|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
War messages that don't quite match
By Ronald Brownstein and Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2005
Are the president and the Pentagon on the same page over the war in Iraq?
That question is percolating in Washington after President Bush twice in the last 10 days tried to clarify a message sent by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and military leaders.
After Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials indicated their desire to shift away from discussing the struggle against terrorism as a "war" -- saying it placed too much emphasis on military solutions to terrorism -- Bush repeatedly used the word "war" in an Aug. 3 speech to conservative state legislators.
Then on Thursday, Bush dismissed as "rumors" and "speculation" reports that U.S. commanders were contemplating significant withdrawals of American troops from Iraq next year. His comments came after Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. military official in Iraq, and Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the top ground commander, had publicly raised exactly that possibility. [complete article]
So we're going to bolt from Iraq. Where are the cries of complaint?
By Matthew Parris, The Times, August 13, 2005
In passing you may have noticed that a cartload of Shia bully-boy militiamen removed the Mayor of Baghdad from office this week and installed their own man, who now says he is too scared for his own life to hold on to the job. It has not been suggested that America and Britain, the guarantors of the security of the free Iraq that we went to war to create, were in any position to stop this. It came days after a great many more American soldiers were killed in Iraq: 45 already this month, as I write.
You may also have noticed that, according to The New York Times: "If the political process in Iraq remains on track and security improves, perhaps up to 30,000 troops could pull out by next spring."
You may have asked what was meant in that sentence by the words "remains on track". The "track" looks a curious railway with some unconventional destinations. But where it leads is ever-clearer: to a resolve by politicians to stand everyday observation on its head, and conclude that we have "won" in Iraq -- and sprint back home during the incredulous pause before everyone begins to laugh. [complete article]
This is George Bush's accountability moment
By Cindy Sheehan, Huffington Post, August 11, 2005
This is George Bush's accountability moment. That's why I'm here. The mainstream media aren't holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So I'm not leaving Crawford until he's held accountable. It's ironic, given the attacks leveled at me recently, how some in the media are so quick to scrutinize -- and distort -- the words and actions of a grieving mother but not the words and actions of the president of the United States.
But now it’s time for him to level with me and with the American people. I think that's why there's been such an outpouring of support. This is giving the 61 percent of Americans who feel that the war is wrong something to do -- something that allows their voices to be heard. It's a way for them to stand up and show that they DO want our troops home, and that they know this war IS a mistake... a mistake they want to see corrected. It's too late to bring back the people who are already dead, but there are tens of thousands of people still in harm's way.
There is too much at stake to worry about our own egos. When my son was killed, I had to face the fact that I was somehow also responsible for what happened. Every American that allows this to continue has, to some extent, blood on their hands. Some of us have a little bit, and some of us are soaked in it.
People have asked what it is I want to say to President Bush. Well, my message is a simple one. He's said that my son -- and the other children we've lost -- died for a noble cause. I want to find out what that noble cause is. And I want to ask him: "If it's such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?" I also want him to stop using my son's name to justify the war. The idea that we have to "complete the mission" in Iraq to honor Casey's sacrifice is, to me, a sacrilege to my son's name. Besides, does the president any longer even know what "the mission" really is over there? [complete article]
Bush: U.S., Israel united in making sure Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons
Haaretz, August 13, 2005
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Israeli television he could consider using force as a last resort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program.
"All options are on the table," Bush, speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said in the interview with Channel 1 TV broadcast on Friday.
In the interview, Bush said the United States and Israel "are united in our objective to make sure that Iran does not have a weapon."
Asked if that included the use of force, Bush replied: "As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president and you know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country." [complete article]
Comment -- I know it's August but when George Bush says "all options are on the table" this really isn't news. What would be news would be if he made a specific threat or alternatively if he categorically ruled out the use of force.
Hamas vows to continue attacks on Israel after pullout
AP (via Haaretz, August 13, 2005
In a show of force, Hamas founders and political leaders appeared Saturday on a stage together for the first time in 10 years to tell the Palestinian people that the militant group's armed struggle will go on after Israel's impending withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
In a direct challenge to the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas leadership positioned itself in front of the group's logo and a green Islamic flag to send a message that they have the right to possess weapons and to claim responsibility for pushing Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
Flanked by four Hamas founders, Ismail Haniyye, a top Hamas leader told reporters in a Gaza City restaurant that the group will not lay down their guns. [complete article]
Pullout focuses Israel on its future
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, August 13, 2005
As a young member of Israel's parliament in 1978, Ehud Olmert had the opportunity to vote in favor of the historic Camp David peace accords, which returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and brought Israel peace with its most powerful enemy. Olmert voted against it.
"I voted against Menachem Begin," Olmert, now Israel's finance minister, said this week. "I told him it was a historic mistake, how dangerous it would be, and so on and so on. Now I am sorry he is not alive for me to be able to publicly recognize his wisdom and my mistake. He was right and I was wrong. Thank God we pulled out of the Sinai."
In two days, the Israeli military will begin the first evacuation of Jewish settlements since the Sinai pullout, abandoning 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and the network of military installations that protected them for nearly four decades. This time, Israel will not receive anything in return for the land it is leaving. Olmert has been one of the plan's most vocal supporters.
The unilateral decision to leave Gaza, pushed for more than a year by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at great political expense, has left Israeli society at odds over the future character and shape of the Jewish state. [complete article]
As Israel leaves Gaza, the bill for its settlement ambitions is shrouded in mystery
AP (via Lawinfo), August 11, 2005
Israel's effort since the 1967 Mideast war to fill the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jews has grown from the scattered actions of zealous squatters into a network of 142 settlements that house nearly 240,000 people.
Now that Israel plans to spend some US$2 billion (euro1.6 billion) to dismantle just 25 of these enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza - for which U.S. aid has been requested - it raises the question of how much money has been poured into the ambitious settlement project, and exactly where it came from.
The official answer: No one knows.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres estimates Israel has spent about US$50 billion (euro40 billion) since 1977, when the hard-line Likud government took over from his Labor party. Other former finance ministers and government officials don't discount a price tag - commonly floated but never documented - of $60 billion (euro48.5 billion). [complete article]
Vast archive yields new view of 9/11
By Jim Dwyer, New York Times, August 13, 2005
Faced with a court order and unyielding demands from the families of victims, the city of New York yesterday opened part of its archive of records from Sept. 11, releasing a digital avalanche of oral histories, dispatchers' tapes and phone logs so vast that they took up 23 compact discs.
For the first time, about 200 accounts of emergency medical technicians, paramedics and their supervisors were made public, revealing new dimensions of a day and an emergency response that had already seemed familiar.
In details large and small, the accounts of the medical personnel - uniformed workers who were often overlooked in many of the day's chronicles, but were as vital to the response and rescue efforts as any others - provide vivid and alarming recollections.
They spoke of being unable to find anyone in authority to tell them where to go or what to do. Nearly from the moment the first plane struck the World Trade Center, they had little radio communication. As their leaders struggled to set up ordinary procedures for a "mass casualty incident," the crisis gathered speed by the minute. [complete article]
London bombings: the truth emerges
By Jason Bennetto and Ian Herbert, The Independent, August 13, 2005
The suicide cell that killed 52 people on 7 July is not linked to those alleged to be behind the second London attacks on 21 July, according to the initial findings of the biggest anti-terrorist investigation held in Britain.
An investigation into the four suicide bombers from the first attacks and the people alleged to be behind the July 21 plot has found no evidence of any al-Qa'ida "mastermind" or senior organiser. The inquiry involved MI5, MI6, the listening centre at GCHQ, and the police.
The disclosure that the July 7 team were working in isolation - and were radicalised by Mohammad Sidique Khan, the oldest man - has caused concern among anti-terrorist officers. [complete article]
Audit: Fraud drained $1 billion from Iraq's defense efforts
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, August 11, 2005
Iraqi investigators have uncovered widespread fraud and waste in more than $1 billion worth of weapons deals arranged by middlemen who reneged or took huge kickbacks on contracts to arm Iraq's fledgling military, according to a confidential report and interviews with U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, in a report reviewed by Knight Ridder, describes transactions suggesting that senior U.S.-appointed Iraqi officials in the Defense Ministry used three intermediary companies to hide the kickbacks they received from contracts involving unnecessary, overpriced or outdated equipment.
