The War in Context
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
This terror will continue until we take Arab grievances seriously
By David Clark, The Guardian, July 9, 2005

It must now be obvious, even to those who would like us to think otherwise, that the war on terror is failing. This is not to say that the terrorists are winning. Their prospects of constructing the medieval pan-Islamic caliphate of their fantasies are as negligible today as they were four years ago when they attacked America. It is simply to point out that their ability to bring violence and destruction to our streets is as strong as ever and shows no sign of diminishing. We may capture the perpetrators of Thursday's bombings, but others will follow to take their place. Moreover, the actions of our leaders have made this more likely, not less. It's time for a rethink.

The very idea of a war on terror was profoundly misconceived from the start. Rooted in traditional strategic thought, with its need for fixed targets and an identifiable enemy, the post-9/11 response focused myopically on the problem of how and where to apply military power. Once the obvious and necessary task of tackling Bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan had been completed, those charged with prosecuting the war needed a new target to aim at.

In his book Against All Enemies, the former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke chronicles the inability of senior administration officials to grasp the nature of the threat directed against them. Even before 9/11 they were fixated with the notion that behind a successful terrorist network like al-Qaida must be state sponsorship; destroy the state, destroy the threat, ran the theory. In this environment it was easy for the neoconservatives to win approval for their prefabricated plan to attack Iraq. [complete article]

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Police hunt 'mercenary' terror gang recruited by al-Qa'ida
By Sophie Goodchild, Severin Carrell and Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, July 9, 2005

Police and intelligence agents areinvestigating the theory that a gang of white "mercenary terrorists" was hired by al-Qa'ida to carry out last week's devastating attacks on London.

The Independent on Sunday can reveal today that investigations into the bombings of three Tube trains and a bus, which left at least 49 people dead, are focusing on the possibility that criminal gangs were paid to mount the worst atrocities in British history. [complete article]

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Who did it - and what was their motive?
By Jason Burke, The Observer, July 10, 2005

What is certain is that, unlike the 9/11 hijackers, those responsible for the British attacks are not likely to be directly linked to Osama bin Laden and the rump of 'hardcore al-Qaeda' leaders based on the Pakistani-Afghan frontier. The idea that al-Qaeda is a close-knit, tightly structured hierarchical organisation has now been almost completely discounted, at least outside America. If they are Islamic militants, then those behind last week's bombs were acting autonomously. Which brings us to the question of why they did what they did. [complete article]

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As Europe braces, fears of an attack grip Italians
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune, July 9, 2005

As officials across Europe scrambled Friday to beef up security in the wake of the London bombings, the tension was clearly greatest here in Italy, a country many experts regard as the next terrorism target.

Leaders of the Parliament, Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Secret Service and military met nearly around the clock late Thursday through Friday, "evaluating the terrorist menace in Italy and the strengthening preventive security measures," the Interior Ministry said.

The pace of the meetings was a tacit acknowledgment of what virtually all Italian media highlighted Friday, in the words of Il Messaggero, an Italian daily newspaper: "Now an attack in our house is more likely than ever." [complete article]

See also, Mass arrests made in Milan swoops (BBC).

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Islamic leaders will issue 'fatwa' on terrorists
By Severin Carrell, The Independent, July 10, 2005

Britain's top Muslim scholars are to issue a "fatwa" which will condemn the terrorists behind Thursday's bombings, in an unprecedented move to repudiate the Islamist militants suspected of the atrocities.

It is expected that the religious ruling, which will be drafted this week, will effectively outlaw the bombers among Muslims by stating the attacks were a breach of the most basic tenets of Islam.

Senior community leaders believe they must try to deflect another wave of revenge attacks by undermining the religious basis of the terrorists' alleged Islamist ideology and, significantly, by questioning their right to describe themselves as Muslims. [complete article]

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In the end all terrorism is local
By R. P. Eddy, The Times, July 8, 2005

The London bombings bear an important lesson for security officials. Because terrorism is increasingly carried out by locals, nations on the receiving end of terrorism must bolster the capabilities of local police to identify and stop terrorists before they strike.

The number and simultaneity of yesterday's attacks suggest localised surveillance and bombmaking, requiring a local support apparatus. We can presume that the bombers spent a considerable amount of time in the UK and may have even been UK residents. [complete article]

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Leaked memo shows Iraq pull-out plans
By Andy McSmith, The Independent, July 9, 2005

Almost two thirds of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq will have been pulled out by the end of next year, under plans drawn up in Whitehall to hand over two provinces to Iraqi control.

The plan set out in a leaked memo written by the Defence Secretary John Reid, hints that the Government is keen to cut the heavy cost of patrolling southern Iraq.

