The War in Context
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Rove blew CIA agent's cover
By Lawrence O'Donnell, The Huffington Post, July 2, 2005

Since I revealed the big scoop, I have had it reconfirmed by yet another highly authoritative source. Too many people know this. It should break wide open this week. I know Newsweek is working on an 'It's Rove!' story and will probably break it tomorrow. [complete article]

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MSNBC analyst says Cooper documents reveal Karl Rove as source in Plame case
Editor and Publisher, July 1, 2005

Now that Time Inc. has turned over documents to federal court, presumably revealing who its reporter, Matt Cooper, identified as his source in the Valerie Plame/CIA case, speculation runs rampant on the name of that source, and what might happen to him or her. Tonight, on the syndicated McLaughlin Group political talk show, Lawrence O'Donnell, senior MSNBC political analyst, claimed to know that name--and it is, according to him, top White House mastermind Karl Rove.

Here is the transcript of O'Donnell's remarks:

"What we're going to go to now in the next stage, when Matt Cooper's e-mails, within Time Magazine, are handed over to the grand jury, the ultimate revelation, probably within the week of who his source is.

"And I know I'm going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of...for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time magazine's going to do with the grand jury."

Other panelists then joined in discussing whether, if true, this would suggest a perjury rap for Rove, if he told the grand jury he did not leak to Cooper. [complete article]

See also, What does the government really want from Miller and Cooper? (TalkLeft).

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Gunmen assassinate aide to leading Shiite cleric in Iraq
By Leila Fadel, Knight Ridder, July 1, 2005

An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite Muslim cleric, was assassinated Friday in central Baghdad in the latest attack on leaders of Iraq's Shiite majority.

Kamal al-Deen al-Ghuraifi was walking from his home to the Al-Karkh mosque to give a sermon, but before the imam could get there, a car sped up the wrong side of the road. Four men with Kalashnikovs leaned out the window and sprayed him and his guards with bullets, said Police Maj. Abdul Wahab Ahmed, the officer in charge of the investigation.

Al-Ghuraifi died instantly from the four bullets that pierced his body. His bodyguards were injured. One was his son.

Only 40 minutes later and about 55 yards up the road, a group of gunmen stormed into the Sunni mosque Saad Bin Abi Waqas. As Sheik Amer al-Tikriti began his sermon, they dragged him from the pulpit and kidnapped him.

"It was one man for one man," Ahmed said.

Al-Ghuraifi was the sixth representative of al-Sistani's to be killed in Baghdad since the new government took office on April 28, according to al-Sistani's office in Najaf. [complete article]

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Suicide bombs kill 25 in Iraq
By Peter Graff, Reuters, July 2, 2005

A suicide bomber killed up to 20 people at a police recruitment center in Baghdad on Saturday, while across town an angry crowd of Shi'ite Muslims buried a senior cleric gunned down by insurgents.

Another suicide bomber blew up a car bomb at a police checkpoint just south of the city, killing five and wounding 12.

The bombings were the worst in Iraq in at least six days, shattering a relative lull in the Sunni Arab insurgency against U.S. forces and the Shi'ite- and Kurdish-led government. [complete article]

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Iraqi seeks probe of killing
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, July 2, 2005

Iraq's U.N. ambassador Friday accused U.S. Marines of killing his 21-year-old cousin "in cold blood" during a June 25 raid in a village in the Sunni Muslim-dominated province of Anbar.

Samir S.M. Sumaidaie called on the United States to investigate the death of Mohammed Sumaidaie in "a credible and fair way to ensure that justice is done." He said the killing represents a "betrayal" of Iraqi and U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq on a foundation of "freedom, democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law."

The allegation comes as the United States is trying to persuade Iraq's Sunni Muslim community, which provides the largest base of support for the insurgency, to break with Islamic extremist elements in Iraq and participate in the country's political transition. The U.S. military has held a series of private meetings this summer with insurgent leaders to convince them to back the political process. [complete article]

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The stain of torture
By Burton J. Lee III, Washington Post, July 1, 2005

Having served as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps early in my career and as presidential physician to George H.W. Bush for four years, I might be expected to bring a skeptical and partisan perspective to allegations of torture and abuse by U.S. forces. I might even be expected to join those who, on the one hand, deny that U.S. personnel have engaged in systematic use of torture while, on the other, claiming that such abuse is justified. But I cannot do so.

It's precisely because of my devotion to country, respect for our military and commitment to the ethics of the medical profession that I speak out against systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners during our war on terrorism. I am also deeply disturbed by the reported complicity in these abuses of military medical personnel. This extraordinary shift in policy and values is alien to my concept of modern-day America and of my government and profession. [complete article]

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Hamas to work with Palestinian Authority on Gaza pullout
Daily Star, July 2, 2005

Hamas said it was ready to work with the Palestinian Authority over Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip starting next month, and is considering an offer to join a national unity government. In Amman, leaders of Fatah's Central Committee discussed preparations for upcoming Palestinian legislative elections and the democratization of the movement on the second day of intense talks.

Earlier this week, the committee called on different Palestinian groups to participate in a government of national unity ahead of the Gaza pullout.

"We are in favor of the creation of an entity regrouping all the representatives of all the Palestinian forces but that does not have to be done through a government," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Another senior Hamas official said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made the offer after he rejected a demand by the group for the creation of a special committee to oversee the transfer of power in Gaza.

He said the group's leadership in Gaza and abroad would make the final decision on whether to join Abbas' government.

But Israel was quick to reject Hamas' participation in a Palestinian government, saying it is unacceptable, and will not help the sides reach a peace deal. [complete article]

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Ahmadinejad may end up being the clerics' bane
By Mahan Abedin, Daily Star, June 30, 2005

Mahmood Ahmadinejad's ascension to the Iranian presidency is the greatest electoral surprise in the 26-year history of the Islamic Republic, and in due course may come to be recognized as one of the most important events in post-revolutionary Iran. The high turnout in the first and second rounds was a major defeat for the reformists and others who had called for a boycott, and is being widely interpreted as a vote of confidence in the Islamic Republic.

There were two factors behind Ahmadinejad's success. First and foremost, a major theme in the election was social justice and the urgent need to address the widening gulf between rich and poor in Iranian society. Ahmadinejad cleverly tapped into this pool of discontent and secured millions of votes from across the social spectrum, particularly among the impoverished communities living to the immediate south of Tehran and in rural areas.

Nor is it just the poor who are concerned about their worsening plight; significant numbers in the middle classes are also anxious about the consequences of the widening wealth and opportunity gap. Ahmadinejad was able to use this to his advantage because he has impeccable working-class credentials and a record of simple living and of fighting official corruption. [complete article]

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Iran's Ahmadinejad looks to export 'new Islamic revolution'
AFP (via Daily Star), June 30, 2005

Iran's president elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed his election triumph as a new Islamic revolution that could spread throughout the world, in a shift away from previously moderate post-vote rhetoric. "Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen and the Islamic revolution of 1384 [the current Iranian year] will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world," the IRNA agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes, tyranny and injustice has reached its end," he said, in an apparent reference to the United States. "The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world. In one night, the martyrs strode down a path of 100 years."

Ahmadinejad has previously been at pains to present a moderate face to the world, avoiding religious rhetoric at his post-election news conference in favor of pledges of friendship and compassion to all at home and abroad. [complete article]

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Mahmood Ahmadinejad's profile
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 1, 2005

To many people in Washington it seems like all bearded Middle Eastern men look alike, so I guess it should be no surprise that Mahmood Ahmadinejad has been labelled a former hostage taker. But look carefully at the second and third photos below and it should be obvious that the similarities are only superficial. Unless Iran's president-elect has had nose surgery, he's not the man shown in this widely circulated photo:

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More questions on missing imam
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 29, 2005

A radical imam allegedly abducted by CIA agents in Italy shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq was identified as a key figure in a jihadi network supplying foreign fighters for Ansar Al-Islam -- a terror group that the Bush administration was then seeking to link to Saddam Hussein's government, according to Italian court records.
The alleged abduction of Abu Omar on the streets of Milan took place on Feb. 17, 2003, just one month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was also two weeks after Secretary of State Colin Powell had, in his speech to the United Nations Security Council, invoked Ansar Al-Islam as the linchpin of the administration's case linking Saddam to Al Qaeda. Abu Omar, the abducted cleric, was flown to Egypt after his kidnapping, according to Italian court records that include the aircraft numbers of the rendition flights. He later phoned home to his wife and another imam in Milan and claimed that he had been tortured in an effort to turn him into a spy for the United States.

Although much about the alleged CIA operation remains shrouded in secrecy, the Italian court records and the timing of the alleged snatch suggest that it may have been driven by the agency's interest in quickly getting new information about what Abu Omar knew about Ansar Al-Islam, either to bolster the administration's argument in support of the invasion or to disrupt a terrorist network inside Iraq that would be fighting U.S. forces once the invasion began, according to some former CIA officials.
[Court documents state:] "The investigation has documented the existence of a recruitment network for sending volunteer combatants or mujaheddin to training camps situated in ... a Kurd enclave in the northeast of Iraq under the control of the radical organization Ansar Al-Islam, along a route that began in Italy and with planned stops in Turkey and Syria," states one Italian court summary dated Nov. 25, 2003.

The court summary identifies Abu Omar -- describing him as an "Egyptian extremist" -- as one of a number of suspected terror operatives who were involved in recruiting fighters for the camps in Iraq, as well as procuring and distributing false travel documents and the raising of funds. It also quotes from a June 15, 2002, wiretap of a conversation between Abu Omar and an unidentified visitor from Germany in which the two talk about a "secret meeting in Poland with the sheiks" that would help build a new jihadi organization to be financed by sympathizers in Saudi Arabia. At one point, the visitor says, "We are also waiting [for] the sheikh from Iraq" -- an apparent reference, the document asserts, to Mullah Krekar, the radical cleric believed to have been a founder of Ansar Al-Islam. The document states that the conversation "clearly demonstrated the intention to organize a new subversive international terrorist structure ... that obeyed the decisions of Al Tawhid [Zarqawi's organization] for the commissioning of attacks." [complete article]

Comment -- What began as a story about "renditions", a bungled kidnapping and the souring of relations between the Bush administration and one of its key allies, is now developing into a story about the preparations for war. And while the extracts from court records quoted by Newsweek can be read simply as intelligence on the development of a terrorist organization in the business of "commissioning attacks", they may also imply that as the Bush administration was leaking its plans for war back in the summer of 2002, planning was equally advanced for a jihadist response to a US occupation of Iraq.

