The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Fight to the death
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 2003

The police station [in Khaldiyah], shielded only by a lightweight cinderblock wall, was targeted because the insurgents accuse the Iraqi police of collaborating with the US occupation forces. Initially, at least, it had the desired effect - police anger was directed not at the bomber, but at the Americans.

Surviving policemen complained that the US had not sufficiently protected their station, that they had been threatened with the sack for their reluctance to join US raiding parties and that locals constantly abused them as American lackeys. Acutely aware that he is 120 times more likely to die than his counterpart on the beat in New York, police officer Khalid Hammed said: "The best thing the US can do for us is pull out."

The two-storey building is a police station in name only, pushed into action ahead of its time because of a US determination to be seen to be putting Iraqi security forces in place. More than 100 men are stationed at Khaldiyah, but only half have uniforms and fewer have weapons; they share two patrol cars with four other stations in the area and they have one telephone.

Like other guerilla conflicts, Iraq has become a war of attrition.

Super self-protection by the Americans makes them a difficult target. So the insurgents turn more on Iraqis who are seen to be helping the US - police and security workers, the judiciary and local political leaders. [complete article]

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Iraqis exact revenge on Baathists
By Alan Sipress, Washington Post, December 20, 2003

Iraqi sources with contacts among former and current security officials estimate that about 50 senior figures in Hussein's intelligence, military intelligence and internal security organizations have been gunned down [in Baghdad] in recent months. There has been an even larger toll among neighborhood party officials, such as Taee, who are blamed for having informed on the local community during Hussein's rule, these sources said.

Neither the morgue nor officers in Iraq's new police force -- who concede they have little interest in probing these deaths -- have tallied the figures. But the phenomenon is citywide, according to a survey of police stations, with numbers varying widely from one district to another. [complete article]

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Poll: Iraq war was right move
By Associated Press (via Newsday), December 20, 2003

Americans think the war in Iraq was the right decision, by a 2-1 ratio, and are more inclined to approve of the job done by President George W. Bush in foreign policy and terrorism following the capture of Saddam Hussein, an Associated Press poll found.

They remain wary, however, of the continuing deadly conflict in Iraq.

Hussein's capture appears to have given Bush's re-election prospects a boost: The poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs found that nearly half of respondents, 45 percent, said they would definitely support Bush's re-election, while 31 percent said they would definitely vote against him.

A month ago, people were evenly divided on that question, at 37 percent definitely for and 37 percent definitely against. [complete article]

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When will press stop circulating dubious Iraq claims?
By Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher, December 19, 2003

When will the press stop circulating dubious or fabricated claims -- whether from Bush administration officials or intelligence abroad? The latest chapter unfolded this week with wide publicity -- capped by a favorable mention in a William Safire column in The New York Times on Monday and the usual hosannas on Fox News -- concerning a supposed document that linked 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta to Saddam Hussein.

This sort of "evidence," which surfaces periodically, is significant, as polls have always shown that one of the major reasons the public supported the invasion of Iraq was belief that Saddam helped plan the 9/11 attacks. Even after more than two years have passed -- and no hard evidence of that uncovered -- a poll earlier this week showed that slightly more than half of all Americans still believe that to be true, suggesting that perhaps the press has not really done its job in debunking this belief. [complete article]

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Fears of retaliation for U.S. limits on Iraq work
By Patrick McGeehan, New York Times, December 20, 2003

Foreign governments are still angry about the Bush administration's decision to ban certain countries from bidding on reconstruction projects in Iraq, and the move may come back to haunt some of the biggest American companies, international trade experts say.

The White House has defended the exclusion of countries like France, Germany and Canada that opposed the war in Iraq from bidding on the next round of contracts, worth $18.6 billion. But trade lawyers said this week that those countries might retaliate by refusing to let American companies like General Electric or Boeing compete for construction projects and other major contracts. [complete article]

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2 Kurdish parties close to forming unity government
By Edward Wong, New York Times, December 20, 2003

The two governing political parties in this country's long-divided Kurdish region are close to establishing a unified government, senior Kurdish officials said here on Friday.

Once they have created a single government in the Kurdish areas of the north, the officials said, they will push for a federalist system in Iraq that will give them broad autonomy in their mountainous region. That vision conflicts with the division of powers being promoted by many Iraqi politicians, who want regional powers divided among smaller provinces throughout the country.

Kurdish leaders say they intend to form their unified government well before the Coalition Provisional Authority establishes an Iraqi transitional government at the end of June. That way, the leaders say, the Kurds will speak with one voice in trying to shape the format and the powers of the transitional government. Though the Kurds make up only a fifth of the population, they are now more organized than any other ethnic or religious group in the country, including the Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population. [complete article]

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Iraqi women raise voices - for quotas
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2003

As an exiled opposition leader, Safia al-Souhail battled most of her life to get rid of Iraq's old government. Now she's fighting to get into the new one.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Ms. Souhail has been pleading a new cause: quotas for women in Iraq's new government - in the cabinet, in the national parliament, and in drafting the constitution. "They have seats for Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Assyrians," says the human rights activist, "and they didn't think that they should have a seat for [half of] the country?"

On Oct. 7, Souhail and women from around Iraq presented their demands to Paul Bremer, the top US administrator in Iraq. They wanted women to make up at least one-third of the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution, as well as "all political institutions," including the parliament and local councils. [complete article]

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Iran peels back nuclear secrecy
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, December 19, 2003

Capping months of growing pressure on Iran about secret nuclear programs, the ink dried yesterday on Tehran's agreement to permit intrusive, snap inspections of nuclear facilities.

Analysts said the decision to sign the Additional Protocol of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in Vienna was the most "momentous" made by the Islamic Republic since agreeing to a 1988 cease-fire to end the Iran-Iraq War.

Not since then has Iran's regime faced such overwhelming pressure - this time unified and from abroad - and been forced to come together to end a crisis with an unpalatable decision.

"If America wanted to do anything hostile to us in the future, they can't say it is because of nuclear weapons," says Hussein Shariatmadari, editor of the conservative Kayhan newspaper. "The international consensus against Iran and the illusions [of Iran's nuclear plans] are now broken." [complete article]

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In Iran, hopes for democracy dwindle
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, December 18, 2003

Once seen as the most vigorous democratic impulse in the Islamic world, Iran's reform movement is battling for political survival.

This week, candidates are registering for Iran's February parliamentary elections. But this first step in the process - conducted with perfect civility - belies a tumultuous political scene for reformists - including attacks on them by vigilantes - plus a growing apathy among voters.

The collapsing popularity of President Mohamad Khatami, and the stymied reform movement that he symbolizes, may result in the handover of Iran's parliament to conservatives - the same entrenched faction that has successfully blocked Mr. Khatami's efforts, say analysts here.
[complete article]

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Unprecedented public ferment among once-silent Saudis
By Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2003

The capital is abuzz. Everywhere, it seems, from sidewalk cafes to women's salons behind closed doors, Saudis are talking about societal changes.

Religious extremism and democratic and educational reforms, as well as women's issues, are paraded for public discussion in what has long been one of the most tight-lipped and tightly controlled lands in the Middle East. While actual political reform may be moving at a snail's pace by Western standards, the new degree of openness is earthshaking here.

"There is a dialogue in society," says Khaled al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia. "Newspapers are flourishing. Papers are talking about accountability, corruption, leaders not being up to the mark, women, children, and empowerment." [complete article]

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In Iraq, Shiites are poised for power
By Susan Sachs, New York Times (via IHT), December 20, 2003

In an otherwise grim and uncertain time, the banners hanging in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods this week struck a joyous note: "Congratulations to the families of the martyrs on the capture of Saddam Hussein!"

Saddam had long been reviled by Iraq's Shiites for persecuting the sect for more than 30 years and executing its most prominent clerics. But there were ample reasons for their celebration even before his capture by the Americans. Most notably, Iraqi Shiites, long the underclass in a nation where they are the majority, stand on the verge of their first real chance at political power.

After being sidelined for centuries by successive Sunni Muslim and foreign rulers, their political and religious leaders have become the dominant players in the American-led process of shaping a new more representative government for Iraq. [complete article]

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Libya to give up WMD
BBC News, December 19, 2003

Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has admitted his country was developing weapons of mass destruction, but will dismantle its secret programme.

He told the official Libyan news agency he was ready to play its role in building a world free from all forms of terrorism, after months of negotiations with the West.

The process of dismantling the programme would be "transparent and verifiable" and the range of all Libya's missiles would be restricted to 300km, he said.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed the unexpected decision and called it "an historic one and a courageous one and I applaud it".

International forces will now go into Libya to assist with the dismantling process, which could take years. [complete article]

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A difficult marriage
By Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, December 22, 2003

If the Bush administration is wise, it will change its provisional-government plans and allow for direct elections as soon as feasible. If it refuses to change, and Sistani and the Shiites force it to abort the plan later, we will be left weaker than if we change now. We ought not dissipate our strength so profligately. There will undoubtedly be moments where we will need to intimidate. Dealing with Muslim clerics has, understandably, never been an American strong suit. Though many in the CPA and the administration may want to wish Sistani away, fortunately they can't. He is America's most powerful democratic weapon in Iraq, even if we don't know how to wield him. If President Bush is reelected in 2004, however, Grand Ayatollah Sistani will have certainly done his part. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld visited Baghdad in 1984 to reassure Iraqis, documents show
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, December 19, 2003

Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents.

Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy, was urged to tell Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that the U.S. statement on chemical weapons, or CW, "was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs," according to a cable to Rumsfeld from then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

The statement, the cable said, was not intended to imply a shift in policy, and the U.S. desire "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing," remained "undiminished." "This message bears reinforcing during your discussions." [complete article]

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Telling it right
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 19, 2003

"This is a very, very important part of history, and we've got to tell it right." So says Thomas Kean, chairman of the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Kean promises major revelations in testimony next month: "This was not something that had to happen." We'll see: maybe those of us who expected the 9/11 commission to produce yet another whitewash were wrong. Meanwhile, one can only echo his sentiment: it's important to tell our history right, not just about the events that led up to 9/11, but about the events that followed.

The capture of Saddam Hussein has produced a great outpouring of relief among both Iraqis and Americans. He's no longer taunting us from hiding; he was a monster and deserves whatever fate awaits him. But we shouldn't let war supporters use the occasion of Saddam's capture to rewrite the recent history of U.S. foreign policy, to draw a veil over the way the nation was misled into war. [complete article]

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U.S. negotiating over role of G.I.'s in a sovereign Iraq
By Thom Shanker and Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, December 19, 2003

The Bush administration has begun delicate negotiations with Iraq's transitional leaders on the freedom American-led military forces will have to carry out operations against insurgents after the transfer of sovereignty to a new government in Baghdad on June 30, officials say.

While the Coalition Provisional Authority is scheduled to go out of business by the middle of next year, military officials have said recently that their forces may have to remain in Iraq for at least "a couple more years," in the words of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the American commander in Iraq.

Administration, Pentagon and military officials acknowledge that security operations must be conducted within inevitable new political constraints when Iraqis take charge of their own affairs, whether by next summer's deadline or later. [complete article]

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2 Shiite politicians assassinated in Iraq
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2003

Two prominent Shiite Muslim politicians were assassinated, Iraq's largest political movement said Thursday, raising fears that religious strife was escalating during the volatile U.S.-led occupation.

