The War in Context
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Hiroshima, mon Amerique
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 5, 2005

The morality and legality of consciously setting out to destroy a whole civilian population center in Hiroshima was not ... seriously debated at the time, it was simply enacted as the inevitable next step once the bomb was ready. And the climate that made that possible had been created in Dresden, and Hamburg, and Tokyo -- and before that in the aerial bombing by British war planes of rebellious villages in Iraq in the 1920s and the Italians of the restive natives of their Libyan possession as early as 1911.

We correctly decry terrorism precisely because it targets civilians rather than combatants, making it an illegitimate and immoral form of warfare. But there appears to be a blindspot in Western discourse when it comes to discussing the context of targeting civilians in the course of formal warfare.

That, in turn, has created the moral climate in which the U.S. and its allies deem it unecessary to keep count of, let alone to be held to account for, the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians that have been killed in the course of allied military actions there.

Western discourse recuses itself from even discussing these questions by falling back on its moral certitude: Eggs are broken in the course of making omelettes, after all, and all of these Western interventions are for the greater good; therefore the collateral damage is simply a tragic by-product of the march of progress and liberty -- but not one that should detain or distract us from repeating the exericse when next the cause of liberty and progress demands it. This ends-justifying-means logic unfortunately has an ironic echo in the rationalizations used by terrorists for their own violence against civilians. [complete article]

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Iran discounts latest nuclear proposal
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, August 6, 2005

Iranian officials strongly criticized a European proposal they received yesterday that called on Tehran to dismantle much of the country's nuclear infrastructure. In exchange, the Europeans held out the prospect of improved political and economic ties with the West.

The offer, which was presented as a framework for further negotiations, won quick U.S. support by including many proposals the Bush administration has advocated on its own, such as requiring Iran to accept U.N. inspections anywhere and at any time. The European proposal is aimed at preventing Iran from being able to divert its civilian nuclear program to a military one.

But Iranian officials said the proposal, which includes more than a dozen conditional and sometimes ambiguous incentives, was insulting. "Maybe the Europeans are willing to sell out their own rights at a cheap price, but Iran is not," said M. Javad Zarif, the country's ambassador to the United Nations. In an interview, he called the offer "absurd, demeaning and self-congratulatory" and said it was not enough to stop Iran's plans to resume next week some of the same nuclear work the Europeans want it to give up.

That resumption, promised by Tehran last week, set the stage for an emergency meeting next Tuesday in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been overseeing an investigation of Iran's nuclear program. It also appeared to draw U.S. and European positions on the matter closer together. [complete article]

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Simulation shows U.S. held over a barrel
By Carola Hoyos, Financial Times, August 4, 2005

Terrorists yesterday struck oil facilities in the US and Saudi Arabia, pushing oil prices to a record $120 a barrel and doubling to $5,214 the expected annual petrol bill for the average US household. Economists warned of the imminent collapse of the US's economic recovery and a loss of more than 2m jobs, the largest drop since 1945.

While none of this is true, the scenario is thoroughly plausible, according to high-ranking former government, military and intelligence officials who made up the US cabinet in a simulation exercise that is gaining increasing attention from members of Congress, the White House and oil executives.

"The risk of supply disruption in the oil markets now appears to be at one of the highest levels in history, primarily because of the thin cushion of spare capacity," John Dowd, analyst at Sanford Bernstein, which prepared the simulation's price reactions, told the international terrorism and non-proliferation subcommittee of the House’s international relations committee last week. [complete article]

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Worse than the disease
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, August 6, 2005

In the wake of the bombings that caused death and disruption in London last month, there was a danger that the government would rush out ill-considered measures in response. At first sight - and the details remain obscure - that appears to be exactly what has happened. Tony Blair announced 12 proposals that he promised would "set a comprehensive framework for action in dealing with the terrorist threat in Britain". Yet Mr Blair's willingness to tamper with the Human Rights Act in order to send deportees to countries known to practice torture is alarming and could even jeopardise Britain's adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Several other measures have little to do with tackling the roots of UK-based terrorism. Into this category falls the most vague and objectionable of yesterday's proposals, the promise of new anti-terror legislation in the autumn including an offense of "justifying or glorifying terrorism" inside or outside the UK. It hardly needs a stretch of the imagination to see such an offence being shot down in the first court of any standing it reaches. Another proposal along these lines is for what the prime minister described as a list of "specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern" to be drawn up as a litmus test for foreigners: touch one and you will turn into an undesirable alien. [complete article]

See also, Blair vows to root out extremism (The Guardian).

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Iraqi premier courts Shiites
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2005

With negotiations for a new constitution entering a tense final stage, Iraq's Shiite Muslim political leadership ventured out Friday to rally support for the country's government.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari traveled to the holy city of Najaf to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior cleric whose support for any government initiative is crucial. Jafari later said the two had discussed issues relating to the constitution, but he declined to go into detail.
Jafari also met with Muqtada Sadr, the rebellious young Shiite cleric who is a street-level rival of Sistani.

"The Sadr movement has a lot of supporters around the country, and we wanted from the start to hold it close to enrich the political process," Jafari said.

Sadr, a staunch opponent of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, said he supported the political process but planned to personally stay away from the writing of the constitution because of "the presence of the occupation." [complete article]

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Once-liberal Basra trades cultural freedom for security
By Leila Fadel, Knight Ridder, August 4, 2005

Statues of generals from Saddam Hussein's Baath party once lined up on the corniche, a walkway along the Shatt al Arab waterway in this southern port city. They pointed menacingly across the water to Iran, and ships at anchor obscured the view of the blue horizon and the illuminating light of the moon.

Saddam and his military brass are now gone, and families instead fill the walkway that looks out over open waters in this city once brutally oppressed by the deposed dictator.

Basra is enjoying an economic and religious renaissance, even as the rise of conservative Shiite Islam has put a chill on its traditionally flourishing cultural scene. [complete article]

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CIA leak case recalls Texas incident in '92 race
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, August 6, 2005

These hot months here will be remembered as the summer of the leak, a time when the political class obsessed on a central question: did Karl Rove, President Bush's powerful adviser, commit a crime when he spoke about a C.I.A. officer with the columnist Robert D. Novak?

Whatever a federal grand jury investigating the case decides, a small political subgroup is experiencing the odd sensation that this leak has sprung before. In 1992 in an incident well known in Texas, Mr. Rove was fired from the state campaign to re-elect the first President Bush on suspicions that Mr. Rove had leaked damaging information to Mr. Novak about Robert Mosbacher Jr., the campaign manager and the son of a former commerce secretary.