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Bush words reflect public opinion strategy
By Peter Baker and Dan Balz, Washington Post, June 30, 2005

Key Bush advisers think the general public has considerable patience for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq, but they are mindful that opinion leaders, including members of Congress, high-profile analysts, editorial writers and columnists, are more pessimistic on that question. And they acknowledge that images of mayhem that people see from Iraq create doubt about the prospects for success.

In studying past wars, they have drawn lessons different from the conventional wisdom. Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

Most devastating to public opinion, the advisers believe, are public signs of doubt or pessimism by a president, whether it was Ronald Reagan after 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors were killed in a barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, forcing a U.S. retreat, or Bill Clinton in 1993 when 18 Americans were killed in a bloody battle in Somalia, which eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal there.

The more resolute a commander in chief, the Bush aides said, the more likely the public will see a difficult conflict through to the end. [complete article]

Comment -- The problem with basing a war strategy on a communications strategy is that wars have a terrible habit of going off-message. Bush's resolute optimism might have helped him win the election but it won't determine the outcome of the war. The fact that the vast majority of Americans weren't interested in watching Bush's speech is something the White House should ponder. Bush's advisers might also usefully reflect on the diagnostic criteria for identifying someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
3. Firmly convinced that they are unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply);
5. Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with their unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment.
6. Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve their own ends;
7. Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;
8. Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of their frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions stemming from a belief that others are envious of them and are likely to act similarly;
9. Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, "above the law", and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people they consider inferior to themselves and unworthy.
A resolute, optimistic commander in chief is a fine thing -- so long he has a firm grasp on reality.

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War? What war?
By Gary Kamiya, Salon, June 29, 2005

Almost four years ago, the American right launched a great moral crusade. Sept. 11 had changed everything forever, the war party and its supporters repeated. The apostles of the New Righteousness used the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center to anathematize anyone who failed to embrace the cause. To dissent, even to analyze, was to dishonor the dead, virtually to commit high treason. Those few who tried to stop King George's Crusade from marching to Jerusalem (or Baghdad, in this millennium-later iteration) were swept away like the black protesters in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, hosed off the streets not with water but with the saintly blood of the 9/11 victims. Pundits railed against an elitist "Fifth Column" and compared dissenters to Neville Chamberlain-like "appeasers." In one of the great failures of the opposition in American history, the Democrats and the mainstream media joined the angry mob. A few mumbled some pathetic caveats as they waved their pitchforks, but their bleats were drowned out as the patriotic horde swept on to Infinite Justice. [complete article]

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New Iraqi party to give political face to 'resistance'
Daily Star, June 30, 2005

A former Iraqi Cabinet minister launched a new political movement, saying he aimed to give a voice to figures from the "legitimate Iraqi resistance." [...]

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged regional counterparts to help restore security in Iraq and expand cooperation in economic and commercial areas.

Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samarie, a dual Iraqi-U.S. citizen, announced the creation of the National Council for Unity and Construction of Iraq in a news conference in central Baghdad.

"The birth of this political bloc is to silence the skeptics who say there is no legitimate Iraqi resistance and that they cannot reveal their political face," he said.

Samarie said that a group of insurgents he is representing wants U.S. troops to leave Iraq in no less than one year and no more than three years. The insurgents won't put down their arms unless all of their goals are met, he added.
In a move likely to cause Sunni anger, U.S. forces arrested Dhahir al-Dhari, leader of one of Iraq's largest Sunni tribes, whose brother is the head of the main Sunni religious body, the Committee of Muslim Scholars.

Dhari, a cousin of committee head Sheikh Hareth al-Dhari, also leads the Zawbaa tribal confederation, whose influence extends from central Iraq to the northern city of Mosul. [complete article]

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Secular Shiites in Iraq seek autonomy in oil-rich south
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 30, 2005

With the Aug. 15 deadline for writing a new constitution bearing down, a cadre of powerful, mostly secular Shiite politicians is pushing for the creation of an autonomous region in the oil-rich south of Iraq, posing a direct challenge to the nation's central authority.

The politicians argue that the long-impoverished south has never gotten its fair share of the country's oil money, even though the bulk of Iraqi oil reserves lie near Basra, at the head of the Persian Gulf. They also say they cannot trust anyone holding power in Baghdad because of the decades of harsh oppression under the Sunni Arab government of Saddam Hussein.

"We want to destroy the central system that connects the entire country to the capital," said Bakr al-Yasseen, a former foe of Mr. Hussein who spent years in exile in Syria. He is one of the chief organizers of the autonomy campaign, which is supported by Ahmad Chalabi, the one-time Pentagon favorite and scion of a prominent Shiite family from the south, among others. [complete article]

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Reporter shot to death in Iraq
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, June 29, 2005

Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for Knight Ridder, was shot to death in Baghdad last Friday.

The shot appears to have been fired by a U.S. military sniper, though there were Iraqi soldiers in the area who also may have been shooting at the time.

Salihee, 30, had the day off and was driving alone near his home in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah when a single bullet pierced his windshield and then his skull. [complete article]

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IDF seals off Gaza Strip, bans non-resident Israelis
By Amos Harel and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz, June 30, 2005

The Israel Defense Forces moved to counter Jewish extremist activity in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, declaring the entire area a closed military zone and banning entry to all Israelis who do not live in Gaza.

Large numbers of police, Border Police and soldiers Thursday stormed the Maoz Yam hotel in the settlement of Neveh Dekalim. No casualties were reported among the activists or security forces.

The hotel had for weeks been home to around 100 extreme right-wingers opposed to the disengagement from Gaza, who had surrounded the area with barbed wire and stockpiled food. [complete article]

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Spy czar gains clout
By Mark Mazzetti, Richard B. Schmitt and Warren Vieth, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2005

President Bush on Wednesday handed Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte broad authority over America's disparate and often-competing spy agencies, bringing U.S. domestic and foreign intelligence operations more closely under White House control.

Bush ordered the changes three months after a presidential commission issued a withering indictment of the intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq war. The commission said that a poorly coordinated intelligence community in the U.S. was producing work that was becoming "increasingly irrelevant."

The president adopted nearly all of the panel's 74 recommendations and took other steps toward completing the first overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus since World War II.

In one of the most significant moves, Bush ordered the consolidation of the FBI's counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage operations into one National Security Service. The new office will be part of the FBI, but Negroponte will have authority over its budget and priorities -- a move intended to reduce barriers between domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering. [complete article]

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The high cost of a rush to security
By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr., Washington Post, June 30, 2005

The money was spent in the name of improving security at the nation's airports:

· $526.95 for one phone call from the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Chicago to Iowa City.

· $1,180 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee -- $3.69 a cup -- at the Santa Clara Marriott in California.

· $1,540 to rent 14 extension cords at $5 each per day for three weeks at the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.

· $8,100 for elevator operators at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.

· $5.4 million claimed for nine months' salary for the chief executive of an "event logistics" firm that received a contract before it was incorporated and went out of business after the contract ended. [complete article]

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Time Magazine to hand over reporter notes
By Pat Milton, AP (via WP), June 30, 2005

Time Inc. said Thursday it would comply with a court order to deliver the notes of a reporter threatened with jail in the probe of the leak of a CIA officer's name. The New York Times said it was "deeply disappointed" at the move, which came days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the journalists' appeal.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening to jail Matthew Cooper, Time's White House correspondent, and Judith Miller of The New York Times for contempt for refusing to disclose their sources.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the reporters' appeal and the grand jury investigating the leak expires in October. The reporters, if in jail, would be freed at that time. [complete article]

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The rising economic clout of China
By Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, June 30, 2005

In recent weeks Washington has become increasingly wary of one of the most powerful geopolitical trends in today's world - the emergence of China as an economic superpower.

The unsolicited Chinese bid to take over a US oil company has riled Congress in particular. Many lawmakers are calling for retaliation against a nation they believe has long flouted the rules of fair international trade.

The White House, for its part, has been reluctant to publicly criticize a deal that may never be consummated. And in general, say analysts, attempts to hobble China's economic rise would be as futile as using ropes to try to restrain a rocket. They would only earn the enmity of the nation that may be most likely to emerge as the world's next superpower. [complete article]

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Truth and spin on Iraq
By Anthony H. Cordesman, UPI (via World Herald), June 29, 2005

Key parts of [President Bush's] speech ... were driven by spin, rather than a frank effort to warn the American people of the sacrifices necessary to win and the risks involved. The end result was to mislead in ways that can come back to haunt the administration and reduce longer-term public support.

One key failure was his effort to explain the insurgency in Iraq almost solely in terms of foreign Islamic extremists. The president correctly referred to hundreds of foreign fighters, their horrifying extremism, and the very real threat they pose. He totally failed to mention the thousands of native Iraqis that make up the core of the insurgency, the fact we have only some 600 foreign detainees out of a total of 14,000, the fact most intelligence estimates put foreign fighters at around five percent of the total, and the fact we face a major native popular Sunni uprising and deep Sunni distrust.

He implied the liberation, elections and democracy had somehow unified Iraq when they clearly have not, and glossed over the major political turmoil that will accompany the efforts to draft the constitution and elections to come. The president fundamentally misstated the true nature of the threat and risks in Iraq. [complete article]

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In politics, Hamas gains in the West Bank
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, June 29, 2005

Bilal Swaleh's journey from prisoner to politician began years ago in an Israeli jail cell. It ended triumphantly last month at the ballot box in this city populated by citrus growers, living along a wall separating the West Bank and Israel.

