|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
'All four' 21 July suspects held
BBC News, July 29, 2005
Police believe all four 21 July London bomb suspects are now in custody after armed raids in the capital and Rome. [complete article]
Inside the minds of suicide bombers
By Laura Miller, Salon (via Der Spiegel), July 29, 2005
Historians, journalists and social scientists have been trying to explain suicide bombings for years, and the job just got a lot harder. The latest expert to make the media rounds is Robert A. Pape, author of "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," and he's been in great demand -- despite the fact that the London attacks could have been custom-made to invalidate his argument.
The constant refrain of "Dying to Win" blames "the root cause of suicide terrorism" on "foreign occupation and the threat that foreign military presence poses to the local community's way of life." As someone who agrees with Pape that stationing American troops in Muslim countries is a really bad idea, even I can see some pretty big holes in this theory. The book's success among vigorous critics of the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq isn't surprising, but its flaws make it a wobbly prop for their arguments.
Pape is keen to advance the idea that "suicide campaigns are primarily nationalistic, not religious, nor are they particularly Islamic." To demonstrate this, he presents many charts and diagrams, produced by collecting and manipulating the demographic information pertaining to the 315 suicide terrorist attacks carried out worldwide between 1980 and 2003. The numbers, and the crunching of them, look impressive, but the statistical sample is far too small to merit the kind of certainty Pape indulges in. When you're trying to milk significance out of ratios like two suicide attackers per 2 million in population (in the case of citizens of the United Arab Emirates), you're using the wrong tools. [complete article]
War on terror over
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment, July 28, 2005
The terrorists don't have a social background in common. They aren't lumpen proletariat or working class or middle class or bourgeois. Or rather, they have in their ranks persons from all these backgrounds.
The terrorists don't have an ethnicity in common. Richard Reid and Lindsey Germaine were Caribbean. Others are Arabs. Some have been Somali or Eritrean or Tanzanian. Others have been South Asia (India/Pakistan/Bangladesh). Still others have been African-American or white Americans. They don't even have to start out Muslim. Ayman al-Zawahiri was particularly proud of an al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan who had been an American Jew in a previous life. Ziad Jarrah, one of the September 11 hijackers, appears to have been a relatively secular young man right to the end. It isn't about religion, except insofar as religion is a basis on which the recruiter can approach his victim. Islam as a religion forbids terrorism. But then so does Christianity, and that doesn't stop there being Christian terrorists. They are a fringe in both religions. [complete article]
Key London bombs suspect arrested in Zambia
By Philippe Naughton, The Times, July 28, 2005
A senior British al-Qaeda operative sought by authorities since the July 7 bombing attacks on London has been arrested in Zambia.
The Los Angeles Times reported today that Haroon Rashid Aswat, a 30-year-old of Indian descent who grew up in West Yorkshire, was arrested last week and is being held in Lusaka, where both British and US anti-terrorism investigators have travelled.
British officials confirmed the report, but would not immediately elaborate. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are seeking consular access to a British national who is reported to be in custody in Zambia."
Aswat, whose associations with al-Qaeda date back ten years, is believed to have entered Briton about two weeks before July 7 on a ferry into Felixstowe, and to have flown out from Heathrow hours before the four suicide bombers killed 52 rush-hour commuters on three Tube trains and a bus. [complete article]
Struggle for a British Islam
By James Brandon and John Thorne, Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2005
Rahim Jung glances nervously upward and brushes water from his beard as raindrops begin spattering the small crowd of demonstrators gathered along busy Park Lane, which runs alongside Hyde Park. Around him, women pull their hijabs closer as the assembly raises aloft homemade placards reading "Not in the Name of Islam," and "We love Britain."
"Our message is that it's perfectly possible to be a practicing Muslim and abhor the atrocities that happened," says Mr. Jung, a social worker from London who helped organize the demonstration. "We are part of Britain."
Jung is part of a small but increasingly vocal number of reformists who aim to counter the radical ideology behind the 7/7 and 7/21 bombings with a peaceful and distinctly British Islam.
Notably, they're not taking their cues from Britain's leading Muslim clerics. Rather, their effort is largely spontaneous - a grass-roots phenomenon that is emerging to bridge the disconnect between faith and nationality that, for some Muslims, ends in violence. [complete article]
Friends describe bomber's political, religious evolution
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, July 29, 2005
The day before Shehzad Tanweer strapped on a backpack filled with explosives and made his way into London, he took part in a cherished British pastime: a pickup soccer match in a park here.
It was a ritual he carried out most days, if he wasn't playing cricket. Whites, blacks, Asians -- everyone in the neighborhood would come out. For a couple of hours, they would forget their races, religions and prejudices and play only as Britons.
On that day, Tanweer's black hair was showing some fashionable brown streaks, recalled several friends who were there. Apart from that, there was nothing unusual about him -- not a sign that he would soon be killed by a bomb he carried onto a London subway train. [complete article]
Bush poised to install Bolton at U.N. through recess appointment
By William Douglas and James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder, July 28, 2005
President Bush is expected to sidestep Congress and appoint John Bolton, his controversial choice for United Nations ambassador, to the job temporarily because opponents have blocked his confirmation by the Senate, several lawmakers and influential conservatives said Thursday.
Bush is poised to make the hawkish, tough-talking Bolton a recess appointment under a constitutional provision that allows the president to fill a vacancy during a Senate recess. Congress is expected to adjourn for August vacation Saturday or Sunday.
Administration officials wouldn't discuss Bush's intentions Thursday, but several senators and conservatives close to the White House think the president will tap Bolton shortly after Congress goes home. [complete article]
See also, U.N. nominee omitted data at hearings in the Senate (NYT). Of course, if the New York Times had an ounce of courage and dispensed with its Victorian rules for headline construction, they could have written Bolton "Forgets" Being Questioned in Intelligence Investigation.
We can leave Iraq by 2007
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 28, 2005
Lieut. Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. officer in charge of training the Iraqi forces, was transferred this month to take over the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the early phases of the war, is widely viewed as one of the Army's most creative and competent generals. It's not yet clear whether the transfer stems from Petraeus' frustration with the job or from Rumsfeld's dissatisfaction with his handling of it.
Either way, some of Petraeus' aides, if not the general himself, have recently learned of rumors that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari doesn't want his army to be well-trained. A leading Shiite, Jaafari reportedly fears that if the U.S. troops leave Iraq, the insurgents will crush all resistance and hoist the Sunnis back to power. Since the Americans have said they will leave once the Iraqi security forces are self-sufficient, Jaafari figures it's best to keep that day at bay. This could explain why many Iraqi units lack such basic materials as reliable weapons, ammunition, and sufficient food and bedding gear.
One of Petraeus' aides hit the roof when he heard this rumor of Jaafari's recalcitrance a few weeks ago. This may be why Rumsfeld seemed more perturbed than usual after his meeting with Jaafari in Baghdad this week. It may be why, for the first time, he brought up the subject of eventually pulling out. [complete article]
In jaded, perilous capital, a collision of perceptions
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri, Washington Post, July 29, 2005
At 11 a.m. in the Iraqi capital, the popping of automatic-weapons fire broke out from one end of a Tigris River bridge to another. Pedestrians jaded by gunfire walked for cover. It was Baghdad's equivalent of a car horn -- guards shooting into the air to clear the way for some dignitary.
Across the Tigris, gray smoke billowed over the city from a bomb. Under the bridge, ski-masked Shiite Muslim commandos cruised through checkpoints in pickups mounted with machine guns.
Nearby, a man stood in the middle of the street holding a gun to the head of another man in a car. Other drivers steered around them. No one stopped to help, or looked that carefully. After more than two years of war, Baghdad's people have learned to choose their battles, and this one didn't qualify. [complete article]
The Algerian connection
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, July 29, 2005
No one is safe: Iraq is hell even for Sunni Arab diplomats. On July 21, the head of the Algerian mission, Ali Belaroussi, who had been stationed in Iraq for two years, and diplomat Azzedine Belkadi were kidnapped in the Mansour neighborhood in Baghdad at gunpoint. This Wednesday, al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers claimed on an Islamic website that the captives had been executed because their government "is ruling in violation of God's will".
