|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
In Arabs' eyes, the U.S. is on trial, not Hussein
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2006
Boushra Khalil walked through the metal detectors and into the vast convention center, a crumbling relic of a fallen dictatorship with walls still emblazoned with murals of Scud missiles.
It took only a few minutes for one of the security guards prowling the halls to catch sight of her.
"Hey, excuse me," his voice rang out. "Aren't you Saddam's lawyer?" Soon they were all around her, five young men with U.S. military-issued badges clipped to their sports shirts. Their eyes were wide; they smiled.
"Tell him you met young people here, youth that are sending their greetings to the president," one of the young men said. "We believe he is suffering injustice," said another. They spoke quickly and eagerly, and pressed Khalil for her autograph.
Iraqis who had been cleared to work in the drab nerve center of Iraq's U.S.-backed government, in the heavily fortified Green Zone, might appear to be unlikely fans of the ousted president.
But perhaps no supporter is more improbable than Khalil, a Shiite Muslim lawyer who has traveled from Lebanon to defend him.
Like most Arabs, Khalil, who is Lebanese, is no stranger to the hard reality of despotism: Her Iraqi cousins were put to death for rebelling against Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.
But ever since the wintry afternoon she switched on Al Jazeera and caught sight of the bedraggled Hussein in U.S. custody, she has devoted herself to securing his release. Her work on his defense team has invited angry slurs from fellow Shiites, but Khalil views her work as an epic assignment on behalf of the pan-Arab "nation" -- a cause Hussein espoused during his years in power. Khalil believes it eclipses religious divisions and the question of whether Hussein was a worthy leader.
"When I met [Hussein], he looked at me and smiled and said, 'These Americans think I am fighting to save my job as president, but I am fighting to defend my homeland,' " said Khalil, who is unabashedly enthusiastic about the Iraqi insurgency. "He never surrendered. He did not quit. If he'd quit, then the whole Arab nation would have been handed to America on a plate of gold."
Khalil's story illustrates an inherent irony in Hussein's war crimes trial, which is grinding through the first phase of closing arguments: The Americans pushed to get him into court, but it's America that has ended up standing trial in the eyes of the Arab public. [complete article]
American attacks on Mehdi Army cause uproar among Shia
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, July 8, 2006
Seven questions: Covering Iraq
Rod Nordland interviewed by Foreign Policy, July 5, 2006
Counterinsurgency by the book
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 8, 2006
General faults Marine inquiry into Iraqi killings
By Eric Schmitt and David S. Cloud, New York Times, July 8, 2006
New York bomb plot: "the real deal" (WP); "not that serious" (NYT); "Jihadist bravado" (CBS)
Agent who led Bin Laden hunt criticises CIA
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, July 8, 2006
Israel is bogged down in Gaza. Where is the U.S.?
By Tony Karon, Time, July 7, 2006
A day of funerals across the northern Gaza Strip
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 8, 2006
Palestinians dig in as Israel advances
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 8, 2006
A swamp - not in Gaza, but in Israel's mindset
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 8, 2006
Deal on captured Israeli begins to look possible
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2006
Talks could solve nuclear stalemate, Iran says
IHT, July 8, 2006
Bush says U.S. may have been able to intercept North Korean missile
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 8, 2006
Japan pushes for tougher sanctions against North Korea
By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy, July 7, 2006 How London carried on
By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, July 7, 2006
Shortly after the second world war, a new poster appeared in tube stations around the capital. It declared simply: "London Underground carried on." It was a bald statement of fact - amazing as it seems, tube trains had indeed run throughout the war - but it was also a powerful statement of the "Blitz spirit", that now-cliched shorthand for the values London - and Britain - most admires about itself. Those four simple words expressed, in quiet and modest fashion, a pride in the capital's quiet, reserved stoicism, in the dogged determination to keep going - without making too much of a fuss.
These days, it is fashionable to say such values have vanished, gone the way of Humber cars and Lyons Corner Houses. Today's Britain, we're told, is the nation of Big Brother self-exposure and of weepy David Beckham, of therapy culture, piles of roadside flowers and self-indulgent "misery lit" memoirs on the bestsellers lists. The conventional wisdom holds that, these days, we advertise and wallow in our suffering; we don't just get on with it. The stiff upper lip has gone wobbly.
And yet the response to the attacks of July 7 2005 tells a different story. One year on, it seems an event that many thought would mark a collective watershed has barely changed us. From our habits of leisure and transport, to our attitudes to politics, to the way we live with each other, the bombings have not had the impact many expected. We could mark today's anniversary with another poster: London carried on. [complete article]
Comment -- Evoking memories of London's stoicism during Hitler's World War Two Blitz is an old favorite when it comes to extolling the virtues of the unflappable Brits, yet on July 7 last year, London did not relive the Blitz - a year of bombing that killed 43,000 people and destroyed over a million homes.
When politicians come out with the phrase, the nation under attack, instead of thinking 7/7 or even 9/11, we might do better to think of the Blitz and remember that even under that level of assault, a population did not succumb to mass hysteria. That a year ago London carried on says less about whether the spirit of the Blitz endures than it suggests a collective understanding that terrorism is not war. Investigators believe London bombers acted without al-Qaida aid
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, July 6, 2006
A new video released by al-Qaida on Thursday, the eve of the anniversary of last year's deadly London mass transit bombings that killed 52 and wounded at least 700, claims the attack took place under its orders.
But investigators here say that while they're studying the tape, they have yet to find any convincing evidence that the four bombers received direction or help from outside England in carrying out the attacks.
That conclusion is consistent with a growing belief among European counter-terrorism experts that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida is more of a philosophical presence than a physical one in Europe. While it encourages and applauds attacks, they say, it isn't involved in planning or carrying them out. [complete article]
Bomber's video shows hand of al-Qa'ida
By Ian Herbert, The Independent, July 7, 2006
A video by Shahzad Tanweer, right-hand man to the lead London suicide bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, has lent weight to the theory that al-Qa'ida was behind the bombings. [complete article]
See also, Police report: foreign policy helped make UK a target (The Guardian). An appeal to the Western Muslims, and their fellow citizens
By Tariq Ramadan, July 7, 2006
If there is a contribution that Muslim westerners can bring to their respective societies, it is surely that of reconciliation. Confident in convictions, frank and rigorous in their critical outlook, armed with a broader understanding of Western societies, of their values, their history and their aspirations, they are ideally placed to engage their fellow citizens in reconciling these societies with their own ideals. The vital issue today is not to compare social models or experiences in a fruitless debate (as we have witnessed between the United States, France and Great Britain) but more simply, and in a far stricter and more demanding way, to take the measure of each society by comparing the ideals affirmed and proclaimed by its intellectuals and politicians, with the concrete practices that can be observed at the social grassroots: human rights and equality of opportunity (between men and women, people of different origins, skin colors). We must bring constructive criticism to bear on our societies, and measure words against deeds: all the citizens must adopt toward their society the same healthy self-critical attitude that Muslims must demonstrate toward their community. [complete article]
See also, Out of a cycle of ignorance (John Esposito). Algerian tells of dark odyssey in U.S. hands
By Craig S. Smith and Souad Mekhennet, New York Times, July 7, 2006
Men in black arrived, [an Algerian named Laid Saidi] said, and he remembers one shouting at him through an interpreter: "You are in a place that is out of the world. No one knows where you are, no one is going to defend you."
He was chained by one hand to the wall in a windowless cell and left with a bucket and a bottle in lieu of a latrine. He remained there for nearly a week, he said, and then was blindfolded and bound again and taken to another prison. "There, they put me in a room, suspended me by my arms and attached my feet to the floor," he recalled. "They cut off my clothes very fast and took off my blindfold." An older man, graying at the temples, entered the room with a young woman with shoulder-length blond hair, he said. They spoke English, which Mr. Saidi understands a little, and they interrogated him for two hours through a Moroccan translator. At last, he said, he thought he would learn why he was there, but the questioning only confounded him.
He said the interrogators focused on a telephone conversation they said he had had with his wife's family in Kenya about airplanes. But Mr. Saidi said he told them that he could not recall talking to anyone about planes.
He said the interrogators left him chained for five days without clothes or food. "They beat me and threw cold water on me, spat at me and sometimes gave me dirty water to drink," he said. "The American man told me I would die there."
He said his legs and feet became painfully swollen because he was forced to stand for so long with his wrists chained to the ceiling. After they removed him from the chains, he said, he was moved back to the "dark" prison and a doctor gave him an injection for his legs.
After one night there, he was moved to a third prison. He said the guards in this prison were Afghans, and one told him that he was outside Kabul. [complete article]
Italian probe broadens beyond abduction
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2006
What began as an investigation of the alleged CIA abduction of a radical Muslim cleric has mushroomed into a wider probe of possibly illegal domestic espionage by Italian intelligence agents compiling dossiers on judges, journalists and prosecutors.
Investigators raided the files of one intelligence agency Thursday, and journalists figured into the growing scandal as both the purported spies and the purported spied-upon. [complete article] Hate groups are infiltrating the military, group asserts
By John Kifner, New York Times, July 7, 2006
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.
"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem." [complete article] Eight British soldiers battle with 1,200 Taleban at 'Camp Incoming'
By Tim Albone, The Times, July 7, 2006
Shortly after dark last night [the Taleban] attacked again -- this time targeting our outpost directly with mortars and machinegun fire. The Afghan police guarding the outer perimeter vanished and the British fired 400 rounds to drive the enemy away.
For the eight British soldiers assigned to Tangye to train a contingent of 17 Afghan soldiers such attacks are now commonplace.
They moved in five weeks ago, shortly after two French soldiers were killed a few hundred yards from the outpost. Since then there have been only seven days on which the tiny Operational, Mentoring and Liaison Team has not seen action. As many as 1,200 Taleban fighters are thought to be hiding in the surrounding hills. [complete article]
Urgent plan to reinforce troops in Afghanistan as criticism grows
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, July 7, 2006
The [British] government is poised to send hundreds of extra troops to southern Afghanistan after demands from commanders for immediate reinforcements and amid growing criticism of its handling of the military operation.