The memo calculates that the current cost of the British presence in Iraq, around £1bn a year, could be halved if the number of troops were reduced to 3,000 during 2006. The memo implies that the British would formally hand over control to the Iraqis of the four provinces currently under British control by April 2006, but that it take another eight months before what the memo calls the "UK military drawdown" has been completed - and 18 months before the money comes through. [complete article]

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The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means
By Robin Cook, The Guardian, July 8, 2005

The immediate response to such human tragedy must be empathy with the pain of those injured and the grief of those bereaved. We recoil more deeply from loss of life in such an atrocity because we know the unexpected disappearance of partners, children and parents must be even harder to bear than a natural death. It is sudden, and therefore there is no farewell or preparation for the blow. Across London today there are relatives whose pain may be more acute because they never had the chance to offer or hear last words of affection.

It is arbitrary and therefore an event that changes whole lives, which turn on the accident of momentary decisions. How many people this morning ask themselves how different it might have been if their partner had taken the next bus or caught an earlier tube?
President Bush is given to justifying the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that by fighting terrorism abroad, it protects the west from having to fight terrorists at home. Whatever else can be said in defence of the war in Iraq today, it cannot be claimed that it has protected us from terrorism on our soil. [complete article]

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The 28,000 victims of terrorism
By Tim Reid, The Times, July 7, 2005

There were nearly 3,200 terrorist attacks worldwide last year, the Bush Administration said yesterday, using a broader definition that increased fivefold the number of incidents that Washington had previously tallied for 2004.

In figures published in April, the US State Department said that there were 651 significant international terror incidents, with more than 9,000 victims.

But under the newer, less-stringent definition of terrorism, which counts domestic attacks without an international element, the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) reported 3,192 attacks worldwide, with 28,433 people killed, wounded or kidnapped.

Iraq, with 866, had the most attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, according to the report. Under the April figures, Iraq was considered to have suffered 201 attacks in 2004. [complete article]

See the new Terrorism Knowledge Base.

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On the London bombings
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 7, 2005

Behold Britain now, ablaze with fear and terror, horrified from its north to its south, from its east to its west. The Group of the Secret Organization, the Organization of Qaedat al-Jihad in Europe


On the BBC, Rudolph Giuliani - who happens to be in London right now - applauded the "resolute" spirit of the people who endured the Blitz (not that too many of them are still alive). Another panelist with the advantage that it-takes-one-to-know-one pointed more accurately to the nature of us islanders: resilient. It has nothing to do with pretensions about defending freedom or being directed by a higher power. It just means not getting flustered and having a certain sense of proportion. As a friend of mine said yesterday, "even as I look out the window on the town that's taken a bit of a knock today, there is always more light than dark."

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Muslims told not to travel as retaliation fears grow
By Ian Herbert, The Independent, July 8, 2005

Karim Mohammed has spent two years developing an air of multi-cultural harmony at his Lebanese Halal restaurant on Edgware Road but, in the eerie aftermath of the explosions, he feared it might be in ruins.

"Everyone is subdued and people are wondering what has happened," he said, surveying his depleted customer base. "People are asking how will it affect us, are we going to be treated in a nice way after this? We have nothing to do with this."

The explosions prompted the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to issue the extraordinary advice yesterday that no Muslim should travel or go out unless strictly necessary, for fear of reprisals. The Muslim Association of Britain said women in headscarves were at particular risk, asked police to consider extra protection for mosques and Islamic schools, and also warned Muslims against unnecessary journeys. [complete article]

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Clarke set to rush through emergency arrest powers
By Robert Verkaik, The Independent, July 8, 2005

Ministers are expected to rush through measures to arrest and detain suspects accused of acts associated with terrorism as an immediate reaction to yesterday's bombings.

A draft Bill outlined in the Queen's Speech in May set out plans to create offences to bring more terror suspects before the courts and is expected to lead to convictions for those accused of acts preparatory to terrorism.

Yesterday's attacks on London will also make it more difficult for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to oppose the introduction of identity cards. [complete article]

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By Stephen Ulph, Terrorism Monitor, February 26, 2004

Any visitor to the United Kingdom's sprawling metropolis is immediately made aware of the bewildering diversity of its inhabitants. In addition to its rich and diverse communities of immigrants (with at least 300 languages spoken on its streets, it leaves New York trailing far behind as a 'world city') and the range of cultural and academic institutions long planted in the city from its days as an imperial capital, London plays host to a unique concentration of Middle Eastern intellectual and political institutions.

Within a small area, the world's oldest and most influential Middle East research institutions, political foundations (not least the various Middle Eastern parliamentary lobby groups) and doctrinal communities (Sunni, Shi'a, Isma'ili and Ahmedi) jostle with each other. It is also a world center for the Arab press. The reliable protection afforded by London to journalists and writers has seen the build-up over the last few decades of a thriving and highly influential Arab media industry. This takes the form of the pan-Arab press, such as al-Hayat and al-Quds al-'Arabi, MBC (the Middle East Broadcasting Company) and a long list of specialist publications.