What does this really mean? In 2003, President Abdulaziz Bouteflika's government forcefully condemned the United States' "dirty war". The Algerians were officially in favor of an end of the occupation and "the control by the Iraqi people of its natural resources".
But this is not enough to spare Algeria from al-Qaeda's terror. The reason: the US military presence in northern Africa, and its military aid to Algeria. [complete article]
The truth about Abu Ghraib
Editorial, Washington Post, July 29, 2005
For 15 months now the Bush administration has insisted that the horrific photographs of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the result of freelance behavior by low-level personnel and had nothing to do with its policies. In this the White House has been enthusiastically supported by the Army brass, which has conducted investigations documenting hundreds of cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denies that any of its senior officers are culpable. For some time these implacable positions have been glaringly at odds with the known facts. In the past few days, those facts have grown harder to ignore. [complete article]
Security costs slow Iraq reconstruction
By Renae Merle and Griff Witte, Washington Post, July 29, 2005
Efforts to rebuild water, electricity and health networks in Iraq are being shortchanged by higher-than-expected costs to provide security and by generous financial awards to contractors, according to a series of reports by government investigators released yesterday.
Taken together, the reports seem to run contrary to the Bush administration's upbeat assessment that reconstruction efforts are moving vigorously ahead and that the insurgency is dying down.
The United States, Iraq and international donors have committed more than $60 billion to run Iraq and revive its damaged infrastructure. But security costs are eating away a substantial share of that total, up to 36 percent on some projects, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday. The higher security costs are causing reconstruction authorities to scale back efforts in some areas and abandon projects in others. [complete article]
"Pakistan remains the global center for terrorism and al-Qaida"
Ahmed Rashid interviewed by Der Spiegel, July 22, 2005
Rashid: Pakistan remains the global center for terrorism and for the remnants of al-Qaida, which is still very strong here. The fact is, after Sept. 11, despite the many crackdowns made by the military regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, we haven't effectively shut down the Pakistani militant groups. The reason for that is that these groups are very closely tied into the military's foreign policy, especially with respect to Kashmir and Afghanistan. The militant groups here have not been crushed and if the madrassas they control -- they all control a certain number of such religious schools -- are not shut down, we're not going to see an end to militancy here.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So in other words, despite Musharraf's claims to be combating terrorism -- claims that he repeated in his speech to Pakistan on Thursday evening -- he is not doing enough. Is that what you are saying?
Rashid: When crackdowns do occur, they aren't effective. Three hundred, or even 2,000, people are picked up, they're held for 90 days and then they are freed as soon as the attention and pressure from the West has stopped. There has never been an organized campaign to combat it. It has never taken place. [complete article]
UPDATE -- Madrassa foreigners 'must leave' (BBC).
Uranium provision to alter U.S. policy
By Michael Grunwald, Washington Post, July 29, 2005
A provision tucked into the 1,724-page energy bill that Congress is poised to enact today would ease export restrictions on bomb-grade uranium, a lucrative victory for a Canadian medical manufacturer and its well-wired Washington lobbyists.
The Burr Amendment -- named for its sponsor, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) -- would reverse a 13-year-old U.S. policy banning exports of weapons-grade uranium unless the recipients agree to start converting their reactors to use less-dangerous uranium. The Senate rejected the measure last month after critics in both parties warned that it would accelerate the worldwide proliferation of nuclear materials, but a House-Senate conference committee agreed this week to include it in the final bill.
The amendment is just one of dozens of obscure special-interest provisions included in the energy bill, which the House passed yesterday and the Senate is expected to pass today. The amendment's supporters say it will ensure a steady supply of medical isotopes, which are used to diagnose and treat 14 million Americans every year, including patients afflicted with cancer, heart disease and epilepsy. But it will also be a boon to the world's leading producer of those isotopes, an Ottawa-based company called MDS Nordion, which would otherwise have to spend millions of dollars to retrofit its reactor for low-grade uranium.
Critics say the Burr Amendment will not only provide special perks for one foreign company but also encourage the proliferation that politicians in both parties have identified as a dire threat to national security in the post-Sept. 11 world. [complete article]
Pentagon may scrap jet plans
By Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2005
Facing severe budget pressures, the Pentagon is developing plans to slash the Air Force's two prized fighter jet programs, according to Defense Department officials and outside experts.
Military planners are debating options to scale back the Air Force's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the stealth F/A-22 fighter, as some defense officials question spending billions on weapons that have little use against terrorist networks and other unconventional threats.
Such a move would be an enormous blow to the Air Force, which has spent years developing the two weapons to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets. The budget cuts could encounter fierce resistance from lawmakers, including some from California, whose districts would be hit hard by the economic repercussions.
Yet as the Pentagon conducts a top-to-bottom assessment of its entire arsenal, defense officials are mindful that the military buildup that followed Sept. 11 is coming to an end. The war in Iraq, which now costs the Defense Department more than $4 billion per month, is contributing to the budget squeeze that jeopardizes some of the Pentagon's most desired -- and expensive -- weapons. [complete article]
Top spy's no. 2 tells of changes to avoid error
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, July 29, 2005
John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, has imposed strict safeguards intended to ensure that the government's National Intelligence Estimates are based on credible information instead of the kinds of unsubstantiated claims that were the basis for prewar intelligence on Iraq, his top deputy said Thursday.
The deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, made clear that the change should be seen as a response to the intelligence failures on Iraq, most notably the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002 that asserted that the Iraqis had chemical and biological weapons and were rebuilding their nuclear program. Those assertions were proved wrong, and a presidential commission said in March that the fault lay in part with failures by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and others to validate the reliability of their sources and to share their doubts with others.
General Hayden, testifying before a House Intelligence subcommittee, said the change was intended to give new, critical scrutiny to both human and technical intelligence, including reports from agents, satellite photographs and intercepted communications. Among the focuses, he said, will be "who said what, why, and why do we think this is true?"
National Intelligence Estimates are periodic classified reports, prepared by the intelligence community for the president and other national leaders, that are intended to identify trends of significance to national security. General Hayden acknowledged Thursday that the new precautions were likely to result in estimates that proved much less definitive than in the past. But he said he and Mr. Negroponte would embrace "a higher tolerance for ambiguity" than had been accepted and would encourage analysts to be forthright about what they did not know. [complete article]
Disengagement from justice
By Laila El-Haddad, Washington Post, July 28, 2005
I spent eight hours at Gaza's Erez border crossing with Israel last month, waiting for Israeli approval to attend a reception in the West Bank, only to be denied entry based on dubious "security reasons."
I'm a Palestinian mother of a stir-crazy 16-month-old boy, a journalist and a Harvard graduate. I'm not sure exactly what's threatening about me, though my son might disagree, if he could sit still long enough to do so.
Being Palestinian is enough, an Israeli army spokesperson told me.
"As a Palestinian from Gaza, you are considered a security threat first, a journalist second." [complete article]
MI5 analysts admit link between Iraq war and bombings
By Michael Evans, The Times, July 28, 2005
Iraq has become "a dominant issue" for Islamic extremists in Britain, MI5 has admitted.
In a fresh analysis of the threat facing Britain from international terrorist groups, the acknowledgement underlines the view of the security and intelligence services that Iraq has provided an extra motivating force for terrorists.
Contributing to the agency's official website after the July 7 bombings, under the heading "Threat to the UK from international terrorism", a team of MI5 analysts concludes: "Though they have a range of aspirations and 'causes', Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe."
