The War in Context
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Terror strikes in Egypt
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 2005

Two powerful car-bombs struck at the heart of Egypt's $6 billion tourism industry early Saturday, killing 83 people from at least 5 countries. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.

The bombs in Sharm al-Sheikh, a vibrant resort town that is the hub for the popular beaches and dive spots along Egypt's Red Sea, confirmed to analysts that the global jihad has come home to its intellectual birthplace after eight years of surprising calm. [complete article]

Comment -- President Bush's leading security advisors, Stephen J. Hadley and Frances Fragos Townsend, write today in the New York Times, "First and most important, we must have a clear understanding of the ideology espoused by the enemy." I agree. But they continue, "The terrorists we face today aim to remake the Middle East in their own grim image - one that, as President Bush has said, 'hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.'" The problem is, to understand the ideology of al Qaeda and its affiliates requires more than demonstrating that their goals are destructive. If I said that the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians conflict with a scientific understanding of the world, I believe I'd be making an accurate statement but I don't think I'd be any closer to understanding why my fundamentalist neighbors go to church. To understand an ideology requires, in part, understanding what it means to those who are convinced of its validity.

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Stockwell shooting was mistake
By Philippe Naughton, The Times, July 23, 2005

The man shot dead by police at Stockwell Underground station yesterday morning had nothing to do with Thursday's abortive London bomb attacks, Scotland Yard said tonight.

According to witnesses, the man was shot five times at close range after being chased onto a Northern Line train at the South London station at around 10am. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said later that the man was directly connected to the bungled bombings of three Tube trains and a London bus the day before.

The Met said in a statement this afternoon: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005. For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets." [complete article]

See also, Special armed squad first to use tactics developed with Israeli aid (The Guardian) and Actions of elite squad defended (Boston Globe).

Comment -- This is a stunning turnaround from yesterday when, according to The Times, police described the suspect as an "intimate accomplice of the cell" and that "his name and address were thought to have been found among the possessions left by the would-be bombers on Thursday."

In initial reports, the man, now known to be Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician, was described as having "emerged from a nearby house that police believed to be connected with Thursday's attempted bombings." When police acknowledged their mistake they said, "The man emerged from a block of flats in the Stockwell area that were under police surveillance." A few people live in a house but hundreds of people live in a "block of flats" (high rise apartment complex). It's a significant difference.

London has been described as the city of the world, but that also means that its residents bring together all the experiences and expectations of the people of the cities of the world. When London police called Menezes to stop he seemed to confirm their suspicions by running. But if you grew up in Brazil it would be easy to think the best way to protect your life was to run as fast as you can. As the Resource Center of the Americas reports:
Perhaps nowhere are police more murderous than in Brazil. In 1992, cops in the city of Sao Paulo killed 1,470 civilians, almost four times the number they killed during the country’s entire 1964–1985 military dictatorship. The slaughter subsided under a program that reassigned officers involved in shootings, but in recent years the numbers have started to rise again. Last year, according to the Folha [Brazil's leading newspaper], the police killed 498 people. This year [2000], during the first quarter alone, they killed 248.

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Why do they hate us? Not because of Iraq
By Olivier Roy, New York Times, July 22, 2005

While yesterday's explosions on London's subway and bus lines were thankfully far less serious than those of two weeks ago, they will lead many to raise a troubling question: has Britain (and Spain as well) been "punished" by Al Qaeda for participating in the American-led military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan? While this is a reasonable line of thinking, it presupposes the answer to a broader and more pertinent question: Are the roots of Islamic terrorism in the Middle Eastern conflicts?

If the answer is yes, the solution is simple to formulate, although not to achieve: leave Afghanistan and Iraq, solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. But if the answer is no, as I suspect it is, we should look deeper into the radicalization of young, Westernized Muslims.

Conflicts in the Middle East have a tremendous impact on Muslim public opinion worldwide. In justifying its terrorist attacks by referring to Iraq, Al Qaeda is looking for popularity or at least legitimacy among Muslims. But many of the terrorist group's statements, actions and non-actions indicate that this is largely propaganda, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are hardly the motivating factors behind its global jihad. [complete article]

For more from Olivier Roy go here.

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In the name of God
By Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, July 22, 2005

Two weeks on, London is stricken once more. The death cult strikes again, unstoppable in its deranged religious mania. This time no deaths but a savage reminder of the unknown waves of demented killers lining up to murder in the name of God.
Whatever they intended, the message was loud and clear: they can and will do this whenever they want and it does indeed spread very real terror. The police have said there are many more of them. The security services have already revealed that they know absolutely nothing.

In the growing fear and anger at what more may be to come, apologists or explainers for these young men can expect short shrift. This is not about poverty, deprivation or cultural dislocation of second-generation immigrants. There is plenty of that and it is passive. Iraq is the immediate trigger, but this is about religious delusion.

All religions are prone to it, given the right circumstances. How could those who preach the absolute revealed truth of every word of a primitive book not be prone to insanity? There have been sects of killer Christians and indeed the whole of Christendom has been at times bent on wiping out heathens. Jewish zealots in their settlements crazily claim legal rights to land from the Old Testament. Some African Pentecostal churches harbour sects of torturing exorcism and child abuse. Muslims have a very long tradition of jihadist slaughter. Sikhs rose up to stop a play that exposed deformities of abuse within their temples. Buddhism too has its sinister wing. See how far-right evangelicals have kidnapped US politics and warped its secular, liberal founding traditions. Intense belief, incantations, secrecy and all-male rituals breed perversions and danger, abusing women and children and infecting young men with frenzy, no matter what the name of the faith. [complete article]

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Untrue believers
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 21, 2005

The sentencing of Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics, a gay bar and the Atlanta Olympics, ought to be a milestone in the Global War on Terror. In Birmingham, Ala., on Monday he got life without parole. Next month he'll stack up a couple more life terms in Georgia, which is the least he deserves. (He escaped the death penalty only because he made a deal to help law-enforcement agents find the explosives he had hidden while on the run in North Carolina.) Rudolph killed two people, but not for want of trying to kill many more. In his 1997 attack on an Atlanta abortion clinic, he set off a second bomb meant to take out bystanders and rescue workers. Unrepentant, of course, Rudolph defended his actions as a moral imperative: "Abortion is murder, and because it is murder I believe deadly force is needed to stop it." The Birmingham prosecutor declared that Rudolph had "appointed himself judge, jury and executioner."

Indeed. That's what all terrorists have in common: the four lunatics in London earlier this month; the 19 men who attacked America on September 11, 2001; Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, and many others. They were all convinced they had noble motives for wreaking their violence. Terrorists are very righteous folks. Which is why the real global war we're fighting, let's be absolutely clear, should be one of our shared humanity against the madness of people like these; the rule of man-made laws on the books against the divine law they imagine for themselves. It's the cause of reason against unreason, of self-criticism against the firm convictions of fanaticism.

But the Rudolph case seems to stand apart in the headlines and in most commentary because the pathology of what Eric Hoffer called "true believers" has come to be portrayed as fundamentally different if they are Muslims than it is if they are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Aryan or animal-rights zealots willing to kill innocents to defend their beliefs. Hoffer, writing soon after World War II about the seductive power of mass movements, was mainly concerned with communism, fascism and Nazism. But the basic truth of his judgment that "faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves" fits the profile of terrorists everywhere. "Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless," wrote Hoffer. "There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless." [complete article]

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Explosions reported on London transport
Financial Times, July 21, 2005

Emergency services were called to three London underground railway stations and a bus after incidents at midday, Police said on Thursday.

Scotland Yard said emergency services were responding to reports of incidents at three locations on the underground -- Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd’s Bush. The stations were evacuated and there were reports that buildings around Oval station were cleared.

Police said there was also an explosion on a bus in East London at the junction of Hackney Road and Columbia Road. [complete article]

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Ateeque Sharifi: The final victim
By Arifa Akbar and Terri Judd, The Independent, July 21, 2005

Ateeque Sharifi had seen his fair share of tragedy as a boy in Afghanistan. His parents were killed by the Taliban before he was 20 and he was the only male in his family to escape death.

