|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Scathing nuclear report as U.S. brands Iran enemy No 1
By Ian Traynor in Zagreb and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, April 29, 2006
Report sets stage for action on Iran
By Molly Moore and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, April 29, 2006
Iran nuclear plan 'irreversible'
BBC News, April 29, 2006
In Iran, from revolution to reform
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, April 29, 2006
U.S. admits Iraq is terror 'cause'
By Tom Baldwin, The Times, April 29, 2006
Iraqi civilian killings by insurgents soar, U.S. reports
By Mark Mazetti, New York Times, April 29, 2006
No. 2 Abu Ghraib interrogation officer charged
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, April 29, 2006
In Iraqi town, trainees are also suspects
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, April 29, 2006
Killing of Al-Qaeda 'emir' called blow to insurgency
By Nelson Hernandez, Washington Post, April 29, 2006
Al Qaeda leader: U.S. hit hard in Iraq
By Reuters, April 28, 2006
The Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
By Eben Kaplan, Council on Foreign Relations, April 27, 2006
What we don't grasp about militant Islam
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, April 28, 2006
The telegenic face of conservative Islam
By Samantha M. Shapiro, New York Times, April 29, 2006
Why Europe should reject U.S. market capitalism
By William Pfaff, IHT, April 29, 2006
A chilling FBI fishing expedition
By Mark Feldstein, Washington Post, April 29, 2006
Report reveals 3,501 secret FBI subpoenas on U.S. citizens and residents
AP, April 28, 2006 Time runs out for Iran at the U.N. Now what?
By Tony Karon, Time, April 27, 2006
With the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog set to report on Friday that Iran has failed to meet a Security Council demand to cease uranium enrichment, Iran ought to be feeling the heat. But if it is, Tehran certainly isn't showing it. [complete article]
See also, Iran 'fails to heed nuclear call' (BBC) and U.N. agency finds Iran noncompliant (WP).
By Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2006
Let me tell you about the next war.
It will start sooner than you think -- sometime between now and September. And it will be precipitated by the $700-million Russian deal this week to sell Tor air defense missile systems to Iran.
When the war begins, it will be between Iran and Israel. Before it ends, though, it may set the whole of the Middle East on fire, pulling in the United States, leaving a legacy of instability that will last for generations and permanently ending a century of American supremacy. [complete article]
See also, Tor M1 missile (Global Security).
Read my lips - no attacks on Iran
By Gerard Baker, The Times, April 28, 2006
Amid the discordant daily buzz and hum of diplomatic traffic, much of the world seems to think it now hears the distinct and ominous tones of a march to another war in the Middle East. From the Pentagon they have picked up the insistent timpani of unattributed investigative reporting; from the White House, they figure, shrill political trumpets proclaim a presidency desperate to save itself from political oblivion. From the wings they can hear a rogues' gallery of neocon caricatures playing the theme tune from Dr Strangelove. Out of Tehran grows ever louder the basso profondo of theocratic defiance. And in all of it the distinct, uncanny echo of what was heard four years ago -- the steady drumbeat of diplomatic warnings, scary intelligence estimates, legalistically framed denials of immediate military plans. [complete article]
Comment -- This much is clear: The Bush administration wants Iran (and everyone else - including the Israelis) to believe that it is willing to use military force to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. But just as clear is the fact that the inexorable rise in gas prices is hurting the administration and the GOP. An October (or August) "surprise" won't do anything to help the Republicans retain control of Congress if by early November gas is pushing $4 a gallon. Karl Rove knows it and so does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
If the administration really wants some relief, there only seems to be one place it can be found: getting serious about its energy policy. That won't curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions, but it might persuade a few more Americans that the U.S. government serves the people -- not the oil industry.
Israel raises profile in Iran fray
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2006
Amid the soaring rhetoric over Western efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, Israel has been moving into a more proactive position in the campaign to contain Tehran.
This week, Israel launched a satellite to spy on Iran, and its leaders have called on the international community to stop that country from acquiring nuclear weapons. It also accused Tehran of backing Palestinian terrorists.
And as concern here grows over Iran's defiant nuclear drive, one of Israel's leading newspapers reported Thursday that Iran has purchased ground-to-ground missiles from North Korea, extending its range for delivering warheads. [complete article]
'Russia has left the western orbit'
By Tom Parfitt, The Guardian, April 27, 2006
Moscow could be on the verge of clinching an arms deal with Syria or Iran that would send the US and Israel into pop-eyed rage.
A few days ago a Russian arms manufacturer let slip at an arms fair in Kuala Lumpur that his state-run weapons design bureau was close to sealing a foreign sale of Iskander-E missiles. The destination of the hardware was secret, he said, but the most obvious market is clear: the Middle East. [complete article]
See also, Russia in delicate balancing act with Iran (AP), Hu refuses to back Iran sanctions (Washington Times), and Pakistan official: no force against Iran (AP). Sistani calls for end to militias
By Borzou Daragahi and Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2006
Iraq's senior Shiite Muslim religious figure Thursday called on the country's controversial militias to disarm, marking one of the most overt forays into matters of politics and policy by the influential cleric.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, regarded as the moral voice of Iraq's Shiite majority, called for a government of technocrats rather than political loyalists or sectarian interests and said that only government forces should be permitted to carry weapons on the streets.
"Weapons must be in the hands of government security forces that should not be tied to political parties but to the nation," said the Iranian-born Sistani in a statement released by his office in Najaf after he met with the newly designated prime minister. "The first task for the government is fighting insecurity and putting an end to the terrorist acts that threaten innocents with death and kidnapping." [complete article]
See also, Iraq's new premier gains support in talks with Shiite leaders (NYT). Iraqi oil gangs syphon off billions
By Jim Muir, The Telegraph, April 28, 2006
A new class of grand mafiosi sucking billions of pounds out of Iraq's vital oil sector is crippling efforts to rebuild the nation, according to an official report published in Baghdad.
The findings of the Oil Ministry's independent inspector-general painted a sordid picture of massive abuses pervading every corner of the industry, from the well-head to the petrol pump. It said that since Saddam Hussein's overthrow in 2003, the spread of smuggling had turned Iraq from a major exporter of petrol products into an importer. [complete article]
Prodi urged to recall troops after 3 die in Iraq
By Peter Kiefer, New York Times, April 28, 2006
The roadside bomb that killed three Italian soldiers in Nassiriya, Iraq, today quickly caused problems for the government being formed by Romano Prodi.
"This tragedy hits all of Italy," the prime minister-designate said in a statement.
Politically, it refocused Italy's antipathy to the war, which is strong even as the outgoing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi slowly withdrew troops on duty in Iraq from a peak of 3,200, to about 2,600 now. [complete article]
Thirty die in Iraqi city battle
BBC News, April 28, 2006
At least 21 Iraqi insurgents and seven soldiers have been killed in fighting in the city of Baquba during which at least 43 insurgents were captured.
Baquba was put under curfew after the attacks on Thursday on police stations and checkpoints in the city and surrounding province of Diyala. [complete article] SAW 7202-06: 'The French Army at War In Algeria, 1954-1962'
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, April 28, 2006
Until the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military wasn't much interested in a French colonial war in North Africa that occurred half a century ago.
Now, as the United States enters the fourth year of fighting in Iraq, the French struggle against Algerian rebels in the 1950s has become a hot topic.
In both cases, a Western power with great technological advantages confronted an Arab insurgency that relied heavily on urban terrorism but also maintained camps in the remote desert. And in both cases, the wars grew in unpopularity back home. The differences can also be instructive: While the French were fighting to stay in Algeria, for the Americans, success would be leaving Iraq as soon as possible, as long as they left behind a stable, independent government.
But the strong parallels are the reason used copies of Alistair Horne's classic history of the Algerian War, "A Savage War of Peace," have been fetching more than $100 on Amazon.com, with some officers deployed to Iraq poring over it and pressing it on colleagues. [complete article] GAO says government pesters wounded soldiers over debts
By Donna St. George, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
Nearly 900 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have been saddled with government debts as they have recovered from war, according to a report that describes collection notices going out to veterans with brain damage, paralysis, lost limbs and shrapnel wounds.
The report from the Government Accountability Office, to be released at a hearing today, details how long-recognized problems with military computer systems led to the soldiers being dunned for an array of debts related to everything from errors in paychecks to equipment left behind on the battlefield. [complete article] Running for Senate, and against the war
By Robert Barnes, Washington Post, April 28, 2006
From a cocktail party of liberal contributors in Baltimore to the ball-cap-wearing crowd in a conservative town in southwest Virginia, wherever Democratic loyalists gather, there are five words sure to prompt applause for a Senate candidate:
End the war in Iraq.
