Gencturk, a young man who blames the bombings on Israel and the US. Mr. Gencturk sells religious CDs in Fatih, a working-class neighborhood which has a more devout character than the upscale areas where suicide bombers killed 57 and wounded hundreds more. Here, men in skullcaps and women wearing headscarves - officially discouraged by Turkey's secular state - are far more prevalent than in the shell-shocked neighborhoods of Beyoglu, Levent, and Sisli, where the pace is more European than Middle Eastern. [complete article]

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Sharon slams anti-Semitic Europe, November 24, 2003

Europeans are inherently anti-Semitic and their leaders are guilty of pushing a biased policy in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has told

"What we are facing in Europe is an anti-Semitism that has always existed and it really is not a new phenomenon," he argues in response to an EU poll that rated Israel above Iran and North Korea as a threat to world peace.

Sharon throws out the distinction between anti-Semitic beliefs and legitimate criticism of Israel's policies in the Middle East.

"Today there is no separation. We are talking about collective anti-Semitism. The state of Israel is a Jewish state and the attitude towards Israel runs accordingly." [complete article]

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More than half back two-state Israel plan
By Eric Silver, The Independent, November 24, 2003

Support is growing among Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution based on mutual recognition, an almost total Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 war, division of Jerusalem and an end to the conflict.

A poll published yesterday revealed that 55.6 per cent of Palestinians and 53 per cent of Israelis backed the principles of the Geneva Accords, an unofficial peace plan drafted by the ex-Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, formerly a senior figure in the Palestinian Authority. [complete article]

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Fugitive Taliban leader urges Afghans to fight US as security threat worsens
By Jan McGirk, The Independent, November 24, 2003

Mullah Omar, the ousted leader of the Taliban, has urged Afghans to unite against the American military in the country, claiming that promises of democracy and reconstruction have not been fulfilled, the Afghan Islamic Press reported. [complete article]

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The other conflict continues to take a G.I. toll
By David Rohde, New York Times, November 24, 2003

As Sgt. First Class Vernon Story's column of Humvees climbed a desolate ridge a mile from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border here on Sunday morning, the sergeant got the feeling that someone was watching. The five unexploded land mines he and his men had found along this same ridge in a firefight with Taliban rebels here less than two months ago lingered in his mind.

"Hey, don't be driving down the tracks," Sergeant Story warned his driver.

Just after he spoke, the front of his Humvee abruptly lurched into the air as a mine or remote-controlled bomb detonated under the right front tire. It severed the lower left leg of a young soldier in the front passenger seat and tossed the 6,000-pound vehicle violently on its side. Sergeant Story, seven soldiers and four journalists traveling with them in the back of vehicle were thrown to the ground. [complete article]

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Where terror begins
By Jason Burke, The Observer, November 23, 2003

Exactly two years ago I found notebooks and letters indicating the presence of Turkish recruits in bin Laden's training camps. They were written by young men who had made considerable sacrifices to get training. One notebook, written in Turkish, described all the techniques, including the construction of massive truck bombs, a recruit had learned.

Thousands of such men made their way to the camps in Afghanistan - indeed they had been doing so long before bin Laden arrived on the scene. Just because the camps were emptied, the recruits have not disappeared. Nor have the reasons underpinning their reasons for wanting to learn such appalling skills.

By the time the suspects have come to trial we will have a detailed picture of how the bombings happened. But we will not know why. And this is the crucial question if we are to defeat contemporary Islamic terrorism.

This does not mean we should condone their horrific actions but merely recognise that it is only by understanding the motivations of such men can we hope to counter them. [complete article]

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Three U.S. troops killed in Iraq
By Mariam Fam, Associated Press, November 23, 2003

Gunmen killed two American soldiers driving through this northern Iraqi city Sunday, and then a crowd swarmed the scene, looting the soldiers' vehicle and pummeling their bodies, witnesses said. Another soldier was killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad.

