The War in Context Christopher Dickey quote
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     

After Bush's visit: Maliki on a tightrope
By Tony Karon, Time, June 16, 2006

Despite new security measures, violence breaks out in Baghdad
By Nancy A. Youssef, Knight Ridder, June 16, 2006

Pentagon study describes abuse by units in Iraq
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, June 17, 2006

Contradictions cloud inquiry into 24 Iraqi deaths
By John M. Broder, New York Times, June 17, 2006

America's problem is again a usurping king called George
By Martin Kettle, The Guardian, June 17, 2006

America's bogeyman is an Islamist hero to many in Somalia
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, June 17, 2006

Islamic militias impose a welcome calm
By Craig Timberg, Washington Post, June 17, 2006

Islamists Sow Calm, and Concern, in Southern Somalia
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2006

High stakes in Hamas-Fatah feud
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2006

Hospital casts doubt on Israel's version of attack that killed seven Palestinians
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, June 17, 2006

Israel admits shell report flaws
By Stephen Farrell, The Times, June 17, 2006

Iran's president hints at hope for defusing crisis
By Howard W. French, New York Times, June 17, 2006
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Manzanar redux?
By David Cole, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2006

'What will they do to us if there is another attack? Will they intern us like they interned the Japanese?"

That is the single most common question I get when speaking about counter-terrorism policies and civil liberties to Arab and Muslim audiences. Until Wednesday, I assured them that such a response was unthinkable. The Japanese internment during World War II is now so widely recognized as morally, legally and ethically wrong, I told them, that it could not possibly be repeated.

But after a decision by a federal judge in New York, I'm no longer confident that I can be so reassuring. Dismissing a case challenging the detention of Arab and Muslim foreign nationals in the weeks after 9/11, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled that it is constitutionally permissible to round up foreign nationals on immigration charges based solely on their race, religion or country of origin. What's more, he said that they can be detained indefinitely, even after they have agreed to be removed to their home countries.

In essence, he authorized a repeat of the Japanese internment -- as long as the internment is limited to foreign nationals charged with visa violations (a group that at last count numbered about 11 million people). [complete article]
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In pursuit of terrorists, White House tramples Constitution
By Michael Kinsley, Baltimore Sun, June 16, 2006

For years, all the intelligence agencies have been tussling with the American Civil Liberties Union over documents about the innovative Bush administration policy of locking people up in foreign countries where they can be tortured without the inconvenience of anyone knowing about it or bringing up, you know, like, the Constitution.

It is not yet clear - though there is little reason for optimism - about whether the courts will let them get away with it, but the official position of the executive branch under President Bush is that the U.S. government can lock you up anywhere in the world, torture you and tell no one about it.

And if someone does find out and starts talking trash like "habeas corpus" or "Fourth Amendment," too bad: It's all OK under the president's inherent powers as commander in chief. Congress - unknown to Congress - approved it all in its resolution shortly after 9/11 urging the president to fight terrorism. And the president deputized the CIA and other agencies to go forth and use this authority, in documents that you can't have and that may or may not exist. [complete article]
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Shiite mosque bombed in Baghdad despite security clampdown
By Jay Deshmukh, AFP (via Yahoo), June 16, 2006

At least 11 people were killed by a suicide bomber carrying explosives in his shoes inside a Shiite mosque, despite a security crackdown in the Iraqi capital and claims of success in the battle against Al-Qaeda, police said.

The blast, which also wounded 25 people, came less than an hour before the main weekly Muslim prayers, when the Baratha mosque in Baghdad would have been filled with thousands of worshippers.

The mosque, which is used by members of Iraq's Shiite majority, had been attacked before. On April 7, a triple suicide bombing by men dressed as women targeted worshippers just as they were leaving, killing 90 and wounding 175. [complete article]

See also, 'Shoe bomber' hits Baghdad mosque (BBC) and Post-al-Zarqawi raids kill 104 insurgents (AP).
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Suspected heir to Zarqawi is given a face
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2006

The U.S. military released new information Thursday about the Egyptian militant it believes has taken the place of Abu Musab Zarqawi as the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

At a news briefing in the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military showed reporters a previously classified picture of the Egyptian-born bomb expert known as Abu Ayyub Masri or, more recently, Sheik Abu Hamza, also called "Al Muhajir."

"It's important for the people of Iraq to know who this is," said Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

Caldwell said U.S. officials for days debated whether releasing the photo and a brief biographical sketch would bolster the Egyptian's media profile, and play into his hands. "Our intention is not to glorify him," he said.

The U.S. intention instead appears to be to keep attention on the foreign element of Iraq's insurgency -- a small but effective force within a broader opposition led by Sunni Arabs. Masri and Muhajir mean "Egyptian" and "immigrant," respectively, in Arabic.

"He has absolutely no ties to this country," Caldwell said. [complete article]

Comment -- Now if William B. Caldwell IV had a slight sense of irony, he could have said, "Like me, he [Masri] has absolutely no ties to this country."
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Military investigates U.S. killings of Iraqis at checkpoint
By Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2006

The U.S. military is investigating the killing of three Iraqi civilians by American forces in northern Iraq, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The inquiry into the May 9 deaths in Salahuddin province was requested by Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the U.S. commander in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq, officials in Baghdad announced today.

Pentagon officials said they could provide few details about the deaths of the Iraqis, who were killed at a checkpoint in province's southern region. The military is investigating whether they were threatening American troops or whether the troops acted improperly and had no cause to use force against the civilians, an official said. [complete article]
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Maliki aide who discussed amnesty leaves job
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, June 16, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office on Thursday accepted the resignation of an aide who had told a reporter that Maliki was considering a limited amnesty that would likely include guerrillas who had attacked U.S. troops, the aide said.
The Maliki aide who resigned, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stood by his account of amnesty considerations, reported Thursday by The Washington Post. Kadhimi said Maliki had indicated the same position less directly in public. "The prime minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they have not been involved in killing Iraqis," Kadhimi said Thursday.

Maliki's office issued a statement earlier Thursday saying, "Mr. Adnan Kadhimi doesn't represent the Iraqi government in this issue, and Mr. Kadhimi is not an advisor or spokesman for the prime minister."

Kadhimi, who also worked as an aide to the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafari, said he had submitted his resignation earlier in the week. He was informed Thursday that it had been accepted, he said.

Another Maliki aide, asked if the amnesty being considered by the government was likely to apply to those who had attacked U.S. forces, said Maliki had been "clear, saying those whose hands weren't stained with Iraqi blood" may be eligible for any amnesty. [complete article]
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Shiite militias control prisons, official says
By Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, June 16, 2006

Iraq's prison system is overrun with Shiite Muslim militiamen who have freed fellow militia members convicted of major crimes and executed Sunni Arab inmates, the country's deputy justice minister said in an interview this week.

"We cannot control the prisons. It's as simple as that," said the deputy minister, Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei, an ethnic Kurd. "Our jails are infiltrated by the militias from top to bottom, from Basra to Baghdad."

As a result, Yei has asked U.S. authorities to suspend plans to transfer prisons and detainees from American to Iraqi control. "Our ministry is unprepared at this time to take over the facilities, especially those in areas where Shiite militias exist," he said in a letter to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John D. Gardner, the official in charge of American detention facilities. [complete article]
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Top Sunni asked Bush for pullout timeline
AP (via The State), June 15, 2006

Iraq's vice president has asked President Bush for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the Iraqi president's office said.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, made the request during his meeting with Bush on Tuesday, when the U.S. president made a surprise visit to Iraq.

"I supported him in this," President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi's representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. [complete article]
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Congress erupts in partisan fight over Iraq war
By Robin Toner and Kate Zernike, New York Times, June 16, 2006

The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war.

It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year-old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides had sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory.

In the House, lawmakers moved toward a vote Friday after more than 11 hours of debate on a Republican resolution promising to "complete the mission" in Iraq, prevail in the global fight against terrorism and oppose any "arbitrary date for withdrawal." In the Senate, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to shelve an amendment calling on the United States to withdraw most troops by the end of this year, although Democrats vowed to revisit the debate next week. [complete article]
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Hamas offers to renew ceasefire
AP (via The Times), June 16, 2006

The Palestinian ruling Islamic group Hamas offered to restore a ceasefire with Israel several days after calling it off because of a deadly explosion on a Gaza beach.

Israel responded favourably, signalling that both sides were prepared to step back from fighting that threatened to escalate. A Hamas official said the group was in touch with other Gaza militants to try to halt daily rocket barrages against Israel, which set off Israeli air and artillery retaliation. [complete article]

How clumsy, inaccurate Gaza rockets could start a war
By Ian Fisher, New York Times, June 16, 2006

The Qassam rocket is not much to look at: a 70-pound tube of rough steel and hand-mixed explosive, like the one that pounded through the roof of Universe Packaging here on Thursday. Tons of falling concrete just missed Lior Levi, 28, a worker there.

"My ears were ringing, so it took me a few seconds to realize what really happened," said Mr. Levi, who counts himself a lucky man. "I didn't realize it was a direct hit."

However crude, the Qassam rocket, fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel, has nonetheless won its spot as symbol of the moment in the long conflict here. At a delicate time, the rocket is not only raising tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, as usual, but is also dividing Palestinian from Palestinian, Israeli from Israeli. [complete article]
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Iran seeks aid in Asia in resisting the West
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 16, 2006

Overshadowing a regional summit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested Thursday that China, Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations should help Iran resist growing pressure from the United States and Europe to limit its nuclear development program.

The appeal, in a speech to leaders of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, seemed aimed in particular at China and Russia. The two nations, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have been reluctant to endorse the threat of U.N. sanctions and other steps being pushed by the Bush administration to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium and submit its nuclear program to international controls.

Ahmadinejad's remarks were also framed to portray the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a bloc opposed to the threats that have accompanied the U.S. and European campaign against Tehran's nuclear program. In addition to China and Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan make up the group, which was founded five years ago under Chinese leadership to foster regional security and economic cooperation. [complete article]

Iran considering nuclear package
Reuters (via NYT), June 16, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a set of incentives and penalties aimed at persuading Tehran to curtail its nuclear programs was a positive step but left open how he would officially respond.

Ahmadinejad, apparently moderating his language on the issue, said the offer from the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with Germany, was a "step forward" and he had asked his officials to seriously consider it. [complete article]

The tripolar chessboard
By Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch, June 15, 2006

For months, the American press and policy-making elite have portrayed the crisis with Iran as a two-sided struggle between Washington and Tehran, with the European powers as well as Russia and China playing supporting roles. It is certainly true that George Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are the leading protagonists in this drama, with each making inflammatory statements about the other in order to whip up public support at home. But an informed reading of recent international diplomacy surrounding the Iranian crisis suggests that another equally fierce -- and undoubtedly more important -- struggle is also taking place: a tripolar contest between the United States, Russia, and China for domination of the greater Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region and its mammoth energy reserves. [complete article]
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Why the Taliban appeal to Pakistani youth
By David Montero, Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 2006

Imran Gul would like to see a better future for the tribal youth of his corner of Pakistan, but most days he only sees military helicopters returning from Waziristan, ferrying wounded and dead. Casualties in the conflicts along the Afghan border serve as a reminder that the tribal system, once strong and proud, is now falling apart.

History and war have slowly eaten away its edifice, and Mr. Gul worries that what the tribal system can no longer provide young people - peace, income, a sense of purpose, a social network - a new and rising force can: the Taliban.

"Due to poverty, young people have no activities," says Gul, program director of the Sustainable Participation Development Program, a nongovernmental organization in Banu, just outside North Waziristan. "They do not want to join the Taliban. But their sympathies are with the Taliban to bring peace to our area." [complete article]

See also, Taliban's call for jihad answered in Pakistan (Asia Times).