At 21, he fled Kabul to find refuge in Britain, where he overcame his struggle to learn English and became a model student. In his spare time he worked in a pizza takeaway, sending most of his wages to his younger sister in Afghanistan.

But three years after fleeing the brutal regime of the Taliban to rebuild his life in his adoptive city, the young Muslim was to die in a suicide bombing car- ried out in the name of his faith. [complete article]

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Plame's identity marked as secret
By Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, July 21, 2005

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials. [complete article]

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Before it had even started, the neocons were foolish enough to predict that the 21st Century would be a "New American Century" . More recently, the Pentagon's study, "Mapping the Global Future" didn't go so far as to call this century "The Asian Century" yet it left little doubt when it said, "In the same way that commentators refer to the 1900s as the 'American Century,' the 21st century may be seen as the time when Asia, led by China and India, comes into its own." Every week, there are new signs of Asia's rising power and while there are those in Washington who see this as something that needs to be contained, to others it seems increasingly apparent that the global center of gravity is already shifting. America has a choice of either resisting or accommodating itself to a process of change that seems unstoppable. Those who are concerned about the defense of civilization could (but probably won't) draw some comfort as they witness the growing influence of the world's two most durable societies.

Managing a menage a trois
By Karl F. Inderfurth and David Shambaugh, International Herald Tribune, July 20, 2005

The state visit to Washington this week by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India is of considerable bilateral and global significance. But there is a silent third party in the room: China.

Indeed, 10 days ago, the heads of all three states met at the G-8 summit meeting in Scotland. The intensive interaction will continue over the next six months as President Hu Jintao of China visits the United States in September, and President George W. Bush has committed himself to visiting both China and India by early 2006.

Washington's current courtship of New Delhi takes place against the backdrop of a similar Sino-Indian entente, as well as thickening U.S.-China ties. Just in the last week the U.S. secretaries of state and commerce were in Beijing for intensive talks on security and trade issues. [complete article]

Welcome to the nuclear club
The Economist, July 19, 2005

[The Bush administration's agreement to open up "full civil nuclear energy co-operation"] is hugely important for India. One of the biggest constraints on the continuing success of its fast-growing economy may be an electricity shortage. It urgently needs both new generating plants and fuel to fire them. Nuclear energy, which at present accounts for only about 3% of the country's total generation, is, in many Indian eyes, an attractive alternative to coal and expensive, imported oil and gas.

Such practical considerations aside, it is a symbolic victory that India is celebrating. For decades it has faced sanctions because of its nuclear-weapons programme. Now, America's president has promised not just to persuade its Congress to change laws impeding co-operation but also to consult other countries about adjusting international rules. Mr Bush is, in effect, offering to help India, which became a nuclear power as a rogue, become a respectable bomb-wielding citizen. In return, India has promised to adopt the same responsibilities as other nuclear powers, including opening its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency and maintaining its moratorium on nuclear testing. [complete article]

A nuclear triumph for India
By Miriam Rajkumar, Carnegie Endowment, July 19, 2005

Working out an agreement to provide India with nuclear power equipment and fuel is not in itself a bad idea. The problem lies in the way both nations are pursuing this deal. India has not committed to fullscope IAEA safeguards, or to restrain development of its nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The agreement appears to reaffirm the notion that nuclear weapons are useful tools to enhance one’s power. The Indo-U.S. joint declaration takes India off the nuclear blacklist, telling other nuclear wannabes that they can develop and even test nuclear weapons and successfully wait out U.S. opposition. [complete article]

Bush officials defend India nuclear deal Washington Post

India portrays itself as new type of superpower
By Anand Giridharadas, International Herald Tribune, July 21, 2005

Regardless of how soon uranium will flow to this fast-growing country of one billion, Singh's visit may signify America's welcoming of a new type of superpower: militarily potent, economically dynamic, regionally assertive, independently minded, but still nonthreatening to the United States. Call it superpower light.

Singh, a bookish former scholar with a sky-blue turban and hushed voice, manages to achieve that combination of humility and assertiveness.

India's image is starkly different from that of China, the other fast-developing country, which is seen as a menacing rival, especially after President Hu Jintao said it would become a "world power second to none." [complete article]

India: America's new ally?
By Stephen Cohen, Brookings Institute, July 18, 2005

This week Washington hosts Dr. Manmohan Singh, India's Prime Minister, and one of the most thoughtful economist-politicians of this or any other era. The visit will be heralded as the further flowering of a "natural alliance" between the world's oldest and largest democracies. The relationship has received bipartisan praise, notably by several former American ambassadors to Delhi, and in think-tank reports and Congressional testimony.

All of this attention is deserved yet Washington still does not seem to have grasped the complexities and ambiguities present on the Indian side of this putative alliance. India is a democracy; while there was continuity between the conservative nationalist BJP-led coalition and the current left-liberal Congress-led coalition, the fact is that India is likely to remain governed for many years by ideologically diverse coalitions of uncertain durability. This means that US-Indian relations will remain hostage to Indian domestic politics. Further, there are important differences within the Indian strategic elite as to the wisdom of the growing American tie. [complete article]

Oil maneuvers by China, India, challenge Washington
AP (via The Star), July 20, 2005

Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Syria - nations shunned by America as nuclear threats, insurgent havens or human rights violators are increasingly being wooed by China and India in a race for oil and influence that is challenging Washington on the energy and security fronts.

The most recent U.S. concerns have focused on China's bid for Unocal Corp., America's ninth largest oil company. American congressmen, senators and former CIA director James Woolsey have described it as a threat to U.S. national security.

But less high-profile maneuvers by the two Asian powerhouses also are raising questions.

Besides their involvement in energy projects worth billions of dollars in countries America views with concern, India and China also have bought into Russia's oil and gas sector.

And Beijing, with Moscow's apparent blessing, is reaching out to energy-rich former Soviet republics in central Asia where the Americans have military outposts. [complete article]

China set to overtake US on exports to EU
By Ralph Atkins, Financial Times, July 20, 2005

Chinese imports into the European Union could exceed those from the US as early as next year if recent growth rates are maintained, figures showed on Wednesday.

The data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical unit, highlighted the competitive challenge facing European companies from the fast-growing Chinese economy, which has already resulted in political tensions over textile imports.

Imports from China in the first four months of this year, at €45.3bn ($54.5bn, £31.5bn), were 19 per cent higher than the same period a year before. Imports from the US remained almost flat at €52.6bn. In contrast, EU exports to China fell by 1 per cent to €15.2bn, while exports to the US rose by 2 per cent. [complete article]

In China's dash to develop, environment suffers severely
By Tim Johnson, Knight Ridder, July 20, 2005

China's environmental woes are so large that they've begun to generate social instability.

Choking on vile air, sickened by toxic water, citizens in some corners of this vast nation are rising up to protest the high environmental cost of China's economic boom.

In one recent incident, villagers in this hilly coastal region grew so exasperated by contamination from nearby chemical plants that they overturned and smashed dozens of vehicles and beat up police officers who arrived to quell what was essentially an environmental riot. [complete article]

Chinese buildup seen as threat to region
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, July 20, 2005

China's military buildup is broadening the reach of its forces in Asia and poses a long-term threat not only to Taiwan but to the U.S. military in the Pacific and to regional powers such as India and Japan, according to an assessment released yesterday by the Pentagon.

The Beijing government is also improving and expanding its nuclear arsenal, fielding more advanced nuclear missiles capable of striking India, Russia and "virtually all of the United States," said the annual China military power report, based on U.S. intelligence and mandated by Congress. The report, however, said China's ability to project its conventional military power remains limited. [complete article]

China blasts Pentagon report saying it is military threat
By Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, July 20, 2005

The Chinese government on Wednesday rejected a new Pentagon report that describes its military modernization program as a potential threat to U.S. forces and other regional powers, saying the assessment "ignores the facts" and "rudely interferes in China's internal affairs."