Muhannad Hakim, an official with the Education Ministry, was gunned down Wednesday in front of his Baghdad home in a daytime drive-by shooting. Also Wednesday, a former official of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, Ali Zalimi, was beaten and shot repeatedly in the holy city of Najaf by a mob that accused him of carrying out Hussein's repressions.

Sectarian clashes have occurred sporadically in Iraq since Hussein was ousted in April. Just over a week ago, a bomb exploded at the Ahbab Mustafa Mosque here, killing four Sunni Muslims and prompting accusations that Shiites were responsible. [complete article]

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Bremer survived assassination bid
BBC News, December 19, 2003

Top US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer has confirmed that he survived an assassination attempt on 6 December.

"Yes, this is true, but thankfully I am still alive, and here I am in front of you," Mr Bremer told reporters.

The incident happened on the same day that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq and heard an upbeat assessment of Iraqi security.

NBC television said on Thursday that Mr Bremer's convoy had hit an explosive device and come under small arms fire. [complete article]

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Saddam Hussein's loyalists infiltrated U.S. operations in Iraq
By Martha Raddatz, ABC News, December 18, 2003

Agents for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have penetrated the U.S. command in Iraq, ABCNEWS has learned. As a result, they have the potential to undermine U.S. authority.

Among the documents found in Saddam's briefcase when he was captured last weekend was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the United States -- either in the Iraqi security forces or the Coalition Provisional Authority -- and are feeding information to the insurgents, a U.S. official told ABCNEWS. [complete article]

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Dubious link between Atta and Saddam
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, December 17, 2003

A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in the summer of 2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.

The new document, supposedly written by the chief of the Iraqi intelligence service, was trumpeted by the Sunday Telegraph of London earlier this week in a front-page story that broke hours before the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein. TERRORIST BEHIND SEPTEMBER 11 STRIKE WAS TRAINED BY SADDAM, ran the headline on the story written by Con Coughlin, a Telegraph correspondent and the author of the book "Saddam: The Secret Life."

Coughlin's account was picked up by newspapers around the world and was cited the next day by New York Times columnist William Safire. But U.S. officials and a leading Iraqi document expert tell NEWSWEEK that the document is most likely a forgery -- part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime.

"It's a lucrative business," says Hassan Mneimneh, codirector of an Iraqi exile research group reviewing millions of captured Iraqi government documents. "There's an active document trade taking place You have fraudulent documents that are being fabricated and sold" for hundreds of dollars a piece. [complete article]

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In debate on antiterrorism, the courts assert themselves
By David Johnston, New York Times, December 19, 2003

The broad presidential powers invoked by the Bush administration after Sept. 11, 2001, to detain suspected terrorists outside the civilian court system is now being challenged by the federal courts, the very branch of the government the White House hoped to circumvent.

The two separate appellate court rulings on Thursday swept away crucial parts of the administration's legal strategy to handle terrorist suspects outside the criminal justice system and incarcerate them indefinitely without access to lawyers or to the evidence against them.

The rulings are by no means a final judicial verdict on the administration's approach. But the rulings demonstrated powerfully the willingness of the courts to challenge the administration's procedures, which were put in place without Congressional approval in the tumultuous months that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. [complete article]

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Yanking the mat for scholars
By Charles Piller, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2003

Iranian physicist M. Hadi Hadizadeh was looking forward to returning to his alma mater, Ohio University, as a visiting professor.

He was a specialist in scanning devices for medical research and airline luggage screening, and a leading advocate of democracy in his country. He was once freed from an Iranian prison through the appeals of several Nobel laureates.

But a seemingly routine request for a U.S. visa launched him on a 17-month nightmare, he believes, because of three words: "Iranian nuclear physicist."

"They thought I was either a double agent, or it wouldn't be safe for the security of the United States that an Iranian nuclear physicist would come here and do research," he said.

Hadizadeh had been blocked by stringent visa requirements enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to bar scientific visitors who might hand over strategic knowledge and tech- nologies to U.S. enemies.

The rules, however, have become so broad that thousands of foreign students and scholars have been denied or delayed even though they have no connection to sensitive technologies. [complete article]

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Sowing conflict and division
Editorial, Haaretz, December 19, 2003

It is difficult to understand what led Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to let loose on the Arab citizens of Israel. In his address Wednesday at the Herzliya Conference, Netanyahu said, "We have a demographic problem, but it lies not with the Palestinian Arabs, but with the Israeli Arabs." This is a baseless statement, but even more serious is his determination that "if Israel's Arabs become well integrated and reach 35-45 percent of the population, there will no longer be a Jewish state," and that even if they reach a lesser proportion, "this will also undermine the [state's] democratic fabric."

Damage to the democratic fabric does not stem from any particular demographic proportion of an ethnic majority in a national state, but from incitement, the likes of which was expressed by Netanyahu. [complete article]

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U.S. warns Israel against steps that harm peace plan
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, December 19, 2003

The Bush administration, responding coolly to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement of a possible "disengagement plan" in the West Bank, warned Israel on Thursday against taking unilateral steps that effectively abandoned the American-sponsored peace plan, called the road map, which would establish a Palestinian state.

"We would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road toward negotiations under the road map that lead to the two-state vision," said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. [complete article]

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Palestinians scorn 'these dangerous words'
By Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, December 19, 2003

Palestinians responded with a mixture of dismay and fury to Ariel Sharon's speech, which some said betrayed his desire to bypass the road map, isolate the Palestinians behind fences, and grab more than half of the West Bank.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, said he was "disappointed" that Mr Sharon was "threatening" the Palestinians, and added that if he picked up peace talks then a settlement could come "sooner than expected".

"These are ultimately dangerous words, and this type of talk is simply not acceptable," he said.

For Mr Qureia, the over-riding outcome of Mr Sharon's plan would be to separate Palestinian areas and cut them off from other countries with the Israeli security wall. [complete article]

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Iran to sign protocol on snap U.N. nuclear inspection
By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, December 18, 2002

Tehran said it would sign a protocol Thursday giving the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog the right to conduct snap nuclear inspections across Iran, a step one Western diplomat described as "long overdue."

Iran's promised signature of the Additional Protocol to the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comes nearly 18 months after an exiled Iranian opposition group sparked a crisis by saying Tehran was hiding several massive nuclear facilities from the U.N. The allegations proved to be true. [complete article]

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We must honour the dead
By John Sloboda, The Guardian, December 19, 2003

Despite the capture of Saddam Hussein, civilian deaths in Iraq may prove to be the true Achilles heel of the US and Britain's intervention. The bodies pile up in morgues around the country, and reliable press and media reports put the total civilian death toll since March 19 as approaching 10,000.

More than 2,000 occupation-related deaths have occurred in Baghdad since President Bush announced the "end of major combat" on May 1. This bloodshed is inflaming anti-coalition passions in Iraq and beyond it, encouraging paramilitary organisations and provoking acts of revenge from ordinary Iraqis driven beyond moderation by the deaths of friends and family under the Coalition Provisional Authority's military rule. [complete article]

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Iraqi resistance motivated by patriotism, insurgent says
By Orly Halpern, Globe and Mail, December 18, 2003

The electricity is out again, so the middle-aged Iraqi man leads his foreign visitor by lantern light into the guest room of his home.

Abu Mustafa, as he asked to be called, lives in a simple house in a middle-class Iraqi neighbourhood.

But the simplicity of his home and the traditional long Arab gown he wears belie his stature as a man who knows a great deal.

Abu Mustafa was once a colonel in the Iraqi army.

Now he's involved in the fight to oust foreign troops from his country. He agreed to an interview in which he explained what the real armed Iraqi resistance, the muqawma, is all about. [complete article]

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Is the search for weapons over?
By Rupert Cornwell, Andrew Grice and Anne Penketh, The Independent, December 19, 2003

After eight months of fruitless search, George Bush has in effect washed his hands of the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, in whose name the United States and Britain went to war last March.

David Kay, the CIA adviser who headed the US-led search for WMD, is to quit, before submitting his assessment to the US President in February.

The departure of Mr Kay, a strong believer in the case for toppling Saddam Hussein because of his alleged weapons, comes as a particular embarrassment to Tony Blair. This week he maintained that Mr Kay had uncovered "massive evidence" of a network of WMD laboratories. [complete article]

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Iraqis feeling the heat
By Thomas Frank, Newsday, December 18, 2003

Two months ago, police in this town [Khaldiya] 40 miles west of Baghdad were afraid that locals would turn against them if they were seen patrolling with U.S. forces, so much so that American soldiers had to threaten to fire those who refused.

The police reluctantly joined the Army in patrols and raids and, on Sunday, it happened: a suicide bomber blew up his car in front of a police station, killing 23 officers.

Now, as police rebuild the station's obliterated cinder-block wall, they say they want no part of American patrols. They say they want U.S. forces to leave the area. "The U.S. will do us a favor if they pull out from here," patrolman Khalid Hamed said, standing by a blown-out window. [complete article]

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Sept. 11 panel: Bush, Clinton not to blame
By Laurence Arnold, Associated Press (via LA Times), December 18, 2003

The chairman of a federal commission looking into the Sept. 11 attacks said Thursday that mistakes over many years left the United States vulnerable to such an attack, but he resisted pinning blame on either of the last two presidential teams.

"We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton administration or the Bush administration did anything wrong," chairman Thomas Kean said in an interview with ABC's "Nightline" taped for airing Thursday night.

Kean said the 10-member National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has not decided whether to ask former President Clinton or President Bush to testify. He also said that any conclusions about the performance of high-level officials "will be reached when we are finished with our job, not now."

Kean sought to clarify remarks attributed to him in a CBS News report that aired Wednesday. [complete article]

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9/11 commission chairman: Attack was preventable
By Randall Pinkston, CBS News, December 17, 2003

For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said. [complete article]

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A young Afghan woman dares to mention the unmentionable
By Amy Waldman and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, December 18, 2003

Malalai Joya pushed her black head scarf forward to cover her hair fully, then opened her mouth.

Out poured a torrent of words, in a voice rising with emotion. Why, she asked the delegates assembled here on Wednesday to ratify a new constitution for Afghanistan, were her countrymen and women tolerating the presence of the "criminals" who had destroyed the country?

"They should be brought to national and international justice," she said. "If our people forgive them, history will not."

It took a moment for the 502 delegates to absorb the import of her words. When they did, the result was bedlam: shouts of "Death to Communism!" and a rush by some toward the stage, and toward the diminutive Ms. Joya as well.
[complete article]

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How to try a war criminal
The Guardian (via SMH), December 18, 2003

The opinions of a war crimes prosecutor, the Eichmann prosecutor, an Arab editor, a Nuremberg veteran, and an international lawyer. [complete article]

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Women under siege
By Lauren Sandler, The Nation, December 29, 2003

All the shades are drawn in Raba's house on a wide residential street in one of Baghdad's more affluent neighborhoods. Small daughters and nieces streak through a well-appointed living room, leaving giggles and shrieks in their wake, as their young mothers and aunts sip Pepsi from cans and make wry comments in the darkened space. None of these women leave this home, even so many months after the war came to its so-called end. And Raba, a usually spunky twentysomething, is afraid even to stand in her own doorway. "Before the war we were out until 2 o'clock in the morning all the time," she says. "Now I don't even bother to put on my shoes."

