July 16, 2006

Things that go without saying

(israeli flag small.jpg

July 16 - Sorry for the silence; it's been far more interesting to watch and read the news these days than to comment on it. Nevertheless, some things must be said.

Israel has the right to defend herself. Israel has an obligation to defend herself, her people, and her soldiers. Period.

The appropriateness of the term "axis of evil" has become increasing apparent these past weeks as has the uselessness of the U.N.

It is a better scenario in that region without Saddam than it might be with him. Remember that interrupted shipment of Scud missles from North Korea to Iraq? And the ease with which his weapons programs could be re-started?

It shouldn't need to be said that those calling for "calm" in the Mid-east are ignoring the fundamental fact that the destruction of Hezbollah would achieve calm far more effectively than standing down and allowing them to rebuild their arsenals and bases of operation in readiness for the next assault.

It shouldn't need to be said that the destruction of Hezbollah would at long last achieve justice for the 241 U.S. servicemen who died in 1983 when the Marine Barracks in Beirut was bombed. Those who think that was a long time ago and we should forget about it may not have noticed the roar accompanying the 2003 capture of the Abu Abbas who planned the assault on the Achille Lauro and the murder of one man - Leon Klinghoffer - because we.don't.forget.

It shouldn't need to be said that countries that harbour terrorists are legitimate targets. It shouldn't need to be said that those who live near rocket launchers or Hezbollah offices should move. It shouldn't need to be said that the callous manner in which Hezbollah and other terror organizations have placed those civilians in danger is the issue, and however regrettable it may be that they are being used as human shields their presence cannot serve to protect Hezbollah from justice.

There is a huge difference between peace and proxy wars. It's long been recognized that the material support by Syria and Iran for the insurgency in Iraq has been a proxy war, and now those countries have been forced out of the shadows by their stamp on the weapons that have been used on Israel.

It is tempting to apply the philosophies and stratgies from the Cold War to today's events, but that overlooks a fundamental difference: Israel's enemies (and ours) brazenly proclaim their intention to commit genocide. No stalemate much less detente is possible under such circumstances.

Those that fear that the U.S. military is somewhat handicapped by the presence of large numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq might also reflect as to the extent to which those troops act as an effective deterrent to Syria and Iran. Syria may threaten and Iran may bluster but the steadfast support of U.S. officials for Israel's right to defend herself forces those countries to limit a more active involvement in Lebanon. Two words: air power. It is unlikely that we will see troop movements in Syria or Iran to escalate this war.

Lastly, it shouldn't need to be said that Israel is fighting a war which we must not only support but acknowledge to be in our interests as well as in the interests of all who truly seek a peaceful solution in the Mid-east. I only wish we were doing more to support them (even though I understand why our support is limited to words) but I pray that, should events force our hand, we stand up and do the right thing by our best ally in that region.

Posted by Debbye at 09:39 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

The plight of the Palestinian people

Apr. 3 - Skillfully done post at Newsbeat1 contrasting propaganda with unspeakable exploitation: Their cousins had no intention in resettling them............despite the billions they made over 60 years.

Has another group of people ever been so callously used and betrayed over so long a period under the banners of solidarity and brotherhood?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just weary of all the bloodletting in the pursuit of deflected angers. Although my reason insists that a resolution can and will be found, I just can't see where and when it will happen. The nascent civil war between the different militias (for lack of a better definition) seems to argue that bloodletting remains the preferred political tool and, under such circumstances, attempts to create a Palestinian state that can offer its people a future seem doomed.

Posted by Debbye at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

That cartoon controversy

Feb. 11 - Are they determined to piss us off? I'm trying to maintain some calm about this but when people keeping drawing lines in the sand it's darned near impossible: Top Saudi cleric says authors, publishers of prophet drawings must be punished:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudi Arabia's top cleric called on the world's Muslims to reject apologies for the "slanderous" caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed and demanded the authors and publishers of the cartoons be tried and punished, Saudi newspapers reported Saturday.


Speaking to hundreds of faithful at his Friday sermon, Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Seedes, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, called on the international community to enact laws that condemn insults against the prophet and holy sites.

"Where is the world with all its agencies and organizations? Is there only freedom of expression when it involves insults to Muslims? With one voice . . . we will reject the apology and demand a trial," Al Riyad, a Saudi daily newspaper, quoted al-Seedes as saying.

Al-Seedes said the cartoons "made a mockery" of the Islam and the Prophet and called them "slanderous."

Let's be real: the over-the-top response is more surely making a mockery of Islam and the Prophet than any cartoon could, and the pathetic need to bolster their case by fabricating cartoons indicates how very unremarkable the original 12 were.

Despite my personal decision not to publish any of those cartoons, I understand completely why many chose to do so - and make no mistake, we are talking about choice, not legal compulsion or proscription. It's a bit hard to maintain the notion that Al-Seedes represents a "religion of peace" when demands are made that we be punished for exercising our freedoms, and it's hard to maintain respect for a religion that responds so irrationally to a series of cartoons.

The demands of any religious leader in Saudi Arabia are even more insulting when we consider the following:

Are Muslims in Western countries denied the right to worship as they chose? Are Christians and Jews allowed to worship as they please in Saudi Arabia?

Will there ever be an end to the insults and defamation of Jews and unbelievers in mosques?

What goes around comes around. It doesn't make it right, but it does make all the outrage and indignation said to be sparked by the cartoons easy to dismiss.

Equally easy to dismiss is this:

A local Muslim leader has filed a police complaint and will be seeing a lawyer over the running of controversial political cartoons in two Calgary-area publications.

Alaa Elsayed of the Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC) said he will also be asking The Jewish Free Press, which published the cartoons Jan. 9, and the Western Standard, which is expected to feature them in tomorrow's issue, to apologize for the slight.

Quote of the, er, month (bit early to make it the year!) should go to Ezra Levant (editor of the Western Standard) who makes this observation in the Calgary Sun article:
"In Canada, we don't call the police when our religious sensitivities are offended -- we write letters to the editor."
Those words should be posted everywhere.

I dislike having to constantly remind myself that the extremists demanding a free people exercise censorship do not represent all Muslims. I dislike having to struggle against my contempt for those who do not respect me and my values but who have the nerve to demand I respect them.

I'm going to keep reminding myself that this is not about tolerance but about suppression, and the real threat the cartoons pose is to the imans, mullahs and clerics is people (like me) who may not laugh at the cartoons but can laugh at anyone, be it the Pope, Jerry Falwell or Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Seedes, who would try to impose censorship on us by religious decree.

14:30 - The Western Standard website seems to be inaccessible. I hope it's due to traffic.

18:00 - A Shotgun blog post (no reference to VP Dick Cheney) confirms that it is indeed the traffic. But, yes, I wondered. Also, Ezra Levant speaks out here and spells out the fear factor that played a part in the sudden reluctance by the news media to offend religious sensibilities.

Posted by Debbye at 04:48 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

The clash within a civilization

Feb. 10 - From the clash between civilizations to the clash within the civilization: commemorations of Ashura are again deadly: Pakistan suicide blast kills 27. Twenty-seven killed. Over a succession issue more than a thousand years old. The closest equivalent would be armed struggle between Greek Orthodox Christians or Protestants and Roman Catholics -- and however profound the differences between them remain, we have learnt to agree to disagree. That's the Western value we are trying to "export."