A butcher by trade, Swaleh was among the candidates affiliated with the militant Islamic movement Hamas who won all 15 municipal council seats. The victory placed Qalqilyah at the leading edge of a shift in Palestinian politics that is bringing some of Israel's most ardent enemies into public office. Seven of the new council members have served time in Israeli prisons. The newly elected mayor is still behind bars.

Swaleh attributes his success primarily to the network Hamas has built through charitable work, which supports thousands of people here and in villages nearby. But he said the wall, which Israeli officials said they built around the city for security reasons, has enhanced Hamas's standing more than ever and helped the group's members get elected. [complete article]

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Hostile fire may have downed U.S. copter in Afghanistan
By ,David S. Cloud and Terence Neilan, New York Times, June 29 2005

An American military helicopter transporting troops that crashed in a rugged area of eastern Afghanistan may have been brought down by hostile fire, the military said today.

The fate of the 17 service members aboard was not known, the military said in a statement, which described the incident as "a tragic event." The service members included Special Operations troops, military officials said Tuesday. [complete article]

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Italy to seek extradition of CIA agents
By Victor L. Simpson, AP (via The Guardian), June 28, 2005

Italy is preparing to request the extradition of 13 purported CIA officers accused of kidnapping a terrorism suspect and secretly transporting him to Egypt, a court official said Tuesday.

Prosecutors also have asked the help of Interpol in tracking down the suspects, all identified as U.S. citizens, said the official who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was still under way.

The 13 were accused of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, according to Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale. [complete article]

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Pentagon aided Halliburton, official charges
By Steven Bodzin, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2005

A top Army Corps of Engineers official charged Monday that Halliburton Co. was able to receive no-bid contracts for work in Iraq because of repeated assistance by the office of the secretary of Defense.

Bunnatine Greenhouse, a longtime senior procurement executive for the Army Corps of Engineers, made the accusation to Democratic lawmakers looking into allegations of war profiteering by the Texas oil services company.

She called the multiple interventions "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career."

"Essentially every aspect of the RIO contract remained under the control of the office of the secretary of Defense," she said, referring to the acronym for the contract known as Rebuild Iraqi Oil. "That troubled me and was wrong." [complete article]

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Ranks plagued by infiltrators
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2005

One bomber penetrated the secure compound of Iraq's most celebrated police commando unit. Another slipped into a mess hall where scores of Iraqi soldiers were sitting down for a meal.

Neither suicide attacker aroused suspicion for a very good reason: Both were Iraqi security officers.

Nearly 30 soldiers and police officers were killed and dozens were injured in the two bombings this month. The attacks at the headquarters of the elite Wolf Brigade in Baghdad and at an army base north of the capital highlighted the grave challenge Iraq is facing from infiltration by insurgents.

In his address to the nation Tuesday, President Bush again emphasized the role of the Iraqi army and police forces, which he said are progressing "in both the number and quality."

Amid dwindling U.S. public support for the war, the ultimate success of Iraqi security forces is a linchpin of the administration's hopes. "A major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home," Bush said.

But it is feared that rebels have a stealthy presence among those forces. Infiltration was a specialty of Saddam Hussein's security apparatus, and officials say many recent cases were directed by so-called former regime elements -- FRE in military parlance. [complete article]

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As war shifts, so does the message
By Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2005

President Bush on Tuesday retooled his original argument for the Iraq war, justifying the U.S. military presence there as the solution to a problem that critics say the war itself caused.

More than two years ago, Bush argued that Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq could make the nation a haven for terrorists. But in his nationally televised speech, Bush asserted that the tumult that has followed Hussein's removal created the same threat.

In the lead-up to the war, Bush presented the invasion of Iraq primarily as a means of preventing the Iraqi dictator from providing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to terrorists.

After coalition forces failed to find evidence of such weapons, and several investigations did not uncover meaningful links between Hussein and Al Qaeda, the president increasingly stressed the possibility that creating a democracy in Iraq could encourage democratic reform across the Middle East. [complete article]

See also, A case for progress amid some omissions (WP).

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Real insiders
By Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker, June 28, 2005

Several years ago, I had dinner at Galileo, a Washington restaurant, with Steven Rosen, who was then the director of foreign-policy issues at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The group, which is better known by its acronym, AIPAC, lobbies for Israel's financial and physical security. Like many lobbyists, Rosen cultivated reporters, hoping to influence their writing while keeping his name out of print. He is a voluble man, and liked to demonstrate his erudition and dispense aphorisms. One that he often repeated could serve as the credo of K Street, the Rodeo Drive of Washington's influence industry: "A lobby is like a night flower: it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun."

Lobbyists tend to believe that legislators are susceptible to persuasion in ways that executive-branch bureaucrats are not, and before Rosen came to AIPAC, in 1982 (he had been at the RAND Corporation, the defense-oriented think tank), the group focussed mainly on Congress. But Rosen arrived brandishing a new idea: that the organization could influence the outcome of policy disputes within the executive branch -- in particular, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council.
AIPAC's leaders can be immoderately frank about the group's influence. At dinner that night with Steven Rosen, I mentioned a controversy that had enveloped AIPAC in 1992. David Steiner, a New Jersey real-estate developer who was then serving as AIPAC's president, was caught on tape boasting that he had "cut a deal" with the Administration of George H. W. Bush to provide more aid to Israel. Steiner also said that he was "negotiating" with the incoming Clinton Administration over the appointment of a pro-Israel Secretary of State. "We have a dozen people in his" -- Clinton's -- "headquarters ... and they are all going to get big jobs," Steiner said. Soon after the tape's existence was disclosed, Steiner resigned his post. I asked Rosen if AIPAC suffered a loss of influence after the Steiner affair. A half smile appeared on his face, and he pushed a napkin across the table. "You see this napkin?" he said. "In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin."
Unlike American neoconservatives, who have openly supported the Likud Party over the more liberal Labor Party, AIPAC does not generally take sides in Israeli politics. But on Iran AIPAC's views resemble those of the neoconservatives. In 1996, Rosen and other AIPAC staff members helped write, and engineer the passage of, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which imposed sanctions on foreign oil companies doing business with those two countries; AIPAC is determined, above all, to deny Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran was a main focus of this year's AIPAC policy conference, which was held in May at the Washington Convention Center. Ariel Sharon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, addressed five thousand AIPAC members. One hall of the convention center was taken up by a Disney-style walk-through display of an Iranian nuclear facility. It was kitsch, but not ineffective, and Rosen undoubtedly would have appreciated it. Rosen, however, was not there. He was fired earlier this year by Howard Kohr, nine months after he became implicated in an F.B.I. espionage investigation. Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell [who also represents the fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff], expects him to be indicted on charges of passing secret information about Iranian intelligence activities in Iraq to an official of the Israeli Embassy and to a Washington Post reporter. A junior colleague, Keith Weissman, who served as an Iran analyst for AIPAC until he, too, was fired, may face similar charges. [complete article]

For more biographical information on Steven Rosen see The New York Sun.

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A watershed in Iranian politics
By Babak Pirouz and Stanley Reed, BusinessWeek, June 28, 2005

Just days ago, the Iranian business community inside and outside of the country was set to celebrate the election victory of their patron, Hashemi Rafsanjani. But in a runoff election on June 24, Iranian voters overwhelmingly chose Tehran's conservative mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over the former President, who had promised probusiness policies and a rapprochement with the West. Ahmadinejad received 62% of the vote. Now people who had been lining up to invest in Iran are in deep shock.

The victory of Ahmadinejad, an Islamic nationalist suspicious of outsiders, capitalists, and technocrats, increases the risk of confrontation with the U.S. and the West on everything from the Islamic Republic's nuclear program to neighboring Iraq. The election's winner could also deal an economic setback to the country, which badly needs private investment and foreign technology and knowhow. Economic growth, which has been close to 8% annually over the last two years, has recently slowed to the 5% range as businesses worried about the upcoming election as well as growing tension with America.

Ahmadinejad campaigned on a populist platform, blaming the emergence of private banks and Iran's very modest privatization program for the increasing income divide between the Tehran elite and the rural and urban poor. The politician also displayed isolationist tendencies, criticizing Iran's acceptance of World Bank loans and urging reliance on local capabilities. While Ahmadinejad is close to some of the top clerics, the landslide for him was in part a protest against the clubby religious establishment, which the portly Rafsanjani epitomized, that has run Iran since the 1979 revolution and is widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective. [complete article]

Why the U.S. and Iran love to hate each other
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2005

The Bush administration, which includes Iran in the "axis of evil," preemptively dismissed the vote as a sham, saying that power remained in the hands of unelected leaders who "spread terror across the world." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decried the "mock election," saying that Ahmadinejad is "no friend of democracy ... no friend of freedom."

Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, countered that the election - with nearly 60 percent turnout - taught the US a lesson. "Despite its babbling, your enemy is now humiliated deep inside," he said. A hard-line paper referred to "the bloodied face of Uncle Sam."

Some Iranians said Bush's comments prompted them to vote. Several winked when attributing Bush's words to "one hard-line theocracy helping out another."

"There are three ideological capitals, in Tehran, Tel Aviv, and Washington," says Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst. "They are apparently against each other, but they love each other. They need each other. We need a foreign enemy to control the country." [complete article]

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Clan chief caught between U.S., insurgents
By Hamza Hendawi, AP (via The Guardian), June 28, 2005

For weeks, Sheik Adnan Fahd had been avoiding meeting U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ross A. Brown. Going to see the officer at his base would be extremely dangerous, given the intelligence network of Iraqi insurgents. To invite him to his home would be courting death.

Finally, Brown came north, traveling six miles in a heavily armed convoy of four Humvees for a June 21 meeting in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad - a strained get-together that summed up the conundrum facing the U.S. military and Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

For the American officer, the objective was to win Fahd's cooperation in the fight against insurgents in Mahmoudiya in an area south of the capital known as "The Triangle of Death."