Millions of women have found themselves living under such de facto house arrest since the coalition forces claimed Baghdad in April. [complete article]

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Victims of gas say swift death for Hussein would be too merciful
By Edward Wong, New York Times, December 18, 2003

Death would be too easy in the end.

That is the sentence already being handed down here to Saddam Hussein. In this Kurdish village in the rugged foothills of northeastern Iraq, 5,000 people died from aerial gas attacks on a single day in March 1988. Now, in the smoke-filled cafes of the village, in the mosques, in the crowded bazaar, the survivors are debating how the hand of justice should guide Mr. Hussein. [complete article]

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Iraqi foe urges life sentence for Saddam
By Paul Martin, Washington Times, December 18, 2003

A senior Iraqi Governing Council member, Jalal Talabani, yesterday urged fellow Iraqis to reject President Bush's suggestion that Saddam Hussein should face the death penalty for his crimes.

"I want Saddam put in jail for life," Mr. Talabani said in an interview. "I want him to suffer daily as he realizes how his people hate him. Let him see how we build a new Iraq free from his evil grip."

The Iraqi Kurdish leader, who called Saddam's capture "the beginning of the end of terrorism inside Iraq," has been a leading opponent of Saddam and has jointly run a U.S.-protected ministate in northern Iraq since 1991. [complete article]

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Let Saddam live
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, December 18, 2003

This column may be the most futile of my long career. I am about to plead for Saddam Hussein's life. I do so not because I have the slightest doubt that he is a killer, responsible for taking the lives of many thousands, but because sparing his life would send a message to the world that judicial death -- so often abused -- is no longer acceptable.

Such a day will come, no doubt about it. The death penalty is already illegal in most of Europe, and renunciation of it is required for admission to the European Union. Many other countries keep the death penalty on their books but have not had an execution in so long that the prospect of one is remote.

This, of course, is not the case in the United States. Here, the death penalty not only remains on the books but executions are common. Along with such pariah nations as Sudan, the United States still executes children (under 18) and the mentally feeble -- and, inevitably, the innocent. [complete article]

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Herzliya Conference sees verbal attacks on Israeli Arabs
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz, December 18, 2003

Speakers at the Herzliya Conference on security issues returned Thursday to controversial comments made by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the day before, in which he said that the Israeli Arab population posed a demographic threat to the country.

Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, a senior researcher at Rafael, Israel's Armament Development Authority, proposed during a short speech under the heading "Learning from Iran and Egypt," that the state implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population, claiming that "the delivery rooms in Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva have turned into a factory for the production of a backward population." [complete article]

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Remember 'weapons of mass destruction'? For Bush, they are a nonissue
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, December 18, 2003

In the debate over the necessity for the war in Iraq, few issues have been more contentious than whether Saddam Hussein possessed arsenals of banned weapons, as the Bush administration repeatedly said, or instead was pursuing weapons programs that might one day constitute a threat.

On Tuesday, with Mr. Hussein in American custody and polls showing support for the White House's Iraq policy rebounding, Mr. Bush suggested that he no longer saw much distinction between the possibilities.

"So what's the difference?" he responded at one point as he was pressed on the topic during an interview by Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

To critics of the war, there is a big difference. They say that the administration's statements that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons that it could use on the battlefield or turn over to terrorists added an urgency to the case for immediate military action that would have been lacking if Mr. Hussein were portrayed as just developing the banned weapons. [complete article]

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Hussein enters post-9/11 web of U.S. prisons
By James Risen and Thom Shanker, New York Times, December 18, 2003

Saddam Hussein is now prisoner No. 1 in what has developed into a global detention system run by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, according to government officials.

It is a secretive universe, they said, made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world that have sprouted up to handle the hundreds of suspected terrorists of Al Qaeda, Taliban warlords and former officials of the Iraqi government arrested by the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the war in Iraq. [complete article]

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Secularism gone mad
By Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, December 18, 2003

A 13-year-old girl is an exemplary pupil in every way; she listens carefully to her teachers, does her homework and is a cheerful member of the class. But in one respect, according to President Jacques Chirac yesterday, her behaviour threatens nothing less than the social peace and national cohesion of the French nation - she insists on wearing a headscarf. All around her, pupils are wearing the kind of outlandish clothes and hairstyles one would expect of teenagers anywhere in Europe. But there is one garment that, the president has declared, challenges the secularity of republican France: the square metre or so of material that covers this girl's hair. [complete article]

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Troops target a restive Iraqi city
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2003

Thousands of U.S. soldiers backed by armored vehicles, helicopter gunships and F-16 fighters swooped down early Wednesday on this ancient city north of Baghdad, seeking to restore their control over an insurgent stronghold that has brazenly challenged coalition authority.

About 3,000 troops began rumbling into the city hours before daybreak, sealing off its entrances and exits and blasting down doors in one of the largest U.S. displays of force in recent months and an unusual sweep into a city of 200,000.

The large-scale offensive four days after the capture of Saddam Hussein appeared to underscore the fact that fighting continues despite the deposed leader's detention. [complete article]

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Gunmen kill Iraqi political figure
Associated Press, December 18, 2003

Suspected followers of Saddam Hussein shot to death a representative of a major Shiite political party, a party official said Thursday.

Muhannad al-Hakim, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was killed Wednesday morning while leaving his home in Baghdad, party official Latif al-Rubaie said. He blamed the killing on loyalists of the former dictator, who was captured Saturday.

Al-Hakim, who is in his mid-30s and was head of security at the Education Ministry, was a cousin of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. [complete article]

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During trial, Hussein may try to implicate Western leaders
By Mark Matthews, Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2003

The trials of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders could produce embarrassing reminders of past American support for his government and of the West's failure to punish him despite mounting evidence of Iraqi atrocities.

Lawyers familiar with war crimes trials say attorneys for Hussein and his aides might try to introduce damaging evidence against Western leaders as a pressure tactic against their accusers or to shift responsibility away from the dictator's actions. [complete article]

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Iran 'owed billions for Saddam war'
BBC News, December 18, 2003

The head of Iraq's Interim Governing Council says Iran should be paid reparations for the war that Saddam Hussein waged against it in the 1980s.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said further discussion was needed to decide what if anything Iraq would pay itself.

Iran claims $100bn in reparations for the brutal eight-year war that claimed about one million lives.

Mr Hakim's remarks may augur improving Iran-Iraq relations now Saddam Hussein is in custody.

The prominent Iraqi is also the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) the most important Shia Muslim party represented on the governing council. [complete article]

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Concerns surface about Iraq timetable
By Warren P. Strobel, Joseph L. Galloway and Jonthan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, December 17, 2003

President Bush's top envoy in Iraq has told Washington that he wants as many as 1,000 additional personnel to beef up the U.S. occupation authority amid growing concern that the effort to return Iraqi sovereignty by next summer is falling far behind schedule.

The recent request by L. Paul Bremer, which is being fiercely debated by the president's aides, underscores growing alarm in some sectors of the government that Bush's exit strategy for Iraq is in trouble.

It's been plagued by a political stalemate among Iraqis over how to choose a new government, delays in assembling an Iraqi security force, shortfalls in communication and other problems. [complete article]

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American perspective

The part of the Anti-Defamation League's poll that captures the headline is the 43 percent of Americans who feel that Israel "presents a threat to peace in the world." Just as interesting is the fact that 37 percent of the Americans polled see America itself as a threat to world peace. In the 2000 presidential election, George Bush only won votes from 25 percent of the voting age population.

Poll: 43 percent of Americans feel Israel threatens world peace
By Jonathan M. Katz, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), December 17, 2003

Some 43 percent of Americans believe Israel is a threat to world peace, according to a poll presented Wednesday by a Jewish group, but many more are concerned about North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

The Anti-Defamation League said its survey showed much less concern about Israel among Americans than a recent poll in Europe, where Israel was at the top of the list of countries perceived as threatening world peace.

The ADL poll showed that 43 percent of Americans believe Israel is a threat to world peace, placing it behind seven other countries. In last month's Eurobarometer poll, 59 percent of Europeans chose Israel, ranking it number one.

North Korea ranked first in the U.S. poll at 77 percent, with Iraq and Iran tied for second at 76 percent. About 37 percent of Americans said the United States itself was the greatest threat. [complete article]

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Korea to add 3,000 troops in Iraq
By Song Jung-a and Andrew Ward, Financial Times, December 17, 2003

South Korea is set to become the third biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq, behind the US and UK, following its decision on Wednesday to dispatch an additional 3,000 troops to the region.

Seoul agreed last month to send more soldiers to join its existing 675 engineers and medical staff in Iraq but yesterday made the first official announcement of how many troops would be involved.

Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister, said the decision showed the country was starting to assume the responsibility that came from being the world's 12th-largest economy. "It is important for us to participate in international efforts to bring peace and stability to the Iraqi people, instead of dismissing the issue as none of our business," he said. Seoul has also pledged $260m to aid reconstruction in Iraq.

Mr Yoon said South Korea's support would make it easier to enlist the international community's help in resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis. Contributing troops to Iraq has been widely viewed in Seoul as a means of pressing the US to seek a peaceful settlement with North Korea. [complete article]

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Iraq contracts delayed to reflect fast-track sovereignty: U.S.
Agence France Presse, December 17, 2003

Requests for bids on 18.6 billion dollars of Iraq reconstruction contracts are being held up for review because of the quicker-than-expected turnover of sovereignty, a top US official said.

Under Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim told reporters the need to possibly adjust the contracts was why a bidders conference has been delayed until next month.

The conference, which was supposed to have been held Friday, has now been postponed twice since last week when the Pentagon set off a storm of European protests by declaring that it was limiting the bidding to companies from countries belonging to the US-led coalition in Iraq.

Zakheim said the delay was due to the complexities of structuring the contracts at a time when Iraq's political environment is changing. [complete article]

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Commandment the First
By Steven Waldman, Slate, December 17, 2003

When George Bush last month declared that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God, some of his evangelical supporters had a holy cow. They have been arguing for some time that Islam is a fundamentally dangerous and false religion, and then the most important evangelical in America, George Bush, goes and pays Muslims the ultimate compliment.

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, explained his disagreement with Bush:

"The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health. The Muslim god appears to value the opposite. The personalities of each god are evident in the cultures, civilizations and dispositions of the peoples that serve them. Muhammad's central message was submission; Jesus' central message was love. They seem to be very different personalities."

Richard Land, a top official of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained the theology. "The Bible is very clear about this. There is only one true God and His name is Jehovah, not Allah." [complete article]

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Howard the hawk
By William Saletan, Slate, December 16, 2003

In 1988, Michael Dukakis' Texan running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, went around the South telling people, "Michael Dukakis will not take your gun away!" This week, in a speech aimed at proving he's no Dukakis, Howard Dean promises not to take your Army's guns away. [complete article]

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U.S. considers expanding FBI database
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, December 17, 2003

Homeland security officials want to add tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and foreign students to an FBI database designed primarily to help police apprehend wanted criminals, allowing them to instantly identify foreign nationals who have been deported or have violated student visas.