In a sharply worded statement, a senior Foreign Ministry official, Yang Jiechi, defended China's "normal national defense building and military deployments" and accused the Defense Department of "scheming to use this as an excuse to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan," the self-governing island Beijing claims is part of Chinese territory and threatens to seize by force.

"What authority does the United States have to gesticulate and make improper comments about China's defensive national defense policy and measures?" Yang asked, arguing that the U.S. military budget is nearly 18 times the size of China's. "China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition," he added. [complete article]

China's naval buildup
By Jeffrey Lewis, ArmsControlWonk, July 20, 2005

The New York Times' David Sanger reported that China was increasing the number of ships in the PLA Navy. That was a lie.

Sanger reported on an ambitious Chinese naval build-up with this breathless warning:
The new intelligence reports indicate that since Mr. Bush came to office, China has raced ahead with one of the most ambitious military buildups in the world – including building 23 new amphibious assault ships that could ferry tanks, armored vehicles and troops across the 100 miles to Taiwan, and 13 new attack submarines.
Turns out, China has embarked on a massive buildsame.

The 2005 edition of Chinese Military Power includes a detailed numerical breakdown of China's naval order of battle. The PLAN is the same size (in terms of surface combatants and submarines) it was in 2000.

Yup, that's right. Same size.

Chinese Military Power -- shortly before Mr. Bush entered office -- declared the "The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) currently numbers some 60 destroyers and frigates [20 destroyers and 40 frigates], about 60 diesel and six nuclear submarines, and nearly 50 amphibious landing ships."

According to the 2005 edition of Chinese Military Power (released the other day), the PLAN now "includes 64 major surface combatants, some 55 attack submarines, [and] more than 40 medium and heavy amphibious lift vessels ..."

The 2005 edition includes a chart with surface combatants and submarines broken out in detail. Let's compare those numbers with the 2000 Report:
Destroyers................................................."about" 20..........21
Frigates....................................................."about" 40..........43
Diesel Submarines....................................."about" 60..........51
Nuclear Submarines................................................6............6
Medium/Heavy Amphibious Lift Ships......."nearly" 50.........43
[complete article]

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Follow the documents
By Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect, July 19, 2005

As intriguing as the prospect of seeing Karl Rove sent to the pokey is, I must admit that on one level I don't really care who the guilty parties in the Plame leak case are. Whoever did the deed ought to be found out and punished, because that's what you do, but it will make little difference. My opinion that Rove is a scumbag won't be altered by his possible vindication, nor appreciably strengthened by his possible conviction. The basic case for scumbaggery, grounded in the public record, is simply far too strong to be altered one way or another by anything related to this matter. At the same time, I doubt that removing the wrongdoers from office will do any good. There are a lot of scumbags out there, and as recent coverage of the College Republicans' annual conference has made clear, the right churns them out assembly-line style. President Bush will have no trouble replacing anyone he may lose with someone just as bad.

Lurking in the neighborhood of this case, however, is something I would genuinely like to know. Joseph Wilson went to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had made significant progress toward acquiring uranium yellowcake there -- reports grounded in a memo indicating that such a deal had gone down several years previously. This memo was a forgery. [complete article]

For those who have forgotten, here's where the story began: Here you have the bogus dossier on Saddam's uranium (Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, La Repubblica, July 16, 2003). These are the related documents.

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Memo becomes focus in CIA leak probe
By Barry Schweid, AP (via SF Chronicle), July 19, 2005

A State Department memo that has caught the attention of prosecutors describes a CIA officer's role in sending her husband to Africa and disputes administration claims that Iraq was shopping for uranium, a retired department official said Tuesday.

The classified memo was sent to Air Force One just after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public with his assertions that the Bush administration overstated the evidence that Iraq was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

The memo has become a key piece of evidence in the CIA leak investigation because it could have been the way someone in the White House learned — and then leaked — the information that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and played a role in sending him on the mission. [complete article]

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Nerves stretched to breaking point as Baghdad clings to normal life
By Oliver Poole, The Telegraph, July 20, 2005

The people of Baghdad do not need statistics to tell them that they are living through terror unimaginable in the West.

Every two days for the past two years more civilians have died in Iraq than in the July 7 London bombings.

Just yesterday, 31 people lost their lives in several attacks across the country, which included gunmen shooting dead three Sunni Arab members of the team drafting Iraq's new constitution; insurgents slaughtering 10 workers on a bus travelling to a US army base, and gunmen ambushing a police vehicle in northern Mosul, killing two.

Such incidents are so common they merit little attention in the world's press. [complete article]

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400 days and out: A strategy for resolving the Iraq impasse
By Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternative, July19, 2005

The key to enabling total US troop withdrawal from Iraq within 400 days is achieving a political accord with Sunni leaders at all levels and with Iraq's neighbors - especially Syria and Iran. The proximal aim would be to immediately lower the level of conflict inside Iraq by constricting both active and passive support for the insurgency, inside and outside the country. This would allow the United States to shift resources to the training mission and to adopt other de-escalatory measures - most importantly: a withdrawal time line. The strategic price of this diplomatic initiative would be a return to self-governance in Sunni areas, a guaranteed level of representation for these areas in the national assembly, an end to broad-brush measures of de-Baathification, an amnesty for most indigenous insurgents and for most former Baathists, and a de-escalation of the US confrontation with Syria and Iran regarding a range of issues. [complete article]

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Draft Iraqi charter backs Islamic law
By Edward Wong, New York Times (IHT), July 20, 2005

A working draft of a chapter of the new Iraq constitution has language that gives a strong role to Islamic law and could be used to curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.

The document's writers are also debating whether to drop a measure enshrined in the interim constitution, co-written last year by the Americans, that requires at least a quarter of the Parliament to be made up of women.

That clause helped establish the current Parliament as among the most progressive in the region, at least in regard to the proportion of female members.

If it holds, the shift away from the more secular and equitable language of the interim constitution would represent a victory for Shiite clerics and religious politicians, who now wield enormous power and had chafed at the influence exercised by the Americans over that earlier document. [complete article]

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Hussein tribunal shaken by Chalabi's bid to replace staff
By John F. Burns, New York Times, July 20, 2005

The Iraqi tribunal preparing the trial of Saddam Hussein has been thrown into turmoil by the dismissal of nine senior staff members and a threat to dismiss 19 others, including the chief investigative judge.

The upheaval burst into public view on Tuesday when an aide to Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite who is a deputy prime minister in the transitional government, confirmed that Mr. Chalabi had begun to press for the removal of former members of Mr. Hussein's ruling Baath Party from the tribunal's staff of judges, prosecutors and administrators. Mr. Chalabi contends that the 28 men he has cited for removal are ineligible under Iraqi law to work at the tribunal because of their party affiliation.

It was not immediately clear whether his efforts would disrupt plans for the trial, which is to start in September. An aide to Mr. Chalabi, Ali Feisal, said Tuesday that Mr. Chalabi had delayed his push to dismiss the chief judge, Raid Juhi, and others of the tribunal's 65 members so as not to "disrupt" the tribunal's work or plans for the Hussein trial, but that the removal of the former Baathists would continue as replacements were appointed. [complete article]

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Iraq: Turkey proposes cross-border action to rein in Kurdish fighters
By Kathleen Ridolfo, RFE/RL, July 20, 2005

Turkish officials have been increasingly vocal in recent days over their desire to launch cross-border operations to rein in Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK or Kongra-Gel) based in the mountainous areas straddling Iraq and Turkey. After months of what they deemed as stalling on the part of the U.S. and Iraqi governments to deal with the PKK, Turkish officials proposed two new plans. Officials first contended that Turkey would carry out cross-border operations with or without the consent of the Iraqi government. They then suggested at a 19 July meeting of the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighboring countries that Iran, Syria, and Iraq join forces to help eliminate the Kurdish group, which is considered by its supporters a rebel group, and by the governments involved, including the United States, a terrorist organization. [complete article]

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General denies Turkey sliding back into large-scale separatist violence
By Vincent Boland, Financial Times, July 20, 2005

A senior Turkish general yesterday denied the country was sliding back into 1990s-style levels of separatist violence, despite a resurgence in attacks by Kurdish rebels on security forces and civilians in recent months.