But for Fahd, a Sunni tribal leader heading a clan of 30,000, the meeting highlighted his double dilemma: He must keep at bay both the insurgents who watch his every move, and the U.S. military that wants his help in persuading militants to lay down their arms. [complete article]

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U.S. has plans to again make own plutonium
By William J. Broad, New York Times, June 27, 2005

The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices. [complete article]

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Bogus analysis led to terror alert in Dec. 2003
By Lisa Myers and Aram Roston, NBC, June 27, 2005

Christmas 2003 became a season of terror after the federal government raised the terror alert level from yellow to orange, grimly citing credible intelligence of another assault on the United States.

"These credible sources," announced then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, "suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond."

For weeks, America was on edge as security operations went into high gear. Almost 30 international flights were canceled, inconveniencing passengers flying Air France, British Air, Continental and Aero Mexico.

But senior U.S. officials now tell NBC News that the key piece of information that triggered the holiday alert was a bizarre CIA analysis, which turned out to be all wrong. [complete article]

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... and a get-out-of-jail key
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2005

The great cliche about contempt of court is that the wrongdoer holds the key to his or her freedom. The purpose of sending people to jail for civil contempt is not to punish them. The purpose is to induce them to do something the judge wants: usually to produce some piece of evidence. If they do as requested, they are released.

Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times say they are prepared to go to jail rather than reveal their sources to a Justice Department special prosecutor looking into White House leaks of the identity of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame. On Monday, nearly two years after Plame was outed in a column by Robert Novak, the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling against Cooper and Miller. So both journalists may actually go to jail for up to 18 months.

This is no joke. But it is ridiculous.

Unlike most of our brothers and sisters on other editorial pages -- and unlike most of our colleagues in The Times' newsroom, for that matter -- this editorial page has argued against Cooper and Miller, and against the general idea of an absolute (or nearly absolute) "journalists' privilege" to protect the identity of anonymous sources. [complete article]

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A tenuous grip on sovereignty
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2005

On a busy commercial strip, U.S. soldiers cajole a ragged band of reluctant Iraqi army recruits to take charge of their own streets. In the highest corridors of power, U.S. officials press Iraqi politicians to meet political deadlines. A year after occupation authority head L. Paul Bremer III handed the formal reins to an appointed Iraqi government, private military firms contracted by the Pentagon continue to wield guns with scant regard for Iraqi authorities.

But long gone are the days when U.S. and British officials of Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority controlled all aspects of the Iraqi state. Ministries that oversee Iraq's natural resources, energy reserves, schools, hospitals and finances have evolved over the last year into vigorous players in Iraq's daily life. And elected Iraqi politicians are devising their own constitution with little direct involvement by U.S. officials.

"We cannot any longer simply dictate, but have to lobby, persuade, cajole and implore," says Larry Diamond, a former Baghdad-based CPA official who is now a scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. "At the same time, how independent can the government really be when it is still largely, in fact utterly, dependent on American troops for its security? Ultimately, full independence will only come when this dependence on the U.S. for security ends." [complete article]

Comment -- It's clear from statements by Secretary Rumsfeld and others that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq does not depend on defeating the insurgency. President Bush says, "Our military strategy is clear: We will train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their freedom and protect their people, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned." But when asked by Senator McCain how many Iraqi troops are already combat ready, General Casey responded by saying that the numbers are classified. Officials in Iraq, however, were more obliging and recently told visiting members of Congress that out of 107 battalions currently required, only three battalions meet combat readiness. That's about 3,000 troops! What's the use of a clear strategy if you don't have the means to accomplish it?

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Sunni men in Baghdad targeted by attackers in police uniforms
By Tom Lasseter and Yasser Salihee, Knight Ridder, June 27, 2005

Days after Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced on April 28, the bodies of Sunni Muslim men began turning up at the capital's central morgue after the men had been detained by people wearing Iraqi police uniforms.

Faik Baqr, the director and chief forensic investigator at the central Baghdad morgue, said the corpses first caught his attention because the men appeared to have been killed in methodical fashion. Their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, their eyes were blindfolded and they appeared to have been tortured. In most cases, the dead men looked as if they'd been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads.

Marks on the bodies were similar to the injuries found on prisoners who were rescued from secret Interior Ministry jails by representatives of the Iraqi ministry for human rights, according to family accounts and medical records.

Iraqi and American officials said the murders aren't being investigated systematically, but in dozens of interviews with families and Iraqi officials, and a review of medical records, a Knight Ridder reporter and two special correspondents found more than 30 examples of this type of killing in less than a week. They include 12 cases with specific dates, times, names and witnesses who said they might come forward if asked by law enforcement. [complete article]

Comment -- Senator Kerry offers his advice advice on what President Bush should say this evening, but when it comes to the key issue of security forces he suggests:
Iraq, of course, badly needs a unified national army, but until it has one - something that our generals now say could take two more years - it should make use of its tribal, religious and ethnic militias like the Kurdish pesh merga and the Shiite Badr Brigade to provide protection and help with reconstruction. Instead of single-mindedly focusing on training a national army, the administration should prod the Iraqi government to fill the current security gap by integrating these militias into a National Guard-type force that can provide security in their own areas.
This might best be described as the "Beirut solution"!

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Allawi discusses Syria border militants
AP (via LAT), June 28, 2005

The militants crossing into Iraq from Syria are not backed by the Syrian government, Iraq's former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Monday.

Allawi, who headed the Iraqi government from June 2004 until April, came to Cairo to raise support for his plan to hold a pan-Iraqi conference to end the insurgency.

"The answer to the tension in Iraq cannot be through a military solution or by force alone," Allawi said after talks with President Hosni Mubarak. [complete article]

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Top Shiite cleric hints at wider voting role for Sunnis
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, June 28, 2005

Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric appeared to offer a major concession to the Sunni Arab minority on Monday when he indicated that he would support changes in the voting system that would probably give Sunnis more seats in the future parliament.

In a meeting with a group of Sunni and Shiite leaders, the cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, outlined a proposal that would scrap the system used in the January election, according to a secular Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Yasiri, who was at the meeting. The election had a huge turnout by Shiites and Kurds but was mostly boycotted by Sunni Arabs.

Such a change would need to be written into Iraq's new constitution, which parliamentarians are drafting for an Aug. 15 deadline. Although there has been little public talk about what form elections might take under the constitution, Ayatollah Sistani has been highly influential in Iraq's nascent political system.

Under the proposal, voters in national elections would select leaders from each of the 19 provinces instead of choosing from a single country-wide list, as they did in January. The new system would essentially set aside a number of seats for Sunnis roughly proportionate to their numbers in the population, ensuring that no matter how low the Sunni turnout, they would be guaranteed seats. [complete article]

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Iraq: A bloody mess
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, June 28, 2005

A year ago the supposed handover of power by the US occupation authority to an Iraqi interim government led by Iyad Allawi was billed as a turning point in the violent history of post-Saddam Iraq.

It has turned out to be no such thing. Most of Iraq is today a bloody no-man's land beset by ruthless insurgents, savage bandit gangs, trigger-happy US patrols and marauding government forces.

On 28 June 2004 Mr Allawi was all smiles. "In a few days, Iraq will radiate with stability and security," he promised at the handover ceremony. That mood of optimism did not last long.

On Sunday the American Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, told a US news programme that the ongoing insurgency could last "five, six, eight, ten, twelve years". [complete article]

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Survey finds most support staying in Iraq
By Richard Morin and Dan Balz, Washington Post, June 28, 2005

As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration's claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.

The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored -- a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away. [complete article]

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In the south, a bid to loosen Baghdad's grip
By Steven Vincent, Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2005

Crowded into a narrow room beneath an image of the Shiite icon Imam Ali, members of the Garamsha tribe drink tea and discuss current events with visiting journalists. Though reputedly behind most of the car thefts, hijackings, and kidnappings roiling this southern city, the tribesmen seem more interested in politics.

"Baghdad is so violent now, we are uncomfortable linking our fate with it," says Tariq Hamid, as his fellow clan leaders nod. "We support a decentralized form of government, where Basra controls its own affairs."

Like the Kurds to the north, the Shiites of Iraq's southern regions have long bristled under Baghdad's centralized and often brutal control. But with their security relatively stable and newly elected officials in office - particularly the increasingly independent provincial Governing Councils (GCs) - southern Iraqis are pressing the case for decentralization, or federalism. [complete article]

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Islamic law controls the streets of Basra
By Louise Roug, Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2005

Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.

Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered.

"We can't sing in public anymore," said Hussin Nimma, a popular singer from the south. "It's ironic. We thought that with the change of the regime, people would be more open to singing, art and poetry."

Unmarked cars cruise the streets, carrying armed, plain-clothed enforcers of Islamic law. Who they are or answer to is unclear, but residents believe they are part of a battle for Basra's soul.

In the spring, Shiite and Sunni Muslim officials were killed in a series of assassinations here, and residents feared their city would fall prey to the kind of sectarian violence ailing the rest of the country.

Instead, conservative Shiite Islamic parties have solidified their grip, fully institutionalizing their power in a city where the Shiite majority had long been persecuted by the Sunni-dominated rule of Saddam Hussein. [complete article]

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Terror in Beirut
By Claude Salhani, UPI (via Washington Times), June 25, 2005

Fred Burton, vice president of counter-terrorism with Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based outfit specializing in intelligence and counter-terrorism analysis, issued a report on June 22 describing the remotely detonated charge that killed George Hawi, the former Lebanese Communist Part chief, as "so sophisticated that few in the world could have done it."

The counter-terrorism expert believes that the "complex nature of the Hawi attack narrows down the list of culprits to a few." Among the countries possessing that level of expertise are the United States, Britain, France, Israel and Russia. "This type of technology is only available to government agencies," Burton told United Press International.