It is also a center for Islamist politics. You could say that London has become, for the exponents of radical Islam, the most important city in the Middle East. A framework of lenient asylum laws has allowed the development of the largest and most overt concentration of Islamist political activists since Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. [complete article]

In the streets of Londonistan
By John Upton, London Review of Books, January 22, 2004

'It is easy for you to forget our history. Our history did not begin at 11 September. The USA ploughs money into Israel. In 1998 Sudan was bombed. Atrocities have been committed against Muslims in Chechnya and Afghanistan. Do you have a minute's silence for them? No. You remember only non-Muslims.' The spokesman's voice is distorted by the cheap amplification system. The press do not know what to make of these outspoken, confident fanatics. They are articulate and intelligent. Should they be treated as spokesmen for al-Qaida or as the Islamic equivalent of Monty Python's People's Front of Judea?

We are here for the official opening of a conference - not a celebration, they are keen to stress - to commemorate the glorious memory of the 19 men who killed themselves in flying four planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the ground. [complete article]

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In Gitmo
Jane Mayer interviewed by Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, July 7, 2005

In the [Administrative Review Board hearing] I attended, the detainee, whose name I had to agree not to release, demanded to see the evidence that the U.S. had against him, so that he could refute it. But much of the evidence, U.S. military authorities told him, was classified, and he would not be allowed to see it. The detainee, a Saudi, wore handcuffs, ankle cuffs, and a belly chain, and was shackled to a bolt in the floor. He spoke very little English, and became increasingly frustrated and angry. At one point, instead of relying on his translator, he started yelling at the three presiding military officers, "Shut up! Shut UP!"

I could not learn the disposition of his case, as the Review Board sends its recommendations in secret up the chain of command in the Department of Defense. What came through to me was the complete breakdown of communication and understanding between the U.S. officials and the detainee, and also the utter lack of due process. It looked like a court hearing, but there were no lawyers. And although the detainee had a military representative, he had no one to truly be an advocate for his interests. The refusal of the Review Board to share the evidence it had with the accused seemed radically out of synch with U.S. standards of justice. [complete article]

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Where has all the money gone?
By Ed Harriman, London Review of Books, July 7, 2005

On 12 April 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Erbil in northern Iraq handed over $1.5 billion in cash to a local courier. The money, fresh $100 bills shrink-wrapped on pallets, which filled three Blackhawk helicopters, came from oil sales under the UN's Oil for Food Programme, and had been entrusted by the UN Security Council to the Americans to be spent on behalf of the Iraqi people. The CPA didn't properly check out the courier before handing over the cash, and, as a result, according to an audit report by the CPA's inspector general, 'there was an increased risk of the loss or theft of the cash.' Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad until June last year, kept a slush fund of nearly $600 million cash for which there is no paperwork: $200 million of this was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces, and the US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.

The 'reconstruction' of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan. But there is a difference: the US government funded the Marshall Plan whereas Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the 'liberated' country, by the Iraqis themselves. There was $6 billion left over from the UN Oil for Food Programme, as well as sequestered and frozen assets, and revenue from resumed oil exports (at least $10 billion in the year following the invasion). Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on 22 May 2003, all of these funds were transferred into a new account held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), so that they might be spent by the CPA 'in a transparent manner ... for the benefit of the Iraqi people'. Congress, it's true, voted to spend $18.4 billion of US taxpayers' money on the redevelopment of Iraq. But by 28 June last year, when Bremer left Baghdad two days early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA had spent up to $20 billion of Iraqi money, compared to $300 million of US funds. [complete article]

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Zarqawi's pledge to target Shia militia fuels tension
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, July 7, 2005

Fighting between the Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq is likely to escalate after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, said he would target the main Shia militia group.

Sectarian hatred has intensified in recent weeks with bomb attacks on Shias and the assassination of many Sunnis.

Zarqawi said in a tape broadcast on the internet that his organisation was setting up a special unit, the Omar Brigade, to combat the Shia Badr Brigade. This militia, once based in Iran, has been accused of operating death squads against former Baathists and Sunnis. The al-Qa'ida leader also said that the Iraqi army was just as much an enemy as the Americans.

Even as his words were broadcast on television in Baghdad there was a series of attacks on the police special commandos, a paramilitary unit in which the Badr Brigade is increasingly influential. [complete article]

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Experts: No good options for Iraq
By Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder, July 7, 2005

In the swirling debate over Iraq, all sides agree on one thing: There's no easy way out.

Every approach to ending U.S. involvement carries the risk that President Bush's ambitious effort to transplant democracy will end in chaos and create an oil-rich haven for terrorists. Even the most hopeful predictions envision a fragile democracy struggling to overcome ruthless insurgents and divisive internal tensions.

"There are no good options," said Christopher Preble, a national security specialist at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "I believe that withdrawal is the least bad of the set of bad options."

Advocates of other strategies, including those who think Bush is on the right track, acknowledge risks in their choices as well. [complete article]

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It's stop and go for Iraq's charter panel
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2005

After weeks of anguish and debate, Iraqi politicians have overcome a significant impasse in their efforts to write a new national constitution.

But the breakthrough this week did not solve disputes over the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk or the role of Islam in Iraqi law. Instead, it was about the seemingly mundane matter of which Sunni Arabs get to serve on the committee drafting the charter.