General Ilker Basbug, deputy chief of the general staff, said the armed forces had "the means and the ability" to crush the upsurge in separatist violence, which Turkey claims is being orchestrated by Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

"People question whether the terrorism could reach the level of the 1990s," he said. "The answer is no. We have great support from people [in south-east Turkey] and they are tired of terrorism. They believe in the capability and ability of the security forces."

South east Turkey, which is predominantly Kurdish, was devastated by a conflict in the 1980s and 1990s between the PKK Kurdish rebel movement and the state, which claimed at least 35,000 lives, including many civilians. The conflict effectively ended when security forces captured Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, who is now in prison. [complete article]

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Special Branch to track Muslims across U.K.
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, July 20, 2005

Special intelligence units are being planned across Britain to monitor Muslims so the authorities can collect "community by community" knowledge of where extremism is building up.

The Guardian has learned that the special squads, to be known as Muslim Contact Units and staffed by Special Branch officers, will be established in areas including Yorkshire, north-west England and parts of the Midlands. [complete article]

'Top' al-Qaeda figure held over London attacks The Times

Pakistan denies key bombing suspect held The Times

Al Qaida-style terrorists are not the type who seek out madrasas
By William Dalrymple, The Guardian, July 20, 2005

Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld were not known for their close agreement on matters of foreign policy, but one thing that they were united upon was the threat posed by Pakistan's madrasas. In 2002, Rumsfeld posed the question: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrasas ... are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" A year later, Powell described madrasas as a breeding ground "for fundamentalists and terrorists".

Since the revelation this week that no less than three of the suicide bombers visited Pakistan in the year preceding the attack, the British press has been quick to follow the US line: last weekend the Sunday Telegraph was helpfully translating the Arabic word madrasa as terrorist "training school" (it actually means merely "place of education"), while yesterday's Daily Mirror confidently asserted over a double-page spread that three of the bombers had all enrolled at Pakistani "terror schools".

In fact, it is still uncertain whether the three visited any madrasa in Pakistan - intelligence sources have yet to confirm this. More important, the link between madrasas and international terrorism is far from clearcut, and new research has poured cold water on the much-repeated theory of madrasas being little more than al-Qaida training schools. [complete article]

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Iraq attacks rattle Talabani hope of early constitution
AFP, July 19, 2005

Rebels left a trail of bloodshed in Iraq, killing 37, as President Jalal Talabani's hope of an early post-Saddam Hussein constitution was clouded by the murder of three Sunnis involved in drafting the charter.

The insurgency showed no signs of a let-up, with the ambush of 10 workers in a bus carrying them to a US army base outside Baquba, a restive town northeast of Baghdad. Three other civilians died when the car they were driving in was hit by the bus attacked by the guerrillas.

The attack was followed by the broad daylight murder of three Sunni Arab politicians in a busy central Baghdad avenue.

The three were members of a committee working on the draft constitution and their murder came just a few hours after Talabani, the first Kurdish head of a Arab country, expressed hope that Iraq's basic law could be ready by end of July, ahead of its August 15 deadline. [complete article]

See also, Iraqis race to finish constitution (CSM).

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Iraq's catalogue of death
By Robert Greenall, BBC News, July 19, 2005

There has been no bigger grey area in the Iraq conflict than the number of ordinary Iraqis killed and injured.

Over 1,700 US and dozens of other coalition troops are known to have died. But the figures for civilian dead had never been more than rough estimates, ranging wildly from 10,000 to 100,000.

Figures for the injured and for people killed in what has been described as a surge in criminal activity since the invasion were simply unavailable.

A new report by the UK-based group Iraq Body Count (IBC) in combination with the Oxford Research Group, says it aims to remove some of the uncertainty, by producing the most detailed picture yet of civilian casualties in the two years since the 2003 invasion. [complete article]

See Iraq Body Count's Dossier of civilian casualties 2003-2005 (PDF)

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June report led Britain to lower its terror alert
By Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times, July 18, 2005

Less than a month before the London bombings, Britain's top intelligence and law enforcement officials concluded that "at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the U.K.," according to a confidential terror threat assessment report. [complete article]

Pakistan detains 25 in London bomb probe raids Reuters

Egypt chemist 'not bomb suspect' BBC

Two-thirds of Britons believe London bombings are linked to Iraq war The Guardian

Qaeda warns European nations to quit Iraq or risk attacks AFP

Imam's fiery message speaks to radical British Muslims
By Seth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2005

"Everything changed with the 19 magnificent terrorists of 9/11," thunders Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed. A raucous rejoinder of "Allah Akbar," or God is great, rings out from the more than 60 men who fill the Collingwood Hall community center on a Saturday night in East London.

The room is so crowded that some of the audience -- mainly young men under 25 -- must sit on the floor while others watch from the hallway.

Long before the deadly July 7 bombings in London, Bakri's detractors warned that behind the lurid sound bites and incendiary language was an extremist whose sermons might be interpreted by his followers as justification for terrorist attacks in Britain.

Bakri, the founder of al-Muhajiroun (the Emigrants), a radical group whose goal is the worldwide domination of Islam, held off his critics by saying that Muslims in Britain lived under a "covenant of security" that prevented them from bringing any harm to the nation that sheltered them. But in his Collingwood speech, he said the government had flouted the contract, and all bets were off. [complete article]

Extremism still thrives in Pakistan Husain Haqqani, International Herald Tribune

Disaffected youth seduced by notion of holy war
By Nick Meo, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2005

The young men at the Pakistan headquarters of al-Muhajiroun, a radical Islamic group, in 2003 wouldn't give their real names -- only their noms de guerre -- or say much about their backgrounds. They had reinvented themselves as brothers in a cause. Encouraged by the radical cleric who founded al-Muhajiroun, hundreds of young British Muslims like them had fought for the Taliban, or tried to at least, and had gone through terrorist training camps in the region.

They said they hated Britain and felt left out of the country's predominantly white society. They loathed everything about the West. The values of the kufr -- the infidels -- were sick, corrupt and empty, they said. Pornography, booze, exploitation -- they couldn't see anything in British society that was positive.

They were drawn from all over Britain but united by their cause. They were fighters for a pure Islamic state.

Al-Muhajiroun was founded by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Syrian-born cleric who moved to London in 1986. In universities and mosques, the organization recruited an odd mix of intellectuals and misfits. It was formally disbanded last year, but Bakri continues to preach throughout Britain.

The organization's ideology is Islamist and supremacist, and its stated goal is the worldwide domination of Islam. The Lahore members expressed particular contempt for gays and Jews and spoke of Hindus as subhuman. They openly admitted to being inspired by Osama bin Laden and called the Sept. 11 hijackers "the magnificent 19." [complete article]

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New blood
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, July 19, 2005

After one of the deadliest weekends in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, calls for foreign troops to be pulled out of the country have redoubled. All hopes of future stability rest on the shoulders of the Iraqi army - but as Ghaith Abdul-Ahad discovered when he spent a fortnight with an elite unit, poor equipment, rampant sectarianism and the 'Saddam mentality' mean they have little chance against a ruthless insurgency. [complete article]

U.S. criticized on Iraq rebuilding
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2005

In language both sharp and subtle, Iraqi and international officials on Monday criticized the U.S.-led rebuilding effort for moving too slowly to improve the lives of Iraqi citizens.

Meeting for a donors conference at this Jordanian resort town sandwiched between desert cliffs and the placid Red Sea, the officials announced the expected approval of $4 billion in loans from Japan and the World Bank to help speed reconstruction.