Astute observation:

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condemned the attack, calling it a "conspiracy to trigger clashes between Sunnis and Shiites."
As too many blithely opine that the "clash of civilizations" is epitomized by the "spontaneous" demonstrations over the cartoons (hey, it's not the fault of the arsonists that Flags 'R' Us was slow filling the order for Danish flags) it's too easy to forget that the primary target for the fundamentalists are other Muslims.

Recapping my favourite theme: the showdown in Western countries is between those who have an embracing world view which lends more than lip service to "diversity" and those who don't, and that in turn is a surer guide that tells us whose side we are on more than any pandering to what some would simplistically characterize as "the underdog." (Nods to a wise woman who, by setting it out in straightforward terms, clarified the tendency to automatically "side with underdogs" as a leftover knee-jerk response from which I suffered but am recovering. Maturity is a frustrating enigma.)

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October 24, 2005

Reactions to the Mehlis Report

Oct. 24 - I wish I could report on official Canadian reaction to the Mehlis Report but thus far there hasn't been any. The rest of the world isn't waiting for Canada, though, and Detlev Mehlis, who was commissioned by the U.N. to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, will be addressing the United Nations Security Council tomorrow. It seems likely that the imposition of sanctions on the Assad government will, at the very least, be brought up (U.S., Britain press for action against Syria) :

Diplomats at the United Nations and in Washington said U.S. and French officials have been talking with Russia and other nations about anti-Syria resolutions to put before the Security Council, including the possibility of punitive economic sanctions.
Seems France is still on board, which is good (however deeply I may distrust them.)

It's not really so surprising that Canadian officials haven't commented yet, especially as you'd never know the Mehlis Report was all that damning if you read the CBC webpage today (nor would you find a link to an earlier story on that report.) But you can trust the CBC to emphasize the anti-American element in the following story: pro-government demonstration in Syria today:

In a country where protests are rare, a rally in support of the Syrian government virtually shut down central Damascus Monday.

Among the hundreds of thousands of people at the rally – and a similar event in the northern city of Aleppo – there were government employees let off work for the occasion and students released from classes with the government's blessing.

Imagine: government blessed demonstrations! I haven't seen anything like it in that region since Saddam ruled Iraq. (Do reporters in Syria travel with "minders?" Just asking.)
They chanted anti-American slogans to protest a United Nations report released last week that said Syria and Lebanon played roles in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14. (Emphasis added)
They dislike the findings of a U.N. report written by a German so they chant anti-American slogans. I could be really, really wrong but I am beginning to wonder if this might have been a "staged" event.

The CBC fills us in on more items from the report:

The same report also scolded Syria for its less-than-full co-operation with the United Nations investigation.

[I deleted intervening paragraphs which are not about the report's contents but the CBC report is copied in full in the extended entry for your reading pleasure.]

Syria vigorously denies the allegations in the U.N. report, dismissing its contents as politicized gossip.

The CBC does not report that Detlev Mehlis concluded that leading members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments were involved in the assassination nor does it note that last-minute alterations suppressed the names of several leading Syria officials (including members of Bashir Assad's immediate family) raising suspicions that Kofi Annan had broke his pledge not to interfere. In fact, the CBC doesn't even mention that a computer "gaffe" enabled recipients of the report to retrieve the deleted names.

Imperative No. 1 at the CBC is to suppress any news that makes the U.N. look bad or, failing that, downplay it. (Imperative No. 2 is to hype news that makes the U.S.A. look bad; note the lead picture on their Indepth Lebanon page!) That's part of the reason why some of us are somewhat cynical when CBC reporters are named to the Senate or appointed Governor-General. When your job as a reporter includes tainting the news or even failing to report the news, The News Canadians Trust isn't very trustworthy and neither are its reporters.

Although the news report says that there have been calls for U.N. sanctions, no specific country was named (the article does quote President Bush's response to the report, though.) I think it odd that the CBC completely ignored the involvement of both the French and the British not only because of the shared British and French heritage of Canada but also because the two countries are permanent members of the UNSC. Some might think that when 3 out of 5 permanent members are attempting to build a U.N.-based response against Syria that such an event would be newsworthy.

Same old, same old. For the CBC, it's always All. About. America. and not about, say, the Lebanese (or the Iraqis, for that matter) unless it's about a Syrian response which is All. About. America.

The CBC was so anxious to be even-handed that it didn't even mention the response in Lebanon to the report, unlike the AP, Michael Totten and Expat Yank Robert (and the latter has posted some very moving photos of the commemorative ceremonies at Hafrik's grave that were held last Friday.)

14:25: This CTV report on the Syrian demonstrations contains considerably more information about the Mehlis report although no names of suspected perpetrators are mentioned nor is the revelation that the report was altered to removed key names.

There's also a sobering analysis over at Canada Free Press by J. Grant Swank, Jr.: Syria: Murder & mayhem, but who cares? in which he expresses why he believes the Syrians will not be rising up to oust Assad. He makes several good points and, when you come right down to it, this isn't really about internal matters in Syria but that country's behaviour in Lebanon over the past few decades as well as their support of terrorist groups that attack Israel and (I suspect) Iraq.

The following is the CBC report about today's demonstration in Syria:

Syrians turn out for pro-government rally
Last Updated Mon, 24 Oct 2005 10:28:18 EDT
CBC News

In a country where protests are rare, a rally in support of the Syrian government virtually shut down central Damascus Monday.

Indepth: Syria

Among the hundreds of thousands of people at the rally – and a similar event in the northern city of Aleppo – there were government employees let off work for the occasion and students released from classes with the government's blessing.

They chanted anti-American slogans to protest a United Nations report released last week that said Syria and Lebanon played roles in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14.

FROM FEB. 25, 2005: UN investigates Hariri assassination

The same report also scolded Syria for its less-than-full co-operation with the United Nations investigation.

Syria is intent on countering growing criticism over the affair, which includes calls for U.N. sanctions against the administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

United States President George W. Bush has labelled the report "deeply disturbing," and called on the U.N. Security Council to act immediately to reprimand Syria.

"Syria Will Never be Another Iraq," read one banner hoisted by protesters at Monday's rally. "Wake up Arabs, Your Turn Will Come Soon," said another.

Syria vigorously denies the allegations in the U.N. report, dismissing its contents as politicized gossip.

Detlev Mehlis, the U.N.'s lead investigator, is scheduled to address the United Nations Security Council Tuesday.

Hariri vigorously opposed Syria's domination of Lebanon. He and 20 others were killed when powerful bombs went off near his car in Beirut in early February.

Posted by Debbye at 01:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"We did nothing to apologize for."

Oct. 24 - More "religious" riots. So are Egyptians rioting over the release of a DVD of a Christian play or in preparation for elections next month?

According to information gleaned from this CNN account, Four die in DVD-fed Muslim rioting, the rioters have won a partial victory because one of the two Coptic candidates, Maher Khalah, has withdrawn from the parliamentary elections.

But they didn't win the big concession, namely an apology:

"We're not going to apologize because we don't want it to become a precedent," said [Kamil] Sediq of the Coptic Community Council, a secular body of prominent Copts established in 1874 to oversee affairs of the community. "We did nothing to apologize for."
I wish more would follow his example by not apologizing when they've done nothing wrong.