Allies launch huge offensive against Taliban
By Jason Straziuso, AP (via WP), June 16, 2006

More than 10,000 Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops began a massive anti-Taliban operation across southern Afghanistan on Thursday, while a bomb killed seven people riding a bus to a coalition base for work.

Military forces are "moving forward with large-scale operations" in four southern provinces -- Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabol, the U.S. military said in a statement. It is the largest offensive since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban regime.

Meanwhile, a bomb hidden in a bus headed to a coalition base in southern Kandahar city exploded during morning rush hour, killing seven people and injuring 17, coalition officials and the Interior Ministry said. [complete article]
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Somali Islamic militias decry terrorists
By Craig Timberg, Washington Post, June 16, 2006

The leader of Somalia's increasingly powerful Islamic militias sent a letter to the United States this week asserting that they would assist international efforts to prevent the fractured, chaotic country from becoming "a transit route or hiding ground" for terrorists.

The letter, dated Wednesday and sent to the State Department and the embassies of several other countries, gives a direct though conciliatory response to concerns by U.S. officials that the Islamic militias harbor terrorists linked to attacks across East Africa, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. [complete article]

Somalian Islamist urges U.N. help
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2006

Answering U.S. concerns that Somalia could become a new Al Qaeda stronghold, the leader of an Islamic movement that recently took control of the capital says the United Nations should send an investigative team to his country to ensure that no terrorists can transit it or hide there.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed appealed to the U.S.-organized contact group on Somalia, which was meeting for the first time Thursday in New York, to help disarm militias and stabilize the country. [complete article]

Somalis welcome the quiet brought by Islamist takeover
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, June 15, 2006

To many Somalis, the Islamist takeover was the natural culmination of a religious movement that took root with the withdrawal of international forces in 1995 and blossomed as residents turned to faith in the absence of any government.

It's also a backlash against the United States, which everyone in Mogadishu believes bankrolled the warlords to carry out an American proxy war against terrorists that resulted in kidnappings of religious figures and false accusations that innocents were affiliated with al-Qaida. [complete article]
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Seized documents deal blow to al Qaeda: Iraq official
By Omar al-Ibadi, Reuters, June 15, 2006

Security forces have seized al Qaeda in Iraq documents giving key information about the militant group's network and the whereabouts of its leaders, the country's national security adviser said on Thursday.

"We believe this is the beginning of the end of al Qaeda in Iraq," Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told a televised news conference.

Rubaie told Reuters earlier this year that the Sunni Arab insurgency against the U.S.-backed, Shi'ite-led government had been defeated. But violence has continued to rage across Iraq, killing hundreds of people and showing no signs of abating. [complete article]

Comment -- We all know that "actionable" intelligence is supposed to be the key to defeating the insurgency, but it sounds like most of the action coming out of this intelligence bonanza is happening in front of cameras and microphones. Whoever wrote this particular missive has a curious distinction of hitting a few notes that must resonate well on the wistful wing of the administration: support for the coalition is growing and the U.S. needs to go to war against Iran.
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Iraq amnesty plan may cover attacks on U.S. military
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, June 15, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday proposed a limited amnesty to help end the Sunni Arab insurgency as part of a national reconciliation plan that Maliki said would be released within days. The plan is likely to include pardons for those who had attacked only U.S. troops, a top adviser said.

Maliki's declaration of openness to talks with some members of Sunni armed factions, and the prospect of pardons, are concessions that previous, interim governments had avoided. The statements marked the first time a leader from Iraq's governing Shiite religious parties has publicly embraced national reconciliation, welcomed dialogue with armed groups and proposed a limited amnesty. [complete article]

See also, In Iraq, 60 British soldiers a month suffer mental illness (The Indepedent).

Cost of taking life in Iraq put at $2.40
By Stephen Fidler, Financial Times, June 14, 2006

Cheap, high-quality ammunition is becoming widely available on the Baghdad black market, much of it smuggled in from eastern Europe, according to a report published on Thursday by Oxfam.

In a section of a report on the global ammunition market, the charity says the price of bullets for AK-47 assault rifles has fallen to an average of $0.30 (€0.24, £0.16) in Baghdad. This compares with $1.50 a round in Somalia during recent fighting. [complete article]
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Judge rules that U.S. has broad powers to detain noncitizens indefinitely
By Nina Bernstein, New York Times, June 15, 2006

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain noncitizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin, and to hold them indefinitely without explanation.

The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants detained after 9/11, and it dismissed several key claims the detainees had made against the government. But the judge, John Gleeson of United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, allowed the lawsuit to continue on other claims, mostly that the conditions of confinement were abusive and unconstitutional. Judge Gleeson's decision requires top federal officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, to answer to those accusations under oath.

This is the first time a federal judge has addressed the issue of discrimination in the treatment of hundreds of Muslim immigrants who were swept up in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks and held for months before they were cleared of links to terrorism and deported. The roundups drew intense criticism, not only from immigrant rights advocates, but also from the inspector general of the Justice Department, who issued reports saying that the government had made little or no effort to distinguish between genuine suspects and Muslim immigrants with minor visa violations.

Lawyers in the suit, who vowed to appeal yesterday's decision, said parts of the ruling could potentially be used far more broadly, to detain any noncitizen in the United States for any reason.

"This decision is a green light to racial profiling and prolonged detention of noncitizens at the whim of the president," said Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the detainees. "The decision is profoundly disturbing because it legitimizes the fact that the Bush administration rounded up and imprisoned our clients because of their religion and race." [complete article]
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The terrorism index
Foreign Policy & The Center For American Progress, July/August, 2006

Is the United States winning the war on terror? Not according to more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy hands. They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans understandably rallied around the flag. Having just suffered the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil, huge percentages believed another attack was imminent. But Americans also had enormous faith that the Global War on Terror would help keep them safe. Just one month after 9/11, for instance, 94 percent of Americans told an ABC News/Washington Post poll that they approved of how the fight against terrorism was being handled. The United States then quickly went to war in Afghanistan, closing down a terrorist sanctuary and capturing or killing a number of high-level al Qaeda operatives in the process. [complete article]
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U.S. silence on Egypt betrays democracy activists
By Jeffrey Azarva, Baltimore Sun, June 15, 2006

The party headquarters of former Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour burned down in a suspicious fire this month. Mr. Nour is serving a five-year prison term, his appeals against spurious fraud charges exhausted.

What a difference a year makes.

Just a year ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the American University in Cairo and proclaimed that a "hopeful future is within reach of every Egyptian citizen. ... You are not alone. All free nations are your allies." The democratic winds appeared to sweep Cairo when President Hosni Mubarak acquiesced to multicandidate presidential elections for the first time in the Arab republic's history.

But just nine months after Mr. Mubarak won his fourth term, he ended the Egyptian government's experiment with democracy. When he arrested Mr. Nour, the U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Francis J. Ricciardone, declined to comment. Mr. Mubarak saw a green light to accelerate his crackdown. [complete article]
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Jihadist or victim: ex-detainee makes a case
By Tim Golden, New York Times, June 15, 2006

When President Bush ordered Moazzam Begg's release last year from the Guantánamo prison camp, United States officials say, he did so over objections from the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. -- all of which warned that Mr. Begg could still be a dangerous terrorist.

But American officials may not have imagined the sort of adversary Mr. Begg would become in the war of perception that is now a primary front in the American-led campaign against terrorism.

"The issue here is: Apply the law," Mr. Begg told an audience earlier this spring at the Oxford Literary Festival in England, one of many stops on a continuing lecture tour. "If I've committed a crime, we say, take this to court. After all of that, if they can't produce something in court, then shame on them!"

With a new book about his experiences and a small blizzard of media attention, Mr. Begg, a 37-year-old Briton of Pakistani descent, has emerged over the last few months as a minor celebrity in his home country. [complete article]

Comment -- In as much as many Americans have accepted the necessity of imprisoning "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo, the basis for doing so has most often been an uncritical acceptance of the government's characterization of terrorists -- as though someone's character, intentions, actions, and legal rights, could accurately and adequately be captured by the description: bad guy. Ironically, it is clearly evident to those working closely with the captives that a more nuanced view of who they are is in order. Moazzam Begg's interrogators dubbed him "Hemmingway" (as in, a foreign fighter joining the Spanish Civil War) -- not exactly the epithet you would expect being used to describe one of the baddest of the bad. One of his interrogators said Begg was "more of a romantic than some sort of ideologically steeled fighter." The same could probably have been said for John Walker Lindh.

Tim Golden's carefully researched piece makes it clear that there are plenty of unanswered questions about Moazzam Begg yet the most appropriate place these should have been answered was in a court room. The fact that the Bush administration has gone to such lengths to avoid presenting legal evidence against any of the detainees merely reinforces the widely held view that it lacks such evidence.
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Journalists forced off Guantanamo
By James Rainey, Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2006

Editors at the Los Angeles Times and two other newspapers protested the Pentagon decision to expel their reporters Wednesday from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the journalists were reporting on the weekend suicides of three prisoners.

Journalists from The Times, the Miami Herald and the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer had received permission from the prison's commander to be at the U.S. facility, where terrorism suspects are held and interrogated. The three reporters and an Observer photographer left the island Wednesday on orders from the Pentagon. [complete article]

Bush faces dilemma over demands to close Guantanamo Bay
By Jonathan S. Landay and Marisa Taylor, Knight Ridder, June 14, 2006

President Bush reiterated Wednesday that he'd like to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but his administration is facing an awkward political and legal quandary over what to do with the estimated 460 detainees being held there.

Anger over the administration's detention policies, coupled with allegations of prisoner abuse, the force-feeding of hunger strikers and riots at the facility, have caused even some close allies to demand its closure and hobbled the administration's ability to promote democracy and human rights overseas.

Saturday's suicides of three inmates further sullied the United States' image and provoked new calls for shuttering the prison, a demand that Bush will hear again next week from his European counterparts at a summit in Vienna, Austria. [complete article]

See also, Editors of expelled Gitmo reporters criticize move (E&P), Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees decry expulsion of journalists (KR), Briton could be 'next dead body' at Guantanamo (The Guardian), and Delegation seeks release of Afghans being held at Guantanamo (NYT).
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North Korea 'to test long-range missile'
By Justin McCurry, The Guardian, June 15, 2006

Speculation mounted on Thursday that North Korea is preparing to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The South Korean TV network KBS, citing an unnamed government official, said the north was within a week of being ready to launch a Taepodong-2 missile that can strike Japan and parts of the western US.

South Korea is understood to have urged its neighbour not to go ahead with the test, which could take place as soon as the launch pad is completed and the missile injected with solid fuel. Test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile would cast doubt on the future of six-party talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

On Wednesday the US ambassador to Seoul, Alexander Vershbow, warned that Washington would take "appropriate measures" should the launch go ahead. Those could include tightening its squeeze on alleged North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting operations. [complete article]
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"We want peace and stability"
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya interviewed by Der Spiegel, June 12, 2006

Haniya: We're not talking about ink and paper, but about the experiences of recent years. Despite agreements, treaties and acknowledgments, the Palestinian people remain a people suffering from poverty, injustice and occupation. There are 475 military roadblocks in the West Bank. The region is divided into cantons. A wall is being built that will incorporate large parts of our territory into Israel. An embargo has been imposed on the entire Gaza Strip. The Jewish settlements are being expanded and the Jordan Valley annexed. We don't want to sign another document, we want to improve the situation of the Palestinian people. [complete article]

Palestinians mount violent protest over lack of paychecks
By Ian Fisher, New York Times, June 15, 2006

Palestinian civil servants stormed the parliament building in the West Bank on Wednesday demanding back pay and chanting "We are hungry!"

Fistfights broke out as protesters hurled plastic water bottles at legislators from Hamas, the militant group that controls parliament, forcing the speaker to flee the building.