They said the United States' $18.4-billion effort had fallen short of restoring essential services such as power, water and sanitation. The criticism reflected a growing belief in Iraq and elsewhere that the Bush administration had bungled the reconstruction by giving billions to private corporations to tackle major infrastructure projects.

"It is now clear that these mega projects, though essential, have not succeeded in providing quickly enough for Iraqis' basic needs," said Barham Salih, Iraq's minister of planning and development cooperation. "Iraqis throughout the country remain dissatisfied." [complete article]

Iraqis struggle to make ends meet as food rations shrink
By Louise Roug, Financial Times, July 17, 2005

After his American employers left and monthly food rations began to shrink, Hussein Hadi started selling his furniture. His bed was the last thing to go. Now Hadi, his wife, sister, mother, two brothers, three children and a nephew sleep on his living- room floor in Baghdad, their blankets sewn from flour sacks. Some nights they fall asleep hungry.

"Hope is small," said his wife, Zainab. Like many Iraqis, the Hadis depend on food rations distributed by the government. Sometimes the sugar they receive has been hardened by rainwater and the rice is crawling with maggots. The soap is so harsh it causes rashes. On the rare occasions when the Hadis received all the items - sugar, rice, flour, baby milk, tea, vegetable oil and a few other essentials - they thought themselves lucky.

The United Nations World Food Programme, which monitors the distribution of rations, recently reported "significant countrywide shortfalls in rice, sugar, milk and infant formula".

Families in Baghdad have received no sugar or baby milk since January. Newspapers have also begun reporting that the tea and flour hand-outs contain metal filings and that people have fallen ill after consuming food rations. [complete article]

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Abbas criticizes Hamas radicals in harsh terms
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 19, 2005

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, sharply criticized the radical Hamas faction on Monday for breaking the truce with Israel that all Palestinian groups had agreed upon and for allowing Israel to take advantage of internal Palestinian strife.

"There is no such thing as 'controlled resistance' and 'uncontrolled resistance,' " Mr. Abbas said at a news conference here, adding that "no one has the right to take the law into their own hands."

"I'm making every effort to keep the truce," he said. "I don't want or accept a civil war. But if they insist on breaking the truce without abiding by the consensus, let them bear the responsibility." The Palestinian Authority, he said, would enforce the law and tolerate "no alternative so-called government or authority." [complete article]

Killing of Hamas commander threatens ceasefire The Independent

Jewish settler seeks to become Palestinian Reuters

Unsettled in Gaza
By Warren Bass, Washington Post, July 17, 2005

"We failed in Yamit," Nadia Matar warned, "but we're not going to fail again." The veteran far-right activist looked out at a roomful of young men, most of them bearded yeshiva students from Jerusalem, sitting on dirty mattresses or the cold floor of the wrecked reception area of the Palm Beach Hotel.

The 38-year-old Matar, who is bitterly opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate Jewish settlements in Gaza, had chosen her metaphor carefully: As defense minister in 1982, Sharon had overseen the flattening of Yamit, a Jewish settlement in Sinai, when Israel traded the peninsula back to Egypt for a peace treaty. Now, with the Sharon government set to withdraw from Gaza in mid-August, Matar and some 150 other radicals had, with the permission of the bankrupt hotel's absentee owner, turned the derelict white compound into a squatter citadel and renamed it Maoz Hayam, Hebrew for "fortress by the sea."

Matar, who had moved to Gaza from a West Bank settlement with her six children, bragged that her group had hoarded enough supplies -- food, milk, diapers -- to last for weeks of siege. Referring to the prime minister's famous farm, she warned, "Sharon will find that his people are not his sheep." [complete article]

Violence flares on Gaza protest march The Times

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U.S., India may share nuclear technology
By Dana Milbank and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, July 19 , 2005

President Bush agreed yesterday to share civilian nuclear technology with India, reversing decades of U.S. policies designed to discourage countries from developing nuclear weapons.

The agreement between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which must win the approval of Congress, would create a major exception to the U.S. prohibition of nuclear assistance to any country that doesn't accept international monitoring of all of its nuclear facilities. India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires such oversight, and conducted its first nuclear detonation in 1974.
"This is a stunning example of the Bush administration's policy of exceptionalism for friends at the cost of a consistent and effective attack on the dangers of nuclear weapons," said Daryl G. Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association. [complete article]

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China stakes claim for global oil access
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2005

When Alberta Premier Ralph Klein toured China last year and invited business leaders to visit the Canadian province's oil sand deposits, he didn't expect an immediate response.

But when Klein returned home a week later, Chinese executives were already making the rounds in Alberta, where the oil sands region is roughly the size of Florida and is believed to contain the richest reserves after Saudi Arabia.

The executives' quick response paid off. Three of China's state-owned oil firms have since poured huge investments into the oil sands, including a 40% stake in a $3.6-billion project that will be able to send oil via a new pipeline to Canada's west coast for shipment to China and elsewhere.

"Clearly, China has been the talk of Calgary," said Steven Paget, an analyst for investment bank FirstEnergy Capital Corp. there.

Scenes like this are being repeated around the world. Dangling cash and access to its huge market, China is dispatching legions of diplomats, surveyors and engineers across the globe to help quench the Middle Kingdom's insatiable thirst for energy. [complete article]

The new power brokers
By David Barboza, New York Times, July 19, 2005

They grew up during China's Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong's brutal political campaigns in the 1960's and 1970's tore apart families, pitting children against their parents and husbands against their wives.

Today, they are some of the most powerful deal makers in China, a group of rich and politically astute investment bankers who are helping transform China's economy and restructuring some of its biggest corporations.

Every major investment bank now has a Chinese-born star banker: Goldman Sachs has Fang Fenglei; Merrill Lynch has Erhfei Liu; Morgan Stanley has Jonathan Zhu; J. P. Morgan has Charles Li; and Citigroup has Wei Christianson.

They are so powerful and so sought after by Wall Street's biggest firms, their pay packages can reach $10 million a year after bonuses. [complete article]

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U.S. lays groundwork for bases in Eastern Europe
USA Today (via, July 18, 2005

The U.S. Army is conducting joint military exercises this month in Bulgaria and Romania as a key test of Pentagon plans to develop Eastern European bases as staging areas for fighting in the Middle East.

Beginning Tuesday, 1,500 U.S. troops, some of them bound for Iraq, will join 400 Romanian soldiers in urban warfare training. The port and military air base at Constanta on the Black Sea also are part of the exercise, just as they are expected to play a role in future U.S. deployments.

In neighboring Bulgaria to the south, 700 U.S. and Bulgarian troops are conducting armored warfare training.

Both nations, once part of the Soviet Union's bloc of Cold War military allies and now recent additions to the NATO alliance, are negotiating with the Pentagon over permanent U.S. basing rights, said Romania's president and Bulgaria's ambassador to the United States. [complete article]

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U.S. evangelicals see opportunity in Promised Land - and Likud sees opportunity in the Bible Belt
By William Wallis, Financial Times (via MSN), July 15, 2005

The hill in Israel where Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies as well as neighbours could soon be alive again with the sound of gospel music.

As part of efforts to revive tourism and consolidate support from the US Christian right, the Israeli government has offered to lease a prime plot on it to evangelical churches.

The 35-acre site looks down over the Sea of Galilee from near where the Bible says Jesus delivered the "Sermon on the Mount". The idea is that evangelical groups will invest in developing a large conference centre there.

The project also fits the wider strategy of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the finance minister, who have expanded grassroots support for Israel in the US by strengthening ties with the fast-growing evangelical community. [complete article]

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Ayatollah's despair at 'genocide' of suicide bombings
By James Hider, The Times, July 19, 2005

The main restraint to Iraq sliding into civil war is not the US-trained police forces, the newly elected parliament beavering away at a constitution, or the presence of 150,000 American and British troops.