Posted by Debbye at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

U.N. allegedly doctored report on Hariri assassination (Updated)

Oct. 22 - It is becoming increasingly evident why corrupt governments (like that under the Liberals in Canada) are so comfortable with the workings of the U.N. They have so much in common: lack of transparency, lack of proper accounting controls over expenditures, no whistle-blower protection, a patronage system that rewards corruption, and a brazen willingness to cling to power no matter what the cost - even when it means tampering with their own reports. But covering up a murder? That may be a new low even for the U.N. (as we don't actually know that there is a Rwandan flight recorder in Kofi's safe.)

I wrote yesterday about shame and cited the CNN article that alleged that members of Bashar al-Assad's family were involved in the assassination of Lebanese statesman Hafrik Hariri, but it has now emerged that those allegations were supposed to be suppressed by the office of the U.N. which is yet one more indication of how very unworthy the U.N. is of the esteem many hold for it - unless of course they're thieves or thugs.

Those who doubt the allegations of tampering with the Volcker Report on the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program have another fine mess to rationalize away. From the [London] Times Online: UN office doctored report on murder of Hariri:

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.


But the furore over the doctoring of the report threatened to overshadow its damaging findings. It raised questions about political interference by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General, who had promised not to make any changes in the report.

One crucial change, apparently made after the report was submitted to the UN chief, removed the name of President al-Assad’s brother, Maher, his brother-in-law, Assef al-Shawkat, and other high-ranking Syrian officials.

The final, edited version quoted a witness as saying that the plot to kill Mr Hariri was hatched by unnamed “senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. But the undoctored version named those officials as “Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed”. (Emphasis added)

It should be noted that the author of the report, Detlev Mehlis, denied that anyone "outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the Secretary-General.” But then he would say that, wouldn't he, and it doesn't explain the changes that were reportedly made after the report was delivered Annan but before the report was presented to the U.N.S.C.

Hmm, I wonder where does Annan's deputy assistant, Louise Frechette, was at the time? One's second-in-command plays many roles and not all of them are above-board, as anyone who's ever tangled with bureaucracy can attest, and the second-in-command is often deemed expendable when scandal explodes beyond any possible level of containment.

The big question is why would officials at the U.N. tamper with the report? and at who's behest? It's easy to assume that there was a quid-pro-quo at work, but who stood most to gain?

The easy assumption is that, in the name of stability, the U.N. does not wish to see Assad's government fall. That argument was used during the lead up to the Iraq War but, as was later revealed, there were far more persuasive economic reasons (which included billions of dollars collected by the U.N. itself for "administrative fees") to prop up Saddam than a reverence for stability, mass graves and human rights violations notwithstanding. But Assad does not have the same degree of international protection as did Saddam, and even though Arab states may wish to protect him they would surely be wise enough by now to recognize when it's best to leave a sinking ship.

This is only a blog and I'm allowed personal pique, so I vote for France as the ones who stand most to gain by protecting Assad - in part because I really hate those bastards, and in part because I really don't trust them. All the strong words coming out of France about their determination to track down the murderers of Hariri and their support for Lebanon were very nice and made for great press so long as unnamed persons were suspected but now the dots connect all the way to Assad's immediate family (I guess it would be a cheap shot to point out here that France does have a history of collaboration with fascism, so I'll forbear.)

Words really can come back to haunt us. France has been forced into a corner from which all the nuancing in the world cannot extricate them (although I suspect they'll try) so they may now have to actually live up to their promises.

Who says history is dead?

As an aside, the computer "gaffe" itself is very interesting, no?

(Free registration may be required to read the Times Online. I really don't remember at this point which online periodicals required my registration and which were quickly accessible. Sorry about that.)

(Via Neale News.)

Oct. 22 - 01:06: Michael Totten reports from Lebanon on the response there to the Mehlis Report and has some great photos. I find the one of someone scrawling on a wall "And the truth shall set you free" to be particularly apt.

Posted by Debbye at 10:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

"Do these people not feel the shame and disgrace that shroud them?"

Oct. 21 - Lots of people should feel shame these days for things that have been done, things that have not been done or said, and things that should be done but most likely will not be done.

'Omran Salman has written about the continuing extermination of Shi'ites in Iraq and attacks the silence of Sunnis there and that of Arab journalists and statesmen throughout the Mideast: "Aren't the Arabs Ashamed When Some of Them Massacre Iraqi Citizens?":

"What can we say in light of the attitude of the Arab media [in general] and the Arab satellite channels in particular, which report the killings, the slaughters, and the suicide bombings among Iraqi citizens coolly, treating them as routine events [and] as part of what has been termed 'the series of [acts of] violence in Iraq?'

"The war being waged by the Al-Qaeda organization and the terrorists against the Shi'ites in Iraq is among the acts of collective extermination, which is rare in modern history. There has been no case in the past in which somebody has declared a similar war against a race or a group as a whole, except [for the case of] Nazi Germany against the Jews...

"The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq and similar [bodies] in Arab countries have issued dozens of fatwas about current political issues, but have not issued even a single fatwa declaring bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, or Al-Zarqawi to be infidels because of their killing of the Shi'ites."

Salman could have included much of the Western media in his denunciation because they too have failed to place the targeted murders in the context of al Zarqawi's stated purpose, preferring to pretend that the bombings of civilians is part of the "insurgency."

Since we're on the subject of shame, the media silence about the recent Iraq referendum has been deafening, and Oliver North does some sharpshooting in The purple finger effect:

The same potentates of the press who focused for weeks on hanging chads in Florida five years ago widely ignored one of the most dramatic political events of our time. In the midst of a bloody war, politicians in an Islamic country spent seven months drafting their own constitution and then sent it to their people for ratification.
More shame: the U.N. report on the assassination of Rafik Hariri has concluded that Syrian officials were behind the bomb that killed Hariri and
CNN was able to obtain a copy of the report given Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Security Council members, which lists the names of the men accused of planning the February 14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 22 other people.

The names were not in copies of the report released for general distribution.

In addition to Maher Assad, the Syrian president's brother, those investigating Hariri's death accused Assef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law; Jamil al-Sayyed, head of Lebanese intelligence; Hassan Khalil, former head of Syrian intelligence; and Bahjat Suleyman, a personal friend of the Syrian president, as participating in planning the assassination.

A witness, who is Syrian but lives in Lebanon, and who claims to have worked for Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon, told investigators that about two weeks before Security Council Resolution 1559 was passed, the officials decided to assassinate Hariri.

President Bush spoke about the report today:
"Today, a serious report came out that requires the world to look at it very carefully and respond accordingly," he said. "The report is deeply disturbing."

Bush said he instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "call upon the United Nations to convene a session as quickly as possible to deal with this very serious matter."

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, will be meeting with the author of the report, German prosecutor Detleve Mehlis, Friday morning, and will urge the U.N. Security Council to meet and "consider options." That's all very nice, but the U.N.'s options are extremely limited. They can't ignore their own report, but would the General Assembly pass a resolution condemning Syria? and then ... what?

Lebanon is a member of the agency of "francophonie" as are France, Romania and Benin, nations which currently sit on the UNSC, and thus one would expect them to exhibit some degree of solidarity, right? [As an aside, Canada, New Brunswick and Quebec are also members of the agency of francophonie.]

One group that realistically might be able to exert pressure on Syria is the EU. They were quick to make overtures for increased trade with Syria after the U.S. Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act in 2004 and are thus in a position wherein they could at minimum impose sanctions. Right.

(Memri link via Newsbeat1)

Posted by Debbye at 05:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

Zawahiri: Send money!

Oct. 7 - (Sorry about the silly title, but I'm on my sixth day/night with little sleep and I couldn't help thinking that Zawahiri's reqeusts for funds sounds like the stereotypical college student writing home.)