Knight Ridder reported last month that $300 million in defense funds had been lost. But the report indicates that the audit board uncovered a much larger scandal, with losses likely to exceed $500 million, that's roiling the ministry as it struggles to build up its armed forces. [complete article]
In Iraq, no clear finish line
By Peter Baker, Washington Post, August 12, 2005
The events of the past week have brought home once again the difficulties confronting the president as he prosecutes what polls suggest is an increasingly unpopular war. With surging violence claiming more U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq and the angry mother of a dead soldier camping out near his ranch in Texas, Bush plainly cannot count on indefinite public patience.
Administration officials have all but given up any hope of militarily defeating the insurgents with U.S. forces, instead aiming only to train and equip enough Iraqi security forces to take over the fight themselves. At the same time, they believe that the mission depends on building a new political infrastructure, a project facing its most decisive test in the next three days as deeply divided Iraqis struggle to draft a constitution by a Monday deadline.
In the face of all that, Bush is trying to buy time. After meeting with his national security team at his ranch near Crawford, Tex., yesterday, Bush again beseeched the public to stick with his strategy despite continuing mayhem on the ground, exemplified most recently by the deaths of 16 Marines from the same Ohio-based unit in the past two weeks. Overall, nearly 1,850 U.S. troops have died. [complete article]
Shiites call for own state in south
By Saad Sarhan and Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, August 12, 2005
Waving posters of Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, thousands of chanting Shiite Muslims signaled approval for a call Thursday by their leaders for a separate Shiite federal state in central and southern Iraq.
The demand by one of the government's dominant Shiite religious parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, came five days before a draft of Iraq's new constitution is due. The call, which triggered immediate protests by Sunni Muslim leaders and some Shiite officials, capped increasingly assertive moves by the party to influence the new Iraq as it takes shape.
"What have we gotten from the central government but death?" Hadi Amiri, leader of an Iranian-trained Shiite militia that is the party's private security contractor, demanded at a rally attended by thousands at a stadium here in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
"We must not miss this chance," said the party's leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, dressed in robes and turban. Hakim described "one federal state in central and southern Iraq, an area of shared bonds and one social fabric." [complete article]
Iraqi constitution must deliver oil to Sunnis, or it won't deliver stability
By Edward P. Joseph and Michael O'Hanlon, Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 2005
Many crucial issues are still in play in the constitutional dialogue - the role of Islam in Iraq, the rights of women, the nature of the legislature and regional voting rights, the special prerogatives of Muslim clergy including those with ties to Iran.
But the key to defeating the insurgency probably doesn't lie specifically in any of these important areas. Rather, the key to Iraq's near-term stability is quite simply the rights and prerogatives of the 20 percent of Iraqis who are Sunni Arabs.
It is this group that provides perhaps 90 percent of the insurgency's active fighters and most of its new recruits. It is this group amid which the insurgency lives, hides its arms, plots its attacks, finds its safe houses. And it is this group that is on the verge of being fundamentally marginalized, in political power as well as economics, by what is happening in the constitution-writing right now.
The crux of the problem is Kirkuk, an oil-rich northern Iraqi city inhabited by Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and others. The Kurds believe the city and its environs are historically theirs, and resent that the Arab population living there now was originally settled by Saddam Hussein to weaken their influence over a key part of Iraq's oil economy. The Kurds want not only the land back for the Kurdish families who once owned it - a reasonable enough proposition - but virtually all the rights and revenue to the oil produced in its vicinity. [complete article]
Envoy delivers U.S. vision for Iraqi constitution
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2005
Driving toward a Monday deadline, Iraqi officials said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had presented to selected leaders Thursday a U.S. version of provisions of the new Iraqi constitution that remain in dispute.
After a day of ducking in and out of meetings with politicians, Khalilzad presented a document based on the constitution drafted by an Iraqi commission but containing language the Americans recommended as ways to settle divisive issues, people close to the leaders said.
"It's the full constitution but with the American points of view on the main points where we have differences," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of Iraq's constitutional commission who is close to the Kurdish leadership. Othman and other Kurds were awake at midnight going over the document.
Several versions of the constitution have been leaked over the past few weeks. One, drafted by the commission, largely reflects the thinking of Iraq's Shiite Muslims. Another was drafted by Kurds, and a third version included some Sunni proposals on the relative powers of the provinces and the central government.
"I guess you could say there's a Kurdish version, a Sunni [version], a Shiite [version] and an American one," said another person close to the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity. [complete article]
Officials see risk in the release of images of Iraq prisoner abuse
By Julia Preston, New York Times, August 12, 2005
Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement put forth to support the Pentagon's case that he believed that "riots, violence and attacks by insurgents will result" if the images were released. [complete article]
Plame in the courtroom
By Elizabeth de la Vega, TomDispatch, August 11, 2005
Pundits right, left, and center have reached a rare unanimous verdict about one aspect of the grand jury investigation into the Valerie Plame leak: They've decided that no charges can be brought under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, because it imposes an impossibly high standard for proof of intent. Typically, writing for Slate on July 19th, Christopher Hitchens described the 1982 Act as a "silly law" that requires that "you knowingly wish to expose the cover of a CIA officer who you understand may be harmed as a result." Similarly, columnist Richard Cohen, in the July 14 Washington Post, said he thought Rove was a "political opportunist, not a traitor" and that he didn't think Rove "specifically intended to blow the cover of a CIA agent." Such examples could be multiplied many times over.
Shocking as it may seem, however, the pundits are wrong; and their casual summaries of the requirements of the 1982 statute betray a fundamental misunderstanding regarding proof of criminal intent. [complete article]
See also, 'Vanity Fair' rips media 'conspiracy' in covering up role in Plame scandal (E&P) and Probe poses issue of what Rove told Bush (AP).
U.K.: Proposed anti-terrorism measures threaten fundamental rights
Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2005
Counter-terrorism measures presented by Prime Minister Tony Blair last week, coupled with this week's proposal for special anti-terrorism courts, are deeply worrying, said Human Rights Watch. Some of the measures under discussion appear to be in outright breach of the U.K.'s human rights obligations and others are so ill-defined and overbroad that they risk criminalizing valid forms of dissent and undermining freedom of religion, said the group.
The proposed measures include the deportation of foreigners deemed "extremist" to places where they might be at risk of torture; a new offence criminalizing speech that amounts to "indirect incitement," including speech that justifies or glorifies terrorism; extended time periods for pre-trial detention without charge; and the closure of places of worship used to "foment extremism." A proposal is also under consideration to establish special anti-terrorism courts with some proceedings held in secret, court-appointed advocates to represent a suspect, and no access to evidence by the suspect.
"The U.K. government must protect the public from acts of terrorism," said Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division. "But the government assumes that the public and the courts will readily accept measures that could implicate the U.K. in torture, arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and stripping people of their right to voice dissenting opinions and practice their religion. The authorities are grasping at straws, instead of setting a rational and effective course that provides security and protects rights at the same time." [complete article]
See also, Days of anxiety for Muslim Londoners (Los Angeles Times).
Britain bars militant Muslim cleric from returning
By Alan Cowell and Terence Neilan, 2005
Britain today barred a militant Islamic cleric, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, from returning from Lebanon to the country that was his home for 20 years, saying his presence was no longer "conducive to the public good."
Sheik Mohammed, 45, left Britain on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to move against militant Muslim clerics. Sheik Mohammed, one of the most contentious Islamic figures, left the country for what he said was a vacation in Lebanon. He was held there for questioning on Thursday but was released today on the orders of the general prosecutor, Saeed Meerza, who said it appeared he had broken no laws, the state-run news agency reported.
The sheik, who was born in Syria, has dual Syrian and Lebanese citizenship.
Today's announcement barring the sheik from Britain came a day after Charles Clarke, the home secretary, said 10 foreigners seen as a "threat to national security" had been seized and would be deported. Mr. Clarke declined to name those who were under arrest. [complete article]
See also, Jihad agitators 'tried to recruit teenagers for training camps' (The Times).
