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U.S. set to offer huge arms deal to Gulf states and Israel
By David S. Cloud, New York Times, July 28, 2007

The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall. [complete article]

Comment -- You'll have to go all the way to paragraph seventeen before you come to this trivial little detail:
The $30.4 billion being promised to Israel is $9.1 billion more than Israel has received over the past decade, an increase of nearly 43 percent.
If the Times had given that figure -- a 43% increase -- greater prominence, it would have been harder to have a headline that just refers to Saudi Arabia (the headline they used being, "U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia").

As for the overall proposal -- it's back to the U.S. government's long-standing approach to the Middle East: Reclaim the dollars spent on oil by selling expensive American weapons to autocratic oil-rich leaders who can thereby buy a deferment on democracy. And as for the masses who continue to be deprived of their political rights? They can be ignored -- apart from the ones who decide to attack America, again.
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Iraqi government in deepest crisis
By Sam Dagher, Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2007

Iraq is in the throes of its worst political crisis since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the new democratic system, based on national consensus among its ethnic and sectarian groups, appearing dangerously close to collapsing, say several politicians and analysts.

This has brought paralysis to governmental institutions and has left parliament unable to make headway on 18 benchmarks Washington is using to measure progress in Iraq, including legislation on oil revenue sharing and reforming security forces.

And the disconnect between Baghdad and Washington over the urgency for solutions is growing. The Iraqi parliament is set for an August vacation as the Bush administration faces pressure to show progress in time for a September report to Congress. [complete article]
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Heated exchanges mark consultations among prime minister, U.S. officials in Iraq
AP, July 27, 2007

A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the well-regarded U.S. military leader from duty here.

The Iraqi foreign minister calls the relationship "difficult."

Petraeus says his ties with al-Maliki are "very good" but acknowledges expressing "the full range of emotions" on "a couple of occasions."

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who meets together with al-Maliki and Petraeus at least weekly, concedes "sometimes there are sporty exchanges."

Al-Maliki has spoken sharply -- not of Petraeus or Crocker personally -- but about their tactic of welcoming Sunni militants into the fight against al-Qaida forces in Anbar and Diyala provinces.

But the reality of how the three men get along likely lies somewhere between the worst and best reports about their relationship -- perhaps one of the most important in the world and unquestionably central to the future of Iraq, the larger Middle East and scores, if not hundreds, of political, diplomatic and military careers in the United States. [complete article]

Comment -- Maliki's problems are intractable: How can you trust a government (Washington) whose worst enemy (Iran) is your most trustworthy ally?

Maliki aide lashes out over Sunni demands
By Megan Greenwell and Saad al-Izzi, Washington Post, July 28, 2007

The Shiite-led Iraqi government issued a sharp response Friday to a Sunni political bloc that is threatening to pull out of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's administration, saying the group's "threatening, pressuring and blackmail" will not impede Iraq's progress.

In a four-page statement, Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, dismissed each of the 11 demands made by the Iraqi Accordance Front, the country's largest Sunni political group. Dabbagh accused the Accordance Front of working for its own political gains rather than for the benefit of the Iraqi people. [complete article]
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U.S. widens push to use armed Iraqi residents
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, July 28, 2007

The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces in order to improve security and promote reconciliation at the neighborhood level, according to senior U.S. commanders.

Within the past month, the U.S. military command in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq ordered subordinate units to step up creation of the local forces, authorizing commanders to pay the fighters with U.S. emergency funds, reward payments and other monies.

The initiative, which extends to all Iraqis, represents at least a temporary departure from the established U.S. policy of building formally trained security forces under the control of the Iraqi government. It also provokes fears within the Shiite-led government that the new Sunni groups will use their arms against it, commanders said. [complete article]

Comment -- So the aim of disbanding militias now goes out of the window. If you can't disband them, what's the alternative? Create new ones and make sure they have wonderfully precise rules of engagement: "...they have to follow the rules. You can't just shoot anybody. No vengeance ... But the bad guys -- I don't care. Go get them."
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Iraq salutes its Asian Cup soccer finalist
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2007

They're stocking up on fuel for their generators, snapping up flags and team T-shirts, and decorating their cars with flowers.

Soccer fever has reached new heights in Iraq ahead of the national squad's first-ever Asian Cup final.

In a few short weeks, the 15 young players have achieved what Iraq's political and religious leaders have struggled to accomplish in four years of war: uniting their country and restoring a sense of national pride.

"We wish these players sat in the chairs of those politicians," said Ali Mohsin, a Baghdad civil servant. "They did a marvel for us ... making us happy together."

Each improbable Iraq soccer victory has been met with an outpouring of joy, a rare feeling in this bloodied country. Thousands poured into the streets Wednesday when Iraq's team edged South Korea to clinch a coveted spot in Sunday's final against Saudi Arabia.

"From the north to the south and the east to the west, everyone was celebrating and chanting, 'one Iraq,' " said Mohammed Khalaf, a former team captain and popular TV commentator who now directs the coverage of the state-run Iraqiya Sports Channel. [complete article]
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West has abandoned Middle East to deal with Iraqi flight
By Steven Edwards, CanWest News Service, July 26, 2007

An international conference focused on the plight of millions of Iraqis who've fled the violence in their country said Thursday the world must do more to help — but added most of them should give up hope of being permanently resettled in other countries.

While Jordan, Syria and Iraq complained the West had abandoned them to deal with the bulk of the massive flight, delegates to the day-long session in Amman, Jordan, issued a communique that suggested little would change. [complete article]
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Brown to appoint his own Middle East envoy
By Ian Black, The Guardian, July 28, 2007

Gordon Brown is to appoint his own Middle East envoy, opening up the possibility of a clash with the work of Tony Blair, who is now representing the international "Quartet" - the US, EU, UN and Russia.

Michael Williams, currently a special coordinator for the regional peace process for the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is expected to be confirmed in the job next week, the Guardian has learned.

Mr Williams, 58, a former BBC journalist, worked for the UN in Cambodia and the Balkans, and as an adviser to Robin Cook and Jack Straw in the Foreign Office. [complete article]
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Hamas' marketing campaign for Gaza: 'Safe, clean and green'
By Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy, July 27, 2007

If you think of the Gaza Strip as a volatile, violent battleground run by fanatic Islamist militants bent on destroying Israel, Hamas wants you to think again.

Think: "Safe, clean and green."

One month after seizing the Gaza Strip in a military rout that shattered brittle Palestinian unity, Hamas is embarking on a radical marketing campaign to promote what it calls "the new face of Gaza."

They call it the "Gaza Riviera."

Lime-green Hamas banners flutter over Gaza City with a message in English for aid workers and journalists worried about being kidnapped: "No more threat for our foreign visitors and guests."

Bearded gunmen in blue-gray camouflage uniforms who helped seize control of Gaza now rush to settle routine neighborhood squabbles and family disputes.

Once-deserted Mediterranean beaches are now filled with dozens of families holding picnics to escape the summer heat until long after midnight. [complete article]
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Saudis' role in Iraq frustrates U.S. officials
By Helene Cooper, New York Times, July 27, 2007

During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq's prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr's militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. But, said administration officials who provided an account of the exchange, the Saudis remained skeptical, adding to the deep rift between America's most powerful Sunni Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, and its Shiite-run neighbor, Iraq.

Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow. [complete article]

Comment -- The Bush administration's self-made problem boils down to this: How do you hold together a make-belive Sunni alliance that's supposed to counter Iran (and an expanding "Shia crescent") while at the same time bolstering an Iran-friendly Shia government in Baghdad?

The only constant -- whether by design, by stupidity, or a combination of both -- is that the United States fuels conflict and is duplicitous in all its dealings. While all around it sees "foreign interference," it resolutely refuses to look in the mirror and acknowledge the most meddlesome foreign presence of all: 160,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
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The neocon armchair generals
By Scott Horton, No Comment, Harpers, July 27, 2007

To hear President Bush tell it, all he does is sit back and patiently take the advice of his generals in the field and in the Pentagon. But every field commander to return from Iraq and put on his civvies has told a different tale: the White House hammers ridiculous strategies down their throats, doesn't listen to a word they say, and instead takes direction from a group of juveniles in their fifties over at Neocon Central Command, the American Enterprise Institute.