Nevertheless, the request for money is astonishing. The general impression had been that al Qaeda seemingly had limitless funds, but if the letter accurately represents al Qaeda's financial state I have to wonder if maybe we have indeed been successful in cutting off their funding - including that which many of us suspect came from Saudi Arabia.

The rest of the letter (ahem, treatise) is perhaps less surprising. Zawahiri evidently realizes that Zarqawi is as much a psychopath as Saddam & Sons but he's trying to reason with him. Maybe he should have received the Nobel Peace Prize instead of elBaradei ...

Silliness aside, the implications of this 13-page comminque are deadly serious (U.S. Obtains Treatise By Bin Laden Deputy) and confirms the reasons why the U.S. is hanging tough in Iraq.

These days leading up to the October 15 referendum in Iraq are likely to continue to be bloody but the treatise makes clear how vitally important that vote is. The results are somewhat secondary to the fact that there will be a vote and that the people of Iraq will have the final voice in the destiny of their country.

On the plans to extend jihad, is it just me or would not taking Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Israel effectively tighten a noose around Jordan and Saudi Arabia? And no mention of the Palestinians? That is a glaring omission given the civil war taking place there.

Iran is also left out. Or is it counted as "mission accomplished?"

I still haven't had a chance to do more than scan the transcript of President Bush's speech at the National Endowment for Democracy (and like the passion of what I've read) but hot damn! releasing the treatise at the same time as that speech was well-executed.

Please, Mr. President, do it more often! Let's stay focused on the aims of this war and the horrific consequences of appeasement or, unthinkably, failure.

Posted by Debbye at 08:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Is it "sectarian civil strife" if only one side is attacking?

Oct. 5 - Hillah: A bomb kills 25 and wounds 87. Inside a mosque. During the funeral service of a victim of a previous homicide attack. Part of the mosque is destroyed.

CNN notes that Iraqi police were at the funeral and might have been the targets. Riiight.

CNN offers the usual analysis that this is all sectarian civil strife, but is that accurate?

Doesn't "civil strife" imply that both sides are attacking one another and setting off bombs in mosques? Yet bombs have been going on in Shiite mosques, not Sunni mosques. Shiites have been targets of terrorist attacks, not Sunnis - unless they are Sunni Kurds. Non-Kurdish Sunnis are only 20% of Iraq's population, and, despite political overtures from Shiites and Kurds that have been extremely generous, they have been obstructionists to establishing consensual government in Iraq.

Although Shiites are the majority in Iraq, they are not the majority of Muslims, and that may explain why many Muslims are seemingly indifferent to desecrations of Shiite mosques and the murders of Shiite civilians and why the U.N. and Saudis are more concerned about the Sunnis than the Shiites that are being slaughtered.

The religious tensions between Shiites and Sunnis casts a different light on the rebuke delivered by Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr to Prince Saud al-Faisal, foreign minister of Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia:

Prince Saud al-Faisal, foreign minister of Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, had expressed concern about growing Shi'ite influence in Iraq during a visit to Washington last month.

Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, a member of the Shi'ite Islamist Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, fired back during a press conference in Amman yesterday, saying, "We will not allow anyone to interfere in our internal issues, regardless of their political status. ...

"This Iraq is the cradle of civilization that taught humanity reading and writing, and some Bedouin riding a camel wants to teach us. This talk is totally rejected," he said.

He could have gone much further. He could have accused the Saudis of exporting the cult of terrorism through the religious schools they've established throughout the Muslim world. He could have pointed out that many suspect that Saudi money is financing the wave of terror aimed at Shiites in Iraq. He did point out that the suppression of political freedoms in Saudi Arabia hardly make them authorities on establishing consensual government:
He also took a swipe at the Saudi monarchy.

"There are regimes that are dictatorships. They have one God. He is the king, he is God of heaven and earth, and he rules as he likes," Mr. Jabr said.

"A whole country is named after a family. If we open these topics without inhibitions, it is neither to our benefit, nor to theirs."

The exchange between the two ministers reflects wider tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites that divide the Arab world and are behind many of the problems in Iraq, including a stubborn insurgency and the failure of the country to unite in support of a new constitution.

I have to admit that the Shiites and Kurds have been far more patient with Sunni intransigence that I would be, but maybe that is changing:
Iraq's National Assembly voted on Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes it had made to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution.

The United Nations had criticized the change as unfair to Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which had threatened to boycott the vote.

After a brief debate, the Assembly voted 119 to 28 to restore the original voting rules for the referendum, which will take place October 15. Only about half of the 275-member legislative body turned up for the vote.


U.S. and U.N. officials hope that restoring the original rules will avert a boycott of the referendum by the Sunni minority, would have deeply undermined the credibility of the vote and wreck efforts to bring Sunnis into the political process.

To Western minds, those who don't vote have no right to complain about the outcome. The Sunnis boycotted the January elections but were still appointed to government positions in an effort to unite the country (which is something we understand fully as "going the extra mile") but the Sunni insurgents have exploited that sentiment by continuing to attack Shiite targets.

Maybe - just maybe - restoring the original rules will be interpreted as a sign that the 80% of Iraqis who aren't Sunnis are losing patience and want to get on with ratifying a constitution, electing a government, and rebuilding the country.

I'm with the 80%. The Sunnis once ruled Iraq and, hard as it may be to relinquish total power, at some point they must be made to realize that if they are to have any power it will have to within the framework of a power-sharing government.

(Washington Times link via Newsbeat1)

Posted by Debbye at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2005

Ralph Peters on Iraq, the Kurds and the State Department

July 6 - Ralph Peters on Rogue Diplomats:

July 6, 2005 -- CONDI Rice has an Iraq problem. Among her subordinates. A new generation of "Arabists" wants to write off our Kurdish allies for the pipedream of winning friends among our enemies.

Our impressive secretary of state is proud to stand up for freedom and human rights. But career elements in her department, serving in Washington and Iraq, have become a threat to the long-term success of American policy — and to our values.
Problems with the blinkered diplomats at State are not new and I know that an aircraft carrier can't change course on a dime. But does it take 3 years to effect a course change? I think not.

Maybe Condi should put on those fantabulous boots and do a bit of Nancy Sinatra-style walking.

(Via Newsbeat1)

Posted by Debbye at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

A small step for women in Kuwait

May 16 - Kuwait grants women right to vote if they observe Islamic law.

A cursory look at the news hasn't produced any information about today's rally in Ottawa ... if you know anything, please let me know.

I have a meeting tonight so am out of here until tomorrow morning.

Posted by Debbye at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Another bombing in Lebanon

Mar. 23 - I've tried to avoid the implications, but this is the third time a Christian area has been hit with bombs in Beirut: Shopping mall blast near Beirut kills three.

I have to conclude that some elements (Hezbollah, Syria?) are trying to incite the same kind of sectarian violence which they failed to do in Iraq. I hope the Lebanese show the same restraint as or chose to fight back as Iraqis have been doing.

Do Lebanese Christians celebrate Easter by the Eastern or Western calendar? I've got a bad feeling about this weekend ...

06:50 - Many thanks to Kateland for answering my question so quickly in the comments. It appears that the majority of Lebanese Christians will celebrate Easter this weekend. (I also think I'm being overly nervous. I'm beginning to have "bad feelings" every holiday, clearly a case of The Other Shoe Syndrome.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:17 AM | Comments (4)

March 19, 2005

Hope Trumps Despair - 2 years in

Mar. 19 - There have been a series of terrorist attacks in Asia today:

27 Killed in Pakistan Bombing at a Shiite shrine located about 210 miles south of Quetta. Two other bombs went off further south wounding four people.