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, August 10, 2005
A former Washington-area man accused in court papers of being the "American contact" for an Osama bin Laden "front organization" is now believed to be working for the new Iraqi government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two U.S. law-enforcement officials and a longtime associate of the man tell Newsweek.
Tariq A. Hamdi, who allegedly delivered a satellite-telephone battery to bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998, has left the United States and has told associates he is currently employed in the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, said the government officials, who asked not to be identified because of pending legal charges against Hamdi.
Hamdi's precise status with the Iraqi foreign ministry could not be immediately determined. But one of the U.S. law-enforcement officials said that federal prosecutors were concerned enough about Hamdi's current status that they undertook a legal review with the State Department to determine if it would prevent them from charging him with federal crimes because of diplomatic immunity. But the prosecutors determined that his diplomatic status was "irrelevant" because the crimes they were considering charging him with took place before the current Iraqi government even existed, the official said. [complete article]
Sept. 11 panel explores allegations about Atta
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 12, 2005
Staff members of the Sept. 11 commission are investigating allegations by a Republican congressman that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta had been identified as a potential threat by a highly classified Defense Department program a year or more before the attacks occurred.
Commission officials confirmed a report in yesterday's New York Times that two staff members interviewed a uniformed military officer, who alleged in July 2004 that a secret program called "Able Danger" had identified Atta as a potential terrorist threat in 1999 or early 2000.
Panel investigators viewed the claim as unlikely, in part because Atta was not recruited as an al Qaeda operative until a trip to Afghanistan in 2000 and did not enter the United States until June of that year, officials said. [complete article]
Al-Jazeera in talks to sign Frost
By Tara Conlan, The Guardian, August 11, 2005
Arabic satellite television news channel al-Jazeera is in talks to sign up veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost.
The broadcaster is keen to boost its profile as it gears up for the launch of its global channel, al-Jazeera International, next year. [complete article]
Warming hits 'tipping point'
By Ian Sample, The Guardian, August 11, 2005
A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.
Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.
The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures. [complete article]
See also, Peat bogs harbour carbon time bomb (New Scientist, July 7, 2005).
9/11 Commission's staff rejected report on early identification of chief hijacker
By Douglas Jehl and Philip Shenon, New York Times, August 11, 2005
The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday.
The officials said that the information had not been included in the report because aspects of the officer's account had sounded inconsistent with what the commission knew about that Qaeda member, Mohammed Atta, the plot's leader.
But aides to the Republican congressman who has sought to call attention to the military unit that conducted the secret operation said such a conclusion relied too much on specific dates involving Mr. Atta's travels and not nearly enough on the operation's broader determination that he was a threat.
The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission's staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger. [complete article]
With Gaza as their guide, some settlers in West Bank seek a way out
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, August 11, 2005
After working for years in the West Bank for Israel's security services, Benny Raz moved into a two-story home in this leafy Jewish settlement that he could never have afforded without the government's financial help.
"It was like a dream," Raz said of his time in these rocky hills before the Palestinian uprising began, before his concrete company collapsed, before the value of his house fell from $120,000 to a third of that today. Now, after seven years of living along its red-brick sidewalks, he wants nothing more than to leave.
That is proving difficult for Raz and a number of other West Bank settlers who say they cannot raise enough money to move back inside Israel at a time when the government is paying thousands of others to do just that. With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moving to evacuate all of the settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank next week, Raz said his community is now a place where only the most ardent religious settlers choose to live.
"If Sharon is knocking on doors ... in Gaza, in two years he could be knocking on our doors, and I don't want to wait," said Raz, 51. "We are hostages to the state of Israel. The government knows we cannot afford to move." [complete article]
Side issue in the Plame case: Who sent her spouse to Africa?
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 11, 2005
The origin of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's trip to Niger in 2002 to check out intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium has become a contentious side issue to the inquiry by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is looking into whether a crime was committed with the exposure of Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, as a covert CIA employee.
After he went public in 2003 about the trip, senior Bush administration officials, trying to discredit Wilson's findings, told reporters that Wilson's wife, who worked at the CIA, was the one who suggested the Niger mission for her husband. Days later, Plame was named as an "agency operative" by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has said he did not realize he was, in effect, exposing a covert officer. A Senate committee report would later say evidence indicated Plame suggested Wilson for the trip.
Over the past months, however, the CIA has maintained that Wilson was chosen for the trip by senior officials in the Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division (CPD) -- not by his wife -- largely because he had handled a similar agency inquiry in Niger in 1999. On that trip, Plame, who worked in that division, had suggested him because he was planning to go there, according to Wilson and the Senate committee report. [complete article]
'Al-Qaeda cleric' among ten detained for deportation
By Sam Knight, The Times, August 11, 2005
Britain's promised crackdown on the "preachers of hate" began this morning as ten foreign nationals were detained, including Abu Qatada, described as al-Qaeda’s spiritual ambassador in Europe.
Abu Qatada, 44, who is also known as Sheikh Omar Abu Omar, and the other nine foreign nationals were picked up in raids carried out by four police forces, working with the Immigration Service, sources have told Times Online.
They are in a prison service facility while the Home Office prepares to deport them.
The Home Office has not formally confirmed that Abu Qatada is among the detained but Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said the foreign nationals were being held and would be removed for "reasons of national security". [complete article]
Iraq Shias call for more autonomy
BBC News, August 11, 2005
Iraq's Shia majority should be granted an autonomous federal state in the south of the country, a senior Shia leader has said. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim made his call at a rally in the Shia holy city of Najaf, as Iraqi politicians debate the wording and balance of a new constitution. Shia Muslims, who make up some 60% of Iraq's population, faced repression under Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime.
Iraq's Kurdish minority in the north already enjoy de facto autonomy.
The role of federalism and the balance of power between Iraq's Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities have been key sticking points during negotiations. [complete article]
Early pullout unlikely in Iraq
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, August 11, 2005
Iraq's leaders and military will be unable to lead the fight against insurgents until next summer at the earliest, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday, trying to temper any hopes that a full-scale American troop withdrawal was imminent as Iraq moves toward elections scheduled for December.
Both Americans and Iraqis need "to start thinking about and talking about what it's really going to be like in Iraq after elections," said the military official, who spoke in an interview on the condition he not be named. "I think the important point is there's not going to be a fundamental change."
The official stressed that it was "important to calibrate expectations post-elections. I've been saying to folks: You're still going to have an insurgency, you're still going to have a dilapidated infrastructure, you're still going to have decades of developmental problems both on the economic and the political side." [complete article]
U.S. gambles in handing security to Iraqis
By Antonio Castaneda, AP (via Yahoo), August 11, 2005
Nearly a year ago, U.S. forces swarmed through Tal Afar, killing enough insurgents for the local police chief to declare the city insurgent-free. Now the militants are back, and the United States has moved in more soldiers to drive them out.
The story of Tal Afar, an ethnically diverse city located near Camp Sykes and about 40 miles from the Syrian border, underscores the gamble Washington will be making by turning over large areas of the country to Iraqi control so U.S. soldiers can begin going home next year.
When the insurgents were driven from Tal Afar, the United States scaled back. But the small number of U.S. soldiers remaining -- along with the new Iraqi soldiers -- were unable to prevent the insurgents from returning. [complete article]
THE IRRESISTIBLE POWER
Iran and the U.S. - a crisis unfolds in slow motion
By Gwynne Dyer, New Zealand Herald, August 10, 2005
Nobody, the Bush Administration included, really wants the United States to attack Iran. So everybody will drag their feet as much as possible. There may be 12 more months of diplomatic manoeuvring before the crisis hits.
But there is going to be a crisis, and it is going to be big and dangerous.
Work at the Isfahan uranium conversion plant - suspended temporarily last November - has resumed. At the same time Iran has rejected the last offer of the "EU-3" (Britain, France and Germany) - a package of economic inducements designed to persuade it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, is leaving his job to make room for somebody more congenial to the new, hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran is calling the Europeans' bluff. It may be calling the American bluff, too.