This is another point on which White House lies are wearing thin and the truth is beginning to shine through. And Rowan Scarborough over at the D.C. Examiner has offered up an extremely revealing vignette. He looks at where the current strategy for the surge got cooked up. He notes that in the final analysis, there were three plans sent to the White House. One was prepared by General Petraeus and his team out in Baghdad. The second was crafted by the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon. And the third plan was put together by a bunch of overgrown teenagers who play with lead soldiers at the American Enterprise Institute. And guess which one the White House picked? That's right, the AEI plan. [complete article]
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New details on Tillman's death
By Martha Mendoza, AP, July 27, 2007

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors -- whose names were blacked out -- said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away. [complete article]

Comment -- If a body is found on the streets of Baghdad with three bullet holes in the forehead, no one hesitates in describing this as an execution-style killing. Bullet holes not just in the forehead but also in close proximity (as though "forehead" isn't itself the definition of close proximity?!); no evidence of enemy fire; lots of evidence of deception -- the question doesn't seem to be whether Tillman was murdered but how many officials were involved in the cover-up? And were they getting any directions from above on what the Pentagon and the White House regarded as an acceptable account?
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Congress delivers blow to Bush's European missile project by slashing funding
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, July 27, 2007

George Bush's plans to establish a European missile defence system suffered a big setback yesterday when a Congressional committee slashed the funding.

The House appropriations committee cut $139m (£69.5m) from the $310m the Bush administration wants for preparatory work on the missile project in Europe. It approved funds for a radar system in the Czech Republic but cut the $139m Mr Bush requested to establish a missile interception system in Poland, the most controversial part of the defence system.

In addition, the committee cut a further $159m from US-based parts of the missile plan. [complete article]
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Abbas planning to amend PA electoral rules to hamper Hamas
Reuters, July 27, 2007

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he would decree a change in Palestinian electoral rules that might make it harder for Hamas to maintain the parliamentary majority they won last year.

However, pressed to say whether the early elections that he has promised would be held as soon as this year, Abbas told Reuters he could not set a date yet. Nor could he yet say whether he would run himself for re-election as president.

In an interview at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas said parliamentary and presidential elections must be held simultaneously in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - a condition that leaves the timing uncertain, given the opposition of Hamas leaders who seized control of Gaza from Abbas's forces in June. [complete article]
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5 years later, cameraman still held at Guantanamo
By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy, July 27, 2007

He's all but unknown in the United States, the country of his jailers, but in his homeland of Sudan, Sami al Hajj is a national hero. The president has spoken out about him, demonstrations have been held in his name, and a bakery in Khartoum has printed his picture on its packaging.

A 38-year-old cameraman for the Arabic news network al Jazeera, Hajj has been imprisoned as an "enemy combatant" at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for five years, but never charged with any crime. He was arrested by Pakistani police in December 2001 while on his way to a news assignment in Afghanistan, but he's denied having any links to terrorism.

The independent, Qatar-based network earned the wrath of top U.S. officials after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for airing statements by Osama bin Laden. Hajj has been interrogated approximately 130 times, according to his attorneys, and nearly every question has been about whether the network or its journalists are connected to al Qaida or other terrorist groups. [complete article]
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Sectarian bias is a blight on a rare Afghan good news story
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 27, 2007

In Asia's poorest capital city, which has no sewage system, no piped water, only a handful of hospitals, and a population of 60,000 street children, it might seem frivolous to spend more than a million pounds on creating a garden. Do a series of terraces and several rows of trees fulfil an urgent need? Isn't this another example of foreign aid being wasted? Not a bit of it, insists Jolyon Leslie, a Dari-speaking architect who has dedicated two decades of his life to this hauntingly magnetic country, first with the UN and now with the Aga Khan Development Network, which is funding the garden's restoration and playing host to my visit to the Afghan capital. "On a Friday we get up to 2,000 people in here, picnicking on the lawns, or enjoying the shade," he says.

A Wimbledon-style downpour was turning the garden's central watercourse into a raging torrent the afternoon I visited. The lawns were sodden and empty. But as we sheltered under the arches of the almost completed visitors' centre and bookshop, and hurried up the terraces during a break in the rain, I saw no reason to doubt him. [complete article]

Comment -- Just suppose -- even though it might seem like a fanciful notion -- but just suppose that the response to the 9/11 attacks had been this: President Bush had noted that the attackers regarded the United States and the West as a threat to their culture. He thus declared that with the support of the American people he was going to demonstrate otherwise -- not necessarily with the hope of influencing ideologically-blinkered jihadists but in order to reach out to the population at large across the Muslim world. The United States was going to lead and encourage others to follow in an investment program aimed at restoring a multitude of sites of Islamic heritage to their former glory. The U.S. would do nothing more than provide funding -- project management, choice of sites etc. would all be handled by local organizations. Imagine what could have been done for less than it costs to fund the war in Iraq for just one month?

In that event would the United States not now surely be less likely to be attacked than it is? Far from appearing vulnerable, would it not have demonstrated towering strength? Rather than expressing its fear of the world, would it not have shown supreme confidence in its ability to act as a positive force? And even for those Americans who don't give a damn about the rest of the world, wouldn't it have simply been a cheap and practical way of defying a small but troublesome enemy?

All that stopped this happening was a failure of imagination and lack of courageous leadership. The little men with weak knees, small minds, big egos and fat wallets could never have dreamed of such a thing.
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War crimes and the White House
By P.X. Kelley and Robert F. Turner, Washington Post, July 26, 2007

To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America's losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam -- where we both proudly served twice -- America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.

The Geneva Conventions provide important protections to our own military forces when we send them into harm's way. Our troops deserve those protections, and we betray their interests when we gratuitously "interpret" key provisions of the conventions in a manner likely to undermine their effectiveness. Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are "war crimes" for which everyone involved -- potentially up to and including the president of the United States -- may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions. [complete article]

Comment -- In the neoconservative narrative that frames the war on terrorism, it is the magnitude of the terrorist threat that is used to justify Dick Cheney's infamous venture across to the "dark side." We simply cannot afford to pamper the enemy by allowing him to take refuge under the protection of international law. Nevertheless, a curious anomaly that flows from this is that the leaders of Nazism apparently deserved better treatment than the masters of "Islamofascism." Something else is at play.

While Nazi Germany clearly presented an unparalleled threat to Western democracies, the violent struggle that played out through World War Two was a contest between state powers that were reluctant to challenge each others legitimacy and authority. For instance, the United States maintained diplomatic relations with Hitler's government even after Germany had taken control of most of mainland Europe. It wasn't until Germany declared war on the United States in December 1941, that the two countries broke their diplomatic ties.

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, can never pose a parallel threat to the power of the U.S. government. Instead, it -- and terrorists in general -- constitute an affront to the powers of state. The war on terrorism and its instruments are thus designed as a political expression of the need to crush what is essentially a symbolic challenge to state power. In that effort, the Bush administration refuses to dignify its enemy with any of the rights that would be afforded to the military of a foreign government. In the process, it exaggerates the power of those who it is attempting to render utterly powerless.
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Bush line distorts Iran's real interest in Iraq
By Gareth Porter, IPS, July 25, 2007

As U.S. and Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad Tuesday for a second round of talks on Iraq, the domestic U.S. political climate appears decidedly more supportive of an aggressive U.S. posture toward Iran than just a few months ago, reflecting the apparent triumph the George W. Bush administration's narrative on Iran's role in Iraq.

That new narrative threatens to obscure the bigger picture of Iranian policy toward Iraq, widely recognised by regional specialists. Iran's strategic interests in Iraq are far more compatible with those of the United States than those of the Sunni regimes in the region with which the United States has aligned itself.

Contrary to the official narrative, Iranian support for Shiites is not aimed at destabilising the country but does serve a rational Iranian desire to maximise its alliances with Iraqi Shiite factions, in the view of specialists on Iranian policy and on the security of the Persian Gulf region. [complete article]
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That September report on Iraq? It's not the only one
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 26, 2007

The White House may have killed attempts to revive the much-heralded Iraq Study Group, but the Bush administration will still face a tough, independent evaluation of the progress in Iraq -- from one of its own agencies.

In a little-noticed addition to legislation requiring the July and September assessments on Iraq from the White House, Congress mandated a third report from the agency that has quietly done the most work to track the missteps, miscalculations, misspent funds and shortfalls of both the United States and Iraq since the 2003 invasion: the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO's international affairs team has had far more experience in Iraq than the study group led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) or any of the other independent panels that have weighed in on Iraq. Indeed, the study group consulted the GAO team in preparing its report. Over the past four years, the GAO has issued 91 reports on Iraq, on topics including the mismanagement of Iraq's oil industry and problems in its new army. [complete article]
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'Sweet revenge,' say new Germans
Ofer Aderet, Haaretz, July 25, 2007

Holding her brand-new German passport, Avital Direktor, 29, of Azor, just had to laugh. "What a crazy world," she thought to herself. "Germany's soil is drenched with my family's blood, and in spite of it all, I got German citizenship. I see it as taking revenge on Hitler. Sweet revenge."