Since then, Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak have denied that Mr. Rove was the source, even as Mr. Mosbacher, who no longer talks on the record about the incident, has never changed his original assertion that Mr. Rove was the culprit.

"It's history," Mr. Mosbacher said last week in a brief telephone interview. "I commented on it at the time, and I have nothing to add."

But the episode, part of the bad-boy lore of Mr. Rove, is a telling chapter in the 20-year friendship between the presidential adviser and the columnist. The story of that relationship, a bond of mutual self-interest of a kind that is long familiar in Washington, does not answer the question of who might have leaked the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, to reporters, potentially a crime.

But it does give a clue to Mr. Rove's frequent and complimentary mentions over the years in Mr. Novak's column, and to the importance of Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak to each other's ambitions. [complete article]

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Pre-emptive peace: Washington should set a clear timetable for complete American withdrawal from Iraq
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, August 4, 2005

If the country slips deeper into the chaos of civil war, American troops will be identified with one faction or another, and attacked by the rest. Perhaps the Pentagon will be satisfied with bases in Kurdistan. But in the end, U.S. forces will be asked or ordered out of whatever is left of Iraq. Will that be the moment when, to use President Bush's phrase, "our troops are coming home with the honor they have earned"?

It would make much more sense for the United States to take the initiative and make a clear commitment not just to "draw down" but to withdraw completely by, say, the end of next year or, at the latest, the summer of 2007. To do so would force the Iraqi politicians and the Iraqi military to get their act together fast, or face extinction. It might well be true that terrorists will claim a victory if the United States withdraws, but to refuse to withdraw is, in fact, to let them set our agenda, even as we provide them with an ideal training ground and recruitment tool. President Bush frequently says that "we will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed and not a day longer." But what is that actually supposed to mean? In the Middle East, where time is almost always fluid -- a factor of inshallah, God's will, and an indeterminate bukra, or tomorrow -- "as long as we are needed and not a day longer" signifies strictly nothing. [complete article]

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Al-Qaida is now an idea, not an organisation
By Jason Burke, The Guardian, August 5, 2005

Al-Zawahiri is not saying much that is new. The London bombs are an opportunity to restate what is, with certain variations, the standard Islamist extremist argument: that the west is oppressing Muslims around the world, America and its allies are set on the humiliation, subordination and division of the lands of Islam and that this justifies self-defence by many different means, including suicide bombing.

The only real difference with what has gone before is the explicit focus on the UK. This does not indicate any direct link with the London bombs. Whenever there has been an attack there has been a knee-jerk search for overseas links or for some kind of overall mastermind. No investigations into the London bombs, or indeed into almost all of those attacks committed in recent years, have revealed any such connections.

Instead, we need to face up to the simple truth that Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri et al do not need to organise attacks directly. They merely need to wait for the message they have spread around the world to inspire others. Al-Qaida is now an idea, not an organisation. [complete article]

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Afghanistan agrees to accept detainees
By Josh White and Robin Wright, Washington Post, August 5, 2005

The Bush administration is negotiating the transfer of nearly 70 percent of the detainees at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to three countries as part of a plan, officials said, to share the burden of keeping suspected terrorists behind bars.

U.S. officials announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement with the government of Afghanistan to transfer most of its nationals to Kabul's "exclusive" control and custody. There are 110 Afghan detainees at Guantanamo and 350 more at the Bagram airfield near Kabul. Their transfers could begin in the next six months.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, ambassador at large for war crimes, who led a U.S. delegation to the Middle East this week, said similar agreements are being pursued with Saudi Arabia and Yemen, whose nationals make up a significant percentage of the Guantanamo population. Prosper held talks in Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Monday, but negotiations were cut off after the announcement of King Fahd's death.

The decision to move more than 20 percent of the detainees at Guantanamo to Afghanistan and to largely clear out the detention center at Bagram is part of a broader plan to significantly reduce the population of "enemy combatants" in U.S. custody. Senior U.S. officials said yesterday's agreement is the first major step toward whittling down the Guantanamo population to a core group of people the United States expects to hold indefinitely.

"This is not an effort to shut down Guantanamo. Rather, the arrangement we have reached with the government of Afghanistan is the latest step in what has long been our policy -- that we need to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield," Matthew Waxman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said shortly after leaving Kabul with Prosper. "We, the U.S., don't want to be the world's jailer. We think a more prudent course is to shift that burden onto our coalition partners." [complete article]

Comment -- Those who were recently calling for Guantanamo to be shut down were naive in thinking that that would solve the problem -- unless they thought the problem was simply that Guantanamo is bad for America's image. You can bet that the administration, having received written agreements from governments in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to treat prisoners humanely, will thereafter absolve itself from any responsibility for what goes on inside these new detention facilities.

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Soul of Republican Party at stake in prison-abuse scandal debate
By Joseph L. Galloway, Knight Ridder, August 3, 2005

There is a quiet struggle going on in the nation's capital, and the stakes are the very soul of the Republican Party and this administration.

Three senior Republican senators wrote a small amendment into the Defense Appropriations bill this summer that outlaws cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of all detainees in American custody.

No one can call Sens. John Warner, R-Va., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., soft on anything, much less terrorism. They constitute the Republican leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee. All three have worn the uniform of our country. One, John McCain, spent long years in the hands of America's enemies as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.

The Bush White House is doing all that it can to stop this legislation from passing. Vice President Dick Cheney took the three senators to the wood shed and told them that their law would tie President Bush's hands in the war against terrorism. His bombast carried no weight with the three senators. [complete article]

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Two more charged in Pentagon leak
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 4, 2005

Two former employees of an influential pro-Israel lobbying group were charged today with illegally receiving classified information from a Defense Department analyst, according to court documents unsealed in Alexandria.

In a superseding indictment, a federal grand jury also restructured the charges against the analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, who is alleged to have disclosed classified defense information to the two employees of the group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC.

The new indictment, handed up today and announced by U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, charges AIPAC's former policy director, Steven Rosen, with illegally receiving classified information from Franklin and with illegally helping Franklin pass on that information.

Another former AIPAC employee, Keith Weissman, is charged with illegally receiving classified information. Weissman formerly worked for AIPAC as a senior Middle East analyst specializing on Iran.

Today's indictment outlines a much broader case against Rosen and Weissman than has previously been indicated, alleging that the two disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 and that the topics ranged from Saudi Arabia to al Qaeda to Iran. Recipients of the information included foreign governments and reporters, the 26-page indictment says. [complete article]

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Bolton sent to U.N.
By Ian Williams, The Nation, August 2, 2005

Kofi Annan greeted the recess appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations in a measured way that was perhaps intended as a nuanced put-down: "We look forward to working with him, as I do with the other 190 ambassadors. And we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform."