Des Browne, the defence secretary, told MPs that he had received a request for "further deployment" which he was considering with the chiefs of staff as a "matter of urgency". [complete article]
Written again in British blood
By Ben Macintyre, The Times, July 7, 2006
British commanders seem genuinely surprised by the level of resistance they are facing in Helmand. The Ministry of Defence described the Taleban attacks as "unexpected". Unexpected? This is a country that has been battling foreign forces and their new- fangled weapons, almost as a way of life, ever since Alexander the Great arrived with his elephants. The Soviets were still being "surprised" by the level of Afghan resistance when they finally pulled out in 1989, leaving 50,000 dead and a million dead Afghans. [complete article] What does North Korea want?
By Bruce Cumings and Meredith Jung-En Woo, New York Times, July 7, 2006
North Korea's July 4 fireworks display had a desperate quality to it, even by the standards of a regime that specializes in self-defeating provocation.
Whatever the original purpose may have been, it took exactly 42 seconds for this spectacle to backfire as the first stage of the long-range Taepodong 2 missile exploded and fell harmlessly into the Pacific. It is a telling metaphor for a regime that hasn't had a successful initiative in two decades.
Since mid-June the Taepodong had been sitting on its launching pad, a premonitory bird waiting to take wing — and hiding in plain sight. For half a century North Korea has known that anything above ground can be seen by American spy satellites; that's why the world's most remarkable garrison state has some 15,000 underground security sites. The missile was there for us to see.
Why were the Taepodong and the handful of other smaller rockets fired on Tuesday? Probably because it seemed like apt payback for the timing of the Pentagon's warfare exercises in the Pacific, which the North Koreans have taken as an insult and which they have been hyperventilating about for weeks.
The scope of the exercises certainly annoyed the North Koreans: eight nations, 19,000 American troops. But so, too, did the timing. The North Koreans claim that the maneuvers started on June 25 — the 56th anniversary of the day the Korean War began. (The Pentagon says that they started on June 26.)
For the North Koreans, only symbolism can fight symbolism. In the past, however, these symbolic conflicts have led to new negotiations. [complete article] Captive in Gaza
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram Weekly, July 6, 2006
It is now clear to most Israelis that the relative quiet they enjoyed for the last year or so was not due to their army's military prowess. It was due to the Palestinian ceasefire, observed above all by Hamas's military arm, Izzeddin El-Qassam (IQ). Since it was renounced, 200 mortars have been fired into Israel, four soldier abductions have been attempted or carried out and two soldiers and one settler have been killed.
Threats Hamas may now take the fight "deep into Israel" reminds most Israelis of the bloodiest days of the Intifada. It destroys the illusion that the Gaza disengagement was somehow a military success. And it casts Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's project to determine unilaterally Israel's eastern border as absolute folly. [complete article] Hamas sources confirm report on possible deal on Gilad Shalit
By Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz, July 7, 2006
Hamas would agree to release the abducted Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, and to stop firing Qassam rockets at Israel in exchange for the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and about 30 prisoners who have been in Israeli jails for more than 20 years, sources within the organization said Thursday.
Also Thursday, father of the abducted soldier called on Israel to free Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel in exchange for the release of his son.
This was the first time Noam Shalit has publicly voiced support for a prisoner exchange, a demand Hamas has been making on Israel since the soldier was captured. [complete article]
Israeli tanks meet fierce resistance
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 7, 2006
Israeli tanks pushed into populated areas here Thursday for the first time since reentering the Gaza Strip last week and met fierce resistance from Palestinians using rocket-propelled grenades, roadside mines and rifles to slow their advance.
At least 21 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, many from the governing Hamas movement's armed wing, and an Israeli soldier died after being shot in the head by a sniper.
The battlefield was concentrated along a half-mile strip of homes, dunes and orchards in a western neighborhood of this city, the deepest Israel has reached inside Gaza since evacuating its settlements and military bases here almost a year ago.
The clashes marked a significant turn in what had been a slow-moving Israeli military effort to free a captured soldier, stop the firing of rockets into southern Israel and weaken Hamas's hold on the Palestinian government. Employing tanks, bulldozers and Apache attack helicopters, the operation also provided a vivid view of the challenges now facing Israel's potent military as it fights a guerrilla force in residential areas. [complete article] Somali militia face off
By Guled Mohamed, Reuters, July 7, 2006
Militiamen linked to Somalia's sharia courts faced off with a group vowing to fight Mogadishu's new Islamist rulers on Friday as residents feared another flare-up in fighting after a month of relative peace.
And in another indication of the emerging hardline nature of the Islamists, a local sheikh was quoted in local media as saying anyone who does not practice daily prayers should die.
"He who does not perform prayer will be considered as infidel and our sharia law orders that person to be killed," Mogadishu cleric Sheikh Abdalla Ali said, according to the Shabelle media group. It could not be independently confirmed. [complete article] American dream, American nightmare
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 5, 2006
I spent the early morning yesterday in my Paris apartment re-reading George Orwell's long essay, "Notes on Nationalism." It was written in 1945, but seemed the right thing for this year's Fourth of July when so many expressions of nationalism are in the air: the relatively benign World Cup competition, the blood-soaked tension between the Palestinians and Israelis and the ferocious violence of the war in Iraq.
Orwell wrote that nationalism is partly "the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects." He said it's not to be confused with patriotism, which Orwell defined as "devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people."
July 4, I would argue, is a patriotic holiday in just that sense -- a true celebration of so much that makes the United States of America unique. It's the party thrown by a nation of immigrants to mark the creation of something new on the face of the earth, a society devoted not to the past but to the future-the incredibly elegant vision of "certain inalienable rights" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
But American nationalism, unlike American patriotism, is different-and dangerous.
The second part of Orwell's definition tells you why. Nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, "placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests." Patriotism is essentially about ideas and pride. Nationalism is about emotion and blood. The nationalist's thoughts "always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. ... Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception." [complete article]
Comment -- The distinction between nationalism and patriotism is at heart a question of affiliation. Patriotism expresses affiliation to a place; nationalism is about affiliation to power. Patriotism is in this sense as old as agriculture - as old as the human habit to create enduring habitations and invest our ability to survive in our understanding of a particular place. Nationalism, on the other hand, is of course no older than the nation-state - a mechanism through which power can be concentrated in the hands of a governing elite that blends punishment and protection, inclusion and exclusion, in order to meld a nationalistic temperment in the governed population. Through nationalism our ability to survive is equated with the survival of the own nation. Our identity then becomes confused with the identity of the nation and we forget that ours is only one speck of human life, fundamentally no different from any other - whichever nation in which that life happens to find its home. North Korea's ace threatens U.S.-Seoul alliance
By Donald Kirk, Asia Times, July 7, 2006
Right now the target with the most to fear is Japan. The failure of the long-range Taepodong-2 to go anywhere is less than comforting news to the Japanese considering the success of the other missiles - short-range Scuds and mid-range Rodongs - on test flights into the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
North Korea earns about $1.5 billion a year exporting these missiles, and some of their components and technology, to markets mainly in the Middle East. While notoriously inaccurate, they can menace Japan any time while scientists and technicians correct the flaws that make the Taepodong an unreliable instrument of war.
Understandably, the Japanese are more outraged than anyone else by the North Korean display. The Japanese response may have an impact that Kim may not have anticipated. Pressure is building inside Japan to do away with article nine of Japans' post-war "peace constitution" forbidding Japanese forces from going to war against foreign enemies for anything other than the defense of the Japanese islands. Japan already has mounted SAM3 missiles on Aegis-class destroyers and is installing American Patriot missiles, all to ward off any real threat from North Korea and, in case of some future conflagration, possibly China as well.
The pressure for a shift in Japanese policy is sure to increase, especially since Japan in recent years has become increasingly conservative. One result of this pressure is that the US-Japan alliance, strained during periods when the Japanese perceived no real need for American military support, has tightened. Japan and the US appear likely to grow still closer militarily as they build up defenses at sea and on land.
The renaissance of Japanese military strength will increase tensions throughout the region, notably between China and Japan and between South Korea and Japan - not to mention China and South Korea versus the United States.
In fact, Kim's greatest success may have been to deepen the divisions that raise serious questions about the future of the US-South Korean alliance. [complete article]
Few good choices in North Korean standoff
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 6, 2006
The Bush administration has tried to ignore North Korea, then, reluctantly, to engage it, and then to squeeze its bankers in a manner intended to make the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, personally feel the pinch.
Yet none of these steps in the past six years has worked. So now, after a barrage of missile launchings by North Korea, President Bush and his national security advisers found themselves on Wednesday facing what one close aide described as an array of "familiar bad choices."
The choices have less to do with North Korea's newest missile — which, as Mr. Bush pointed out on Wednesday, "didn't stay up very long and tumbled into the sea" — than with the bigger question of whether the president is prepared to leave office in 2009 without constraining an unpredictable dictator who boasts about having a nuclear arsenal. [complete article]
Missile failure masks success
North Korea test rattles U.S., Japan
By James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2006
The North Koreans might have failed to send a long-range missile into space this week, but weapons experts say the test-firing succeeded in other important ways: It made clear that Pyongyang still has a credible, advanced missile program and that it has the ability to seize Washington's attention at will. [complete article] A driven president faces a world of crises
By Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 6, 2006
From deteriorating security in Afghanistan and Somalia to mayhem in the Middle East, confrontation with Iran and eroding relations with Russia, the White House suddenly sees crisis in every direction.
North Korea's long-range missile test Tuesday, although unsuccessful, was another reminder of the bleak foreign policy landscape that faces President Bush even outside of Iraq. Few foreign policy experts foresee the reclusive Stalinist state giving up the nuclear weapons it appears to have acquired, making it another in a long list of world problems that threaten to cloud the closing years of the Bush administration, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.