The proposal -- part of a broad push by the Bush administration to more closely monitor foreign nationals since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- is raising concerns among some civil liberties advocates and law enforcement groups that fear it will bring police heavily into the business of apprehending immigration violators who have committed no serious crimes. In some cases, they said, that could violate state rules that prohibit police from enforcing federal immigration laws. [complete article]

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Ashcroft admonished for meddling in terror case
Reuters (via Wired), December 16, 2003

A federal judge strongly criticized U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday for violating a "gag" order imposed during the first terror-related trial following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen said Ashcroft's office "exhibited a distressing lack of care in issuing publicly prejudicial statements" about the case. [complete article]

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Bush gets a 'can do better' from terror panel
By Timothy J. Burger, Time, December 13, 2003

President Bush's anti-terrorism policies are about to come under fire from a somewhat unlikely source: A federal advisory panel headed by a former Republican Party chairman is set to rap the President's knuckles this week when it issues a report criticizing the administration for failing to develop a comprehensive, pro-active anti-terror strategy more than two years after the 9/11 attacks.

Headed by former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction voices concern, in its draft report, that civil liberties are getting too little attention as new security measures are proposed. It also cites a "need for the White House to take more of an aggressive role as a more forward-looking body," said a source familiar with the panel's work. "If they're doing it, they're doing it in such a superficial or under-the-radar fashion that that it did not become apparent to the panel," despite testimony from the likes of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, the source added. "The Department of Homeland Security is focusing on today and the crisis of the moment. But who's looking at the broader issues of economic security and societal stability?" [complete article]

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Saddam is ours. Does Al Qaeda care?
By Bruce Hoffman, New York Times, December 17, 2003

While President Bush was careful to remind Americans that even with Saddam Hussein behind bars, "we still face terrorists," the White House and Pentagon have characterized the arrest as a major victory in the war on terrorism. But is Iraq really the central battleground in that struggle, or is it diverting our attention while Al Qaeda and its confederates plan for new strikes elsewhere? There's strong evidence that Osama bin Laden is using Iraq the way a magician uses smoke and mirrors.

News reports that Al Qaeda plans to redirect half the $3 million a month it now spends on operations in Afghanistan toward the insurgency in Iraq lent credence to the view that it is turning Iraq into center stage for the fight against the "Great Satan." That might actually be good news: Iraq could become what American military commanders have described as a terrorist "flytrap."

But there's a better chance that Osama bin Laden is the one setting a trap. He and his fellow jihadists didn't drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan by taking the fight to an organized enemy on a battlefield of its choosing. In fact, the idea that Al Qaeda wanted to make Iraq the central battlefield of jihad was first suggested by Al Qaeda itself. Last February, before the coalition invasion of Iraq, the group's information department produced a series of articles titled "In the Shadow of the Lances" that gave practical advice to Iraqis and foreign jihadists on how guerrilla warfare could be used against the American and British troops. [complete article]

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The grounds for celebration
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, December 17, 2003

Of course, the United States is safer now that Saddam Hussein is behind bars. Not nearly as safer as we'd be if the Saudi regime were supplanted by a more liberal, less Osama bin Laden-enamored one; or if our government had more diligently implemented the Nunn-Lugar Act and acquired more Soviet warheads that may now be in the possession of God-knows-who; or if we'd paid more attention to North Korea two years ago; or if we'd dedicated more resources to port security here at home; or if John Ashcroft stepped down as attorney general. But safer nonetheless. [complete article]

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Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S.
By John McCarthy, Florida Today, December 15, 2003

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force. [complete article]

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Khatami opposes death penalty, even for Saddam
Agence France Presse, December 17, 2003

Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami voiced his opposition to the death penalty, adding that he did not even wish for the execution of captive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

"I don't like the death penalty, although, if there is one case where there should be an execution, the fairest case would be for Saddam. But I would never wish for that," the president told reporters Wednesday.

"If there is a way for a criminal to have a way out of it, I would not insist on his execution," he added, saying: "I hope that he will have a fair trial and that he will have a fair verdict."

Khatami's comments are believed to be the first time the mid-ranking cleric has voiced his unease with the death penalty, which is liberally handed down by the Islamic republic's hardline judiciary. [complete article]

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Trying Saddam
By Christopher Greenwood, The Guardian, December 17, 2003

We got him - but what do we do with him? Debate over the future of Saddam Hussein began within minutes of his capture and already bids fair to set "internationalists" who want him tried by an international tribunal against "unilateralists" who favour an Iraqi trial. The issues are important but the debate is confused.

First, a trial of Saddam is essential both for Iraq and for the international community. There can be no room for the "summary justice" that, ever since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, has consigned most of Iraq's rulers to the gallows or the firing squad without even the pretence of a trial. Punishment without trial is not justice, only revenge, and to accord Saddam the "Ceausescu treatment" would be to deny justice to his victims as much as to himself. [complete article]

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Echoes of the bad old days
By Atiq Sarwari and Robert Crews, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2003

In Kabul this weekend, a loya jirga, or grand assembly, is meeting to debate a draft constitution for Afghanistan. The final document approved there will not only determine the shape of the Afghan state, it will also represent a test of U.S. ambitions to help build democracies in the region.

Some have suggested that Afghanistan's constitution might provide a blueprint for the transition of power to a representative Iraqi government. But the first matter on the table is getting agreement on a constitution for Afghanistan. It won't be easy. The process leading up to the loya jirga has been anything but smooth. Public participation has been hindered by press censorship, fighting among factions in President Hamid Karzai's government and the resurgence of Taliban-sponsored violence. Even if the loya jirga agrees on a constitution, there are real questions about whether the proposed document will outline a proper course for the country. [complete article]

The final draft of the Constitution of Afghanistan can be read here (PDF format) at the Afghanistan Constitutional Commission.

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Way off the mark
By Massimo Calabresi and Tim McGirk, Time, December 15, 2003

Faulty intelligence has long dogged U.S. efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan. While U.S. forces are still trying to track down Osama bin Laden and the remnants of al-Qaeda, the quarry is increasingly a resurgent Taliban. Two years after the government in Kabul was routed, black-turbaned militants are again stalking the dusty villages and towns of the Pashtun heartland. High-ranking Afghan sources tell TIME that the Taliban is trying to unite with the Pashtuns under one leadership. A core of 250 Taliban veterans is recruiting a fresh generation of young zealots from the refugee camps and madrasahs in the Pakistan border tribal areas. Tragic U.S. blunders like these [-- the recent killing of 15 children --] help recruit them. Many Afghans who are not sympathetic to the Taliban are reluctant to help U.S. forces patrol their villages, fearing the Taliban will take revenge once the humvees roll away. "Afghans are sitting on the fence," says Nick Downie, a security coordinator for aid agencies in Kabul. "They face intimidation, and they're not sure who the winner is going to be." [complete article]

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Shi'ites rejoice at prospects for justice
By Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, December 17, 2003

Two days after US troops announced they captured Saddam Hussein in an underground hideout, Iraq's Shi'ite Muslims are already looking ahead to his planned trial for crimes against humanity as the first concrete realization of the equal rights they were denied under his regime.

Yesterday, Shi'ites daydreamed about new ways to humiliate the man they call "the destroyer," squabbled over whether to try him under secular or religious law, and noisily demonstrated against him in Basra, the largest city in the mostly Shi'ite south, where thousands were arrested and executed following abortive rebellions against Hussein in 1991 and 1999.

They also called for his trial to focus on those repressions, in which tens of thousands of Shi'ites are believed to have been executed in secret, often buried in mass graves. Hussein's government favored minority Sunni Muslims, particularly from the region around his hometown of Tikrit, over other ethnic groups, including the majority Shi'ites. [complete article]

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A regional peace forecast
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, December 17, 2003

Which will end first ... the occupation of Iraq or the occupation of Palestine? It is a question that has been niggling me for a while, and last week I put it to an eminent professor of international relations.

His reply was succinct but would have got him no marks in a university exam. "That's a very good question," he said. Full stop, end of answer.

In the absence of any further guidance from the professor, I am inclined to put my money on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ending first - mainly because of a gut feeling that the Americans will be stuck in Iraq far longer than they imagine.

Although the Israeli-Palestinian situation looks bleak at the moment, two important factors suggest change. One is that ordinary people on both sides are weary of the conflict. The other is the existence of a broad consensus about the shape that an eventual peace settlement will take. [complete article]

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Bite-size nukes
By Michael Crowley, New York Times, December 14, 2003

For 50 years the United States has maintained nuclear weapons with the express intention of not using them. Nukes keep the peace, the thinking goes; they are more about threatened payback than military utility. But there's a new school of thought among military thinkers: maybe we should all learn to stop worrying and love the Bomb -- at least in miniature.

With America battling new enemies, some Pentagon hawks want to reimagine the nation's nuclear arsenal on a smaller and more usable scale, building more precise ''low yield'' nuclear weapons with payloads a fraction of the 15 kilotons of explosive force that erased Hiroshima. And these hawks have influence. At the Bush administration's urging, Congress not only voted this year to lift a 10-year U.S. ban on research and development of new forms of nuclear weapons; it also approved financing for the research. [complete article]

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The Dr. Strangelove Award

Charles Krauthammer on arms control and non-proliferation
Proliferation News, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 12, 2003

Charles Krauthammer has been an influential columnist and longtime critic of arms control and multilateral non-proliferation treaties. In February 2004, the American Enterprise Institute will present Dr. Krauthammer, who "profoundly influenced both American foreign policy doctrine and debate," with the Irving Kristol Award for making "extraordinary intellectual or practical contributions to improved government policy, social welfare, or political understanding." Those who support and want to reinforce the non-proliferation regime have a responsibility to understand the criticisms of the regime. Below are excerpts from two of Krauthammer's articles that AEI cites as highlights of his writing. [complete article]

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Islamist group spreads in Central Asia
Associated Press (via Toronto Star), December 15, 2003

The illegal flier boldly posted on the concrete telephone pole outside Dilyar Jumabayev's home leaves no doubt about the sentiments of the man who lives inside: "All Muslims of the world unite against the infidels.''

Through his black beard, Jumabayev shows an easy smile, but his words are vehement. "Muslims now realize who their enemies are. The United States and Britain want Muslims to fight against each other," he said.

Jumabayev, 32, is a member of the secretive Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, which is spreading across Central Asia. The growth is believed fueled in part by secular governments' heavy-handed efforts here to crack down on what has become the largest such extremist movement in the region. It has as many as 20,000 members. [complete article]

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Desertions deplete Afghan Army
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2003

Building a cohesive, ethnically diverse Afghan National Army (ANA), while gradually coaxing powerful local militia totaling some 100,000 men to lay down their arms are cornerstones of security and independence for Afghanistan. They are also vital preconditions for the withdrawal of the 16,000 US and other foreign troops here.

But General Karimi says that these remain far-off goals, complicated by competing allegiances among his soldiers and the nation's faction-ridden history. As ANA's chief of operations, he speaks of "the distant future, when Afghanistan is standing on its feet."

"We have problems, particularly the problem of attrition and desertion," says the Western-trained infantry officer, with the hint of a British accent.