Elsewhere, three American civilian contractors were wounded in an explosion in the northern oil center of Kirkuk. First reports said the blast was from a mortar, but U.S. Lt. Col. Matt Croke said officials later concluded it was from a bomb.

The 101st Airborne Division said its soldiers in Mosul were shot while driving between U.S. garrisons. Several witnesses also said the soldiers were shot during the attack in the Ras al-Jadda district, though earlier reports by witnesses said assailants slit the soldiers' throats.

Bahaa Jassim, a teenager, said the soldiers' vehicle crashed into a wall after the shooting. Several dozen passers-by then descended on the wreckage, looting the car of weapons and the soldiers' backpacks.

After the soldiers' bodies fell into the street, the crowd pummeled them with concrete blocks, Jassim said. [complete article]

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It is already clear that the Republican Party intends to make security a central issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. The challenge for the Democratic nominee will be to convince voters that America will be as safe or safer when governed by his administration than it would be under Bush.

If Democrats want to challenge Republicans with what could be the most incendiary but also incisive question, it might be: Who would Osama vote for? -- on the assumption, of course, that his would be a vote that no one would want.

Bush has convinced everyone of his willingness to act tough, but is he actually winning this war on terrorism? As an icon around which disparate terrorists groups are rallying, is Osama bin Laden even more powerful now, when "in retreat", than he was before being treated as the personification of global terrorism? Has the threat of terrorism diminished over the last three years, or have the policies of this administration actually empowered terrorists by promoting a widely held perception that they share a common cause? If this administration's policies have served the strategic interests of al Qaeda by reinforcing the notion that the West is at war with Islam, does not this polarization itself present the greatest threat to America's security?

Terrorist logic: Disrupt the 2004 election
By David J. Rothkopf, Washington Post, November 23, 2003

In case after case, assaults before major votes have benefited candidates who were seen as tougher on terrorists. In Israel in 1996, for instance, Labor Party leader Simon Peres held a 25-to-30 point lead over his Likud rival Binyamin Netanyahu. Then suicide bombings claimed more than 60 lives in four weeks. Peres was widely seen as the more conciliatory candidate, and Netanyahu won. In 2002, when 11 Israelis died in a Jerusalem bombing, hard-liner Ariel Sharon was elected. Similarly, in Russia, Vladimir Putin's stance against Chechen terrorists was widely credited with his presidential win in 2000. In Turkey, in 1999, Bulent Ecevit cited violence and the threat of unrest in his country from Islamic-led political opponents; he jailed them and won. In Sri Lanka, when President Chandrika Kumaratunga, known for her tough stance against Tamil Tiger terrorists, was wounded in a pre-election attack, her flagging political fortunes were revived and she, too, won.

This long list of examples begs a question: Terrorists, too, can see that hard-liners tend to win after terrorist attacks. So why would they want to help them win? Perhaps because terrorists see the attacks as a win-win. They can lash out against their perceived enemies and empower the hard-liners, who in turn empower them as terrorists. How? Hard-liners strike back more broadly, making it easier for terrorists as they attempt to justify their causes and their methods. This in turn suggests that while terrorists must be combated, a measured public response is more effective than an impulsive or ill-conceived military response (however emotionally satisfying) that is likely to produce unnecessary collateral damage, political or otherwise. [complete article]

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Are the sparks catching?
By Daniel Benjamin, Washington Post, November 23, 2003

Exactly who first conceived the tactic of multiple-strike terrorist attacks is not known, but among jihadists, the idea is at least a decade old. "Boom, boom, boom and America is on standby," one participant in the 1993 conspiracy to destroy landmarks, bridges and tunnels in New York was fond of saying to his fellow plotters. Destroying several targets at once, they believed, would produce a psychological impact far out of proportion to the actual violence -- and paralyze citizens and policymakers with fear. [complete article]

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Sweeping new emergency laws to counter U.K. terror
By Andy McSmith, The Independent, November 23, 2003

Sweeping measures to deal with terrorist attacks and other emergencies are to be announced this week, giving the Government power to over-ride civil liberties in times of crisis, and evacuate threatened areas, restrict people's movements and confiscate property.