Virginia Democrat James H. Webb Jr.'s early warnings about invading Iraq are the main reason he has been so embraced by the liberal bloggers who started a draft movement to get him into the race. Maryland candidate Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin was one of 133 House members who voted against the original resolution authorizing President Bush to take action -- and he might be the most conservative on the issue among Democrats seeking to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D). [complete article] Musharraf insists: I'm not George Bush's poodle
By Declan Walsh and Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, April 28, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf, facing a surge of anti-American sentiment, yesterday warned that covert US air strikes against al-Qaida inside Pakistan were an infringement of national sovereignty.
Admitting that his popularity was waning, the Pakistani president insisted he was "not a poodle" of George Bush and rejected accusations he was running a military dictatorship. [complete article]
Suspected U.S. spies targeted
By Paul Watson and Zulfiqar Ali, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2006
Taliban militants and their allies are waging a dirty war in Pakistan's unruly tribal areas, kidnapping and executing people suspected of spying for U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.
Militants have killed at least 53 accused spies and pro-government elders in Pakistan over the last two years, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Many of their bodies were found with notes that claimed the victims had visited U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. Local residents put the death toll from such executions at about 150. [complete article] U.S. strategic foothold in Central Asia at risk
By Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com, April 27, 2006
Nine months after an Asian bloc dominated by Russia and China moved to set a time limit on the U.S. military presence in Central Asia, the last American airbase in the highly strategic region may be at risk.
If agreement is not reached by June 1 on a demand for a substantial increase in rent, the U.S. presence at Kyrgyzstan's Manas airbase will be terminated, the country's president, Kurmambek Bakiyev, has warned.
Bakiyev has spoken of a 100-fold increase in rent, to around $200 million a year, although other officials have quoted smaller figures. $200 million would be almost half of Kyrgyzstan's total annual budget. [complete article]
Six-nation bloc plans anti-terror maneuvers
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
China, Russia and four Central Asian nations announced Wednesday that they will hold joint anti-terrorism exercises next year, emphasizing a desire to balance U.S. military influence in Asia with stepped-up preparations of their own.
The regional security grouping, known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its activities have centered mainly on guarding against cross-border threats to internal stability, particularly from militant Islamic groups.
Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission, said the plans for joint drills demonstrate the group's growing role in maintaining security in the region, the official New China News Agency said. He vowed that defense ministers from the six nations will work together to combat what China calls the "three forces" -- separatism, terrorism and extremism -- that threaten to provoke unrest in the area. [complete article]
China, Russia welcome Iran into the fold
By M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times, April 18, 2006
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO's decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15. [complete article]
See also, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization acquires military character (Kommersant), Shanghai Cooperation Organization marks 10 years (RFERL), Pakistan hopes to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Interfax), and Uzbekistan, India to enhance cooperation within SCO framework (UZReport). Iranian leader warns U.S. of reprisal
By Molly Moore and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
Escalating the threats between Washington and Tehran, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Wednesday that his country would strike U.S. targets around the world in the event it is attacked over its refusals to curb its nuclear program.
"If the U.S. ventured into any aggression on Iran, Iran will retaliate by damaging U.S. interests worldwide twice as much as the U.S. may inflict on Iran," Khamenei said in a speech to a workers' assembly, according to the official news agency IRNA.
His statement adds to a campaign of defiance by senior Iranian officials in advance of a report expected Friday by the U.N. atomic watchdog agency, which analysts predict will cite Iran for defying U.N. Security Council demands to halt its uranium enrichment program. [complete article]
House backs tighter Iran sanctions
By Jim Abrams, AP (via Yahoo), April 26, 2006
The House on Wednesday approved legislation to tighten sanctions against Iran, rejecting administration arguments that tougher sanctions could be an obstacle to international efforts to prevent the Tehran government from developing nuclear weapons.
The bill, said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, sends "a strong message that the United States expects Iran to be a responsible member of the international community."
The vote was overwhelming, 397-21 in favor, but there was also a vocal minority in opposition who drew comparisons to a 1998 congressional resolution calling for regime change in Iraq. [complete article]
A defiant Iran banks on a split at U.N.
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, 2006
With neither side blinking, Iran and the international community are preparing to take the next step in their showdown over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The confrontation returns Friday to the United Nations Security Council, where the Iranian regime is hoping a divide-and-conquer strategy will prevent the UN body from taking any coercive action to limit its nuclear program. It may be a bold gambit: Just a month ago, the Council acted - unanimously - to give Iran 30 days to show it had ceased uranium enrichment.
But the Security Council, in fact, is split over the need for action against a defiant Tehran - increasing the likelihood that steps such as economic sanctions will be taken not by the UN, but by a "coalition of the willing" of the US and equally adamant allies. [complete article] Projected Iraq war costs soar
By Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
The cost of the war in Iraq will reach $320 billion after the expected passage next month of an emergency spending bill currently before the Senate, and that total is likely to more than double before the war ends, the Congressional Research Service estimated this week.
The analysis, distributed to some members of Congress on Tuesday night, provides the most official cost estimate yet of a war whose price tag will rise by nearly 17 percent this year. Just last week, independent defense analysts looking only at Defense Department costs put the total at least $7 billion below the CRS figure.
Once the war spending bill is passed, military and diplomatic costs will have reached $101.8 billion this fiscal year, up from $87.3 billion in 2005, $77.3 billion in 2004 and $51 billion in 2003, the year of the invasion, congressional analysts said. Even if a gradual troop withdrawal begins this year, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by an additional $371 billion during the phaseout, the report said, citing a Congressional Budget Office study. When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War. [complete article]
See also, Visit by Rumsfeld, Rice sets off criticism in Iraq (LAT).
Senate shifts Iraq funds to border security
AP (via Military.com), April 27, 2006
The Senate voted Wednesday to divert some of the money President Bush requested for the war in Iraq to instead increase security on the nation's borders and give the Coast Guard new boats and helicopters.
Senators also ignored a White House veto threat and overwhelmingly voted against cutting a $106.5 billion measure funding Iraq, further hurricane relief for the Gulf Coast and a slew of add-ons opposed by fiscal conservatives and Bush. [complete article] Sister of Iraqi vice president killed in shooting
By Nelson Hernandez and Omar Fekeiki, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
Gunmen killed the sister of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi in a drive-by shooting Thursday morning, police and an official from his political party said.
An official with Hashimi's Iraqi Islamic Party and police Gen. Raad Khudaier confirmed reports that gunmen ambushed Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi as she left her home in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Saydiya in southern Baghdad. [complete article]
Iraqis faking their IDs to hide religious affiliations
By Nancy A. Youssef, Knight Ridder, April 26, 2006
On paper at least, Omar al-Dulaimi no longer exists.
With names that belong almost exclusively to Sunni Muslims in Iraq, al-Dulaimi feared that Shiite Muslims would single him out at one of the 12 checkpoints he crosses between home and work. So last week he bribed a government worker with $25 to change his name on his official paperwork.
"My biggest fear is militias. They move freely. They kill freely. They check your ID, and based on your name or surname they might kill you," said al-Dulaimi, 27, a merchant from Salman Pak who didn't want to reveal his new, more Shiite-sounding name, for obvious reasons. [complete article] Rove testifies 5th time on leak
By Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, April 27, 2006
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove sought to convince a federal grand jury yesterday that he did not provide false statements in the CIA leak case, testifying for more than three hours before leaving a federal courthouse unsure whether he would be indicted, according to a source close to the presidential aide.
In his fifth appearance before the grand jury, Rove spent considerable time arguing that it would have been foolish for him to knowingly mislead investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, the source said. His grand jury appearance, which was kept secret even from Rove's closest White House colleagues until shortly before he went to court yesterday, suggests that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald remains keenly interested in Rove's role in the case. [complete article]
CIA warns ex-agents over talking to media
By Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, April 26, 2006
The Central Intelligence Agency has warned former employees not to have unapproved contacts with reporters, as part of a mounting campaign by the administration to crack down on officials who leak information on national security issues.
A former official said the CIA recently warned several retired employees who have consulting contracts with the agency that they could lose their pensions by talking to reporters without permission. He added that while the threats might be legally "hollow," they were having a chilling effect on former employees. [complete article] Israeli missile strike kills senior Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza Strip
By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular, Haaretz, April 27, 2006
Israel Air Force aircraft fired three missiles at targets in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday, critically wounding two Palestinian militants, Palestinian health officials said. One of the militants later died in hospital. [complete article]
Hamas says it could adopt Arab peace plan
AFP (via Yahoo), April 26, 2006
The Palestinian Hamas-led government said it was debating adopting a 2002 Arab peace plan which calls for the recognition of Israel in return for a restoration of pre-1967 borders.
The guarded statement by deputy prime minister Nasseridin al-Shaer posted on Hamas's website said the radical Islamic group was willing to end the Middle East conflict and considered the Arab League plan, adopted at its 2002 Beirut summit, a viable option. [complete article]
Israelis rebuff new overture from Abbas
Daily Star, April 27, 2006
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday proposed an international conference to jumpstart long-stalled peace talks with Israel, and said the election of a Hamas-led government was no obstacle. Abbas received a pledge from Oslo to continue to send aid and channel it through the Palestinian president's office and the United Nations.