Burton, who spent 15 years in U.S. counter-terrorism, told UPI that the "surgical nature of the charge" and the skill set that went into these bombings are "not available for your average terrorist organization."

Burton has investigated almost every bombing against American embassies over the past two decades and is familiar with the modus operandi used by various terrorist groups.

"Even al-Qaida and Hezbollah would not have this capability. Hezbollah are good bomb makers but their expertise is in truck bombs," Burton told UPI. [complete article]

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Hurndalls' fight for justice goes on
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 28, 2005

For Tom Hurndall's parents, the real criminal is not the Israeli soldier convicted yesterday of shooting their son in the head as he shepherded young children to safety from gunfire in the Gaza Strip.

The 22-year-old photography student and pro-Palestinian activist from Tufnell Park, north London, remained in a persistent vegetative state for nine months until he died in London in January 2004.

But long before that, the Hurndalls had concluded from a bitter struggle to discover the truth about the shooting of their son that responsibility for his death runs much higher in a military that the family says encourages the shooting of civilians. [complete article]

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The fresh new face of Israeli defiance
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2005

The detainee was the very picture of defiance.

She scrawled slogans on the walls of her cell. She mocked her interrogators by chanting loudly whenever they tried to question her, or by reviling them as traitors and stooges. She even refused to reveal her name.

Her jailers reported, however, that she also sometimes got homesick and cried. Which wasn't particularly surprising, given that she was only 12 years old.

In recent months, Israeli teenagers and preteens have become the shock troops of a nationwide campaign of protests against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip this summer, Israel's first such ceding of settlements in war-seized territory the Palestinians want for their future state. [complete article]

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U.S. talks with Iraq insurgents confirmed
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, June 27, 2005

The U.S. military in Iraq has been holding face-to-face meetings with some Iraqi leaders of the insurgency there, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the U.S. commander in charge of Iraq confirmed yesterday.

The talks are part of the military's revised campaign to drive a wedge between the Iraqi and foreign insurgents, according to U.S. commanders. Pentagon officials have acknowledged the new strategy but have not, until now, spoken openly about efforts to make contact with some Iraqi insurgent leaders.

Asked to respond to a report that U.S. military representatives met with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News "there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to "split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.

Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.

The military plan, approved in August 2004, seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents responsible for most of the suicide bombings -- which have killed more than 1,200 people in the last couple of months -- and whose larger political aims are unclear. [complete article]

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Inside the mind of an Iraqi suicide bomber
By Aparisim Ghosh, Time, June 26, 2005

One day soon, this somber young man plans to offer up a final prayer and then blow himself up along with as many U.S. or Iraqi soldiers as he can reach. Marwan Abu Ubeida says he has been training for months to carry out a suicide mission. He doesn't know when or where he will be ordered to climb into a bomb-laden vehicle or strap on an explosives-filled vest but says he is eager for the moment to come.

While he waits, he spends much of his time rehearsing that last prayer. "First I will ask Allah to bless my mission with a high rate of casualties among the Americans," he says, speaking softly in a matter-of-fact monotone, as if dictating a shopping list. "Then I will ask him to purify my soul so I am fit to see him, and I will ask to see my mujahedin brothers who are already with him." He pauses to run the list through his mind again, then resumes: "The most important thing is that he should let me kill many Americans."

At 20, Marwan is already a battle-hardened insurgent, a jihadi foot soldier in Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group, al-Qaeda in Iraq. Like the bulk of insurgents, he is a Sunni Muslim from the former ruling minority community. In his hometown, Fallujah, he is known for his ferociousness in battle and deep religiosity. Marwan asked his commander to consider him for a suicide mission last fall but had to wait until the beginning of April for his name to be put on the list of volunteers. "When he finally agreed," Marwan recalls, "it was the happiest day of my life." There are, he says, scores of names on that list, and it can be months before a volunteer is assigned an operation. But at the current high rate of attacks, Marwan hopes he will be called up soon. "I can't wait," he says, rubbing his thumbs with his fingers in nervous energy. "I am ready to die now."

Among the embittered population of Iraq, it's not hard to find young men who talk the terrorist talk, boasting of their willingness to serve as human bombs. It's hard to judge the speakers' sincerity. But the latest surge of suicide operations proves there is no scarcity of volunteers to become the most lethal weapon Iraq's insurgents have. [complete article]

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Defeating insurgency could take as long as 12 years, Rumsfeld says
By Leila Fadel and Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder, June 26, 2005

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday that it could take as long as 12 years to defeat the insurgency in Iraq, but he said it will be up to Iraqi forces to do the job.

"We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency," Rumsfeld told Fox News Sunday. "That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

He acknowledged that the insurgents' attacks "are more lethal than they had been previously, they're killing a lot more Iraqis," and he said the insurgency "could become more violent" in advance of a referendum on a new Iraqi constitution and new elections in December. [complete article]

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The empire's new clothes
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, June 24, 2005

The more that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claims he's not worried about public opinion, the more obvious it is that he is. During hours of grilling by suddenly emboldened congressional skeptics yesterday, he claimed, lamely, that popular support would swing back behind the Iraq war because Americans have "a good center of gravity." But he's smart enough to know that is precisely why they're growing immune to the administration's spin.

A clear head and a calculator will tell you very quickly that the costs of this conflict in Iraq are on a scale far beyond whatever benefits it was supposed to bring. If Saddam had been behind 9/11, OK. But he wasn't. If he'd really posed a clear and present danger to the United States with weapons of mass destruction, then the invasion would have been justifiable. But he didn't, and it wasn't. Bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people is a laudable goal, but not one for which the administration made any worthwhile preparations -- which is why the occupation has been so ugly, bloody and costly. Tabloids may amuse their readers with snapshots of Saddam in his skivvies, but it's the Bush administration's threadbare rationales for postmodern imperialism that have been exposed. [complete article]

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Scores of Muslim men jailed without charge
Human Rights Watch, June 27, 2005

Operating behind a wall of secrecy, the U.S. Department of Justice thrust scores of Muslim men living in the United States into a Kafkaesque world of indefinite detention without charge and baseless accusations of terrorist links, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released today.

Following the September 11 attacks, the Justice Department held the 70 men -- all but one Muslim -- under a narrow federal law that permits the arrest and brief detention of "material witnesses" who have important information about a crime, if they might otherwise flee to avoid testifying before a grand jury or in court. Although federal officials suspected the men of involvement in terrorism, they held them as material witnesses, not criminal suspects.

Almost half of the witnesses were never brought before a grand jury or court to testify. The U.S. government has apologized to 13 for wrongfully detaining them. Only a handful were ever charged with crimes related to terrorism.

"These men were victims of a Justice Department that was willing to do an end run around the law," said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program. "Criminal suspects are treated better than these material witnesses were." [complete article]

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Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability
By Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder, June 24, 2005

Former CIA Director Robert Gates sighs deeply as he pores over reports of growing unrest in Nigeria. Many Americans can't find the African nation on a map, but Gates knows that it's America's fifth-largest oil supplier and one that provides the light, sweet crude that U.S. refiners prefer.

It's 11 days before Christmas 2005, and the turmoil is preventing about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from reaching the world oil market, which was already drum-tight. Gates, functioning as the top national security adviser to the president, convenes the Cabinet to discuss the implications of Nigeria's spreading religious and ethnic unrest for America's economy.

Should U.S. troops be sent to restore order? Should America draw down its strategic oil reserves to stabilize soaring gasoline prices? Cabinet officials agree that drawing down the reserves might signal weakness. They recommend that the president simply announce his willingness to do so if necessary.

The economic effects of unrest in faraway Nigeria are immediate. Crude oil prices soar above $80 a barrel. June's then-record $60 a barrel is a distant memory. A gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3.31. Americans shell out $75 to fill a midsized SUV.

If all this sounds like a Hollywood drama, it's not. These scenarios unfolded in a simulated oil shock wave held Thursday in Washington. Two former CIA directors and several other former top policy-makers participated to draw attention to America's need to reduce its dependence on oil, especially foreign oil. [complete article]

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Two years on, the echoes of Vietnam are getting louder
By Max Hastings, The Guardian, June 24, 2005

As the 8th Cavalry's armoured vehicles roared forth on patrol, their occupants seemed infused with the same bewilderment about an unknown enemy that one remembered so well in the boondocks of Indochina. These soldiers' view of Iraq was determined by what they could glimpse through their weapon slits, or at night on their infra-red screens.

"We're trying to save their lives," said an exasperated officer about the Iraqis, "but they're not helping us by getting in our way." Soldiers quizzing local people through interpreters on a house search are young men from Ohio or Wyoming, Georgia or New Jersey. Yet cocooned in helmets and sunglasses, body armour and weapons that conceal almost every inch of flesh, they do not seem human at all. They resemble the robot legionaries of Darth Vader. [complete article]

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America's neo-conservative world supremacists will fail
By Eric Hobsbawm, The Guardian, June 25, 2005

Three continuities link the global US of the cold war era with the attempt to assert world supremacy since 2001. The first is its position of international domination, outside the sphere of influence of communist regimes during the cold war, globally since the collapse of the USSR. This hegemony no longer rests on the sheer size of the US economy. Large though this is, it has declined since 1945 and its relative decline continues. It is no longer the giant of global manufacturing. The centre of the industrialised world is rapidly shifting to the eastern half of Asia. Unlike older imperialist countries, and unlike most other developed industrial countries, the US has ceased to be a net exporter of capital, or indeed the largest player in the international game of buying up or establishing firms in other countries, and the financial strength of the state rests on the continued willingness of others, mostly Asians, to maintain an otherwise intolerable fiscal deficit.