The past year has seen 4,300 Israelis receive German citizenship, according to data released this week by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The figure represents a 50 percent increase over the previous year.

Avital, who belongs to that growing group of new German citizens, had not been aware that she was entitled to a German passport until three years ago. "Like many Israelis, I was completely unaware that I was entitled to citizenship," she said.

Avital's grandparents are Holocaust survivors from Berlin and Stuttgart. When she asked them whether they objected to her applying for German citizenship, they asked whether she intended to go back to Germany to pick up where they "left off." [complete article]

See also, Sharp rise in Israelis seeking German citizenship (Reuters).

Comment -- The former chairman of the Jewish Agency and Speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg recently commented that "Israel is a state of trauma in nearly every one of its dimensions." The willingness of Jews to "return" to Germany is an indication that the possibility is now opening for some Israelis to go move beyond the core of that trauma. At the same time, Zionists will clearly feel threatened by the possibility that a significant number of the 300,000 Israelis entitled to German citizenship might take up that opportunity.
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Resentment stirs in Hizbollah faithful
By Ferry Biedermann, Financial Times, July 26, 2007

The house looked like a typical one in Bint Jbeil, one year after the war with Israel that devastated large tracts of this majority Shia town in the centre of south Lebanon.

Two yellow Hizbollah flags flanked a portrait of a fallen fighter on the damaged façade of a building, standing in the middle of the rubble of a neighbourhood.

But instead of the customary Hizbollah line emphasising "divine victory" that its leaders say the movement won over the Israelis, Imaan Bazzi, the sister of the dead fighter, was full of bitterness about the dominant Shia movement and its treatment of the people in this heavily hit town.

"We, the family of a martyr, have not received anything from Hizbollah," she said. The officials in charge of disbursing aid only help the "people with contacts", she charged, echoing accusations heard, mutedly, across the south of Lebanon that Hizbollah officials give preferred treatment to their own cadre.

Such sentiments, and others questioning the achievements of a war that left close to 1,200 Lebanese dead and wreaked huge havoc on the country, exist among Lebanon's other sectarian groups but are rarely voiced openly among Hizbollah's Shia constituency. [complete article]
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U.S. kills plans to build embassy in Hezbollah area of Beirut
By Brian Ross, The Blotter, ABC News, July 25, 2007

The Blotter has learned that plans for a controversial new U.S. Embassy in Beirut have been put on hold indefinitely, and effectively killed, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson.

The news came just hours after we reported the State Department had been pushing ahead with plans to build the new embassy in a part of Beirut controlled by the militant anti-American group Hezbollah, despite strong protests from the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon.

A U.S. official tells the Blotter on that Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, in a May 31, 2007 classified cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, registered his strong objections, saying his staff "unanimously opposes construction" of the embassy on the proposed site. [complete article]

Comment -- Another way of characterizing this plan would be to say it intended to locate the embassy of a vehemently anti-Hezbollah government in a Hezbollah-controlled part of Beirut.

Was this being driven by some macho neocon vision? A way of closing a historic circle by saying, you scared us away from Lebanon in 1984, but we're not scared anymore -- we're going to be in your face.

Of course, like all neoconservative displays of toughness, this one would require others (in this case State Department staff) to play the role of the tough guys. The Cheneys and Podhoretzs of this world are always bold enough to have someone else venture where they themselves would never dare go.
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His first film is a winner (being a millionaire helps)
By Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, July 26, 2007

There are filmmakers who toil through film school and then work for years in vain to earn even a modest degree of acclaim. Then there's Charles H. Ferguson, an indefatigable, overachieving political scientist, turned author, turned dot-com millionaire, turned Sundance-prize-winning filmmaker his first time behind the camera.

"It does seem like a jump, I realize," he said in an interview in his ninth-floor apartment in one of Richard Meier's gleaming towers along the Hudson River in Manhattan. Mr. Ferguson was explaining how he came to write, direct, produce and finance "No End in Sight," a sharply critical documentary about the planning and execution of the American occupation of Iraq that opens tomorrow in New York and Washington.

It was 2004 and Mr. Ferguson, now 52, was by his own admission somewhat adrift. He had just finished his third book, a technical analysis of the problems that were holding back the nation's broadband infrastructure. Making a war documentary did not seem like the logical next step. [complete article]

See also, Beyond the multiplex (Salon).
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Understanding the many faces of Islamism and jihadism
By Fawaz A. Gerges, Nieman Report, Summer, 2007

Since the September 11th terror attacks, Americans have come increasingly to believe that Islamism, not just jihadism, is a mortal threat to the West, an aggressive and totalitarian ideology dedicated to random destruction and global subjugation. Fueling American fears is the military debacle in Iraq and the ferocity of armed resistance and suicide attacks against U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies. Ratcheting the rhetoric, President Bush gathers all mainstream and militant Islamists together under the phrase "Islamo-fascists" and calls on Americans to be prepared for a long struggle. Some U.S. political leaders and pundits have gone further and called for an all-out war against all manifestations of Islamism or political Islam.

Disentangling myth from reality about the political Islamic movement -- whose goal is to establish governments based on shari'ah (Qur'anic law) -- is a challenge fraught with difficulties. For journalists, this challenge involves a willingness to recognize the complexity and diversity within this movement, which encompasses a broad spectrum of mainstream and militant forces, as they try to place their coverage of news and events (often involving violence and threats of violence) within a broader, more meaningful and accurate context. [complete article]
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Analyst counters Bush on Al Qaeda
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, July 26, 2007

A day after President Bush sought to present evidence showing that Iraq is now the main battlefront against Al Qaeda, the chief US intelligence analyst for international terrorism told Congress that the network's growing ranks in Pakistan and Afghanistan pose a more immediate threat to the United States.

In rare testimony before two House committees, Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that Al Qaeda terrorists operating in South Asia are better equipped to attack the United States than the network's followers in Iraq are.

Asked which arm of Al Qaeda concerned him the most, Gistaro told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence panels that it was South Asia. [complete article]

See also, The United States finds few non-Iraqis among insurgents (US News & World Today).
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Most say Al-Qaeda remains strong
By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta, Washington Post, July 26, 2007

Seven in 10 Americans believe that al-Qaeda is as strong as or stronger than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, and a majority of those with that view blamed President Bush for the terrorist network's continued resilience.

The results, from a Washington Post-ABC News poll, come after the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate concluding that the United States "will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years," particularly from al-Qaeda.

Nearly six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, 26 percent of individuals polled said al-Qaeda is weaker now, while 44 percent considered the terrorist network to be at similar strength and 27 percent believed it to be even more capable. [complete article]
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Bring 'em on: Militants in Pakistan await U.S.
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, July 27, 2007

Efforts by the Pakistani establishment to defuse the volatile situation in its tribal areas have failed, despite the carrot of large amounts of money being dangled before the Pakistani Taliban there.

Islamabad is now caught between militants spoiling for a fight and US and coalition troops in Afghanistan ready to give them one - and there is little Pakistan can now do to prevent this from happening.

"There is no chance for any peace deal that allows Pakistani troops to stay in the tribal areas. If this situation allows NATO to enter Pakistan, let them come. It is better to fight against NATO than to fight Pakistani troops. But if they fight together against us, we are ready for that too," Rasool Dawar told Asia Times Online from the North Waziristan tribal agency on the border with Afghanistan. [complete article]
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FBI proposes building network of U.S. informants
By Justin Rood, ABC News, July 25, 2007

The FBI is taking cues from the CIA to recruit thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities.

According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI expects its informants to provide secrets about possible terrorists and foreign spies, although some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

The FBI said the push was driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush ordering the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities.

The aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to grow its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retaining years' worth of Americans' phone records and even increasing so-called "black bag" secret entry operations. [complete article]
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Abbas security chief resigns
By Wafa Amr, Reuters, July 26, 2007

Palestinian security chief Mohammad Dahlan resigned on Thursday after weeks of criticism over the routing of his forces by Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip in June, senior Palestinian officials said.

Dahlan, 46, rose through the ranks of President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement as a protege of the late Yasser Arafat. But he has disappointed U.S. sponsors who hoped he could counter Hamas in both Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abdel-Salam Abu Askar, an aide to Dahlan, said in a statement that he had "tendered his resignation" as Abbas's national security adviser on medical grounds. Dahlan, who is recovering from surgery performed in Germany on both knees, is now having physiotherapy in a hospital in the Balkans, he said.

Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief and longtime rival of Dahlan, is widely seen as a possible successor. Rajoub has had good relations in the past with U.S. officials, who have stepped up efforts in recent months to train and equip Abbas's forces. [complete article]

Comment -- If Dahlan is in fact replaced by Jibril Rajoub, a pragmatic Fatah leader who has been critical of the Abbas camp's rift with Hamas, this could mark a turning point in Hamas and Fatah's strained relations. Just over a week ago, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Hamas supports Rajoub's appointment.

Hamas leader claims UK has widened links
By Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, July 26, 2007

The British government has expanded its links with Hamas in recent weeks, according to the militant organisation's leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

Mr Haniyeh, who was the Palestinian prime minister until last month, claims that contacts between Hamas and Britain have increased since they worked together to free Alan Johnston, the BBC Gaza correspondent, who was held captive in Gaza for almost four months.

"I cannot deny that there are now other contacts, other channels of communication with the UK and these involve people of high rank, although I am not personally involved," he claimed in an interview with the Guardian.

"The main aim of the contacts is to improve our democracy and governance. This is just part of the many contacts that are going on with other governments around the world."

He added that Britain wanted to keep the contacts secret. [complete article]

Comment -- The Guardian reports the British government officials "said it was possible that Mr Haniyeh had misunderstood the work of British non-governmental organisations such as Forward Thinking and Conflicts Forum, which have established contacts with Hamas. Both groups work with former government advisers and civil servants and members of the House of Lords." Take that as a confirmation that the British want to keep their contacts with Hamas secret. Haniyeh is perfectly aware that Conflicts Forum is a non-governmental organization -- to suggest otherwise is silly.
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Can soccer save Iraq?
By Tony Karon, Time, July 25, 2007

Forget the "benchmarks" that Baghdad's politicians are showing little inclination to meet; the best hope in recent memory for national reconciliation in Iraq came Wednesday in the form of a shootout -- not your conventional sectarian or insurgent affair, but a series of penalty kicks that settled an Asian cup soccer semi-final in Iraq's favor. Iraq's upset victory over highly rated South Korea has earned it a showdown on Sunday against -- boy, do the gods of soccer ever have a wicked sense of humor -- Saudi Arabia. The news drew tens of thousands of Iraqis of all stripes out onto the street in a joyous celebration, which was tempered by two suicide bombings that killed more than 50 fans. [complete article]

See also, Iraq bombs strike football fans (BBC).
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Patterns of sectarian violence in Baghdad
By Zeyad Kasim, IraqSlogger, July 24, 2007

Up to 592 unidentified bodies were found dumped in different parts of Baghdad in the period between June 18 and July 18, 2007, according to figures based on media reports compiled by Iraq Slogger. Most of the bodies found by the police – an average of 20 a day – are bound, blindfolded and shot execution style, victims of sectarian violence carried out by both Sunni and Shi'ite death squads. Many also bear signs of torture or mutilation, according to medical sources in Baghdad. Despite official Iraqi and U.S. statements to the contrary, the reports indicate that the number of unidentified bodies in the capital has risen again to pre-surge levels over the last two months. [complete article]
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U.S.-Iran dialogue on a tortuous path
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times, July 26, 2007

Increasingly, Iran's officials and media pundits have focused on the negative role of Saudi Arabia, wondering aloud why the US government and US public are quiet about the irrefutable evidence of the Saudi role in fomenting the instability in Iraq, this in light of the US military's latest report that more than 60% of the foreign fighters are Saudi nationals and several thousand of them are in US custody in Iraq.

"What would happen if, instead of Saudis, these suicide bombers were from Iran?" an Iranian parliamentarian recently asked reporters when he accused the US of duplicity and double standards in turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's subversive role.

Hence it is expected that at their meeting with the US diplomats in Baghdad, Iran's delegation will raise the issue of US laxity vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia and, indeed, the whole Wahhabi and Salafi movement, which, per a recent Tehran daily editorial, is "opposed to the security talks between Iran and the US government".

Most Iranian political analysts are in agreement that the Saudis are afraid of democracy in Iraq and the empowerment of Iraqi Shi'ites, which they believe would inflame the situation of the long-oppressed Shi'ite minority in Saudi Arabia. "It is not just the Saudi kingdom, the whole Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states run by oil sheikhs are wary of an Arab democracy blossoming in Iraq," a Tehran University political scientist recently said. [complete article]

Comment -- As the Bush administration's first Special Envoy for Afghanistan, James Dobbins, noted in a recent op-ed, after the fall of the Taliban it was Iran that pushed for democratic elections in Afghanistan. Indeed, there are obvious reasons why Iran would favor the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East. Iran's own power would undoubtedly rise on that regional tide. As was the case in the past, so it still remains -- administration pro-democracy rhetoric notwithstanding -- the United States is doing much more to prevent democratization than foster its growth.
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Arabs jealous of Turkish elections
By Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark, July 24, 2007

Arabs have been fascinated by the elections in Turkey, convincingly won by the moderate Islamist AKP after calling early elections in response to the secularist military's antipathy to the party's Presidential candidate. Al-Jazeera covered the elections as heavily as it does any Arab election (which means, quite heavily), while a wide range of columnists have written about it. The AKP's victory is being welcomed virtually across the board, but the lessons being drawn vary sharply - in line with the intense political battles over Islamism which currently dominate the Arab political agenda (Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt being the most widely invoked points of reference). [complete article]
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Never far away, sometimes very close
By Dion Nissenbaum, Checkpoint Jerusalem, July 24, 2007

An unusual calm has swept over Gaza. Though the conflict is never far away.

And, sometimes, it can still get a little too close.

We spent the day talking with Fatah and Hamas members who agree that Hamas has brought relative safety to the streets.

Family clashes have come to an end. The bombing of Internet cafes has stopped. And, following the release of kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston, the threat of kidnappings has dropped off dramatically.

Hamas has even hung new green banners in the streets of Gaza City to drive home the point: "No more threat for our foreign visitors and guests - Hamas." [complete article]
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Experts question U.S. strategy in Pakistan
By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy, July 25, 2007

The Bush administration's strategy for pursuing al-Qaida in Pakistan's tribal region could stoke support for the Islamic militants who are protecting the terrorist network's leaders and battling Pakistan's U.S.-backed military regime, some U.S. diplomatic and defense officials and experts warn.

President Bush is under pressure to act following the release last week of a new intelligence assessment that said Osama bin Laden's network has re-established itself and is plotting attacks on the United States from the mountainous tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

The National Intelligence Estimate coincided with a surge in attacks in Pakistan by Islamic militants, who called off a truce with the Pakistani government in the tribal region after more than 100 people died when security forces stormed an extremist-held mosque. [complete article]
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Insurgents meet on post-U.S. future
By Rebecca Sinderbrand, Time, July 24, 2007

The convention of Iraqi insurgents was scheduled to take place Monday at the resort-like Sahara Hotel outside Damascus but, within hours of the plenary session actually starting, the Syrian government suddenly canceled the summit. However, high-level representatives of much of the Iraqi nationalist insurgency, remained at the venue informally negotiating and laying out a framework for what a post-U.S. Iraq would look like.

Late Monday evening, dozens of conference attendees — a group drawn primarily from the ranks of former military officers, Ba'athist officials, and the Sunni insurgency — gathered for a catered dinner beside the hotel's outdoor pool. Several, including a high-ranking former military officer now overseeing Ba'athist resistance activities in his region, talked openly, if carefully, about strategy, although some asked that their names be withheld. ("We are not afraid," said the former Iraqi army colonel, as waiters delivered the main course of steak and carrots, "but we do not want to give the [Shi'a] militias justification to kill us.") They said victory was in the air; one delegate celebrated the looming U.S. withdrawal over Diet Pepsi and watermelon slices. "This gathering here is unprecedented. When this conference occurs, it will be historic," said Sarmed Abdel Karim, founder of the popular iraq4all website and a non-insurgent who calls the gathering one of "the Iraqi opposition." "It will be the cornerstone of a new Iraq." [complete article]

Comment -- As Joshua Landis notes, "by calling the meeting and then cancelling, Syria sends a message that it has clout in Iraq and that it could help manage the resistance if the US were willing to deal with it."
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Mahdi Army in the crosshairs?
By Amer Moshen, IraqSlogger, July 24, 2007

Al-Hayat published an interesting report by its Baghdad correspondent Husain 'Ali claiming that the Mahdi Army may be next on the US Army target list after al-Qa'ida. The report alleged that the US Army in Iraq is on a collision course with Shi'a militias, and that the US forces in Iraq may be treating organizations such as the Mahdi Army as "terrorist groups" in the near future.