"I am hard-pressed to think of any other moment in modern times where there have been so many challenges facing this country simultaneously," said Richard N. Haass, a former senior Bush administration official who heads the Council on Foreign Relations. "The danger is that Mr. Bush will hand over a White House to a successor that will face a far messier world, with far fewer resources left to cope with it." [complete article] U.S. seen backing Israeli moves to topple Hamas
By Ori Nir, The Forward, July 7, 2006
The Bush administration appears to have dropped any objections to Israeli efforts to topple the Palestinian Authority's democratically elected Hamas government.
Israel's security Cabinet on Wednesday authorized the Israeli military to broaden its actions in Gaza and further target Hamas, the terrorist organization that won January's Palestinian elections and has claimed responsibility for the abduction of Israeli army Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Since Israel started moving forces into Gaza in response to Shalit's abduction last week, the Bush administration has urged Jerusalem to spare civilians and to provide for their humanitarian needs. Administration officials have also insisted that no harm come to P.A. President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who they view as a dependable alternative to Hamas.
But in sharp contrast to previous communications, the White House did not advise Olmert's government against taking steps that would lead to the fall of the Hamas government. American officials did not attempt to intervene when Israel carried out mass arrests of Palestinian elected officials affiliated with Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel or to abandon terrorism. And they also did not appear to object to Israel's bombing of the Gaza offices of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and the P.A. Interior Ministry. [complete article]
See also, Crisis in U.S. media coverage of Gaza (Electronic Intifada).
Comment -- If the hallmark of friendship is the ability to provide wise counsel and tell a friend what he won't be able to hear from his critics, Israel and America are the worst possible friends. Their complicity in efforts to destroy Hamas seems blind to the consequences, namely, that if the Hamas government is driven from power its militant wing and every other Palestinian militant group will only be empowered, and that throughout the Arab world the view of America's program of democratization as a poisoned chalice will only be further reinforced. If there is a real axis of evil it hinges on faith that the bullet wields more power than the ballot. This is where America, Israel and the men of violence all appear to be of one mind. Europe's response to the siege of Gaza is shameful
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 6, 2006
European impotence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of course an ancient problem. The disease's latest aggravation began in January after Hamas's election victory. Here was an event which was bound to have huge repercussions in Israel, on every state's relations with the Palestinian authority, on the future of political Islam throughout the Arab world, as well as on the west's image among Muslims. In short, it was a moment where the time-honoured diplomatic technique - a pause for reflection - was vital. The device is often used to cover unnecessary delay. This time there was a genuine need to analyse and consult before rushing to conclusions. There was no urgency since Israel was already refusing to negotiate with President Mahmoud Abbas.
Yet the EU promptly lined up with the US and Israel in demanding Hamas change its policies or be punished. The Quartet, a relatively recent body set up to coordinate policies between the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, became a trap, acting as an arm of the US state department for keeping other states in line. The Quartet's demands on Hamas were identical to Israel's. [complete article]
See also, E.U . tones down criticism of Israel (AP). The only option
Editorial, Haaretz, July 6, 2006
At this time, it must be reiterated - and it would be appropriate for the prime minister to find the time and the strength of will to do so - that Israel has no option in the long run other than withdrawing from the territories and from the occupation. The Qassam launches' infringement on Israeli sovereignty is intolerable, and Israel must cause it to end. But this problem, grave as it is, is essentially tactical. It is not a reason for returning to Gaza, and a return to Gaza would bolster neither Israel's sovereignty nor its deterrent capabilities. Toppling the Hamas government is liable to result in chaos on the Palestinian side and deter the Palestinians from holding elections in the future, given that Israel and the Western world are not honoring the results. [complete article]
See also, We need a Nasrallah (Aluf Benn), Palestinian poll: Faith in Hamas government is on the rise (Haaretz), and Arab League, Saudi Arabia transfer $100m to Palestinians (Haaretz). 17 Palestinians killed since start of incursion Thursday
By Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, Aluf Benn, Mijal Grinberg and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz, July 6, 2006
Seventeen Palestinians were killed Thursday during an IDF incursion in northern Gaza aimed at ending Qassam fire.
Palestinian officials said eight people were killed and 20 more wounded when an Israel Air Force aircraft fired a missile and two shells at a group of armed militants in Beit Lahia Thursday afternoon. Three others were killed and another 35 wounded in further afternoon clashes.
The IDF confirmed that it had carried out an air strike targeting a group of gunmen.
Six more Palestinians, five militants and a civilian, were killed in Gaza earlier Thursday, following the start of an Israel Defense Forces incursion in northern Gaza. [complete article]
In Gaza's rocket rain
By Mona Elfarra, From Gaza With Love (via LAT), July 6, 2006
My friend Hoda lives next to the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza, which was hit last night with two rockets. The attack occurred at 2 a.m. yesterday. (Please forgive me about the accuracy — I am starting to lose track of days and nights, and how many times we were attacked).
Hoda told me that her whole building was shaking. She went out in her pajamas, and all the residents were out in their nightwear; children's faces were too pale, some of them were crying hysterically. The fumes filled the place. I live 150 meters [about 164 yards] from Hoda's place. Nobody is safe, no one is immune. [complete article]
See Mona Elfarra's blog, From Gaza With Love. After the second Israeli strike on the Palestinian Interior Ministry, Mona writes, "I contacted Hoda, my friend, she lives next to the building, to find her hysterically screaming, shouting in pain, trapped under her broken windows, all the windows, of her flat broke, the fumes fill the place, she is waiting for the emergency team to evacuate her, I can hear the hysterical sounds of her neibours, over the phone, I feel helpless, don't know what to do, for my friend..."
Father of abducted IDF soldier calls for prisoner exchange
By Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz, July 6, 2006
The father of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit on Thursday called on Israel to free Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel in exchange for the release of his son.
This was the first time Noam Shalit has publicly voiced support for a prisoner exchange, a demand Hamas has been making on Israel since the soldier was captured.
"I know releasing prisoners was on the agenda before the incident, as a kind of gesture, so there is no reason for it not to be on the agenda also after the incident, for the good of releasing a soldier who was sent by the state to the front lines," said Shalit. [complete article] Ministry admits 'blacklist' of Palestinians who left W. Bank
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, July 6, 2006
The government maintains a "blacklist" of Palestinians who left the territories during the 1967 Six Day War, and have since been barred from coming back, lest they sue for the return of their land, the Defense Ministry admitted for the first time Tuesday.
The property has been used to establish settlements and military bases in the Jordan Valley.
The blacklist began with 100 people, but swelled to over 2,000 by late 2004, when Brigadier General Ilan Paz, then-commander of the army's Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District, ordered that no new names be added henceforth. Palestinians on the list who sought to rejoin their families in the territories, or even to come on brief visits, were refused permission "for security reasons." [complete article] In cold blood: Iraqi tells of massacre at farmhouse
By Raheem Salman and J. Michael Kennedy, Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2006
He was the first to enter the charred farmhouse where the bodies of his relatives lay strewn about the floor, shot and bludgeoned to death.
And he watched more than three months later as a U.S. Army officer took the two surviving children in his arms, barely able to hold back tears as he told them that the people who had killed their family would be punished.
"Never in my mind could I have imagined such a gruesome sight," Abu Firas Janabi said of the day in March when his cousin, Fakhriya Taha Muhsen; her husband, Kasim Hamza Rasheed; and their two daughters were slain and their farmhouse set ablaze.
"Kasim's corpse was in the corner of the room, and his head was smashed into pieces," he said. The 5-year-old daughter, Hadel, was beside her father, and Janabi said he could see that Fakhriya's arms had been broken.
In another room, he found 15-year-old Abeer, naked and burned, with her head smashed in "by a concrete block or a piece of iron." [complete article] Buses carrying Iranians attacked in Iraq
By Bushra Juhi, AP (via Yahoo), July 6, 2006
A suicide car bomb tore through buses carrying Iranian pilgrims Thursday near a Shiite shrine in the holy city of Kufa, killing as many as 12 people and wounding 39, authorities said.
The attack occurred about 7:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday) near the shrine of Maitham al-Tamar, a follower of Imam Ali, and just down the street from the revered Kufa mosque.
But Dr. Munthir al-Athari of the local health department and provincial spokesman Ahmed Duaibl later said 12 people had been killed and 39 wounded in the attack. Al-Athari said eight Iranians were among those killed and 22 were injured. [complete article] Iraqi leaders question U.S. troops' immunity
By Jonathan Finer and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 6, 2006
Following a recent string of alleged atrocities by U.S. troops against Iraqi civilians, leaders from across Iraq's political spectrum called Wednesday for a review of the U.S.-drafted law that prevents prosecution of coalition forces in Iraqi courts.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters during a visit to Kuwait that "the immunity given to members of coalition forces encouraged them to commit such crimes in cold blood," adding, "That makes it necessary to review it."
The demand could widen a rift between U.S. and Iraqi authorities over killings and other crimes allegedly carried out in recent months. Maliki, who said last month that excessive force by U.S. troops was commonplace, also said Monday that the government would open its own investigation into allegations of rape and murder by American soldiers during a March attack on a family in Mahmudiyah.
A top U.S. military spokesman told reporters during a briefing in Baghdad that investigations into the Mahmudiyah case and several others are "being pursued vigorously."
"We will hold ourselves accountable for our actions," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV added, saying that if crimes occurred they would be an aberration and that U.S. forces have made many positive contributions. [complete article] At Baghdad University, finals not the hardest test
By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 6, 2006
The letter was slipped under the dean's office door, in an envelope slightly bulging from the AK-47 bullet tucked inside.
"You have to understand our circumstances. We cannot perform well on the exam because of the problems in Baghdad. And you have to help," the letter began, said its recipient, A.M. Taleb, dean of the College of Sciences at Baghdad University. "If you do not, you and your family will be killed."