While Bolton supporters on the far right greeted his appointment as if he were Wyatt Earp coming to clean up Tombstone, which is in fact pretty much how Bush presented him, Annan subtly put him on a par with the Permanent Representative of Nauru, which has the size and population of an average Manhattan block, and hinted that the process of UN reform was already proceeding apace without his coming to the rescue. [complete article]

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How conservatism leaves us vulnerable to nuclear terrorism
By J. Peter Scoblic, The New Republic, July 29, 2005

Democracy has become George W. Bush's reflexive answer to terrorism. Before the wreckage left by the July 7 bombings in London had even cooled, he broke from the G-8 summit in Scotland to explain how we would defeat the perpetrators of such attacks: "We will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate." Four days later, he elaborated, "Today in the Middle East, freedom is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And, like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom and democracy." This, of course, was not a new interpretation of the war on terrorism for the president, who, in his second inaugural this January, actually elevated democratization to the level of grand strategy, saying, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one." A resounding sentiment--one that has provided the president with a powerful foreign policy narrative and convinced voters last November that, despite the tragedies of the Iraq war, he can best protect our national security. Yet the notion that we should defend ourselves chiefly by spreading democracy seems less than reassuring on the heels of the July 7 attack. After all, the four bombers who struck London were British--residents of one of the world's oldest and most stable democracies. [complete article]

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Enemies and brothers
By James Meek, The Guardian, July 30, 2005

Perhaps it was my imagination, but I'm sure those two girls in the Peugeot were cruising us on Valiasr Avenue that warm Sunday night. What is it, to cruise? The car slowed down, came closer to the kerb; the girls leaned their heads forward, grinning, nodding slightly, made eye contact; shouted something, laughed, drove off. It was as innocent as that and they were, of course, headscarved. This was Iran, after all.

Valiasr runs for 12 miles, south to north, through the blocky expanse of Tehran, so enormous, like London, that it seems to be a country all by itself of concrete and Tarmac and windowpanes. Valiasr heaves with traffic until the small hours. The shops stay open late and the kiosks sell fresh fruit juice and coffee and newspapers. The young Iranians promenade on four wheels, in and out of each other's cars, the impatient ones tossing phone numbers in through the open windows.

It is one view of Iran: peaceful, benign, a little sensual. It is a true view. It is only one of many true views, some pleasant, some frightening, of this powerful, oil-soaked country. Not for a long time has it been so important for western countries to understand what is going on there, yet Iran and the west view each other through the distorting media of political rhetoric, satellite television and the internet. A wave of young, western-educated Iranians has returned to the new Iran. They are a bridge across the comprehension gap between Persian and western culture - yet are they, too, giving a misleading impression from inside their Tehran bubble of how much Iran has changed?

The mutual misunderstanding is at its most extreme between Iran and the US, which is afraid that Iran's nuclear ambitions will end with Tehran having atomic weapons. The US lacks the manpower now to invade Iran, and George Bush recently described suggestions of an imminent attack on the country as "simply ridiculous". Yet America has invaded the two countries on either side; Iran is the only one of Condoleezza Rice's six "outposts of tyranny" - the updated "axis of evil" - which has a chance of getting nuclear weapons, but doesn't have them yet. If Bush has a next-to-bomb list, Iran is at the top of it. [complete article]

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Jewish militant opens fire on bus of Israeli Arabs, killing 4
By Greg Myre, New York Times, August 5, 2005

An Israeli Army deserter dressed in a military uniform opened fire on Thursday aboard a bus carrying Israeli Arab passengers in northern Israel. Four were killed and at least a dozen wounded before an angry crowd beat the gunman to death, according to Israeli authorities and witnesses.

The shooting was one of the deadliest by a Jewish attacker in recent years and appeared to be an attempt to start an upheaval to sabotage Israel's planned evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, which is set to begin on Aug. 15. Israeli security services have repeatedly expressed concerns about such a possibility.

The gunman was identified by the military as Eden Natan Zada, 19, though it initially identified him as Eden Tzuberi. He was an army private who was reported absent without leave around mid-June after refusing to take part in preparations for the Gaza pullout.

According to his family and Israeli news media reports, Mr. Zada then went to live in Tapuah, one of the most militant Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the shootings "a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist who sought to attack innocent Israeli citizens." [complete article]

See also, The Jewish gunman fit the potential terrorist profile (Haaretz).

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Israel plans new West Bank homes
BBC News, August 4, 2005

Israel's housing ministry has issued tenders for 72 new homes on a settlement in the West Bank.

Housing Ministry official Kobi Bleich said the buildings would extend the Beitar Ilit, south of Jerusalem, near the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan al-Khattib described the planned development as a "provocation to the Palestinian people." [complete article]

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Hold your nose, but deal with Hamas
By Geoffrey Aronson, Daily Star, August 5, 2005

The end of Israel's long, bitter, and often bloody sojourn in the Gaza Strip is now in sight. If Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is true to his intentions, all Israeli civilian and military forces will be take their leave of Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinians by year's end, perhaps as soon as October.

If Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is complete, and all indications are that it will be, the attention of Palestinians and the international community will turn to the issue of Palestinian legislative elections, with the role of the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas - at its center.

Hamas has been a factor on the Palestinian scene since the late 1980s. During the first Palestinian rebellion against Israeli rule that erupted in December 1987, Hamas was transformed from a docile creation of Israel, which sought to establish a pliable Islamist alternative to the secular nationalism of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), into a multi-faceted organization claiming the allegiance of increasing numbers of Palestinians. Hamas' religious extremism, its use of terror to weaken Israel, and its absolute refusal to countenance Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, made it anathema to Israel, the United States, and others who counted upon the Palestinian political and security institutions created by the Oslo agreements to marginalize if not eradicate it. [complete article]

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Why Iraq is not Vietnam
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 3, 2005

[In a radio interview last year] Noah Feldman, the NYU Middle East legal scholar who worked as a consultant on constitutional matters for the Coalition Provisional Authority, ... described flying into Baghdad along with all the other "experts" who would run the occupation. He looked up from the tome on Iraqi history he was reading and looked around the plane; to his alarm he realized that everyone else who would be directing policy for the CPA was immersed in works of history on either Japan or Germany after WWII. And CPA chief J Paul Bremer kept a chart on his wall documenting "Milestones: Iraq and Germany." Journalists discovered the CPA working from policy documents lifted directly from the administration of postwar Germany, from which they had neglected to change the term "reichsmark" to dinar.