The influence of the American economy today rests largely on the heritage of the cold war: the role of the US dollar as the world currency, the international linkages of US firms established during that era (notably in defence-related industries), the restructuring of international economic transactions and business practices along American lines, often under the auspices of American firms. These are powerful assets, likely to diminish only slowly. On the other hand, as the Iraq war showed, the enormous political influence of the US abroad, based as it was on a genuine "coalition of the willing" against the USSR, has no similar foundation since the fall of the Berlin wall. Only the enormous military-technological power of the US is well beyond challenge. It makes the US today the only power capable of effective military intervention at short notice in any part on the world, and it has twice demonstrated its capacity to win small wars with great rapidity. And yet, as the Iraq war shows, even this unparalleled capacity to destroy is not enough to impose effective control on a resistant country, and even less on the globe. Nevertheless, US dominance is real and the disintegration of the USSR has made it global.

The second element of continuity is the peculiar house-style of US empire, which has always preferred satellite states or protectorates to formal colonies. The expansionism implicit in the name chosen for the 13 independent colonies on the east coast of the Atlantic (United States of America) was continental, not colonial. The later expansionism of "manifest destiny" was both hemispheric and aimed towards East Asia, as well as modelled on the global trading and maritime supremacy of the British Empire. One might even say that in its assertion of total US supremacy over the western hemisphere it was too ambitious to be confined to colonial administration over bits of it.

The American empire thus consisted of technically independent states doing Washington's bidding, but, given their independence, this required continuous readiness to exert pressure on their governments, including pressure for "regime change"and, where feasible (as in the mini-republics of the Caribbean zone), periodic US armed intervention.

The third thread of continuity links the neo-conservatives of George Bush with the Puritan colonists' certainty of being God's instrument on earth and with the American Revolution - which, like all major revolutions, developed world-missionary convictions, limited only by the wish to shield the the new society of potentially universal freedom from the corruptions of the unreconstructed old world. The most effective way of finessing this conflict between isolationism and globalism was to be systematically exploited in the 20th century and still serves Washington well in the 21st. It was to discover an alien enemy outside who posed an immediate, mortal threat to the American way of life and the lives of its citizens. The end of the USSR removed the obvious candidate, but by the early 90s another had been detected in a "clash" between the west and other cultures reluctant to accept it, notably Islam. Hence the enormous political potential of the al-Qaida outrages of September 11 was immediately recognised and exploited by the Washington world-dominators. [complete article]

Eric Hobsbawm is author of The Age of Extremes: The Short 20th Century 1914-1991. This is an edited extract from his preface to a new edition of VG Kiernan's America: The New Imperialism.

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The new world order
By Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, July 14, 2005

Those of us who opposed America's invasion of Iraq from the outset can take no comfort from its catastrophic consequences. On the contrary: we should now be asking ourselves some decidedly uncomfortable questions. The first concerns the propriety of "preventive" military intervention. If the Iraq war is wrong -- "the wrong war at the wrong time" -- why, then, was the 1999 US-led war on Serbia right? That war, after all, also lacked the imprimatur of UN Security Council approval. It too was an unauthorized and uninvited attack on a sovereign state -- undertaken on "preventive" grounds -- that caused many civilian casualties and aroused bitter resentment against the Americans who carried it out.

The apparent difference -- and the reason so many of us cheered when the US and its allies went into Kosovo -- was that Slobodan Milosevic had begun a campaign against the Albanian majority of Serbia's Kosovo province that had all the hallmarks of a prelude to genocide. So not only was the US on the right side but it was intervening in real time -- its actions might actually prevent a major crime. With the shameful memory of Bosnia and Rwanda in the very recent past, the likely consequences of inaction seemed obvious and far outweighed the risks of intervention. Today the Bush administration -- lacking "weapons of mass destruction" to justify its rush to arms -- offers "bringing freedom to Iraq" almost as an afterthought. But saving the Kosovar Albanians was what the 1999 war was all about from the start.

And yet it isn't so simple. Saddam Hussein (like Milosevic) was a standing threat to many of his subjects: not just in the days when he was massacring Kurds and Shiites while we stood by and watched, but to the very end. Those of us who favor humanitarian interventions in principle -- not because they flatter our good intentions but because they do good or prevent ill -- could not coherently be sorry to see Saddam overthrown. Those of us who object to the unilateral exercise of raw power should recall that ten years ago we would have been delighted to see someone -- anyone -- intervene unilaterally to save the Rwandan Tutsis. And those of us who, correctly in my view, point to the perverse consequences of even the best-intentioned meddling in other countries' affairs have not always applied that insight in cases where we longed to see the meddling begin. [complete article]

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U.S. 'in talks with Iraq with Iraq rebels'
By Hala Jaber, The Sunday Times, June 26, 2005

At a summer villa near Balad in the hills 40 miles north of Baghdad, a group of Iraqis and their American visitors recently sat down to tea. It looked like a pleasant social encounter far removed from the stresses of war, but the heavy US military presence around the isolated property signalled that an unusual meeting was taking place.

After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tribal leaders, a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face to face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies.

The talks on June 3 were followed by a second encounter 10 days later, according to an Iraqi who said that he had attended both meetings. Details provided to The Sunday Times by two Iraqi sources whose groups were involved indicate that further talks are planned in the hope of negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq.

Despite months of American military assaults on supposed insurgent bases, General John Abizaid, the regional US commander, admitted to Congress last week that opposition strength was "about the same" as six months ago and that "there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency".

That work now includes secret negotiations with rebel leaders, according to the Iraqi sources. [complete article]

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War of the mosques is shattering Iraq's hopes
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, June 26, 2005

When they killed Abdul Sattar Saffar al-Khazraji, he was waiting for the minibus that would take him to his work as a laboratory supervisor at Nahrain University.

At 8am, as the 30-year-old stood with other workers commuting from the Harriya district of Baghdad, two Opel cars sped up and blocked the road either side of him.

Two men on a motorbike roared into the gap left by the cars. The passenger fired at Abdul Sattar with a pistol as they approached, wounding him in the shoulder. As he collapsed in pain, the gunman delivered the coup de grce, putting a bullet into his head.

In a city where assassination is commonplace, one more killing goes unremarked. Yet Abdul Sattar's death is a reminder of Iraq's most critical question: whether, after two years of insurgency, the bombers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and their allies are succeeding in a central aim - pushing a bruised population towards civil conflict. [complete article]

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Bush warns Blair he must boost UK forces
By Brian Brady, Scotland on Sunday, June 26, 2005

Britain is coming under sustained pressure from American military chiefs to keep thousands of troops in Iraq - while going ahead with plans to boost the front line against a return to "civil war" in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair was warned that war-torn Iraq remains on the brink of disaster - more than two years after the removal of Saddam Hussein - during his summit with President Bush in Washington earlier this month.

Scotland on Sunday revealed last month that Blair is preparing to rush thousands more British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, amid warnings the coalition faces a "complete strategic failure" in the effort to rebuild the nation.

The grim prognosis was underlined last night by Afghanistan's defence minister, who warned that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network was regrouping and planned to bring Iraq-style bloodshed to the country. [complete article]

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CIA said to leave trail in abduction
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2005

They ran up tabs of thousands of dollars at some of Milan's best hotels and restaurants. They chatted easily on their cellular telephones and gave out passport, frequent-flier and driver's license numbers when booking flights or renting cars.

And now they are fugitives.

If Italian authorities are right, they have exposed a CIA operation here that on some levels was brazen and perhaps reckless, even as it successfully spirited away a notorious Egyptian imam.

An Italian judge has issued arrest orders for 13 CIA operatives, and additional warrants are possible, in what may be the first time an ally of Washington has attempted to prosecute U.S. spies. The suspects face kidnapping charges, which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. [complete article]

Inquiry exposes Canada's role in 'renditions'
By Doug Struck, Washington Post, June 26, 2005

Maher Arar was teaching English to his fellow inmates in a Syrian prison in September 2003 when a new prisoner caused a commotion at his cell door.

The two haggard men stared at each other for long seconds, Arar recalled in an interview here this week. Then they realized: They were both Canadian.

Arar, 34, a computer engineer who was born in Lebanon, says he was spirited by U.S. authorities to Syria in 2002 and underwent repeated torture while held there for nearly a year. Now, a judicial commission here is seeking to determine how he and three other Arab Canadian citizens wound up being interrogated in the same Syrian prison after coming to the attention of Canadian or U.S. authorities.

Although much of the inquiry has been conducted behind closed doors, a recent series of public hearings has embarrassed the Canadian government by exposing details of Arar's "extraordinary rendition" -- the phrase used by the CIA to describe the U.S. practice of secretly sending terror suspects to countries where torture is routine. The hearings have also revealed a greater Canadian role in the practice than previously acknowledged. [complete article]

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Battered Bush watches as support ebbs away
By Paul Harris, The Observer, June 26, 2005

On Tuesday at 8pm President George W Bush will speak to the American people. The setting will be Fort Bragg, a North Carolina military base that acts as a springboard for many soldiers on their way to the war zone of Iraq. It will be a rare prime-time appearance for a President notoriously shy of such performances.

But these are not ordinary times. Beset on all sides by the bloodshed in Iraq, rebellions in the Republican party and Democrat attacks on his domestic agenda, Bush faces the derailment of his second term only six months after his inauguration.

It is a remarkable turnaround. After his 2004 victory, Republican advisers spoke of a 'Bush unshackled', freed by the fact he will not fight another election and buoyed by winning 12 million new voters to his cause. Bush boasted of spending 'political capital' in a radical second term to transform America.

No longer. Bush is confronting the nightmare of any American President in his second term: he is becoming a lame duck. [complete article]

See also, Bush's credibility takes a direct hit from friendly fire (LAT).

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Iran's victor urges unity in wake of vote
By John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2005

Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appealed for unity Saturday after his fundamentalist movement overwhelmed the country's struggling reformers and centrists in a lopsided election. But opponents braced for what they feared would be curtailed freedoms at home and a more confrontational policy abroad.

"Today is a day when we have to forget all our rivalries and turn them into friendships," Ahmadinejad said, even as his defeated opponent, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, expressed anger at what he called "institutionalized" interference in the voting.