It was the second violent protest this week at parliament, in Ramallah, and underscored growing pressure on the Hamas government on several fronts. [complete article]

Hamas minister takes $20m into Gaza
By Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, June 15, 2006

The Palestinian foreign minister returned from a trip abroad to the Gaza Strip yesterday with an estimated $20m (£11m) packed in 12 separate suitcases, according to officials.

Mahmoud Zahar, a member of Hamas, declared the amount he was carrying to Egyptian officials at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The cash was held by Palestinian border guards who are commanded by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian government has had great difficulty paying the wages of around 165,000 staff since Hamas took control of it. Most have received no salary for three months although some of the lowest-paid have received a fraction. [complete article]
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Iran and the 'OPEC with bombs'
By Daniel Kimmage, Asia Times, June 15, 2006

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) celebrates its fifth anniversary with a summit of member states' leaders in Shanghai on Thursday.

Last year's summit, in Kazakhstan, was notable for a declaration asking members of the "anti-terrorist coalition" to provide a time frame for the withdrawal of military forces from SCO territory. The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

It was a pointed reference to US military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Only two weeks later, Uzbekistan evicted the United States from its Karshi-Khanabad air base.

This year, the summit will open against a backdrop of reports that Iran, which currently holds observer status in the SCO (along with India, Mongolia and Pakistan), is looking to become a full-fledged member. India has sent its influential oil minister, Murli Deora. [complete article]
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Iran quietly learns of penalties in a nuclear incentives deal
By Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad, New York Times, June 15, 2006

When a formal incentives package by six nations to encourage Iran to curb its nuclear program was presented in writing in Tehran last week, it omitted a long list of potential punishments should Iran reject it, according to senior officials familiar with the package.

Instead, it was left to Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, to deliver news about the sticks -- only orally.

In a one-on-one meeting without aides, Mr. Solana told Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian negotiator, that there would be "serious consequences" against Iran in the United Nations Security Council if Iran did not suspend key nuclear activities and embrace the offer, the officials added.

The decision to focus on the benefits for Iran and to leave no paper trail about possible penalties reflects a new international negotiating strategy toward Iran. [complete article]
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Iran bombs Iraq
By Graeme Wood, Slate, June 12, 2006

The very large potential bombs being built in Iran, as well as the somewhat smaller real bombs detonating in Baghdad, have distracted attention from the pitiless barrage of medium-sized ones that Iran lobbed into Iraq last month. In the first week of May, the Iranian military sent hundreds of artillery shells and Katyusha rockets whistling over the mountaintops into Iraq's Qandil region. As soon as the blasts began, most of the local villagers jumped into Land Cruisers, pickups, and tractors and fled for the nearby cities of Qala'at-Diza and Raniya. They came back a week later and found many of their sheep blown up or starving to death.

Iran had little interest in the sheep, or, for that matter, in the Iraqi Kurds whose villages they destroyed. Tehran was aiming at the Iranian Kurdish guerrillas who during the last two years have become Tehran's most noisome domestic pest and who openly seek ways to become an international irritant as well. The Iranian Kurds hate the conservative, ethnically Persian government, and they want federal autonomy in Iran to match their Iraqi Kurdish cousins' arrangement next door. To prove they're serious, the Kurds have rioted nonstop in Iran's Kurdistan province since 2005, and snipers from the Kurdistan Free Life Party (known as PJAK), the Iranian Kurdish guerrilla movement, have even been taking potshots at Iran's Revolutionary Guards, killing dozens. [complete article]
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Mogadishu's unfamiliar calm
By Rob Crilly, Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2006

Ir-Togt gun bazaar takes its name from the sound of AK-47 assault rifles being fired into the air as buyers test the merchandise.

But today its streets are quiet.

"This is an American gun - an M16. And there, those are all Russian," says Ali Mohamed, smiling to reveal a mouth filled with metal teeth. He has sold rifles and ammunition to all sides in the anarchy of Mogadishu ever since the collapse of President Siad Barre's brutal regime in 1991.

Things have never been so quiet, he says. Two weeks ago AK-47s sold for $550 as fresh fighting consumed the city. This week, he cannot move them for $350. [complete article]

U.S. calls hasty meeting to seek Somalia solution
By Helene Cooper, New York Times, June 14, 2006

American officials will sit down with their European counterparts on Thursday to try to come up with an answer to this central question: Is there anyone left in Mogadishu, Somalia, with whom the United States can do business?

The hurriedly-convened "Contact Group" meeting in New York represents an effort by the State Department to piece together a new policy for dealing with Somalia after more than a decade of neglect. The State Department is trying to wrest control for Somalia policy from the Central Intelligence Agency, on grounds that an approach that has consisted largely of C.I.A. payments to Somali warlords has been counterproductive. [complete article]
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Malaysia: Minorities wary of Islamist overtures
By Baradan Kuppusamy, IPS (via Asia Times), June 15, 2006

The opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) is making promises of "justice and equality" to the country's non-Muslims in an appeal to broaden its electoral support base in anticipation of general elections next year.

Non-Muslims, including Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups that make up 40% of Malaysia's 26 million people, though deeply desirous of political change, through their voting behavior have historically been suspicious of the fundamentalist PAS's political agenda.

The PAS's new strategy seeks to convince non-Muslims that the party now aims to protect and preserve other cultures, traditions and religions. Moderate Muslim and non-Muslim voters punished PAS during the 2004 general election, where the party managed to retain just seven of its previous 27 seats in parliament. So bad was the drubbing that PAS opposition leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, lost his parliamentary seat. [complete article]
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Indonesia strikes back at Islamist hardliners
By Gary LaMoshi, Asia Times, June 14, 2006

Last week was a rough one for jihadis in Indonesia. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration launched a long-overdue comprehensive campaign against violent Islamic extremists. In the country with the world's most Muslims, the outcome of Yudhoyono's initiative could prove far more significant in the global war for the hearts and minds of Muslims than the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Since the fall of General Suharto's New Order regime in 1998, Islamic extremists have asserted their right to enjoy the fruits of democracy and impose the will of Indonesia's Muslim majority as they presume to interpret it. They're unperturbed that most Indonesians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, oppose their agenda. These radicals are no democrats. Politically educated under Suharto's reign of physical intimidation and intolerance of dissent, they merely wish to substitute their own version of autocracy and repression. [complete article]
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The fast-fading luster of the American story
By Nathan Gardels and Mike Medavoy, IHT, June 14, 2006

If culture is on the front line of global affairs, then Hollywood, as much as the Pentagon or Silicon Valley, has a starring role.

The reasons for Hollywood's power, which projects America's way of life to others as well as to ourselves, are clear.

Long before celluloid and pixels were invented, Plato understood that "those who tell the stories also rule." Philosophers tell us that images rule dreams, and dreams rule actions. And if music sets the mood for the multitudes, the warblings of Sinatra and Madonna are surely the muzak of the world order.

This vast influence of American culture in the world is what Harvard professor Joseph Nye has called "soft power."

Now, however, we are witnessing a mounting resistance, particularly from Asia and the Muslim world, to the American medium's libertarian and secular messages.

There is also resistance to the mere fact of America's overwhelming cultural dominance. Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit, has put it directly: "Between Vietnam and Iraq, America's cultural presence has expanded into ubiquity, and so has resentment of America. Soft power does not necessarily increase the world's love for America. It is still power, and it still makes enemies."

If, as Nye has said, politics in the information age is about whose story wins, America's story, which has won for so long, is losing its universal appeal. [complete article]
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Iraq mulls amnesty offer to insurgents
By Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, June 13, 2006

The Iraqi government is preparing a national reconciliation initiative that could include a conditional amnesty offer and negotiations with some armed insurgent groups to be implemented alongside a tougher security plan. [complete article]

Crackdown announced for Baghdad
By Joshua Partlow and Hasan Shammari, Washington Post, June 14, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's month-old government rolled out its first major initiative against violence on Tuesday, announcing tighter crackdowns in the capital city in an attempt to combat killings and kidnappings.

The plan imposes curfews from roughly dusk to dawn each day and prohibits cars from moving on the streets for four hours during midday on Fridays, when many Muslims attend prayers in mosques. Residents will not be allowed to carry guns outside their homes, and more patrols and checkpoints are planned to raise the visibility of the military.
Although some news reports trumpeted the security crackdown, it appeared the measures were a tightening and refinement of existing measures. For years, checkpoints and curfews have restricted movement in Baghdad. Many residents have welcomed a greater number of checkpoints lately for the protection they bring against the many armed men roaming the city. [complete article]
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Poll: U.S. troops in Iraq seen by Europe, Muslim nations as danger to Mideast
AP (via USA Today), June 14, 2006

The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is a greater threat to Mideast stability than the government in Iran, according to a poll of European and Muslim countries.

People in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Russia rated America's continuing involvement in Iraq a worse problem than Iran and its nuclear ambitions, according to polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Views of U.S. troops in Iraq were even more negative in countries like Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan.

America's image rebounded in some countries last year after the U.S. offered aid to tsunami victims, but those gains have disappeared, the Pew poll found. [complete article]

See also, Pew Global Attitudes report (PDF) and U.S. costs for Iraq war top $320bn (The Guardian).
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Dozens die in timed attacks aimed at top Kirkuk officials
By Richard A. Oppel and Khalid al-Ansary, New York Times, June 14, 2006

Insurgents unleashed a volley of bombings across the northern oil city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, killing more than two dozen Iraqis in morning rush hour attacks that were aimed at top police officials and security patrols, authorities there said.

The attacks came after what the local authorities described as the capture and elimination several days ago of a major terrorist cell.

While Kirkuk has been the scene of a number of assassinations and other violence, the six bombings on Tuesday represented an attack of unusual coordination that local security officials suggested might have been retaliation for the arrest of the cell's members or intended as a signal that the insurgency in the city remained strong. [complete article]
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A prison we need to escape
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, June 14, 2006

When I hear U.S. officials describe the suicides of three Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay last Saturday as "asymmetric warfare" and "a good PR move," I know it's time to close that camp -- not just because of what it's doing to the prisoners but because of how it is dehumanizing the American captors.

The American officials spoke of the dead prisoners as if they inhabited a different moral universe. That's what war does: People stop seeing their enemies as human beings and consign them to a different category. It was discomfiting to see this indifference stated so bluntly, and subsequent U.S. statements tactfully disavowed the initial ones. [complete article]

Detainees in despair
By Mourad Benchellali, New York Times, June 14, 2006

I was released from the United States military's prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in July 2004. As I was about to board a plane that would take me home to France, the last detainee I saw was a young Yemeni. He was overwhelmed by emotion.

"In your country, Mourad, there are rights, human rights, and they mean something," he said. "In mine they mean nothing, and no one cares. So when you're free, don't forget what you've been through. Tell people that we are here." [complete article]

See also, Family of Guantanamo detainee doubts he took his own life (WP).
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The shrapnel evidence that points to Israel's guilt
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, June 14, 2006

Israel has dismissed continuing calls for an independent international inquiry into the beachfront explosion which killed seven members of a Palestinian family in Gaza last Friday after its own internal military investigation decided it was not responsible for the blast.

As the military investigation team insisted that artillery fire had stopped by the time the explosion occurred and suggested it had been caused by a bomb planted in the sand, Amir Peretz, the Defence Minister, declared: " The accumulating evidence proves that this incident was not due to Israeli forces."

But the official interpretation was strongly challenged by a former Pentagon battle damage expert who has surveyed the scene of the beach explosion. He said yesterday that "all the evidence points" to a 155mm Israeli land-based artillery shell as its cause. [complete article]

Israeli missiles kill 10 in Gaza
By Steven Erlanger and Ian Fisher, New York Times, June 14, 2006

Eight Palestinian civilians were killed and more than 40 wounded Tuesday by an Israeli missile strike on Islamic militants riding in a van that Israeli officials said was carrying rockets to launch at Israel. Two men in the van were also killed, including a man the Israelis consider an important rocket maker.