Small wonder, that they were never able to grasp Iraqi reality. More compelling, perhaps, is the fact that both the conservatives and the liberals seem to share the same epistemological flaw: They insist on understanding Iraq through the prism of American experiences -- traumatic, in the case of the liberals; triumphant in the case of the conservatives -- rather than engaging with Iraq's own history and context. [complete article]

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Fisking the "war on terror"
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment, August 2, 2005

Once upon a time, a dangerous radical gained control of the US Republican Party.

Reagan increased the budget for support of the radical Muslim Mujahidin conducting terrorism against the Afghanistan government to half a billion dollars a year.

One fifth of the money, which the CIA mostly turned over to Pakistani military intelligence to distribute, went to Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a violent extremist who as a youth used to throw acid on the faces of unveiled girls in Afghanistan.

Not content with creating a vast terrorist network to harass the Soviets, Reagan then pressured the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to match US contributions. He had earlier imposed on Fahd to give money to the Contras in Nicaragua, some of which was used to create rightwing death squads. (Reagan liked to sidestep Congress in creating private terrorist organizations for his foreign policy purposes, which he branded "freedom fighters," giving terrorists the idea that it was all right to inflict vast damage on civilians in order to achieve their goals). [complete article]

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Al-Qaeda 'blames Blair for bombs'
BBC News, August 4, 2005

Osama Bin Laden's lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri has warned London will face more attacks because of Tony Blair's foreign policy decisions.

His comments were made in a videotape which was broadcast on Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera.

The al-Qaeda deputy said: "Blair has brought you destruction to the heart of London, and he will bring more destruction, God willing." [complete article]

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Report says U.S. secretly held 2 prisoners
By Michelle Faul, AP (via The Guardian), August 4, 2005

Two Yemeni men say they were held in solitary confinement in secret, underground U.S. detention facilities in an unknown country and interrogated by masked men for more than 18 months without being charged or allowed any contact with the outside world, Amnesty International charged Wednesday.

Amnesty and human rights lawyers argued that the report added to long-standing claims that the United States has held "secret detainees" in its war on terror.

"We fear that what we have heard from these two men is just one small part of the much broader picture of U.S. secret detentions around the world," said Sharon Critoph, a researcher at Amnesty International who interviewed the men in Yemen. [complete article]

See the Amnesty report, Torture and secret detention: testimony of the 'disappeared' in the 'war on terror'.

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A new credo for the hyperpower
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, August 4, 2005

To improve its influence and image in the world, the US should refrain from building new nuclear weapons, scrap the Bush doctrine of preventive war and regime change, break its climate-changing oil habit, and recommit to international rule-making organisations such as the UN.

The musings of a leftwing think-tank? A liberal pipedream? Not a bit of it. These proposals come from Richard Haass, a leading light in the US foreign policy establishment and former senior official in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

As strategists ponder America's future direction amid continuing international divisions over Iraq, the "war on terror", Kyoto, trade and a host of other issues, Mr Haass' new "integration doctrine" is being taken seriously. Henry Kissinger, hardly a radical, is a fan.

This master plan for deepened international collaboration, a global version of the 19th century Concert of Europe, is set out in Mr Haass's latest book, The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course. [complete article]

See also, Regime change and its limits (Richard Haass).

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Bolton has package of carrots for 'axis of evil'
By Gerard Baker, The Times, August 4, 2005

John Bolton finally made it to the UN this week, five months after President Bush nominated him to be US Ambassador to the organisation that American conservatives love to hate.

When Mr Bolton was chosen for the job in March it looked like the latest sign of the Bush Administration's disdain for the whole business of international diplomacy. The politest thing most people could find to say about him was "pugnacious". More common adjectives were "undiplomatic", "acerbic", "rebarbative". It was only a more refined attitude towards the language of diplomacy that prevented some of his critics from echoing the North Korean soubriquet for him: "human scum". [complete article]

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Iraq Army crippled by logistic problems
By David S. Cloud, New York Times (IHT), August 4, 2005

The reorganized Iraqi Ministry of Defense, a crucial element of any U.S. plan to withdraw troops, is riddled with crippling problems that have raised concerns about its ability to keep Iraqi units paid, fed and equipped once it assumes full responsibility for its army, American and Iraqi commanders say.

The shortcomings of the ministry, which was reorganized by American occupation officials last year, are a growing concern to the U.S. authorities.

The U.S. plan to withdraw large numbers of the 135,000 American combat troops next year will hinge on a functioning ministry, these commanders said. If American troops leave without one in place, they said, the Iraqi Army could quickly collapse. [complete article]

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Western Muslims: isolation or integration?
By Tariq Ramadan, The Globalist, July 29, 2005

Western Muslims will play a decisive role in the evolution of Islam worldwide. By reflecting on their faith, their principles and their identity within industrialized, secularized societies, Tariq Ramadan, author of "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam," argues that they are key in the self-reflection the Muslim world must undertake regarding its relationship with the modern world. [complete article]

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The Jerusalem powder keg
International Crisis Group, August 2, 2005

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed. [complete article]

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Gaza settlers face defeat, disillusion
By Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2005

In a last-ditch effort to stop the Israeli government from withdrawing from Gaza and portions of the West Bank later this month, tens of thousands of Jewish settlers gathered Tuesday, vowing to march toward the Gush Katif settlement enclave, and setting up a showdown with police.

But even as the battle escalates over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's landmark pullout from territories claimed by Palestinians as part of a future state, some settlers are already worrying about the evacuation's impact on a movement that has promoted the steady expansion of Jewish settlements for three decades.

For these religious Zionists who fanned out across the West Bank and Gaza, fancying themselves as model Israeli patriots, the calamity of the approaching withdrawal is provoking a soul- searching over whether they neglected reaching out to the country's mainstream while reclaiming what they considered a biblical birthright. [complete article]

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14 Marines, interpreter killed in northwestern Iraq
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Daniela Deane, Washington Post, August 3, 2005

Insurgents killed 14 U.S. Marines and their civilian interpreter in a roadside bomb attack in northwestern Iraq Wednesday, just one day after the military announced that seven U.S. Marines were killed in an unusual small-arms attack on Monday, the military said.

The military said the Marines were killed Wednesday morning when their amphibious assault vehicle was attacked just south of the northwestern city of Haditha, which is 125 miles northwest of Baghdad. One Marine was also wounded in the attack, the military said.