It's finals time in Iraq. Black-clad gunmen have stormed a dormitory to snatch students from their rooms. Professors fear failing and angering their pupils. Administrators curtailed graduation ceremonies to avoid convening large groups of people into an obvious bombing target. Perhaps nowhere else does the prospect of two months' summer vacation -- for those who can afford it, a chance to flee the country -- bring such unbridled relief. [complete article] Iran says it will give no early nuclear reply
By Parisa Hafezi and Mark John, Reuters (via WP), July 6, 2006
Iran defied international calls for an early reply to an offer of incentives aimed at ending a nuclear stand-off, insisting on Thursday it would use a key July 11 meeting merely to raise questions on the package.
The European Union is due to hold preliminary talks with Iran on Thursday and more detailed discussions next Tuesday in which it expects a formal response to a package of technology, trade and other incentives to halt uranium enrichment.
"The Tuesday meeting is just for removing ambiguities. Iran will not give its definitive answer at this meeting," an Iranian official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters. [complete article] Pakistan in line for massive arms deal
By Jason Sherman, InsideDefense.com, July 6, 2006
The Bush administration has proposed a long-awaited set of significant enhancements to Pakistan's air force in a potential $5.1 billion deal that includes three dozen new F-16 fighter aircraft, new weapons and upgrades to the South Asian country's existing fighter fleet.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arm of the Pentagon that handles foreign military sales, said in a statement that Congress has been notified of the proposed deal, which opens the door for Pakistan to upgrade its existing fleet of 32 F-16A/B models, as well another 28 older models formerly flown by other nations that it may acquire.
If fully attained, the ensemble would considerably improve the ability of Pakistan's fighter fleet, which also operates hundreds of Chinese fighter aircraft that analysts say would have little utility in combat, as well as approximately 150 aging Mirage III and Mirage V fighters. [complete article] Palestine: Hamas besieged
By Wendy Kristianasen, Le Monde diplomatique, June, 2006
The Palestinians voted for Hamas because it offered clean hands, not tarnished with corruption, and had a strong social base and good record in local government. Also because Fatah's strategy had failed. The head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, Raja Sourani, said: "As an organisation Hamas is number one, the rest are number 10. People gave them the benefit of the doubt because they're just ordinary people. The reality is that the occupation is still there: it decides the colour of our underwear, the medicine we give our children. We're suffocating. Israel called Arafat the godfather of terrorism and put him under siege; then Abu Mazen came and they didn't even talk to him. Now we're being punished for expressing our free will and electing Hamas. So what's new? We were already declared an enemy. What's happening now, though, is a call for Bin Laden." [complete article]
By Alain Gresh, Le Monde diplomatique, June, 2006
The 1949 Geneva Conventions state, in article 54 of their additional protocol: "Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited". It is also "prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population". That means that the Israeli army’s latest offensive in the occupied territories amounts to war crimes; it includes the blockade of the civilian population and their collective punishment, the bombing of Gaza's $150m power station, depriving 750,000 Palestinians of electricity in the intense summer heat, and the kidnapping on the West Bank of 64 members of the political wing of Hamas, including eight cabinet ministers and 22 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. On 5 July the Israeli government said it would expand its military operation in Gaza. [complete article]
See also, Israeli tanks advance into Gaza (BBC). Former regime said at core of insurgency
By Bassem Mroue, AP (via Yahoo), July 5, 2006
The Iraqi government's list of the 41 most wanted fugitives suggests that former members of Saddam Hussein's regime form the backbone of the insurgency despite attention paid to the role of religious extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq.
The list, released last weekend, includes at least 21 former regime figures, among them Saddam's chief lieutenant, his wife, eldest daughter, two nephews and a cousin -- allegedly financiers of the insurgency.
Only five of the 41 names are clearly identified as members of al-Qaida's local branch. [complete article]
Panel orders Abu Ghraib documents from Pentagon
By Kristin Roberts, Reuters, July 5, 2006
A U.S. congressional panel has ordered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to turn over documents on the probe into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after the Pentagon failed to respond to an earlier request.
The House Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena to Rumsfeld last week and said the Pentagon must produce a raft of documents, including all drafts of the report on the Abu Ghraib investigation, by the end of business on July 14.
The subpoena follows Rumsfeld's failure to respond to a March 7 letter from the congressional panel requesting the same documents. [complete article]
Iraqi PM demands rape probe, slams U.S. immunity
By Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters, July 5, 2006
Iraq's prime minister called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and killing of her family by U.S. soldiers and a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law.
Five months before the expiry of the U.S.-led occupation force's United Nations mandate, Nuri al-Maliki said he was not calling for the early departure of the troops, who he said would remain for as long as Iraqi forces required assistance.
"Yes we will demand an independent Iraqi inquiry, or a joint investigation with Multinational Forces," Nuri al-Maliki told reporters during a visit to Kuwait, in his first public comments since the case came to light five days ago.
"We do not accept the violation of Iraqi people's honor as happened in this case. We believe that the immunity granted to international forces has emboldened them to commit such crimes and ... there must be a review of this immunity," he said. [complete article] Iraq vets face another battle -- homelessness
AP (via CNN), July 5, 2006
Herold Noel had nowhere to call home after returning from military service in Iraq. He slept in his Jeep, taking care to find a parking space where he wouldn't get a ticket.
"Then the nightmares would start," says the 26-year-old former Army private first class, who drove a fuel truck in Iraq. "I saw a baby decapitated when it was run over by a truck -- I relived that every night."
Across America on any given evening, hundreds of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan like Noel are homeless, according to government estimates. [complete article]
The lonely American just got a bit lonelier
By Henry Fountain, New York Times, July 2, 2006
For as long as humans have gathered in groups, it seems, some people have been left on the outside looking in. In postwar America in particular, the idea that loneliness pervades a portion of society has been a near-constant. Only the descriptions have changed: the "lonely crowd" alienation of the 1950's; the grim career-driven angst of the 70's and 80's; the "Bowling Alone" collapse of social connections of the 90's.
There is a new installment in the annals of loneliness. Americans are not only lacking in bowling partners, now they're lacking in people to tell their deepest, darkest secrets. They've hunkered down even more, their inner circle often contracting until it includes only family, only a spouse or, at worst, no one.
And that is something the Internet may help ease, but is unlikely to cure.
A recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives -- serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all. [complete article]
Comment -- Small wonder that in such a society -- where a metal box (a car with three empty seats) is one of the primary expressions of personal identity -- veterans of a war that has been supported by bumper stickers, would find themselves without a home after returning to their homeland. America's weakness
By Yossi Beilin, Haaretz, July 5, 2006
One of the most striking phenomena of recent weeks, given the stepped-up launching of Qassam rockets on Sderot, the painful incident at Kerem Shalom, and the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, is the absence of the American factor. True, there have been telephone conversations with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. ambassador in Israel receives updates, and the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations objects to resolutions calling on Israel to end its military operation in the Gaza Strip. But in terms of direct influence on the ground, there has been absolute American silence. [complete article]
Comment -- America's silence is as much as anything a reflection of the administration's unwillingness to renounce unilateralism. In Iraq and the occupied territories, the U.S. and Israel have demonstrated the bankruptcy of go-it-alone policies, yet each steadfastly refuses to accept that they are now dealing -- or failing to deal with -- messes of their own making. Refusing to speak to your adversaries doesn't make them go away; it simply makes more likely that would could have been expressed in words, gets transformed into violence.
Israel makes another airstrike on Palestinian Interior Ministry
By Ken Ellingwood and Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2006
Israeli missiles flattened a wing of the Hamas-run Palestinian Interior Ministry here today, in the latest wave of airstrikes meant to pressure Palestinian militants into freeing a captive Israeli soldier.
Palestinians said several civilians were injured in the massive predawn blast at the building, which also was hit last week. [complete article]
Rocket attack angers Israel
By Ferry Biedermannin, Financial Times, July 5, 2006
Israel on Tuesday ordered its army to intensify operations in the Gaza Strip after a rocket launched by Palestinian militants hit the centre of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. The attack, claimed by Hamas, came after Israel ignored a deadline for the release of Palestinian prisoners, set by the captors of a soldier being held in Gaza.
The hit on a parking lot of a school in Ashkelon marked the farthest that the crude, Palestinian-made Qassam rockets had reached inside Israel. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, called it a "serious escalation" and said that Hamas would face the consequences. [complete article]
Security cabinet approves broader IDF operation in Gaza
By Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz, July 5, 2006
The security cabinet, convened by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the wake of a Tuesday evening Qassam rocket strike on Ashkelon, approved Wednesday morning an expansion of the ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip.
The operation's main goals remain to find the soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants last week and to prevent rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities, said an official statement from the Prime Minister's Office issued after the meeting.
Israel has repeatedly refused to negotiate with the militants holding Corporal Gilad Shalit, abducted from an Israel Defense Forces post near the Gaza border 10 days ago. [complete article]
We will not kill Israeli soldier, say kidnappers
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, July 5, 2006
As the deadline set by militants holding 19-year-old Cpl Gilad Shalit for Israel to agree prisoner releases expired yesterday, the groups including members of Hamas's military wing said they would "freeze" contacts with mediators but would not kill their captive. [complete article] North Korea test-fires seventh missile
By Dana Priest, Anthony Faiola and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, July 5, 2006
Japan slapped limited economic sanctions on North Korea Wednesday and moved with the United States to condemn Pyongyang in advance of a hastily called session of the U. N. Security Council after the Stalinist state unnerved the region by test launching a barrage of least seven missiles.
After firing six missile over 4 hours early Wednesday, North Korea continued its unprecedented series of tests by sending a seventh into the Sea of Japan some 12 hours later during rush hour in Japanese cities.
But the missile considered most dangerous to the United States -- the long-range Taepodong-2 potentially capable of hitting targets on the U.S. west coast -- appeared to fail on its first test flight after only 35 seconds and before it entered the second of two-stages, dealing a blow to the North Korean missile program, Japanese and U.S. officials said. [complete article]
By Joe Cirincione, ArmsControlWonk, July 4, 2006
So who looks more foolish here?