The officials said the strike had prevented more of what has been a rising number of Palestinian missile attacks launched from Gaza. But the civilian casualties further inflamed Palestinian rage over eight deaths last week on a beach from what residents said was an errant Israeli shell. Seven of the dead were from one family. [complete article]
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Abbas rejects Israel's plan for state with provisional borders
By Akiva Eldar, Avi Issacharoff and Aluf Ben, Haaretz, June 14, 2006

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has rejected an Israeli plan for a Palestinian state with provisional borders, the PLO's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam on Wednesday.

The new Israeli plan was first revealed by Haaretz on Wednesday.

According to Erekat, the only viable option for peace is Israel's withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

In light of the international opposition to further unilateral steps by Israel, the government had begun to draft an alternative plan that would essentially convert Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's unilateral convergence plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank into a bilateral move carried out in conjunction with Abbas. [complete article]
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Shaken Palestinian lawmakers return to work
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2006

Palestinian lawmakers returned to work amid an uneasy calm Tuesday after factional clashes stirred fears that rising tensions could spill into civil war.

Back-and-forth violence a day earlier between the Hamas and Fatah movements left two people dead and government buildings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip heavily damaged. Amid the disorder, Fatah gunmen briefly kidnapped and beat a Hamas lawmaker.

Broken glass and smashed computers littered the ground at the Hamas-led parliament in Ramallah, where members of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, had gone on a nighttime rampage. [complete article]
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U.S. insists on right to develop arms for outer space
By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, June 13, 2006

The United States on Tuesday reasserted its right to develop weapons for use in outer space to protect its military and commercial satellites and ruled out any global negotiations on a new treaty to limit them.

In a speech to the Conference on Disarmament, a senior State Department arms control official insisted that such weapons systems would be purely defensive.

Washington sees no need for negotiations to prevent an arms race in space as a 40-year-old international treaty banning weapons of mass destruction in space remains adequate, he said.

John Mohanco, deputy director of the office of multilateral, nuclear and security affairs, said the United States faced a threat of attacks from the earth or from other countries' spacecraft. He did not name any potential attackers. [complete article]
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Rethinking nuclear safeguards
By Mohamed ElBaradei, Washington Post, June 14, 2006

In regard to nuclear proliferation and arms control, the fundamental problem is clear: Either we begin finding creative, outside-the-box solutions or the international nuclear safeguards regime will become obsolete.

For this reason, I have been calling for new approaches in a number of areas. First, a recommitment to disarmament -- a move away from national security strategies that rely on nuclear weapons, which serve as a constant stimulus for other nations to acquire them. Second, tightened controls on the proliferation-sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. By bringing multinational control to any operation that enriches uranium or separates plutonium, we can lower the risk of these materials being diverted to weapons. A parallel step would be to create a mechanism to ensure a reliable supply of reactor fuel to bona fide users, including a fuel bank under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The third area has been more problematic: how to deal creatively with the three countries that remain outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): Pakistan and India, both holders of nuclear arsenals, and Israel, which maintains an official policy of ambiguity but is believed to be nuclear-weapons-capable. However fervently we might wish it, none of these three is likely to give up its nuclear weapons or the nuclear weapons option outside of a global or regional arms control framework. Our traditional strategy -- of treating such states as outsiders -- is no longer a realistic method of bringing these last few countries into the fold. [complete article
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Stir over Iran president's trip to 'terror' conference
By Geoff Dyer and Andrew Yeh, Financial Times, June 13, 2006

A central Asian summit to discuss security issues is likely to be overshadowed by the presence of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the controversial president of Iran, who arrives in Shanghai on Wednesday.

He will be an observer at Thursday's summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. The five-year-old grouping is one of China's first attempts at playing a bigger diplomatic role in the region but it is prompting growing concern in the US.

Much attention will be focused on how China and Russia behave towards Iran and whether the countries discuss Iran's nuclear fuel programme on the sidelines.

China and Russia, both members of the United Nations Security Council, have been much less keen than the US or European governments to seek tougher action against Iran's nuclear programme. [complete article]
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'Iranophobia' in the Mideast
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, June 13, 2006

Sheikh Zaidan al Awad of the Abu Jaber tribe, dressed in a traditional robe and checkered headdress, put on his reading glasses to check a text message. He comes from Iraq's war-torn Anbar province, but when the sheikh met with me in Jordan last week, he was staying in touch with his people by cell phone. We'd been talking about the death of Al Qaeda's Abu Musssab al Zarqawi, who murdered four of the sheikh's cousins. (The sheikh said his men then killed 11 of Zarqawi's followers.) And we talked about the U.S. occupation forces. ("Now Zarqawi is gone, what is their excuse?" he demanded.) The sheikh has plenty of room in his heart to hate both the late Abu Mussab and the Americans. [complete article]
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Hero's welcome for freed Bali bomb cleric
By Simon Freeman, The Times, June 14, 2006

Abu Bakar Bashir, the reputed founder of the Jemaah Islamiyah network, was released today after 26 months in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings which killed 202 people.

Around 150 supporters gathered with police and journalists outside Jakarta's Cipinang prison to welcome their leader's release with cries of "Allah Akbar [God is Great]".

Wearing his trademark white skullcap and spectacles, the bearded 68-year-old attempted to give a speech to the crowd but his voice was drowned out by cheers. "I thank Allah that I am free today," he said, smiling broadly.

The radical cleric, seen as the inspiration to a generation of young Muslim militants, added: "I call on all Muslims to unite behind one goal, that is the implementation of Sharia [Islamic] law," before ducking into a waiting car. [complete article]
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Large Afghan offensive begins
AP (via, June 14, 2006

The U.S.-led coalition is unleashing more than 11,000 troops to attack militants in the southern mountains of Afghanistan, the biggest offensive since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The push starting Thursday by U.S., British, Canadian and Afghan troops aims to squeeze Taliban fighters in four volatile provinces. It will focus on southern Uruzgan and northeastern Helmand, where the military says most of the forces are massed.

The offensive comes amid Afghan and coalition efforts to curb the fiercest Taliban-led violence since the hard-line Islamic government was toppled for harboring Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. [complete article]

Afghan province to provide one-third of world's heroin
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, June 14, 2006

The Afghanistan province being patrolled by British troops will produce at least a third of the world's heroin this year, according to drug experts who are forecasting a record harvest that will be an embarrassment for the western-funded war on narcotics.

British officials are bracing themselves for the result of an annual UN poppy survey due later this summer. Early indications show an increase on Helmand's 1999 record of 45,000 hectares (112,500 acres) and a near-doubling of last year's crop.

"It's going to be massive," said one British drugs official. "My guess is it's going to be the biggest ever." [complete article]
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Muslim shot in London terror case says police offered no ID or warning
By Alan Cowell, New York Times, June 14, 2006

A 23-year-old Muslim man who was shot and wounded during what the police have described as a counterterrorism operation said Tuesday that the officers had not identified themselves and had given no warning before opening fire at close range and beating him.

The account of the raid by the man, Muhammed Abdul Kahar, was the first detailed version of events offered to the public since officers on June 2 burst into the East London row house he shares with his family. Some 250 officers had surrounded the house, and the police operation was presented by the authorities as a major strike against terrorism suspects thought to be building some form of chemical bomb.

Mr. Kahar and his 20-year-old brother, Abul Koyair, were arrested and held for a week. But their release without charge further dented confidence in the police among some British Muslims and prompted fresh calls for the London police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, to resign. [complete article]

See also, Mohammed Abdulkahar tells the story of terror raid that backfired (The Independent).
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Adviser has president's ear as she keeps eyes on Iraq
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, June 13, 2006

At the end of each day, President Bush gets a three-to-four-page memo from the National Security Council staff about developments over the previous 24 hours in Iraq. The document, said to be written in the crisp, compelling style that the president prefers, can cover a range of issues -- the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, new nominees for cabinet posts or the progress, or lack of it, in ending the three-year insurgency.

The person responsible for the memo is someone who is largely unknown outside the administration, but who colleagues say is instrumental in shaping Mr. Bush's views: Meghan L. O'Sullivan, the 36-year-old deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the most senior official working on those nations full time at the White House. [complete article]

Comment -- If Meghan O'Sullivan is so instrumental in shaping Bush's views, I have to wonder what he (and she) would say about a policy brief she wrote back in February 2001 when she was a fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. This is the abstract:
Ten years after the Gulf War, Iraq constitutes a much-reduced challenge to U.S. interests in the Gulf region. Military and economic measures have deterred Saddam Hussein -- the initiator of the Iran-Iraq War and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait -- from embarking on further acts of external aggression over the past decade. Iraqi military capabilities have not been restored to pre-Gulf War levels. Nevertheless, the picture is not all positive. The ability of the United States to ensure that Iraq remains a negligible threat is fast eroding. Complicating the administration's efforts in Iraq is the deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has seriously reduced both American standing in the region and Arab willingness to support a punitive approach toward Saddam. For these reasons, President Bush should act quickly to craft a modified Iraq policy which commands broader international support while continuing to stem the Iraqi threat.
In the text of the policy brief, O'Sullivan continues [emphases mine]:
First, the United States should supplement its efforts at the United Nations with a clarification of its own declaratory policy toward Iraq. A sensible declaratory stance would have two components. It would begin by stating a clear U.S. preference for regime change in Iraq, equating this position with the American desire not only for democracy and good governance there, but with the belief that regime change would be the most expeditious way for Iraq to reclaim its rightful place in the international community. Such statements should be accompanied by an explicit U.S. commitment to support the lifting of sanctions, lobby for forgiveness of Iraq's debts, and provide generous reconstruction aid if the new regime in Baghdad respected international norms and adhered to UN resolutions.

However, in addition to articulating a "pro-Iraq" preference for regime change in its declaratory policy, the United States should confirm its own commitment to comply with UNSC resolutions on Iraq. In particular, President Bush should stipulate that if Iraq -- even under the rule of Saddam Hussein -- fully complies with all elements of UNSC resolution 1284, the United States will not block the lifting of non-military sanctions.

After many years during which U.S. policy toward Iraq was often at odds with UN resolutions, a pronouncement to this effect would be an important way of assuring the international community that the United States prefers a multilateral Iraq policy to a unilateral one.
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Meet the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, June 14, 2006

Al-Qaeda caught terrorism experts and intelligence agencies around the world by surprise on Tuesday by naming Abu Hamza al-Muhajir to succeed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader killed in Iraq last week.

In a communique released on the Internet, al-Qaeda said Muhajir had been unanimously selected by the Shura Council of the Mujahideen, a coalition of six Sunni insurgency groups created by Zarqawi in January.

Some immediately speculated that the communique was a bluff, so obscure was the name.