Six of the Marines killed Monday were slain in the same area, the military said, which is a known hiding place for insurgent fighters.

The killings brought the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since the March 2003 start of the war to 1,816, according to figures released by the Pentagon. [complete article]

See also, Insurgents using more powerful roadside bombs, military panel says (Knight Ridder).

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Fearless Basra blogger is abducted and murdered
By Jenny Booth, The Times, August 3, 2005

A freelance American journalist whose blog exposed corruption and lawlessness in the Iraqi city of Basra has been abducted at gunpoint and shot dead.

Steven Vincent's body was recovered at the side of a road south of Basra late last night, several hours after he and his female translator were kidnapped as they left a currency exchange shop.

He had been shot three times in the chest. Nouriya Ita'is, the translator, was shot four times and seriously wounded, according to a nurse in a Basra hospital. [complete article]

Vincent's last article, Switched off in Basra, appeared as an op-ed in the NYT on July 31. His blog is In the red zone.

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Documents tell of brutal improvisation by GIs
By Josh White, Washington Post, August 3, 2005

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such "claustrophobic techniques" were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents.

The circumstances that led up to Mowhoush's death paint a vivid example of how the pressure to produce intelligence for anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Iraq led U.S. military interrogators to improvise and develop abusive measures, not just at Abu Ghraib but in detention centers elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mowhoush's ordeal in Qaim, over 16 days in November 2003, also reflects U.S. government secrecy surrounding some abuse cases and gives a glimpse into a covert CIA unit that was set up to foment rebellion before the war and took part in some interrogations during the insurgency. [complete article]

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Before the war, CIA reportedly trained a team of Iraqis to aid U.S.
By Dana Priest and Josh White, Washington Post, August 3, 2005

Before the war in Iraq began, the CIA recruited and trained an Iraqi paramilitary group, code-named the Scorpions, to foment rebellion, conduct sabotage, and help CIA paramilitaries who entered Baghdad and other cities target buildings and individuals, according to three current and former intelligence officials with knowledge of the unit.

The CIA spent millions of dollars on the Scorpions, whose existence has not been previously disclosed, even giving them former Soviet Hind helicopters. But most of the unit's prewar missions -- spray-painting graffiti on walls; cutting electricity; "sowing confusion," as one said -- were delayed or canceled because of poor training or planning, said officials briefed on the unit. The speed of the invasion negated the need for most of their missions, others said.

After Baghdad fell, the CIA used the Scorpions to try to infiltrate the insurgency, to help out in interrogations, and, from time to time, to do "the dirty work," as one intelligence official put it. [complete article]

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U.S. death toll in Iraq surpasses 1,800
By Sameer N. Yacoub, AP (via The Guardian), August 2, 2005

Seven U.S. Marines were killed in two separate attacks west of Baghdad, where American forces are trying to seal a major border infiltration route for foreign fighters, the military said Tuesday. The deaths pushed the U.S. military death toll in Iraq past 1,800.

One of the Marines died Monday in a suicide car bombing in Hit, 85 miles northwest of Baghdad. The other six were killed Monday in Haditha, 50 miles from Hit - all of them attached to te Co. 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines based in Brook Park, Ohio.

At least 25 American service members have been killed in Iraq in the past 10 days - all but two in combat. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said that since the beginning of April, more than 2,700 Iraqis - about half of them civilians - had been killed in insurgency-related incidents. [complete article]

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Iraq: Armed groups show utter disdain for basic principles of humanity
Amnesty International, July 25, 2005

Armed groups opposed to the US-led multinational force and Iraq's government are showing utter disdain for the lives of Iraqi civilians and others, continuing a pattern of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

At the end of one of the worst months that saw some of the highest number of killings by armed groups since the beginning of the war in Iraq in March 2003, Amnesty International denounced the armed groups' failure to abide by even the most basic standards of humanitarian law and said there can be no valid justification for deliberate killings of civilians, hostage-taking, and torture and killing of defenceless prisoners.

"Those who order or commit such atrocities place themselves totally beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour," said Amnesty International. "There is no honour nor heroism in blowing up people going to pray or murdering a terrified hostage. Those carrying out such acts are criminals, nothing less, whose actions undermine any claim they may have to be pursuing a legitimate cause. "

In its 56-page report, Iraq, In Cold Blood: Abuses by Armed Groups, Amnesty International recognises that many Iraqis oppose the continuing presence of US and allied forces in their country, and that these forces have themselves committed grave violations, including killings of civilians and torture of prisoners.

"But abuses committed by one side do not and can not justify abuses by another," said Amnesty International. "This is all the more the case when the principal victims are ordinary Iraqi men, women and children attempting peacefully to go about their everyday lives. All sides to the ongoing conflict have a fundamental obligation to respect the rights of civilians or of those who are rendered defenceless. Those who breach this obligation, on which ever side they stand, must be made to stop and they must be held to account." [complete article]

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Iraq: Bush's Islamic republic
By Peter W. Galbraith, New York Review of Books, August 11, 2005

In the coming constitutional battle, Kurdistan leaders -- and many secular Arab Iraqis -- will be drawing the line on three principles: secularism, the rights of women, and federalism. They fear that President Bush will be more interested in meeting the August 15 deadline for a constitution than in its content, and that they will be under pressure to make concessions to the Shiite majority. It may be the ultimate irony that the United States, which, among other reasons, invaded Iraq to help bring liberal democracy to the Middle East, will play a decisive role in establishing its second Shiite Islamic state.

In fact an agreement on the constitution in the National Assembly may not end Iraq's sectarian divisions but set the stage for new battles. Voters must approve the constitution in a referendum scheduled for October 15, and under the TAL two thirds of the voters in any three governorates may veto it. There are three Kurdish governorates, but also three Sunni Arab governorates. Even if Kurdistan's leaders reluctantly accept a Shiite-written constitution, the independence-minded Kurdistan electorate may reject it. Moreover, the Sunni Arabs could easily use the referendum to torpedo any Shiite–Kurdish agreement.

The ratification clause of the TAL creates a timed fuse that could blow Iraq apart, and as is true for so much else that has gone wrong, it is American arrogance and ignorance that are to blame. [complete article]

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Hiroshima cover-up exposed
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, August 1, 2005

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan almost 60 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited.

The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for nearly four decades.