A. Kim Jong-Il for staging a July 4th fireworks display that blew up in his face;
B. William Perry and Ash Carter for hyperventilating that we had to blow up this missile on the launch pad, instead of waiting for it to blow itself up 40 seconds after launch;
C. All those reporter who repeated the Pentagon palbum about how until the launch failure "we were ready to do what was necessary to defend the country," as if the interceptors in Alaska had any chance of intercepting anything; or
D. All of the above.
You can guess my choice. [complete article] Civil strife comes home as a son joins Sadr's army
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, July 5, 2006
Schoolboy Mahmoud was selling Pepsi on his Baghdad street when the bomb exploded one block up. Trampled as neighbors fled, he went home crying, falling into the comforting arms of his older sisters.
But that didn't end the horror of that deadly blast three weeks ago for the family of Iraqi widow Karima Selman Methboub and her eight children.
From the end of the corridor in their dilapidated downtown building, the shocked children watched as several bodies were collected on the next street hours after the deadly explosion.
"When you see some dead people, you feel the next time you are the target - like you are in line, waiting after them," says eldest daughter, Fatima. It was the second bomb in a week along the crowded street. "No one can be safe from these explosions," she says, adding that jittery Iraqi soldiers shot someone at the scene as they tried to identify a relative. "No one in Iraq feels safe."
The Monitor has followed the changing emotions of this family, as a window into the lives of ordinary Iraqis, since late 2002, before US forces invaded Iraq. They are typical of Iraq's legions of poor, for whom daily violence - at the hands of insurgents, and more recently sectarian militias - has turned security into an obsession.
And this family's reactions under such pressure are typical, too, leading them to beliefs and actions that they never thought possible after the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled off its plinth April 9, 2003. [complete article]
Wave of bodies in Baghdad's central morgue signals a stepped-up pace of sectarian killing
By Sabrina Tavernise and Sahar Nageeb, New York Times, July 5, 2006
The central morgue said Tuesday that it received 1,595 bodies last month, 16 percent more than in May, in a tally that showed the pace of killing here has increased since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.
Baghdad, home to one-fourth of Iraq's population, has slowly descended into a low-grade civil war in some neighborhoods, with Sunni and Shiite militias carrying out systematic sectarian killings that clear whole city blocks.
To a large extent, control of the capital means control of the country, and Baghdad is at the center of efforts by American military officials and the new Iraqi government to stem the tide of violence.
After Mr. Zarqawi was killed on June 7 in an American airstrike, a security plan was put into effect, with thousands of troops operating new checkpoints throughout the city, but it has had little effect. [complete article]
Iraq considers arming insurgents
By Rick Jervis, USA Today, July 4, 2006
Iraq's government is studying a request from some local insurgent leaders to supply them with weapons so they can turn on the heavily armed foreign fighters who were once their allies, according to two Iraqi lawmakers.
Leaders claiming to represent about 11 insurgent groups asked for weapons to fight foreign al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, said Haider al-Ibadi, a Shiite lawmaker and member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.
"They want to take part in the war against terrorists," said al-Ibadi, who supports the proposal. "They claim they could wipe out the terrorists and work with the government." [complete article]
In Basra, state of emergency provides little relief from violence
By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy, July 4, 2006
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's first major security initiative, a 30-day state of emergency intended to restore peace to Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, appears to have failed, residents there report.
The state of emergency ended Saturday, but residents said that little had changed: Shiite militias and tribes still control the city's streets, political factions still fight for control of the city, and Shiite Muslim militias still threaten Sunni Muslims with death. Morgue officials report that the number of people killed in sectarian violence remains unchanged.
Al-Maliki's Basra initiative had been closely watched as a sign of whether his government would prove more able than its predecessor at reigning in sectarian violence. The government's ability to assert its authority throughout Iraq is an important indicator of when the United States might be able to begin withdrawing troops. [complete article]
Iraq provincial governor threatens to quit
By Sameer N. Yacoub, AP (via WP), July 5, 2006
A provincial police chief resigned Tuesday and the governor said he would leave his post after coalition forces turn over security to Iraqi forces in the southern area later this month, citing fears that violence will increase.
A member of the Muthanna provincial council said the decisions were made at a meeting after nearly 300 fired policemen stormed into the local government headquarters in Samawah earlier in the day to protest their lost jobs. Other former policemen also reportedly beat another council member after breaking into his house Monday night. [complete article] U.S. sees possible links between incidents in Iraq
By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2006
The U.S. military is investigating whether the kidnapping, killing and mutilation of two American soldiers was carried out in retaliation for an alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by another member of the same unit three months earlier, a military official said Tuesday.
The incidents occurred in nearby towns and the soldiers involved were in the same unit. The bodies of the two American soldiers and at least one Iraqi were mutilated. A third U.S. soldier was killed during the kidnapping of his comrades.
The official, citing results of a preliminary military investigation, also said military officers had forced the chief suspect in the rape case out of the Army before the accusation against him came to light because they believed he could pose a threat to Iraqi civilians. [complete article]
In Ramadi, fetid quarters and unrelenting battles
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, July 5, 2006
The Government Center in the middle of this devastated town resembles a fortress on the wild edge of some frontier: it is sandbagged, barricaded, full of men ready to shoot, surrounded by rubble and enemies eager to get inside.
The American marines here live eight to a room, rarely shower for lack of running water and defecate in bags that are taken outside and burned.
The threat of snipers is ever present; the marines start running the moment they step outside. Daytime temperatures hover around 120 degrees; most foot patrols have been canceled because of the risk of heatstroke.
The food is tasteless, the windows boarded up. The place reeks of urine and too many bodies pressed too close together for too long. [complete article] Ayatollah's moves hint Iran wants to engage
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, July 5, 2006
As diplomatic maneuvering continues over Iran's nuclear program, the cleric who holds ultimate authority in the country has signaled twice in recent days that Iran intends to engage the wider world it long held at bay.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, announced the formation of a new council to advise him on foreign affairs and a new privatization program aimed at preparing Iran for eventual membership in the World Trade Organization.
Neither move was related directly to the nuclear controversy, which a senior Iranian official is due to discuss with the European Union's top diplomat on Wednesday. But analysts said Khamenei's announcements served to reinforce the assumption of U.S. and European officials that Iran wants to be more integrated in the world. [complete article] Italy spy held over 'CIA kidnap'
BBC News, July 5, 2006
A top Italian intelligence officer has been arrested in connection with the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terror suspect from a Milan street in 2003.
Marco Mancini, from Sismi intelligence agency, is the first Italian to be linked to the investigation.
Prosecutors say Egyptian Muslim cleric Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was sent to Egypt for interrogation involving torture. [complete article] 3 bombs explode in Kabul; 1 person killed
By Amir Shah, AP (via WP), July 5, 2006
Three bombs exploded Wednesday in the Afghan capital in attacks that targeted buses carrying government workers and security forces, killing one bystander and injuring at least 47 other people, police and witnesses said.
The blasts -- the second spate of bombings in as many days in Kabul -- raised fears that violence roiling the south and east of the country could be spreading to the capital amid a spike in attacks by resurgent Taliban militants. [complete article] CIA closes unit focused on capture of bin Laden
By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, July 4, 2006
The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.
The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.
The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive." [complete article]
CIA: Osama helped Bush in '04
By Robert Parry, Consortium News, July 4, 2006
On Oct. 29, 2004, just four days before the U.S. presidential election, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden released a videotape denouncing George W. Bush. Some Bush supporters quickly spun the diatribe as "Osama's endorsement of John Kerry." But behind the walls of the CIA, analysts had concluded the opposite: that bin-Laden was trying to help Bush gain a second term.
This stunning CIA disclosure is tucked away in a brief passage near the end of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, which draws heavily from CIA insiders. Suskind wrote that the CIA analysts based their troubling assessment on classified information, but the analysts still puzzled over exactly why bin-Laden wanted Bush to stay in office. [complete article]
Risk from al-Qa'eda is greater than ever, warn MPs
By Toby Helm, The Telegraph, July 3, 2006
The war on terrorism is likely to have increased the chances of another "brutal" attack on Britain, a committee of MPs says today ahead of this week's first anniversary of the London bombings.
In a bleak assessment, the foreign affairs select committee says al-Qa'eda, rather than being subdued, has changed its modus operandi and is using Iraq as a propaganda tool and training ground for its global operations. [complete article] Bush directed Cheney to counter war critic
By Murray Waas, National Journal, July 3, 2006
President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's statement.
Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said. [complete article] Zarqawi death has 'little impact'
BBC News, July 4, 2006
The US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last month has had no impact on the violence. But he said the killing had encouraged some insurgent groups to join government reconciliation talks. Mr Khalilzad admitted the situation in Iraq was difficult, but said the US had "no other option than to persist". [complete article]
See also, Same old bloody ball game for Iraq (Sami Moubayed), Iraqis seek release of Sunni legislator (WP), and Iraqi deputy minister kidnapped at gunpoint (The Times).
Oil rivalry rocks Basra
By Raheem Salman and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2006
This once-placid port city is beginning to look a lot like the mob-ruled Chicago of the 1920s, an arena for settling scores between rival gangs, many with ties to the highest echelons of local and national political power.
Basra's sudden political troubles and violence are rooted in a bloody competition for control of millions of dollars in smuggled oil, residents and officials say. Out on the Shatt al Arab waterway and off the coast of the Persian Gulf, boats wait to receive Iraq's smuggled oil, the most visible sign of what many suspect are vast multinational criminal gangs selling subsidized and stolen petroleum products for a premium in Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
"Oil smuggling is one of the biggest issues in Basra," said Furat Shara, the local leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite political party. "It is over the smuggling of oil that there is a conflict among the political parties."