After the suicide bombings in London, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said there was no connection between them and the war in Iraq. This conflicted with a leaked assessment by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, based at MI5 and run by a Ministry of Defence official, which claimed, three weeks before July 7 that Iraq was continuing to act "as a focus of a range of terroristrelated activities in Britain".
The latest MI5 assessment sticks to the view that there is a link between Iraq and terrorist activities. In their website analysis, the MI5 officers add: "Some individuals who support the insurgency are known to have travelled to Iraq in order to fight against coalition forces. It is possible that they may return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here." [complete article]
Jihad travel guide: Let's go terror
By Yassin Musharbash, Der Spiegel, July 25, 2005
The terror in Iraq seems to be getting worse by the day. Now, a new guide has appeared on the Internet advising would-be terrorists on the best way into the country. It isn't easy, but a disguise of jeans and a Walkman may be just the ticket.
Warning that entering Iraq is a journey fraught with peril, the author of the four-page pamphlet tells his readers, "It's a long and difficult route. It's no bed of roses." But by taking certain precautions, the chances of the dangerous tour ending in success are tremendous. Best of all, by following the author's tips, martyrdom, honor and paradise await.
Found recently on the Internet, the brochure is a travel guide for the jihad, a how-to for the mujahedeen. Entitled "This is the Way to Iraq: To All Who Want to Join the Mujahedeen in the Land of Two Rivers," the pamphlet was written by "The Islam Doctor." It's goal: to help would-be terrorists overcome the difficult task of sneaking into the country. It was posted on a Web site affiliated with al-Qaida. [complete article]
Iraq police accused of torture
By Richard Galpin, BBC News, July 27, 2005
Iraq's new police force is facing mounting allegations of systematic abuse and torture of people in detention, as well as allegations of extra-judicial killings. The minority Sunni community in particular claims it is being targeted by the Shia-dominated police force.
The traumatised face of Dhai Adnan Saleh stares from the podium at the journalists and cameramen in front of him at a hastily convened news conference in Baghdad.
Surrounded by a forest of microphones, this tall, thin, awkward man begins mumbling a statement from notes scribbled on a sheet of paper.
No-one can hear him.
He tries to compose himself and starts again.
This time, he describes the horror of the past 24 hours from memory - a memory which is certain to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Dhai Adnan Saleh is both extremely lucky and extremely brave.
He is one of very few survivors of a mass killing by police commandos and he has dared to speak publicly about what happened. [complete article]
Overflowing morgue testament to Iraq's mayhem
By Luke Baker, Reuters, July 27, 2005
If anyone had any lingering doubts about the full extent of violence in Iraq, they need only visit Baghdad's morgue.
The fridges and autopsy rooms of the beige stone block are crammed full of corpses, some of them so badly mutilated or decomposed that identification is nearly impossible.
Every day, around 30 new bodies arrive, the latest victims of a two-year wave of war, crime and insurgency that has left coroners struggling to keep up with the chaos.
All are classified as "suspicious deaths" and the vast majority have been shot, says Faik Amin Baker, the director of the Medical Legal Institute, which oversees the morgue.
More alarming still is that these are only the bodies that require an autopsy; they do not include those that die of natural causes or in attacks where the cause of death is clear.
"Before the war we used to get maybe 250 bodies a month. Now it is 800 or 900 a month from the Baghdad area alone," says Baker, who trained at Guy's Hospital in London and has overseen operations at the morgue for the past 15 years.
"The situation has worsened dramatically. We cannot cope."
While it is difficult to make comparisons with other violent cities around the world because Iraq is also a war zone, the number would give Baghdad a rate of somewhere around 230 "suspicious deaths" each year for every 100,000 residents.
In Bogota, Colombia, often considered one of the most violent cities in the world, the murder rate seldom exceeded 90 per 100,000 even at the peak of the 1990s drug wars. [complete article]
The victim and the killer
By Phillip Robertson, Salon, July 27, 2005
In the Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah in west Baghdad on June 24, a 33-year-old Iraqi man named Yasser Salihee was driving alone as he approached a small number of soldiers from a mixed U.S. and Iraqi patrol. Salihee was driving west. It was midday and most of the soldiers in the patrol had just entered a four-story building on the south side of the street to search for suspected insurgents on the roof. A few stayed down on the street to provide security. On the north side of the street stood two U.S. snipers; across the street an American from the same unit and at least one Iraqi soldier were posted. The street was left open to traffic: The patrol had not blocked off the street with cones and concertina wire, as they normally would for a cordon and search operation. The soldiers decided to stop cars by standing in the street and aiming their rifles at the drivers.
As Salihee approached the patrol from the east, another car was turning around in front of him. He began to drive around it to the right. Exactly what happened next is in dispute. What is certain is that as Salihee went around the car, the two U.S. snipers, thinking he was a suicide bomber, opened fire. At least four rounds were fired. One blew out the car's right front tire; another ricocheted off the ground and pierced the gas tank. The final 7.62 millimeter round pierced the driver's side of the windshield, entering Salihee's right eye and shattering his skull. Salihee died instantly.
The American troops left the car in the street and moved to a different position. An hour after the shooting, an Iraqi policeman found Salihee's phone and called his wife, Raghad. Raghad arrived at the scene and found her husband's body still slumped in the car, and she called an ambulance. Then she sat down on the curb and wept.
Salihee was not a suicide bomber. He was a physician and journalist who was going to his house on his day off to pick up his 2-year-old daughter, Dania, and take her swimming. Barely able to make ends meet on the meager salary paid doctors by the Iraqi Health Ministry, Salihee had talked his way into a reporting job at Knight-Ridder in early 2004. He earned bylines in the San Jose Mercury News and other major U.S. papers by writing about detainees who had been tortured by Iraqi police and the dangers faced by men driving alone in the city. After his death, anguished tributes from colleagues and friends flooded the Internet and the papers, even NPR.
A few days after [learning] ... about Yasser's death, I decided to search for the soldier who pulled the trigger and look for answers about the shooting. I wanted to hear what happened in the soldier's own words. The story presented a serious difficulty: I could not tell the U.S. military that I was working on Salihee's killing: Third Infantry Division Public Affairs officers will not help a reporter who is working on a "negative" report about civilian casualties, and one such officer told me as much. To date, the U.S. military has refused to release any figures about the civilians it has killed, although it keeps very detailed records of every incident. [complete article]
Army general advised using dogs at Abu Ghraib, officer testifies
By Josh White, Washington Post, July 28, 2005
Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get military working dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.
Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.
"We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense," DiNenna testified by telephone. DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib "to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq." [complete article]
See also, Legal battle erupts over new Abu Ghraib photos (IPS).
Kurds won't back down from federalism
By Bassem Mroue, AP (via The Guardian), July 27, 2005
Iraqi Kurds will never back down from demands for a federal state despite problems this may create in efforts to draft a new constitution, a top Kurdish leader said Wednesday. U.S. officials pressed Iraq to meet the deadline for completing the charter.
Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, also said Kurds would never dissolve their militias and repeated demands for the return of ethnic Kurds to the oil-rich Kirkuk area from which tens of thousands of them were expelled under Saddam Hussein. [complete article]
Making sense of the Plame affair
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, July 27, 2005
I've written regularly about the media's inability to connect the dots. The other day a reporter out in the far-flung reaches of our imperium wrote in to Tomdispatch pointing to a front-paged dot that no one -- myself included -- had bothered to pay much attention to or connect to anything at all. In the July 21st Washington Post, Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei wrote a piece, Plame's Identity Marked as Secret, describing a memo from the State Department's intelligence experts that Secretary of State Colin Powell had with him on a 5-day trip to Africa he took with the President and his aides that began on July 7, 2003. This was only a day after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson published What I Didn't Find in Africa on the op-ed page of the New York Times, exposing the Bush administration's Niger uranium lie. ("Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."); only four days before Time magazine's Matt Cooper had that conversation "on double super secret background" with Karl Rove and was told that "wilson's wife… apparently works at the agency on wmd"; only five days before CIA Director George Tenet took a provisional fall for the administration for letting those "16 words" that started the whole thing on Saddam's supposed search for African uranium for his supposed atomic program into the 2003 State of the Union Address the previous January; only seven days before Robert Novak wrote his now infamous Mission to Niger column outing Joe Wilson's wife as a CIA agent. ("Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.") [complete article]
Bomb suspect 'became a militant' in prison
By Alan Travis and Audrey Gillan, The Guardian, July 28, 2005
Muktar Said-Ibrahim, the suspected bomber still on the run is believed to have been radicalised during his 2½ years in young offenders' institutions in south-east England.