It is a bearded, 75-year-old Iranian with a heart condition who lives in seclusion in the Shia holy city of Najaf. Once a week he makes a secretive trip to the nearby Imam Ali shrine to pray at the grave of the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of the Shia branch of Islam.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of the Shia who constitute 60 per cent of Iraqis, is the man with the authority to issue a fatwa that would compel his flock to fight whoever he chooses. Fortunately for Iraq, he is a moderate man, but yesterday even he showed signs of despair at the worsening plight of his country.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Shia vice-president, saw the Grand Ayatollah and said that he was deeply upset by the slaughter perpetrated by suicide bombers and gunmen, which he called "this genocidal war".

His disturbing pronouncement came after one of his representatives in Baghdad, Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, warned Parliament that Iraq was heading toward a civil war if the bloodshed were not stemmed. Such dire proclamations from the Shia majority's moderate leadership indicate just how far the Baathist and al-Qaeda terrorist campaigns are driving sectarian tensions. [complete article]

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Weekend of slaughter propels Iraq towards all-out civil war
By James Hider, The Times, July 18, 2005

Iraq is slipping into all-out civil war, a Shia leader declared yesterday, as a devastating onslaught of suicide bombers slaughtered more than 150 people, most of them Shias, around the capital at the weekend.

One bomber killed almost 100 people when he blew up a fuel tanker south of Baghdad, an attack aimed at snapping Shia patience and triggering the full-blown sectarian war that al-Qaeda has been trying to foment for almost two years.

Iraq's security forces have been overwhelmed by the scale of the suicide bombings -- 11 on Friday alone and many more over the weekend -- ordered by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"What is truly happening, and what shall happen, is clear: a war against the Shias," Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a prominent Shia cleric and MP, told the Iraqi parliament. [complete article]

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Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, July 17, 2005

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the "central front" in a battle against the United States.

"The terrorists know that the outcome [in Iraq] will leave them emboldened or defeated," Bush said in his nationally televised address on the war at Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month. "So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction." The US military is fighting the terrorists in Iraq, he repeated this month, "so we do not have to face them here at home."

However, interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land, according to a study by Saudi investigator Nawaf Obaid, a US-trained analyst who was commissioned by the Saudi government and given access to Saudi officials and intelligence. [complete article]

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Frustrated Iraqis ready to take law into own hands
By Luke Baker, Reuters (via Yahoo), July 18, 2005

Iraqis have begun barricading themselves in their homes and forming neighborhood militias in an effort to fend off relentless suicide attacks, residents in the capital said on Monday.

The measures come amid waning confidence in the Iraqi police and other security forces as they struggle to get on top of the two-year-old insurgency. In the latest attack, 98 people were killed by a suicide truck bomb south of Baghdad on Saturday. [complete article]

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Why the leak probe matters
By Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, July 25, 2005

Like a lot of President Bush's critics, I supported the Iraq war at first. Because of the evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction laid out by Colin Powell, I agreed that we needed to disarm Saddam Hussein. I even think it's possible that 25 years from now, historians will conclude that the Iraq war helped accelerate the modernizing of the Middle East, even if it doesn't fully democratize it.

But if that happens, Bush might not get as much credit as he hopes, and not just because most historians, as Richard Nixon liked to say, are liberals. Bush may look bad because his leadership on Iraq has been a fiasco. He didn't plan for it: the early decisions that allowed the insurgency to get going were breathtakingly incompetent. He didn't pay for it: Bush is the first president in history to cut taxes during a war, this one now costing nearly $1 billion a week. And most important of all, he didn't tell the American people the truth about it: taking a nation to war is the most solemn duty of a president, and he'd better make certain there's no alternative and no doubt about the evidence.

Why do I mention this now? Because for all of the complexities of the Valerie Plame case, for all the questions raised about the future of investigative journalism and the fate of the most influential aide to an American president since Louis Howe served Franklin D. Roosevelt 70 years ago, this story is fundamentally about how easy it was to get into Iraq and how hard it will be to get out. [complete article]

See also, Follow the uranium (Frank Rich).

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Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq's election?
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, July 18, 2005

By the late spring of 2004, according to officials in the State Department, Congress, and the United Nations, the Bush Administration was engaged in a debate over the very issue that Diamond had warned about: providing direct support to Allawi and other parties seen as close to the United States and hostile to Iran. Allawi, who had spent decades in exile and worked both for Saddam Hussein's Mukhabarat and for Western intelligence agencies, lacked strong popular appeal. The goal, according to several former intelligence and military officials, was not to achieve outright victory for Allawi -- such an outcome would not be possible or credible, given the strength of the pro-Iranian Shiite religious parties -- but to minimize the religious Shiites' political influence. The Administration hoped to keep Allawi as a major figure in a coalition government, and to do so his party needed a respectable share of the vote.

The main advocate for channelling aid to preferred parties was Thomas Warrick, a senior adviser on Iraq for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who was backed, in this debate, by his superiors and by the National Security Council. Warrick's plan involved using forty million dollars that had been appropriated for the election to covertly provide cell phones, vehicles, radios, security, administrative help, and cash to the parties the Administration favored. The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor resisted this plan, and turned to three American non-governmental organizations that have for decades helped to organize and monitor elections around the world: the National Democratic Institute (N.D.I.), the International Republican Institute (I.R.I.), and the National Endowment for Democracy (N.E.D.).

"It was a huge debate," a participant in the discussions told me. "Warrick said he had gotten the Administration principals" -- senior officials of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council -- "to agree." The N.G.O.s "were fighting a rearguard action to get this election straight," and emphasized at meetings that "the idea of picking favorites never works," he said. [complete article]

See also, Bush backed plan to manipulate Iraq's elections (Washington Post). Of course, the Post's wimpy headline writer wasn't so blunt, but what's more significant: the fact that Bush authorized a plan to back Washington-friendly candidates, or the fact that the plan was scrapped?

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Casualty of war: the U.S. economy
By James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2005

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost taxpayers $314 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office projects additional expenses of perhaps $450 billion over the next 10 years.

That could make the combined campaigns, especially the war in Iraq, the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years, causing even some conservative experts to criticize the open-ended commitment to an elusive goal. The concern is that the soaring costs, given little weight before now, could play a growing role in U.S. strategic decisions because of the fiscal impact.

"Osama (bin Laden) doesn't have to win; he will just bleed us to death," said Michael Scheuer, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA who led the pursuit of bin Laden and recently retired after writing two books critical of the Clinton and Bush administrations. "He's well on his way to doing it." [complete article]

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Ties to U.S. made Britain vulnerable, report says
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, July 18, 2005

Britain's position as a subordinate ally of the United States has been a "high-risk policy" that has left it vulnerable to terrorist attacks such as the recent bombings of London's transportation system, according to a briefing paper released early Monday by one of the country's most prominent foreign affairs research groups.

The British government "has been conducting counter-terrorism policy 'shoulder to shoulder' with the U.S., not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as pillion [back-seat] passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat," said the report published by Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which has close ties to the government. [complete article]

See the Chatham House report, Security, terrorism and the U.K. (PDF).

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After Iraq attacks, calls for militias grow
By Neil MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 2005

A devastating blast south of Baghdad, the latest in a series of suicide attacks aimed at undermining Iraq's US-mentored political process, has raised the temperature between Sunni and Shiite political factions and revived dormant questions about the effectiveness of government security forces.

The attack Saturday evening, involving a tanker truck at a gas station near a Shiite mosque, killed more than 90 people and wounded more than 150 in Musayyib, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town 40 miles south of Baghdad. It was the deadliest attack since the elected government took power at the end of April. [complete article]

See also, Iraq: A nation where suicide bombing is a fact of life (Patrick Cockburn).

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'Guardian' man revealed as hardline Islamist
By Shiv Malik, The Independent, July 17, 2005

The Guardian newspaper is refusing to sack one of its staff reporters despite confirming that he is a member of one of Britain's most extreme Islamist groups.