There is a significant possibility that President George W. Bush is bluffing when he hints that he might attack Iran if it doesn't halt its nuclear fuel programme. [complete article]
Legal basis is elusive for objection to Iran
By Thomas Fuller, International Herald Tribune, August 11, 2005
Iran's decision to press ahead with its nuclear program puts European leaders in a tough spot: They are trying to stop Tehran from doing something that is technically not illegal.
The seals that Tehran ordered broken Wednesday were installed by United Nations inspectors as part of a voluntary agreement between Iran and the European powers last November. The Iranians now say they have changed their minds because they are frustrated by the pace of negotiations over the scope of their nuclear ambitions. The West, in turn, fears that Iran's real intention is to develop nuclear weaponry.
As a result, European diplomats here are scrambling to find ways to pressure Tehran into resuming the suspension of a nuclear program that is recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency as following the rules.
This ongoing legalistic battle masks more fundamental questions: Does Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, really need nuclear power plants? What are Iran's true intentions? And how effective is the UN system in monitoring the country's nuclear program? [complete article]
Is a bigger 'nuke club' inevitable?
By Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 2005
Iran's resumption of sensitive nuclear activities may represent a defiant challenge to the West's entire nonproliferation strategy for Tehran.
That's because the Iranian move to restart its Isfahan uranium-conversion plant is something European negotiators directly asked the government not to do.
In technical terms, Iran today is no closer to obtaining nuclear weapons. Conversion is a process that precedes enrichment - the refining of uranium to bomb-ready grade.
But in flouting Germany, France, and Britain - the three nations that have taken the lead in the negotiations - Iran has essentially dared the United States and its European allies to start some kind of punishment process. [complete article]
After Iran joins the club
By Reuven Pedatzur, Haaretz, August 11, 2005
It took a mere 43 seconds - from the moment that "Little Boy" was released by a B-29 bomber until the gigantic explosion that changed the face of human history. August 6 marked the 60th anniversary of the day on which the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the day on which man acquired the ability to destroy the earth for the first time in human history. Since the moment when the nuclear genie left the bottle, mankind has been destined to live beneath the sword of Damocles.
During the Cold War, it transpired that it is possible to live with a nuclear threat and that leaders' behavior is tempered by the realization that their decisions could lead to the total destruction of their country. From time to time, the two superpowers did indeed get close to the brink of a nuclear confrontation but, in all circumstances, their leaders were wise enough not to press the button. Now, in the wake of the bomb and the expansion of the nuclear club, which today comprises nine members, it is worth examining whether the Cold War's heritage, which prevented the dropping of additional bombs, is endangered.
This question is particularly pertinent in Israel's case because of the fear that Iran could become the 10th member of the nuclear club. The chances of this increased this week after Iran defiantly rejected the European compromise proposal on Monday and announced that it was resuming uranium enrichment. If this happens, the future of the Middle East will be dependent to a large extent on the way in which the leaders of Iran and Israel internalize the lessons of Hiroshima and the Cold War. [complete article]
A victory without spoils
By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August, 2005
The United States has bombed 21 countries since 1948, recently killed thousands of people on the pretext of chasing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and claims to be a force for democracy despite a long history of supporting the bloodiest of dictators. Do Americans have even a clue of the anger that seethes in the hearts of people across the globe? Do they care? They now need to, because two nascent fundamentalisms--that of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden--are heading toward a dreadful collision.
Today, the United States rightly lives in fear of the Bomb it created because the decision to use it--if and when it becomes available--has already been made. But this time around, pious men with beards will decide when and where on American soil atomic weapons are to be used. Shadowy groups, propelled by fanatical hatreds, scour the globe for fissile materials. They are not in a hurry; time is on their side. They are confident they will one day breach Fortress America. And what then? The world shall plunge headlong into a bottomless abyss of reaction and counterreaction whose horror the human mind cannot comprehend. [complete article]
Memorandum describing the first nuclear test in New Mexico
By General Leslie Groves, War Department, July 18, 1945
The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. It was that beauty the great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately. Thirty seconds after the explosion came first, the air blast pressing hard against the people and things, to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to The Almighty. Words are inadequate tools for the job of acquainting those not present with the physical, mental and psychological effects. It had to be witnessed to be realized. [complete article]
By Peter Carlson, Washington Post, August 10, 2005
"So we're driving down the road and it's midnight, so it's pitch-black, and when you're driving at night, you don't use any lights," says Terry Rodgers, "but we can see fine because we've got night vision goggles."
He's sitting in the living room of his mother's townhouse in Gaithersburg, telling the story of his last night in Iraq. He's still got his Army crew cut and he's wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the chest.
"We're driving down this road and there's this tiny bridge over a little canal," he says. "They had rigged up this bomb and they had a tripwire running across the bridge and we hit it and it blew up."
Like the rest of the 13,877 Americans wounded in Iraq, Rodgers has a story to tell. He tells it in a matter-of-fact voice, like he's talking about making a midnight pizza run or something. He's sitting in an armchair with his right leg propped on an ottoman, the foot encased in a soft black cast that reaches almost to the knee. His crutches are lying on the rug beside the chair. [complete article]
A city with 3 chips on its shoulder
By James Glanz, New York Times, August 10, 2005
The fate of this hard-bitten northern city of roughly a million people was supposed to remain in the balance until after Iraq's politicians had finished polishing the elegant phrases in the nation's constitution. Instead, Kirkuk has thrust its ungainly mix of money, power and ethnic rivalry into the negotiations over Iraq's future as a democracy.
Iraq was supposed to ratify its constitution before settling disagreements among the Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs in Kirkuk, according to decrees handed down when the American occupation ran the Iraqi government. Those decrees still have the force of law, but Kirkuk and those who claim it are refusing to wait.
"We want our main demands included in the constitution," said Mahmood Othman, a Kurdish independent on the committee writing the document. If the disputes cannot be ironed out, he said, "we'd prefer to delay the whole constitution."
Kurds want the city and its oil riches to be the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkmens insist that they have historical rights to Kirkuk and a majority in the central city. And many of the Arab families that Saddam Hussein forcibly moved here during his "Arabization" program - often after taking homes from people in the first two groups - believe that they should have a substantial political voice and be allowed to remain. [complete article]
Mayor of Baghdad is deposed; insurgents kill 4 U.S. troops
By James Glanz, New York Times, August 10, 2005
Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.
In continuing violence, the United States military announced today that four American soldiers were killed on Tuesday and six others were wounded when insurgents attacked a patrol near Baiji in northern Iraq. Two Iraqi policemen and four civilians were killed in a suicide car bombing in western Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said.
The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'etat. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life. [complete article]
Why AIPAC indictment is bad news for Rove
By David Corn, The Nation, August 8, 2005
Last week, the Justice Department issued a new indictment of Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon official accused of passing secrets to officials of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying outfit. The indictment is bad news for the Bush White House and Karl Rove.
That's not only because the Franklin case is embarrassing for the administration, the Pentagon, and their neocon allies. (Franklin worked with Douglas Feith, who until recently was a senior Pentagon official close to the neocons.) The Franklin indictment is a sign that Rove and any other White House aide involved in the Plame/CIA leak might be vulnerable to prosecution under the Espionage Act. [complete article]
Bush names Edelman to No. 3 Defense post, bypassing U.S. Senate
Bloomberg, August 9, 2005
President George W. Bush today named Eric S. Edelman undersecretary of defense for policy, using his power to make temporary appointments while Congress is in recess to overcome potential Democrat opposition to the nomination.
Edelman replaces Douglas Feith in the No. 3 position at the Pentagon. Feith helped plan the war in Iraq and the postwar occupation, and those roles made him the target of criticism from opponents of the March 2003 invasion.
Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee led by Carl Levin of Michigan, their ranking member, stalled Edelman's nomination to force the release of documents related to a specialized intelligence unit Feith set up before the conflict. Levin said the unit produced assessments alleging still unproven links of Iraq to terrorist groups to justify the invasion. [complete article]
It's liberty vs. security in Spanish terror trial
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2005
Spaniards call it a mega-trial, for its size and potential reach.