In the room where the Norwegian Nobel committee every year announces the winner of the Peace Prize, Abbas called for an international group to serve as a peace broker, possibly the so-called "Quartet" of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, which three years ago proposed a peace blueprint that never got off the ground.
"I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government," he said.
Israel swiftly poured cold water on the idea.
"Israel believes that the best way to move forward is according to the 'road map,' which is the international community's accepted plan for the Middle East peace process," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. "Unfortunately, the new Palestinian leadership under Hamas refuses to accept the road map or even Israel's right to exist." [complete article]
And thank you to Hamas
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, April 27, 2006
You have to peel away many layers of rhetoric and propaganda to see that Hamas' control of the Palestinian Authority serves the interests of other regional players. With Ismail Haniyeh in power, Israel can continue its unilateral policy in the territories. The rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who groaned under American pressure for democratization, can relax: The "Bush doctrine" for changing Arab regimes disintegrated with Hamas' election victory. Even Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was almost kicked out of his seat, was saved at the last moment. His secular and despotic regime, with all its shortcomings, suddenly looks preferable to Islamic democracy in Damascus. [complete article]
Gulf will quietly fund Palestinians
By Miral Fahmy, Reuters, April 27, 2006
Wealthy Gulf Arab states will not let Hamas ministers go home empty-handed, wary that Shiite Iran might gain influence by filling the funding vacuum faced by the new Islamist Palestinian government, analysts said.
Yet the Gulf states are in a bind.
They have historically supported the Palestinian cause, one that has deep popular resonance across the region. They are also US allies, with vital security and trade links to Washington. [complete article] U.S.: More than 600 implicated in detainee abuse
Human Rights Watch, April 26, 2006
Two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, new research shows that abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay has been widespread, and that the United States has taken only limited steps to investigate and punish implicated personnel.
A briefing paper issued today, "By the Numbers," presents findings of the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, a joint project of New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First. The project is the first comprehensive accounting of credible allegations of torture and abuse in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
"Two years ago, U.S. officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice," said Professor Meg Satterthwaite, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School. "Yet our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice." [complete article]
See also, Army officials to pursue charges against Abu Ghraib officer (WP).
Secret flights investigation raises the veil
Der Spiegel, April 27, 2006
Europe wants answers, and an ongoing investigation into secret CIA flights provided some on Wednesday. Fully 1,000 clandestine flights criss-crossed the continent a new report says. In response, EU parliamentarians headed are off to Macedonia. [complete article]
See also, Macedonia faces tough questions on CIA prisoner (Reuters). Do not attack Iran
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, IHT, April 26, 2006
...an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs. With America increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could come to a premature end.
While America is clearly preponderant in the world, it does not have the power - nor the domestic inclination - to both impose and then to sustain its will in the face of protracted and costly resistance. That certainly is the lesson taught both by its Vietnamese and Iraqi experiences.
Moreover, persistent hints by official spokesmen that "the military option is on the table" impedes the kind of negotiations that could make that option redundant. Such threats unite Iranian nationalism with Shiite fundamentalism. They also reinforce growing international suspicions that the United States is even deliberately encouraging greater Iranian intransigence.
Sadly, one has to wonder whether in fact such suspicions may not be partially justified. How else to explain the current U.S. "negotiating" stance: the United States is refusing to participate in the on-going negotiations with Iran but insists on dealing only through proxies. That stands in sharp contrast with the simultaneous negotiations with North Korea, in which the United States is actively engaged. [complete article]
Time to talk with Iran
By Robert E. Hunter, Washington Post, April 26, 2006
American and Iranian leaders are talking a great deal about each other -- when they should be devoting far more attention to talking to each other. Both sides are throwing sharp verbal punches with increasing frequency, amid news reports of a possible U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and continued efforts by Iran's leaders to advance their nation's nuclear capability.
While preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power is a bipartisan goal shared by just about everyone, the risks and perils of a war with Iran are little discussed in public by government leaders and are barely mentioned by the media. Americans continue to uselessly dissect the motives for invading Iraq -- when it is too late to do anything about it -- while failing to debate the far more fateful consequences of conflict with Iran when it might still be prevented. [complete article]
What we know about Iran
By David Isenberg, TomPaine.com, April, 25, 2006
Is Iran's nuclear program really an immediate threat? There is reason to be doubtful. In fact, the entire debate over the prospect of Iran getting nuclear weapons has been unduly alarmist, if not outright hysterical. Recent media reports indicate that the Bush administration has gone beyond mere saber-rattling and is now deep into contingency planning for military strikes against Iran.
But the evidence, even from within Bush's own administration, doesn't support the claim that Iran poses any imminent threat. For example, on April 20, 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte testified before Congress that, "even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, we believe that it is still a number of years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble it into, or to put it into, a nuclear weapon -- perhaps into the next decade, so that I think it's important that this issue be kept in perspective." [complete article]
Iran, U.S. in tug of war over Middle East
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times, April 27, 2006
Recently, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated that the US missions in Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary to contain the threat "emanating from Iran". Whatever else, this pretty much seals the fate of the so-called "exit strategy" and the occasional public relations statements by the White House that US forces will leave the region in the near future.
In turn, this raises an important question: Is the US strategy of containing Iran a convenient facade for superpower hegemony bent on dominating the oil-rich region? In probing for an answer, history is rather instructive, reminding one of the Kuwait crisis and then-president George H W Bush's promise that "our purpose is purely temporary" and that US forces would depart.
Well, that was in 1990, and 16 years later there is absolutely no sign that the United States has any intention of vacating its formidable military presence, which includes "over the horizon" forces on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. [complete article] Iraqi strife seeping into Saudi kingdom
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2006
The conflict in Iraq has begun to spill over onto this hardscrabble, sunburned swath of coast, breathing new life into the ancient rivalry between the country's powerful Sunni Muslim majority and the long-oppressed Shiite minority in one of the most oil-rich areas of the world.
"Saudi Sunnis are defending Iraqi Sunnis, and Saudi Shiites are defending Iraqi Shiites," said Hassan Saffar, Saudi Arabia's most influential Shiite cleric. "There's a fear that it will cause a struggle here." [complete article]
See also, Arabs stake a claim in Iraq (Asia Times).
Sectarian lines divide Iraq's university system, too
By Leila Fadel, Knight Ridder, April 25, 2006
Zina Hassan, 22, drops her voice to a whisper when she talks about student politics at Baghdad University. "We are surrounded by spies," said Hassan, who's a Sunni Muslim.
Dr. Kadhem al-Muqdadi, a Shiite Muslim, scans the campus before getting into his car. A colleague was killed when a student alerted a waiting assassin with a phone call.
Mohammed Jassim, a Sunni, resigned his job as a lecturer at Mustansariyah University in northeast Baghdad. Members of the Mahdi Army, the militia of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, threatened twice to kill him if he stayed.
With Iraq teetering on the brink of civil war, university campuses have joined the rest of the country along the fault line that's growing between Sunnis and Shiites. [complete article]
Kurds quietly angle for independence
By James Brandon, Christian Science Monitor, April 26, 2006
As Iraq's government takes shape after months of political deadlock, the country's leading Kurdish politicians have promised to work toward a cohesive and peaceful Iraq.
"If [Prime Minister Jawad] al-Maliki quickly establishes a powerful government that includes all groups, he will be an asset for the Iraqi people," said Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq, after Iraq's Parliament approved his second term and named Shiite politician Mr. Maliki to replace the embattled Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
The Kurdish desire for independence, however, still runs deep. And with parts of Iraq increasingly unstable and growing more Islamic, experts say the Kurds, who are relatively secular, are working quietly to consolidate and extend the autonomy they have enjoyed since 1991. [complete article] Democracy and totalitarianism
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, April 26, 2006
In a column on Monday, the Wall Street Journal's, John Fund, wrote that Juan Cole "calls Israel 'the most dangerous regime in the Middle East.'" Juan Cole describes this as the most egregious of "a large number of falsehoods" that Fund has published about Cole.
In March 2004, Cole wrote:
The most dangerous regime to United States interests in the Middle East is that of Ariel Sharon, not because he fights terrorists, but because he is stealing the land of another people and is brutalizing them in the process--and those are people with whom the rest of the Middle East and the Muslim world sympathizes.This is where Fund found his "quotation."
The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein, writing on the Fund-Cole feud, observes that several commentors argue that a correction acknowledging that Cole did not say that Israel "is the most dangerous regime in the Middle East," but that Israel "is the most dangerous regime to United States interests in the Middle East," would still be inaccurate:
...because Cole wasn't talking about "Israel" as a dangerous regime, but Ariel Sharon's Israel as a dangerous regime. I think this is semantics, but let's say that an even more precise correction would be that Cole wrote that presently, Israel "is the most dangerous regime to United States interests in the Middle East." Given that when he wrote this Ariel Sharon was prime minister of Israel, and he said Ariel Sharon's regime is the most dangerous in the world, I think that is indisputably accurate, though I'm sure somone will dispute it, anyway.Yeah, I'll dispute it!