Six weeks before the Aug. 15 due date for a draft of the constitution, Iraqi politicians have yet to resolve any of the issues crucial to the country's future, Iraqi and U.S. officials acknowledge. [complete article]

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Iraq and Iran to co-operate over defence
By Neil MacDonald and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times, July 7, 2005

Former foes Iraq and Iran announced "a new chapter" in their relations on Thursday, including cross-border military co-operation, dismissing US concerns about Iranian regional meddling.

On his first official visit to Tehran, Iraqi minister of defence Saadoun al-Dulaimi asserted his country's sovereign right to seek help from wherever it sees fit in rebuilding its defence capabilities.

"Nobody can dictate to Iraq its relations with other countries," Mr Dulaimi said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Admiral Ali Shamkhani.[complete article]

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A partition in Muslim world on Iraq attacks
By Salman Masood International Herald Tribune, July 7, 2005

The attacks on Muslim diplomats apparently indicate that insurgents now make no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims and that all Muslim countries seen as American allies are potential targets, according to Pakistani analysts.

Significant questions are raised. Chief among them is whether Muslim governments will now distance themselves - as insurgents apparently would like - from the U.S.-backed administration in Baghdad.

Equally, will the attacks on diplomats open latent fissures between Muslim governments that support the U.S. effort in Iraq and citizens who oppose it? [complete article]

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Iraq insurgency forces Pentagon rethink on ability to fight two wars at once
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, July 6, 2005

The Iraq counter-insurgency is forcing the Pentagon to question its military doctrine that requires forces to be able to fight two major wars at the same time, it was claimed yesterday.

A four-yearly review of US military power is not due until early next year, but it is already clear that the strategy is under great strain from the Iraq war.

The length and ferocity of the insurgency has surprised the Pentagon. Two years after "major combat operations" were declared over by George Bush, there are still 138,000 US troops in Iraq, costing $5bn (£2.8bn) a month. Yet under US military doctrine it is not even defined as a war.

In theory, US forces should be able to fight two major wars and contain the insurgents, but the credibility of that claim is being stretched thin.

"What it reflects is how unprepared the US military was for a protracted insurgency in Iraq," said Loren Thompson, a strategic analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Washington thinktank.

"A relatively small group of poorly equipped guerrillas is getting the United States to rethink its military posture ... This type of conflict wasn't supposed to happen with this duration and this intensity." [complete article]

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Zarqawi blasts Iraqi forces in audiotape
AP (via MSNBC), July 5, 2005

The reputed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq said in an audiotape found Wednesday on the Web that Iraqi security forces are as great an enemy as the Americans. He announced formation of a new terror command to fight Iraq's biggest Shiite militia.

The speaker, purportedly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, challenged critics who maintain that fighting U.S. troops is legitimate but who oppose attacks on Iraqi forces. His comments appeared aimed at discouraging armed Iraqi groups from entering peace talks with the Iraqi government.

"Some say that the resistance is divided into two groups -- an honorable resistance that fights the nonbeliever-occupier and a dishonorable resistance that fights Iraqis," he said. "We announce that the Iraqi army is an army of apostates and mercenaries that has allied itself with the Crusaders and came to destroy Islam and fight Muslims. We will fight it."
The speaker said al-Qaida in Iraq would soon unveil a new unit, the Omar Corps, to "eradicate" the Badr Brigade, a militia of the country's biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

Al-Zarqawi's attacks against Iraqi Shiites, who comprise an estimated 60 percent of the country's 26 million people, have raised fears that this nation could descend into civil war. [complete article]

Comment -- The intention of insurgents to fuel a civil war has been transparent since the insurgency's early days. To outsiders, the logic of civil war might seem less obvious, yet if Sunni-Shiite hatred is sufficiently fueled and full-blown civil war breaks out, the Sunni insurgents will emerge from the shadows are portray themselves as the true defenders and leaders of Sunni Arab Iraq. Zarqawi's declaration of war against the Badr Brigade is another ominous step down this path.

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Iraq seen emerging as prime training ground for terrorists
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, July 4, 2005

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the prime training ground for foreign terrorists who could travel elsewhere across the globe and wreak havoc, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and classified studies by the CIA and the State Department.

Of particular concern, the officials and studies say, are the urban combat techniques being learned and used by foreign fighters assaulting U.S. and Iraqi troops. There's already evidence that those tactics are being replicated elsewhere.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James T. Conway told a Pentagon briefing last week that remotely detonated bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs - the insurgents' weapon of choice in Iraq - are an increasing threat to U.S. forces trying to stabilize Afghanistan. [complete article]

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Britain plans Iraq troop withdrawal
By Jimmy Burns and Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, July 4, 2005

The Ministry of Defence has drafted plans for a significant withdrawal of British troops from Iraq over the next 18 months and a big deployment to Afghanistan, the Financial Times has learnt.