Ibrahim was jailed for five years in 1996 at Wood Green crown court in north London for his role in a teenage gang which robbed people in the Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage areas of Hertfordshire. It is believed he was "bounced around" from one institution to another - Feltham in west London, Aylesbury, Bedford, Huntercombe near Henley-on-Thames, and Wood Hill at Milton Keynes.
The number of moves is highly unusual for a juvenile, and implies either appearances at different courts, or being seen as a problem by governors. He was regularly moved until he completed his sentence in September 1998.
Former friends were quoted yesterday as saying that, as a youngster, he smoked cannabis and was known as a troublemaker, but did not become a militant Muslim until prison.
In May this year the independent anti-terrorism watchdog, Lord Carlile, warned ministers of the influence of radical Muslim extremists at one institution. [complete article]
Nine held in new anti-terror raids
By James Sturcke, The Guardian, July 28, 2005
Anti-terror police today arrested nine more men during dawn raids on two addresses in south London.
Six of the suspects were arrested at one property in Tooting, and three at another nearby. It is not thought any of those being held are any of the three bombers still on the run after last Thursday's failed attacks in the capital. [complete article]
Bombs find shows outrages on 7/7 and 21/7 were linked
By Sean O'Neill and Daniel McGrory, The Times, July 28, 2005
The same prolific bombmaker built the deadly devices used by the two suicide squads that attacked London this month, security sources have told The Times.
A number of bombs and components, some packed with nails to cause death and maximum injury, were recovered from a car parked by the July 7 bombers at Luton station.
Senior sources told The Times that the devices recovered at Luton are "strikingly similar in their configuration and contents" to the unexploded bomb found at Warren Street Tube station on July 21.
The nature and number of bombs point to the existence of a large and well-equipped terrorist cell intent on a sustained campaign of attacks. [complete article]
In Britain, migrants took a new path: to terrorism
By Sarah Lyall, New York Times, July 28, 2005
They came to Britain as children in the early 1990's, refugees from war and famine in East Africa looking for a haven in the West. But at some point, according to the authorities, something poisoned Muktar Said Ibrahim and Yasin Hassan Omar against the country that had taken them in.
The men, who shared a small apartment in a housing project in north London, were named Monday as two of the four suspects in the failed July 21 bombings on London's subways and buses.
According to the police, Mr. Omar was the man behind the attempted bombing of the Victoria Line subway traveling between Oxford Circus and Warren Street stations that day. When his detonator exploded but the bombs it was meant to ignite failed to go off, he fled, managing to slip into the crowd and out of sight.
Mr. Omar, the police said, was among the men arrested in Birmingham on Wednesday morning in connection with the attacks.
As for Mr. Ibrahim, the authorities say he tried to blow up the No. 26 bus in east London. He, too, ran and escaped when his bombs failed to go off. He remains at large.
Both men came to Britain as so many immigrants do, fleeing something else. The circumstances of their arrival, as well as the disclosures that both received social security benefits and state housing, incensed critics of a government asylum policy that, many say, has allowed anti-Western extremists to proliferate in Britain. [complete article]
U.S., Iraqi officials discuss steps to speed troop withdrawals
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, July 27, 2005
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari and the top U.S. commander in Iraq Wednesday and discussed specific steps to speed preparations for the withdrawal of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beginning as early as next spring.
The tone of statements by Rumsfeld and Jafari, as well as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, suggested a heightened determination and immediacy to planning for the U.S. troop reduction, despite the continuation of lethal daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq. [complete article]
Prosecutor in CIA leak case casting a wide net
By Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, July 27, 2005
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.
Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.
In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed. [complete article]
Police debate if London plotters were suicide bombers, or dupes
By Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times, July 27, 2005
Within hours of the July 7 attacks here, many British police and intelligence officials assumed that the four bombers had intended to die with their bombs.
But in recent days, some police officials are increasingly considering the possibility that the men did not plan to commit suicide and were duped into dying.
Investigators raising doubts about the suicide assumption have cited evidence to support this theory. Each of the four men who died in the July 7 attacks purchased round-trip railway tickets from Luton to London. Germaine Lindsay's rented car left in Luton had a seven-day parking sticker on the dashboard.
A large quantity of explosives were stored in the trunk of that car, perhaps for another attack. Another bomber had just spent a large sum to repair his car. The men carried driver's licenses and other ID cards with them to their deaths, unusual for suicide bombers.
In addition, none left behind a note, videotape or Internet trail as suicide bombers have done in the past. And the bombers' families were baffled by what seemed to be their decisions to kill themselves.
While some of these clues could be seen as the work of men intent on covering their trail, some investigators increasingly believe that the men may have been conned into carrying the bombs onto the trains and leaving them, thinking they were going to explode minutes later. [complete article]
The Iraqi women who fear that democracy will crush freedom
By James Hider, The Times, July 27, 2005
Suhaida Maya never used to wear a hijab, the headscarf that Muslim women don as a mark of religious modesty. An English teacher from Shattra, a town in central Iraq, she always wore whatever she wanted.
Now she and her daughter both cover up for fear of the rising number of Islamist puritans in the south.
"We have to cover up. The Islamic parties even come into schools' sports lessons and tell girls that they have to wear skirts over their tracksuits. It's like being in Iran," she said, her defiance shown by the bright pink of her unwanted hijab, and the women's rights group she runs.
Many women in Iraq, especially in the Shia south, are increasingly concerned that Islamic parties are imposing their strict religious ways on women who once enjoyed some of the most liberal rights in the region.
Leaked drafts of Iraq's forthcoming constitution bear out fears that restrictions on their rights may soon be enshrined in the law. The latest copy of the charter, due to be finalised in three weeks, revealed wording that could roll back a 1959 secular law that enshrined women's equality. [complete article]
Algerian diplomatic envoys reportedly executed by al-Qaida
Counterterrorism Blog, July 27, 2005
In a new communique posted within the past hour, the Military Wing of Al-Qaida's Jihad Committee in Mesopotamia--led by wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--has announced the execution of two Algerian diplomats held hostage in Iraq following a decision two days ago by Al-Qaida's Shura Council to impose the death penalty. In a daring July 21 insurgent operation, Ali Belarousi and his colleague Azzedine Belkadi were dragged from their vehicle in a highly secured zone of Baghdad and seized as captives. The Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC) has applauded the operation and, yesterday, issued a special request to Al-Qaida to videotape "confessions" by the diplomats--particularly Azzedine Belkadi, who the GSPC accused of being behind massacres of Algerian civilians blamed on militant Algerian Islamists. [complete article]
Pentagon: 10 Iraq insurgency leaders meet occasionally
By Jim Mannion, Middle East Online, July 27, 2005
The Iraq insurgency has about ten leaders who meet occasionally both inside and outside Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, a US military spokesman said the US is holding between 12,000 and 17,000 Iraqis, insurgents, criminals and unlucky bystanders.
Lieutenant General James Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed Tuesday reports quoting a former top army general as saying Iraq's insurrection was led by eight to ten figures who have held meetings both in Iraq and in neighbouring countries.