In his first statement since winning Friday's runoff, Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran, told state radio that his mission would be to create a powerful Islamic state that could be an example for the world. He will take office in August. [complete article]

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Bird flu 'as grave a threat as terrorism'
By Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, June 26, 2005

Bird flu is now as much of a danger to Britain as terrorism, ministers have been told by the Government's official emergency body.

Top officials from the Civil Contingency Secretariat (CCS), part of the Cabinet Office, told a cabinet subcommittee last week that a flu pandemic - which it believes could kill 700,000 Britons - is now one of the most serious threats facing the country.

Plans are being made to close schools and cancel sporting fixtures in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, and official advice on how to try to avoid being infected will be ready for publication this summer. [complete article]

See also, Preparing for the next pandemic (Foreign Affairs).

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How the world's richest countries arm the poorest
By Trevor Royle, Sunday Herald, June 26, 2005

Merchants of death come in many different guises in Africa. There is the machete-wielding thug high on drugs and tribal animosity who hacks people to death for no other reason than they are different to him. There is the man-child, old beyond his years, for whom an AK-47 assault rifle is both a killing machine and a passport to security. There is the jumpy militiaman at the checkpoint angrily waving an Uzi machine-pistol and demanding dollars. There is the policeman on the make cradling his Browning handgun before concealing it for use later. There is the mercenary with his rocket- propelled grenade launcher, ready to fire it at any target provided the money is right.

And then there is the granddaddy of them all, the dealer who wears a sharp Savile Row suit, carries a slim briefcase and uses a Blackberry. He wears a familiar-looking tie (no doubt regimental); a signet ring graces his left little finger; he is no stranger to living high on the hog; he knows politicians and senior financiers by their Christian names; he lives in London where the world's most lucrative arms deals are brokered and then factored; and he knows his way about the Middle East and Africa where arms are at a premium. His trade is carried out with the utmost discretion because it involves millions of dollars.

What he does is not illegal but it is all big business. Over the past four years, Britain has sold more than £1 billion worth of arms to Africa, flogging everything from handguns through body armour to armoured vehicles and artillery. Together with sales from the other G8 countries, this amounts to more than 80% of the world's arms export sales to some of the world's poorest and least effective countries. [complete article]

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Sense of urgency at U.N. over nuclear trade
By Doug Frantz and Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2005

Concerned that efforts to halt nuclear proliferation have proved inadequate, the international community is developing new strategies to fight the illicit spread of atomic weapons technology by private smuggling networks.

Based on lessons from the investigation of the global black market in nuclear technology headed by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Bush administration is pushing for a larger role for the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency. It is also lobbying other nations to beef up export controls and is seeking to expand international cooperation on impeding nuclear contraband.

The Khan network began to unravel after an intelligence tip led to the seizure of a shipload of nuclear equipment bound for Libya in October 2003. Investigators later found evidence that the network had sold designs and material for a complete enrichment plant and atomic warhead to Libya as well as nuclear technology to Iran.

The two countries operated ambitious clandestine nuclear programs for many years without detection through international safeguards and export controls.

Along with improving safeguards and monitoring, top counter-proliferation officials are focused on establishing new measures to combat what they warn is the increasing threat of nuclear terrorism. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

The real news in the Downing Street memos
By Michael Smith, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2005
It is now nine months since I obtained the first of the "Downing Street memos," thrust into my hand by someone who asked me to meet him in a quiet watering hole in London for what I imagined would just be a friendly drink.

At the time, I was defense correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, and a staunch supporter of the decision to oust Saddam Hussein. The source was a friend. He'd given me a few stories before but nothing nearly as interesting as this.

The six leaked documents I took away with me that night were to change completely my opinion of the decision to go to war and the honesty of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush.

Iraq insurgents snatch victory from defeat
By Rory Carroll, The Guardian, June 24, 2005
Dawn had yet to break and Baghdad's biggest police station, like the rest of the city, was quiet. About 80 officers dozed inside the fortress, leaving just a few sentries guarding the walls, razor wire and concrete barriers.

It started with mortars. A series of whooshes from north and south followed seconds later by explosions inside the perimeter. Figures emerged from the gloom and knelt in the middle of Hi al-Elam and Qatar Nada streets, pointing rocket launchers.

More figures materialised on rooftops overlooking the station to spray gunfire and lob grenades. Dozens of gunmen, guerrilla infantry, swarmed from houses and alleys. It was just after 5.30am and the station was surrounded.

The defenders heard engines rev and guessed what was next: suicide car bombers. Baghdad's biggest battle in months - and possibly the boldest yet by insurgents - had begun.

Another year of living misery in Baghdad
By Andy Mosher and Bassam Sebti, Washington Post, June 24, 2005
...with the temperature exceeding 100 degrees, as it has every day for weeks, people voiced anger at the prospect of spending their third summer since the U.S.-led invasion with only intermittent electricity. Those with generators will be able to power air conditioners and other appliances; the rest will simply bake.

"So many problems are happening in the city," said Mohammed Sarhan, 50, a grocer in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. "Where do I start -- water, electricity, security, unemployment or health?"

"This is not a life," Sarhan added. "This is hell."

Interrogators cite doctors' aid at Guantanamo
By Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, June 24, 2005
Military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators.

The accounts, in interviews with The New York Times, come as mental health professionals are debating whether psychiatrists and psychologists at the prison camp have violated professional ethics codes. The Pentagon and mental health professionals have been examining the ethical issues involved.

The former interrogators said the military doctors' role was to advise them and their fellow interrogators on ways of increasing psychological duress on detainees, sometimes by exploiting their fears, in the hopes of making them more cooperative and willing to provide information. In one example, interrogators were told that a detainee's medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.

In addition, the authors of an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine this week said their interviews with doctors who helped devise and supervise the interrogation regimen at Guantanamo showed that the program was explicitly designed to increase fear and distress among detainees as a means to obtaining intelligence.

The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation's fight against terrorism.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, declined to address the specifics in the accounts. But he suggested that the doctors advising interrogators were not covered by ethics strictures because they were not treating patients but rather were acting as behavioral scientists.

Iraq may be prime place for training of militants, CIA report concludes
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 22, 2005
A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Congressional and intelligence officials who described the assessment called it a thorough examination that included extensive discussion of the areas that might be particularly prone to infiltration by combatants from Iraq, either Iraqis or foreigners.

They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

Israel: Failure to probe civilian casualties fuels impunity
Human Rights Watch, June 22, 2005
The Israeli military has fostered a climate of impunity in its ranks by failing to thoroughly investigate whether soldiers have killed and injured Palestinian civilians unlawfully or failed to protect them from harm, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Since the current Palestinian uprising began in 2000, Israeli forces have killed or seriously injured thousands of Palestinians who were not taking part in the hostilities. However, the Israeli authorities have investigated fewer than five percent of the fatal incidents to determine whether soldiers were responsible for using force unlawfully. The investigations they did conduct fell far short of international standards for independent and impartial inquiries.

The 126-page report, "Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military's Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing," documents how Israel has failed in its legal obligation to investigate civilian deaths and injuries that result from the use of lethal force in policing and law enforcement contexts, such as controlling demonstrations or enforcing curfews, and in combat situations when there is prima facie evidence or credible allegations that soldiers deliberately harmed civilians or failed to take all feasible precautions to protect them from harm.

The enemy spies
By Scott Johnson and Melinda Liu, Newsweek, June 27, 2005
No one challenged the bomber as he approached his target. Iraqi sentries waved him through the gate, into a high-security compound that protects some of the most vital government offices in Baghdad. His uniform and badge identified him as a member of the Wolf Brigade, the elite police unit he had joined three months before. His shirt looked strangely baggy -- "billowy," an investigator would say later. It covered a vest packed with explosives. The bomber walked unhindered through the gate and past the Interior Ministry. He passed through another checkpoint at the entrance to Wolf Brigade headquarters, 15 minutes by foot from the compound's gate. In the courtyard, members of the brigade were assembling for their 8:30 a.m. roll call. The young recruit had been AWOL for weeks, but no one asked him where he had been. Then he detonated himself. The only identifiable trace that remained of the bomber was his severed head and feet, according to Iraq's Interior minister, Bayan Jabr.

The explosion on June 11 killed three brigade members, wounded roughly a dozen others and worsened an already deep sense of gloom among U.S. military advisers in Iraq. The Wolf Brigade is supposed to be the cream of Iraq's counterinsurgency forces. The attack showed once again how vulnerable those forces remain. Since the newly elected Shiite-led administration under Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari took office on April 28, nearly 1,100 people, mostly Iraqis, have lost their lives in suicide bombings, shootings, abductions and beheadings. The problem goes far beyond the seemingly limitless pool of suicide bombers. In the long run, the insurgents' most powerful weapon may be one that is practically silent: a vast network of infiltrators, spies and recruiters.

Suicide bomber traced to Britain
By Nigel Bunyan, John Steele and Philip Johnston, The Telegraph, June 22, 2005
The first suspected suicide bomber to travel from Britain to attack coalition troops in Iraq lived in Manchester, police said yesterday, as they raided a red-brick terrace house where he once stayed.

The man, a 41-year-old French national of north African background, had spoken to friends at a mosque in Manchester of his desire to fight jihad, or holy war, in Iraq. He is thought to have blown himself up in an attack four months ago.

The raid by Greater Manchester police was part of an operation, involving MI5 and MI6, which was based on information supplied by Iraqi security services, and intelligence about comments made by, and about, the man in at least one mosque he attended in Britain.

The wages of fundamentalism
By Peter Watson, International Herald Tribune, June 22, 2005
For decades, "big science" - indeed any kind of science - has been led by the United States. There are warning signs, however, that American science is losing its edge, and may even have peaked. One reason is that as religious and political fundamentalism tighten their grip, they are beginning to sap America's intellectual vitality.

By contrast, the political turmoil that has broken out on the other side of the Atlantic shows that Europeans grasp how destructive fundamentalism can be.