In what would represent the biggest operational shake-up involving the armed forces since the Iraq war, the first stage of a run-down in military operations is likely to take place this autumn with a handover of security to Iraqis in at least two southern provinces. [complete article]

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From filmmaker in Los Angeles to Iraq detainee
By Tim Golden, New York Times, July 6, 2005

Like a lot of aspiring filmmakers in Los Angeles, Cyrus Kar was obsessed with his project, a documentary about an ancient Persian king who championed tolerance and human rights even as he built an empire that stretched across the Near East.

But Mr. Kar, 44, a naturalized American born in Iran, followed his dream where few others might have gone. In mid-May, he traveled to Iraq with an Iranian cameraman to film archaeological sites around Babylon. After a taxi they were in was stopped in Baghdad, the two men were arrested by Iraqi security forces, who found what they suspected might be bomb parts in the vehicle.

Since then, Mr. Kar has been held in what his relatives and their lawyers describe as a frightening netherworld of American military detention in Iraq - charged with no crime but nonetheless unable to gain his freedom or even tell his family where he is being held. [complete article]

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America knocks at Syria's nervous door
By David Hirst, Daily Star, July 6, 2005

"The Americans won't control their side of the border, accept our offers of collaboration, or allow us the surveillance equipment we need. Then they accuse us of aiding a resistance which, they know, is basically Iraqi, even if some foreign fighters do get across our frontiers, which - they also know - are impossible to seal without an investment of resources way beyond our means."

The hilltop outpost at which an anonymous Syrian commander made this lament was only a few meters high, but it was located in a desert landscape so flat and featureless that, from it, you could look deep into Iraq, across some of the obstacles - berms, barbed wire, concrete blocks in vehicle-friendly wadis, hundreds of observation posts manned by 7,000 soldiers - which Syria has put up along the most desolate, uninhabited, central stretch of its 600-kilometer eastern border.

This wasn't proof that Syria is doing its utmost to stop the passage of foreign jihadists into Iraq; the best places for infiltration are the inhabited regions to the north; but it surely meant it was doing something. However, among the diplomats agreeing to go on an unprecedented public relations tour of the border area, the Americans were conspicuously absent. And that, for Syria's Baathist regime, was yet another instance of Washington's "not wanting to know." [complete article]

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China and Russia call for U.S. withdrawal in Central Asia
AP (via NYT), July 5, 2005

A regional alliance led by China and Russia called Tuesday for the U.S. and its coalition allies in Afghanistan to set a date for withdrawing from several states in Central Asia, reflecting growing unease at America's military presence in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which groups Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, urged a deadline be set for withdrawal of the foreign forces from its member states in light of what it said was a decline in active fighting in Afghanistan.

The alliance's move appeared to be an attempt to push the United States out of a region that Moscow regards as historically part of its sphere of influence and in which China seeks a dominant role because of its extensive energy resources. [complete article]

Comment -- Three years ago, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told the House International Relations Committee, "America will have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind that we could not have dreamed of before."

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Help from France key in covert operations
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, July 3, 2005

Funded largely by the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, Alliance Base [based in Paris] analyzes the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them.

Alliance Base demonstrates how most counterterrorism operations actually take place: through secretive alliances between the CIA and other countries' intelligence services. This is not the work of large army formations, or even small special forces teams, but of handfuls of U.S. intelligence case officers working with handfuls of foreign operatives, often in tentative arrangements.

Such joint intelligence work has been responsible for identifying, tracking and capturing or killing the vast majority of committed jihadists who have been targeted outside Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to terrorism experts.
The broader cooperation between the United States and France plays to the strengths of each side, according to current and former French and U.S. officials. The CIA brings money from its classified and ever-growing "foreign liaison" account -- it has paid to transport some of France's suspects from abroad into Paris for legal imprisonment -- and its global eavesdropping capabilities and worldwide intelligence service ties. France brings its harsh laws, surveillance of radical Muslim groups and their networks in Arab states, and its intelligence links to its former colonies. [complete article]

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Grim world of new Iraqi torture camps
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, July 3, 2005

The video camera pans across Hassan an-Ni'ami's body as it is washed in the mosque for burial. In life he was a slender, good-looking man, usually dressed in a dark robe and white turban, Imam at a mosque in Baghdad's Adhimiya district and a senior official of the Muslim Clerics Association.

When I first interviewed him a year ago he was suspected of contacts with the insurgency. Certainly he supported resistance to US forces.

More recently, an-Ni'ami had dropped out of sight. Then, a little over a month ago, relatives say, paramilitary police commandos from 'Rapid Intrusion' found him at a family home in the Sha'ab neighbourhood of northern Baghdad. His capture was reported on television as that of a senior 'terrorist commander'. Twelve hours later his body turned up in the morgue.

What happened to him in his 24 hours in captivity was written across his body in chapters of pain, recorded by the camera. There are police-issue handcuffs still attached to one wrist, from which he was hanged long enough to cause his hands and wrists to swell. There are burn marks on his chest, as if someone has placed something very hot near his right nipple and moved it around.