"We know who they are," retired General Jack Keane said at a Washington think tank Monday. Keane is formerly US Army deputy chief of staff, and has conducted a number of Pentagon assessment missions to Iraq. [complete article]
Frist pulls defense bill to avoid votes on treatment of detainees
By James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder, July 26, 2005
The Senate's Republican leader on Tuesday derailed a bipartisan effort to set rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other military detention camps by abruptly stopping debate on a $491 billion defense bill.
The unusual move came after senators, including several leading Republicans, beat back an effort by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to block amendments setting standards for military-prisoner interrogations and delaying base closings scheduled for approval later this year. The White House had threatened to veto the defense-spending legislation if it contained either of those provisions.
Rather than risk debate and votes on those amendments, Frist, R-Tenn., simply pulled the bill from consideration. The bill would have set defense spending levels for fiscal year 2006, which begins Oct. 1, and it includes authority to spend $50 billion on military operations in Iraq. [complete article]
Abu Ghraib dog tactics came from Guantanamo
By Josh White, Washington Post, July 27, 2005
Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.
One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.
The preliminary hearing at Fort Meade, Md., for two Army dog handlers accused of mistreating detainees provided more evidence that severe tactics approved for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo migrated to Iraq and spiraled into the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib in the late summer and early fall of 2003. The testimony came days after an internal military investigation showed the similarity between techniques used on the suspected "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and tactics seen in photographs at the prison that shocked the world. [complete article]
Veteran of Iraq, running in Ohio, is harsh on Bush
By James Dao, New York Times, July 27, 2005
In the Second Congressional District of Ohio, which Republicans have controlled for the last two decades, the quickest route to political oblivion could be the one chosen by Paul L. Hackett: calling President Bush a "chicken hawk" for not serving in Vietnam and harshly criticizing the decision to invade Iraq.
But Mr. Hackett, the Democratic candidate in the Aug. 2 special Congressional election, is not an ordinary politician. Until four months ago, he was serving in the Marines, commanding a civil affairs unit in Iraq.
If Mr. Hackett is elected, he will become the first member of Congress to have served in the Iraq war. That alone has helped Mr. Hackett, a 43-year-old lawyer, unexpectedly turn this potential walkover into a sharply contested race.
"When you tell people he just got back from Iraq, they stop and listen," said Timothy Burke, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Hamilton County, one of seven southern Ohio counties in the district. "He'd not have nearly as many people paying attention to him if it weren't for that initial grabber." [complete article]
Ahmad Chalabi emerges, once again, as powerful leader
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, July 26, 2005
A tall Texas engineer in a John Deere cap and cowboy boots spoke slowly and a little too loudly to make sure a visiting Iraqi dignitary could grasp the mechanics of a power plant in a dusty village south of Baghdad.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi listened calmly to the contractor's carefully enunciated syllables, the kind a teacher might use with an ignorant student. Then, the MIT-educated mathematician shot back with an eloquent stream of jargon-laced comments that made the engineer's eyes widen.
"So, can we see the turbines now?" Chalabi finished with a grin.
"Absolutely," the humbled Texan replied.
The contractor was only the latest American to learn lesson No. 1 in dealing with Chalabi: Never underestimate him. A year after observers pronounced him finished - spurned by one-time American sponsors and with no apparent political base in Iraq - Chalabi has emerged more powerful than ever. [complete article]
The London bombings: for al-Qaeda, steady as she goes
By Michael Scheuer, Jamestown Foundation, July 22, 2005
The 7 July 2005 detonation of four nearly simultaneous explosions in London's transportation system -- killing 55 and wounding 700 -- were the latest attacks in a campaign against U.S. allies announced by al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahairi in 2002. At that time, al-Zawahiri stated that an al-Qaeda campaign was underway to punish nations assisting the United States in either Afghanistan, or which might assist in the pending invasion of Iraq, "Some messages have already been sent to the deputies [allies] of America, so that they may restrain themselves in getting entangled in this Crusader assault," al-Zawahiri said in September 2002. "The Mujahid youth had already sent messages to Germany and France. However, if these doses are not enough, we are prepared with the help of Allah to inject further doses."
On July 7, al-Qaeda did indeed 'inject' more lethal doses in its campaign against U.S. allies. Since al-Zawahiri's statement, he or Osama bin Laden have warned twenty-three countries against cooperating with the United States in Afghanistan or Iraq. Among the countries are: Turkey, Australia, South Korea, Kuwait, Egypt, the UK, France, Germany, Jordan, and Canada. To date, the twenty-three named states have suffered attacks of one sort or another. While not all can be linked directly to al-Qaeda, ties to the group are clear in the most destructive attacks -- Bali, Istanbul, Madrid and now, London. (One would have to have absolute faith in coincidence to argue al-Qaeda had no hand in the others.) As always for al-Qaeda, a threat made yields an attack executed. These attacks have not just damaged the targeted country, but, in al-Zawahiri's words, "[l]et those who collaborate with the United States know that America cannot protect itself, let alone others.
'Bomb suspect' felled by stun gun
By James Sturcke, The Guardian, July 27, 2005
Police investigating the failed bomb attacks in London on July 21 arrested four men at two addresses in Birmingham today.
The raids were thought to be of major significance, and there were unconfirmed reports that one of those arrested was one of the four men police suspect of attempting to carry out last week's attacks.
They were being questioned today along with two men arrested last night in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
At around 1.30pm Bedfordshire police said it had detained another man under the Terrorism Act at Luton airport, where he was due to fly to Nimes in southern France. It was not immediately clear if his arrest was linked to the London bombings investigation; a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan police said they were not commenting on it. [complete article]
Eight bullets demands a heavy burden of proof
By Jimmy Burns, Financial Times, July 27, 2005
The man shot dead by police on Friday received seven bullets in the head and one in the shoulder, it has emerged.
Earlier witness reports had suggested five shots were fired, but Monday's confirmed details are likely to put fresh pressure on the police.
They emerged at an inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician, which opened at Southwark coroner's court.
Senior police officers at the weekend confirmed that de Menezes had been killed in line with shoot-to-kill guidelines for officers when facing a terrorist they suspect is about to detonate a bomb.
However, police insiders accept there are serious questions over exactly how the guidelines were applied in this case. [complete article]
Militants emerge in Egypt bombings
By Paul Schemm, Boston Globe, July 27, 2005
Evidence from the deadly weekend bombings in the Sharm el-Sheik tourist resort is increasingly pointing to the involvement of a homegrown militant organization operating among the Bedouin communities in the stark, rugged terrain of the Sinai peninsula, according to Egyptian investigators and analysts.
News reports identified one of the suicide bombers as Moussa Badran, an Egyptian from a small town near el-Arish in northern Sinai, suggesting that natives of the desert peninsula may be providing recruits for a war on the Egyptian state.
Several suspects in the bombings at the Taba resort area in Sinai last October, which killed 34, are still at large and have been the target of a harsh manhunt in the Sinai for the past nine months that rights groups say has taken more than 3,000 people into custody. Authorities said yesterday that investigators took DNA samples from the Taba suspects' families to compare with the remains of up to three suicide bombers in the Sharm el-Sheik bombings on Saturday, which killed as many as 88 tourists and Egyptian workers.
Some activists and political analysts say the vast security campaign to find those behind the October bombings may have antagonized the population of the area enough to provide recruits for the new attacks. [complete article]
See also, Egypt absolves 5 Pakistanis in bombings (NYT).
Envoy signals U.S. will take active role in shaping Iraq constitution
By Dexter Filkins and James Glanz, New York Times (IHT), July 27, 2005
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq waded into the debate over Iraq's draft constitution, signaling that the United States would work to guarantee the rights of Iraqi women and to blunt the desires of ethnic and religious factions pushing for broader autonomy in the new Iraqi state.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad indicated on Monday that the United States would play an active - and, if need be, public - role in brokering what he called a "national compact" among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.