According to a survey in Physical Review, reported in May 2004, the number of scientific papers published by West European authors had overtaken those by U.S. authors in 2003, whereas in 1983 there were three American authors for every West European. The percentage of patents granted to American scientists has been falling since 1980, from 60.2 percent of the world total to 51.8 percent. In 1989, America trained the same number of science and engineering PhDs as Britain, Germany and France put together; now the United States is 5 percent behind. The number of citations in science journals, hitherto led by American scientists, is now led by Europeans.

As battles have raged in Kansas and elsewhere in America over evolution and Genesis, reputable biologists have spoken up in favor of Darwin's theories, but who knows how many students have already been turned off biology by these skirmishes?

As a result of fundamentalist opposition, America is already falling behind in cloning and stem cell research, now led by South Korean, Italian and British scientists. In February the New Scientist reported a survey in which fully half the scientists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they had been pushed to alter or withdraw scientific findings for political reasons.

Democracy's advance in Egypt brings dilemma for U.S.
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, June 21, 2005
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, called yesterday for a more inclusive, democratic process in Egypt, but sidestepped the continuing ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's biggest Islamic opposition group.

Speaking in Cairo, Ms Rice said President Hosni Mubarak's decision to allow an unprecedented, multi-party presidential election in September was an "important first step", but stressed the need for a more open, competitive contest.

"President Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. Now, the Egyptian government must put its faith in its own people," she said. "It must fulfil the promise it has made to its people, and to the entire world, by giving its citizens the freedom to choose."

Her silence on the Muslim Brotherhood's lack of free choices reflected the strong official Egyptian resistance to legalising the organisation. But it also illustrated Washington's larger dilemma in calling for greater Arab democracy while opposing Islamic groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon with proven electoral appeal.

Why George went to war
By Russ Baker,, June 20, 2005
The Downing Street memos have brought into focus an essential question: on what basis did President George W. Bush decide to invade Iraq? The memos are a government-level confirmation of what has been long believed by so many: that the administration was hell-bent on invading Iraq and was simply looking for justification, valid or not.

Despite such mounting evidence, Bush resolutely maintains total denial. In fact, when a British reporter asked the president recently about the Downing Street documents, Bush painted himself as a reluctant warrior. "Both of us didn't want to use our military," he said, answering for himself and British Prime Minister Blair. "Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."

Yet there's evidence that Bush not only deliberately relied on false intelligence to justify an attack, but that he would have willingly used any excuse at all to invade Iraq. And that he was obsessed with the notion well before 9/11—indeed, even before he became president in early 2001.

The road to rendition
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, June 17, 2005
Via Guerzoni is a quiet street on the outskirts of Milan in a former industrial neighborhood that is somewhere between decrepitude and redevelopment. High walls line both sides of the road for about 100 yards as it runs between a park and a half-abandoned plant nursery. If you're in the business of making people disappear -- call it kidnapping or maybe counterterrorism or, in the Bushian jargon of the moment, "rendition" -- then Via Guerzoni is a good venue. Few people are around, and many of those are Muslim immigrants who want as little to do with the police as they can.

So whoever snatched an Egyptian-born imam known as Abu Omar off Via Guerzoni in broad daylight on Feb. 17, 2003, had planned well. And if their tradecraft had been a little bit better, the incident could have been kept very quiet and forgotten quickly. But they screwed up, and soon, possibly as early as next week, you can look for the abduction of Abu Omar to emerge as a major embarrassment to President George W. Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The fiercely independent judiciary in Milan, led by investigating magistrate Armando Spataro, has prepared a case and expects to issue warrants alleging that a dozen or more foreign agents, some of them reportedly Americans, were involved in the abduction of Abu Omar. They are supposed to have driven him in the truck to the U.S. airbase at Aviano, Italy, then flown him to Cairo. In Egypt, as the saying goes, "they have ways of making you talk."

Fallout from the war on terror – Part I
By Mark Sidel, YaleGlobal, June 14, 2005
Washington's war on terror may be quietly taking a toll on unsuspecting quarters – its universities. To understand the effects of anti-terror policies on the US academic sector, it helps to spend time on university campuses in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, or other countries. From Melbourne to Edinburgh, those institutions are now filled with foreign students, many of whom would have come to the US, had they not been deterred by restrictive visa policies.

The inconsistent and ham-fisted implementation of a valid goal – preventing terrorists from entering the United States – has hindered or severely delayed many innocents from realizing their dreams of education, research, or teaching in the United States. Thousands who are not terrorists have been denied visas, and many more have been forced to wait – often for months or years – preventing them from continuing their legitimate academic work. Even as policies have eased in the last year or two, the perception remains: US universities are an unfriendly destination for the best foreign students and scholars. And so the United States is increasingly losing a global competition for the finest thinkers and innovators, regardless of their countries of origin.

Fallout from the war on terror – Part II
By J Alexander Thier, YaleGlobal, June 16, 2005
The spasm of protest and violence that swept through the Islamic world from Afghanistan to Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, and Indonesia in reaction to the Newsweek Quran abuse piece reveals something critical: the Muslim world is a powder-keg of anti-American sentiment. But rather than improve relations, the Bush administration continues to play with fire.

The real "war on terror" is about culture, ideas, and perceptions as much as bombs and spies. While it is critical to fight the committed terrorists, abhorrent incidents of abuse by members of the US military play directly into the hands of the Islamic extremists who are competing for the hearts and minds of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The US only has so many chances to deliver its message, and in the information-poor and conspiracy-rich environments of the Middle East, actions speak much louder than rhetoric.

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A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world
researched, edited and sprinkled with occasional commentary by Paul Woodward

A resource for more information about Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan, Korea, nuclear proliferation, war, peace, and the foreign policies of the Bush Administration.

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General News:
BBC News| CNN| Google World News| Yahoo News

Asia Times| Boston Globe| Christian Science Monitor| CSM - Terrorism| Daily Star| Financial Times| Guardian| Guardian - Iraq| Haaretz| The Independent| International Herald Tribune| Knight Ridder| LA Times| LAT- Iraq| New York Times| Washington Post

News Aggregators:| RealClearPolitics|| KurdMedia| Yahoo - Iraq| Yahoo - Iran| Yahoo - Pakistan| Yahoo - Saudi Arabia| Yahoo - Lebanon| Yahoo - Syria| Yahoo - North Korea| Yahoo - Afghanistan| Yahoo - Al Qaeda| Yahoo - Nuclear Weapons| WN Afghanistan Times| WN Iraq Daily| WN Tehran| WN Lebanon Times| WN East Asia| WN Seoul Daily| WN Nuclear Guide| Arts and Letters Daily| Political Theory

Middle East Blogs:
Abu Aardvark| Across the Bay (Lebanon)| Amarji - A Heretic's Blog (Syria)| ArabAmerican| Aron's Israel Peace Blog| Baghdad Burning| Bliss Street Journal| Brian Ulrich| Brooding Persian (Iran)| Caveman in ...| Dahr Jamail (Iraq)| Editor: Myself (Iran)| Empire Notes (Rahul Mahajan)| Iranians for Peace| Juan Cole| muslim wakeup!| No War on Iran!| Occupied in Gaza| Palestine Blogs| Raed in the Middle| Rafah Pundits| Raising Yousuf (Gaza)| Semitisim.Net| Syria Comment| Today in Iraq

More Blogs:
Armchair Generalist| Arms Control Wonk| Belgravia Dispatch| Bradford Plumer| Counterterrorism Blog| Crooked Timber| Cursor| Defense Tech| Democracy Arsenal|| INTEL DUMP| Just World News| Nuke Beat| Oxblog| TomDispatch| War and Piece| Washington Note

Al-Ahram Weekly| Butterlfies and Wheels| Global Beat| Harpers| Mother Jones| The Nation| Newsweek| The New Yorker| Open Democracy| Slate| Yale Global

American Journalism Review| Bulletin of Atomic Scientists| Columbia Journalism Review| Foreign Affairs| Foreign Policy| MERIP| New York Review of Books| Policy Review

Reference:| Arab Gateway| Bartleby| Brookings Institution| Cambridge Dictionaries| CIA Factbook| Corp Watch| Federation of American Scientists| FirstGov| GAO| Geographic Names| Global Security| Human Rights Watch| Index of Censorship| Institute for Policy Studies| International Crisis Group| Maps - Iraq| Maps - Occupied Territories| Maps - World| Media Matters| Media Transparency| National Security Archive| Nuclear Threat Initiative| Open Secrets| Pentagon| Population Database| PR Watch| Right Web| Source Watch| State Dept.| Union of Concerned Scientists| US Congress| The White House| Wikipedia| Worldwatch Institute| World Resources Institute

World News:
Agence France-Presse| BBC News| Christian Science Monitor| Google News| Independent Media Center| Inter Press Service| International Herald Tribune| OneWorld News| Pacific News Service| World News| World Press Review

Africa Daily| Al-Ahram (Egypt)| AllAfrica| Mail & Guardian(South Africa)| Independent Online: Africa

Argentina Post| Brazil Post| Chiapas IndyMedia| Colombia Journal| The Globe and Mail (Canada)| Los Angeles Times| New York Times| Mexico Daily| South America Daily| Venezuelanalysis| Washington Post

Asahi Shimbun (Japan)| Asia Pacific News| Asia Times| Daily Star (Lebanon)| DAWN (Pakistan)| Haaretz (Israel)| Iraq Daily| Jakarta Post (Indonesia)| Japan Times| Jordan Times| Kashmir News| Kurdish Media| Palestine Daily| Philippines Post| South China Morning Post (HK)| Syria Daily| Tehran Globe| East Timor News| Times of India

Budapest Sun (Hungary)| Chechnya News| Europe Daily| German Times| Guardian (UK)| Independent (UK)| Irish Times| Italia Daily| Le Monde (France)| The Prague Post (Czech)| Pravda (Russia)| Radio Netherlands| Scandinavia News| Scotsman| Telegraph (UK)| Turkey Post

Aborigine News| The Age (Australia)| New Zealand Herald| Polynesia Post
| Sydney Morning Herald

Not In Our Name
A Statement Of Conscience