A car bomb in Beirut wounded nine. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud said he won't attend an upcoming summit of Arab leaders in Algeria due to security concerns in Lebanon.

A bomb in a Qatar theater killed a Briton and wounded 12.

Five police officers were killed in Iraq.

On Thursday, a bomb killed 5 and wounded 32 in Kandahar. A suspect has been arrested.

Mar. 20 - 00:37 Australian News is reporting that Scotland Yard has issued an alert for a new campaign by "rogue Irish republican groups." /end update

Today in Europe, tens of thousands of people protested the ongoing violence intended to derail Iraq's steps toward consensual government after Iraqi voters defied terrorists and voted in the historic elections there Jan. 30. Oh wait, that's wrong. They were protesting against the war that removed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"I think it's important to show that we still care about this," said Linn Majuri, 15, a member of the environmental organization Green Youth, who held a banner reading "Drop Bush, not bombs!"

"People have become apathetic about this, it's no longer something they walk around thinking about every day," she said.

Didn't millions of Iraqis disprove her assertion that "people have become apathetic about this" only last January?

Okay, I'll behave. They were actually protesting non-U.N. sanctioned American action (because the U.N. represents corruption international law, you know) against Iraq, and what they perceive as the unleashing of America's military might.

Silly rabbit, Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in order to avoid unleashing America's full military might. In terms of air power alone, we conducted that war with one arm tied behind our backs.

Sept. 11 represented an escalation of on-going attacks and our counter-attack could have taken many forms (and don't imagine for a minute that there weren't plenty of people agitating for the nuclear option) but the best, albeit most risky, response was to try to avoid the ultimate confrontation by offering the people in the Mid-east a different future: one of hope and realized aspirations. Wicked, huh?

There were small demonstrations in Canada, the largest of about 3,000 being in Montreal. There were also demonstrations in the U.S.A., but, again, they were sparsely attended.

President Bush said

America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women, and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.

Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.

No, wait, that was in October, 2002. His message today was
On this day two years ago, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world from a grave danger.

Before coalition forces arrived, Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship that murdered its own citizens, threatened its neighbors, and defied the world. We knew of Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew of his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction, and we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently. We must, and we will, confront threats to America before they fully materialize.

Now, because we acted, Iraq's government is no longer a threat to the world or its own people. Today the Iraqi people are taking charge of their own destiny. In January, over eight million Iraqis defied the car bombers and assassins to vote in free elections. This week, Iraq's Transitional National Assembly convened for the first time. These elected leaders broadly represent Iraq's people and include more than 85 women. They will now draft a new constitution for a free and democratic Iraq. In October, that document will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum. Another election is planned for December to choose a permanent constitutional government.

Free governments reflect the culture of the citizens they serve, and that is happening in Iraq. Today, Iraqis can take pride in building a government that answers to its people and honors their country's unique heritage.

On the current political landscape in the Mid-east:
Today we're seeing hopeful signs across the broader Middle East. The victory of freedom in Iraq is strengthening a new ally in the war on terror, and inspiring democratic reformers from Beirut to Tehran. Today, women can vote in Afghanistan, Palestinians are breaking the old patterns of violence, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are rising up to demand their sovereignty and democratic rights. These are landmark events in the history of freedom. Only the fire of liberty can purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope to those who yearn to live free.

The experience of recent years has taught us an important lesson: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. Because of our actions, freedom is taking root in Iraq, and the American people are more secure.

Yes, I know, the new meme is that bringing freedom to the Mid-east would have a domino effect was an afterthought when locating WMD didn't pan out, but if that is so, why has so much bandwidth been used these past two years with arguments over the feasibility of functional consensual governments in Muslim countries?

Posted by Debbye at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

Syrian intelligence begins pulling out of Lebanon

Mar. 15 - Syria intel pulling out of Beirut:

Under pressure from the United States, Europe and significant portion of Lebanon's populace, Syrian intelligence units Tuesday were in the process of leaving Beirut, a Lebanese army source told CNN.

Witnesses said two pick-up trucks were being loaded at Syrian intelligence headquarters in the Lebanese capital's Ramlet al-Baida district, Reuters reported.

There is more, but it seems spotty and inconclusive. Shell game or are they truly leaving?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek paid an unannounced visit to Syria and is said to have discussed Lebanon with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

There is also some ambiguity as to the future of Hezbollah in Lebanon:

Syrian officials say they were following U.N. Resolution 1559 as well as the Taif Accord, signed in 1989, which legitimized Syria's presence in Lebanon at the end of a bitter civil war there but called for a later withdrawal.

But U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders have said Syria must immediately pull all its forces from Lebanon.

Resolution 1559 also calls for Lebanon to disband militia groups, including Hezbollah. The Taif Accord allowed Hezbollah to remain in place.

There is disagreement as to whether Hezbollah is a terrorist organization which is irrelevant if Syria intends to act in accordance with the U.N. resolution.

Posted by Debbye at 02:22 PM | Comments (4)

Pro-Syria protesters at US Embassy in Beirut

Mar. 15 - The photo below is of yesterday's "Syria Out!" protest which was attended by hundreds of thousands.

Mar. 14 - Lebanon capt.sge.swy78.150305084028.photo00.photo.jpg
AP Photo

For reasons I can't even begin to explain, that photo accompanies a news story about a much smaller demonstration held today in Beirut: 2,000 pro-Syrian protesters marched on U.S. Embassy:

The protesters, waving Lebanese flags and chanting, “Ambassador get out! Leave my country free!” stopped at the barbed wire blocking the road about 500 yards from the fortified hilltop compound. The crowd did not try to break through.
I'm not sure how, well, intelligent it is for pro-Syria forces in Lebanon to try to counter the movement for Lebanese sovereignty with "Hate America" messages right now. If they're trying to push that particular button in order to incite the Arab Street then they just aren't paying attention: the Arab Street in Beirut is incited, and they are directing the power of that street for Lebanon and against Syria.

Oh well, they warned us about the Arab Street. Too bad they didn't listen.

14:25 - CNN coverage (with assistance from AP) estimates the demonstrators to be 3,000 pro-Syrian students with the obligatory "Death to America" chants and this:

"Don't interfere, leave us alone, we don't want your fake democracy that we saw...in Iraq...through your massacres and human rights breaches there...and in Palestine through your support to Israeli massacres," one speaker said, Reuters reported. (ellipses in original)
I wonder if they will follow the example set - and later regretted - by Sunnis in Iraq and boycott the elections in Lebanon.

Posted by Debbye at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

Ayman Nour released from Egyptian jail

Mar. 13 - Good news from Egypt: Egyptian Pres. Hopeful Out of Jail:

Word spread fast of the 40-year-old lawmaker's release, and within 15 minutes, a crowd of 400 supporters swelled to a few thousand. Firecrackers popped on the streets and members of the crowd threw candy in the air and trilled with joy.

"We are paying the price of our search for freedom," Nour said. "They tried for days to destroy a national project, the Tomorrow Party. But they failed."

As the crowd cheered, Nour repeated last week's jailhouse announcement that he would run for president this year against 24-year incumbent Hosni Mubarak.

"I announce that I will run in the presidential elections for you," Nour said.