However, Asia Times Online can confirm, via sources in Syria and Iraq, that Muhajir certainly does exist. He is an "intellectual" intelligence commander in al-Qaeda, not a hands-on military leader like Zarqawi. As the new commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he will be more of a "political prince". [complete article]

The terrorist
By Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, June 12, 2006

Zarqawi was the herald of a new generation of terrorists whose roots were in street crime, not in Islamic militancy. A former thief and sex offender, he memorized the Koran while he was in prison, and began issuing fatwas and calling himself "sheikh." "There's certainly been a downgrading of ideological purity," Niall Brennan, a special agent on the joint terrorism task force in the New York office of the F.B.I., told me on the morning that Zarqawi's death was announced. "The next generation is in many respects less disciplined and doesn't have the same respect for command and control." Bin Laden, despite his own appetite for slaughter, disdained Zarqawi's rough manners, prison tattoos, and unruly independence. But after the American invasion of Afghanistan Al Qaeda's founders were immobilized, reduced to making occasional videotapes designed to rouse aspiring jihadis and berate Western leaders. Deprived of the managerial oversight of bin Laden, an international businessman, Al Qaeda began to shape itself around Zarqawi's organizational experience, which is to say that it turned into a gang. This was a model easily replicated by would-be jihadis -- as in Madrid, London, Toronto -- wherever alienated young Muslims yearned for destruction. [complete article]

The new Zarqawi myth
By Loretta Napoleoni,, June 12, 2006

The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi triggered al-Qaeda's latest propaganda war. Key figures rushed to celebrate his martyrdom. Even Mullah Omar, the former leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, emerged from his "prolonged isolation" to praise him on the Web. He called for thousand young Muslims to emulate his heroic life. Exploiting Zarqawi's proletarian origins, he declared that anybody could achieve his greatness. All is needed is commitment and belief. Thus, the shaping of a new myth has already begun. [complete article]

See also, Zarqawi group vows to press attacks (WP) and Attack near Zarqawi house kills nine (The Guardian).
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Zarqawi attack put Jordan hot on his trail
By Borzou Daragahi and Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2006

Counter-terrorism experts say the influx of Jordanian intelligence assets produced results in Iraq almost immediately, with the number of arrests of key Al Qaeda operatives jumping noticeably. Americans' understanding of Zarqawi's network and its role in the insurgency and attacks outside Iraq also picked up, officials said.

Iraq's new intelligence services, formed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, lack experience and technology, but Jordan's have both in abundance.

"The Jordanians are top-drawer, probably the best counter-terrorism force in the world," said Alexis Debat, a former French Defense Ministry official who now is a counter-terrorism consultant and senior fellow for national security and terrorism at the Nixon Center in Washington.

"Any network they put their mind to destroying is gone." [complete article]

Next target: Zarqawi's global web
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, June 12, 2006

American investigators are exploiting the intelligence bonanza found in the rural safe house north of Baghdad where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed last Wednesday.

Analysts say that the memory sticks, hard drives, and documents found there and at some 56 other sites raided after the Jordanian militant's death are likely to damage Mr. Zarqawi's networks. The US military describes the finds as a "treasure trove."

The new intelligence leads could uncover terrorist operations far afield from Iraq - particularly in Europe - as Zarqawi had begun to piece together a much wider network of militants, experts say.

"The US government will have a firm understanding of Zarqawi's network, not only in Iraq, but Zarqawi's global network," says Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore. "Zarqawi had penetrated at least 20 European countries, Canada, ... and even established cells in Southeast Asia." [complete article]

Comment -- If killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was really such a "big deal" as President Bush claims it was, wouldn't he have been worth much more alive than dead? And wouldn't the potential intelligence reward from keeping his capture secret (at least for a while) have far outweighed the propaganda value from announcing the success? If Zarqawi could be the key to unlocking a global terrorist network, wouldn't an operation that netted a few dozen terrorists end up looking much more impressive than the elimination of the network's leader? (Besides which, from a legal and ethical viewpoint, isn't capture necessarily preferable to targeted killing?)

If the Bush administration prized the propaganda above the intelligence, it's probably not the first time this has happened. In 2004, the outing of al Qaeda computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan soon led to accusations that the White House was sabotaging its own war on terror.

This time around, I'm inclined to think that the intelligence bonanza was never anticipated as being that large. And the fact that Christian Science Monitor's, Scott Peterson, could cite a "terrorism expert" to back up the military's claim just goes to show whatever the claim, there's always an expert -- however dubious -- who's only too happy to step up and paste on a veneer of authority.
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In Baghdad, a show of solidarity - and force
By Charles Crain, Time, June 13, 2006

President Bush's arrival in Baghdad Tuesday caught Iraqis off guard, as the U.S. had planned. But these days it takes more than a visit from the American President to shock them. Coverage of Bush's arrival competed with continuing media coverage of World Cup soccer for the attention of Iraqis. And after the electric response last week to the death of Jordanian arch-terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the news of Bush's first visit in nearly three years was met with little excitement.

Life in Baghdad went on as usual -- heavy traffic in sweltering heat, Kalashnikov-toting Iraqi police cruising the streets in flatbed trucks, the occasional crack of distant gunfire. In Kirkuk car bombs killed more than a dozen people. In the capital more bodies turned up in the streets. [complete article]
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How Gaza could turn into Mogadishu
By Tony Karon, Time, June 12, 2006

Looking at the looming train wreck in Palestinian politics -- and in the Palestinians' relations with Israel -- it's hard to imagine that any of the protagonists has gamed out the implications of their positions.

The U.S. and Europe are using financial strangulation as a tactic to oust the Hamas government and resurrect a discredited Fatah regime in the hope that it can cut a deal with Israel; President Mahmoud Abbas is playing a game of political chicken with Hamas, while Hamas is trying to combine the mutually exclusive options of responsible governance and armed struggle. Israel, for its part, has no faith in negotiations with the Palestinian leadership and has made clear it plans to unilaterally redraw its borders; all the while, it is responding to rockets fired from Gaza with military strikes. But the sum total of all of these pressures may spell the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, leaving Israel living alongside a chaotic political entity not altogether unlike Somalia: awash with guns, broken into mini-fiefdoms ruled by unstable coalitions of warlords, and fertile soil for al-Qaeda. [complete article]

Violence erupts between Fatah and Hamas
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, June 13, 2006

Hundreds of Palestinian security personnel loyal to the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, went on a rampage Monday night in the West Bank town of Ramallah, attacking the parliament and cabinet buildings controlled by his rivals in the Hamas-led government.

The attack by forces from the Fatah faction loyal to Mr. Abbas, who fired bullets at the buildings and set them on fire, came after Hamas gunmen attacked the Gaza headquarters of the Fatah-dominated security forces with rockets and grenades.

The Ramallah buildings were not occupied at the time, but the fire gutted a floor of one of the two cabinet buildings after the security forces, joined by gunmen from Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, part of the Fatah movement, shot out the windows of the parliament building and tried to prevent firefighters from entering the area. [complete article]

IDF: not enough time to stop second missile
By Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz, June 13, 2006

Nine Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday in an Air Force strike on a Katyusha-launching cell in Gaza City. Seven of those killed were civilians, including two children and three medical personnel. [complete article]

Blair refuses to back Olmert's West Bank plan
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, June 13, 2006

Tony Blair refused yesterday to endorse publicly the plan by the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank. [complete article]

Blair risks Arab anger by backing Israeli plan to impose new border
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor, and Stephen Farrell, The Times, June 13, 2006

Ehud Olmert, Israel's new Prime Minister, was in jubilant mood last night after Tony Blair gave him tacit approval to move forward on the next stage of his controversial unilateral withdrawal plan. [complete article]
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Oil, politics and bloodshed corrupt Basra
By Sabrina Tavernise and Qais Mizher, New York Times, June 13, 2006

Politics, once seen as a solution to the problems of a society broken by years of brutal single-party rule, has paralyzed the heart of Iraq's south.

This once-quiet city of riverside promenades was among the most receptive to the American invasion. Now, three years later, it is being pulled apart by Shiite political parties that want to control the region and its biggest prize, oil. But in today's Iraq, politics and power flow from the guns of militias, and negotiating has been a bloody process.

"We're into political porridge, that's what's changed," said Brig. James Everard, commander of the British forces in Basra. "It's mafia-type politics down here."

Police reports from the past five months read like war chronicles: Eight oil company employees murdered. Twenty caches of Russian rockets discovered, including a pile in the back of an ambulance. A tank of stolen oil found in a fake mosque. Shootouts reported between a politician's militia and the police, and between police officers.

Now, after two years of relative calm, Basra has a soaring murder rate (the 85 killings in May were nearly triple the number in January), a tattered oil industry and a terrified population. [complete article]
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Series of explosions kills 20 in northern Iraq
By Omar Fekeiki, Washington Post, June 13, 2006

Two high-level Iraqi police officials narrowly escaped death this morning in a series of suicide attacks that left 20 people slain and scores more wounded.

The explosions targeted police commanders, police stations and patrols, as well as a busy food market in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said.

Seven police officers were among the dead.

The first attack occurred early in the morning when a suicide attacker drove a car into the house of Col. Taha Salahudeen, chief of the biggest police station in central Kirkuk. [complete article]
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Iran seeks talks but rejects nuclear freeze
By Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, June 12, 2006

Iran has begun a public campaign that appears to be aimed at nudging the six nations that have offered a package of incentives into negotiations over its nuclear program without first freezing its efforts to make nuclear fuel.

Iran's potential negotiating partners -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- have demanded that it suspend its uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities before they meet formally to discuss a package of economic and political incentives. But on a hastily planned trip to Cairo, apparently to drum up international support for Iran's stand, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator rejected any preconditions for opening negotiations over the fate of its nuclear program.

In the clearest response from Iranian officials to the incentives package, Ali Larijani, the chief negotiator, told reporters on Sunday, "We have already said that we would not accept any preconditions and that we are supporting negotiations without prior conditions." He said he "made that point clear" when Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, formally presented the package in Tehran last Tuesday. [complete article]

Iran criticized for not providing nuclear data
By Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, June 12, 2006

As Iran weighed how to respond to an international package of incentives aimed at curbing its nuclear activities, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency faulted Tehran today for failing to provide information crucial to understanding fully the nature and intent of its nuclear program.

In prepared remarks in Vienna opening the agency's 35-country board meeting, the I.A.E.A. chief, Mohammed ElBaradei, said that his agency "has not made much progress in resolving outstanding verification issues."

He added, "I would continue to urge Iran to provide the cooperation needed to resolve these issues." [complete article]
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Independent probe urged for suicides of detainees
By Josh White, Washington Post, June 13, 2006

Human rights groups and defense lawyers yesterday called for an independent investigation into the three detainee suicides at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, questioning the military's preliminary explanation of how the men killed themselves and the way U.S. officials have characterized the deaths.

Since the detainees used makeshift nooses in their cells early Saturday, U.S. officials have called the three deaths an act of "asymmetric warfare" and a public relations move aimed at riling the international community. Military commanders said the men -- described as having terrorist ties -- used creative methods to surreptitiously kill themselves while seeking martyrdom, and dismissed assertions that the suicides were the desperate acts of depressed captives.

Amnesty International officials said yesterday that an independent investigation "is a matter of absolute urgency" and is the only way to find out what happened in the detainees' cells. In a written statement, the officials said an ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe will not be sufficient in light of comments U.S. officials have made. [complete article]
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The military needs an independent prosecutor
By Eric Umansky, Slate, June 12, 2006

It took the military four months to launch a formal criminal investigation of the killings at Haditha—and it came only after Time magazine started raising questions. The delay is going to make the case that much harder to prosecute. "The fact that it wasn't initially investigated, the fact that there's been plenty of time for witnesses to play with stories," one former military lawyer told the Washington Post, "there's a lot of wiggle room in there."

Consider another recent incident. In March, about a dozen Iraqis were killed in the small village of Ishaqi. The Pentagon has concluded the killings were legit, the result of a firefight and airstrike against insurgents. But two videos raise questions. One, filmed by an Associated Press Television cameraman, "shows at least five children dead, several with obvious bullet wounds to the head."

I don't know what happened in Ishaqi either. But it gets you thinking: How good is the military's system for investigating itself? And can it be improved? [complete article]
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40 dead in violence in Afghanistan
AP (via LAT), June 13, 2006

Security forces raided a village and killed 15 suspected militants, including a relative of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, and fighting and attacks elsewhere left 25 people dead, Afghan officials said Monday.