Twenty-four defendants. One hundred thousand pages of evidence. A prosecutor demanding prison sentences totaling many lifetimes.
The men in the dock -- almost all of them Muslim immigrants -- profess their innocence.
Europe's biggest trial to date of alleged Al Qaeda sympathizers has adjourned to await a verdict. Yet after enormous publicity surrounding the case involving the Sept. 11 attacks, critics contend that the prosecution is fatally flawed and conviction is not at all certain.
Spain's attempt to root out and bring to justice Islamic militants illustrates the debate raging across Europe: How do democracies eradicate extremist violence without sacrificing human and civil rights? [complete article]
Arar drags Bush's policies into court
By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, August 10, 2005
Canadian Maher Arar made history in a Brooklyn courtroom yesterday when his lawyers forced the Bush administration to defend its treatment of him when he was detained in the United States, then whisked off to face torture in Syria.
Lawyers for the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights became the first to challenge Washington's policy of "extraordinary rendition" in a court of law.
Rendition, a practice used with some frequency by U.S. President George W. Bush in his war on terror, is the name attached to a policy by which terrorist suspects are sent to other countries for interrogation, and often face torture.
Rendition was on trial in U.S. district court during three hours of oral arguments in the case known as Arar vs. Ashcroft. [complete article]
Jihadist's self-portrait: Alone and seething
By David Rohde and Mohammed Khan, New York Times (IHT), August 9, 2005
In a small house outside the city of Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, a 25-year-old man from the suburbs of London chronicled his personal holy war in the pages of a diary.
March 10, 2005. "All alone in a strange land," he writes. "I can trust no-one except Allah."
March 26. Questions how fellow Muslims can live peacefully in London when the "kufr," or unbelievers, have turned every corner of the globe into "a battlefield for the Muslims." Calls London the "vital organ of the minions of the devil."
April 5. Vows to make "an all out immense effort" to "rejoin my contingent."
What specific operation the man, Zeeshan Siddique, was preparing for is unclear. One month later, Pakistan security forces arrested him at the house after receiving reports that he was acting suspiciously.
Inside, according to a Pakistani security official, investigators found an electrical circuit that could be used as a bomb detonator; a desktop computer that contained aeronautical mapping and other programs; and the cryptic 35-page diary, typed in English, with nearly daily entries from March 2 to April 6, 2005.
The Pakistani official said he believed that Siddique was waiting to be dispatched as a suicide bomber. Phone numbers found with Siddique have been traced to known members of Al Qaeda, as well as British extremists involved in a failed plot to detonate bombs in London in 2004, the investigator said. [complete article]
Freed biochemist says he knew suicide bombers
By Sandra Laville and Charles Levinson, The Guardian, August 10, 2005
An Egyptian biochemist who was held for 25 days in Cairo on suspicion of involvement in the first London suicide bomb attacks revealed details of his relationship with two of the bombers yesterday as he was released from custody.
Family and friends of Magdi Mahmoud el-Nashar, 33, cheered as he returned to his home in the Egyptian capital yesterday, having been cleared by the authorities there of any involvement in the bombings.
The scientist was falsely labelled the "mastermind" behind the July 7 suicide attacks, which killed 56 people, after it was claimed that he rented a flat in Burley, Leeds, to one of the bombers, Jermaine Lindsay.
As he arrived home, Dr Nashar said he was innocent and planned to sue some British newspapers. He hoped to return to Britain next Sunday but was frightened of the reception he would receive. [complete article]
Tony Blair and Hizb-ut-Tahrir: "Muslims under the bed"
By Abdul Wahid, Open Democracy, August 9, 2005
Can anybody recall a political party or organisation being banned in modern Britain? I must confess I cannot. I can remember the ridiculous spectacle of actors speaking the words of Gerry Adams – president of the Irish republican Sinn Fein party – whilst we watched his lips move, but even at the height of the "troubles", and its overt alliance with the Irish Republican Army, Sinn Fein itself was legal and membership of it no offence.
So it should send seismic waves throughout Britain that on Friday 5 August 2005, Tony Blair announced that he planned to proscribe a solely political organisation that, moreover, has a history of non-violence spanning more than fifty years. The group in question, Hizb-ut-Tahrir ("party of liberation"), has maintained that stance – based upon a deep religious belief that it is prohibited for Muslims to use violence to try to establish their political goals – despite immense persecution in many parts of the world.
In the central Asian dictatorship of Uzbekistan, for example, it is Hizb-ut-Tahrir's members who have been boiled to death by the Islam Karimov regime; thousands more men and women, young and old alike, have been imprisoned simply for carrying membership. Even Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, confirmed its non-violent character.
The goal of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, of which I am a member, is to re-establish by political work alone an Islamic form of governance in the Muslim world; and in so doing, to end the damaging interference – political, economic and military – that has persisted in the Muslim world from the colonial powers and their "viceroys" until today. Our frank words, and Islamic rhetoric for our Muslim audience, have provoked much criticism, but no serious person who has scrutinised our group has considered us violent. [complete article]
Comment -- As the British government rushes through measures that will enable it to block the re-entry of Sheikh Bakri Mohammed (who is now in Lebanon) it's worth thinking through what it means to "ban" extremists. Let's start with the word "ban." Few British politicians would be inept enough to use the word's arcane root, banish, but the fact is that the effort to clamp down on Muslim extremism is in large part being driven by a desire by the government to look tough and pander to a popular desire to exercise that primeval mechanism of social control: exclusion. To be banished is to be turned into a social outcast. Yet who can honestly claim that if Tony Blair is successful in kicking out the hate-mongerers he will also silence them? What's more dangerous? A radical group that meets in public or a banned organization that conducts its business in secret? Just as the growth of the Internet means that there is no longer any electronic wilderness, we need to accept that banishment is really a thing of the past.
Musharraf's double game unravels
By Ahmed Rashid International Herald Tribune, August 10, 2005
Since the July 7 bombings in London, Pakistan's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, has again come under severe international pressure to clamp down on local extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda, bring extremist religious schools under control and stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a base for attacks in Afghanistan. As a result, serious cracks are developing in the 35-year alliance between Pakistan's army, its intelligence services and Islamic fundamentalist parties.
Musharraf has parried international criticism of Pakistan by accusing Prime Minister Tony Blair of allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in Britain, but since July 7 he has arrested 800 militants and is expelling 1,400 foreign students studying in the religious schools, or madrasas.
For decades, Islamic fundamentalist parties in Pakistan have provided manpower and ideological support for the military intelligence services' forays in Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir. Under outside pressure, however, the inherent contradictions in this relationship are coming to the fore. [complete article]
Assembly faces 18 difficult steps
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, August 10, 2005
The mood is tense among the 71 members of the constitutional assembly attempting to draft a new constitution for Iraq before an August 15 deadline. A series of stumbling blocks has delayed the work of the assembled politicians, prime among the obstacles being religion and federalism.
In all, 18 unresolved points are being discussed by representatives of the country's Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, who have been debating for three months already. If they succeed in coming up with a constitution, parliament will ratify it, and it will then be submitted for a referendum two months later, in mid-October. If voters approve, new elections will then be held by mid-December.
Success would also mean that the US could start to withdraw some of its 140,000 troops by early 2006, and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and US President George W Bush would be able to tell the world that democracy, rather than terrorism, in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, worked after all.
If the constitutional assembly fails, according to the interim Iraqi constitution (Transitional Administrative Law - TAL), then Jaafari would resign, something that many parties involved, including the Americans, do not want to happen. [complete article]
See also, Iraq panel member seeks federalism delay (AP).
Iraqis far apart over role of Islam
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2005
Rather than huddling over constitutional drafts, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari made a pilgrimage over the weekend to the Shiite shrine city of Najaf, the home of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric.
"Ayatollah al-Sistani does not want to impose dictates on drafting the constitution, but according to my knowledge he hopes that Islam becomes the main source of legislation," Mr. Jaafari told reporters.
While Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish political leaders have sought compromise on issues of national identity and federalism to meet the Aug. 15 deadline for the new constitution, Jaafari's statement indicates that the majority Shiites may be hardening on one of the most contentious issues: the role of Islam in the government. [complete article]
Car bombs? In Iraq's Kurdish zone, almost a joke
By Luke Baker, Reuters, August 9, 2005
Asked when he last had to treat victims of a car bomb, Iraqi doctor Arif Anwar, an emergency room surgeon at Sulaimaniya's main hospital, dismisses the question with a smile and then starts to laugh.
"Car bomb? Are you joking?" he chuckles, as his white-coated colleagues in the doctors' lounge join the chorus of amusement.
"We don't have anything like that. The biggest problem we have here is car accidents -- too many car accidents," he says, shaking his head in dismay at the poor quality of local driving.
It is perhaps the starkest reflection of the huge contrast between the secure Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and most of the rest of the country, racked daily by insurgent violence. [complete article]
Iraq's 1st Brigade: Begging for basics
By Rick Jervis, USA Today, August 8, 2005
Armored Humvees and helicopter gunships would be nice.
But what the soldiers of Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, want more immediately is a gym. And cots that don't sag so much they need cinder blocks for support. Or a system that drains away the human sewage that pools in the street outside their barracks. Or working phones.
"We can lead ourselves. We have the capability," says Sgt. Zaman Ali, 29, a platoon leader here. "We just don't have the supplies, equipment or living conditions. Someone is not doing their job." The brigade is based at Camp Justice in northern Baghdad. [complete article]
The Web as weapon
By Susan B. Glasser and Steve Coll, Washington Post, August 9, 2005
Never before has a guerrilla organization so successfully intertwined its real-time war on the ground with its electronic jihad, making Zarqawi's group practitioners of what experts say will be the future of insurgent warfare, where no act goes unrecorded and atrocities seem to be committed in order to be filmed and distributed nearly instantaneously online.
Zarqawi has deployed a whole inventory of Internet operations beyond the shock video. He immortalizes his suicide bombers online, with video clips of the destruction they wreak and Web biographies that attest to their religious zeal. He taunts the U.S. military with an online news service of his exploits, releasing tactical details of operations multiple times a day. He publishes a monthly Internet magazine, Thurwat al-Sinam (literally "The Camel's Hump"), that offers religious justifications for jihad and military advice on how to conduct it.
His negotiations with Osama bin Laden over joining forces with al Qaeda were conducted openly on the Internet. When he was almost captured recently, he left behind not a Kalashnikov assault rifle, the traditional weapon of the guerrilla leader, but a laptop computer. An entire online network of Zarqawi supporters serves as backup for his insurgent group in Iraq, providing easily accessible advice on the best routes into the country, trading information down to the names of mosques in Syria that can host a would-be fighter, and eagerly awaiting the latest posting from the man designated as Zarqawi's only official spokesman.
"The technology of the Internet facilitated everything," declared a posting this spring by the Global Islamic Media Front, which often distributes Zarqawi messages on the Internet. Today's Web sites are "the way for everybody in the whole world to listen to the mujaheddin." [complete article]
See also the complete series with videos, e-Qaeda.
Secret courts for terror cases
By Alan Travis, The Guardian, August 9, 2005
Special anti-terror courts sitting in secret to determine how long suspects should be detained without charge are now under active consideration, it emerged yesterday.
Home Office sources confirmed that ministers are considering making a French-style "security-cleared judge" responsible for assembling a pre-trial case against terrorist suspects, with in-camera access to sensitive intelligence evidence, including currently inadmissible phone-tap evidence.
The plan under consideration, which echoes elements of David Blunkett's proposal last year for secret anti-terrorist courts, could also involve the use of security-vetted "special advocates" as legal representatives of those detained. But they would not be able to disclose the nature of the evidence under which their clients were held before being charged.
The proposal puts flesh on the point outlined by Tony Blair last Friday, when he said that part of the new anti-terror package would include "a new court procedure which would allow a pretrial process". He said it would provide a way of meeting requests by the police and security services that detention before charge should be extended from the current 14 days up to three months.
It was also confirmed yesterday that the prime minister's plan to ban Hizb-ut-Tahrir and its successor organisation, al-Muhajiroun, the two Islamist extremist organisations with the highest profile in Britain, is likely to need primary legislation before it can be enforced, as neither group is officially considered a terrorist organisation.
Whitehall sources said that the current Terrorism 2000 Act only allows "terrorist" organisations to banned; for Hizb-ut-Tahrir to be proscribed, legislation to extend the definition to radical extremist groups as well will be required. It is not known at present how "extremist" will be defined, and whether it would catch groups such as the British National party. [complete article]
Four in 9/11 plot are called tied to Qaeda in '00
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, August 9, 2005
More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States, according to a former defense intelligence official and a Republican member of Congress.
In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military's Special Operations Command that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the congressman, Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and the former intelligence official said Monday.
The recommendation was rejected and the information was not shared, they said, apparently at least in part because Mr. Atta, and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas. Under American law, United States citizens and green-card holders may not be singled out in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Mr. Weldon and the former intelligence official said it might have reinforced a sense of discomfort common before Sept. 11 about sharing intelligence information with a law enforcement agency. [complete article]
Terror fears push oil prices to 22-year high
By Julia Kollewe, The Independent, August 9, 2005
The price of oil rose to its highest level for more than 22 years after warnings of imminent terror attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia.
There was also evidence that the surge in the price of crude oil driven in part by the invasion of Iraq and more general concerns about the security of the commodity's supply is poised to have a significant impact on the spending power of British consumers. In some areas the cost of a litre of unleaded petrol is over £1. Gas prices, which are also dependent on it, will increase by 11.9 per cent this month, according to Powergen, the supply company. And rising fuel bills faced by the airlines are likely to be passed on to passengers. [complete article]
Of the many deaths in Iraq, one mother's loss becomes a problem for the president
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, August 8, 2005
President Bush draws antiwar protesters just about wherever he goes, but few generate the kind of attention that Cindy Sheehan has since she drove down the winding road toward his ranch here this weekend and sought to tell him face to face that he must pull all Americans troops out of Iraq now.
Ms. Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed last year in Iraq, after which she became an antiwar activist. She says she and her family met with the president two months later at Fort Lewis in Washington State.
But when she was blocked by the police a few miles from Mr. Bush's 1,600-acre spread on Saturday, the 48-year-old Ms. Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., was transformed into a news media phenomenon, the new face of opposition to the Iraq conflict at a moment when public opinion is in flux and the politics of the war have grown more complicated for the president and the Republican Party.
Ms. Sheehan has vowed to camp out on the spot until Mr. Bush agrees to meet with her, even if it means spending all of August under a broiling sun by the dusty road. Early on Sunday afternoon, 25 hours after she was turned back as she approached Mr. Bush's ranch, Prairie Chapel, Ms. Sheehan stood red-faced from the heat at the makeshift campsite that she says will be her home until the president relents or leaves to go back to Washington. A reporter from The Associated Press had just finished interviewing her. CBS was taping a segment on her. She had already appeared on CNN, and was scheduled to appear live on ABC on Monday morning. Reporters from across the country were calling her cellphone. [complete article]
Abuse inquiry opens question of Army tactics
By Tim Golden, New York Times, August 8, 2005
In a small courtroom at this vast Army training base, military prosecutors have been moving briskly to dispense with the cases they have filed in the brutal deaths in 2002 of two Afghan prisoners at the American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.
On Thursday, a 24-year-old military intelligence sergeant pleaded guilty to assault and dereliction of duty for abusing one of the prisoners during an interrogation. Another interrogator, accused of tormenting the same detainee, agreed to plead guilty two days before. Military lawyers said that a plea deal was being negotiated with a third interrogator and that two reservist military policemen who received lesser punishments were cooperating with the inquiry.
Military officials said they hoped the prosecutions would send a message that such abuses will not be tolerated, even in the country's fight against terrorism.
But whatever their long-term implications, the cases have so far tended to illustrate how unprepared many soldiers were for their duties at Bagram, how loosely some were supervised and how vaguely the rules under which they operated were often defined.