The issue isn't temporal; it's the distinction between a regime and the state. "Ariel Sharon's regime" doesn't equal "Israel", yet those who treat criticism of Sharon or his government as implicitly being criticism of the State of Israel are conflating the conceptions of state and government. This popular fussion between a nation and its leadership provides the foundation for totalitarianism.
When President Bush sees that over 60% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the way he is governing, I'm sure he realizes this doesn't mean that the majority of Americans are becoming anti-American. So why is it that some of his supporters want to suggest that criticism of his administration, or of an Israeli government, is the same as criticism of the United States, or the State of Israel?
Somehow, I don't think this reflects a real appetite for totalitarianism, yet one cannot freely borrow from the totalitarian propaganda toolkit without shifting political discourse (and thus political culture) in a totalitarian direction.
See also, Let's call the Israel lobby the Israel lobby (Molly Ivins). The end of an intimate disregard
By Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz, April 20, 2006
The public debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict focuses on political and security issues and is defined by maps - mainly maps of demography and settlements.
In contrast, the cultural and mental map of the relations remains marginal and blurred. The concern with human and social relations is seen as a luxury when violent reality forces us to peer at the enemy through arrow slits. However, at times the mental map points toward a decisive crossroad, which the political and security-oriented activity might miss. Indeed, the Jewish-Israeli public has reached this crossroad in its relations with its neighbors and enemies, the Palestinian Arabs.
For the first time since the beginning of the tragic encounter more than 100 years ago, the Jews are divorcing the Arabs. They are turning their backs on them, erasing them from their consciousness, locking them up behind opaque walls. They are converging voluntarily into a ghetto and praying that the Mediterranean Sea dries up or that a bridge is built to link them directly to Europe. On the face of it, this is nothing new, for the Jewish attitude to the Arabs has always been ignore and alienate. However it was an intimate disregard - like that of a man who can ignore his own shadow, but cannot be rid of it. [complete article]
Comment -- The theft of land is a form of theft that stands distinct from all others.
When a thief steals a wallet, his objective is to remove it from the owner without getting caught. The thief is simply interested in possession - not a public recognition of entitlement.
When people steal land, because they can't remove the land, they must attempt to dissolve any prior claim of ownership. Land thieves want to assert both possession and entitlement.
Needless to say, the old owners are unlikely to relinquish their own claim without putting up a fight. "Ownership" will then initially be determined by whichever party is better armed.
Yet when the new owners assert their right to the land, since there is no historical continuity behind the claim, and since they will not be willing to acknowledge that they are common thieves, naturally they will claim that they are the blessed recipients of a gift from God. And who has the right or the audacity to defy God's will? A bitter prize
By Tom Segev, Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2006
The most comprehensive book on these settlers is Lords of the Land, by the journalist Akiva Eldar and the historian Idith Zertal, which was published in Hebrew in 2005. Lords of the Land describes Israel's settlement of the occupied territories as the result of political and emotional pressure that the settlers skillfully applied to a largely unenthusiastic but weak Israeli government. Now, Gershom Gorenberg, in a careful and fluently written book, has produced a much more sophisticated analysis. In The Accidental Empire, Gorenberg depicts the settlements as the product not just of political maneuvering, but also of the Israeli identity itself. Settling the land had always been at the core of the Zionist experience, but by 1967, when the Six-Day War began, many Israelis had lost their confidence in the old Zionist dream. Israel's smashing battlefield success in the war reversed this trend, galvanizing many Israelis into taking up the Zionist mantle once again and making a fresh beginning in the newly captured land.
Gorenberg, a U.S.-born Israeli and a columnist and editor for the English-language Jerusalem Report, presents this drama with impressive skill. He fails, however, to accompany it with a clear analysis of how and why these settlements went from being an expression of Zionist enthusiasm to an existential hazard and a moral burden for the country. [complete article] The moral logic and growth of suicide terrorism
By Scott Atran, Washington Quarterly, Spring, 2006
Whereas they once primarily consisted of organized campaigns by militarily weak forces aiming to end the perceived occupation of their homeland, as argued by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape in Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, suicide attacks today serve as banner actions for a thoroughly modern, global diaspora inspired by religion and claiming the role of vanguard for a massive, media-driven transnational political awakening. Living mostly in the diaspora and undeterred by the threat of retaliation against original home populations, jihadis, who are frequently middle-class, secularly well educated, but often "born-again" radical Islamists, including converts from Christianity, embrace apocalyptic visions for humanity's violent salvation. In Muslim countries and across western Europe, bright and idealistic Muslim youth, even more than the marginalized and dispossessed, internalize the jihadi story, illustrated on satellite television and the Internet with the ubiquitous images of social injustice and political repression with which much of the Muslim world's bulging immigrant and youth populations intimately identifies. From the suburbs of Paris to the jungles of Indonesia, I have interviewed culturally uprooted and politically restless youth who echo a stunningly simplified and decontextualized message of martyrdom for the sake of global jihad as life's noblest cause. They are increasingly as willing and even eager to die as they are to kill. [complete article] The Global War on Tourists
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, April 26, 2006
Precisely who's behind this campaign remains unclear. Egyptian authorities have blamed local Bedouin groups and disciples of Osama bin Laden. But it's a sad reminder of an obvious fact: tourists -- from Djerba to Bali, Antalya to Mombasa -- are targets of choice for terrorists in the Muslim world.
One reason is that the tourist industry puts money in the coffers of the governments that terrorists hate. In some cases (Kenya in 2002, for instance) the tourists under attack are Jewish or Israeli. But, especially at beach resorts, Western vacationers generally symbolize the sexual freedoms, even the outright hedonism, that fundamentalists find so threatening. And for a diffuse new breed of fanatics -- who may learn why to kill on satellite television, and how to kill on the Internet—tourists are the softest of targets. [complete article]
See also, In Egypt, resurgence of militant Islamists (CSM) and Despite 10 arrests, responsibility for Egypt bombings baffles experts (KR). Al-Qaeda jihad vs U.S. 'long war'
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, April 26, 2006
Monday's bombings in Egypt fit in with the philosophy of war laid out in a 7,000-word document by Osama Bin Laden which appeared recently in the form of an audio tape.
And in turn, the tape came within weeks of the publication in February of the Pentagon's "Quadrennial Defence Review" which stated: "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."
We therefore now have two almost simultaneous documents from the leading forces in the war and they are worth comparing. [complete article] The Long War posture
By Gregory D. Foster, Baltimore Sun, April 26, 2006
The American public is being lulled into a false sense of insecurity. And insecurity, constructed or real, is what gives those in power - our purported protectors - their self-righteous aura of indispensability.
President Bush; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace; the head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John P. Abizaid; and the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, among other authoritative purveyors of received wisdom, all warn us that we're embroiled in - and destined to be further subjected to - what is to be known as a Long War.
It would be one thing if such semantic legerdemain reflected revelatory strategic insight or a more sophisticated appreciation of the intrinsic nature of postmodern conflicts and enemies. But that is not the case. In fact, it's hard to avoid the cynical view that America's senior military leaders are willfully playing public relations handmaiden to their political overlords at the expense of a naive, trusting citizenry. [complete article] More top brass blast Rumsfeld
By Mark Follman, Salon, April 25, 2006
In mid-April, under fire from a half-dozen retired U.S. generals for broad failures in Iraq, the Bush White House dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to the front lines of the American heartland. The secretary of defense appeared on talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated show to fight back against the decorated military commanders who called for his resignation.
"The sharper the criticism comes, sometimes the sharper the defense comes from people who don't agree with the critics," Rumsfeld told Limbaugh during the April 17 interview. He dismissed the barrage of reproach, suggesting that "the same kinds of criticism" had come and gone during all major American wars, from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. "This, too, will pass," Rumsfeld said.
But the sharp disapproval aired by the retired generals is, by many counts, extraordinary. Among the charges leveled at Rumsfeld was Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton's conclusion that the defense secretary was "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq." Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division there, said he "served under a secretary of Defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team." Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, the former commander of the elite 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, stressed that culpability for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison leads "directly back to Secretary Rumsfeld." [complete article]
Senate panel considers hearing on Rumsfeld
By Charles Babington, Washington Post, April 26, 2006
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, underscoring lawmakers' concerns about the Iraq war's progress, said yesterday that he may invite testimony from retired generals who have called for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) said he will confer with colleagues before deciding whether to schedule a hearing that would feature defenders of Rumsfeld as well as retired officers who have stirred debate in recent days by saying the secretary should step down. "I commit to making a decision on this request in the near future," Warner said in a statement, adding that the panel has a busy schedule.