Indeed, about half of the 9,000 Afghan Army recruits trained so far have quit, taking their boots and uniforms with them, he says. [complete article]

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As Iraqis become the targets of terrorists, some now blame the American mission
By Ian Fisher, New York Times, December 17, 2003

The bomb was meant to kill American soldiers, but, once again, it hit Iraqis. Aimed at two passing Humvees, the explosion last month on a traffic median ripped into a passing bus in eastern Baghdad, killing three riders. Haider Kassim, 11, crawled from the carnage, his leg shredded by shrapnel. But he refused care until his mother and aunt, each with more serious wounds, were treated.

Iraqis are increasingly the victims in this new stage of the war here, which continues even with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The emotions it is unearthing are not simple. Haider's father, Aziz, 43, proud of his son's bravery, praised, too, the Americans for liberating Iraq from Mr. Hussein. But, he said, his family would never have been hurt if the Americans had stayed home -- and even if he knew who set that bomb, he would not tell the Americans.

"I don't want to cooperate with the Americans," he said at Al Kindi Hospital, where his son, wife and sister were recuperating from the blast. "They are occupiers." [complete article]

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Ten killed in tanker blast as rebels continue strikes
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, December 18, 2003

A huge explosion rolled across Baghdad at dawn yesterday - the fourth rebel strike since the weekend capture of Saddam Hussein - when what was thought to be an explosives-laden petrol tanker killed at least 10 people near a suburban police station.

The attack coincided with an invigorated attempt by the United States to round up insurgents and their supporters as a wave of demonstrations for and against Saddam were staged in Baghdad and in other cities.

Iraqi investigators were initially confused about the precise nature of the attack in Bayya'a. They speculated either that the tanker had been rigged as a bomb or that a roadside device had been deliberately detonated as the tanker passed by. [complete article]

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Tanks roll to warn Tikritis off pro-Saddam rallies
By Robin Pomeroy, Reuters, December 16, 2003

Tanks rolled out on to the streets of Tikrit on Tuesday, as a message that the U.S. army would not tolerate shows of support for Saddam Hussein in the captured president's home town.

U.S. troops forcibly broke up at least four attempted pro-Saddam demonstrations and three soldiers were wounded when a bomb went off as their Humvee patrolled the streets.

In response, around 30 American tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles rolled up Tikrit's busy main street as two helicopter gunships buzzed overhead. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld and his 'old friend' Saddam
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, December 17, 2003

At last in United States military captivity, ousted former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will soon mark an important 20th anniversary, the kind of anniversary that brings with it an appreciation of the ironies of life, and politics.

His captor, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, might also recall long-forgotten memories - or memories best forgotten - of what he was doing exactly 20 years ago.

If so, he will remember that he was in Baghdad, as a special envoy from then-president Ronald Reagan, assuring his host that, to quote the secret National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) that served as his talking points: the US would regard "any major reversal of Iraq's fortunes as a strategic defeat for the West". [complete article]

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Rockets hit Kabul as Afghan delegates debate new constitution
Agence France Presse, December 16, 2003

Three rockets hit Kabul on the third day of a convention to adopt a new constitution, as delegates warned Afghanistan risked being plunged into civil war again unless it backs a strong president.

The rockets landed in populated areas but no-one was injured, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Tuesday.

"Forensic teams will be making reports in due course," ISAF said in a statement.

The rockets landed near Kabul airport, only several kilometres (miles) from the site of the loya jirga (grand assembly) in a huge white tent in Kabul's tightly guarded polytechnic institute.

One rocket came within 15 metres (yards) of a Kuwaiti women's association for women and street children.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility and warned of further attacks to disrupt the loya jirga, although ISAF spokesman British Lieutenant Commander Frank Cockburn said it was too early to say who was responsible. [complete article]

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Council picks anger Afghan women
By Paul Haven, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), December 16, 2003

The opening celebrations over, Afghanistan's constitutional council hit its first controversy yesterday, with female delegates accusing their colleagues of trying to shut them out of leadership positions.

After much wrangling, one woman was granted a deputy chairman's position, but some still expressed anger, alleging second-class treatment.

"From the very beginning, the process was flawed because we are totally outnumbered here by the men," said Palwasha Hassan, a delegate from Kabul. "It was symbolically important for a woman to be in a high position, but the bigger battle will be over the constitution."

Women's rights are a hot-button issue for the council, or loya jirga, which began Sunday in a huge tent on the grounds of a Soviet-built university in Kabul. Some 500 delegates are meeting to hammer out a new charter, a major milestone ahead of elections scheduled for June. [complete article]

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Bin Laden and Omar: Far harder to find
By David Rohde, New York Times, December 16, 2003

If American forces found Saddam Hussein hiding in an eight-foot-deep hole in central Iraq, why have they not found Osama bin Laden or the fugitive Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar?

Asked this question, American, Pakistani and Afghan officials and terrorism experts note immediately that the searches are enormously different.

There are 12 times as many American troops in Iraq as there are in the mountainous border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan where Mr. bin Laden is believed to be hiding. He has chosen far better terrain in which to hide. He also appears to have more loyalty from his close circle of aides than Mr. Hussein did, and therefore has confounded efforts to track him.

"It seems to me they are back at square one," said Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert and author of "Holy War, Inc.," on the rise of Al Qaeda. "My impression is that they are not devoting a lot of resources to it. It seems to be forgotten. Maybe the capture of Saddam will lead them to become interested in it again." [complete article]

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U.S. troops are expected to remain in Iraq at least a 'couple more years,' commander says
By Roger Cohen, New York Times, December 16, 2003

United States and allied troops will have to remain in Iraq for at least "a couple more years" to secure the country's stability and protect its borders against attack, the American commander of those forces said in an interview in Baghdad on Saturday.

Speaking hours before the capture later that day of Saddam Hussein, the commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said the United States was "moving very aggressively to try to hand over responsibility to Iraqi security forces and build their capacity in some key areas." But this transfer would take "awhile," and not be completed by the time Iraq is scheduled to regain its sovereignty, on June 30, 2004.

The general, appearing relaxed and declaring himself "absolutely optimistic" even before Mr. Hussein was found, said any realistic look at the current state of the Iraqi security forces -- essentially an emergent army, police and civil defense corps -- led to the conclusion that "at least a couple more years of involvement of coalition forces" would be needed. [complete article]

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Iraqis, U.S. disagree on handling Baathists
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Knight Ridder, December 9, 2003

Jameel Mahmood, a political science professor at Baghdad University for 25 years, wants his job back. He's among tens of thousands of midlevel members of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Baath Socialist Party who were purged from their jobs in May under orders of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq.

Mahmood, 56, says he was neither an informer nor a torturer for the old regime. He's appealed twice to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to have his job reinstated, but so far has heard no reply. As each month goes by without work, his resentment against the United States and the council grows.

"I first loved the Americans," he said. "Now I hate them." [complete article]

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The trial that could shape Iraq
By Peter Ford and Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, December 16, 2003

For the Americans, Saddam Hussein is a prize catch whose arrest could prove a turning point in the war. For the Iraqis, bringing him to justice could prove equally important as a turning point on their route to democracy.

If the future Iraqi government ensures a fair and open trial that enjoys credibility at home and abroad, the hearings could help lay the foundations of a new Iraq - based on rule of law, not force - and influence neighboring countries. But some international legal experts doubt that current plans for Hussein 's trial would guarantee due process, amid uncertainty whether he would face the death penalty.

"The future of democracy and civility in the whole of the Middle East will be helped by an open trial, which can constitute a model for dictators and brutes (elsewhere) in the region," says Chibli Mallat, a founder of Indict, an organization that has gathered evidence of human rights violations by the Baathist regime. Iraqi officials insist that they can hold such a trial in Baghdad before the special tribunal that the Iraqi Governing Council unveiled last week that will try allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. [complete article]

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Iraqi planners hope to start trial by spring
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, December 16, 2003

An Iraqi-run tribunal could begin proceedings against former president Saddam Hussein on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity as early as next spring, Iraqi political leaders and officials responsible for the court said Monday.

One of the architects of the tribunal, Salem Chalabi, said political leaders and legal specialists had already begun discussing the best prosecutorial strategy to employ against Hussein. Chalabi said there was growing agreement that Hussein should be charged with perhaps only a dozen specific atrocities in an effort to keep a trial from bogging down. The charges would include the use of chemical weapons against ethnic Kurds in 1988, the execution of prominent Shiite Muslim clerics and the killing of hundreds of Sunni Muslim tribesmen after a coup attempt, he said. [complete article]

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U.S. troops kill 11 in Iraq firefight
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, December 16, 2003

American troops killed 11 Iraqi attackers Monday afternoon after an ambush in which insurgents apparently deployed a flock of pigeons to signal the approach of the U.S. patrol, authorities announced Tuesday.

In a separate fight, in Ramadi, the military reported killing one attacker Tuesday after about 30 Iraqis opened fire on a unit returning from a weapons cache.

Meanwhile, pro-Saddam Hussein protests involving hundreds of demonstrators took place in a number of cities. [complete article]

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A brief history of the resistance
By Jay Winik, New York Times, December 16, 2003

...amid the euphoria over the news of Mr. Hussein's capture looms a larger question: what does history tell us about the prospects for success against a guerrilla insurgency committed to fighting until the bitter end? Here, the evidence is sobering.

At its essence, guerrilla warfare is how the weak make war against the strong. Insurrectionist, subversive and chaotic, its application is classic and surprisingly simple: concentrate strength against vulnerability. As most Americans know from the Vietnam experience, guerrilla warfare can work with frightening success.

But Vietnam is not the only template, and its "lessons" may be misleading. America is not the only nation that has been a victim of guerrilla conflict. An astounding number of other world powers, large and small, have been humbled by guerrilla war in the last century alone. [complete article]

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Joy fades as Iraqis chafe under a grim occupation
By Edward Wong, New York Times, December 16, 2003

"It was inevitable that he be captured," said Dhiya Abed, 27. "There was no other way for this to end. But the Americans have to do something for us because things are worse than before."

The Abed brothers and others in this rural area provide a sobering glimpse into the impact of Mr. Hussein's capture on Iraqis, including those who suffered enormously under his rule. The joyous bursts of gunfire that echoed throughout parts of Iraq on Sunday are already a distant memory. Many people are left wondering how they will push on with their daily lives in a country controlled by a foreign power and filled with political and economic uncertainty. [complete article]

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U.S. is accused of violating pact in Iraq bid policy
By Evelyn Iritani, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2003

Incensed that foreign countries were playing favorites in doling out billions of dollars to build airports, roads and dams, the U.S. became a prime cheerleader for a global agreement on government procurement.

Now, the U.S. stands accused of violating the very pact it worked so hard to create.

The Pentagon said last week that companies from France, Canada and other countries that didn't contribute militarily to the Iraq war would be barred from bidding on $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts. That sent officials from excluded countries to their lawbooks, looking for ways to strike back.

The European Commission, which called the Iraq bid decision "ill-thought-out," is considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Under the WTO procurement pact for which the U.S. heavily lobbied, governments in most cases must open their purchasing processes to international competition and treat domestic and foreign firms equally. [complete article]

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Patriots and profits
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 16, 2003

Last week there were major news stories about possible profiteering by Halliburton and other American contractors in Iraq. These stories have, inevitably and appropriately, been pushed temporarily into the background by the news of Saddam's capture. But the questions remain. In fact, the more you look into this issue, the more you worry that we have entered a new era of excess for the military-industrial complex.