The report said that over 70 Shi'a militias are currently operating in Iraq, and that these organizations have extended their control over large swaths of the center and the south of the country. While the Iraqi government seems helpless - and at times, complicit with the militias; US pressure is mounting on the Iraqi authorities to take a firmer stand vis-a-vis the Shi'a organizations. [complete article]
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Iran's growing presence in Iraq
By Sam Dagher, Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2007

At the second round of talks between Iranian and US diplomats here Tuesday, one message American Ambassador Ryan Crocker delivered was that the US wants Tehran to play a positive role in Iraq.

But ask many Iraqi Shiites, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and they say their neighbors are doing just that. In fact, economic ties between Iran and Iraq are growing in the face of US criticism of Tehran's meddling, which includes arming militias. Such Iran-Iraq links are not only bolstered by common beliefs binding Shiite leaders but also, some experts say, by a US strategy to arm and support former Sunni insurgents – many of whom consider Shiites bitter foes – in the fight against Al Qaeda.

All of this puts Iran in a much stronger position in any future talks with the Americans, analysts say.

"The Iranians are running the ship in Iraq, not the Americans. They also have [many] more chips on the table in Iraq than the US," says Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "The situation in Iraq is strategically more in favor of the Iranians than the Americans." [complete article]

See also, U.S. and Iran trade blame in second round of Iraq talks (NYT) and Why Iran is talking (Tony Karon).
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Iran's message is softly spoken, yet clear: It will enrich uranium
By Anne Penketh, The Independent, July 25, 2007

Asked whether Iran might reconsider its refusal to suspend enrichment if it were to receive security guarantees from America and a promise that the US would not seek regime change, [Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali] Larijani responded: "We are in no need of US security guarantees. I do not see a relation between these two matters. This example of yours is like saying, 'if the Americans provide you with a security guarantee are you ready to give up breathing?'"

His comments are laced with indiscreet anecdotes, details of conversations with European foreign ministers, who, he says, have told him that the West is determined to prevent Iran from developing its own enrichment capability in order to guarantee that it will not be diverted towards a bomb.

During the 90-minute conversation with six journalists from Britain, France, Germany and the US, the soft-spoken conservative noted that an Iranian proposal for an international consortium to enrich uranium inside Iran was rejected by the Americans. "They do not want Iran to have the nuclear technology, which is a strategic mistake because Iran has already acquired this knowledge."

Another senior Iranian official said that with almost 3,000 centrifuges now running at Natanz, "we have at the moment enough centrifuges to go to a bomb". But the official added that Iran was barred by its own security and defence doctrine, by parliament, and by a religious fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader, from building a bomb. The official added that if Iran produced a single bomb "what is it good for? If we attack Israeli with one bomb, America would attack us with thousands of bombs. It's suicide." [complete article]
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Free Assad
By Amir Oren, Haaretz, July 25, 2007

The head of American intelligence, Admiral (ret.) Mike McConnell, revealed a secret a week ago: Hezbollah sleeper cells are waiting in the United States for the order to carry out terror attacks. The unclassified version of the intelligence assessment, the one distributed to the public, has been stating for years that Hezbollah has the ability and intentions to act against American targets and assets. However, this description has been vague enough to deceive the public into thinking that attacks are expected only in Lebanon and other places in the Middle East. McConnell, who crafted his speech on the fly while on the way from the White House to another location in Washington, tripped up and let slip what the American intelligence community had discovered from its sources and was trying to hide.

The difference between the two versions is significant for the American citizen. Attacks on his soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and other ends of the earth have become routine. This is not the case if inside America they are on the alert for terror acts by underground cells.

Ostensibly, it is a considerable intelligence achievement if the Central Intelligence Agency has acquired information about Hezbollah's emergency plans. On the day the attacks come, the surprise will not be total. [complete article]

Comment -- "We don't give in to terrorist threats/demands" is a pro forma statement we are used to hearing from government officials. But what is the nature of the threat and who is it actually coming from if a U.S. government official's statement is the only information available? Is McConnell's reference to Hezbollah "sleeper cells" in the U.S. a veiled threat from Iran or an explicit threat from U.S. intelligence?

When Haaretz's Amir Oren writes that McConnell "tripped up and let slip what the American intelligence community had discovered from its sources and was trying to hide," it sounds like the Israeli journalist is in on the act. I have a hard time believing that an intelligence veteran and current Director of National Intelligence has a loose enough tongue to let anything slip when he's surrounded by journalists.

Oren is clearly right in describing this as a "complex game" -- there is a veritable labyrinth of possible moves going on here. But rather than look at this in terms of threats emanating from Iran (or Hezbollah), I'm more inclined to view this in terms of a struggle being played out inside the Bush administration. Assuming that McConnell did not let anything slip, it's quite possible that his target audience was the vice president. He wants to frighten Cheney and his bomb-Iran cronies. If delivering a "terrorist threat" will do the trick, so be it.
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BREAKING NEWS: Iraq through to Asian Cup Final
By Paul Woodward, War in Context, July 25, 2007

In a penalty shoot-out Iraq's national soccer team beat South Korea 4-3 in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup, taking them through to the final against either Saudi Arabia or Japan (who are in match that is still being played).

This is the biggest boost for Iraqi nationalism in years!

Iraq's soccer victory in Asian Cup greeted by celebratory gunfire in Baghdad
AP, July 25, 2007

Heavy celebratory gunfire rang out across the Iraqi capital Wednesday after the country's national soccer team beat South Korea in the Asian Cup to reach the tournament's final.

Thousands of fans gathered in the central Baghdad district of Karradah to celebrate, dancing, beating drums and chanting "Iraq, Iraq." Elsewhere in city, traffic snarled as cars, Iraqi flags flying from their windows, moved slowly amid hundreds of fans. Motorists honked their horns.

Nearly an hour after Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri made the crucial save in the tense shootout, gunfire could still be heard in many parts of the capital. [complete article]
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How to win in Iraq
By William S. Lind, The American Conservative, July 30, 2007

If a real state can be restored in Iraq, al-Qaeda and the other Islamic non-state forces lose. That is true regardless of the nature of a restored Iraqi state. States dislike competition, and the definition of a state says that it must have a monopoly of violence within its borders. If that suggests something about the state of the state -- in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere -- well, it should.

Winning the war in Iraq therefore means seeing the re-creation of an Iraqi state. I say "seeing," not "re-creating," because our strategy, if it is to have a chance of success, must proceed from a realistic understanding of the situation in Iraq. We do not now have the power to re-create a state in Iraq, if we ever did. That is due in part to military failure, but it has more to do with a problem of legitimacy. As a foreign, Christian invader and occupier, we cannot create any legitimate institutions in Iraq. Quite the contrary: we have the reverse Midas touch. Any institution we create, or merely approve of and support, loses its legitimacy.

That means our new strategy must employ what the British military theorist Basil Liddell-Hart called an "indirect approach." This is chancy. So is war itself. You cannot guarantee events; you try instead to influence them. Again, this reflects a realistic appreciation of the situation in Iraq. Our vaunted "boots on the ground" have been fought to a stalemate by flip flops in the alleys. In this kind of war, a stalemate means we have lost tactically. A combination of good strategy and some luck may yet enable us to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, but we are in no position to dictate events. We must try, instead, to shape and ride them. [complete article]

Comment -- William Lind correctly notes that there is no chance of the Bush administration adopting the three-part strategy he outlines, but presidential candidates should give it serious consideration. Those who now regard some form of partition as inevitable should note that in the midst of so much violence a national sentiment has not disappeared. If Asia Cup soccer fever is any indication, Iraqi nationalism remains a force of much greater strength than gets credit.
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U.S. is seen in Iraq until at least '09
By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, July 24, 2007

While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. "Sustainable security" is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security. [complete article]
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U.S., Iran call for stability in Iraq but disagree on how to achieve it
By Leila Fadel, McClatchy, July 24, 2007

U.S. and Iranian diplomats harshly criticized each other's policies during "full and frank" talks here Tuesday but agreed to set up a security committee to carry on the discussions, the top U.S. envoy in Iraq said.

The two sides appeared to be as far apart as ever at their second high-level meeting in as many months, with the United States accusing Iran of fueling the internal conflict by backing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq and Iran demanding the return of five officials who've been in U.S. custody since early this year.