In remarks at his residence inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, Khalilzad spoke twice of the need to avert a "civil war," a possibility that Iraqi and American officials speak of here with growing frequency. To reach an accommodation, he said, it would be necessary for each of Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups to "accept less than its maximum aspirations. [complete article]
Expanded Kurdistan claim
By Justin Alexander, Iraqi Wannabe, July 25, 2005
A few days ago the Kurds unveiled an expanded Kurdish region which they want enshrined as an appendix to the new constitution. As I understand it the claim represents not simply areas which currently have a majority Kurdish population, but areas which they believe did so at some point in the past 50-100 years.
In all this would represent a doubling of the Kurdish region and include areas which currently have majority Arab, Chaldo-Assyrian and Turkoman populations. [complete article]
The constitution and the Kurds
By Peter W. Galbraith, Boston Globe, July 25, 2005
There are not many places in Iraq where the locals want to celebrate American Independence Day. But, in Iraq's self-governing Kurdistan region, the newly elected government decided to host a Fourth of July party for their American allies. Top coalition officers were invited along with US civilians, food and drinks ordered (the secular Kurds serve and drink alcohol), and the Kurdistan prime minister had prepared his speech. Then America's top diplomat in the region delivered an ultimatum: She would not attend unless the Kurds flew Iraq's flag at the party. The Kurds refused and canceled the party.
The current Iraqi flag was chosen by Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to signify the unity of Arab lands. For the non-Arab Kurds the flag is not only a symbol of their second class status but they also associate it with the atrocities-- including use of poison gas-- of the former regime. Many of Iraq's Arab leaders have been sensitive to Kurdish concerns. When they visit the region, they do not make a fuss over the flag.
For Iraq's Kurds, the flag episode epitomizes America's ingratitude for their role as an ally in the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and as the strongest supporter of US postwar policies. They note that American diplomats have no qualms about calling on Shi'ite politicians who display portraits of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and that the United States has pushed for the inclusion of Sunni Arabs, many former Ba'athists, in the constitution drafting committee. Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafaari was warmly received at the White House even though his party, Dawa, was on the State Department terrorist list until a few years ago for the 1982 suicide bombing of the US embassy in Kuwait. [complete article]
Iranian gas victims want justice from Saddam tribunal
By Angus McDowall, The Independent, July 26, 2005
The Iranian government is to contact the Iraqi tribunal prosecuting Saddam Hussein to seek justice for the Iranian victims of Iraqi chemical weapons attacks which contaminated up to 100,000 people.
Washington gave Baghdad political support in the war long after Iraq's use of chemical weapons had been made public. At that time, Iran was in the throes of revolution and was seen as more dangerous than Saddam's Iraq. During his visit to Tehran last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari pinned blame for the war entirely on Saddam.
"Why has all this been forgotten? How can weapons of mass destruction be an excuse to attack Saddam while the victims of his attacks do not count enough to be taken into consideration?" asked Shahriar Khateri of the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims' Support, an Iranian non-governmental organisation. [complete article]
Two-thirds of Muslims consider leaving UK
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, July 26, 2005
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have thought about leaving Britain after the London bombings, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll.
The figure illustrates how widespread fears are of an anti-Muslim backlash following the July 7 bombings which were carried out by British born suicide bombers.
The poll also shows that tens of thousands of Muslims have suffered from increased Islamophobia, with one in five saying they or a family member have faced abuse or hostility since the attacks.
Police have recorded more than 1,200 suspected Islamophobic incidents across the country ranging from verbal abuse to one murder in the past three weeks. The poll suggests the headline figure is a large underestimate. [complete article]
Fear in the city
By Tim Dowling, The Guardian, July 26, 2005
I can pretty well pinpoint the moment when my own spirit of defiance started to fade. It was on Saturday morning. I was with the dog in the park opposite our house, chatting to a woman with a boxer while watching two uniformed policeman comb the undergrowth. It's not unusual to see police in Little Wormwood Scrubs; the place has of late become something of a centre of excellence for delinquents. It is unusual, however, to be ordered to leave the area by a plainclothes officer citing the presence of a suspicious device. It is strange to watch the whole park being festooned in police tape, to see cops with machine-guns and earpieces standing on the corner. A huge security cordon was thrown up, with our house inside it.
At this point I was still feeling rather reassured by what I assumed was a ridiculous, if understandable, overreaction on the part of the police. People set fire to stolen scooters in our park, but they do not plants bombs there. We stood out on the front step in order to see what was happening, only to be told by a policeman that we must remain indoors. He was clearly looking for a phrase to describe the seriousness of the situation without telling us any more than he needed to. The words he chose were: "It's got nails in." That was when my defiance evaporated. [complete article]
Police name bomb suspects
By Duncan Campbell, Rosie Cowan, Ian Cobain and Audrey Gillan, The Guardian, July 26, 2005
Two of the four men wanted in connection with last week's failed suicide bomb attempts in London were yesterday named by police as the hunt for them intensified across the capital last night.
The search, involving thousands of officers, continued as the prime minister expressed his personal sadness over the death of the young Brazilian shot in error by a police marksman last Friday.
Police would not last night identify the nationalities of the two wanted men or comment on speculation that they were from East Africa. They revealed that they now believed that a fifth would-be bomber may have been involved in the unsuccessful attacks. [complete article]
Two militants place suspect at a camp in Pakistan
By Arif Jamal and Somini Sengupta, New York Times, July 26, 2005
Two experienced militants, both veterans of the war in Afghanistan, told an independent Pakistani journalist here last week that they had met one of the July 7 London bombing suspects, Shehzad Tanweer, on a trip to a known militant training camp north of the capital, Islamabad.
One of the militants interviewed said Mr. Tanweer struck him as "a good Muslim" who was eager to assassinate the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "I wish I could do that," he recalled Mr. Tanweer as saying.
The militants, both members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, an organization officially banned by the government and implicated in two assassination attempts against General Musharraf, spoke on condition that their names not be used because they do not want to be apprehended by the government. They said they met Mr. Tanweer, 22, a Briton of Pakistani descent, last winter, but they would not be more specific on dates for fear of revealing their own identities. [complete article]
U.S. pushes anti-terrorism in Africa
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, July 26, 2005
The U.S. military is embarking on a long-term push into Africa to counter what it considers growing inroads by al Qaeda and other terrorist networks in poor, lawless and predominantly Muslim expanses of the continent.
The Pentagon plans to train thousands of African troops in battalions equipped for extended desert and border operations and to link the militaries of different countries with secure satellite communications. The initiative, with proposed funding of $500 million over seven years, covers Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia -- with the U.S. military eager to add Libya if relations improve.
The Pentagon is also assigning more military officers to U.S. embassies in the region, bolstering the gathering and sharing of intelligence, casing out austere landing strips for use in emergencies, and securing greater access and legal protections for U.S. troops through new bilateral agreements. [complete article]
GOP senators ready detainee amendments
By Liz Sidoti, AP (via SF Chronicle), July 25, 2005
Senate Republicans planned to push ahead with legislation regulating the treatment and interrogation of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody, despite a White House veto threat.
The Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, is working to kill amendments that GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina want to tack onto a bill setting Defense Department policy for next year.
McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Graham, a former military lawyer, planned to introduce their amendments this week, said Senate aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to let their names be used. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., has been working with McCain and Graham on the legislation. [complete article]
If it's civil war, do we know it?
By John F. Burns, New York Times, July 24, 2005
From the moment American troops crossed the border 28 months ago, the specter hanging over the American enterprise here has been that Iraq, freed from Mr. Hussein's tyranny, might prove to be so fractured - by politics and religion, by culture and geography, and by the suspicion and enmity sown by Mr. Hussein's years of repression - that it would spiral inexorably into civil war.
If it did, opponents of the American-led invasion had warned, American troops could get caught in the crossfire between Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen, secularists and believers - reduced, in the grimmest circumstances, to the common target of a host of contending militias.