I am certain plenty of people will deny this had anything whatsoever to do with U.S. criticisms of the arrest.

Posted by Debbye at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Pressuring Syria

Mar. 11 - It seems downright astonishing that thus far the worst hasn't happened in Lebanon - no crackdown, no forcible dispersal of demonstrators in Freedom Square, and no arrests. When the "worst" is Hezbollah staging peaceful, pro-Syria demonstrations (leaving aside allegations that participants were trucked in, coerced, etc.) I am still, um, cautiously optimistic.

The words unilateral and multilater have seemingly evolved (and are thus rendered useless) so I'm going with united front to describe the pressure being applied to Syria's total withdrawal from Lebanon and satisfaction that the focus on the withdrawal of Syrian troops is being coupled with the withdrawal of the secret police.

The article in today's Washington Post, Top U.N. Envoy to Present Syria With Ultimatum, contains some further good news that the EU will apply economic pressure on Syria:

"When you look around now, who will bail out Syria's economy? The impact of isolation would further weaken a weak economy, lower living and thereby increase popular discontent," he added.

Syria was worried enough about being isolated after the U.S. Congress passed the Syrian Accountability Act -- which called for punitive steps against Damascus -- that it hastily concluded an economic cooperation agreement with the European Union to have a lifeline, Kattouf said.

That lifeline appears to have been cut. Without an illegal trade in oil to offer as incentive - as Saddam had - Syrian President Assad is slowly being backed into a corner.

Posted by Debbye at 05:59 PM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2005

The Road to Damascus

Mar. 4 - Charles Krauthammer on the cedar revolution in The Road to Damascus

Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, took to the New York Times to oppose the immediate end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to "engage and empower" the tyranny in Damascus.

These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall and our "realists" want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by those principles.

I need to sleep, but on behalf of those of us who have to work Friday night, please, please enjoy the opening night of your weekend!

Posted by Debbye at 02:48 PM | Comments (31)

Assad to address Syrian parliament Saturday

Mar. 4 - Syrian president Bashar Assad is going to address the Syrian parliament Saturday in which he is expected to be 'announcing partial pullout' of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the redeployment of those remaining to the border.

Russia has joined the growing number of countries urging Syria to withdraw:

"Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, but we all have to make sure that this withdrawal does not violate the very fragile balance which we still have in Lebanon, which is a very difficult country ethnically," Reuters quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

Moscow abstained when the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 calling for foreign forces to leave Lebanon and militias to disarm. But Lavrov said the resolution, like any other Security Council measure, must be implemented.

I'll leave that one alone. It is too easy.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Lavrov's talks with al-Moalim would focus on the U.N. resolution requiring the Syrian pullout, The Associated Press reported.
The CNN story also elaborates on the communications from the Saudis and Egyptians:
And on Thursday, Saudi leader Crown Prince Abdullah sharply told Syrian President Bashar Assad to start getting out soon or face deeper isolation, wire services reported.

Abdullah told Assad that "Syria must start withdrawing soon, otherwise Saudi-Syrian relations will go through difficulties," Reuters quoted one Saudi official as saying.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said the Saudi comments lacked credibility, adding: "The talks were...constructive and fruitful and were conducted in an extremely amicable fashion," according to Reuters.

Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo on Thursday, added to the pressure, expressing support for the diplomatic push by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, AP reported.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Wednesday he has long encouraged Assad to withdraw.

"I have been talking to him about the withdrawal for two years because I was afraid of the external pressure," he told reporters Wednesday. "Now I hope the issue will pass peacefully."

I noted that there was no mention in this article of any plans for the withdrawal of the Syrian secret police in Lebanon, which is a key demand of the Lebanese opposition, nor was there any mention of finding the murderers of Rafik Hariri, another demand which many suspect is connected to the secret police.

President Bush, in an interview with the NY Post, has set a deadline of May for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon so the country can have free elections:

"The subject that is most on my mind right now is getting Syria out of Lebanon, and I don't mean just the troops out of Lebanon, I mean all of them out of Lebanon, particularly the secret service out of Lebanon — the intelligence services," he said.

"This is non-negotiable. It is time to get out . . . I think we've got a good chance to achieve that objective and to make sure that the May elections [in Lebanon] are fair. I don't think you can have fair elections with Syrian troops there," the president said in a wide-ranging Oval Office interview with The Post's editorial board.

Asked if there is a threat of military action as an "or else" if they don't, Bush replied, "No. The 'or else' is further isolation from the world. You know, the president should never take any options off the table, [but] my last choice is military."

It was a wise move to set a specific deadline for total Syrian withdrawal and a month (date probably open pending consultation with the U.N.S.C., maybe?) for free elections in Lebanon. It gives the political opposition there a focus around which to organize and will help maintain the momentum that will force Syria out.

Hope trumps despair, remember?

Posted by Debbye at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005

Hope trumps despair

Mar. 3 - Good item from the Montreal Gazette: 'Great democratic experiment' ignited by U.S., analyist says:

The dramatic changes underway in Lebanon are signs of a "great democratic experiment" ignited by the United States that could sweep through the Middle East this year, says a scholar of Islamic politics here.

"Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring the doors of every Arab regime," says Nizar Hamzeh, a political scientist at the American University in Beirut and author of a new book on Islamic militia movements.

"I don't think any country in this region is going to be spared from this wave."

After a report on the meeting of the current opposition in Lebanon, the article continues to interview Hamzeh:
Hamzeh said the difficult work of solving these issues and bringing true democracy and sovereignty to Lebanon now falls to its people. But he insisted yesterday that the United States deserves the credit for inspiring the winds of change in this region.

"Definitely the credit here is to the United States and President (George W.) Bush," he said yesterday.

"What's happening in Lebanon is not just power of the people, with all due respect to them. Whether people like the U.S. or hate it, this process of peaceful political transformation would not have started if the U.S. had not initiated it."

Hamzeh said the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with U.S. pressure on Syria and Iran to mend their ways as sponsors of terrorism - what he calls "coercive diplomacy that falls just short of war" - has emboldened opposition movements throughout the Middle East and created a climate of political opportunity in a region whose people were desperate for change but needed international encouragement.

He said elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, plus the prospect of genuinely free elections in Lebanon and Egypt, are signs of a movement that could spread to Jordan, the Gulf states and even Syria and Iran.

In Lebanon, however, Hamzeh said the rest is now up to the country itself. "The U.S. can't fight all our battles."

Some Lebanese at Beirut's protest camp agreed yesterday the United States laid the groundwork for their goals. The handful of people interviewed by CanWest News Service said they were fans of Bush, but also said the United States and Europe need to do much more.

"The U.S. should invade Syria, just like Iraq," said Peter Geagea, a university student. "Syria has been talking for 15 years about leaving Lebanon, and it never has. The only way is to force them out."

At the nearby grave and memorial of Hariri, whose murder helped spark the Beirut protests, businessman Nage Abesaad said the Lebanese people, not the United States, are the agents of change here.

"This is the first time that we've stood up together, as one, and demanded freedom," he said. As for Lebanon leading the rest of the Middle East into a new political era, Abesaad was skeptical.

"We will have true democracy here, maybe," he said, "but in Syria, I don't know. If you want real peace in the Middle East, you need to get rid of the (ruling) Baath Party in Syria - the same way the U.S. did in Iraq."

The U.S. has pledged assistance in organizing and holding elections in Lebanon, which is somewhat less than invading Syria but is considerably more than anyone imagined a year ago.