"Over the last two months, we've actually seen military-related activity that can be attributed to Iranian support go up and not down," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said after the daylong meeting. "I was as clear as I could be with the Iranians that this effort, this discussion, has to be measured in results, not in principles or promises, and that thus far the results on the ground are not encouraging."

But he added that if Iran is serious about dealing with the issues, the security committee will offer a mechanism "to begin taking different kinds of actions here." [complete article]
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The life and times of the CIA
By Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch, July 24, 2007

The American people may not know it but they have some severe problems with one of their official governmental entities, the Central Intelligence Agency. Because of the almost total secrecy surrounding its activities and the lack of cost accounting on how it spends the money covertly appropriated for it within the defense budget, it is impossible for citizens to know what the CIA's approximately 17,000 employees do with, or for, their share of the yearly $44 billion-$48 billion or more spent on "intelligence." This inability to account for anything at the CIA is, however, only one problem with the Agency and hardly the most serious one either.

There are currently at least two criminal trials underway in Italy and Germany against several dozen CIA officials for felonies committed in those countries, including kidnapping people with a legal right to be in Germany and Italy, illegally transporting them to countries such as Egypt and Jordan for torture, and causing them to "disappear" into secret foreign or CIA-run prisons outside the U.S. without any form of due process of law. [complete article]
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A trap for fools
By Uri Avnery, Middle East Online, July 23, 2007

In a classical American western, the difference is as glaring as the midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy, tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at all times.

George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the world with an up-to-date western.

In this western - or, rather, middle eastern - there are also Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of the US in the Middle East - Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the pro-American Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda. [complete article]
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Clinton, Obama clash over diplomacy
By Nedra Pickler, AP, July 24, 2007

The rival camps of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama clashed Tuesday over the meaning of Obama's claim in a Democratic presidential debate that he'd be willing to meet with leaders of rogue nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran.

Clinton supporters characterized it as a gaffe that underscored the freshman senator's lack of foreign-policy savvy while Obama's team claimed his response displayed judgment and a repudiation of President Bush's diplomacy.

"I would think that without having done the diplomatic spadework, it would not really prove anything," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a conference call with reporters set up by the Clinton campaign.

In a memo from Obama spokesman Bill Burton, the campaign contended that Obama's comments played well with focus groups that watched the debate and "showed his willingness to lead and ask tough questions on matters of war."

Obama "offered a dramatic change from the Bush administration's eight-year refusal to protect our security interests by using every tool of American power available — including diplomacy," said the memo. [complete article]

Comment -- Obama is pointing in the right direction here but his spokesman sounds like a dummy saying that the candidate's comments played well with focus groups. Irrespective of whether that's the case and whether it influences the Obama campaign, it's stupid to reference the fact.

But as for the central issue -- should the U.S. engage with the leaders of "rogue nations"? -- it comes down to this: what kind of approach to diplomacy is likely to be most effective?

For the last six years under Bush, the United States has been applying the "behavior modification" model of diplomacy. That means the goal of diplomatic activity is to apply pressure to try and force other nations to modify their own behavior. Although this gets framed as diplomatic activity it is really just a contest of wills. The maddeningly obvious flaw in this approach is its blatant hypocrisy. We wouldn't respond to anyone else telling us what to do; why do we expect others to jump to our command? The answer used to be that others would bow to America's power, but the super power has lost its luster -- now it just looks obstinate.

An alternative and more traditional approach to diplomacy is to see it as a communications process in which conflicting parties hope to achieve mutually acceptable accommodations whereby the non-negotiable interests of each can still be served. By definition, the outcome of such a process cannot be predetermined.

On that basis, we don't determine who we are willing to talk to based on whether the other party meets a set of preconditions; we talk because we recognize more often than not, dialogue is a more precise and effective tool than coercion.
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Welcome to Richistan, USA
By Paul Harris, The Observer, July 22, 2007

On the surface, Mark Cain works for a time-share company. Members pay a one-off sum to join and an annual fee. They then get to book holiday time in various destinations around the globe.

But Solstice clients are not ordinary people. They are America's super-rich and a brief glance at its operations reveal the vast and still widening gulf between them and the rest of America.

Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In return they get access to 10 homes from London to California and a private yacht in the Caribbean, all fully staffed with cooks, cleaners and 'lifestyle managers' ready to satisfy any whim from helicopter-skiing to audiences with local celebrities. As the firm's marketing manager, Cain knows what Solstice's clientele want. 'We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury,' Cain said with pride.

America's super-rich have returned to the days of the Roaring Twenties. As the rest of the country struggles to get by, a huge bubble of multi-millionaires lives almost in a parallel world. The rich now live in their own world of private education, private health care and gated mansions. They have their own schools and their own banks. They even travel apart - creating a booming industry of private jets and yachts. Their world now has a name, thanks to a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank which has dubbed it 'Richistan'. There every dream can come true. But for the American Dream itself - which promises everyone can join the elite - the emergence of Richistan is a mixed blessing. 'We in America are heading towards 'developing nation' levels of inequality. We would become like Brazil. What does that say about us? What does that say about America?' Frank said. [complete article]

Comment -- It is a testament to our own cultural poverty that the suffix -stan should have become such a widely used pejorative. It comes from Persian, meaning "place," and has the same root as the English word "stand." It is the place we inhabit; the place where we stand. Nothing seems less appropriate as a way for naming the emergence of American hyperwealth -- a condition in which individuals can only stand when supported by a fabulous array of crutches.

Contrary to the image that those who have attained extreme wealth are extremely successful, it seems more accurate -- at least to me -- to see this in terms of pathology. The nature of the disease is one in which a person enters a state of extreme dependence on a vast human network in which the overwhelming majority of transactions are financial and dislocated. It is the antithesis of self-reliance and thus frequently engenders a form of infantilism in which the individual loses the ability to distinguish between wants and needs.

Seen in this light, America has not become a haven for a small elite of hugely successful individuals; it is a nation upon whose surface hideous boils have emerged which unless carefully lanced threaten us with blood poisoning.
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Hamas is a fact of life
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, July 23, 2007

Tony Blair starts work in the Middle East today as the Quartet's special envoy - a role that many regard as Mission Impossible. He will be visiting Jordan, Israel and the West Bank but, bizarrely, he will have no contact with one of the key players - Hamas, the party that won the Palestinian elections last year.

The ground rules laid down by the Quartet (and criticised by former US secretary of state Colin Powell, among others) preclude contact with Hamas - which more or less guarantees that the mission will fail. Why Mr Blair took up the job in those circumstances is puzzling - except that he has always tended to delude himself that he has some kind of magic touch where the Middle East is concerned.

Listening to the BBC's Westminster Hour last night, however, I was struck by the no-nonsense views of Tory MP Michael Ancram, and couldn't help thinking he would make a more effective envoy than Tony Blair. Mr Ancram is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a hotheaded radical. He inherited the title of Marquess of Lothian from his father (though he does not use it) and was once described as embodying "the charm of the British aristocracy without its snobbishness or aloofness". For good measure, he is also a senior member of Conservative Friends of Israel. [complete article]
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Turkish poll starts seismic power shift
By James Button, Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 2007

A landslide win by Turkey's former Islamist party in national elections is set to redraw the country's political landscape, making a coup unlikely and dramatically reducing the power of the military and secular elite.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by the charismatic Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won nearly half the vote on Sunday, an increase of 13 percentage points on its 2002 victory and the highest vote recorded by any party in 50 years.

The result gives the party about 340 seats in the 550-member parliament and reveals a huge transfer of power from the Istanbul and Ankara elites - which have accused the AKP of secretly planning to introduce Islamic law - to business people and traders in Anatolia, the Turkish heartland. [complete article]

Comment -- The power struggle that is playing out in Turkey is one which is evident not only across the Middle East but around the world. It has much less to do with Islam versus secularism than it has with the struggle that lies at the heart of democracy: the political fight to wrest power from elites for whom government has long been a reliable servant of their own interests at the expense of others.

Those elites will always respond to such political challenges by presenting the threats they face as threats to the people, the nation, or even civilization, and they will use all the powers of the state, of the media, and of economic power, to reinforce this message of collective danger. Sooner or later though, there will be some form of rebellion by those who see that their interests are not being represented.

Americans unfortunately, brainwashed from infancy, regard the accumulation of excessive power and wealth as an expression of America's greatness and thus have a tendency to fear criticizing their own elites as though to do so would be unAmerican. Ironically, in the nation which is the birthplace of modern democracy, the progress of democracy is mired by this crippling reverence for power.
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How to talk to Iran
By James Dobbins, Washington Post, July 22, 2007

After an eight-week hiatus, the American and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad are scheduled to meet soon to discuss Iraq. Some accounts portray these encounters as a departure from decades of noncommunication. In fact, American and Iranian officials have met many times over the years.