The story about Halliburton's strangely expensive gasoline imports into Iraq gets curiouser and curiouser. High-priced gasoline was purchased from a supplier whose name is unfamiliar to industry experts, but that appears to be run by a prominent Kuwaiti family (no doubt still grateful for the 1991 liberation). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents seen by The Wall Street Journal refer to "political pressures" from Kuwait's government and the U.S. embassy in Kuwait to deal only with that firm. I wonder where that trail leads. [complete article]

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Dean doesn't bend in his opposition to war in Iraq
By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2003

Howard Dean on Monday stood by his criticism of the war with Iraq, hailing the capture of Saddam Hussein but saying that his seizure had failed to make America safer and that the invasion of the former dictator's country was launched "in the wrong way at the wrong time."

Dean's statements before a public-affairs group in Los Angeles drew stinging rejoinders from rivals in the Democratic presidential contest, who have struggled to slow his momentum and hope his opposition to the war now will cause him more political harm than good. [complete article]

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Israel planning unilateral withdrawals despite opposition
Agence France Presse, December 16, 2003

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continued to drop hints of major unilateral steps including the total evacuation of the Gaza Strip, despite US warnings and fierce opposition by settlers.

The Israeli daily Maariv revealed that Sharon was planning to unveil a plan for a major army redeployment and the dismantling of several Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

"All the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip will be evacuated. At the end of the process, isolated settlements in Judea and Samaria will be evacuated," the daily said Tuesday, using the Israeli term for the West Bank. [complete article]

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U.S. says no early trial for Saddam
BBC News, December 16, 2003

A senior US official has made clear it is likely to be some time before Saddam Hussein is put on trial.

He said a decision on how the former Iraqi leader might be prosecuted had to be taken first, and a mountain of evidence sifted through.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a fair and open trial for Saddam Hussein, and said that the UN remained opposed to the death penalty. [complete article]

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A king's advice
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, December 16, 2003

Where should the United States be heading in Iraq, after the capture of Saddam Hussein? I put that question yesterday to Jordan's King Abdullah, and his answer is likely to chill any sense in Washington that the going will now be easy.

The Jordanian monarch warned that even after seizing the former Iraqi leader, the U.S.-led coalition may have difficulty meeting its timetable for transferring political responsibility to the Iraqis by next July. And he argued that if the Bush administration hopes to defuse the Iraqi resistance, it should move quickly to give the country's Sunni Muslim minority a greater stake in the new Iraq. [complete article]

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In Iraq, Hussein goes bone deep
By Ray Salvatore Jennings, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2003

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad this August was how eerily quiet it was. A knot of Iraqis crushed around a television at the far end of the normally chaotic lobby. A defiant Saddam Hussein was on the set, urging resistance and threatening collaborators. Of the transfixed guests and hotel staff the manager said, "We watch him like we watch a terrible accident, afraid our bones could break if we do not pay attention -- because his bones are our bones."

Hussein will continue to draw a crowd, less out of fear now than out of a desire to know what becomes of him. Reviled as he is by so many in Iraq, he still shares the marrow of a suspicious and impatient nation. He is a tyrant who no doubt will adopt the pained demeanor of a wronged great- uncle in coming weeks.

For better or worse, he is as close to a national symbol as it gets. With such symbolism comes perils and advantages. [complete article]

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Surrender widely seen as a total humiliation
By Samia Nakhoul, Reuters (via WP), December 16, 2003

For many Arabs, Saddam Hussein's meek surrender to U.S. forces marked the total humiliation of a man who portrayed himself as a champion of Arab rights and the reincarnation of the 12th-century Muslim warrior Saladin.

Repeated broadcasts of close-up footage of Hussein submitting to medical exams at the hands of U.S. soldiers were met with disbelief, shame and disgust. Many Arabs reveled in his spectacular humiliation, but even those who had predicted his downfall did not imagine it would happen that way.

"No Arab and no Muslim will ever forget these images. They touched something very, very deep," said Moroccan journalist Khalid Jamai, a leading independent commentator. "It was disgraceful to publish those pictures. It goes against human dignity, to present him like a gorilla that has come out of the forest, with someone checking his head for lice." [complete article]

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Saddam's arrest is a mixed blessing for his captors
By Martin Kettle, The Guardian, December 16, 2003

Under a different kind of empire in an earlier age, there is little doubt what would have happened. The captured Saddam would have been paraded in chains past cheering crowds along Pennsylvania Avenue to bow the knee to the conquering president. The whole thing would have been straight out of Aida or Tamburlaine the Great. Even today, there seems to be a significant minority of US opinion that would probably get off quite happily on such a celebration of raw American power.

An empire based on laws and freedom, though, cannot go there. But that does not mean that the question of what to do with Saddam has an easy answer. Riding in triumph is not the only option placed off limits by political considerations. Even if he wanted to, George Bush cannot display the pragmatic magnanimity to Saddam that Grant and Lincoln offered to Lee and Davis after Appomattox. Nor can he look the other way and replicate the ad hoc national self-interest that MacArthur applied to Hirohito in 1945. [complete article]

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Iraq's former exiles need this trial
By Glen Rangwala, The Guardian, December 16, 2003

The capture, trial and punishment of Iraq's former leaders have been at the forefront of the demands of Iraq's new political elite. For the members of the US-appointed Iraqi governing council, dominated by political factions that matured in exile, the talk since April has been not about the ancien regime's weapons of mass destruction or its putative links with al-Qaida, and it has only intermittently dealt with improving social welfare, the development of infrastructure or the restoration of Iraqi self-rule. For the past eight months, the major theme has been the importance of exacting a suitable form of revenge on the leaders who tyrannised the country for 35 years.

For the returning exiles, prevented from travelling back to their homeland for decades, the prospect of a trial has been their key opportunity for exacting a small part of the price the former president deserves to pay. When the London-based Iraqi Jurists' Association produced a blueprint for the US state department earlier this year on the justice arrangements for the transitional period, the first half of the report was on the mechanisms that should be established inside Iraq to prosecute past leaders.

The spirit of righteous revenge is based upon the triumph of the victim: the avenging agency must be the wronged party. International human rights groups, aware of the real limitations in the experience of the Iraqi judiciary, call for international judges to have a role in the trial. This mistakes the political purpose of the trials that will sustain the Iraqi political system for the coming months. Anything other than an Iraqi trial will significantly diminish its political effectiveness inside the country, even if there is a substantial cost in international legitimacy. As Khalid al-Kishtainy, the famous Iraqi satirist, put it to me yesterday: "Nothing can scratch your skin as nicely as your own nails." [complete article]

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Bin Laden 'ordered Istanbul blasts'
By Agence France Presse (via The Australian), December 16, 2003

A Turkish man charged over a series of deadly car bombings in Istanbul has told a court the orders for the attacks were given by Osama bin Laden, Turkish newspapers reported yesterday.

"Instructions for the attacks were given by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in person," the Vatan newspaper quoted suspect Feyzi Yigit as saying.

Yigit was charged on Sunday by a Turkish state security court in Istanbul over the attacks on Jewish and British targets on November 15 and 20, which killed 62 people, including four suicide bombers. [complete article]

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2 car bombers attack Iraqi police, as insurgency continues
By Fisher and Christine Hauser, New York Times (via Yahoo), December 15, 2003

Two suicide bombers exploded cars outside Iraqi police stations today, killing at least six people and themselves, and wounding 22, in an apparent sign that the insurgency aimed at American occupation forces and the Iraqis who work with them is continuing despite the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The bombings in the Husseiniya and Amariya districts of Baghdad followed a similar car bomb attack on Sunday in which 17 people were killed in Khalidiya, about 60 miles west of the capital. That attack occurred just 12 hours after the former Iraqi leader was pulled from an underground hovel in northern Iraq. [complete article]

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Belief that insurgency will fade may be misplaced
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Thomas E. Ricks and Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, December 15, 2003

The capture of former president Saddam Hussein was greeted with euphoria at the marble-walled headquarters of the U.S. occupation authority here, but in the towns and villages to the north and west of the capital, where anger at the occupation is most intense, Hussein's arrest may have little impact on the insurgency that has roiled the country in recent months.

In the eight months that Hussein has been on the run, the resistance has gathered a momentum of its own, driven primarily by local financiers and ringleaders. Although gloating crowds often glorify Hussein after attacks on U.S. forces, recent interviews across the most restive parts of Iraq suggest that motivation for the insurgency extends well beyond loyalty to the former leader.

In rhetorical terms at least, the message of those fighters and their supporters has appealed more to nationalism and religion than to loyalty to Hussein. [complete article]

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Effect may be small in bigger terror war
By Steve Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2003

Nearly obliterated by the stunning news of Saddam Hussein's capture yesterday was a bomb explosion apparently intended to kill Pakistan's military President Pervez Musharraf.

"It sent a chill down my spine," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "That's a country with 30 to 50 nuclear weapons."

Hussein's capture may decrease attacks in Iraq by Baathists, he went on, "but it is largely irrelevant to the larger war against terrorism. Saddam means nothing to al-Qaeda and all the al-Qaeda-like forces."

The war on terror toppled a figurehead yesterday, not a mastermind or even a major leader. Although the capture gave the United States and the Bush administration a huge psychological victory in Iraq, the effort to defeat the forces of anti-American violence worldwide was mostly unaffected. [complete article]

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Lunch with a wanted man
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, December 14, 2003

Zakariya Zebaida, the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank, entered the room of the apartment in the Jenin refugee camp in which the conversation was to take place. This time he arrived alone, without an escort, and his pistol was concealed. A few days ago, he says, he encountered soldiers from an elite unit who had come to assassinate him, and he managed to escape in the ensuing exchange of fire. The danger is greatest at night, when nearly everyone in the camp is asleep and there is no one to report to him about the Israeli army's movements. So he usually sleeps outdoors. During the day he takes fewer precautions. Four months ago, his first son, Mohammed, was born, and his wife and the baby are living in their new home. Zebaida never sleeps there. His previous home was demolished during the Israel Defense Forces invasion in April 2002. "What's a museum?" he asks with curiosity when told that his portrait can now be seen in an exhibition titled "Control" at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. [complete article]

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One-state awakening
By Peter Hirschberg, Haaretz, December 12, 2003

"Having reached the conclusion that the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River must be shared, but cannot be sensibly partitioned," [Daniel Gavron] writes in his book ["The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land" (Rowman & Littlefield)], "we are left with only one alternative: Israeli-Palestinian coexistence in one nation."

The only solution, to his mind, that could preserve the Jewish state - partition into two states, Israel and Palestine - is no longer tenable. The massive settlement construction in the West Bank has sealed its fate. If Israeli Jews now wish to secure their long-term future in the region, he explains, they must agree to abdicate Jewish sovereignty and move swiftly, while the balance of power still tilts in their favor, to a multiethnic democracy.