"Coercive diplomacy that falls just short of war" is made much easier when 140,000 troops are parked next door, something Syria could not have failed to note, and their response will likely be to stage an increased number of attacks in Iraq -- I suspect Syria would prefer they fight the US in Iraq rather than in Syria.

David Frum has some ideas as to what Syria is likely to do to re-introduce the rule of fear to combat the hope that is beginning to thrive here.

Posted by Debbye at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)

Pressure builds on Syria

Mar. 3 - Bush renews demand on Syria:

"The world is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East," he said. "Freedom is on the march. It's a profound period of time.

"So I look forward to continuing to work with friends and allies to advance freedom -- not America's freedom, but universal freedom, freedom granted by a Higher Being," he added.
U.N. Resolution 1559 calls for full and immediate withdrawal, not "in a few months" as Syrian president Assad has pledged, and full withdrawal of the 15,000 troops stationed there, not partial as Assad has pledged.

The Lebanese opposition is maintaining the pressure to withdraw and will not engage in talks about forming a new government until Syrian troops and intelligence personnel have withdrawn.

The House of Rep. Middle-east sub-committee of the U.S. Congress passed a resolution yesterday calling for the withdrawal and asserting support for Lebanon sovereignty:

The resolution, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, calls Lebanon a "captive country" and describes Syria's occupation as "a long-term threat to the security of the Middle East."

The measure also demands "the immediate release of all Lebanese detainees in Syria and Lebanon" and calls on Mr. Bush to "freeze all assets in the United States belonging to Lebanese government officials who are found to support and aid" the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
The Saudis too are urging Syria to withdraw, saying failure to do so would would strain relations between the two countries.
Assad said he is trying all he can to resolve the problem but that not everything is up to him, the official told The Associated Press.
An Arab summit is scheduled for March 23 in Algeria, and CNN reports that
The Saudis rejected a Syrian request that the summit officially ask Syria to withdraw, which would provide political cover by giving the pullback an Arab endorsement, the Saudi official said.

Before the talks in Riyadh, Syria told Arab countries it needs to keep 3,000 troops and early-warning stations inside Lebanon to maintain its security, an Arab diplomat in Cairo said Thursday. But Arab countries maintained the Syrian demand is not viable, the diplomat told the AP.

Arab leaders meeting in Cairo publicly urged Syria to follow through on a 1989 accord to withdraw its troops from neighboring Lebanon, with no timetable set -- even as they negotiated behind the scenes to push Syria to move quickly.

Syria has said it would comply with the accord. But an Arab diplomat involved in efforts to resolve the crisis said the Syrians told Arab leaders earlier this week that they want a new, broader arrangement -- including resuming peace talks with Israel -- as part of any troop withdrawal from Lebanon. Syria wants Israelis to leave the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau they captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Syria still wants to keep about 3,000 troops in Lebanon "for the time being" -- without giving a timetable -- and to keep "early monitoring stations" in eastern Lebanon.

The Syrian army already operates radar stations in Dahr el-Baidar, on mountain tops bordering Syria. Israeli warplanes have attacked the sites in the past.

Haven't the Syrians absorbed the implications of the failure of the Palestinians to rejoice after the last murderous attack in Israel last week? Old strategies aren't working and there is indeed a new wind blowing.

Posted by Debbye at 05:54 PM | Comments (2)

March 02, 2005

The NY Times ain't dead

Mar. 2 - I used to scan the NY Times editorial first thing each morning but gave it up -- too soon, it would seem. With encouragement from this post at Roger L. Simon's blog, I logged on to behold:

Editorial: Mideast Climate Change:

It's not even spring yet, but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the impoverished towns of the Gaza Strip. It is far too soon for any certainties about ultimate outcomes. ...

Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington's challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.

Okay, so the last sentence proves that aliens didn't take over the Times as we slept. But is there anything wrong with claiming that what triumphed is the human spirit?

However, the editorialists at the Times need, well, editors:

Yesterday, with protests continuing, the pro-Syrian cabinet resigned. Washington, in an unusual alliance with France, continues to press for full compliance with the Security Council's demand for an early and complete Syrian withdrawal. (Bolding added)
Come on, Times, you can't have it both ways. Either the French are our "long-time allies," as the folks at the Times (and the French) have often averred in the past, or an alliance with them is "unusual." Of course, having French troops in Afghanistan somewhat settles that issue for those who care to look.

I tend to believe that having both France and the USA apply pressure on Syria has restrained Syria's hand, and the Bush administration stated in the past that they would likely find allies on a case by case basis. Events in Lebanon produced agreement by a large number of allies - including Canada - and the U.N.S.C. resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon appears likely to be implemented, if only partially (for now.)

But that never would have happened without the valour of the Lebanese people, and that's something that no one should ever forget.

Posted by Debbye at 12:58 AM | Comments (5)

March 01, 2005

Mark Steyn

Mar. 1 - New column up at the Telegraph (UK) by Mark Steyn, The Arabs' Berlin Wall has crumbled, in which he looks at the rapid shifts in policies in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the displeasure of Palestinians over the latest terrorist attack in Israel and asks:

Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it, listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of impeccable anti-American credentials: "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen."

... In the space of a month, the Iraq election has become the prism through which all other events in the region are seen.

No, I can't condense Steyn. Just read it.

Posted by Debbye at 08:37 PM | Comments (15)

February 28, 2005

Lebanon's road to sovereignty

Feb. 28 - On Monday, 10,000 Lebanese defied a ban on demonstrations to press their demands for Syria's withdrawal (10,000 in Beirut Join Protest Against Syria) as the Lebanese parliament opened in its first session since former PM Rafik Hariri's assassination of Feb. 14. [13:00 - This just in: Lebanese government resigns! Also, the crowd size is now estimated at 25,000.]

Syrian president Assad denies any involvement in the bombing which killed Hariri and told an Italian newspaper that to do so would have been an act of "political suicide." That may seem self-evident given ensuing events, but was it so February 14? Of course not.

CNN estimated there were 50,000 protesters in Martyr's Square and elaborates on the ban:

An estimated 50,000 people gathered Monday in Beirut's Martyr Square despite an order a day earlier by Lebanon's Interior Ministry for military forces to "use all necessary means" to make sure the demonstrations did not take place.
I think Damascus has learned the meaning of the phrase The whole world is watching.

What I find most hopeful is that past differences between Lebanese factions seem to have been overridden by the desire to take back control over their own country (see this article on the tent city.) One of the arguments against any form of consensual government functioning in the Mid-east has been conflict - often armed - between religious, tribal and ethic groups which had been arbitrarily lumped together to form a "country" although there were few ties other than geography which bound the inhabitants into a cohesive unit.

The Iraqi people have shown that they can find common ground which can benefit all the Iraqi people and, perhaps more significantly, reach compromises. Although this unity is still in its infancy, within that transcendence of narrow self-interests lies the seeds of the future for countries of the Mid-east.

The question of Syrian involvement in Hariri's assassination is almost moot. Although it serves as a rallying cry for those tired of Syrian occupation and domination of Lebanon, the long supressed aspirations of the Lebanese for national sovereignty lie at the heart of the crisis in Lebanon and defiance of the ban against demonstrations spring from a recognition of the rights of free men and women.

There's been much discussion about Thomas L. Friedman's column in the NY Times yesterday, The Tipping Points (see extended entry for item) in which he discusses three tipping points in the Mid-east: Iraqi elections, the Lebanese defiance of Syria, and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, but he doesn't tie the events together satisfactorily.