Concerned about the mounting criticism and a possible hearing, more than a dozen Republican senators rallied to Rumsfeld's defense yesterday. They treated him to a breakfast in the Capitol and praised him throughout the day. [complete article] Qaeda tapes reveal a rift
By Tony Karon, Time, April 25, 2006
The most recent video releases by Osama bin Laden and Musab al-Zarqawi -- and the reactions to them -- reveal that the high-profile jihadist carpetbaggers may be finding it harder to maintain a following precisely in those places where local Islamist insurgencies should provide the most fertile ground. A videotape purporting to show Zarqawi musing on the state of the Iraqi insurgency surfaced on a jihadist web site on Tuesday, a day after a terror attack on the Egyptian resort town of Dahab killed at least 23 people and two days after the release of an Osama bin Laden audiotape urging attacks on Western civilians in defense of the Palestinians, among others. All three events show the growing distance between the "global jihadists" of al-Qaeda and the local constituencies on whose behalf they claim to be fighting.
The Zarqawi tape is an unremarkable restatement of enthusiasm for jihad in Iraq; its prime purpose seems to be to reestablish his media presence. And if recent reports that Zarqawi's status has been downsized even by his own coalition of insurgent groups are to be believed, it's not hard to see why the Jordanian fugitive synonymous with mass-casualty bombings of Iraqi Shi'ites and videotaped beheadings of kidnapped Westerners would be looking for some attention.
Huthaifa Azzam, a Jordan-based Palestinian Islamist and son of Osama bin Laden's erstwhile mentor in Afghanistan, Abdullah Azzam, who claims to be well-connected in Iraqi insurgent circles, said last month that Zarqawi had made "many political mistakes" and was now being confined to a military role. Others suspected that lowering his profile was a strategy to put an Iraqi face on even the Islamist element of the insurgency, recognizing that a good portion of the Sunni population was alienated by many of Zarqawi's tactics. Either way, the problem facing the likes of Zarqawi is plain to see at a moment when the nationalist leadership of the insurgency is engaging in talks with the U.S., premised in part on their common antipathy to both Iran and al-Qaeda. [complete article] Zarqawi appears in rare Web video
NBC News, April 25, 2006
In a rare video posted on the Internet, al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi accused the West and the United States of waging a "crusader" war against Islam, but said Muslim holy warriors were standing firm.
He also said the formation of a new government in Iraq was an attempt to help the United States get out of what he called the dilemma it faces in Iraq. [complete article]
See also, Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq: fact or fiction? (Jamestown Foundation). Fighting talk from Osama and the Taliban
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, April 25, 2006
The latest Osama bin Laden message on Sunday coincides with the deadliest phase of the spring offensive in Afghanistan, which began on Friday when the Taliban-led insurgency launched fighters in various provinces under a unified strategy. [complete article]
See also, Bin Laden call falls on deaf ears (BBC) and Analyst says bin Laden 'desperate' (Aljazeera). U.S. to free 141 terror suspects
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2006
The Pentagon plans to release nearly a third of those held at the prison for terrorism suspects here because they pose no threat to U.S. security, an official of the war crimes tribunal said Monday.
Charges are pending against about two dozen of the remaining prisoners, the chief prosecutor said. But he left unclear why the rest face neither imminent freedom nor a day in court after as many as four years in custody.
Only 10 of the roughly 490 alleged "enemy combatants" currently detained at the facility have been charged; none has been charged with a capital offense.
That leaves the majority of the U.S. government's prisoners from the war on terrorism in limbo and its war crimes tribunal exposed to allegations by international human rights advocates that it is illegitimate and abusive. [complete article] Bush 'janitor' back to mop up
By Tom Baldwin, The Times, April 25, 2006
The Bush family's faithful fixer is, with little fanfare, slipping back into the key role of finding a "way forward" -- if not a way out -- for America in Iraq.
When James Baker last month became co-chairman of a congressional task force known as the Iraq Study Group, the news was buried beneath an avalanche of headlines about the invasion's third anniversary and the deepening troubles of the Administration.
But slowly Washington is waking up to just how significant the re-emergence of this 75-year-old statesman may be. [complete article] What's really happening in Tehran
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, April 26, 2006
They key to solving most of Iran's problems lies in finding a compromise with the West - especially the Americans - regarding the nuclear dossier. For all his vocal, popular support in the provinces, if Ahmadinejad and his Pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] hardliners go against this national desire for stability and progress, they will be sidelined.
Demonizing Western parallels of Iran enriching a few grams of uranium as akin to Adolf Hitler's march into the Rhineland is positively silly. So far Iran has only disregarded a non-binding request from the UN Security Council. The uranium-enrichment program may be under the operational control of the Pasdaran, but Ahmadinejad does not set Iran's nuclear policy: the supreme leader does, his guidelines followed by the Supreme National Security Council, which is led by the leader's protege, Ali Larijani. Khamenei and Larijani have both substantially toned down the rhetoric; Ahmadinejad hasn't.
The point is not that Ahmadinejad is a suicidal nut bent on confronting the US by all means available. The point is that the president leads just one of four key factions in a do-or-die power play, and he is following his own agenda, which is not necessarily the Iranian theocratic leadership's agenda. [complete article]
Tehran insider tells of U.S. black ops
By an Asia Times Online Special Correspondent, April 26, 2006
A former Iranian ambassador and Islamic Republic insider has provided intriguing details to Asia Times Online about US covert operations inside Iran aimed at destabilizing the country and toppling the regime - or preparing for an American attack.
"The Iranian government knows and is aware of such infiltration. It means that the Iranian government has identified them [the covert operatives] but for some reason does not want to show [this]," said the former diplomat on condition of anonymity.
Speaking in Tehran, the ex-Foreign Ministry official said the agents being used by the US "were originally Iranians and not Americans" possibly recruited in the United States or through US embassies in Dubai and Ankara. He also warned that such actions will engender "some reactions". [complete article]
Iranian President insists 'Israel cannot continue to live'
By Angus McDowall, The Independent, April 25, 2006
For a man who meets the press so rarely, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is anything but media shy.
At a press conference for foreign journalists yesterday, only his third since winning Iran's election last June, the Iranian President basked in the attention, grinning at the banks of photographers, swapping banter with reporters and eventually arguing with the local press over who should be allowed to answer questions.
He was sitting in front of a surreal backdrop, which showed a child's outstretched hand ending in a divine white glow from which fluttered several doves, set against a photograph of a huge pro-regime demonstration in Tehran. It was not clear if the glow was meant to signify world peace or the beneficence of nuclear technology. [complete article]
See also, Iran's president dismisses fears of Mideast crisis (FT), Iran threatens to end U.N. contacts (BBC), Iran closes U.S. door for talks about Iraq (IHT), and Iran is described as defiant on 2nd nuclear program (NYT). Shiite militias move into oil-rich Kirkuk, even as Kurds dig in
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, April 25, 2006
Hundreds of Shiite Muslim militiamen have deployed in recent weeks to this restive city -- widely considered the most likely flash point for an Iraqi civil war -- vowing to fight any attempt to shift control over Kirkuk to the Kurdish-governed north, according to U.S. commanders and diplomats, local police and politicians.
Until recently, the presence of the militias here was minimal. U.S. officials have called the Shiite armed groups the deadliest threat to security in much of the country. They have been blamed for hundreds of killings during mounting sectarian violence in central and southern Iraq since the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February. [complete article]
Baghdad rocked by car bombs
By Nelson Hernandez and Saad al-Izzi, Washington Post, April 25, 2006
A string of car bombs detonated in the capital on Monday and police found what appeared to be the sites of two mass killings, just days after officials had heralded political progress seen as key to greater stability in Iraq.
Seven car bombs exploded in Baghdad in the morning, killing at least 10 people and wounding about 70, according to police officials and news reports. Across the country, bombings, shootings and mortar attacks killed at least 15 others, and the Baghdad police discovered the bodies of 32 recruits for security forces. [complete article]
The presence of Saudi nationals in the Iraqi insurgency
By Christopher Boucek, Jamestown Foundation, April 20, 2006
It is widely recognized that Saudi nationals are currently participating in the Iraqi insurgency and have been involved in operations that have targeted the U.S.-led coalition force, aspects of the nascent Iraqi security forces, and segments of Iraq's majority Shiite population. The presence of Saudis in Iraq is deeply troubling not just for the future viability of Iraq, but also for the future security of Saudi Arabia and the smaller Persian Gulf monarchies. [complete article]
Envoy to Iraq predicts U.S. may need to stay in region for years
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2006
The U.S. ambassador here on Monday urged war-weary Americans to dig in for the long haul: a years-long effort to transform Iraq and the surrounding region, now one of the world's major trouble spots.