Perhaps the most constructive period of U.S.-Iranian diplomacy since the fall of the shah of Iran took place in the months after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Many believe that in the wake of Sept. 11, the United States formed an international coalition and toppled the Taliban. It would be more accurate to say that the United States joined a coalition that had been battling the Taliban for nearly a decade. This coalition -- made up of Iran, India, Russia and the Northern Alliance, and aided by massive American airpower -- drove the Taliban from power.

The coalition then worked closely with the United States to secure agreement among all elements of the Afghan opposition on the formation of a broadly based successor to the Taliban regime.

As the American representative at the U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany, where this agreement was reached, I worked closely with the Iranian delegation and others. Iranian representatives were particularly helpful.

It was, for instance, the Iranian delegate who first insisted that the agreement include a commitment to hold democratic elections in Afghanistan. [complete article]
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U.S. pares other diplomacy to focus on Iraq, rest of Mideast
By Peter Baker, Washington Post, July 23, 2007

President Bush and his top Cabinet secretaries are scaling back their personal diplomacy around the world to focus more intently on Iraq and the rest of the Middle East as the administration concentrates its energy on top priorities for the president's last 18 months in office.

In the past two weeks, Bush canceled a summit with Southeast Asian leaders in Singapore, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scrapped a trip to Africa and decided to skip a meeting in the Philippines, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates put off a swing through Latin America. The domestic debate over Iraq, which may culminate with a September progress report on the war, has made such travel untenable at the moment, officials said.

The decisions underscore how much Iraq and the turmoil in the Middle East have come to consume Bush's presidency and threaten his ability to forge a lasting legacy. The canceled trips have fueled discontent in regions that have long felt snubbed by Bush, and U.S. diplomats and scholars warn of lasting damage. But as Bush's tenure wanes and Americans' patience with the Iraq war runs short, many specialists in Washington are saying the president must put aside secondary objectives.

"An almost-exclusive concentration on Iraq is almost overdue," said James Dobbins, a longtime diplomat who served as Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan and now is a national security analyst at the Rand Corp. "We can't possibly stabilize Iraq unless we decide it's the most important thing we're doing." [complete article]
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Unlikely adversary arises to criticize detainee hearings
By William Glaberson, New York Times, July 23, 2007

Stephen E. Abraham's assignment to the Pentagon unit that runs the hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, seemed a perfect fit.

A lawyer in civilian life, he had been decorated for counterespionage and counterterrorism work during 22 years as a reserve Army intelligence officer in which he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His posting, just as the Guantanamo hearings were accelerating in 2004, gave him a close-up view of the government's detention policies.

It also turned him into one of the Bush administration's most unlikely adversaries.

In June, Colonel Abraham became the first military insider to criticize publicly the Guantanamo hearings, which determine whether detainees should be held indefinitely as enemy combatants. Just days after detainees' lawyers submitted an affidavit containing his criticisms, the United States Supreme Court reversed itself and agreed to hear an appeal arguing that the hearings are unjust and that detainees have a right to contest their detentions in federal court. [complete article]
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Policing terrorism
By David Rieff, New York Times, July 22, 2007

When terrorists tried to blow up civilians in London and Glasgow, Gordon Brown, the new British prime minister, responded in his own distinctive way. What had just been narrowly averted, he said, was not a new jihadist act of war but instead a criminal act. As if to underscore the point, Brown instructed his ministers that the phrase "war on terror" was no longer to be used and, indeed, that officials were no longer even to employ the word "Muslim" in connection with the terrorism crisis. In remarks to reporters, Brown's new home secretary, Jacqui Smith, articulated the basic message. "Let us be clear," she said, "terrorists are criminals, whose victims come from all walks of life, communities and religions."

Is the war on terror really a war? President Bush certainly continues to insist that it is, and a war of existential survival at that, although his administration has recently substituted the term "the long war" for "global war on terrorism." In the past, political figures who denied that the West was locked in a war tended not to get much of a hearing. For example, Senator John Kerry did himself no favors during the 2004 election campaign when he expressed a hope to a reporter for this magazine that fighting terror would come to resemble law enforcement. And Senator John Edwards's claim in this present campaign cycle that the war on terror is a "bumper sticker" slogan seems to have resonated with comparatively few Americans outside the left wing of the Democratic Party. [complete article]
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Selling the Iraqi resistance
Baghdad Correspondent, Conflicts Forum, July 23, 2007

One of the more interesting -- and quiet -- visits to Washington was made recently by Sunni parliamentary leader Mohammed al-Dayni, who visited Capitol Hill during May to meet with Congressional leaders and administration officials. A Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament and head of the Sunni Iraqi National Dialogue Front, al-Dayni showed up in Washington for an extended 25-day visit to talk with policymakers about Washington's Iraq strategy. The point of al-Dayni's visit? To convince the Bush administration to begin talks with what al-Dayni described as "the real representatives of the Iraqi resistance" and not the "make believe resistance leaders." What al-Dayni had in mind was that the Bush administration -- and members of Congress -- would reopen negotiations with Iraq's Baathists, the same leaders it had accused of meeting with and harboring al-Qaeda operatives and hiding weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]
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America must pull out of Iraq to contain civil war
By Samuel Berger and Bruce Riedel, Financial Times, July 23, 2007

A clear US commitment to a complete, irreversible withdrawal from Iraq may now be the only way to develop a regional concert of powers that could work with Iraqis to try to stabilise the country and cauterise the conflict.

The continuing US and British occupation is a roadblock to that co-operation. The galvanising impact of a decision to depart unequivocally can be the last best chance at preventing the conflict from boiling over beyond Iraq to the whole region. How we design and implement our departure is our last significant remaining leverage.

There is no guarantee that this will work, but geopolitical self-interest may encourage wary co-operation from Iraq's neighbours. Iran does not need to invade Iraq to have influence there. The Saudis and Jordanians do not have the military capability to invade. The Syrians are not interested and, in spite of some sabre-rattling, the Turks do not need more Kurds to try to pacify. Focusing on ending the occupation and bringing order in its wake may be the best chance left to end our involvement while keeping the civil war contained to Iraq. [complete article]
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The Democrats' Iraqi dilemma
By Ira Chernus, TomDispatch, July 22, 2007

There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the U.S. must control every strategically valuable region of the world -- and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That's been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.

So whatever "leave Iraq" might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate. The powers that be just wouldn't stand for that. They see themselves as the guardians of world "order." They feel a sacred obligation to maintain "stability" throughout the imperial domains, which now means most of planet Earth -- regardless of what voters may think. The Democratic front-runners know that "order" and "stability" are code words for American hegemony. They also know that voters, especially Democratic ones, see the price of hegemony in Iraq and just don't want to pay it anymore. [complete article]
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Interview: Kurdish guerrilla leader says defeat awaits Turkey's military in Iraq
AP, July 22, 2007

The Kurdish rebel commander said he believed the Turkish military will launch a long-anticipated offensive against separatist bases in northern Iraq shortly after Sunday's general elections in Turkey and warned his fighters were prepared for battle.

But Murat Karayilan, the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, denied Ankara's charges that his group was using its bases in Iraq to launch attacks against Turkish forces.

"The date of the Turkish offensive has drawn near," Karayilan told The Associated Press Friday in an interview at his base in the remote village of Lewzhe in northern Iraq. "We are ready to confront it and to defend ourselves. The Turkish army cannot move with ease in this mountainous terrain." [complete article]
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Hezbollah chief: Our reach spans every point in Israel
By Yoav Stern and Amos Harel, Haaretz, July 23, 2007

Hezbollah claimed Sunday that it is able to strike at every part of Israel, and had the same capability during the Second Lebanon War last summer.

The leader of the Iranian and Syrian-backed organization, Hassan Nasrallah, made the comments to Qatari-based Al-Jazeera satellite television, in an interview to be aired in its entirety Monday.

"Even in the months of July and August 2006 there was not one place in occupied Palestine that we could not reach, every point and every corner," Nasrallah said. "I stress that we can do this today as well." [complete article]
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Blair caught between Hamas and Fatah advice
By Harvey Morris, Financial Times, July 23, 2007

The cards at Tony Blair's disposal in his new mission to the Middle East may fall short of a full deck, but he will not lack advice as he embarks on Monday on his first visit to the region as envoy of the international quartet.