A little lower are a series of horizontal welts, wrapping around his body and breaking the skin as they turn around his chest, as if he had been beaten with something flexible, perhaps a cable. There are other injuries: a broken nose and smaller wounds that look like cigarette burns.

An arm appears to have been broken and one of the higher vertebrae is pushed inwards. There is a cluster of small, neat circular wounds on both sides of his left knee. At some stage an-Ni'ami seems to have been efficiently knee-capped. It was not done with a gun - the exit wounds are identical in size to the entry wounds, which would not happen with a bullet. Instead it appears to have been done with something like a drill. [complete article]

See also, UK aid funds Iraqi torture units (The Observer).

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Living in the shadow of American occupation
By James Glanz, New York Times (IHT), July 4, 2005

Iraqis call it Assur, "The Fence." In English, everyone calls it "The Wall," and over the past two years it has grown and grown until it has become an almost continuous rampart, at least 10 miles in circumference, around the seat of American power in Baghdad.

The wall is not a small factor in the lives of ordinary Iraqis outside it. Khalid Daoud, an employee at the Ministry of Culture, still looks in disbelief at the barrier that cuts through his garden. It is 12 feet, or 3.7 meters, high, and is composed of slabs weighing 5 tons, or 4,500 kilograms.

A few months ago, he said, the American military arrived with a crane and tore up the trees in his garden, smashed the low wall surrounding it, swung the slabs into place and topped them with concertina wire. Later they put up on the other side a brilliant floodlight and a guard tower that is manned 24 hours a day. With their privacy gone, his wife and daughter must now tend the garden in their abayas, or loose robes, and the family no longer sleeps outside when electricity failures at night shut down the air conditioning.

"I feel like it's going to choke me," Daoud said of the wall. [complete article]

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I wrote Bush's war words -- in 1965
By Daniel Ellsberg, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2005

President Bush's explanation Tuesday night for staying the course in Iraq evoked in me a sense of familiarity, but not nostalgia. I had heard virtually all of his themes before, almost word for word, in speeches delivered by three presidents I worked for: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Not with pride, I recognized that I had proposed some of those very words myself.

Drafting a speech on the Vietnam War for Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara in July 1965, I had the same task as Bush's speechwriters in June 2005: how to rationalize and motivate continued public support for a hopelessly stalemated, unnecessary war our president had lied us into.

Looking back on my draft, I find I used the word "terrorist" about our adversaries to the same effect Bush did. [complete article]

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The metrics of success in Iraq
By David S. Broder, Washington Post, July 3, 2005

President Bush is facing an early legal deadline to deliver what he has been most resistant to providing: a set of specific benchmarks for measuring progress toward military and political stability in Iraq.

Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, responding to my inquiry, said last week, "We are working toward completing the report by the due date."

If and when it comes in, it could do much more than the president's Tuesday night speech at Fort Bragg to provide a factual basis for judging how close we may be to reaching our goals in Iraq. [complete article]

Comment -- Donald Rumsfeld is renowned for his obsession with metrics. You'd think that the DoD would be rushing the required metrics on progress in Iraq ahead of schedule. The man who once identified lack of metrics as a problem in measuring the success in the war on terrorism, nowadays claims that when it comes to measuring success in Iraq it's less easy to develop metrics. And when pressed for hard numbers on combat ready Iraqi troops, General Casey says the numbers are classified. Sounds like Rumsfeld has a simple philosophy on metrics: If the count doesn't look good, don't count.

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America talks: but are these the real rebel leaders?
By Tony Allen-Mills, The Sunday Times, July 3, 2005

Doubts about the authority and influence of insurgent leaders are complicating the Pentagon's attempts to negotiate with Sunni rebels in the hope of isolating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, and other foreign terrorists who have flooded into the country to fight American troops.

Despite clandestine negotiations with Iraqi insurgent groups, US officials are still uncertain that they are speaking to the real leaders of the minority Sunni rebellion against democratic rule.

"It is difficult to know which of these guys can speak with any authority," a senior Washington official said last week. "It's all pretty ambivalent and we have no confidence in any figure we see on the number of insurgents represented." [complete article]

Iraqi insurgent groups want official dialogue with the U.S.
Bloomberg, July 4, 2005

Two Iraqi insurgent groups said today they want to enter into official talks with the U.S.

The overture follows confirmation by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld eight days ago of a report in the London-based Sunday Times that U.S. officials have held two rounds of secret talks with rebel leaders, as troops struggle to quell an insurgency estimated by the military at 20,000 strong.

"Negotiations are a part of our political program," and the groups have a "realistic and truthful political agenda," Ibrahim Yusef al-Shamari, spokesman for the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of the Mujahedeen, told al-Jazeera. [complete article]

Beat the insurgents by talking to them
By Larry J. Diamond, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2005

In his speech last week, President Bush correctly said that the United States had a vital interest in remaining in Iraq until a viable, secure and hopefully democratic state emerged. He also appropriately noted evidence of democratic progress in Iraq -- an elected government in Baghdad and a more representative constitution drafting committee set to begin its work. But if the United States is to avoid defeat in Iraq, Bush must recognize what our military leaders have repeated for more than a year: There is no purely military solution to the insurgency. It will only be extinguished by a combination of military might, good intelligence, reliable policing and -- crucially -- effective politics. [complete article]

Shiites wary of U.S. overtures to Sunni rebels
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2005

It didn't take long for fresh reports of U.S. talks with Sunni Arab insurgents to stir cries of an impending sellout.