"We must perhaps reluctantly accept that we have to help this region become a normal region, the way we helped Europe and Asia in another era," Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Now it's this area from Pakistan to Morocco that we should focus on." [complete article]
Rebuilding of Iraqi pipeline as disaster waiting to happen
By James Glanz, New York Times, April 25, 2006
When Robert Sanders was sent by the Army to inspect the construction work an American company was doing on the banks of the Tigris River, 130 miles north of Baghdad, he expected to see workers drilling holes beneath the riverbed to restore a crucial set of large oil pipelines, which had been bombed during the invasion of Iraq.What he found instead that day in July 2004 looked like some gargantuan heart-bypass operation gone nightmarishly bad. A crew had bulldozed a 300-foot-long trench along a giant drill bit in their desperate attempt to yank it loose from the riverbed. A supervisor later told him that the project's crews knew that drilling the holes was not possible, but that they had been instructed by the company in charge of the project to continue anyway.
A few weeks later, after the project had burned up all of the $75.7 million allocated to it, the work came to a halt.
The project, called the Fatah pipeline crossing, had been a critical element of a $2.4 billion no-bid reconstruction contract that a Halliburton subsidiary had won from the Army in 2003. The spot where about 15 pipelines crossed the Tigris had been the main link between Iraq's rich northern oil fields and the export terminals and refineries that could generate much-needed gasoline, heating fuel and revenue for Iraqis.
For all those reasons, the project's demise would seriously damage the American-led effort to restore Iraq's oil system and enable the country to pay for its own reconstruction. Exactly what portion of Iraq's lost oil revenue can be attributed to one failed project, no matter how critical, is impossible to calculate. But the pipeline at Al Fatah has a wider significance as a metaphor for the entire $45 billion rebuilding effort in Iraq. Although the failures of that effort are routinely attributed to insurgent attacks, an examination of this project shows that troubled decision-making and execution have played equally important roles. [complete article]
See also, Syrian relations with Iraq: better than ever (Joshua Landis) and Inspectors find more torture at Iraqi jails (WP). Secrets of the CIA
By Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, April 24, 2006
A former CIA officer who was sacked last week after allegedly confessing to leaking secrets has denied she was the source of a controversial Washington Post story about alleged CIA secret detention operations in Eastern Europe, a friend of the operative told Newsweek.
The fired official, Mary O. McCarthy, "categorically denies being the source of the leak," one of McCarthy's friends and former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy. Beers said he could not elaborate on this denial and McCarthy herself did not respond to a request for comment left by Newsweek on her home answering machine. A national security advisor to Democratic Party candidate John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign, Beers worked as the head of intelligence programs on President Bill Clinton's National Security Council staff and later served as a top deputy on counter-terrorism for President Bush in 2002 and 2003. McCarthy, a career CIA analyst, initially worked as a deputy to Beers on the NSC and later took over Beer’s role as the Clinton NSC's top intelligence expert. [complete article]
See also, Dismissed CIA officer denies leak role (WP), Moves signal tighter secrecy within CIA (NYT), and Democrats suggest double standard on leaks (WP). 30 are killed in Sinai as bombs rock Egyptian resort city
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, April 25, 2006
Three blasts tore through Dahab, a crowded resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, on Monday night, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 115.
The attack, the third at a popular Sinai resort in two years, once again raised the specter of one of the United States' closest allies in the Arab world facing a homegrown terrorist threat trying to destabilize the government.
There was confusion in the hours after the blasts, but what was clear was that this resort town on the Gulf of Aqaba, a quaint tourist spot frequented by back-packers and scuba divers, was awash in blood on one of the most popular holiday weekends of the Egyptian calendar. [complete article]
See also, Mubarak is caught between further repression and reform (The Independent). Iran: the intelligence reports vs. the hard-liners
By Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, May 1, 2006
Some neocon activists have urged a sharp increase in U.S. efforts to undermine Tehran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Ledeen told Newsweek: "The people hate [the regime]. It's a revolution waiting to happen." But U.S. intel agencies strongly disagree, according to six sources familiar with official analyses of Iran who asked not to be identified when discussing sensitive material. For a start, the sources told Newsweek, while there is ferment among Iran's ethnic minorities, there is little evidence of unrest among Iran's ethnic Persian majority. "Hard-liners have regained control ... and the government has become more effective at repressing the nascent shoots of personal freedom that had emerged earlier in the decade," according to testimony that intel czar John Negroponte gave Congress earlier this year. A Pentagon source, one of the six, said flatly that an attempted revolution in Iran "wouldn't succeed." [complete article]
Western pressure irks average Iranians
By Angus McDowall, Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2006
Kaveh Ahmadi, a taxi driver and veteran of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, was quivering with indignation as he wove his aging Iranian-made Paykan at high speed through the heavy evening traffic of Iran's capital, Tehran. An ad on the side of the road read "Nuclear energy is our indisputable right," a slogan now seen frequently on television and at public events.
"I've got two Iraqi bullets in my leg," he says. "It was Western countries that supported [Saddam Hussein] when he used chemical weapons against us. Now they destroy Iraq and lecture us on human rights. America killed more than a hundred thousand people when it dropped atomic bombs on Japan, but they won't even let us have nuclear energy." [complete article]
Bush adviser dismisses call for talks with Iran
By Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, April 23, 2006
One of the US government's top advisers has rebuffed European calls for Washington to negotiate directly with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Philip Zelikow, counsellor at the US State Department, also said the Bush administration's commitment to the democratisation of the Middle East was undimmed, despite the recent victory of Hamas, the militant Islamist group, in Palestinian legislative elections.
"The US position has been that at this time we don't see value in having direct talks with the Iranians about, say, the nuclear issue," he said, rejecting calls for such negotiations from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister, and other senior European diplomats.
Mr Zelikow, who has played an important role in framing US strategy as an adviser to Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, also brushed aside European suggestions that a long-term understanding with Tehran might involve a promise from the US that it has no intention of attacking Iran. [complete article]
Iran: Nuclear program 'irreversible'
AP (via USA Today), April 23, 2006
Iran said Sunday its nuclear program is irreversible, issuing yet another rejection of a U.N. Security Council deadline to cease enriching uranium that expires in five days.
Earlier this month, Tehran announced for the first time that it had enriched uranium using 164 centrifuges, a step toward large-scale production of nuclear fuel that can be used either in atomic weapons or in nuclear reactors for civilian electricity generation.
"Nuclear research will continue. Suspension of (nuclear activities including uranium enrichment) is not on our agenda. This issue is irreversible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters. [complete article]
The madness of bombing Iran
By Robert Skidelsky, The Times, April 24, 2006
There is no doubt that Western opinion is being softened up for a US or Israeli strike against the Iranian centrifuges at Natanz. "Can anyone within range of Iran's missiles feel safe?", screams a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, displaying a map of the Eurasian land mass with Iran at its centre.
As part of the softening-up come the justifications, as false as the ones that preceded the Iraq war, but more disgraceful second time round. Here are the counter-arguments. [complete article] Iraq's next premier: Spot the difference
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, April 25, 2006
[Iraq's new prime minister, Jawad al-]Maliki inherits a country that is scarred by sectarian violence, filled with mass graves created after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, and divided by political and religious ambitions as never before in its history.
There is nothing in his background, however, to show that Jawad al-Maliki will be any better than Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Maliki, after all, has all of Jaafari's weaknesses and none of his strengths. Jaafari is more experienced, better connected in the Arab world, and more politically independent than Maliki. Like Jaafari, however, Maliki is a product of political Islam. Both of them are allied to the rebel-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and both are equally sectarian in their policies, having turned a blind eye to the Shi'ite death squads that roamed the streets of Iraq and gunned down prominent Sunnis after February's bombing of a holy Shi'ite shrine in Samarra. [complete article]
Warily, Iraqis investing hope in new leaders
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, April 24, 2006
On the cusp of their first permanent government since the American-led invasion, Iraqis are not exactly celebrating. Rather, they seem to be gritting their teeth and clinging grimly to the battered hope for democracy, even in what many see as a strange and uncomfortable incarnation.
Iraq, said one Baghdad doctor, is a drowning man, and the prime minister-designate a floating plank. [complete article]
Iraqi lawmakers end months of deadlock
By Nelson Hernandez and K.I. Ibrahim, Washington Post, April 23, 2006
Four months of political paralysis lifted on Saturday when a newly convened parliament chose seven top officials to run Iraq's first long-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
In a largely ceremonial meeting at Baghdad's convention center, the parliament picked Jawad al-Maliki, an outspoken advocate for the country's Shiite Muslim majority, to serve as Iraq's prime minister for the next four years. Maliki, an experienced politician in his mid-fifties, faces the task of mending a nation nearly shattered by decades of war, dictatorship and sectarian rivalry.