The Civil Contingencies Bill, which covers every kind of disaster from terrorism to the weather, will be the biggest shake-up of emergency laws since the early part of the last century, replacing legislation which saw the UK through a world war and the IRA bombing campaign. [complete article]

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Ready to strike any time, anywhere - al-Qa'ida's murderous mission
By Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, November 23, 2003

If anything is a signature of al-Qa'ida, it is the staging of simultaneous attacks. From the September 2001 "spectacular" which targeted both towers of the World Trade Centre in New York as well as the Pentagon in Washington, to the abortive attempt a year ago to hit Israeli tourists in the air above Kenya at the same time as others were dying on the ground, the movement created by Osama bin Laden has sought to sow confusion and fear through the use of double strikes.

Istanbul added a terrifying new twist to its modus operandi: in the midst of devastation and distress, al-Qa'ida, through its Turkish allies, returned within the space of a week to stage a second pair of attacks. [complete article]

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The unthinkable has become inevitable. So how can Britain protect its citizens?
By Paul Lashmar, The Independent, November 23, 2003

Britain is facing what may be its darkest hour since the Second World War. After the horror of the bomb attacks in Istanbul last week the security services believe that it is just a matter of time before one of the many cells of al-Qa'ida finds a way of striking on the British homeland.

The price Britain is paying for its lone alliance with the United States in the "war on terror" is to be a preferred target of the most ruthless international terror organisation the world has yet seen. [complete article]

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Guerrilla war without any end in sight
By Phil Reeves, The Independent, November 23, 2003

Long before the dust settled over the Istanbul bomb sites, President George Bush and his advisers will have asked themselves a now familiar question. Is there any connection linking such bombers with elements fighting the US occupation of Iraq?

The White House is as unflagging as ever in its quest to portray the conflict in Iraq as part of a global war in which democracy is pitched against international terrorism, a good-versus-evil contest to replace the Cold War. But its case, obediently echoed by Tony Blair, is not being convincingly borne out by American generals in the field or by Iraqis. And its tactics risk fuelling the extreme and violent attitudes in the wider world that it seeks to defeat. [complete article]

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What the tearful President told the grieving relatives of Britain's war dead
By Severin Carrell, The Independent, November 23, 2003

It was an unscripted moment in a morning of minutely choreographed state ceremony. It was the moment the three-year-old son of a British soldier killed in Iraq looked President George Bush in the face and said: "My daddy is up in heaven."

Mr Bush's face crumpled, and he stuttered the reply: "Oh, I'm so sorry."

Beck Seymour had, in one short sentence, disarmed the world's most powerful leader and caught the emotions of a room full of war widows and grieving families. [complete article]

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Under pressure to change, Saudis debate their future
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, November 23, 2003

The idea of reshaping the kingdom's religious and tribal form of monarchy remains tentative, more vague public discussion than concrete plan. But a series of deadly bombings clearly intended to destabilize the rule of the House of Saud, combined with rare street protests and the grudging recognition of the heavy involvement of Saudis in the Sept. 11 attacks, have forced this once extremely isolated nation to re-examine the way it is run.

"There is an opportunity to turn this relatively sad time in our history, with the violence, to turn it into something that is good for everyone," said Prince Bandar bin Khalid, the chairman of the board of Al Watan newspaper and a grandson of the late King Faisal.

"I think you will find a more decentralized system," he added. "I think you will find more people will have a bigger say in governing. I don't think we have an option, we need to go in that direction to ensure social stability."