One local official estimated the value of the smuggling trade at $4 billion a year, or about 10% of the country's gross domestic product. [complete article]
Ex-G.I. held in 4 slayings and rape in Iraq
By David S. Cloud and Kirk Semple, New York Times, July 4, 2006
A recently discharged Army private has been arrested on charges of raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and three family members four months ago in their house, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The former soldier, Steven D. Green, 21, had recently been discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder," the prosecutors said. They said Mr. Green and other soldiers had discussed the rape in advance and carried out the crimes after drinking alcohol, leaving a checkpoint and changing from their uniforms into black clothing.
A criminal complaint made public by the prosecutors on Monday charged that Mr. Green shot the three family members, including a child, with an AK-47 assault rifle found in the house in Mahmudiya before he and another soldier raped the woman. Citing interviews with unnamed participants, the document alleges that Mr. Green, his face covered with a brown T-shirt, then "walked over to the woman and shot her several times." It says the soldiers returned to the checkpoint with blood on their clothes and agreed that the episode was "never to be discussed again." [complete article] Hamas officials: Militants pull out of soldier release talks after ultimatum expires
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Amir Oren, Haaretz, July 4, 2006
Palestinian militant factions behind the kidnap of an Israel Defense Forces soldier pulled out of negotiations for his release after Israel rejected their 6 A.M. ultimatum, a Hamas leader in Gaza said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Israel said Tuesday that its refusal to negotiate with the militants holding Shalit remained unchanged, despite the expiration of the deadline.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Tuesday afternoon called on Shalit's captors to protect him, and expressed hope for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.
"The Palestinian government since the first minute of this incident has called and continues to call for the need to protect the life of the Israeli soldier and to treat him well," Haniyeh told a meeting of the Hamas-led Cabinet.
"The government is exerting efforts with Palestinian, Arab and regional parties to end this case in the appropriate manner," he said. Haniyeh added that the government reiterates the need "to continue the political, diplomatic and negotiation efforts and not to close the door and use the language of wisdom and logic to end this." [complete article]
See also, Olmert rejects ultimatum on soldier by Palestinians (NYT) and Berserk in Gaza: Olmert blows it (Tony Karon).
Switzerland: Israel violating international law in Gaza
By Bradely S. Klapper, AP (via WP), July 4, 2006
Switzerland accused Israel of violating international law in its Gaza offensive by inflicting heavy destruction and endangering civilians in acts of collective punishment banned under the Geneva Conventions. [complete article]
As Gaza's plight worsens, Palestinian businesses leave
By Greg Myre, New York Times, July 4, 2006
When Israel left the Gaza Strip last year, Palestinian business executives dreamed of new investments, humming factories and an economic revival. Instead, conditions deteriorated so sharply that some of Gaza's leading industrialists have packed up and moved their operations to Egypt and other Arab states.
The inability of the Hamas-led government to pay public workers has received much attention, but the financial crisis in the private sector is similarly acute, with dozens of factories closing or relocating to neighboring countries.
"These are successful businessmen who survived many difficult years when the Israelis were in Gaza," said Wadie el-Masri, the general manager of an industrial park near the Karni crossing, where goods cross to and from Israel. "Now the situation is worse than ever, and many are leaving. This shows how bad the environment is."
Palestinian businesses place most of the blame on Israel and its extended closing of the Karni crossing, Gaza's lifeline to the commercial world. It has been open for less than 40 days this year for the export of goods made in the strip, Palestinian officials said. [complete article] U.S.-led raid, outreach find residents politely unhelpful on Taliban
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, July 4, 2006
The night was black, except for tiny blue flashlight glows where soldiers checked fuel gauges or ammo clips. The makeshift military camp was silent, except for the low rumble of idling engines and the occasional barking of stray dogs outside the gates.
At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, the troops moved out: 40 U.S. soldiers in a convoy of Humvees mounted with heavy machine guns, and 60 Afghan National Army troops in pickup trucks. Their target was a village 10 miles away, toward which Taliban fighters had retreated after a fierce battle with a convoy of U.S. troops on June 14, leaving a trail of blood in the desert.
For Capt. Steven Wallace, the U.S. military commander in this district of Zabol province, there was much at stake. The Taliban had repeatedly staged attacks here along the major north-south highway. In the June 14 incident, about 50 fighters had ambushed the U.S. convoy from an orchard, injuring two American soldiers and burning one Humvee.
"That ambush was a real eye-opener," Wallace said shortly before the Sunday morning raid. "We've had a lot of small incidents, but this was the first time they massed against us. We killed about seven, but we were trapped and so busy fighting that most of them had time to get away." [complete article]
See also, U.S. to give Afghans $2 billion in additional military equipment (AP). DoD wants $8.6 billion for new weapons
By Jason Sherman, InsideDefense.com, July 3, 2006
The Defense Department is seeking $8.6 billion to buy new weapon systems needed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the first part of fiscal year 2007, a sum well above what lawmakers so far have authorized and appropriated.
This request is part of a massive set of budget documents the Pentagon delivered to Congress on Wednesday night, but refuses to release publicly. It spells out how the Pentagon wants to spend the $50 billion it is seeking to pay for operations in the war on terrorism during the first few months of FY-07.
Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, believes the choice to deliver details on the $50 billion budget data only in paper form -- and only to a handful of lawmakers -- indicates Defense Department leaders want little attention paid to this issue.
"Nowadays it takes a deliberate decision to produce something in hard copy only," said Aftergood. "And the reason for doing that is to curtail distribution. Now why would they make that choice? They aren't claiming that it is classified. There's no national security restriction. Rather they prefer to evade the public spotlight. It may serve their short-term interest, but it doesn't service the larger national interest."
He added: "It's a policy choice they have made to keep the press and the public a few steps behind. Among other things it suggests a lack of confidence in the merits of their own case. They're acting as if they have something to hide." [complete article] Israel must end attack on Hamas' political leaders
Editoral, Haaretz, July 3, 2006
Hamas' victory in the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council boded ill for the future of relations between Israel and the Palestinians and for the security of civilians on both sides. However, getting rid of a central government in the territories brings with it a disaster that is sevenfold greater. In the eyes of the Palestinian public, an Israeli arrest warrant is viewed as a badge of honor for a politician. No Palestinian political leader with any sense would dare to rise to power on the turrets of Israeli tanks. Even if the Fatah bureaucrats, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, decide to consider the option and are tempted to fill the vacuum - they are unlikely to remain in power for too long.
The official eradication of the Palestinian government will leave the government of Israel morally and legally responsible for the well-being of the civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, too. If the government of Israel fails to understand on its own that chaos will lead to Somalization on the other side of the street, the international community will be forced to stop the rot. No wonder the neighboring states, Egypt and Jordan, are monitoring the crisis with increasing worry. [complete article] Soldier's captors give ultimatum to Israel
AP (via MSNBC), July 3, 2006
Three Palestinian militant groups that captured an Israeli soldier issued a statement Monday giving Israel less than 24 hours to start releasing 1,500 Palestinian prisoners or "bear all the consequences."
The ultimatum came as Israel made good on its promise to continue its military offensive until the soldier was freed, firing artillery shells and missiles into the coastal strip and massing troops and tanks along the Gaza-Israel border. [complete article]
See also, Israel rejects militants' ultimatum on prisoner exchange (Haaretz), Israeli military favors freeing prisoners who aren't terrorists (Haaretz), and Israel orders army to 'do everything' to free corporal (WP). We need fewer secrets
By Jimmy Carter, Washington Post, July 3, 2006
The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) turns 40 tomorrow, the day we celebrate our independence. But this anniversary will not be a day of celebration for the right to information in our country. Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Obstructionist policies and deficient practices have ensured that many important public documents and official actions remain hidden from our view. [complete article] Shiite insurgent group makes Iraq debut
By Sam F. Ghattas, AP (via Seattle P-I), July 3, 2006
A self-styled Shiite Muslim insurgent group made its public debut in a videotape aired by a Lebanese TV station, pledging to fight U.S., British and other coalition forces but to spare Iraqi civilians and soldiers.
"We have been patient enough and we have given the political process a chance," the Islamic Resistance in Iraq - Abbas Brigades said in a statement that accompanied the tape Sunday. It could not be independently authenticated.
It was the first public appearance by a Shiite group claiming a role in an insurgency that has been dominated by Sunni Arabs, who lost the power and privilege they had under Saddam's regime to the majority Shiite Arabs and minority Sunni Kurds. [complete article]
Sunnis boycott Iraqi parliament over kidnapping of legislator
By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 3, 2006
The largest Sunni Arab bloc in the Iraqi parliament said on Sunday it would boycott the fledgling legislature to protest the kidnapping of a colleague, at a time when the prime minister is pushing a reconciliation plan aimed at bringing religious sects together and lessening the daily violence.
The decision by the Sunni Accord Front, which holds 44 seats in the 275-member parliament, threatens to pull the legislature apart. The announcement came a day after legislator Tayseer Mashhadani and seven of her bodyguards were abducted in broad daylight on a busy street in a predominantly Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad. One of the leaders of the Accord Front, Adnan Dulaimi, said the Sunni parliament members would not participate in the legislature until Mashhadani was released. [complete article]
Al-Zarqawi's wife: Al-Qaida sold him out
AP (via Boston Globe), July 3, 2006
Al-Qaida leaders sold out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the United States in exchange for a promise to let up in the search for Osama bin Laden, the slain militant's wife claimed in an interview with an Italian newspaper.
The woman, identified by La Repubblica as al-Zarqawi's first wife, said al-Qaida's top leadership reached a deal with U.S. intelligence because al-Zarqawi had become too powerful. She claimed Sunni tribes and Jordanian secret services mediated the deal. [complete article] How to help Afghanistan
By Ahmed Rashid, Washington Post, July 3, 2006
The current political and military meltdown in Afghanistan was entirely predictable and avoidable. For the past three years Afghans, their president, Hamid Karzai, and foreign experts have been warning that the failure of the United States and the international community to provide sufficient economic, military and reconstruction resources to the fledgling Afghan government would lead to a Taliban resurgence and disillusionment among the Afghan people. That is exactly what has happened.