The absence of governmental steadfastness in the face of the settlers' ideological tenacity, along with the left's lack of clarity, have added to Gavron's conviction that the land is no longer divisible. [complete article]

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The shame - the desert lion was a kitten
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, December 16, 2003

Iraqis were deeply shocked by their former president's disoriented, supine response as American hands rummaged in his matted hair and dug around in his mouth for DNA samples.

On Karada Street, shopkeeper Thaker Asad was flabbergasted: "Oh my god, the shame for him! People respected him because he was a strong leader, but now he is like a dog. Iraqis hate weakness. He talked only of fighting to the end and of death for Iraq.

"His wife told us that he slept with a bomb strapped to his chest, so that he would not be taken alive. But he did not fire a single shot - many people might have loved him in death. He needed to die."

At the end of the most dramatic day in Iraq since the April 9 collapse of Baghdad, what troubled Iraqis most was the single fact that their disgraced former leader was still alive. [complete article]

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Forcing the issue
By Rami G. Khouri, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2003

The United States and its leaders have rarely practiced colonialism, and those of us who live in the Middle East are beginning to see why: They're just not very good at it.

America's colonial efforts in Iraq are peculiarly un-American in both their spirit and implementation. But the most disturbing aspect of American policy in Iraq may be the new plan to hurriedly turn over sovereignty to a democratically elected Iraqi government.

This effort is based on the "Agreement on Political Process" that was hastily approved in mid-November by the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq and the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The document is both fascinating and deeply irritating. Though idealistic and ambitious in its stated quest to define a transition from American-occupied Iraq to a sovereign, free and democratic Iraqi state, it also mirrors the worst aspects of the whole American adventure in the region. [complete article]

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Complex tasks remaining on several fronts
By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein's arrest symbolizes major progress in wrapping up Iraq's past, but the United States still faces complex challenges in sorting out Iraq's future and winning support from the outside world -- both essential to stabilizing the country enough to bring U.S. troops home.

The insurgency is only part of the problem. Under its own schedule, the Bush administration has less than seven months to bring together in a new democratic government ethnic and religious communities that have been divided for decades. It also has to re-create a country devastated by the world's toughest economic sanctions and three wars during Hussein's 24-year rule. [complete article]

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Iraq's moment of joy will soon pass
By Sami Ramadani, Sydney Morning Herald, December 16, 2003

The joy was deep, but the pain, too, was overwhelming as I remembered relatives and friends who lost their lives opposing Saddam Hussein's tyranny or in his wars.

I remember my dearest friend, Hazim, whom I hugged goodbye in 1969 at the canteen of the college of medicine in Baghdad. I never saw him again. Although only 15, Hazim had the courage to distribute anti-Baathist leaflets at our school in Baghdad within months of the 1963 CIA-backed coup that brought the Baathists to power. I remember, too, my dear friend Ghassan, who died in a hospital in Canada after many years in exile. He didn't live to see the moment he had waited so long for.

But here it was, at last: Saddam's surrender in ignominy. However, this delightful moment - enjoyed by all the Iraqis I spoke to as the news of his capture was breaking - was soured by the fact that it was Iraq's newly appointed tyrant, Paul Bremer, doing the boasting: "Ladies and gentlemen ... we got him."

What will the Americans do with their captive? Is Saddam going to face a trial? Will the truth of his mass murders and crimes come out? Will the trial shed light on how the US backed him and supplied him with chemical weapons? Will it reveal how the US encouraged him to launch the war on Iran, causing the death of a million Iranians and Iraqis? Will the trial go into the alliances with and support for Saddam by so many who are now in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council? The dark clouds over Iraq haven't lifted yet. [complete article]

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What happens now inside Iraq?
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, December 15, 2003

Saddam's capture provides a huge psychological boost to the US-led forces in their fight to pacify Iraq. It will remove much of the fear felt by many Iraqis as long as he remained on the loose. But it will not end the violence against US-led forces.

There was euphoria in Washington and London yesterday: in both capitals, politicians, soldiers and international affairs analysts have been predicting for months that capture or killing of Saddam would take the heat out of the conflict. [complete article]

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Is Dean toast
By William Saletan, Slate, December 15, 2003

Is Howard Dean toast?

That's what pundits are suggesting, Republicans are hoping, and Democrats are fretting in the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture. Dean surged to the front of the Democratic presidential pack by opposing the war in Iraq. As the postwar turned bloody, expensive, and stagnant, it looked like a brilliant bet. But this morning, reporters and analysts seem convinced that the latest card drawn from the deck leaves him with a losing hand.

I haven't seen such certainty about an incumbent party keeping the White House since September 2000, when I called George W. Bush "toast." I was overconfident then for the same reason others are overconfident now: We forget how quickly people forget. Problems, once solved, disappear. Voters take for granted what has been accomplished. Each success, initially framed by the president as an end in itself, is reframed by the challenger as a means to a further, unfulfilled end. Bush ought to know that this can be done to him in 2004. It's what he did to Al Gore in 2000. [complete article]

Comment -- Capturing Saddam eleven months before the election is probably too little, too soon to secure Bush a 2004 victory. But if in late summer or early fall Bush was to announce the capture of his greatest trophy, Osama bin Laden, Howard Dean would likely be finished. Stage-managing good news worked for Reagan.

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A tyrant caught, a window opened
By Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2003

Will this make Iraqi Sunnis reasses whether they have been backing a loser, in hoping for his, or at least his Baath Party's, return to power?

Some Iraqis think so.

"It's a turning point," says Zuhair Humadi, an Iraqi-American activist recently returned from Baghdad. "Those Sunnis who took regime money when Saddam fell will now want to keep it" rather than pay insurgents. "They will see the war as a losing cause. Now it will be each one for himself."

Perhaps. That will depend on whether U.S. and Iraqi officials use this critical moment to woo Sunnis back into the Iraqi fold. Until now, U.S. and Iraqi officials have lacked a strategy that would separate ordinary Sunnis from the bitter enders with blood on their hands. [complete article]

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How much will it matter?
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 2003

Coalition officials and senior Iraqis hail the capture as removing a deep-rooted fear among many Iraqis that the man who ruled here for 24 years could one day return to power. It's also a major blow to the morale of Baathists in the Iraqi insurgency. But military analysts warn this isn't yet the end of the attacks on US troops and its allies. [complete article]

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Saddam arrest cheer fades into Iraqi ire at U.S.
By Joseph Logan, Reuters, December 15, 2003

Joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein gave way to resentment toward Washington Monday as Iraqis confronted afresh the bloodshed, shortages and soaring prices of life under U.S. occupation.

The morning after Iraq's U.S. governor revealed the ousted strongman was a disheveled prisoner, Iraqis flooded the streets to snatch up newspapers emblazoned with photos of the man who ruled them by fear, now humbled and captive.

Many were ecstatic to see Saddam captured and hoped he would answer for his deeds but said they would not rush to thank America -- in their eyes the source of their problems since a U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam in April.

"I hope that we get the chance to try him our way, to let everyone who suffered make him taste what he had made us taste," said Ali Hussein, 29, a stationery shop owner who said he was still dizzy with joy.

"But whether he's in a hole or in jail, it does nothing for me today, it won't feed me or protect me or send my children to school," he said. [complete article]

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Feelings mixed among ordinary Iraqi citizens
By Orly Halpern, Globe and Mail, December 15, 2003

As gunfire resounded in celebration in parts of Iraq early Sunday afternoon, a clutch of young men stood glumly outside a cordon of U.S. Army Humvees in tiny Ad-Dawr, near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, and tried to absorb the fact that the former dictator had been caught in their very own orange groves.

Their village, nestled among palm trees along the Tigris River, is a few kilometres from the former president's birthplace -- he used to come here to swim. The area remains fiercely loyal to the old regime.

"It's a sad day in Ad-Dawr," one of the men said. [complete article]

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Israel's 'cloud of demographics'
By Cameron W. Barr, Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 2003

Even now, nearly four months after it was first published, an article by a dovish Israeli politician continues to irritate and appall his ideological opponents. But its main point - the need for Israel to cede land - is now being voiced by more hawkish Israelis as well.

Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Israeli parliament and a leading defender of the idea that Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist in peace, wrote in an Israeli newspaper in August that the "Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer-security programs, or antimissile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed."

These may be harsh words, but no one paid them much notice. Then Mr. Burg's article started to appear in translation abroad - in the US, Europe, and elsewhere - and that's when his critics started to push back. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda's new strategy
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek (via MSNBC), December 15, 2003

The investigation into last month's devastating suicide bombings in Istanbul has uncovered compelling new evidence pointing to a highly sophisticated operation carried out by homegrown militants-but planned by Al Qaeda operatives who may have included Osama bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, Newsweek has learned.

The probe has led to charges against 21 Turkish suspects-some of whom, officials say, are now believed to have traveled to Afghanistan during the Taliban era and spent time in terrorist training camps there.

Even more disturbing, one of the key ringleaders of the operation, a previously obscure Islamic fighter named Azad Ekinci, left Turkey for Dubai 19 days before the attacks. Ekinci, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who uses the code name of "Abu Nidal" -- the notorious Palestinian terrorist who died in Iraq last year -- is now on the loose and may be planning future attacks, according to a Turkish official who provided new details of the investigation into the bombings. "There are a number of very important clues that would lead any rational person to think there is an Al Qaeda link," Altay Cenzigar, Turkey's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said in an interview. [complete article]

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The capture of Saddam
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch, December 14, 2003

The Iraqi leader has always had a deep hunger for publicity and in captivity he may seek to exploit this. He will feel humiliated by being captured alive but if he is brought to trial - and it will be the trial of the century - he will once again have a platform from which to speak to the world. For him this may have advantages over the dark cellar in Tikrit where he has been hiding. The capture of Saddam Hussein is the end of era in Iraq but his capture may only expose further how difficult and dangerous it is to govern Iraq. The glee in Washington today resembles that felt by the US administration in April when Baghdad fell more easily to American tanks than any of its critics had supposed. [complete article]

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Afghanistan: The forgotten war
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, December 14, 2003

After a relatively quick and casualty-free campaign - for the American military, if not Afghan civilians - Washington declared victory and moved on to begin preparations for tackling Saddam Hussein. But just as the announcement of the official end to hostilities in Iraq has been followed by mayhem, the conflict has restarted in Afghanistan. The military bill for the Pentagon, so far, is a staggering $50bn - nearly 30bn.

There are other similarities. Attacks in Afghanistan have begun to emulate those in Iraq: suicide bombings, which are not a traditional Afghan approach; similar types of explosive devices set off by remote control; missile attacks from longer range; and the targeting of foreign aid organisations and the UN. Just as Iraqi guerrillas rocketed the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when the US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, was staying there, so Afghan guerrillas fired rockets into the American embassy in Kabul during the visit of Mr Wolfowitz's boss, Donald Rumsfeld, less than week ago.

One of the most worrying developments has been the systematic killing of aid workers, now totalling 15. Colonel Mike Griffiths, the commander of the British troops in Afghanistan, told The Independent: "There is no doubt. There are now indications of methodology transfer from Iraq. Some of the things we have seen in Iraq, we are beginning to see here." [complete article]

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Arabs' welcome of arrest is tinged with regret
By Neil McFarquhar, New York Times, December 14, 2003

The capture of Saddam Hussein has reinforced the ambiguity that many people in the Arab world felt about the American-led war and occupation of Iraq.