Along with other information that has emerged, trial testimony has underscored a question long at the core of this case: what is the responsibility of more senior military personnel for the abuses that took place? [complete article]
By Murray Waas, The American Prospect, August 6, 2005
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby's account.
The meeting between Libby and Miller has been a central focus of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald as to whether any Bush administration official broke the law by unmasking Plame's identity or relied on classified information to discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, according to sources close to the case as well as documents filed in federal court by Fitzgerald.
The meeting took place in Washington, D.C., six days before columnist Robert Novak wrote his now-infamous column unmasking Plame as a "CIA operative." Although little noticed at the time, Novak's column would cause the appointment of a special prosecutor, ultimately place in potential legal jeopardy senior advisers to the president of the United States, and lead to the jailing of a New York Times reporter. [complete article]
Netanyahu quits as pullout from Gaza nears
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, August 8, 2005
Israel's cabinet voted Sunday to approve the first stage of the pullout from Gaza, even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's main rival in the Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu, threw Israeli politics into turmoil by abruptly quitting the government.
The resignation ensures that Likud, the dominant party in Israel, will be mired in internal strife during the tense 10 days left before the scheduled start of the pullout, when 55,000 army soldiers and police officers will be deployed to ensure that all 9,000 settlers leave Gaza, ending 38 years of Israeli occupation.
Mr. Netanyahu, a former prime minister who opposed the pullout, said he had to resign as finance minister at last because of his concerns about Israel's security. But many commentators interpreted his last-minute decision to quit - after publicly announcing that he would not - as a sign that he would challenge Mr. Sharon for the leadership of Likud in early elections that could come by spring. His platform will be security, and he is likely to push Israeli politics further to the right. [complete article]
Kurds vow to make no concessions in Iraq political talks
By Kirk Semple, New York Times, August 7, 2005
On the eve of a national political summit meeting to hammer out terms of a draft Iraqi constitution, a top Kurdish representative warned Saturday that the Kurds would withdraw from the government if negotiators did not meet their "basic demands."
Azhar Ramadan Abdul Raheem, a member of the National Assembly and the committee writing the constitution, said that at a special meeting of the Kurdish parliament on Saturday, delegates agreed that the Kurdish bloc should make no concessions in the negotiations. Among the Kurdish demands is a constitutional guarantee of regional autonomy.
Some of the country's top political leaders are set to gather Sunday to try to move the talks ahead.
"This is a last resort," Ms. Raheem said in a telephone interview. "Iraq is on the edge of a volcano, and we hope that we can reach a settlement in the meeting tomorrow." [complete article]
What Michael Moore (and the neocons) don't know about Saudi Arabia
By Juan Cole, Salon, August 5, 2005
The late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who died on Aug. 1, should have been nicknamed "King Blowback." Along with his ideological soul mate, Ronald Reagan, who shared his long twilight, Fahd played a key, if inadvertent, role in nurturing Islamist extremism. Together, Reagan and Fahd -- one using proxy armies and arms, the other petrodollars -- launched a worldwide crusade against what they saw as the radical specters of communism and Khomeinism. To fight this battle, they gave massive support to Sunni Muslim fundamentalists as well as Saddam Hussein's Stalinist Baath Party. The rash decisions taken by the two leaders are in large part responsible for the crisis the world faces today.
The good news is that Fahd's successor, King Abdullah, is a far more cautious man, not given to his half-brother's dangerous adventurism. His ascension -- in fact, he has held power for a long time -- gives the United States an opportunity to improve relations with Saudi Arabia. As America faces the long, daunting task of recovering from George W. Bush's catastrophic foreign-policy blunders, solidifying relations with this key, if problematic, ally is high on the list of priorities. [complete article]
How those big bucks end up in Big Oil's pockets
By Steven Mufson, Washington Post, August 7, 2005
When oil prices spiked -- and oil profits soared -- 26 years ago, virtually every newspaper intern in America (including me) was dispatched to gasoline stations to collect quotes from irate motorists. Big Oil was viewed as public enemy number one: Congress convened hearings to skewer oil industry execs, regulatory agencies investigated pricing, and some news organizations rented helicopters to scour the waters (in vain) for signs of oil tankers floating offshore just waiting for prices to climb higher.
In recent months, oil company profits have soared again as international crude oil prices have hit new highs. Yet the reaction of the American public has been more muted. And that has probably emboldened Congress -- which, instead of investigating oil companies, just handed them (by various estimates) anywhere from $1.4 billion to $4 billion in tax breaks in the new energy bill.
Still, inquiring minds want to know: Isn't there something wrong when firms profit so richly from the misfortune of the U.S. economy and American consumers? [complete article]
Putting God at the center
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 8, 2005
...in the contest between dictatorship and democracy [in Egypt], [Abul-Ela] Maadi, his [Center P]arty and his quest have defied easy labels. He is a democrat but not western; progressive but religious. He denounces U.S. policy, particularly its alliance with Israel, but preaches engagement over confrontation. And he identifies himself as a new generation of politician, with a mission that has set him apart.
"How do we integrate Islamists into political life?" asks Maadi. "I want to set an example on how to solve this problem."
An engineer by training, Maadi, 47, has long been a force in Egypt's Islamic politics. As a student in Minya, a poor rural town in the south, he joined the Islamic Group in the 1970s, before it took up arms against the government in a long, bitter fight that finally ended in the late 1990s. Maadi never went in that direction, although like other activists, his affiliation with Islamic politics landed him repeatedly in jail. He emerged relatively unscathed from four stints, never staying longer than seven months.
He joined the more mainstream Muslim Brotherhood in 1979, a group that has weathered ferocious crackdowns, instilling in it the iron discipline of a clandestine movement. (Its followers adhere to an Islamic version of omertà: al-sama' wa'l-ta'a , hearing and obeying.) He rose quickly as one of its young, dynamic activists, who with his generation helped reshape the group's activism in the 1980s, in particular by playing a more prominent role in Egypt's professional unions. Maadi became a member of the engineers union in 1984, then its deputy secretary general, an experience he credits with maturing his politics .
In 1996, he and other younger Brotherhood members broke ranks, a dispute that still colors Islamic politics here. That year, he announced the formation of the Center Party, pledging to welcome women and even Christians into its ranks. (One of the founders was a Christian, Rafik Habib.) It embraced democracy as the means of change, equality between Christians and Muslims, the supremacy of the rule of law, pluralism and, in an unusual step for a religious group, called for coalitions with secular parties. [complete article]
Islamist clerics face treason charges
By Vikram Dodd, Hugh Muir and Alan Travis, The Guardian, August 8, 2005
The formal process will begin this week of "examining the potential for charging" three prominent Islamic clerics for existing offences including solicitation to murder and incitement to treason, the attorney general's office confirmed yesterday.
The director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, will meet senior Scotland Yard officers to discuss the cases of Omar Bakri Mohammed, founder of al-Muhajiroun, who has said he would support hostage-taking at British schools if carried out by terrorists with a just cause; Abu Izzadeen, spokesman for al-Ghurabaa - "the Strangers" - who said the suicide bombers in London were "completely praiseworthy"; and Abu Uzair of the Saviour Sect, one of the successor organisations to al-Muhajiroun, who has claimed that the "banner has been risen for jihad inside the UK".
A spokeswoman for Lord Goldsmith's office said: "The attorney general and the DPP have discussed and looked at remarks made by three named individuals in the press.
"The CPS head of counter-terrorism will be discussing issues which arise with officers from Scotland Yard in the coming days.
"No decision on charges has been made yet. The CPS will be looking at it to see if any offences have been committed."
The Guardian has also learned that a radical Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the prime minister intends to ban, is not involved in violence or terrorism, according to a leaked unpublished government report prepared for Tony Blair. [complete article]
Briton used Internet as his bully pulpit
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, August 8, 2005
Babar Ahmad, a 31-year-old computer whiz and mechanical engineer, was hailed as a big catch by U.S. law enforcement officials when he was arrested here one year ago on charges that he ran a network of Web sites that served as a propaganda and fundraising front for Islamic extremists, including Chechen rebels, the Taliban militia and al Qaeda affiliates.