Now, events are pointing more than ever to the possibility that the nightmare could come true. Recent weeks have seen the insurgency reach new heights of sustained brutality. The violence is ever more centered on sectarian killings, with Sunni insurgents targeting hundreds of Shiite and Kurdish civilians in suicide bombings. There are reports of Shiite death squads, some with links to the interior ministry, retaliating by abducting and killing Sunni clerics and community leaders.
The past 10 days have seen such a quickening of these killings, particularly by the insurgents, that many Iraqis are saying that the civil war has already begun. [complete article]
Shots to the heart of Iraq
By Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2005
Three men in an unmarked sedan pulled up near the headquarters of the national police major crimes unit. The two passengers, wearing traditional Arab dishdasha gowns, stepped from the car.
At the same moment, a U.S. military convoy emerged from an underpass. Apparently believing the men were staging an ambush, the Americans fired, killing one passenger and wounding the other. The sedan's driver was hit in the head by two bullet fragments.
The soldiers drove on without stopping.
This kind of shooting is far from rare in Baghdad, but the driver of the car was no ordinary casualty. He was Iraqi police Brig. Gen. Majeed Farraji, chief of the major crimes unit. His passengers were unarmed hitchhikers whom he was dropping off on his way to work.
"The reason they shot us is just because the Americans are reckless," the general said from his hospital bed hours after the July 6 shooting, his head wrapped in a white bandage. "Nobody punishes them or blames them." [complete article]
'Is this how you treat one of your own?'
By Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2005
Cyrus Kar's zeal for 15 seconds of film cost him 55 days in prison in Iraq.
For three years, the 44-year-old history buff and business teacher had been working on a documentary about Cyrus the Great, the Persian conqueror who freed the Jews from Babylon and wrote the first charters of human rights. Kar had filmed in Iran and Central Asia. Iraq, the site of ancient Babylonia, was to be last. He hoped by then that hostilities would ease.
When the fighting dragged on longer than he anticipated, Kar went into Iraq anyway. And on a day when he spotted a bridge that looked like a modern version of one Cyrus had reportedly crossed on his journey to Babylon, Kar couldn't pass it up.
He never got there. Instead, Kar, his Iranian cameraman and an Iraqi cab driver he had hired that morning in May were stopped at a checkpoint about 90 minutes north of Baghdad.
That stop, he said in lengthy interviews in Los Angeles, 10 days after he was freed by U.S. authorities, began a "nightmare journey." [complete article]
Israel is still blocking the road to peace
By Henry Siegman, International Herald Tribune, July 25, 2005
In her latest visit to Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to diffuse the crisis created by the failure of Israel to coordinate its imminent withdrawal from Gaza with Palestinian leadership. With less than four weeks to go, not one of the issues that will determine whether the pullout will be a success or a disaster has been resolved.
But as important as it is for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to coordinate the disengagement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and for Abbas to finally confront Palestinian rejectionist groups, there is an even more important problem. That problem is Sharon's determination to use the withdrawal not as a precedent for a comprehensive land-for-peace accord but to make such an accord impossible.
From the very outset of his announcement that Israel would disengage unilaterally from Gaza, Sharon made it clear he is doing so to avoid the "dangers" of a resumed peace process that would require Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. As his senior adviser and former chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, notoriously put it last year, the withdrawal was intended to put the road map, the peace process and a Palestinian state in "formaldehyde." [complete article]
Sharon's Gaza initiative
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, Juky 22, 2005
Sharon has never advocated a two-state solution, at least in the way that anyone else understands the concept. He believes a political solution to end the conflict is simply not possible for the foreseeable future, and Israel instead must pursue the "Iron Wall" politics of Zeev (nee Vladimir) Jabotinsky, the moving spirit of the Betar movement of which the Likud Party forms part. [complete article]
Effort here to charge London suspect was blocked
By Hal Bernton and David Heath, Seattle Times, July 24, 2005
The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.
British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.
But long before he surfaced as a suspect there, federal prosecutors in Seattle wanted to seek a grand-jury indictment for his involvement in a failed attempt to set up a terrorist-training camp in Bly, Ore., in late 1999. In early 2000, Aswat lived for a couple of months in central Seattle at the Dar-us-Salaam mosque.
A federal indictment of Aswat in 2002 would have resulted in an arrest warrant and his possible detention in Britain for extradition to the United States. [complete article]
See also, London attack suspect is also sought by U.S. (LAT).
Egypt hunts Pakistanis over bombs
BBC News, July 24, 2005
Egyptian police are searching for six Pakistani nationals in connection with the triple bombing at Sharm al-Sheikh. [complete article]
How to beat terrorism: lessons of an Arab journey
By Rami G Khouri, Open Democracy, July 22, 2005
In every Arab society, demons from the past – a harrowing litany of excesses and errors – now haunt the rulers and the ruled alike:
* tens of millions of young men and women - educated but in unfulfilling jobs, unemployed, restive and frustrated - have given unnatural birth to thousands of active terrorists and anarchists, targeting our own and foreign lands
Al Qaeda leaders seen in control
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, July 24, 2005
The back-to-back nature of the deadly attacks in Egypt and London, as well as similarities in the methods used, suggests that the al Qaeda leadership may have given the orders for both operations and is a clear sign that Osama bin Laden and his deputies remain in control of the network, according to interviews with counterterrorism analysts and government officials in Europe and the Middle East.
Investigators on Saturday said that they believed the details of the bombing plots in Egypt and Britain -- the deadliest terrorist strikes in each country's history -- were organized locally by groups working independently of each other. In Sharm el-Sheikh, where the death toll rose to 88 people, attention centered on an al Qaeda affiliate blamed for a similar attack last October at Taba, another Red Sea resort. In London, where 52 bystanders were killed in the subway and on a bus, police have identified three of the four presumed suicide bombers as British natives with suspected connections to Pakistani radicals.
But intelligence officials and terrorist experts said they suspect that bin Laden or his lieutenants may have sponsored both operations from afar, as well as other explosions that have killed hundreds of people in Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Morocco since 2002. The hallmarks in each case: multiple bombings aimed at unguarded, civilian targets that are designed to scare Westerners and rattle the economy. [complete article]
Man shot in terror hunt was innocent young Brazilian
By Tony Thompson, Gaby Hinsliff and Alexandre Xavier, The Observer, July 24, 2005
A young Brazilian man, living and working in London as an electrician, emerged last night as the innocent victim shot dead by police in their hunt for the suicide bombers targeting the capital.
The dead man, killed at Stockwell tube station on Friday after fleeing from armed police, was named as 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes. His body was identified by Alex Pereira, a cousin who lives in London and who afterwards told The Observer: 'I can't believe they shot him, because he was not a terrorist. He was an honest man. [complete article]
Two bomb plots 'linked'
By Tony Thompson, Peter Beaumont and Martin Bright, The Observer, July 24, 2005
Links have been uncovered between the two teams of bombers who have brought terror to the streets of London over the past two weeks, say security sources.
Police now believe some of the men they are pursuing for last week's abortive attacks - on Shepherd's Bush, Oval and Warren Street tube stations and on a No 26 bus in Hackney - attended a whitewater rafting trip at the same centre as two of the 7 July bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer.
This raises the distinct possibility that the two operations were connected as part of a larger plan to bring carnage to the capital. [complete article]
Flashy tactics won't defeat the terrorists
By David Rose, The Observer, July 24, 2005
Less than two hours after the first of the London bombings on 7 July, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, spoke on television about the attacks' immediate aftermath on the capital's streets. But though it now seems apparent that 7/7 was not an isolated atrocity but the start of an offensive which may be prolonged, his message since then has characterised the broader response of all Britain's counterterrorist agencies: don't panic. We're going to get on top of this. There is a plan.