Dilpazier Aslam, who has been allowed to report on the London bombings from Leeds and was also given space to write a column in last Wednesday's edition of The Guardian, is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical world organisation which seeks to form a global Islamic state regulated by sharia law.

It is understood that staff at The Guardian were unaware that Mr Aslam was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir until allegations surfaced on "The Daily Ablution", a blog run by Scott Burgess. Speculation is mounting that it may have been a sting by Hizb ut-Tahrir to infiltrate the mainstream media. [complete article]

Comment -- On July 13, the day that it appeared on The Guardian's web site, I posted a link to Dilpazier Aslam's column, We rock the boat. In as much as it appeared to represent the views of a segment of the British Muslim population, it seemed worth reading. But the fact that Aslam had not disclosed his membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir raises several questions.

Had Aslam identified himself as a member of HT before being hired, I expect The Guardian would have politely declined to offer him a job. Once enrolled in their traineeship scheme and having been given the opportunity to write a column responding to the London bombings, should Aslam have revealed to his employer his Islamist affiliation? If he had and was identified under the column as an HT member, irrespective of whether he was actually acting as an HT spokesman, many readers would have taken his views as representative of the organization. For some readers that would mean that they would have dismissed what he said; for others, it might have made HT seem much less radical than it actually is.

Having spent much of the past week reading comments being made by young Muslims in Leeds I have to conclude that either, 1) Hizb ut-Tahrir has a member ready and waiting to talk to every reporter in the city, or 2) you don't have to be a member of HT to feel like your community leaders are not paying attention to your feeling that non-Muslims don't care much about violence directed at Muslims.

Now that The Guardian knows who they've hired, I think the first thing they should do is ask Aslam to account for himself. Was he attempting to fly under the radar and, as The Independent puts it, "infiltrate the mainstream media"? Or, even if this seems like a tall order, can he make a credible case that his views as a member of HT do not affect his ability to be an objective journalist and that as a columnist he is speaking for himself and not for HT?

What those who might think that this is an open-and-shut case need to keep in mind is this: Firing Aslam and declaring that his views are not fit to appear on the pages of The Guardian would serve the interests of the radicals. It would send a message to angry young Muslims across Britain and elsewhere that if you want to make yourself heard, you can't rely on words and reason. Power would thereby flow straight into the hands of those with the least desire to exercise the power of their own minds -- those who have convinced themselves and now wish to convince others that violence is the answer.

The answer to extremism is not the suppression of free speech. To invite the radical voice into the public arena is to open it to the tempering influence of other points of view. Extremists usually express a brittle vision of utopia. The greatest threat they face is from skepticism. Shut them down and all you accomplish is that you push them into a closed space where they can escape critical scrutiny.

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Mosques should be saving lost souls
By Tariq Panja, The Observer, July 17, 2005

Of all those involved in the bombings, it is Hasib's story I can't help going back to. Friends say he had always been deeply religious and went on pilgrimage to Mecca twice. At 18 that is remarkable. But he was also arrested for shoplifting and it is said he was smoking marijuana two weeks before he set off on his mission. The radicalisation of a young man such as this points to someone who is uncomfortable in his own skin.

How much did he really know about the religion in whose name he carried out these terrible deeds? The trouble for many young Muslims in Britain comes from the one-dimensional nature of Islamic instruction given in most mosques. Islamic consciousness comes from visits to the mosque and by going to madrassas to learn to read the Koran in Arabic. For many, though they can read the language, it is incomprehensible. Then there are the sermons delivered at Friday prayers, which are read in the language of the founders of the mosque. So in Beeston they are delivered in Urdu.

The content rarely considers the lives of the scores of young men in the mosque. The result is a little like creating religious automatons, who go through the motions but have no concept of why they do what they are doing. [complete article]

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Revealed: British bomber had links with al-Qa'ida
By Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker, Paul Lashmar and Severin Carrell, The Independent, July 17, 2005

Dramatic new evidence linking al-Qa'ida to the London attacks has emerged as a terrorist in US custody identified one of the bombers.

The al-Qa'ida aide, who attended a "terror summit" in the tribal areas of Pakistan last year, told investigators in America that he recognised Mohammed Sidique Khan, the 30-year-old who triggered a bomb at Edgware Road station. Mohammed Junaid Babar, 29, is reported to have picked out Khan after being shown photographs of the four suicide bombers who killed at least 55 people in the 7 July outrage.

Babar, a Pakistani-American computer expert, was arrested on his return to the US from the al-Qa'ida summit in Waziristan. He has admitted a string of charges, including helping a foiled plot to bomb restaurants, pubs and railway stations in Britain, and has subsequently provided authorities with valuable information about the worldwide terrorist network. [complete article]

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Three cities, four killers
By Jason Burke, Antony Barnett, Martin Bright, Mark Townsend, Tariq Panja and Tony Thompson, The Observer, July 17, 2005

Around the airport at Lahore, the straight roads laid out by British colonial administrators stretch between neat, whitewashed houses, villas, dusty parks and narrow canals. But in the centre of the city, ragged children run through narrow lanes between high, mouldering tenements, hawkers shout for custom and the stalls selling kebabs and curries are thronged in the evening when the temperature begins to dip. The cluttered skyline is full of wires carrying stolen electricity, peeling billboards and the minarets and loudspeakers of thousands of mosques.

This city in western Pakistan is the entry point for many young British Pakistanis. The vast proportion of the Pakistani community in Britain is descended from migrants coming from the rich, fertile farm land around Lahore or from the Himalayan foothills to the north.

Many passengers step on to the packed flights from London or Manchester dressed in jeans and T-shirts but walk through the crowded concourse at their destination in the traditional shalwar kameez, the loose cut trousers and shirt favoured locally. Most are coming to stay with their family, looking to learn about the culture, language, society and, often, the religion of their forebears. But a tiny minority come with other plans.

Often already interested in the more militant strands of Islam, some of these arrivals from the UK are hoping to find the men whose messages of anger and hate have formed their vision of the world. Some even are hoping to seek out the men who can help them achieve their ambition to take part in jihad, holy war.

Some of these young radicals come from Britain's northern cities where large Muslim populations often live isolated and battling with poverty. One of the cities is Leeds, four thousand miles away from Lahore. Here, in the back-to-back terraced streets where the Asian community is concentrated, young men and women grow up caught between two cultures. Often speaking both Urdu and English, most successfully reconcile two lifestyles. A tiny minority do not. [complete article]

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Terror hunt 'to take decades'
By Gaby Hinsliff, David Rose, Martin Bright and Ned Temko, The Observer, July 17, 2005

Britain's most senior police officers believe that it will 'take decades' to successfully tackle British Islamist terror networks because of a failure to penetrate extremists in the Muslim community.

Senior police sources have said that the current state of knowledge about Islamic terrorism is comparable to that gathered on the IRA in the early Seventies, when it struck almost with impunity.

Cabinet ministers are also known to share concerns that the government, the intelligence services and the police have failed to provide a 'fundamental right' to British people to live in a secure country. [complete article]

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The violence that lies in every ideology
By Jason Burke, The Observer, July 17, 2005

The two young men, both clean-cut in neat trousers and well-ironed shirts, both studying computer science at a university in Pakistan, their homeland, have, perhaps unsurprisingly, the same views about their religion and its relation to the events of 7 July. 'Islam is a religion of peace and no one who does this is a true Muslim,' they say.

Then they start talking about civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq: 'Every action has a reaction. An action against Muslims causes a reaction by Muslims such as this. This is not unjustified.' There is a pause as we all consider the patent contradiction in their responses. 'Anyway,' they say almost together, 'it was probably the Americans or the Israelis.'