On the Palestinian side, Hamas has warned the former British prime minister that his mission is doomed if he does not talk to its leaders, while Fatah will tell him it is doomed if he does.

"By boycotting Hamas, Blair will lose his credibility as a mediator," according to Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

On the contrary, says Nabil Amr, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority's Fatah president who dismissed the Hamas government after the Islamists' takeover of Gaza and replaced it with a cabinet of technocrats. "It would be a disaster for Blair to start talking to Hamas and I would advise him not to talk to them." [complete article]

Abbas' only chance
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz, July 23, 2007

[At a meeting of delegates of the PLO Central Committee in Ramallah last week, it] was hard to shake the feeling that this was a show of heroes from the Palestinian past. The present and future belong to those who were not there, regardless of whether this means Hamas or opposition within Fatah. Such an opposition does exist, not only abroad but also in the territories, and among its spokesmen are Hani al-Hassan and Jibril Rajoub, and possibly Marwan Barghouti. They are asking to hold a dialogue with Hamas, not just fight against it. Abbas' success is greatly dependent on the political steps of the Israeli government, which is, more than anyone, responsible for his weakness. Nonetheless, Abbas must make order in Fatah, hold a general conference and internal elections. Otherwise, he stands no chance of success. [complete article]
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From the ashes of abject failure rises a tiny glimmer of hope
By Paul Woodward, War in Context, July 22, 2007

At the beginning of the war in Iraq, Richard Perle was jubilant to announce the death of the United Nations. Neoconservatives like Perle were not only about to take credit for bringing down Saddam -- they also imagined that they had delivered a mortal blow to internationalism.

Four years later, it must sicken the architects of the war to witness the Bush administration, now in its own death throes, reaching out to the UN in a desperate effort to "help internationalize the effort to stabilize" Iraq.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the administration's representative at the UN, but it remains unclear how much weight stands behind an initiative he described on Friday in a New York Times op-ed. It seems reasonable to assume that he has Condoleezza Rice's full support, Cheney is ready to sabotage the project, while Bush dithers in between.

As Khalilzad correctly says:
... the United Nations has unmatched convening power that can help Iraq's principal communities reach a national compact on the distribution of political and economic power. In the role of mediator, it has inherent legitimacy and the flexibility to talk to all parties, including elements outside the political process.
But as with the rest of the administration's makeshift approach to policymaking, the general perception now will likely be that this is way too little, way too late. Even so, at least for a while, I'm suspending judgment. A UN envoy for Iraq could have a decisive role -- it all depends on whether in his person and through his mandate he possesses enough authority.

An effective envoy would need to be perceived inside and outside Iraq as truly independent. He must be attuned to the region's complexity and capable of acting as an honest broker, trusted and respected by all parties. He should neither be nor appear to be in any way deferential to the United States. At the same time, his selection and his mandate would require the unequivocal support of the U.S.. This would demand the ultimate climb down from Bush. It would mean, quite literally, that he would have to bow to someone else's authority.

Could Bush do that? Probably only at such a time that he takes Richard Perle's misplaced conclusion about the UN and understands how it applies to himself: abject failure.
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Blair 'will fail unless he talks to Hamas'
By Tim Shipman, Sunday Telegraph, July 22, 2007

Tony Blair's effort to revive the Middle East peace process will be doomed unless the West begins talking to the militant group Hamas, according to the man expected to advise the former prime minister.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Daniel Levy warned that al-Qaeda could win new supporters among disaffected Palestinians unless Hamas - regarded by Israel, America and other western countries as a terrorist group - is allowed "inside the tent".

Mr Levy, 39, a former Israeli peace negotiator and the son of Mr Blair's former Middle East envoy, Lord Levy, said the West's effort to bolster the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, could not work if it ignored Hamas's control of Gaza, part of the Palestinian territory. [complete article]

U.S. to keep Blair out of Middle East
By Tim Butcher, The Telegraph, July 20, 2007

Tony Blair was told by the United States yesterday that he had no authority to tackle political negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as he spent his first full day as special envoy to the Middle East.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, insisted that America would retain leadership of the "political track" while Mr Blair would work on raising funds for the Palestinians, as well as building their economy and infrastructure. [complete article]

See also, Blair sets out on Middle East "Mission Impossible" (Reuters).

Hamas outlines basis for reconciliation with rival Fatah
DPA, July 22, 2007

Deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday outlined a "basis" for reconciliation with Fatah after his group's violent seizure of the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh's vision includes the restructuring of Palestinian Authority security services formerly manned mostly by rival Fatah, respecting signed Hamas-Fatah deals and staging a general national reconciliation. [complete article]

See also, Hamas: Rajoub instead of Dahlan as Palestinian security advisor (Al-Quds Al-Arabi).
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Israel's primal myth: a barrier to peace
By Barry Lando, Truthdig, July 21, 2007

Forget about Hamas, the wall, Gaza and the occupied territories. There can be no peace in the Middle East until Israel and the Palestinians deal with one key issue: the Palestinian demand that Israel recognize their right of return. That demand is based on the Arab charge that the Zionist state created the refugee problem in the war of 1948-49 by a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. It's an accusation that Israel's leaders have consistently rejected. Jewish soldiers could never commit such crimes. It was the Arabs themselves, they say, who created the refugees.

It has become increasingly evident, however, that the Israeli position is, in fact, a self-serving myth created when the Jewish state was born, perpetuated ever since by the country's leaders and still blandly accepted by Washington. [complete article]
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Turkey's ruling AKP wins vote
By Hidir Goktas and Selcuk Gokoluk, Reuters, July 22, 2007

Turkey's ruling AK Party won a resounding election victory on Sunday, giving the pro-business, Islamist-rooted party a mandate for reform but potentially setting the stage for renewed tensions with the secular elite.

The result is a moral triumph for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who called early parliamentary polls after losing a battle with the establishment, which includes army generals, who did not want his ex-Islamist ally as head of state.

With nearly all votes counted, the AK Party won 47 percent, almost half as much again as in 2002, but a more united opposition means it may end up without many extra seats. [complete article]

Seyla Benhabib: "There is more religion in politics in the U.S. than in Turkey"
The Turkish Yale philosopher interviewed by Daniele Castellani Perelli, ResetDOC, July 4, 2007

"The AKP party and Abdullah Gul will not change Turkey into a theocracy". Seyla Benhabib does not seem at all to be worried about a possible victory for the Islamic AKP party in the Turkish elections to be held on the 22nd July, and not even about the possibility that one of its main leaders, Abdullah Gul, may become the new President of Turkey: "They are carrying out an incredible experiment and it is unusual for someone who is a democratic socialist like myself to be supporting and to be watching very carefully a party like them". Seyla Benhabib, philosopher and Professor of political science and philosophy at Yale, was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Among her books are The Claims of Culture (Princeton 2002) and The Rights of Others (Cambridge 2004).

In this interview, Benhabib, who is a member of the Scientific Committee of Resetdoc, partly attributes the crisis of the nation-state to the worldwide resurgence of Islam, but puts the religious question in Turkey into perspective, explaining that religion there is only more visible with respect to the 1960s, not more influential; that the battle between the two main parties is also a battle of elites; and that religion is more important in US politics than in those of Turkey. And she makes two cutting swipes at Ayaan Hirsi Ali ("She is simply uninformed. The AKP party doesn't want a theocracy"), and at the French President Nicolas Sarkozy: "I hope that Mr. Sarkozy sees it appropriate to be faithful to the Copenhagen criteria. He has very often used Turkey as a metaphor for his own problems with his own Muslim immigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and for the discourse about Europe and Islam". [complete article]

See also, Nationalism casts shadow over Turkey's poll battle (The Observer).
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

America is just starting to wake up to the awesome scale of its Iraq disaster
By Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, July 19, 2007

The other war: Iraq vets bear witness
By Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian, The Nation, July 30, 2007

Out of the shadows - Iraqi insurgents present a political agenda
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, July 20, 2007

Yes, Bush is naked, what of it?
By Tony Karon, TomDispatch, July 19, 2007

Nothing to sell the Palestinians
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz, July 16, 2007

Keeping the Palestinians out of sight
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, July 19, 2007

The dissembling of Dennis Ross
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, July 17, 2007

Who needs Bush's help?
By Paul Woodward, War in Context, July 16, 2007

The Kurdish question
By Madeleine Elfenbein, The American Prospect, July 16, 2007

The way to go in Iraq
By Peter Galbraith, TomDispatch, July 17, 2007

Days of rage - challenges for Pakistan's future
By William Dalrymple, The New Yorker, July 23, 2007
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