"The Americans and everyone else must understand that the Iraqi people will never accept any talks with the criminals who have blood on their hands," Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir, a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric and member of parliament, declared during Friday prayers. [complete article]

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Baathists may be joining Iraq's constitution drafters
By James Glantz, New York Times, July 1, 2005

At least two of the 15 Sunni Arabs proposed as members of the committee that will write Iraq's permanent constitution have been accused of being senior members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and two others have openly declared themselves strong supporters of the party.

The issue threatens to add a volatile new element to negotiations on the constitution, already facing major disagreements on questions like how much autonomy should be granted to the Kurdish north and what role Islam should play in Iraqi law. [complete article]

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Kurds must be able to return to Kirkuk now: Iraq president
AFP (via Yahoo), July 2, 2005

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said Kurds driven out of the contested city of Kirkuk must be allowed back now and not after a new constitution is in place.

"I am going back to Baghdad tomorrow and I will demand in the name of the people of Kurdistan and Masoud Barzani that article 58 be applied immediately," Talabani told reporters in a press conference with Barzani, Kurdistan's president, at the northern resort town of Dukan.

"The United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) and the Kurdistan alliance agreed on this before the government was formed."

Shiites swept the January parliamentary election but were unable to form a government without entering into an alliance with the second-place Kurds.

More than two months of intense negotiations between the two sides culminated in a memorandum of understanding that said the issue of Kirkuk would be handled in accordance with article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law, the interim laws passed under the previous US-led occupation authority.

Both sides agreed that the principals of the TAL would form the nucleus of the new constitution, which must be drafted by August 15 and put to a national referendum by October 15, according to the political timetable.

Talabani said that, in accordance with article 58, Kurdish families deported from Kirkuk during ousted leader Saddam Hussein's arabisation drive must be allowed back now and Sunni Arabs taken back to their original homes in central and southern Iraq. [complete article]

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U.S. military kills 17 civilians in bloody rescue mission
By Sam Knight, The Times, July 4, 2005

The US military has mistakenly killed 17 civilians, including women and children, as part of the botched operation to recover four missing servicemen in Afghanistan last week, according to a provincial governor.

The same rescue operation also led to the shooting down of a Chinook helicopter last Tuesday in which 16 American soldiers lost their lives.

Today, a second of the four missing Special Forces soldiers was reportedly rescued. The first managed to contact US units on Saturday after spending five days alone in the dangerous and desolate mountains of the troubled Kunar Province of Afghanistan.

Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Kunar, said today that the civilian deaths had occurred during an air strike on the village of Chechal.

"Seventeen civilians died in the US bombing of the village. There are a number of children and women among the victims but I don’t have the exact figure right now." [complete article]

EARLIER: U.S. planes bomb 'Taleban' compound
BBC News, July 2, 2005

US fighter planes have bombed a suspected Taleban hideout in the same area of eastern Afghanistan where US servicemen are missing, officials say.

A senior Afghan official told the BBC 25 people had been killed in two air raids on a house in Chechal village. [complete article]

U.S. disputes Afghan claims that second commando was located
By Carlotta Gall and Thom Shanker, New York Times, July 4, 2005

An Afghan government official said today that an upswing in Taliban violence would not derail parliamentary elections, and the United States acknowledged that a bombing raid in eastern Afghanistan last week had killed civilians.

Also Monday, an Afghan provincial governor said that a second member of an American special operations unit had been located, and that Afghan forces were attempting to reach him.

"He is in a civilian's house. He is injured," Asadullah Wafa, governor of Kunar Province said, according to The Associated Press.

But Defense Department officials disputed the claim of a second survivor, saying that Mr. Wafa had been mistakenly referring to a Navy SEAL rescued Saturday. [complete article]

Two missing US troops 'are dead'
BBC News, July 4, 2005

Two of the three US special forces soldiers missing in eastern Afghanistan for almost a week have been found dead, US officials tell the BBC. [complete article]

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U.S. endures deadliest year in Afghanistan
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, July 3, 2005

This year has been the deadliest for US troops in Afghanistan since war began in late 2001, as more American soldiers have died than in each of the previous three years, according to military figures.

The statistics signal that well-armed Taliban and Al Qaeda militants holed up in caves, tribal villages, and craggy peaks along the border with Pakistan will remain a threat to the new Afghan government for years and require US troops, now numbering 18,000, to remain indefinitely, according to regional specialists.

In the first half of this year, at least 54 Americans lost their lives, compared with 52 in all of last year, according to official statistics reviewed by the Globe.