But there is still a way out of the mess if the international community and the Afghans pull together, rather than being at odds with one another. Karzai set the ball rolling late last month by calling for a joint strategy in a critical meeting with the most important foreign players in Kabul.
The situation is dire. The Taliban offensive in the south and the counteroffensive by British, Canadian and U.S. troops under NATO has escalated into a full-scale war, with a dozen attacks every day and 700 lives lost since mid-May. Most Afghans are angry with the United States and the West for ignoring the alleged sanctuary provided to the Taliban by Pakistan, and with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for apparently supporting Karzai and the Taliban at the same time. [complete article] Generals think again in Taliban onslaught
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, July 3, 2006
Until recently, western generals in Afghanistan spoke frequently of Taliban "remnants", suggesting the scrappy remains of a vanquished army. The former Taliban minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil chimed in, writing off the militants as a "spent force".
Today such talk has evaporated. A series of firefights in the past six months has refashioned the militants' image as a force that is motivated, organised, armed and unafraid to die. More than 3,300 British troops have barely arrived in Helmand and already five have been killed. Two soldiers died on Saturday in Sangin, a rebel-infested district, after their camp was strafed with rockets and gunfire.
The emboldened tactics seem near-suicidal. Taliban fighters account for most of the 1,100 Afghan combat deaths this year, many crushed by 500lb bombs or strafed by warplanes that can fire 3,900 bullets a minute.
The Taliban regularly lose 20 men for every one Afghan or western casualty, according to unconfirmed coalition death tolls. Yet they keep on coming. In an effort to flush the militants from their mountain and desert hideouts, American commanders recently launched Operation Mountain Thrust, a four-province sweep involving more than 10,000 soldiers. They predict a bloody summer but eventual victory. "I am confident the situation will improve by the end of this year," Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry told Pentagon reporters last week. But Mountain Thrust is mixed news for British officers, who had vowed to differentiate themselves from the Americans through a softer approach to win hearts and minds. Now they find themselves swept along in an aggressive operation that may crush the insurgency but could also inflame a new generation of anti-foreign fighters. [complete article]
See also, Britain plans extra troops to fight Taliban (The Guardian). Israel's actions in Gaza no different to those of a terror group
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 2, 2006
A black flag hangs over the "rolling" operation in Gaza. The more the operation "rolls," the darker the flag becomes. The "summer rains" we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria's airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.
A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve. [complete article]
See also, Israel's act of war is inexcusable (Will Hutton) and Once again, no one to talk to (Uzi Benziman). Hamas threatens to attack Israeli schools if IDF incursion into Gaza continues
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz, July 2, 2006
Hamas' armed wing threatened on Sunday to attack Israeli schools, institutions and power plants if Israel, pursuing a military campaign to free a kidnapped soldier held in Gaza, continued its air strikes against infrastructure in Gaza.
"If they continue with these attacks we will strike similar targets in the Zionist Occupation which we have not targeted until now," Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas' Iz al-Din al-Qassam, said. [complete article]
Palestine 'ready to trade' captured Israeli soldier
By Conal Urquhart, The Observer, July 2, 2006
Palestinian militant sources claimed last night that they were close to reaching an agreement in negotiations over the release of an Israeli soldier. They want a guarantee that Israel will free prisoners at a future date in return for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Palestinians say they accept that Israel will not free any prisoners immediately, but insist they will give up the 19-year-old soldier only in return for a commitment for a future release. Because they have no confidence in Israeli assurances, they stipulate that it must make a commitment to a third party such as Egypt. Israel would also be expected to end its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Deputy Minister of Prisoner Affairs said Shalit had minor injuries but was in a stable condition. Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah, Ziad Abu Aen cited 'mediators' as telling him that Shalit, captured during a raid into Israel by militants last Sunday, had three wounds: 'I guess shrapnel wounds.'
The news came as an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at the Gaza City office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. [complete article]
See also, Israel strikes at Hamas anew (WP)
Gaza's slide to war
By Jane Kinninmont, Open Democracy, June 30, 2006
Just as a glimmer of hope emerges that Hamas might be shifting its position towards Israel, a major escalation of violence risks setting everything back. This is no accidental irony of history – it seems likely that hawkish Palestinian militants were deliberately trying to provoke Israeli military action, in order to derail a "peace process" that they have no faith in. And it might just work. [complete article]
Feuding militants unite against Israel
By Marie Colvin, The Sunday Times, July 2, 2006
Two weeks ago Abu Khaled and Hamed were shooting at one another, sworn enemies in the struggle between rival factions of Fatah and Hamas for control of the miserable strife-torn overcrowded Gaza Strip.
Last week the two men, both in their early twenties, met in a shrapnel-peppered building in Rafah to plot together. Fear of an Israeli attack has made them staunch allies, united by the threat of a common enemy. [complete article]
Hamas: rivalry breeds extremes
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 2, 2006
The Palestinians have a bitter joke: What would happen if the Palestinian Authority disappeared? The answer: How could you tell?
The dysfunction and corruption of the authority -- which was meant to be an interim arrangement, and without the powers of a real state -- was a prime reason Palestinian voters threw out Fatah in legislative elections in January. They took their chances with the militants of Hamas for many reasons, but one was the Islamic movement's reputation for discipline, unity and honesty.
Hamas seemed to act with clear goals and speak with one voice, its spokesmen faithfully sticking to the party line.
Power, however, has proved a trap for Hamas, accentuating its divisions and causing new fractures. While Hamas has been fighting with Fatah in Gaza, trying to consolidate its control over the security forces, it has been unable to control its own leaders in exile in Syria or its military wing, which operates with little regard for the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya. [complete article]
Israeli government set to discuss provision of electricity to Gaza
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, July 2, 2006
In the wake of international pressure, the government was to vote Sunday on a plan to supply electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip, in order to resume the power supply, which was halted following an Israel Air Force strike on a major Palestinian power station there. [complete article] Mistaken entry into clan dispute led to U.S. black eye in Somalia
By Craig Timberg, Washington Post, July 2, 2006
The land was little more than a patch of scrub outside the city. But this being Somalia -- lawless, fractured and armed to the teeth -- it was a patch of scrub that two of the country's most powerful families were prepared to fight over.
The fighting, which began Jan. 13, quickly took on wider significance because of the presence, at an airstrip just three miles away, of a small team of U.S. intelligence officials, according to Somalis knowledgeable about the events of that day.
The Americans were in Somalia because of concerns about terrorism, not land. But when the gunfire rang out, the sources said, the U.S. officials wrongly concluded that they were under attack by Islamic terrorists and abruptly fled. It was a provocation, U.S. officials later told Somalis, that demanded a muscular response.
In the weeks that followed this little-known incident, which U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny, the United States expanded its role in Somalia to levels not seen since it abandoned the country in 1994. The Americans helped organize a group of secular warlords into an "anti-terror coalition" and provided them with a large, steady diet of cash.
The warlords, feared and hated by many Somalis, bragged about the money as they armed themselves as never before.
The infusion of cash upset a fragile balance between the two sides -- but not in the direction the Americans had hoped.
By March, the warlords were under siege. By June 6, they had fled. And by June 24, Hassan Dahir Aweys, a militant Islamic leader hostile to Western democracy and reputed to have ties to al-Qaeda, had taken control of Mogadishu. Late last week, Osama bin Laden boasted of successes there in an audiotape that singled out Somalia as a front in his war against Americans. [complete article] The legal mind behind the White House's war on terror
By Jane Meyer, The New Yorker, July 3, 2006
On December 18th, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, joined other prominent Washington figures at FedEx Field, the Redskins' stadium, in a skybox belonging to the team’s owner. During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law. This requirement, which was instituted by Congress in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, was designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power, such as Nixon's secret monitoring of political opponents and the F.B.I.'s eavesdropping on Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon had claimed that as President he had the "inherent authority" to spy on people his Administration deemed enemies, such as the anti-Vietnam War activist Daniel Ellsberg. Both Nixon and the institution of the Presidency had paid a high price for this assumption. But, according to the Times, since 2002 the legal checks that Congress constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon's actions had been secretly ignored.
According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. "It's Addington," he said. "He doesn't care about the Constitution." Powell was referring to David S. Addington, Vice-President Cheney's chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser. Powell’s office says that he does not recall making the statement. But his former top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, confirms that he and Powell shared this opinion of Addington.
Most Americans, even those who follow politics closely, have probably never heard of Addington. But current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration's legal strategy for the war on terror. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share—namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on national-security issues said that the Administration's legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, "all Addington." Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon's deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was "an unopposable force." [complete article]
Comment -- Regular readers here should already be familiar with Addington through articles appearing on October 31, 2005; February 6, 2006; March 17, 2006; May 14, 2006; and May 28 2006. The court enters the war, loudly
By Adam Liptak, New York Times, July 2, 2006
John C. Yoo, a principal architect of the Bush administration's legal response to the terrorist threat, sounded perplexed and a little bitter on Thursday afternoon. A few hours earlier, the Supreme Court had methodically dismantled the legal framework that he and a few other administration lawyers had built after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"What the court is doing is attempting to suppress creative thinking," said Professor Yoo, who now teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley. "The court has just declared that it's going to be very intrusive in the war on terror. They're saying, 'We're going to treat this more like the way we supervise the criminal justice system.' "
While in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, Mr. Yoo helped write a series of memorandums setting out a bold and novel legal strategy to find, hold, question and punish the nation's enemies. The memorandums said the Geneva Conventions do not apply to people the administration designates as enemy combatants. They contemplated the use of highly coercive interrogation techniques. They justified secret surveillance.