Images of the bearded, rumpled former Iraqi leader undergoing a medical examination by an American medic were broadcast into Arab homes around the world, as were the photographs of the underground hideout from which troops pulled Mr. Hussein from hiding.

After more than two decades of painting himself as the Knight of the Arabs, Saddam Hussein had been captured without so much as firing one shot.

While the Arab public harbors no particular love for the deposed dictator or other oppressive governments in the region that were similar to his, they despair that an outside power can humiliate the Arab world by capturing such a significant figure with relative impunity, underscoring their own powerlessness. [complete article]

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Saddam likely to go before new Iraqi war crimes court
Agence France Presse, December 14, 2003

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, captured by US forces, is likely to be tried before a new Iraqi court set up only last week to prosecute crimes against humanity by his deposed regime.

After US civil administrator Paul Bremer's announcement "we got him" was greeted by cries of "Death to Saddam!" Sunday, Iraqi Governing Council chairman Abdel Aziz al-Hakim said the ex-president would have a date with the new tribunal.

The captive dictator "will be taken before the judges and he will be judged according to the law in force before the tribunal that was set up in Iraq," Hakim said after learning the news while on a trip to Madrid.

Council member Ahmed Chalabi said that the 66-year-old Saddam, discovered Saturday evening in a camouflaged farmyard hole near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq, would be tried in public. [complete article]

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They will come not to praise, but revile
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein insisted on having his legend in his lifetime. He force-fed Iraqis for decades on his own brilliance and bravery, so as a captive of the Americans he risks desecration - not deification.

The US administration in Iraq will be anxious that his capture not become a rallying point for what it likes to dismiss as the regime "tail-enders".

It need not worry. In the coming weeks it is more likely Iraqis will be gloating at a Saddam brought to heel. [complete article]

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Iraqis fill streets of capital, firing guns in celebration
Associated Press (via New York Times), December 14, 2003

In the capital, radio stations played celebratory music, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration and others drove through the streets, shouting, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!"

At the news conference announcing his capture, U.S. forces aired a video showing a bearded Saddam being examined by a doctor holding his mouth open with a tongue depressor, apparently to get a DNA sample.

Then a video was shown of Saddam after he was shaved.

Iraqi journalists in the audience stood, pointed and shouted "Death to Saddam!" and "Down with Saddam!"

Saddam was being held at an undisclosed location and that U.S. authorities had not yet determined whether to hand him over to the Iraqis for trial, Sanchez said. [complete article]

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Saddam Hussein arrested in Iraq
BBC News, December 14, 2003

Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been captured by US forces, says the US chief administrator in Iraq.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," Paul Bremer said at a news conference in the capital, Baghdad, prompting loud cheers from Iraqis in the audience.

The former leader was found hiding in a cellar in a town about 30 kilometres south of his ancestral hometown Tikrit.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has welcomed the news, saying it "removes the shadow" hanging over Iraq. [complete article]

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Car bomb at Iraq police station kills 17
By Sameer N. Yacoub, Associated Press (via WP), December 14, 2003

A suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives in a car outside a police station Sunday morning west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding 33 more, the U.S. military said.

The car bombing in Khaldiyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, killed police officers, city workers and civilian bystanders, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Swisher. [complete article]

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A Baghdad neighborhood, once hopeful, now reels as Iraq's turmoil persists
By Alex Berenson, New York Times, December 14, 2003

Ghazalia is a neighborhood on edge.

Random violence and roadside bombs aimed at American patrols make the streets unsafe after dark. On the local council, Shiites and Sunnis squabble. Jobs are scarce, and prices are soaring. The electricity fails daily, and cooking gas, a necessity here, has grown scarce.

In ways large and small, life in this neighborhood of 150,000 people has worsened in the eight months since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein. Now the residents of Ghazalia, a suburban neighborhood that is in many ways a microcosm of the city, are nearly out of patience.

For the people who live here -- a mix of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, rich homeowners and poor renters -- the daily turmoil is exhausting and enervating. For the United States, it is a serious strategic problem, as was evident during dozens of visits to Ghazalia this fall. [complete article]

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In Iraq, an ayatollah we shouldn't ignore
By Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2003

A quarter-century ago, the United States misread the power and legitimacy of a Shiite ayatollah -- and ended up "losing" Iran, then one of two pillars of American policy in the Middle East. The impact is felt to this day.

Could Washington be on the verge of making the same mistake in Iraq in a way that could also compromise, even betray, the very democratic process that the Bush administration has begun to demand for the entire region?

The problem stems from the game of chicken the United States is playing with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani over the future of Iraq. The cleric, the most powerful leader in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled, wants elections for a government that will assume control when the American occupation ends on July 1. [complete article]

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Senior religious leader signals flexibility on Iraqi elections
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2003

Iraq's senior Shiite Muslim cleric has signaled a willingness to step back from his demand for direct elections of a transitional government to take over from the U.S.-led coalition next year, religious and political leaders said Saturday.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani told two members of the Iraqi Governing Council that, although he remained convinced that direct general elections are the only legitimate means of selecting new leaders, he might heed the advice of an independent U.N. fact-finding team if Secretary-General Kofi Annan were to dispatch one.

Resolving the standoff through U.N. mediation is still an idea in its infancy, as Sistani has yet to even inform the rest of his Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, of the proposal that emerged from a Friday meeting with two Shiite members of the Governing Council, Mouwafak Rabii and Ahmad Chalabi. [complete article]

Note -- This reporter incorrectly refers to SCIRI as Sistani's organization. SCIRI is one of several Shiite organizations that recognize Sistani as the leading Shiite spiritual authority in Iraq.

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$54 billion missing: team of US investigators combs over 50 countries
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein and his late sons are estimated to have stolen up to $US40 billion ($54 billion) during their years in power, but only a small fraction has been recovered since US investigators began an international search at the end of the war in April.

They were buoyed when the proceeds of the family's last snatch and grab on Iraq's central bank - about $US1 billion that Qusay Hussein carted away on tractor-drawn trailers on the eve of the US bombing - turned up in several of the family's abandoned palaces, still stashed in its numbered bank boxes.

But now it is hard slog. A team of experts from the US Treasury and the State, Justice, Homeland Security and Defence departments is on the ground in Iraq and fanning out in more than 50 countries in an attempt to locate what might be left of the funds. [complete article]

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Missile strike in Iraq leads to 'phenomenal' landing
By Don Phillips and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, December 13, 2003

The DHL incident [at 8,000 feet above Baghdad airport], which occurred on Nov. 22, was noted at the time as the first confirmed case of a hand-held surface-to-air missile hitting a wide-body civilian jet. What wasn't known at the time was the crew's feat of airmanship, described by investigators this week as "fantastic." The only injury occurred when one of the pilots was cut on a piece of razor wire while evacuating the plane on the ground. [complete article]

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U.S., Iran jockey over Iraq
By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 2003

Shuffling along and pushing their belongings on carts, thousands of Iranian Shiite Muslims cross this isolated border post each day, making their way to the Iraqi holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Their pilgrimages would not have been possible before the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and is only one of the ways in which the postwar occupation of Iraq is bringing Iran and the United States into unexpectedly close contact despite their longtime hostility.

But the new relationship is clouded by mutual uncertainty and suspicion. American officials fear that among the pilgrims -- who also come from Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- may be terrorists intent on joining an anti- American jihad in Iraq.

Some U.S. officials have also charged that Iran is stirring up Iraq's Shiites, who comprise about 60 percent of the population, to support a Muslim theocracy like the one imposed in Iran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979 revolution.

Evidence to support either charge is spotty. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Bin Laden's Iraq plans
By Sami Yousafzai, Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsh, Newsweek (via MSNBC), December 15, 2003
[At a meeting in mid-November,] according to Taliban sources, Osama bin Laden's men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan's ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq.

Cluster bombs kill in Iraq, even after shooting ends
By Paul Wiseman, USA Today, December 10, 2003
A four-month examination by USA Today of how cluster bombs were used in the Iraq war found dozens of deaths that were unintended but predictable. Although U.S. forces sought to limit what they call "collateral damage" in the Iraq campaign, they defied international criticism and used nearly 10,800 cluster weapons; their British allies used almost 2,200.

Golan Heights an obstacle to peace between Syria, Israel
By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Knight Ridder, December 12, 2003
... at a time when Syria is making its first friendly overtures to Israel in four years, the price of peace appears too much for average Israelis to bear. Syria wants the Golan Heights, a strip of borderland it lost in 1967, but Israelis are comfortably encamped in its verdant mountains, enjoying its mild summers and the country's only ski resort.

Retaliation over Iraq fits Bush's pattern
By Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder, December 12, 2003
President Bush's decision to take revenge on countries that opposed the war in Iraq shocked the diplomatic world, but it fits his longstanding pattern of rewarding friends and punishing enemies.

The Pentagon plot
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, December 12, 2003
The Pentagon's directive about contracts is not really about money and, most likely, Baker's trip is not really about debt.

Settlers vie for East Jerusalem
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, December 12, 2003
While attention is focused on the fate of far-flung West Bank settlement outposts, Israel has launched a major settlement thrust only a few miles from the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Why al-Qa'eda is winning
By Correlli Barnett, The Spectator, December 11, 2003
The question for us today is this: which side is at present imposing its will on the enemy -- the United States or al-Qa'eda? Which side enjoys the initiative? Objective strategic analysis can return only one answer: it is al-Qa'eda.

Where Taliban go to find warm beds and recruits
By Scott Baldauf and Owais Tohid, Christian Science Monitor, December 11, 2003
"Balochistan has always been, and is still, a second home to the Taliban," says a Pakistan-based Western diplomat. "It has served as second headquarters after Kandahar during the Taliban's rule and now it is providing a new lease on life to its guerrilla warfare against the US and its western allies."

A new era of nuclear weapons
By James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, December 7, 2003
Congress, with only a limited debate, has given the Bush administration a green light for the biggest revitalization of the country's nuclear weapons program since the end of the Cold War, leaving many Democrats and even some hawkish Republicans seething.

In revival of Najaf, lessons for a new Iraq
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, December 10, 2003
Few [among Iraq's Shiite clergy] endorse Iran's Islamic government and perhaps even fewer support the U.S. goal of a secular state. But in between are vigorous debates -- over law and religion, Islam and state -- that could resonate throughout the Shiite world, where Iran and its revolution have long held sway as the unchallenged model.

The privatisation of war
By Ian Traynor, The Guardian, December 10, 2003
Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon

American apocalypse
By Robert Jay Lifton, The Nation (via Tom Engelhardt's TomDispatch), December 22, 2003
More than mere domination, the American superpower now seeks to control history. Such cosmic ambition is accompanied by an equally vast sense of entitlement--of special dispensation to pursue its aims.

Israel trains U.S. assassination squads in Iraq
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, December 9, 2003
Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

Jihad has worked - the world is now split in two
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, December 8, 2003
Osama bin Laden, two years and three months after the New York and Washington attacks that were part of his jihad against America, appears to be winning.

Moving targets
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, December 8, 2003
Inside the Pentagon, it is now understood that simply bringing in or killing Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle -- those who appeared in the Bush Administration's famed "deck of cards" -- will not stop the insurgency.

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