"The great thing will be if I succeed in cementing national unity and regaining security, stability and services," Maliki said at a news conference. "We have been able to accomplish several things today, and with these accomplishments we shall complete the building of the new Iraq on the basis of freedom, equality and plurality for all." [complete article]
See also, New Iraqi leader seeks unity (CSM), Iraq's Maliki says militias must join armed forces (Reuters). Stuck in the hot zone
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, May 1, 2006
If you want an image of what America's long-term plans for Iraq look like, it's right here at Balad. Tucked away in a rural no man's land 43 miles north of Baghdad, this 15-square-mile mini-city of thousands of trailers and vehicle depots is one of four "superbases" where the Pentagon plans to consolidate U.S. forces, taking them gradually from the front lines of the Iraq war. (Two other bases are slated for the British and Iraqi military.) The shift is part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to draw down U.S. ground forces in Iraq significantly by the end of 2006. Pentagon planners hope that this partial withdrawal will, in turn, help take the edge off rising opposition to the war at home -- long enough to secure Iraq's nascent democracy.
But the vast base being built up at Balad is also hard evidence that, despite all the political debate in Washington about a quick U.S. pullout, the Pentagon is planning to stay in Iraq for a long time -- at least a decade or so, according to military strategists. [complete article]
Officials mum on huge U.S. Embassy
By Charles J. Hanley, AP (via Washington Times), April 23, 2006
The fortresslike compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the world's largest of its kind, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.
The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.
"We can't talk about it, security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.
A British tabloid told readers that even the location was being kept secret, but the news would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days. [complete article]
See also, Seating of Iraqi government may not hasten U.S. troop withdrawal (KR). In search of a secular, nonsectarian time
By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, April 23, 2006
In a city ever more constricted by religious fundamentalism and terror, the Hunting Club, and its older cousin, the Alwiya, have become islands of relative safety and hedonism. They are protected not only by high walls and guards but also by the selectivity of their membership lists, strictly vetted to keep out anyone who might be a threat. The clubs are virtually the only places in Baghdad — outside the international Green Zone — where men and women can socialize in Western dress without fear. Their well-stocked bars have few rivals now that armed zealots have killed many of the city's liquor-store owners and driven the rest underground.
The clubs also offer a rare perspective on the past and present of Iraq's fragile urban elite. For many years, they were the playground and crucible of Iraq's privileged classes. They weathered a series of usurpations by military officers, Baathists and Saddam Hussein, whose psychotic son Uday used to terrorize guests and even rape female visitors during his periodic visits. Even through the 1990's, as the doctors, engineers and businessmen who constituted their membership began fleeing the country, the clubs maintained their central role in Baghdad's social life.
In a sense, it is the members of these clubs — the residuum of Iraq's well-educated, relatively secular, Western-leaning professionals — on whose leadership the American invasion of 2003 was premised. These people did not identify themselves as Sunni or Shiite. They would re-emerge to form the core of a new Iraqi civil society, propelling the country toward democracy and away from religious extremism. Or so the theory went. [complete article] Centralism in Iraq
By Reidar Visser, Historiae.org, April 22, 2006
In recent years, Western academics have increasingly converged on an interpretation of modern Iraq as an "artificial" construction. According to this perspective, no such thing as an "Iraq" existed before the First World War; the country was only cemented together by British military strategists from three very "disparate" Ottoman provinces that fell to British control during the war -- Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. In step with growing internal conflict in Iraq after the war in 2003, the "artificiality" thesis has become increasingly popular. More and more, political problems in Iraq are explained with reference to the country's alleged predicament of being "manufactured" by outsiders; Iraq is simply seen as lacking the "historical depth" required to sustain a viable modern polity. Such views tend to resonate well in academic circles where deconstructionism is in vogue, and where scepticism against nationalist teleologies for some time has formed an integral aspect of any studies of political history.
However, one striking aspect of the constructivist perspective on Iraqi history should give pause for thought: its most ardent supporters are invariably those who have never been anywhere near original documents from the decades immediately preceding the assumed genesis of the country. In fact, anyone who researches primary materials from the early 1900s soon understands that it is impossible to deny the existence of Iraq as a geographical and social–historical category at the time. For "Iraq" is simply omnipresent in those sources. [complete article] Bombs away
By Max M. Kampelman, New York Times, April 24, 2006
In my lifetime, I have witnessed two successful titanic struggles by civilized society against totalitarian movements, those against Nazi fascism and Soviet communism. As an arms control negotiator for Ronald Reagan, I had the privilege of playing a role -- a small role -- in the second of these triumphs.
Yet, at the age of 85, I have never been more worried about the future for my children and grandchildren than I am today. The number of countries possessing nuclear arms is increasing, and terrorists are poised to master nuclear technology with the objective of using those deadly arms against us.
The United States must face this reality head on and undertake decisive steps to prevent catastrophe. Only we can exercise the constructive leadership necessary to address the nuclear threat.
Unfortunately, the goal of globally eliminating all weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical and biological arms -- is today not an integral part of American foreign policy; it needs to be put back at the top of our agenda. [complete article]
How to regulate nuclear weapons
By Selig S. Harrison, Washington Post, April 23, 2006
Why should India, with a spotless nonproliferation record, be denied access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology for electricity, while China -- which helped Pakistan and Iran in their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons -- can have it?
The inequitable structure of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has resulted in built-in discrimination in favor of China and against India that has made it necessary and justifiable for the administration to conclude its civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with New Delhi.
The treaty is based on a legalistic fiction that underpins this discrimination. When it was concluded in 1968, only the five states that had already tested nuclear weapons were permitted to sign as "nuclear weapons states." China, which had tested in 1964, got in just under the wire. India tested in 1974, six years too late. [complete article] Divine mushroom cloud: a call to worship
By Karen Horst Cobb, Common Dreams, April 22, 2006
On June 2nd the god of America will be paraded before the people of the earth causing them to tremble in fear. Americans will again marvel as they worship the god of their own creation. Just like the restless Israelites in the desert who grew inpatient with god and fashioned a golden calf to protect them we have grown inpatient with god and fashioned a shiny idol of power. Southern Methodist University is working with the new clergy of death who have named the idol Divine Strake.
The 700 tons of explosives designed to simulate the effects of a nuclear weapon will create a glorious mushroom cloud. The goal of the ammonium nitrate and fuel to be detonated on Shoshone land will cover Las Vegas with a mushroom cloud and will measure 3.5 on the Richter scale. Some believe it is in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty which banned all testing for nuclear weapons. This simulated explosion will show the "enemy" and the war planners how the real thing will impact the ground and the air in which a nuclear bomb is detonated. Specifically, it is designed to simulate using a tactical nuclear weapon on underground facilities like the ones we are told exist in Iran. [complete article] Young officers join the debate over Rumsfeld
By Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, April 23, 2006
The revolt by retired generals who publicly criticized Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has opened an extraordinary debate among younger officers, in military academies, in the armed services' staff colleges and even in command posts and mess halls in Iraq.
"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better someday."
An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might otherwise have stayed in uniform. [complete article]
By Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, April 24, 2006
In the ongoing South Americanization of political culture north of the border -- a drawn-out historical journey whose markers include fiscal recklessness, an accelerating wealth gap between the rich and the rest, corruption masked by populist rhetoric, a frank official embrace of the techniques of "dirty war," and, by way of initiating the present era, a judicial autogolpe installing a dynastic presidente -- what has been dubbed the Revolt of the Generals is one of the feebler effusions. But it is striking all the same. By last week, the junta had swelled to six members: General Anthony C. Zinni, of the Marine Corps (four stars); Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, also of the Marines (three stars); and Major Generals John Batiste, Paul D. Eaton, John Riggs, and Charles H. Swannack, Jr., of the Army (two stars). Some reckon that Wesley Clark (Army, four stars), William E. Odom (ditto, three stars), and Bernard E. Trainor (Marines, three stars) are entitled to spots as auxiliary members. All these generals have said devastating things about the job performance of the current Secretary of Defense, particularly with respect to the Iraq war. Their critiques vary -- some of them see the war as a series of tactical blunders, others as a strategic disaster doomed from the start -- but on one point the Pentagon Six are unanimous: Please. Bring us the head of Donald Rumsfeld. [complete article] Bin Laden: West waging a crusade
Aljazeera, April 24, 2006
Aljazeera has aired an audiotape attributed to Osama bin Laden in which he attacks the West for boycotting Hamas and accuses Western governments of waging a "Crusader war" against Islam.
In the recording, aired on Sunday, the al-Qaeda leader said the isolation and cutting off of aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government reaffirmed that the West was at war with the Islamic nation.
"The blockade which the West is imposing on the government of Hamas proves that there is a Zionist crusaders war on Islam," he said.
During the recording bin Laden also said the Western public shared responsibility for the actions of their governments, particularly for what he called their attacks on Islam. [complete article]
See also, Hamas distances itself from Bin Laden (Aljazeera), Motive behind bin Laden's message (BBC), and Transcript of bin Laden tape (Aljazeera). Al-Qaeda finds its missing link in Iran
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, April 22, 2006
The US-led "war on terror" is entering a critical phase, with the al-Qaeda leadership being given a chance to revitalize its cause now that Iran is in the US crosshairs over its nuclear program.