The violence extends three weeks of fierce fighting in Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann said the insurgents were better organized and more numerous than expected. [complete article]

Western alarm at Afghan plan to arm villagers
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, June 13, 2006

Western diplomats and disarmament experts reacted with alarm yesterday to Afghan government plans to arm hundreds of southern villagers against resurgent Taliban fighters. "There is considerable disquiet," said Peter Babbington, director of a national disarmament programme, about the initiative announced by President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. "There are serious implications in creating militias."

Diplomats worry that the strategy could further destabilise the violent south, at best stalling the disarmament of the estimated 120,000 unofficial gunmen and at worst creating a lawless militia. Mr Karzai counters that the village force is needed to bolster the beleaguered Afghan police force, which has lost hundreds of officers during heavy fighting this year. [complete article]

Military truck crash kills 1 in Kabul
AP (via, June 13, 2006

A U.S. military truck hit a motorbike and killed one person Tuesday before plowing into a house in the Afghan capital, two weeks after another crash involving U.S. forces in the same neighborhood sparked deadly riots, police said. [complete article]
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Religious leaders urge U.S. to ban torture
By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, June 13, 2006

Twenty-seven religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, have signed a statement urging the United States to "abolish torture now -- without exceptions."

The statement, being published in newspaper advertisements starting today, is the opening salvo of a new organization called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which has formed in response to allegations of human rights abuse at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Titled "Torture is a Moral Issue," the statement says that torture "violates the basic dignity of the human person" and "contradicts our nation's most cherished values." "Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?" it asks. [complete article]
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U.S. opens new war front in North Africa
By Jason Motlagh, Asia Times, June 14, 2006

Despite a setback in Somalia, where anti-Islamist warlords recently lost control of the capital, Mogadishu, to a jihadist militia, the United States is plunging into a far vaster set of commitments, stretching across the "Wild West" of Saharan Africa.

Over the next five years, Washington is expected to spend US$500 million on an overt counter-terror program to secure what it has dubbed the latest front in its "global war on terror". Detractors insist the move could backfire and have the same unintended consequences as in the Horn of Africa, albeit on a much larger scale with even more at stake.

The Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) kicked off last June to provide military expertise, equipment and development aid to nine Saharan nations whose vast, ungoverned reaches are considered fertile ground for militant Islamist groups looking to establish Afghanistan-style terror training camps and to engage in smuggling and other illicit activities. [complete article]

Leader of Islamic forces in Somalia seeks 'understanding' with U.S.
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, June 12, 2006

The Islamist leader whose Islamic Courts Union militia seized control of this lawless east African capital last week after fierce fighting with U.S.-backed warlords said Monday that he seeks "an understanding" with the United States and denied that his group is sheltering al-Qaida terrorists.

But in his first face-to-face interview with an American journalist since his forces' triumph, Sheik Sherif Ahmed told Knight Ridder that he doesn't plan full ties with the United States, and he dodged questions about his views on al-Qaida.

"The Americans were getting wrong information from the warlords, and since that strategy failed, the Americans have a good opportunity," Ahmed said. "They can help us with offers of humanitarian assistance. We cannot say there will be full cooperation, but we can foresee an understanding between the United States and Somalia." [complete article]
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'New American Century' project ends with a whimper
By Jim Lobe, IPS (via, June 13, 2006

Is the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which did so much to promote the invasion of Iraq and an Israel-centered"global war on terror," closing down?

In the absence of an official announcement and the failure since late last year of a live person to answer its telephone number, a Washington Post obituary would seem to be definitive. And, sure enough, the Post quoted one unidentified source presumably linked to PNAC that the group was "heading toward closing" with the feeling of "goal accomplished." [complete article]
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Rival U.S. labs in arms race to build safer nuclear bomb
By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2006

In the Cold War arms race, scientists rushed to build thousands of warheads to counter the Soviet Union. Today, those scientists are racing once again, but this time to rebuild an aging nuclear stockpile.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are locked in an intense competition with rivals at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area to design the nation's first new nuclear bomb in two decades.

The two labs have fiercely competed in the bomb trade with technologies as disparate as Microsoft's and Apple's.

The new weapon, under development for about a year, is designed to ensure long-term reliability of the nation's inventory of bombs. Program backers say that with greater confidence in the quality of its weapons, the nation could draw down its stockpile, estimated at about 6,000 warheads.

Scientists also intend for the new weapons to be less vulnerable to accidental detonation and to be so secure that any stolen or lost weapon would be unusable. [complete article]

Comment -- The pathology of safety reaches new heights! Tamper-resistant nuclear weapons carefully labelled, I imagine, with plenty of warning statements that they could pose a serious hazard to human health if you are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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A new communications strategy for the post-Zarqawi era
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, June 13, 2006

At Camp David yesterday, President Bush (Mr. Sophisticated himself) looked sharp in his dark shirt and jacket -- sharp enough to some day comfortably face a few similarly dapper Iranian negotiators, I'd say. (Were Rice and Cheney directed to slouch for the cameras, just so Bush could look commanding?)

During his Camp David "high-level strategy session" -- ostensibly intended to "calibrate the best way forward in Iraq" -- the re-calibration seems to primarily have been linguistic. "Turning points" are out and "critical juncture" is in.

Still, some fine-tuning is obviously required. Dan Bartlett says this is "an important break point for the Iraqi people and for our mission in Iraq from the standpoint of the American people."

The Iraqi people are at a break point. Break point sounds dangerously close to breaking point -- which might be an accurate assessment but presumably not the one Bartlett intends.

But he also says our mission in Iraq is at a break point.

break·point n. A point of discontinuity, change, or cessation

The U.S. is going to start pulling out?

U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, certainly fed that expectation over the weekend. Even so, the plan -- "we'll stand down as the Iraqis stand up" -- rings pretty hollow.

Stars and Stripes now reports that, "Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar province are leaving their army in droves, draining much-needed manpower from fledgling Iraqi security forces and preventing U.S. troops from reducing troop strength in the volatile region, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say."

So, it turns out that the "unusual amount of commotion within Bush's inner circle" probably wasn't a harbinger of a major strategic initiative. The "two-day" Camp David summit was a ruse set up so Bush could make a sneak trip to Baghdad!

Back to strategic communications guru Bartlett on insider knowledge about Bush's trip: "Our cabinet is not completely aware." Is a re-callibration of tense in order or is Bartlett simply making an unusually frank observation?
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Rove won't be charged in CIA leak case
By David Johnson, New York Times, June 13, 2006

The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.

The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced in a letter to Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer's identity.

In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, "On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove."

Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said he would not comment on Mr. Rove's status. [complete article]
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Cruel and illegal
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, June 12, 2006

The demented logic of Dr Strangelove hung like a ghost this weekend over the US military's response to the suicide of three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Announcing the news, the first successful suicides since detainees began to arrive in 2002, the camp's commander, Rear-Admiral Harry Harris, said the deaths were "not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us". That cold and odious language lacked the humanity present even in President Bush's expression of "serious concern", but is entirely in keeping with the clinical illegality of America's treatment of terror suspects since 2001.

In one sense, the three deaths change nothing: international law and opinion has already condemned Guantanamo Bay as a disgrace to a country which claims to fight its battles on behalf of freedom. In practical terms the policy of extracting suspects from around the world and holding them indefinitely without legal process has been established as a shameful failure: most of the prisoners have had minimal or no connection to terror and America's claim to hold an al-Qaida hardcore has never been tested in court. Almost certainly, it never will be, given that their conditions of capture and detention, including torture, make the judicial prosecution of suspects now a near- impossibility. One by one, Guantanamo Bay's defenders have fallen away and the camp has become a burden even to the people who set it up. President Bush now says he wants it emptied - though that hardly sits with the current construction of a $30m new detention facility. [complete article]

'Killing themselves was unnecessary. But it certainly is a good PR move'
By Suzanne Goldenberg and Hugh Muir, The Guardian, June 12, 2006

The Bush administration stared down a new wave of international condemnation of Guantánamo yesterday, dismissing the suicides by three inmates of the prison camp as a "good PR move" on their part and an "act of asymmetrical warfare".

The deaths of two Saudis and a Yemeni, who used knotted bedsheets to hang themselves in their solitary cells, brought renewed calls from European governments and human rights organisations to bring the 460 inmates to trial, or close down the camp. But Bush administration officials rejected suggestions that the three had killed themselves in despair over their indefinite confinement.

"It does sound like this is part of a strategy - in that they don't value their own lives, and they certainly don't value ours; and they use suicide bombings as a tactic," Colleen Graffy, the deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told BBC's Newshour yesterday. "Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good PR move." [complete article]

See also, U.S. steps back from Guantanamo suicide comments (Reuters).

Dead detainee 'was to be freed'
BBC News, June 12, 2006

One of the three men who committed suicide at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay was due to be released - but did not know it, says a US lawyer.

Mark Denbeaux, who represents some of the foreign detainees said the man was among 141 prisoners due to be released.

He said the prisoner was not told because US officials had not decided which country he would be sent to. [complete article]

Prisoners' ruse is suspected at Guantanamo
By David S. Cloud and Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, June 12, 2006

Three detainees at the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tried to conceal themselves in their cells -- behind laundry and through other means -- to prevent guards from seeing them commit suicide, a senior military official said Sunday.

One of the prisoners hanged himself behind laundry drying from the ceiling of the cell, and had arranged his bed to make it look as if he was still sleeping, said the official, Lt. Cmdr. Robert T. Durand of the Navy. The other two detainees who committed suicide also took steps to prevent guards from seeing that they had put nooses around their necks, he added. [complete article]

See also, Saudi Arabia identifies 2 dead Guantanamo detainees (NYT).

Comment -- By most people's standards, a 17-year old is not an adult. In 2001, when Yasser Talal Abdulah Yahya was captured in Afghanistan, he was 17. He entered adulthood in the confinement of a 6-by-8-foot cage. After he hung himself he was described by White House officials as a "committed terrorist." His father said that when in Afghanistan, his son had worked for Islamic charities.

Yasser Talal Abdulah Yahya: committed terrorist or charity worker? Since he was never granted the right to trial we'll never know.

President Bush says that the deaths at Guantanamo are a matter of "serious concern" and gave directions that the bodies of the dead be handled in accordance with Islamic customs. What should concern anyone who has the slightest regard for the rule of law and the protection of human rights is the handling of prisoners while they are still alive.

Since the three men who took their lives were silenced while they were still capable of speaking, the very least respect they can now be shown is that their declared reasons for choosing death (contained in suicide notes) promptly be made known.
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Smoke of Iraq war 'drifting over Lebanon'
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, June 12, 2006

Abu Haritha still carries traces of the battles he fought in Iraq, 500 miles away.

On his hand is a black ring, a gift from a fellow insurgent after he was wounded in the torso in Fallujah by shrapnel. "For the memories," Abu Haritha said. Under his black hair, peppered with gray, is a scar where, he recalled, a bullet had grazed his head. Every once in a while, he watches videos lauding attacks carried out on his former battlefield and celebrates the exploits of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed last week in Iraq. At times, he regales colleagues with stories of American fear.

But for Abu Haritha, that battle is over. As he sits in this northern city, Lebanon's second-largest, he waits for what he believes will be a more expansive war beyond Iraq, a struggle he casts in the most cataclysmic of terms. In the morning, he jogs; he lifts weights for hours at night. In between, with his cellphone ringing with the Muslim call to prayer, he proselytizes in streets that are growing ever more militant, sprinkled with the black banners that proclaim jihad and occasional slogans celebrating the resistance in Iraq.

"It's an open battle, in any place, at any time," he said, his voice calm. "History has to record that there was resistance." [complete article]
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U.N. report accuses Afghan MPs of torture and massacres
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, June 12, 2006

A controversial UN report that has been shelved for 18 months names and shames leading Afghan politicians and officials accused of orchestrating massacres, torture, mass rape and other war crimes.