Such ludicrous conspiracy theories surfaced after 11 September and, on the evidence of the letters pages of many newspapers in the Middle East and south-west Asia, have once again. Quite apart from the xenophobia and racism, such ideas are rooted in a simple evasion. The unpleasant truth is that there are considerable elements within Islam that are very useful to violent militants. As a result, Islam is an integral part of the threat we now face. This is difficult for a non-Muslim to state, and leaves me open to accusations of Islamophobia, but is true. And it needs to be admitted and discussed, not swept under a carpet by a politically correct broom. [complete article]

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Suicide bombs potent tools of terrorists
By Dan Eggen and Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 17, 2005

Unheard of only a few decades ago, suicide bombings have rapidly evolved into perhaps the most common method of terrorism in the world, moving west from the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s to the Palestinian intifada of recent years to Iraq today. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide attacks in the United States, suicide bombers have struck from Indonesia to India, from Russia to Morocco.

Now governments throughout the West -- including the United States -- are bracing to cope with similar challenges in the wake of the deadly July 7 subway bombings in London, which marked the first time that suicide bombers had successfully mounted an attack in Western Europe.

The pace of such attacks is quickening. According to data compiled by the Rand Corp., about three-quarters of all suicide bombings have occurred since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The numbers in Iraq alone are breathtaking: About 400 suicide bombings have shaken Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and suicide now plays a role in two out of every three insurgent bombings. In May, an estimated 90 suicide bombings were carried out in the war-torn country -- nearly as many as the Israeli government has documented in the conflict with Palestinians since 1993. [complete article]

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Blowing up in the West
By James Bennet, New York Times, July 17, 2005

The young man was poor and without prospects, but that was not why he carried the bomb. He had not been recruited and was not out for revenge, he said, but simply longed to fulfill "the love of martyrdom." As he lugged his heavy black bag toward an Israeli bus stop, his main worry was not moral but practical. The bomb, evidently derived from fertilizer, smelled terrible, and might give him away. He bought a $3 bottle of perfume and doused it.

He was a figure out of a nightmare scenario of cultish, facile killing and self-destruction. But he was real enough, a Palestinian named Zaydan Zaydan, 18. He was interviewed in an Israeli hospital three years ago after the bomb went off, wounding only him.

The nightmare assumed a new form last week when British authorities revealed that four British men were suspected of detonating the explosions that killed at least 54 people and injured hundreds in downtown London on July 7. Framed by new suicide attacks in Israel and Iraq, the news suggested the European breakout of suicide violence that many had feared since the Sept. 11 attacks. The British authorities were initially careful not to call the men suicide bombers, though they said all four died in the bombings.

If the attacks were Islamist suicide bombings, they were the first such strikes in Western Europe, terrorism experts said. This was once a freakish phenomenon, and then a more frequent but concentrated one, confined to battlegrounds like Lebanon and Chechnya. But a "love of martyrdom," with its paired desire to kill indiscriminately, may now have taken hold in Leeds, England, just as it did for Zaydan Zaydan in his hometown, Jenin, on the West Bank. [complete article]

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Iraq factor returns to haunt Blair
By Andy McSmith, The Independent, July 17, 2005

Bombing London was not an act of revenge for the Iraq war but the latest manifestation of an "evil ideology" responsible for a 12-year terror campaign in 26 countries, Tony Blair insisted yesterday.

His words reflected a worry among ministers that public opinion will link the London terrorist attacks with the unpopular war in Iraq.

The Prime Minister's critics within the Labour Party maintained an informal truce for the first week after the bombings, avoiding reference to the Iraq war out of respect for the victims. That truce has been broken this weekend, with two Labour MPs claiming publicly that the Iraq war and the terrorist attack are linked. [complete article]

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Bombing at mosque kills at least 98 in Iraq
By Andy Mosher and Naseer Nouri, Washington Post, July 17, 2005

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt Saturday night inside a Shiite Muslim mosque in a town south of Baghdad, igniting cooking gas in a tanker parked outside and setting off a massive fireball that killed at least 98 people and destroyed or damaged homes more than a half-mile away, police said.

The unidentified bomber struck at 8 p.m. in Musayyib, a town about 35 miles south of Baghdad in a largely lawless part of Babil province that has come to be known as the triangle of death. A spokesman for the provincial police, Capt. Muthanna Ahmed, said by telephone that the attacker detonated his belt inside the mosque and could not have known the fuel tanker had been parked nearby while its driver was eating dinner at a local restaurant. As a result, Ahmed said, the apparent attempt at killing a relatively small group of worshipers resulted in a conflagration that was "just like a nuclear bomb explosion." [complete article]

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Iran, Iraq herald 'new chapter' in Shiite-led alliance
By Andy Mosher and Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 17, 2005

A quarter-century after Iraq's invasion of Iran launched the Middle East's bloodiest modern war, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a three-day visit that officials on both sides said signals a new alliance that could change the religious and political balance of power in the region.

Jafari and more than 10 other Iraqi cabinet ministers are scheduled to work with their Iranian counterparts on closer security and economic cooperation, particularly on counterterrorism, control of their porous 900-mile frontier, and oil, gas and manufacturing deals. Jafari, a Shiite Muslim who spent almost a decade of exile in Iran while President Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, is the first Iraqi head of government to visit Shiite-ruled Iran in more than a dozen years.

"This is a new chapter in relations with Iraq. In the future, we will witness a sharp change and promotion in relations," said Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Aref, who met with Jafari after his arrival Saturday, the Associated Press reported. Jafari, in turn, said a bond with Iran was an "inseparable part of Iraq's foreign relations." [complete article]

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Iranian lessons
By Michael Ignatieff, New York Times, July 17, 2005

In south Tehran there is a huge walled cemetery dedicated to the martyrs, the young men who died fighting in the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. This vast city of the dead, complete with its own subway station and shops, does not share Arlington National Cemetery's sublimely stoic aesthetic of identical tombstones, row upon row. In Tehran's war cemetery, each of the fallen is remembered individually with his own martyr's shrine, a sealed glass cabinet on a stand. The cabinets are filled with faded photos of men forever young, some in helmets or red bandannas, some carrying their weapons, others at home stroking the family cat or grinning during a meal with friends. Next to the yellowing photographs might be a Koran, or a faded copy of a Persian poem, or a set of plastic flowers, or one of the painted eggs that Iranian families exchange at their New Year. These little shrines seem to go on forever, each one a family's attempt to confer immortality on some young man who died in the trenches at a place like Khorramshahr, the pinnacle of Iranian resistance to the Iraqi invaders.

More than a million Iranians served in the war with Iraq. Three hundred thousand died and a larger number came home wounded. Although the conflict ended in stalemate and disillusion, it remains the Iranian revolution's defining moment of sacrifice. Accordingly, the regime still exploits the martyrs' sacrifices at every traffic roundabout in the country, with enormous posters of the bearded, unsmiling, very young men in uniform, heading off to battle and divine reward. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Anger burns on the fringe of Britain's Muslims
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, July 16, 2005

8 months after U.S.-led siege, insurgents rise again in Falluja
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 15, 2005

Time to pull out. And not just from Iraq
By John Deutch, New York Times, July 15, 2005

Abu Ghraib tactics were first used at Guantanamo
By Josh White, Washington Post, July 14, 2005

It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, July 14, 2005

Ostracising Hamas will not help in the search for peace
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 15, 2005

Bringing Hamas into the peace camp
By Shlomo Ben-Ami, International Herald Tribune, July 14, 2005

Big shift in China's oil policy
By Peter S. Goodman, Washington Post, July 13, 2005

The idea of an 'Islamic bomb' is not new. Extremists would love one
By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2005

Why Iraq has made us less safe ...
By Daniel Benjamin, Time, July 10, 2005

Iraq, Internet fuel growth of global jihad
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2005

Secret plan to quit Iraq
By Simon Walters, Mail on Sunday, July 10, 2005

Leaked No 10 dossier reveals Al-Qaeda's British recruits
By Robert Winnett and David Leppard, The Sunday Times, July 10, 2005

Look out for the enemy within
By John Gray, The Observer, July 10, 2005

Experts see new kind of war
By Charles J. Hanley, AP (via LAT), July 9, 2005

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