The court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Professor Yoo said, may signal the collapse of the entire enterprise. "It could affect detention conditions, interrogation methods, the use of force," he said. "It could affect every aspect of the war on terror." [complete article]
See also, GOP aims to use a war to win an election battle (LAT) and Hurdle to closing Guantanamo: where to put inmates (WP). The military’s problem with the President's Iran policy
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, July 3, 2006
On May 31st, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced what appeared to be a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The Bush Administration, she said, would be willing to join Russia, China, and its European allies in direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. There was a condition, however: the negotiations would not begin until, as the President put it in a June 19th speech at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, "the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities." Iran, which has insisted on its right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point of the negotiations before they started. The question was whether the Administration expected the Iranians to agree, or was laying the diplomatic groundwork for future military action. In his speech, Bush also talked about "freedom for the Iranian people," and he added, "Iran's leaders have a clear choice." There was an unspoken threat: the U.S. Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up plans, at the President's direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran.
Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President's plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States. [complete article] Massacre at market in Iraq
By Louise Roug and Raheem Salman, Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2006
A suicide car bombing at a crowded open-air market Saturday killed 77 people and wounded 96 in the deadliest single attack since the Iraqi government was formed six weeks ago. Other violence brought the day's toll to 92 even as authorities announced the discovery of 26 bodies.
The market, in the poor Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, was teeming with activity when the bomber struck: Fruit sellers could be heard haggling loudly as shoppers wandered past carts laden with vegetables and watermelons. [complete article]
More than 1000 Iraqis dead in June
AFP (via The Australian), July 1, 2006
At least 1009 Iraqis, including civilians, soldiers and policemen, were killed in rebel attacks in June, government officials said today.
In May the total number of people killed was 1055, according to statistics from the ministries of interior, defence and health.
The 1771, people wounded in June was more than 24 per cent higher than the 1423 recorded in May. [complete article]
Baghdad attacks higher since security crackdown
Reuters, June 30, 2006
Insurgent attacks in Baghdad have risen despite a recent security crackdown that added thousands of troops and new checkpoints to the streets of Iraq's capital, a U.S. commander said on Friday.
"I think since we have started Operation Together Forward, you'll find that the number of attacks are going up," Army Col. Jeffrey Snow told reporters on a videoconference from Baghdad, referring to the security crackdown.
Snow could not provide statistics on the increase in attacks. He said steps to tell the Iraqi people about new security measures kept insurgents informed of the military's plans. [complete article] Bin Laden tape urges insurgents to forgo talks
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, July 2, 2006
Osama bin Laden, in his second recorded message in 48 hours, warned Iraqi insurgents yesterday not to participate in negotiations with the elected government in Baghdad and urged Muslims in Somalia to violently oppose any challenge to Islamists who have seized power in that country.
"There will be no bargaining with the crusaders and the apostates" in Iraq, bin Laden said in a clear reference to efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to draw insurgent groups into negotiations and amnesty agreements with his government. "There will be no half-solutions." Maliki and his appointed predecessors since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq would be punished as soon as American military forces are defeated, he said.
Bin Laden's message, like one released Thursday night, was contained in an audio recording posted on a jihadist Web site. The fifth such message this year, its mention of events occurring over the past week in Iraq and Somalia indicated an ever-faster turnaround time. [complete article]
Bin Laden tape threatens 'bloody retribution' in Iraq
By Philip Sherwell, The Sunday Telegraph, July 2, 2006
Osama Bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, has threatened Iraq's majority Shia population with bloody retribution if what he described as the "annihilation" of the country's Sunni Muslims continued.
The Saudi terrorist chief, an adherent of the extremist Wahabi sect of Sunni Islam, delivered his most strident sectarian message in a new audiotape released on an Islamist internet website yesterday.
In his second pronouncement in two days, bin Laden accused Iraqi Shias of siding with America and its allies in "violating" the predominantly Sunni cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul. He warned that Shia areas would face "retaliation and harm" as a consequence. [complete article]
Al-Qaeda, still in business
By Peter Bergen, Washington Post, July 2, 2006
...according to five veteran U.S. counterterrorism officials I've spoken with recently, al-Qaeda the organization remains a real threat. One longtime government terrorism analyst points to the four suicide attacks in London last July 7 that killed 52 people as evidence of the organization's resilience. "At a minimum, this was an al-Qaeda-supported operation," the analyst told me. And al-Qaeda's leaders don't seem to be feeling the heat of the "war on terror." On Thursday, Osama bin Laden released his third audiotape in three months, while his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has appeared on an unprecedented number of videotapes since the second week of June -- averaging one a week.
So while the rapid spread of al-Qaeda's ideology in the past two years -- partly fueled by the Iraq war -- should be of considerable concern, it would be quite wrong to conclude that al-Qaeda the organization is down for the count. Indeed, if the bombings in London are any indication, it may be staging a comeback. [complete article] Two views of terror suspects: die-hards or dupes
By Christopher Drew and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, July 2, 2006
The seven men who were arrested here last week on terror charges were shown Friday on undercover videotapes solemnly reciting oaths of loyalty to Al Qaeda, repeating the words that an F.B.I. informant had given them to say.
The tapes, played at a federal court hearing by prosecutors, did not provide any evidence that the men had the money or firepower to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and federal buildings in five cities, as they are accused of conspiring to do, or that they had any actual ties to Al Qaeda.
But during her presentation, the prosecutor, Jacqueline M. Arango, disclosed other new details of the case, among them that the group's leader, Narseal Batiste, had asked the undercover informant for rockets and semiautomatic rifles.
Lawyers for some of the men said in interviews this week that their clients knew little about Mr. Batiste's plans to attack the Sears Tower. Some of the lawyers criticized the new evidence presented Friday as a sign that the government had largely concocted other parts of the case and had lured the men into doing more than they would have on their own. [complete article]
Bizarre cult of Sears Tower 'plotter'
By Paul Thompson and Sarah Baxter, The Sunday Times, July 2, 2006
The ringleader of the seven men accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago was a "Moses-like figure" who carried a crooked cane and wore a cape as he sought to recruit followers to a religious cult called the Seas of David.
Narseal Batiste, 32, a martial arts enthusiast, led his oddball group of what he called "soldiers" seeking to wage a "full ground war" against America, according to charges brought last week.
The father of four, known to his followers as Prinze Naz, sometimes wore a bathrobe when entering the shabby warehouse in Miami that FBI officials claim was the base of the would-be terrorists.
Alberto Gonzales, the US attorney-general, claimed the arrested men, five from the US and two from Haiti, were inspired by a "violent jihadist message". Dick Cheney, the vice-president, called the group a "very real threat". [complete article] 'Have you ever used a pistol?'
By Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times, July 2, 2006
It was late last Tuesday afternoon. Justin Sutcliffe, the photographer, and I were with the elite of the British Army, 48 men from C company of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment -- with an attachment of airborne troops from the Royal Irish Rangers -- facing a bunch of Afghans in rubber sandals.
We could not see them, but we knew they were less than 100 yards away.
The silver-haired sergeant-major had kept us amused for days with his wisecracks, behind which was a touching concern for his soldiers and adoration for the girlfriend he was due to marry in November, whose photo he had shown me.
Now this veteran of two tours in Iraq and six in Northern Ireland was telling us we were the closest he had ever come to being "rolled up". [complete article]
Fear of U.K. backlash on Afghan war
By Jason Burke, The Observer, July 2, 2006
Senior British military officers are concerned that continuing fierce fighting in Afghanistan will lead to a drastic drop in domestic public support, which could jeopardise the army's recent deployment there.
The officers are particularly worried about casualties. Last week two SAS soldiers were killed in a night battle with at least 75 Taliban fighters. Three British servicemen have now died in the opening weeks of the operation, which has seen a series of fierce engagements with a mixture of drug smugglers, tribal militias and religious militants. The enemy are more tenacious and determined than expected with coalition troops often calling in attack helicopters and airstrikes by jets to extricate them from difficult situations. It is now widely accepted that more servicemen will be killed than had been planned for - something for which the British public is not thought to have been sufficiently prepared. [complete article] Chavez, Ahmadinejad show solidarity with Africa
By Heidi Vogt, AP (via WP), July 2, 2006
A summit of African leaders opened Saturday with a special welcome for the presidents of Iran and Venezuela, each visiting the poorest continent to win support in disputes with the United States.
President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia hailed the presence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran at the summit of the 53-nation African Union as "a morale booster as well as an assurance that Africa can make it."
Ahmadinejad's visit was seen as an attempt to bolster his country in its standoff with the United States and Europe over its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has made several highly publicized trips to Asia, where he drew crowds of Muslims cheering his country for defying the West. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
The occupation of Iraqi hearts and minds
By Nir Rosen, Truthdig, June 27, 2006
Ugly Americans in Iraq
By Nir Rosen, Truthdig, June 27, 2006
Treat Iraq government with respect
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, June 29, 2006
The only exit strategy left
By Noah Feldman, New York Times, June 25, 2006
War's Iraqi death toll tops 50,000
By Louise Roug and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2006
Did Bush commit war crimes?
By Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2006
The hidden - and obvious - lessons in the Supreme Court's divided ruling invalidating military commissions
By Michael C. Dorf, FindLaw, June 30, 2006
The Bush code of secrecy
By Mark Follman, Salon (via Der Spiegel), June 27, 2006
Debunking the myth of al Qaeda
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, June 28, 2006
What Israel could learn from the Gaza kidnap drama
By Tony Karon, Time, June 28, 2006
A visit to Syria, Israel, and Palestine reveals the barriers - physical as well as political - to Mideast peace.
By Scott McConnell, American Conservative, July 3, 2006
The U.S. proxies who haunt Washington
By Jason Motlagh, Asia Times, June 29, 2006
New York subway plot and al-Qaeda's WMD strategy
By Michael Scheuer, Jamestown Foundation, June 20, 2006
It's time to talk to Pyongyang
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 26, 2006
History fuels Tehran's vision for Iraq
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, June 30, 2006
'The Great Satan' makes a comeback
By Azadeh Moaveni, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2006
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