The number of overall casualties, which saw an upsurge with the shootdown of a US military helicopter and the potential loss of a reconnaissance team in eastern Afghanistan last week, have edged up every year since Operation Enduring Freedom began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the figures show. [complete article]

Three years of progress in Afghanistan in danger of unraveling amid a barrage of violence
By Daniel Cooney, AP (via FindLaw), July 1, 2005

Just three months ago, Afghanistan was proudly held up as a poster-child of U.S.-led nation-building. But near-daily ambushes, execution-style killings, suicide bombings and this week's shooting down of a U.S. special forces helicopter have quashed much of that optimism.

From U.S. and U.N. officials down to Afghan villagers, there is growing fear that this country may be at a seminal moment with three years of state-building in danger of succumbing to the barrage of violence.

"After the presidential elections last year, everyone was optimistic that we were heading toward a stable, peaceful democracy. But it no longer seems that way," said Malalai Juya, a female candidate in September's elections from western Farah province. "Everyone is scared now. Security has been getting worse and worse by the day." [complete article]

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U.S.: Photo not of Iran chief
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2005

U.S. investigators have concluded that Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the glowering Islamic militant seen escorting an American hostage in a 1979 photograph that was widely publicized this week, officials said Friday.

The conclusion casts doubt on what had been considered a key piece of evidence indicating that Iran's new president was among the leaders of the group of students who seized control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and went on to hold dozens of Americans hostage for 444 days.

A U.S. official familiar with the investigation of Ahmadinejad's role said that analysts had found "serious discrepancies" between the figure in the 1979 photo and other images of the Iranian president-elect. The discrepancies included differences in facial structure and features, the official said. [complete article]

See also, Ex-Iranian agent: Photo not Ahmadinejad (AP).

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Iran's nuclear lies
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 11, 2005

Beyond the antiaircraft-gun emplacements and the early-warning radar systems, and shortly before you get to the high concrete walls topped with concertina wire that surround Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, there's a large sign announcing that the facility welcomes guests. Like so much about the Iranian nuclear program, the signals are incongruous, contradictory and more than a little sinister. [complete article]

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Democracy or duplicity?
By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, July 3, 2005

Less than six months after President Bush's inaugural address, the tension between his commitment to democracy and longstanding U.S. security and economic commitments grows steadily more acute, especially in the Muslim world. There is the problem of whether to endorse Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's half-baked presidential election; there is the dilemma of Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, who massacred hundreds of protesters in one town but continues to host a U.S. military base in another.

Next up: Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea that hosts big U.S. oil companies, a new strategic pipeline for their products, a refueling stop for U.S. military planes -- and a government teetering between consolidating a corrupt autocracy and embracing democratic reforms.
... the secular and Western-educated president regularly charms his American and European visitors. Sipping whiskey and speaking fluent English, he tells them he is genuinely committed to making his country a democratic Western ally.

Given the U.S. oil and security interests, Bush administration policymakers would love to believe him. But should they? Skeptics, including some who have been listening to the young Aliyev's pitch for several years without noting any significant change in Azerbaijan, say the administration risks creating another Egypt: a government that delivers economic and security cooperation and mouths words about democracy while practicing de facto dictatorship. As massive oil revenues begin to flow into Baku, U.S. acceptance of another rigged election this year could cement Aliyev into just another president-for-life. [complete article]

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Glimpses of a hermit nation
By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2005

Although North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons has captured the world's attention, outsiders know relatively little about its people or the miseries they have endured since a famine in the mid-1990s wiped out an estimated 2 million people. In the rare instances in which foreigners are admitted to the totalitarian country, it is on strictly escorted tours of the capital, Pyongyang, and a few other carefully selected sites.

To penetrate the secrecy, the Los Angeles Times spoke in China and South Korea with more than 30 people from Chongjin, North Korea's third-largest city. Their stories, along with hours of surreptitiously shot video, present a portrait of the city and of daily life in a nation struggling with deprivation and change. [complete article]

Trading ideals for sustenance
By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2005

Markets are springing up in the shadows of abandoned factories, foreign influences are breaching the borders, inflation is soaring and corruption is rampant. A small nouveau riche class has emerged, even as a far larger group has been forced to trade away everything for food. [complete article]

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Update on Rove
By Lawrence O'Donnell, Huffington Post, July 3, 2005

On Friday, I broke the story that the e-mails that Time turned over to the prosecutor that day reveal that Karl Rove is the source Matt Cooper is protecting. That provoked Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, to interrupt his holiday weekend to do a little defense work with Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. On Saturday, Luskin decided to reveal that Rove did have at least one conversation with Cooper, but Luskin told the Times he would not "characterize the substance of the conversation."

Luskin claimed that the prosecutor "asked us not to talk about what Karl has had to say." This is highly unlikely. Prosecutors have absolutely no control over what witnesses say when they leave the grand jury room. Rove can tell us word-for-word what he said to the grand jury and would if he thought it would help him. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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

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

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

AIPAC - real insiders
By Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker, June 28, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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