Since then, Ahmad has been locked up inside British prisons as he fights extradition to the United States. But the imprisonment has done little to silence the British native of Pakistani descent. Rather, it has given him an even bigger megaphone as he continues to churn out anti-American manifestos and post them on the Web, turning him into a minor celebrity in Britain.
His case shows how a well-educated British-born engineer operating in London could allegedly use the Web to project a message of Islamic extremism to a global audience. While an earlier generation of radicals might have led protest rallies, Ahmad found a way to make the Internet his bully pulpit, magnifying al Qaeda's reach far beyond the handful of radical mosques that had previously propagated Osama bin Laden's message. [complete article]
Terrorists turn to the Web as base of operations
By Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser, Washington Post, August 7, 2005
In the snow-draped mountains near Jalalabad in November 2001, as the Taliban collapsed and al Qaeda lost its Afghan sanctuary, Osama bin Laden biographer Hamid Mir watched "every second al Qaeda member carrying a laptop computer along with a Kalashnikov" as they prepared to scatter into hiding and exile. On the screens were photographs of Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.
Nearly four years later, al Qaeda has become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet cafes, young code-writing jihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet.
Al Qaeda suicide bombers and ambush units in Iraq routinely depend on the Web for training and tactical support, relying on the Internet's anonymity and flexibility to operate with near impunity in cyberspace. In Qatar, Egypt and Europe, cells affiliated with al Qaeda that have recently carried out or seriously planned bombings have relied heavily on the Internet.
Such cases have led Western intelligence agencies and outside terrorism specialists to conclude that the "global jihad movement," sometimes led by al Qaeda fugitives but increasingly made up of diverse "groups and ad hoc cells," has become a "Web-directed" phenomenon, as a presentation for U.S. government terrorism analysts by longtime State Department expert Dennis Pluchinsky put it. Hampered by the nature of the Internet itself, the government has proven ineffective at blocking or even hindering significantly this vast online presence. [complete article]
Blair's extremism proposals attacked as the hunt continues for terror's new breed
By David Leppard and Robert Winnett, The Sunday Times, August 7, 2005
Last Friday, before leaving for his annual summer holiday, Tony Blair unveiled an unexpectedly radical set of measures designed to stamp out Muslim extremism.
He announced that new laws would be introduced to deport extremist Muslim clerics without appeal, close down mosques preaching hate, ban certain Muslim groups and create a new offence of glorifying terrorism in Britain or abroad.
Terrorist control orders, which limit the movements and meetings of suspected terrorists, would also be extended to cover British nationals.
As he did so, senior police and counter-terrorism sources revealed some of the thinking that lay behind this clampdown.
They said they had found no evidence linking the four July 7 London bombers to Al-Qaeda or any other known terrorist organisation. Instead, investigators involved in the painstaking reconstruction of the lives of the men have provisionally concluded they were "unaffiliated terrorists" who were most likely inspired rather than directed by Al-Qaeda. [complete article]
Intelligence chiefs warn Blair of home-grown 'insurgency'
By Raymond Whitaker and Francis Elliott, The Independent, August 7, 2005
Intelligence chiefs are warning Tony Blair that Britain faces a full-blown Islamist insurgency, sustained by thousands of young Muslim men with military training now resident in this country.
The grim possibility that the two London attacks were not simply a sporadic terror campaign is being discussed at the highest levels in Whitehall. Fears of a third strike remain high this weekend, based on concrete evidence supplied by an intercepted text message and the interrogation of a terror suspect being held outside Britain, say US reports.
As police and the security services work to prevent another cell murdering civilians, attention is focusing on the pool of migrants to this country from the Horn of Africa and central Asia. MI5 is working to an estimate that more than 10,000 young men from these regions have had at least basic training in light weapons and military explosives. [complete article]
Undercover in the academy of hatred
By The Insight Team, The Sunday Times, August 7, 2005
On a Friday evening late in July a small group of young Asian men gathered secretly in the grounds of a Victorian manor house on the edge of Epping Forest, east of London, to listen to their master.
Debden House, a property run as a bed-and-breakfast and campsite by Newham borough council, was chosen because they were running scared.
Earlier that day police had arrested the remaining three suspects for the failed 21/7 London bombing. While millions of Britons watched the dramatic final siege on television, members of the Saviour Sect had come to hear a different interpretation of the day's events.
Among them was an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times. He joined a football kickabout as they waited for their leader. Others practised kick-boxing.
As they chatted the reporter was asked if he would be willing to wear a "strap" -- slang for a suicide bomb belt. He laughed the suggestion off nervously and was relieved when everyone smiled. [complete article]
Islamic radicals warn of city riots
By Mark Townsend, The Observer, August 7, 2005
A radical Islamic group declared yesterday it would resist all attempts by Tony Blair to ban the organisation.
Officials of Hizb ut-Tahrir warned that the government's proposals would be interpreted by the Muslim community as part of an 'anti-Islamic' agenda and could trigger civil unrest.
Speakers for the Islamic political party announced they had begun seeking legal advice to fight any attempts to ban the organisation, which has existed in Britain for more than 50 years. The announcement coincided with fresh warnings that Britain's deteriorating race relations could lead to a repeat of the inner-city riots in the Eighties.
'The move is a perilous route that is harming community relations and could lead to civil unrest comparable to that which affected the black community,' said Imran Waheed, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir. He also rejected calls for the Muslim community to root out extremism and dismissed claims that the organisation was harbouring terrorists as 'ludicrous'.
However, experts believe that Hizb ut-Tahrir's extreme views may have helped to radicalise young British Muslims. The National Union of Students banned Hizb ut-Tahrir from campuses in 1995 after its speeches, leafleting and methods in a number of universities caused worry and distress. Leaflets called for Muslims to 'exterminate' the Jewish authorities in Israel. [complete article]
Saudis warned UK of London attacks
By Martin Bright, Antony Barnett and Mohammed Alkhereiji, The Observer, August 7, 2005
Saudi Arabia officially warned Britain of an imminent terrorist attack on London just weeks ahead of the 7 July bombings after calls from one of al-Qaeda's most wanted operatives were traced to an active cell in the United Kingdom.
Senior Saudi security sources have confirmed they are investigating whether calls from Kareem al-Majati, last year named as one of al-Qaeda's chiefs in the Gulf kingdom, were made directly to the British ringleader of the 7 July bomb plotters.
One senior Saudi security official told The Observer that calls to Britain intercepted from a mobile phone belonging to Majati earlier this year revealed that an active terror group was at work in the UK and planning an attack. [complete article]
Comment -- This report and a related article in The Telegraph that appears to be based on "information" from the same Saudi security officials sounds to me like disinformation. I can think of two reasons Saudis might be feeding the press with this stuff: 1) There really is a Saudi connection and they are trying to protect themselves by suggesting that British intelligence dropped the ball, and/or 2) this is for internal Saudi consumption aimed at bolstering the efforts of reformists who after the death of King Fahd want to reinvigorate their clampdown on domestic terrorism.
Keep track of the latest news
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Why Iraq is not Vietnam
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 3, 2005
Enemies and brothers in Iran
By James Meek, The Guardian, July 30, 2005
Western Muslims: isolation or integration?
By Tariq Ramadan, The Globalist, July 29, 2005
The Jerusalem powder keg
International Crisis Group, August 2, 2005
Iraq: Armed groups show utter disdain for basic principles of humanity
Amnesty International, July 25, 2005
Iraq: Bush's Islamic republic
By Peter W. Galbraith, New York Review of Books, August 11, 2005
Hiroshima cover-up exposed
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, August 1, 2005
Why the U.S. won't admit it was jilted by Uzbekistan
By Craig Murray, The Guardian, August 3, 2005
Review finds Iran far from nuclear bomb
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, August 2, 2005
High expectations of Kurdish independence
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, August 1, 2005
Middle East paradigm shift
By Andrew J. Bacevich, American Conservative, August 1, 2005
You can't fight terrorism with racism
By Colbert I. King, Washington Post, July 30, 2005
Keep track of the latest news
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