The full story of this atomic cover-up is told fully for the first time today at E&P Online, as the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings approaches later this week. Some of the long-suppressed footage will be aired on televison this Saturday. [complete article]

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Why the U.S. won't admit it was jilted
By Craig Murray, The Guardian, August 3, 2005

President Karimov of Uzbekistan has served notice to quit on the US base in his country. This completes a process of diplomatic revolution as Karimov turns away from the west and back into the embrace of Russia, with coy sideways glances at China. The US is trying to cover its retreat behind a smokescreen of belated concern for human-rights abuse in Uzbekistan. Suddenly one of their most intensively courted allies has been discovered - shock horror - to be an evil dictator. (Remember Saddam?) But the reality is much more complex.

The first and most obvious point is that the US didn't jump, it was pushed. The Andijan massacre of May 13, in which at least 600 demonstrators were killed, was carried out by Uzbek forces that in 2002 alone received $120m in US aid for the army and $82m for the security services. Prior to Karimov kicking it out, there was no indication at all that the US was going to review its military links with Uzbekistan - in fact General Richard Myers had specifically stated that they would continue. [complete article]

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Review finds Iran far from nuclear bomb
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, August 2, 2005

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that "all options are on the table."

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking. [complete article]

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U.S. and Iraq to plan military transfer; Iraqis push to meet constitution deadline
By Craig S. Smith and Dexter Filkins, New York Times, August 2, 2005

As Iraqi leaders on Monday reaffirmed their decision to finish writing the country's constitution by the middle of the month, the American ambassador here publicly outlined the process for a gradual American troop withdrawal.

Speaking in his first news conference here, the new ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the American military would hand over control of specific areas to Iraqi forces and "withdraw its own units from these areas." He declined to say which Iraqi cities American soldiers would leave first but said he had formed a committee with Iraqi leaders to draw up a detailed withdrawal plan.

"After this transfer occurs in more and more areas, there will be a smaller need for coalition forces, and elements of the multinational forces will leave Iraq," the ambassador said.

Iraqi forces have been given sole control over very few areas of the country. A recent report prepared by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld concluded that only a small percentage of Iraqi military units were capable of fighting on their own. [complete article]

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High expectations of independence
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, August 1, 2005

Two hundred miles south, in the distant Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Iraq's top Kurdish leaders have pledged that they want to keep the Kurdish north as part of Iraq, as Washington and all Iraq's neighbors want.

But here at noon on a tarmac training ground in the north, in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, the Kurdish forces pivoting through a parade drill last week were marching to a different tune -- under a different flag, and to a different tongue.

Iraq's Kurds are "100 percent" for independence, said the battalion commander, Col. Sayyid Hajar Tahir, as his subordinates led the men in turning battle squares. [complete article]

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Rebels on the run, locals too
By John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2005

In the barren streets of this dusty town, Iraqis say the U.S. Army has chased away the foreign fighters who for two weeks staged sporadic battles with the Americans.

Also gone are nearly all of the town's 20,000 residents. The sheep munching shrubs on the outskirts appear to outnumber people.

Over the last two weeks, three out of four residents fled the town, which military strategists say was an insurgent safe haven. A few have since returned, but many have sought temporary shelter with friends and relatives across the Euphrates River in the village of Anah. [complete article]

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Saudis' leader is dead, ending 23-year reign
By Hassan M. Fattah and Michael Slackman, New York Times, August 2, 2005

King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's long-ailing monarch who oversaw one of the country's greatest periods of growth while underwriting the spread of fiercely conservative Islam abroad, died Monday morning in the Saudi capital, ending a 23-year reign.

The death of King Fahd, 82, marked the end of a decade-long transition of power that began when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 and put his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, in control of the country. Shortly after the king was pronounced dead on Monday, Prince Abdullah, 81, became Saudi Arabia's sixth monarch.

During King Fahd's reign he and the royal family found a marriage of convenience with Wahhabism, the conservative branch of Islam that in its more radical forms helped fuel the rise of militancy in far-flung reaches of the Muslim world. But after the emergence of Osama bin Laden in the 1980's and Al Qaeda in the 1990's; the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis; and after a later bombing campaign in the kingdom itself, the Saudi rulers grudgingly admitted that their seeming tolerance of the extremism was beginning to threaten their own grip on power. [complete article]

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Terror suspects very probably amateurs, say Italian police
By Bruce Johnston, The Telegraph, August 2, 2005

Italian police interrogating the suspected Shepherd's Bush July 21 bomber said yesterday he was "very probably" a member of a loose group of amateurs rather than an Islamist militant ring.

Hussain Osman, 27, who was arrested in Rome on Friday, had no links to known terrorist cells, said the police official Carlo de Stefano at a press conference in the Italian capital.

Investigations "lead us to believe as very probable that he belongs to a spontaneous group rather than a structured organisation that had broader terrorist projects", he said. [complete article]

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Bush endorses teaching 'intelligent design' theory in schools
By Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder, August 1, 2005

President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools. [complete article]

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Suspect's tale of travel and torture
By Stephen Grey and Ian Cobain, The Guardian, August 2, 2005

A former London schoolboy accused of being a dedicated al-Qaida terrorist has given the first full account of the interrogation and alleged torture endured by so-called ghost detainees held at secret prisons around the world.

For two and a half years US authorities moved Benyam Mohammed around a series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before he was sent to Guantanamo Bay in September last year.

Mohammed, 26, who grew up in Notting Hill in west London, is alleged to be a key figure in terrorist plots intended to cause far greater loss of life than the suicide bombers of 7/7. One allegation, which he denies, is of planning to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a US city; another is that he and an accomplice planned to collapse a number of apartment blocks by renting ground-floor flats to seal, fill with gas from cooking appliances, and blow up with timed detonators.

In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels. [complete article]

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U.S. terror hearings rigged, say prosecutors
By Nick Squires, The Telegraph, August 2, 2005

The military commissions set up by the United States to try terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are rigged, fraudulent and based on "half-assed" evidence, according to leaked e-mails.

The e-mails, obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, were written by two former military prosecutors to superiors last year, and will prove embarrassing to Washington and Canberra.

In one, Major Robert Preston described the cases being prepared against the detainees as "marginal" and "a fraud on the American people". He added: "Surely they don't expect that this fairly half-assed effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time?" [complete article]

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Musharraf moves to prevent 'Talibanisation' of lawless tribal areas
By Peter Foster, The Telegraph, August 2, 2005

In a fresh attack on Islamic extremism, Pakistan's president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, has moved to overturn plans to introduce Taliban-style moral laws into the country's lawless tribal areas.

The general, who ordered the arrest of 600 suspected militants last month, is fighting the introduction of a strict Islamic Hasba (accountability) law in North West Frontier Province.

Critics say the law, passed by a majority of hard-line Islamists in the province's local assembly last month, will "Talibanise" the region.