"Tehran has taken over the central stage by challenging American hegemony," Hamid Gul told Asia Times Online. "Tehran is today's inspiration force. It charms the Arab youths on the streets. The Arab rulers are terrified of this development, and this is the reason they are coming to Pakistan one after another."
Gul is a former corps commander of the Pakistani army and ex-director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence. Persian-speaking Gul is reckoned as one of the architects of the jihadi movements that finally turned global and made Afghanistan their base in the mid- and late 1990s when the Taliban ruled.
Gul was referring to visits to Pakistan by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salah. Islamabad is a US outpost in the "war on terror" that the two prominent Arab leaders visited, while at least one more is scheduled in coming weeks.
Contacts close to the echelons of power in Pakistan's military headquarters, Rawalpindi, tell Asia Times Online that judging from the pattern of talks, all of the Muslim countries that side with the United States anticipate a US attack on Iran around October.
And, according to these contacts, their strategy is to consolidate opinion in the Organization of Islamic Conferences to be prepared. This does not mean stopping the attack, but being ready for the fallout in the Middle East and beyond. [complete article]
See also, Bin Laden says West waging war on Islam (Reuters). New plans foresee fighting terrorism beyond war zones
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, April 23, 2006
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has approved the military's most ambitious plan yet to fight terrorism around the world and retaliate more rapidly and decisively in the case of another major terrorist attack on the United States, according to defense officials.
The long-awaited campaign plan for the global war on terrorism, as well as two subordinate plans also approved within the past month by Rumsfeld, are considered the Pentagon's highest priority, according to officials familiar with the three documents who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about them publicly.
Details of the plans are secret, but in general they envision a significantly expanded role for the military -- and, in particular, a growing force of elite Special Operations troops -- in continuous operations to combat terrorism outside of war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Developed over about three years by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, the plans reflect a beefing up of the Pentagon's involvement in domains traditionally handled by the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department. [complete article] Been there, done that
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2006
Iran's announcement that it has enriched a minute amount of uranium has unleashed urgent calls for a preventive U.S. airstrike from the same sources that earlier urged war on Iraq. If there is another terrorist attack in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that there also will be immediate charges that Iran was responsible in order to generate public hysteria in favor of military action.
But there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:
First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war, an attack would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s). [complete article]
Deadly serious war games
By Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times, April 22, 2006
It is not exactly a closely guarded military secret when the announcement appears as a dispatch in USA Today, a national newspaper that appears on every street corner, indeed, virtually every hotel in the land. The message this week: the National Strategic Gaming Center of the National Defense University (NDU) will conduct a "war gaming" exercise on July 18 involving Iran's nuclear program.
The United States' premier university for the education and training of its senior military officers, NDU is at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. War-gaming is a tabletop or even larger exercise simulating crisis management. Such exercises have become a standard business of the US military and the militaries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. The purpose is to "game" various options, political and military, and their implications. [complete article]
The Gordian Knot of the nuclear crisis
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times, April 22, 2006
With less than two weeks to go before the 30-day deadline set by the United Nations Security Council for the International Atomic Energy Agency chief to report on Iran's compliance or non-compliance with the IAEA's demands, above all a halt to its uranium-enrichment program, the internal debate in Iran on the correct response to the escalating international pressure is intensifying.
One faction associated with former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and led by Hassan Rowhani, the former chief nuclear negotiator, has lashed out at the hardline nuclear stance adopted by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and called for a "more balanced approach". [complete article]
Report: Iran, Russia reach 'basic' uranium deal
AP (via MSNBC), April 22, 2006
Iran's envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday the Islamic republic had reached a "basic deal" with the Kremlin to form a joint uranium enrichment venture on Russian territory, state-run television reported.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "spoke of a basic agreement between Iran and Russia to set up a joint uranium enrichment firm on Russian soil," Iranian state television reported.
It remained unclear, though, whether Iran would entirely give up enrichment at home, a top demand of the West, or whether the joint venture would complement Iran's existing enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear reactors that generate electricity or to make atomic bombs. [complete article]
Iran's president recruits terror master
By Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi, The Sunday Times, April 23, 2006
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended a meeting in Syria earlier this year with one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to intelligence experts and a former national security official in Washington.
US officials and Israel intelligence sources believe Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah's overseas operations, has taken charge of plotting Iran's retaliation against western targets should President George W Bush order a strike on Iranian nuclear sites.
Mugniyeh is on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list for his role in a series of high-profile attacks against the West, including the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and murder of one of its passengers, a US navy diver. [complete article] The not-so United States
By Pam Belluck, New York Times, April 23, 2006
After Massachusetts became the first state to enact near-universal health care coverage this month, Robert E. Travaglini, the State Senate president, allowed himself a bit of bravado.
"This is going to be a template for the rest of the nation to follow, and not just this," Mr. Travaglini crowed, rattling off a list of recent Massachusetts milestones. "We did this for same-sex marriage; we did this for stem cell research. Massachusetts is at the head of the curve."
Ahead of the curve for some, perhaps. But for those sitting in, say, South Dakota, which recently enacted a law that bans all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother, Massachusetts might look more like it has gone off the deep end. And vice versa.
Such are the political and ideological extremes bubbling up from the states these days. Local legislatures are debating everything from teaching "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in public schools to financing stem cell research to preventing gay couples from adopting.
These debates raise a number of questions. Is the country destined to balkanize into a patchwork of polar-opposite policies? How will this diversity be reconciled? Does it need to be? [complete article]
See also, Is the U.S. being transformed into a radical republic? (Lawrence Wilkerson). Dump Cheney for Condi, Bush urged
By Sarah Baxter, The Sunday Times, April 23, 2006
Republicans are urging President George W Bush to dump Dick Cheney as vice-president and replace him with Condoleezza Rice if he is serious about presenting a new face to the jaded American public.
They believe that only the sacrifice of one or more of the big beasts of the jungle, such as Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, will convince voters that Bush understands the need for a fresh start.
The jittery Republicans claim Bush's mini-White House reshuffle last week will do nothing to forestall the threat of losing control of Congress in the November mid-term elections. [complete article]
See also, Virginia Judge allows defense in AIPAC trial to summon Rice (Haaretz), Rice applauds Baghdad breakthrough (WP). Colleagues say CIA analyst played by the rules
By David S. Cloud, New York Times, April 23, 2006
In 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered military strikes against a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan, Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer assigned to the White House, warned the president that the plan relied on inconclusive intelligence, two former government officials say.
Ms. McCarthy's reservations did not stop the attack on the factory, which was carried out in retaliation for Al Qaeda's bombing of two American embassies in East Africa. But they illustrated her willingness to challenge intelligence data and methods endorsed by her bosses at the Central Intelligence Agency.
On Thursday, the C.I.A. fired Ms. McCarthy, 61, accusing her of leaking information to reporters about overseas prisons operated by the agency in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. But despite Ms. McCarthy's independent streak, some colleagues who worked with her at the White House and other offices during her intelligence career say they cannot imagine her as a leaker of classified information. [complete article]
See also, CIA officer's job made any leaks more delicate (WP), All right, not all right (Juan Cole), and The firing of Mary McCarthy (Larry Johnson). Killing a man: confessions of an interrogator
By Ted Morgan, New York Times, April 23, 2006
In his new memoir, "My Battle of Algiers," Ted Morgan, who served as an officer with the French Army during the war in Algeria in 1956 and 1957, described how he killed a captured fellagha, or guerrilla soldier, during an interrogation. His superior during the interrogation was Capt. Henri de Lastours.
Now that I reconstruct the event almost 50 years later, I tell myself that nothing was simple, that there were wheels within wheels. I tell myself that I was blindly striking out at a war I hated, that I was sick over the loss of my friend, that I was assaulting my mirror image and the man who was giving me orders as much as the prisoner. But then I ask myself. Am I looking for excuses post facto? Would a judge and jury find extenuating circumstances? I've been my own judge and jury, and I can't let myself off. I never protested. I never said, "I refuse to do this." It's a form of inner disfigurement that I've had to live with. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Understanding Iran: people, politics and power (PDF)
By Hugh Barnes and Mark Fitzpatrick, The Foreign Policy Centre, April 19, 2006
Iran is behind the soaring price of gasoline - and not for the first time
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, April 21, 2006
Iran president's bark may be worse than his bite
By Tony Karon, Time, April 20, 2006
Mideast 'axis' forms against West
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, April 20, 2006
The Israeli election and the 'demographic problem'
By Ilan Pappe, London Review of Books, April 20, 2006
Gaza on brink of implosion as aid cut-off starts to bite
By Conal Urquhart, The Observer, April 16, 2006
A case for accountability
By John Batiste, Washington Post, April 19, 2006
Vice squad - Dick Cheney's staff
By Robert Dreyfuss, The American Prospect, April 17, 2006
Iraq's Kurds aim for own oil ministry
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2006
Najaf's elite clerics playing key role in Iraq now
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2006
Phantom force - Iraq's "Facilities Protection Services"
By Scott Johnson, Newsweek, April 24, 2006
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