The 220-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights, which the Guardian has obtained, details atrocities committed by communist, mujahideen, Soviet and Taliban fighters over 23 years of conflict. Originally scheduled for release in January 2005, the report's publication has been delayed repeatedly due to sensitivities over identifying former warlords still in positions of power.

"The UN has been intimidated. It is afraid to rock the boat because of these guys," said Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch. "But the boat is taking on water and they are going to pull it down." [complete article]
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At the U.N., bluster backfires
By Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, June 12, 2006

Last month President Bush issued a rare apology. "Saying 'Bring it on,' kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal," he confessed. "I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted."

Well done, Mr. President, you've understood that bluster can backfire. Now how about sharing this insight with your ambassador to the United Nations?

John R. Bolton, the ambassador in question, has a rich history of losing friends and failing to influence people. He was notorious, even before arriving at the United Nations last year, for having said that 10 stories of the U.N. headquarters could be demolished without much loss; he had described the United States as the sun around which lesser nations rotate -- mere "asteroids," he'd branded them. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Senate refused to confirm Bolton as U.N. ambassador. "Arrogant," "bullying," and "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be," Sen. George Voinovich called him. [complete article]
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Deaths on Gaza beach draw in storm clouds
By Harvey Morris, Financial Times, June 11, 2006

Forty-eight hours of escalating violence, reflected in harrowing footage of a 10-year-old Palestinian screaming for her dead family in the shrapnel-strewn wreckage of a Gaza beach, had by Sunday eclipsed the already slender hopes of political progress on the Middle East conflict.

Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister, begins a European tour today in which he will likely be obliged to justify his country's military tactics in the territories before he is allowed to turn the focus towards promoting his controversial and potentially unilateral plans for the West Bank.

The UK and France, his hosts this week, both condemned Friday's incident in which seven Palestinians were killed during a beach picnic, apparently victims of stray Israeli shelling. The deaths were the signal for the military wing of Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, to suspend a period of self-imposed calm that lasted more than a year and resume rocket attacks on Israel.

The deteriorating situation posed a further threat to efforts by the international quartet – the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia – to get its moribund "road map" peace plan back on track via renewed negotiations between the antagonists. [complete article]
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Taliban surges as U.S. shifts some tasks to NATO
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, June 11, 2006

A large springtime offensive by Taliban fighters has turned into the strongest show of force by the insurgents since American forces chased the Taliban from power in late 2001, and Afghan and foreign officials and local villagers blame a lack of United States-led coalition forces on the ground for the resurgence.

American forces are handing over operations in southern Afghanistan to a NATO force of mainly Canadian, British and Dutch troops, and militants have taken advantage of the transition to swarm into rural areas.

Coalition and Afghan forces now clash daily with large groups of Taliban fighters across five provinces of southern Afghanistan. In their boldest push, the Taliban fought battles in a district just less than 20 miles outside the southern city of Kandahar in late May, forcing hundreds of people to abandon their villages for refuge in the city and in other towns as coalition forces resorted to aerial bombardment.

The Taliban are running checkpoints on secondary roads and seizing control of remote district centers for a night or two before melting away again. In the most blatant symbol of their dominance of rural areas, the Taliban have even conducted trials under Islamic law, or Shariah, outside official Afghan courts, and recently carried out at least one public execution. [complete article]

Deadliest three weeks in Afghanistan kill more than 500
AP (via USA Today), June 11, 2006

The worst three weeks of violence since the fall of the Taliban have left more than 500 people dead, the U.S.-led coalition said Saturday.

Fighting on Saturday killed six insurgents and three police, officials said. Late Friday, a top Afghan intelligence agent narrowly survived a bomb attack on his convoy that killed three other people near the capital, Kabul.

Much of the recent Taliban fighting is believed funded by the country's $2.8 billion trade in opium and heroin -- about 90% of the world's supply. [complete article]

The end of the Kabul spring
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, June 11, 2006

...the eruption of wanton fury [during the May 29 riots in Kabul] conveyed important, if disturbing, truths about Afghanistan, its relations with the world and its ability or desire to change.

First, this is a country where for the past quarter-century -- and for long periods of history before that -- the only skill that mattered was knowing how to fight. Now, a nation of warriors has had its weapons confiscated, and a nation that defeated the British and the Soviets is dominated by thousands of foreign troops who drive too fast, eat too much and speak no local language.

Second, this is a country with closely held, traditional Muslim values that is now being insidiously invaded by libertine Western culture. Many Afghan men see human rights, women's emancipation, alcohol and pornography as not only dangerous but also synonymous with democracy. They may enjoy browsing X-rated Web sites, but they would kill a man who eloped with their daughter.

Third, this is a country so poor that most people cannot afford a radio, a midwife or a bicycle. Foreign governments, agencies and charities have created a closed, parallel universe in Kabul that sports fleets of SUVs, drives up rental rates and pays huge salaries to a few Afghans lucky enough to know English and Windows. For others with connections, the aid boom has also created endless opportunities for official corruption and graft. The jobless and unskilled, left seething on the sidewalk, see no difference between a luxury hotel and a foreign charity that digs wells for farmers.

During the rioting, my interpreter heard a tragic and telling statement shouted by a middle-aged woman in the angry crowd. He asked her why she was demonstrating against the foreigners who had come to help, and she replied, "We don't want their help. We want them to go away and leave us alone. We don't want their progress or their development. We would rather stay in the ruins just like we were before." [complete article]

Comment -- To Pamela Constable, the sentiment expressed by this Aghani woman is one of "defiant, destructive nihilism," but having passed through Afghanistan before all the fighting began, I'd say this sounds more like fierce independence expressed in frustration. Before this country was ripped apart by the violence of the last three decades, it was already one of the materially poorest on the planet. Yet in the midst of their poverty, many of its people displayed a certain contempt for foreigners. In their eyes, the frailty engendered by Western wealth was all too evident. For Afghanis to now be saying they simply want the foreigners out, is not an expression of despair; it's an expression of their heartfelt desire to reclaim their own land - a land in which they took pride even in its "undeveloped" state.
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Guantanamo's first suicides pressure U.S.
By Julian E. Barnes and Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2006

Three Middle Eastern detainees being held without charges at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay hanged themselves, military officials said Saturday, becoming the first captives to take their own lives at the prison and prompting new calls for an immediate shutdown.

The Defense Department said Saturday that the men -- two from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen -- were found in their cells and had left suicide notes. By taking their own lives, the prisoners confounded strenuous measures by military officials to prevent suicides. And the deaths come as the Bush administration battles growing international criticism of its detention procedures and faces a potentially fateful Supreme Court decision this month. [complete article]

Comment -- The State Department's, Colleen Graffy, claims that the suicides were a "good PR move to draw attention" -- a statement which I'd describe as a bad PR move indicating that she is unfit for the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. She went on to tell the BBC that the three men did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them. Of course, the same could be said about anyone who commits suicide. Suicidal despair is by definition an utter loss in the sense that life has value.
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Fear of big battle panics Ramadi
By Megan K. Stack and Louise Roug, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2006

Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said. [complete article]
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Fighting Zarqawi's legacy
By Rod Nordland and Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, June 19, 2006

...the U.S. ambassador's implicit message to Iraq's Sunni insurgents and sympathizers is this: it's safe to come out now, and maybe even act civilly toward your fellow Iraqis among the Shiites. "Ding dong, the witch is dead," as one administration official, speaking anonymously because he is not authorized to talk to the media, jokingly described the mood. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Khalilzad went further than he has before in suggesting that the U.S. administration and new Iraqi government are willing to negotiate directly with some insurgent leaders. [complete article]

Iraq insurgents post new beheading video
By Hamza Hendawi, AP (via Yahoo), June 10, 2006

Insurgents signaled the fight is still on after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, posting an Internet video Saturday showing the beheading of three alleged Shiite death squad members in revenge for killing Sunnis.

The video -- as grisly as any the al-Qaida in Iraq leader issued -- was clearly designed to quash hopes that the Sunni-dominated insurgency might change tactics by ending attacks on Shiite civilians and institutions, especially the police.

Fellow Sunni insurgent groups sent condolences for al-Zarqawi in Internet messages Saturday and warned Sunnis not to cooperate with the Iraqi government, an apparent call for unity three days after U.S. forces killed the terror leader in a targeted airstrike. [complete article]

Fourteen killed in Iraq as violence rages on
By Fredrik Dahl and Michael Georgy, Reuters (via Yahoo), June 10, 2006

Bombs killed nine people in Baghdad and gunmen shot dead five butchers in Mosul on Saturday, as President Bush warned that killing al Qaeda's leader in Iraq would not end violence. [complete article]
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Iraq decides it still needs U.S.-led military presence
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, June 11, 2006

The new government of Iraq has decided to postpone any demand for negotiations to establish a more formal legal basis for the presence of American and other foreign troops on its soil, Iraqi and American officials said this week.

Instead, these officials said, Iraq will allow the current United Nations mandate to remain in effect beyond a deadline next Thursday for a review of Security Council Resolution 1637, which provides legal authority for the American-led military coalition to continue its combat operations.

"I've just finished speaking with my foreign minister, who intends to be in New York for the review, and it will not be a point at which we terminate," Samir al-Sumaidaie, Iraq's new ambassador to the United States, said Friday. The new government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is the first full-term government to take power in Iraq since the American invasion more than three years ago. [complete article]
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Fighting Iraq's new Taliban
By Rosemary Bechler, Open Democracy, June 8, 2006

In the last elections, the number of women elected fell to the minimum Iraqi electoral law requires, from thirty-five percent to twenty-five percent. Women have lost sixteen seats in parliament, and have been marginalised in negotiations for government positions. "We have made as big a fuss as possible but are constantly told to go away, 'We are busy forming a government'." Only four women ministers remain in the thirty-seven ministries, not in the key ministries but in Women's Affairs, Human Rights, Environment and Housing and Construction. No women hold senior positions in the Presidential Council or the Military Council. "Only the very strongest personalities have managed to have any impact at all, and they have attracted criticism in the process. They are judged by different standards from the men in power. People say, 'Oh – they are not qualified, these women.' And I reply, 'No more are the men qualified for these posts. Why don't you criticise the men in charge of electricity or oil – they could have made a real difference.'" [complete article]
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Jihadist of mass destruction
By Paul Cruickshank and Mohanad Hage Ali, Washington Post, June 11, 2006

"Dirty bombs for a dirty nation."

The slogan appeared on a jihadist Web site in December 2004, its author lamenting that the planes that struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, did not also carry weapons of mass destruction. He pressed for a WMD attack against the United States, and proposed that deadly new dirty-bomb catchphrase to rally his followers.

No al-Qaeda figure, not even Osama bin Laden, has dedicated more effort to thinking through how to destroy the United States than the author of that Web posting, Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, the veteran Syrian jihadi whom Pakistani police arrested last fall. He is arguably al-Qaeda's most influential strategist since 9/11, and has been at the center of al-Qaeda's efforts to develop WMD capabilities since the late 1990s.

Setmariam's little-noticed capture, along with the much more heralded killing last week of Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, represents one of the most significant U.S. victories against terrorism in the past few years. But this is a rapidly changing war in which the arrest or death of any one leader may not matter. The new al-Qaeda promoted by Setmariam and Zarqawi is an al-Qaeda that lives on the Internet and in the swelling ranks of jihadists worldwide. [complete article]

Terrorists trained by Zarqawi went abroad, Jordan says
By Michael Slackman and Scott Shane, New York Times, June 11, 2006

At the time of his death, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was still trying to transform his organization from one focused on the Iraqi insurgency into a global operation capable of striking far beyond Iraq's borders, intelligence experts here and in the West agree.