Under its terms a government-appointed cleric, or mohtasib, will enforce the call to prayer five times daily, discourage dancing or singing and forbid unmarried men and women even to walk together in the same street. The text of the Bill says the mohtasib will "protect/watch the Islamic values and etiquettes" and ensure media publications "are useful to the purpose of upholding Islamic values". [complete article]

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Drawing down Iraq
By Michael Hirsh and John Barry, Newsweek, August 8, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld doesn't like long-term occupations. He's always made that clear. After U.S. forces took Baghdad, the Defense secretary had plans to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq to 40,000 troops by the fall of 2003. Then the insurgency struck.

Now Rumsfeld is quietly moving toward his original goal -- three years late. The Pentagon has developed a detailed plan in recent months to scale down the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to about 80,000 by mid-2006 and down to 40,000 to 60,000 troops by the end of that year, according to two Pentagon officials involved in the planning who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of their work. Their account squares with a British memo leaked in mid-July. "Emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in overall [U.S. and Coalition forces] from 176,000 down to 66,000," says the Ministry of Defense memo. [complete article]

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Spy's notes on Iraqi aims were shelved, suit says
By James Risen, New York Times, August 1, 2005

The Central Intelligence Agency was told by an informant in the spring of 2001 that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program, but the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy makers, a former C.I.A. officer has charged.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court here in December, the former C.I.A. officer, whose name remains secret, said that the informant told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment program had ended years earlier and that centrifuge components from the scuttled program were available for examination and even purchase.

The officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in a clandestine unit assigned to gather intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004.

In his lawsuit, he says his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency's assumptions on a series of weapons-related matters. Among other things, he charged that he had been the target of retaliation for his refusal to go along with the agency's intelligence conclusions. [complete article]

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Worry grows as foreigners flock to Iraq's risky jobs
By Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2005

For hire: more than 1,000 U.S.-trained former soldiers and police officers from Colombia. Combat-hardened, experienced in fighting insurgents and ready for duty in Iraq.

This eye-popping advertisement recently appeared on an Iraq jobs website, posted by an American entrepreneur who hopes to supply security forces for U.S. contractors in Iraq and elsewhere.

If hired, the Colombians would join a swelling population of heavily armed private military forces working in Iraq and other global hot spots. They also would join a growing corps of workers from the developing world who are seeking higher wages in dangerous jobs, what some critics say is a troubling result of efforts by the U.S. to "outsource" its operations in Iraq and other countries. [complete article]

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Iraq dances with Iran, while America seethes
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 31, 2005

Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, delivered a blunt message to Iraqi leaders during a visit here last week: the Iraqis would have to be more aggressive in opposing the "harmful" meddling of Iran in this country's affairs before the Americans could consider regional stability assured and the way clear for the United States forces to go home.

It was an argument with a paradox at its heart.

Regaining a semblance of stability here is a goal of both the Iraqi government and the Americans. But the country's elected leadership apparently believes that Iraq's long-term welfare will depend on building a strong relationship with Iran as well as on maintaining ties to the United States. As the Shiite Arab leaders who now hold sway in Baghdad see it, support from their co-religionists in Iran could be decisive in keeping Iraq from slipping further into chaos.

That is clearly not the kind of stability Mr. Rumsfeld has in mind. [complete article]

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Middle East paradigm shift
By Andrew J. Bacevich, American Conservative, August 1, 2005

In Sandstorm, Leon Hadar, a foreign-policy analyst at the Cato Institute, launches a frontal assault on the several orthodoxies constituting the citadel of U.S. policy in the Middle East. If in the end his effort to demolish that fortress does not quite succeed, he breaches the ramparts in several places. Sandstorm does not fully persuade, but it is a brave, thoughtful, and vigorously argued book on a subject of critical importance.

Hadar's chief purpose is to discredit what he calls the Middle East Paradigm, to which virtually the entire American foreign-policy establishment subscribes as if to holy writ. Evolving in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the MEP consists of three propositions asserted by supposed "experts" with such frequency and conviction as to take on the appearance of revealed truth. According to Hadar, none of the three can withstand close scrutiny.

The first proposition is strategic, an insistence that the U.S. is called upon to play a pre-eminent role in the Middle East. In a Cold War context, pre-eminence implied using American power to keep the Soviets from muscling into the region. But even during the Cold War, considerations unrelated to the Soviet threat influenced U.S. policy. Specifically, from 1945 onward, Washington was intent on displacing the Europeans whose imperial machinations had created the modern Middle East in the first place. [complete article]

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Talking with the enemy
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, August 8, 2005

A senior non-U.S. diplomat, who has spoken to all the key figures in Iraq over the past two years, tells me that for months leaders of the insurgency have been putting out feelers that they would like to talk with the United States about a settlement. (U.S. and Iraqi civilian and military officials have confirmed various aspects of this story.) So far the United States has refused to go down this path. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's description of contacts between Army officers and local insurgents is accurate, but these contacts have been few and far between and, more important, neither side has any authority to negotiate anything. Salih al-Mutlaq, whose National Dialogue Council has links to the insurgents, argues that negotiating with them would cripple the jihadists. "If the Americans reach an agreement with the local [Baathist] resistance, there won't be any room for foreign fighters," he says.

My diplomatic source argues that the people he has talked to appear credible and are willing to be tested (by ceasing their attacks for a week, for example). Their message to him has been, "The United States is not our strategic enemy. Our strategic enemy is Iran. We want to end the war with America." That is why they insist on direct talks with the Americans. During Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's reign, they refused to deal with the Iraqi government. "Now their position appears to have softened," the diplomat says. "They will talk to this government, but the United States must be involved as well." They don't want sporadic conversations but rather a real political process.

Part of what's bringing these people to the negotiating table is their fear that the insurgency in Iraq is being taken over by jihadists. [complete article]

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They expected an easy ride, then the enemy struck back
By Catherine Philp, The Times, July 30, 2005

When the paratroopers of Chosen Company learnt that their battalion was to be sent to the mountains of southern Afghanistan instead of back to the deserts of Iraq, they heaved a collective sigh of relief.

"I thought it'd be pretty relaxed, that I'd be spending a lot of time in the gym," Sergeant Timothy Smith recalled wryly. "I figured it was more of a peacekeeping mission than anything."

But less than a month after setting up camp amid the rugged mountains of Zabul province, the heartland of the Taleban, they walked right into the battle of their lives -- an intense hand-to-hand fight with what proved to be a surprisingly tenacious and determined enemy. [complete article]

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U.S. evicted from air base in Uzbekistan
By Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, July 30, 2005

Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday.