Gauging the degree of change considered possible depends on whom you talk to. Government critics say that except for small steps like an ill-defined promise for municipal elections next year and some greater latitude in news media freedom, the ruling clan maintains absolute power. Critics worry that the half dozen or so septuagenarian princes who actually run the country are too entrenched to consider diluting the role of the monarchy, especially since there is no clear ruler, because the ailing King Fahd is incapacitated. [complete article]

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Three U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq
By Mariam Fam, Newsday, November 23, 2003

Attackers slit the throats of two American soldiers who were waiting in traffic in this northern Iraqi city on Sunday, witnesses said. Another soldier was killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. [complete article]

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Vengeance has its day
By Romesh Ratnesar, Time, November 22, 2003

Jasim is a killer. In the past six months he claims to have helped assassinate 10 former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, most of them officials in the disbanded Mukhabarat, Iraq's ruthless intelligence service. [complete article]

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Voices of Baghdad etched on its walls
By Samson Mulugeta, Newsday, November 19, 2003

As U.S. soldiers prowled this sprawling city hunting insurgents this week, they appeared unaware of another battle being waged under their noses: pro- and anti-Saddam Hussein graffiti artists duking it out in a battle for public opinion.

Thousands of slogans in the Arabic script snake across acres of gray walls that line city squares, apartments and office buildings, a perfect canvas for the outpourings of a population intoxicated by new freedoms.

Hussein loyalists shout their yearning for the deposed dictator - "Saddam will come again" - followed by the coda on the same line from a detractor: "Through my behind!"

"I walk around reading these writings, and some of them move me so much I don't know whether to laugh or to cry," said Amir Nayef Toma, 52, a retired radar operator in the Iraqi army. "You want to know what Iraqis are thinking? Read these walls." [complete article]

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Iraqi town relishes freedom, but resentment runs beneath
By Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, November 23, 2003

What becomes clear on the streets of Kifl, as in other parts of Iraq, is that a cold calculation is being made, as people tally the dinars in their pockets. Freedom and democracy, it would seem, are often beside the point. Some people have more than they did under Mr. Hussein, and others have less.

To hear Fadil Abdul Amir, a butcher who can no longer afford to buy sheep to slaughter, more and more people have less.

"They're going to become terrorists!" he shouted over the din of the crowd, referring to those disenfranchised in the new Iraq. "They're going to join bin Laden!" [complete article]

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Police training: A risky road
By Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2003

Saddam Hussein's police were not known for their respect for the law or for their adherence to basic principles of human rights. Torture was routine, and death in custody was common.

But in the new Iraq, that's all supposed to change. On the dusty campus of the national police academy in Baghdad, dozens of clean, well-pressed American soldiers are already offering instruction to a ragtag batch of Iraqi police recruits, schooling them in the fundamentals of what's known as "democratic policing." [complete article]

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Israel threatens strikes on Iranian nuclear targets
By Ross Dunn, The Scotsman, November 23, 2003

Israel has warned that it is prepared to take unilateral military action against Iran if the international community fails to stop any development of nuclear weapons at the countryís atomic energy facilities.

As the International Atomic Energy Agency prepares to meet again this week to discuss the situation in Iran, Israel has told Washington it is prepared to act alone and launch a strike similar to its attack on Iraq in 1981 when its air force bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

In an apparent attempt to increase pressure on the IAEA and United Nations to limit the development of Iranís nuclear facilities, Israelís defence minister Shaul Mofaz has made what sources have described as a warning of "unprecedented severity". [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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.

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."

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 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.

Afghanistan's lessons for Iraq
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2003
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.

Mosul's pacification messages
By Jonny Dymond, BBC News, November 18, 2003
Go to Mosul now and you find as close to normality as you can get in Iraq today.

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 vanishing case for war
By Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, December 4, 2003
The invasion and conquest of Iraq by the United States last spring was the result of what is probably the least ambiguous case of the misreading of secret intelligence information in American history.

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."

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.

Iraq's dangerous identity crisis
By Sandra Mackey, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2003
Every government that has ruled Iraq since its inception has faced the challenge of defining the Iraqi state.

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