His recruiting efforts, according to high-ranking Jordanian security officials interviewed Saturday, were threefold: He sought volunteers to fight in Iraq and others to become suicide bombers there, but he also recruited about 300 who went to Iraq for terrorist training and sent them back to their home countries, where they await orders to carry out strikes.

There have been scattered reports that Iraq had become a training ground, but Jordan's assessment was the first to offer firm numbers. [complete article]
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U.S. to hold international meeting on Somalia
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, June 10, 2006

The Bush administration will convene an international meeting next week on political developments in Somalia, following an abrupt shift in policy this week after Islamists seized control of the Somali capital from U.S.-backed, warlord-led militias.

The formation of a "Somalia Contact Group" was announced yesterday by the State Department, which had long expressed concern inside the administration that a policy largely restricted to counter-terrorism priorities might prove counterproductive. On Wednesday, the administration indicated that it was open to discussions with the Islamists as long as they were prepared to seek a peaceful resolution and pledged not to allow Somalia to become an al-Qaeda haven.

The goal of the group's meeting, to be held in New York, is "to promote concerted action and coordination to support the Somalia transitional federal institutions, and so we are going to be working with other interested states and international organizations on this matter," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "We think it's the right time." [complete article]
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A few more nukes!
By George Monbiot, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2006

When I tell my "green" friends that I am rethinking nuclear power, they respond with outrage. I am an environmentalist, and, to a large extent, the green movements in the developed world arose from public concern about atomic energy.

For about 30 years we have seen nuclear power as dangerous, its radioactive wastes as unmanageable, the industry as incompetent and untrustworthy. In the environmental camp, any softening of this opposition is seen as a betrayal.

But climate change and falling energy reserves demand that we reopen the question. The nuclear industry now claims that nuclear power is the most reliable answer to the global warming caused by the overuse of fossil fuels. It argues that new technologies make it safe and cheap.

I've spent the last year searching for a way to cut carbon emissions by 90%, which is necessary to prevent runaway global warming. One of the hardest problems is how to generate enough electricity. My sympathies lie with renewable power. Alongside a massive energy-efficiency program, it plainly provides part of the answer. But it cannot supply all of our electricity needs. The rest must come from somewhere, and to dismiss nuclear power without considering what the alternatives involve would be irresponsible. [complete article]
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The U.S. and Europe are trampling over Iran's right to enrich uranium
By Alastair Crooke, Prospect, June, 2006

The struggle with Iran over nuclear issues is usually portrayed in the west as a reasonable effort to force Iran to comply with its international agreements. But the agreement at stake here, the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), is not as straightforward as it seems. What we are also witnessing is the playing out of a US controversy dating back to 1967, when the father of US nuclear doctrine, Albert Wohlstetter, made a speech in which he argued darkly that: "An essential trouble with nuclear ploughshares... is that they can be beaten into nuclear swords."

When the NPT came into force in 1970, the central bargain was between the five nuclear-weapon powers on one hand, and the non-nuclear states on the other. The have-nots agreed to renounce their right to weapons, but only in return for the right to develop the peaceful use of nuclear energy. At the core of the NPT is Article IV, which gives all signatories the "inalienable right... to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" and to acquire technology to this effect from fellow signatories. Equally important, in return for the have-nots' renunciation of weapons, the "haves" agreed not to use their stocks of weapons to blackmail the have-nots, and ultimately to get rid of their weapons (Article VI). These are the two pillars of the non-proliferation system.

While much of the world applauded the NPT bargain, Wohlstetter -- a Rand Corporation strategist and University of Chicago professor who taught future neocons such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz -- was concerned that that the NPT's provision for peaceful nuclear energy constituted a "loophole" through which weaponisation might occur. Wohlstetter's argument has since found formal expression in the 2006 US national security strategy, which states: "the first objective requires closing a loophole in the NPT that permits regimes to produce fissile material that can be used to make nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear power programme." The national security strategy also reaffirms the doctrine of pre-emption. [complete article]
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Iran to offer its own terms on uranium
By Nazila Fathi, New York Times, June 11, 2006

Iran's foreign minister said Saturday that the government would issue a counteroffer to an incentive proposal by Europe, China and the United States to get Iran to give up enriching uranium in the short term.

The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, confirmed that Iran had received the proposal and would offer its own. "We hope that through shuttle diplomacy we can give our proposal in form of amendment or package after it is finalized to the other side for examination," he said, according to the ISNA news agency.

Mr. Mottaki said, however, that Iran had not defined a time frame for its response.

President Bush said Friday that Iran had "weeks, not months" to respond to the package, which was issued by the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, along with Germany. "If they choose not to verifiably suspend their program then there will be action taken in the U.N. Security Council," he said. [complete article]

U.N .desperate to question 'father of Islamic Bomb'
By Massoud Ansari and Philip Sherwell, The Telegraph, June 11, 2006

Washington has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to allow its disgraced nuclear scientist, A Q Khan, to be questioned by United Nations inspectors, after fresh traces of enriched uranium were found on equipment used at an Iranian military site.

Dr Khan, who is under house arrest, is believed to hold vital information about Iran's controversial atomic programme, having sold nuclear machinery, plans and technology to the Islamic regime. [complete article]

See also, Reid seeks more clarity in nuclear intelligence on Iran (WP).
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Hamas fury over poll to recognise state of Israel
By Conal Urquhart, The Observer, June 11, 2006

The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday called his people to a referendum that would in effect recognise the state of Israel, a move that was immediately denounced by the radical Hamas government as a coup.

Abbas called the vote just hours after dramatic scenes in Gaza when thousands of mourners expressed grief and anger during the funeral of the family killed by an Israeli attack as they picnicked on a beach. The sobs of seven-year-old survivor Huda Ghalia disturbed onlookers as the girl screamed 'Don't leave me, don't leave me' to the shrouded bodies of her mother and father and three brothers and sisters. A total of seven people died in the shelling of the beach on Friday.

But if condemnation of the Israeli attack led to a display of unity between the deeply fractured Palestinian factions, it was all too brief. Hamas ended a 16-month truce by firing rockets at Israel and then immediately rejected Abbas's call for the 26 July referendum, which will ask Palestinians to endorse the policy of creating a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, side by side with Israel. The referendum implicitly recognises Israel as a separate state, the first time the Palestinian people will have been asked to decide on such a fundamental issue. Without such recognition, Israel will not even consider beginning peace talks with the Palestinians.

But the referendum is seen as undermining the mandate of the democratically elected, Islamic-based Hamas government, which refuses to recognise Israel, and draws the Palestinians closer to civil war. 'It was a declaration of a coup against the government,' said Mushir al-Masri, a leading Hamas legislator, as he urged Palestinians to boycott the vote. 'Whoever announced the referendum should shoulder the responsibility for the dangerous consequences that may result.' [complete article]

Jailed Hamas men retract support of prisoners' plan
By Avi Issacharof, Haaretz, June 11, 2006

The Hamas prisoner who helped draft a proposal that would implicitly recognize Israel withdrew his name from the document Sunday on behalf of all Hamas prisoners, deepening Palestinian divisions ahead of a referendum on the plan.

A top Islamic Jihad prisoner who helped author the proposal withdrew his name from the document as well. Spokesmen from the groups said the two retracted their support to protest a referendum on the document called by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. [complete article]
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Paralyzed for life
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 11, 2006

The tangle of tubes and the artificial respirator attached directly to her windpipe cannot hide her beauty. A little 3-year-old girl lying in the pediatric intensive care unit at Sheba Medical Center, Maria Aman's sad, brown almond eyes are wide open, her lips murmur in a whisper: "Food, I want to eat," but all her limbs are paralyzed, forever. Not far from there, in an intensive care unit at Ichilov Hospital, lies her uncle Nahed, age 33 and father of two, who is in even worse condition: He is not only on a respirator and completely paralyzed, he is being kept asleep.

No, these are not the victims of this weekend's operation, but their predecessors - victims of an airborne assassination in Gaza three weeks ago yesterday, an operation that shocked almost nobody here in Israel. The events of this past weekend should not come as a surprise to anyone: The deterioration has been going on for weeks, and the question that should be asked is not what Israel is doing to counter the Qassams, but what it is not doing. An army that fires missiles at busy streets and tank shells at a beach cannot claim there was no intent to harm innocent civilians. [complete article]

'I'm waiting for my mother,' says Hadil, 8. But her parents are both dead
By Harry de Quetteville, The Telegraph, June 11, 2006

In her room on the second floor of the Awda hospital in northern Gaza, eight-year-old Hadil Ghalia keeps asking for her mother.

With a bandage on her neck and a drip in her left arm, Hadil was yesterday recovering from a devastating artillery strike that hit the beach in Gaza where her family had gone for a picnic on Friday afternoon.

Israel, which fires hundreds of shells into northern Gaza almost every day, has apologised for the attack, which killed seven people and wounded 40, and is conducting an investigation into how it happened.

But what neither the nurses at al-Awda, nor the members of her extended family, have the heart to tell Hadil is that she is now an orphan and six of the seven dead are from her family. [complete article]

Analysis: Fury over 'Gaza beach massacre' threatens cease-fire
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz, June 11, 2006

The anger on the Palestinian street might spur Hamas to completely suspend the cease-fire agreed to by all Palestinian organizations (except Islamic Jihad) nearly 18 months ago. That was the assessment Saturday night among Palestinian operatives. Hamas, they explained, is attentive to the public mood, and after "the Gaza beach massacre," as all Arab media outlets put it, the organization's members will have to respond with a broad initiative of terrorist attacks.

Hamas spokesmen, including Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said after the Thursday night Israel Air Force strike killing Jamal Abu Samhadana, the cease-fire no longer exists; but most spokesmen for the organization explained this was purely a tactical move . that is, after a vengeance response they will go back to preserving the cease-fire. Now, after what happened on the Gaza beach, there is a real danger that the truce will collapse completely. [complete article]
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Public secrets
By Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post, June 11, 2006

Why does The Washington Post willingly publish "classified" information affecting national security? Should Post journalists and others who reveal the government's secrets be subject to criminal prosecution for doing so? These questions, raised with new urgency of late, deserve careful answers.

There's a reason why we're hearing these questions now. We live in tense times. The country is anxious about war and terrorism. Washington is more sharply divided along ideological lines than at any time since I came to work at The Post in 1963. The Bush administration has unabashedly sought to enhance the powers of the executive branch as it wages what it calls a "war on terror," many of whose components are classified secrets.

These are new circumstances, but to a reporter who has been watching the contest between press and government for four decades, what isn't new here seems more significant than what is. What isn't new is a government trying to hide its activities from the public, and a press trying to find out what is being hidden. [complete article]
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

How to lose the war on terror: The politics of indignation
By Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, Asia Times, June 8, 2006

How to lose the war on terror: Acts of faith
By Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, Asia Times, June 5, 2006

How to lose the war on terror: An exchange of narratives
By Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, Asia Times, June 3, 2006

Gulf widens between U.S. and sheikhdoms
By Trita Parsi, Asia Times, June 7, 2006

The short, violent life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
By Mary Anne Weaver, Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2006

The "incident" at Haditha
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, June 6, 2006

The war they wanted, the lies they needed
By Craig Unger, Vanity Fair, June 6, 2006

From logistics to turning a blind eye: Europe's role in terror abductions
By Stephen Grey and Ian Cobain, The Guardian, June 7, 2006

Don't forget those other 27,000 nukes
By Hans Blix, IHT, June 8, 2006

Taliban take the fight to the country
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, June 9, 2006

Elders losing to extremists in Pakistan
By David Montero, Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 2006

Is political Islam on the march?
By Fawaz A. Gerges, Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2006

Our failure in Somalia
By John Prendergast, Washington Post, June 7, 2006
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