In a highly unusual move, the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, said a senior U.S. administration official involved in Central Asia policy. The message did not give a reason. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, U.S. officials said.

If Uzbekistan follows through, as Washington expects, the United States will face several logistical problems for its operations in Afghanistan. Scores of flights have used K2 monthly. It has been a landing base to transfer humanitarian goods that then are taken by road into northern Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-e Sharif -- with no alternative for a region difficult to reach in the winter. K2 is also a refueling base with a runway long enough for large military aircraft. The alternative is much costlier midair refueling. [complete article]

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You can't fight terrorism with racism
By Colbert I. King, Washington Post, July 30, 2005

During my day job I work under the title of deputy editorial page editor. That entails paying more than passing attention to articles that appear on the op-ed page. Opinion writers, in my view, should have a wide range in which to roam, especially when it comes to edgy, thought-provoking pieces. Still, I wasn't quite ready for what appeared on the op-ed pages of Thursday's New York Times or Friday's Post.

A New York Times op-ed piece by Paul Sperry, a Hoover Institution media fellow ["It's the Age of Terror: What Would You Do?"], and a Post column by Charles Krauthammer ["Give Grandma a Pass; Politically Correct Screening Won't Catch Jihadists"] endorsed the practice of using ethnicity, national origin and religion as primary factors in deciding whom police should regard as possible terrorists -- in other words, racial profiling. A second Times column, on Thursday, by Haim Watzman ["When You Have to Shoot First"] argued that the London police officer who chased down and put seven bullets into the head of a Brazilian electrician without asking him any questions or giving him any warning "did the right thing."

The three articles blessed behavior that makes a mockery of the rights to which people in this country are entitled. [complete article]

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I name the four powers who are behind the al-Qaeda conspiracy
By Matthew Parris, The Times, July 23, 2005

There is an unwitting conspiracy between four separate powers to represent the worldwide al-Qaeda network as fiendishly clever, powerfully effective and deeply involved in the London bombings.

First, the news media. Al-Qaeda is a “narrative” and a gripping one. Everybody loves a mystery story. Everybody loves a thriller. Everybody needs a plot. All journalists have an in-built tendency to make links between things and find unifying forces at work. A series of random and unrelated facts makes for a shapeless account. Report without implicit explanation is baffling and finally boring. No British journalist I know would invent or consciously distort a report in order to exaggerate the involvement of al-Qaeda; but most of us are drawn to explanations that, well, explain. [complete article]

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Third terror cell on loose
By David Leppard and John Follain, The Sunday Times, July 31, 2005

A third Islamist terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks against Tube trains and other "soft" targets in central London, security sources have revealed.

Intelligence about a cell with access to explosives and plans to unleash a "third wave" of attacks was the trigger for last Thursday's unprecedented security exercise. The operation saw 6,000 police, many armed, patrolling across London.

Senior police officers say that there was "specific" intelligence from several sources that an attack was planned for that day. The disclosure contradicts official statements by Scotland Yard that Thursday's security exercise -- the biggest since the second world war -- was simply a precaution aimed at reassuring the public.

The disclosures come as a suspected bomber detained in Italy apparently admitted to involvement in the attacks on July 21. According to Italian reports, Hussain Osman has alleged to investigators that the leader of the July 21 attacks was Muktar Said-Ibrahim, who was detained in London on Friday. [complete article]

Extraordinary admission to interrogators by London bomb suspect
By Francis Elliott and Sophie Goodchild and John Phillips, The Independent, July 31, 2005

A suspected member of the 21 July bomb cell has told investigators he was motivated by the Iraq war, not religion

Osman Hussain, suspected of attempting to blow up commuters in Shepherd's Bush, west London, has given an extraordinary account of a plot hatched in a basement gym in Notting Hill, according to leaks from his interrogation by Italian investigating magistrates.

The suspected would-be bomber is reported to have denied links to the cell that killed 52 people two weeks earlier. But that outrage acted as a "signal" for the second gang to launch its own attack. [complete article]

The second plot: copycats or co-conspirators?
By Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2005

Detectives confront a fundamental mystery: Were the two plots part of a terrorist campaign by an international network that cobbled together multi-ethnic cells from different cities and disparate backgrounds? Or was the second strike a copycat attack by an unrelated group, as Italian police say one of the July 21 suspects said in a confession Friday?

Despite the reported confession and the contrasts between the Leeds and London cells, most investigators think there has to be a link because of the remarkably similar explosives, targets and methods. [complete article]

Bombing suspect tried to have moderate imam sacked
By Abul Taher and John Elliott, The Sunday Times, July 31, 2005

The man suspected of being responsible for the failed Oval bombing was a hardline Muslim who harangued fellow worshippers and tried to get the imam at his mosque sacked for preaching against terrorism.

Ramzi Mohammed, who was arrested on Friday in west London in connection with the failed July 21 bomb attacks, repeatedly threatened the imam because he held moderate views.

He was part of a small gang thought to be members of Al-Muhajiroun, the extreme Islamist organisation, who prayed separately from other worshippers at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in North Kensington.

Among them was his brother Wahbi, 22, who is being questioned about a rucksack bomb discarded near Wormwood Scrubs in west London.

Ahmed Dahdouh, the imam of the mosque, said the Mohammed brothers were known for their radicalism. He said he was abused by them on several occasions. They called him an "infidel" and "apostate". [complete article]

Comment -- In the aftermath of the London bombings there have been numerous appeals for moderate British Muslims to rein in the radicals. It's as though everyone thinks that violent extremisim is a product of lack of exposure to a non-violent, moderate alternative. This is ridiculous! If there is actually a way of winning over someone who is already attracted to a violent extreme, the alternative on offer will need to be non-violent yet no less radical.

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Inside the minds of suicide bombers
By Laura Miller, Salon (via Der Spiegel), July 29, 2005

Army general advised using dogs at Abu Ghraib, officer testifies
By Josh White, Washington Post, July 28, 2005

Police debate if London plotters were suicide bombers, or dupes
By Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times, July 27, 2005

The Iraqi women who fear that democracy will crush freedom
By James Hider, The Times, July 27, 2005

The London bombings: for al-Qaeda, steady as she goes
By Michael Scheuer, Jamestown Foundation, July 22, 2005

Israel is still blocking the road to peace
By Henry Siegman, International Herald Tribune, July 25, 2005

All quiet on the home front, and some soldiers are asking why
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, July 24, 2005

Eight days in July
By Frank Rich, New York Times, July 24, 2005

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