There is much to be said for such traditional British phlegm. Whether it could withstand an attack on the scale of 11 September is an open question, but it is helping to produce much more practical strategies for reducing future risks than the extravagant 'war on terror' rhetoric once again being heard on the other side of the Atlantic. [complete article]
Defying U.S. efforts, guerrillas in Iraq refocus and strengthen
By Dexter Filkins and David S. Cloud, New York Times, July 24, 2005
They just keep getting stronger.
Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.
A string of recent attacks, including the execution of moderate Sunni leaders and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats, has brought home for many Iraqis that the democratic process that has been unfolding since the Americans restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004 has failed to isolate the insurgents and, indeed, has become the target itself.
After concentrating their efforts for two and a half years on driving out the 138,000-plus American troops, the insurgents appear to be shifting their focus to the political and sectarian polarization of the country - apparently hoping to ignite a civil war - and to the isolation of the Iraqi government abroad.
And the insurgents are choosing their targets with greater precision, and executing and dramatizing their attacks with more sophistication than they have in the past. [complete article]
On a calm night, suddenly, 'everybody was running'
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 24, 2005
It was a little after 1 a.m. when the sweltering summer day finally gave way to a breezy desert night, and the merchants of Egypt's premier Red Sea resort wrapped up business and headed for festive, 24-hour cafes.
Nasser Ali gathered the receipts at his tourist shop, Layali al-Hilmiya. Mohammed Eissa straightened the shelves in his stationery store. Sayyid Sayyid, cheerfully speaking broken English, finished cutting the hair of his last customer at Friends Coiffure.
In the 15 minutes that followed early Saturday, Sharm el-Sheikh, always a little more freewheeling and relaxed than the rest of Egypt, was transformed into an arcade of destruction as arbitrary as it was devastating. With three bombings, carefully coordinated under the cover of night, dozens of people were killed, many more were wounded, and businesses were wrecked. In the wake of grief, a city blessed by azure waters, some of the world's best coral reefs and the generosity of tourists, fell silent. [complete article]
All quiet on the home front, and some soldiers are asking why
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, July 24, 2005
The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.
From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?
There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.
There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.
"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology. [complete article]
The rabbi who loved evangelicals (and vice versa)
By Zev Chafets, New York Times, July 24, 2005
The son of the chief rabbi of Canada, [Yechiel] Eckstein, 54, received his own rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University in New York and joined the staff of the Anti-Defamation League. In those early days, he was the model of a mainstream Jewish organization man.
In 1977, American Nazis threatened to stage a march in Skokie, Ill., a Chicago suburb with a large population of Holocaust survivors. The A.D.L. sent Eckstein from New York to help the local community round up Christian support. What he found surprised him. In his next year in Chicago, he discovered that the evangelicals, more than any other group, were prepared to stand with the Jews.
Eckstein reported back to New York like Marco Polo recalling his adventures in China. There were Christians in the heartland, he said, who took the Bible literally and believed that the Jews were God's chosen people. They were, he said, a vast untapped reservoir of support for Israel, Soviet Jewry and other Jewish causes. This report was greeted hesitantly. Few A.D.L. people had ever met an evangelical Christian face to face, but they had seen "Elmer Gantry" and "Inherit the Wind," and they associated Bible Belt Christians with snake charmers, K.K.K. nightriders, toothless fiddlers and flat-earth troglodytes.
In 1980, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Bailey Smith, seemed to confirm this stereotype when he publicly declared that "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew." The grandees of the Jewish establishment were outraged, but Eckstein saw an opportunity. He contacted Smith and offered to accompany him on a trip to Israel.
In Jerusalem, Smith and Eckstein were given the royal treatment. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, having previously lost seven straight national elections, had few illusions about the efficacy of Jewish prayer. He did, however, have a keen appreciation for Christians like Smith, who believed that the Bible conferred title to the land of Israel on the Jews. Smith enjoyed being appreciated, and he returned home loudly proclaiming Genesis 12:3: God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.
"That was the turning point," Eckstein says. "From that moment on, I had an open door to the biggest Baptist churches in the country." [complete article]
CIA leak investigation turns to possible perjury, obstruction
By Douglas Frantz, Sonni Efron and Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2005
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from determining whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.
Differences have arisen in witnesses' statements to federal agents and a grand jury about how the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, was leaked to the press two years ago.
According to lawyers familiar with the case, investigators are comparing statements by two top White House aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, with testimony from reporters who have acknowledged talking to the officials. [complete article]
Eight days in July
By Frank Rich, New York Times, July 24, 2005
President Bush's new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.
When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes." [complete article]
Leak riddle: Who's playing whom?
By Mark Feldstein, Washington Post, July 24, 2005
Administration officials reportedly first peddled their goods on Wilson to the top-tier media companies -- The Washington Post, the New York Times, and Time magazine. Only after reporters at these influential mainstream news organizations failed to publish the story did it end up in a column by Novak, whose reputation as a conservative ideologue may have made him a more obvious and therefore less credible outlet for conveying administration spin. Even with first-rung publications, high-level sources apparently laid down conditions. Time's Matt Cooper, for example, sent his editors an e-mail stating that White House adviser Rove's leak was provided only "on double super secret background . . . don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]."
Why does the press go along with this? Because government officials provide the media with their coin of the realm -- information -- a currency that can have quite literal commercial value. Although news outlets return the favor by supplying publicity, the law of supply and demand favors sources, at least in Washington, where hungry reporters far outnumber officials who are willing to leak inside information. As a result, sources with exclusive stories are in a position to take their pick of journalists and dictate terms about the coverage they receive in exchange. "White House officials and White House reporters are tight-lipped" about how this unappetizing news sausage is made, admitted President Clinton's former domestic policy adviser (and sometime leaker) Bruce Reed, "because these leaks are fake and somewhat ridiculous, like teleprompters or the congressional auto-pen." [complete article]
For Bush, effect of investigation of CIA leak case is uncertain
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, July 24, 2005
His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making public statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.
For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president.
Yet Mr. Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely.
For starters, did Mr. Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Mr. Rove, his longtime strategist and senior adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the C.I.A. officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Mr. Rove, whose career and Mr. Bush's have been intertwined for decades? [complete article]
Cheney working to block legislation on detainees
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, July 24, 2005
Vice President Dick Cheney is leading a White House lobbying effort to block legislation offered by Republican senators that would regulate the detention, treatment and trials of detainees held by the American military.
In an unusual, 30-minute private meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday night, Mr. Cheney warned three senior Republicans on the Armed Services Committee that their legislation would interfere with the president's authority and his ability to protect Americans against terrorist attacks.
The legislation, which is still being drafted, includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual. [complete article]
Government defies an order to release Iraq abuse photos
By Kate Zernike, New York Times, July 23, 2005
Lawyers for the Defense Department are refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.
The lawyers said in a letter sent to the federal court in Manhattan late Thursday that they would file a sealed brief explaining their reasons for not turning over the material, which they were to have released by yesterday.
The photographs were some of thousands turned over by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, the whistle-blower who exposed the abuse at Abu Ghraib by giving investigators computer disks containing photographs and videos of prisoners being abused, sexually humiliated and threatened with growling dogs. [complete article]
See also, Pentagon blocks release of Abu Ghraib images: here's why (Greg Mitchell).
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
The ideology of terror
By Olivier Roy, New York Times (IHT), July 22, 2005
In the name of God
By Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, July 22, 2005
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 21, 2005
The Asian Century
Al Qaida-style terrorists are not the type who seek out madrasas
By William Dalrymple, The Guardian, July 20, 2005
Disaffected youth seduced by notion of holy war
By Nick Meo, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2005
Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, July 17, 2005
Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq's election?
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, July 18, 2005
Casualty of war: the U.S. economy
By James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2005
Mosques should be saving lost souls
By Tariq Panja, The Observer, July 17, 2005
The violence that lies in every ideology
By Jason Burke, The Observer, July 17, 2005
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