The impetus for change - and that's at heart what the tipping points represent - stem from U.S. response to the events of Sept. 11. Those who observed that the tensions in the Mid-east were reaching critical mass were shocked into recognition that these conflicts had ceased to be spectator sport and had landed in our front yards and that we had to do something, not just anything, and it had to be something that could provide hope to counterpose against the despair of death cultism.

We were paying attention to root causes, but we chose to go the hard course and press to change the biggest root cause from which the others stemmed.

Fact: No democracy has ever gone to war against another democracy.

Fact: One of the characteristics that has propelled homo sapiens forward is our ability to look at what others have done and to adapt it to fit ourselves.

Conclusion: If one people in one country in the Mid-east (besides Israel) can form a government based on and adherent to the recognition of human rights and consensual rule, others will believe that they too can do so and strive towards that goal.

I supported the Iraq war not due to any fears about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but because it seemed fertile ground for planting the seeds of democracy and, as we had to start somewhere, it seemed natural to pick up where we had (regrettably) left off in Gulf War I.

The Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution and the courageous voter turn-out by the Iraqi people on January 30 are, I think, part of an ongoing revolution which is peaceful by nature but determined in intent (as indicated by the steadfastness of the Lebanese) and the only question now is in the specifics: where the impact of these marches to freedom will next be made manifest.

The United States and the Coalition of the Willing can take credit for planting the seeds, but it is those who strive for freedom who deserve credit for taking these bold steps toward a new future. I don't know how it will all end, but I have to believe that we have averted a war of civilizations that would have seen the destruction of one and the diminishment of the other.

The Tipping Points

Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times
published Feb. 27, 2005

The other night on ABC's "Nightline," the host, Ted Koppel, posed an intriguing question to Malcolm Gladwell, the social scientist who wrote the path-breaking book "The Tipping Point," which is about how changes in behavior or perception can reach a critical mass and then suddenly create a whole new reality. Mr. Koppel asked: Can you know you are in the middle of a tipping point, or is it only something you can see in retrospect?

Mr. Gladwell responded that "the most important thing in trying to analyze whether something is at the verge of a tipping point, is whether it - an event - causes people to reframe an issue. ...A dumb example is the Atkins's diet, which reframes dieting from thinking about it in terms of avoiding calories and fat to thinking about it as avoiding carbohydrates, which really changes the way people perceive dieting."

Mr. Koppel was raising the question because he wanted to explore whether the Iraqi elections marked a tipping point in history. I was on the same show, and in mulling over this question more I think that what's so interesting about the Middle East today is that we're actually witnessing three tipping points at once.

Thanks to eight million Iraqis defying "you vote, you die" terrorist threats, Iraq has been reframed from a story about Iraqi "insurgents" trying to liberate their country from American occupiers and their Iraqi "stooges" to a story of the overwhelming Iraqi majority trying to build a democracy, with U.S. help, against the wishes of Iraqi Baathist-fascists and jihadists.

In Lebanon, the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which Syria is widely suspected of having had a hand in, has reframed that drama. A month ago, Lebanon was the story of a tiny Christian minority trying to resist the Syrian occupation, which had the tacit support of the pro-Syrian Lebanese government and a cadre of Lebanese politicians who had sold their souls to Damascus. After the Hariri murder, Lebanese just snapped. Lebanon became the story of a broad majority of Lebanese Christians, Muslims and Druse no longer willing to remain silent, but instead telling the Syrians, and their Lebanese puppet president, to "go home." Lebanon went from a country where few dared whisper "When will Syria leave?" to a country where nearly everyone was shouting it, and Syria was having to answer.

The Israel-Palestine drama has gone from how Ariel Sharon will use any means possible to sustain Israel's hold on Gaza, which he once said was indispensable for the security of the Jewish state, to being about how Mr. Sharon will use any means possible to evacuate Gaza - with its huge Palestinian population - which he now says is necessary for saving Israel as a Jewish state. The issue for the Palestinians is no longer about how they resist the Israeli occupation in Gaza, but whether they build a decent mini-state there - a Dubai on the Mediterranean. Because if they do, it will fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank.

While all three of these situations would constitute tipping points by Mr. Gladwell's definition, I would feel a lot better about all three if I thought that they were irreversible - and couldn't tip back the wrong way.

For Iraq to be tipped in the right direction, it was necessary to have the election we did, but that was not sufficient. The sufficient thing is that a stable, decent Iraqi government emerge that can also quell the Sunni insurgency. That will depend in part on America's willingness to stay the course in Iraq. It will depend in part on the Shiite majority's willingness to share power with the Sunnis - particularly one of the crucial cabinet portfolios of defense, intelligence or interior - and not go on a de-Baathification rampage. And it will depend in part on the Sunni Arab leaders finally supporting the Iraqi majority.

For Lebanon to liberate itself from Syria, the Lebanese opposition groups will have to find a way to translate their aspirations into a withdrawal deal with Damascus. The Syrians will not be pushed out. And for Israelis and Palestinians to really tip toward peace, the moderates on both sides are really going to have to help each other succeed.

Indeed, in the Middle East playground - as Friday's suicide bomb in Israel reminds us - tipping points are sometimes more like teeter-totters: one moment you're riding high and the next minute you're slammed to the ground. Nevertheless, what's happened in the last four weeks is not just important, it's remarkable. And if we can keep all three tipping points tipped, it will be incredible.

Posted by Debbye at 11:34 AM | Comments (11)

Saddam's brother arrested in Syria

Feb. 28 - This could be titled "Look what we found" as Syria tries to placate Iraq and the USA with the capture of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan (Syria captures Saddam's brother) by suddenly locating someone on the "Wanted" list:

Iraqi officials yesterday said Syria had captured and handed over Saddam Hussein's half brother, a most-wanted leader in the Sunni-based insurgency.

The action was described by Iraqi authorities as a goodwill gesture by Damascus, but it followed months of Syrian denials that fugitives from the ousted Saddam regime were hiding on their territory.

Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who shared a mother with Saddam, was nabbed with 29 other fugitive members of the former dictator's Ba'ath Party in Hasakah in northeastern Syria, 30 miles from the Iraqi border, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The U.S. military in Iraq had no immediate comment.

What could the U.S. military possibly say? You mean he was in Syria all this time? Who knew?

Posted by Debbye at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

Syria to withdraw - no timetable

Feb. 24 - Syrian troops says it will move troops stationed in Lebanon to the east, i.e., the Bekaa Valley, a region of some interest after it was cited as one of the places Saddam's elusive WMD were said to have been hidden. (That's just one of many theories, okay?)

When even CNN used death quotes in their web site article this morning, I found myself with little to add (Syria 'commits' to Lebanon pullout) but I am struck with one hopeful (if fleeting) notion: is it remotely possible that the media, administration and American people are all of one mind on Lebanon?

Posted by Debbye at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

Tent city in Beirut - Cedar Revolt

Feb. 23 - Good reads about Lebanon:

The Washington Post has a very suggestive article on Beirut's Berlin Wall and notes that a "tent city" has been set up of protesters. I immediately thought of Ukraine.

Amir Taheri (who should need no introduction) in People Power Hits Lebanon.

Anyone who lives in or near the LA area should check this out: Demonstration in support of Lebanon sovereignty in LA.

Events in Lebanon could still go tragically wrong, but the sheer will and confidence exhibited by the Lebanese after so many years of occupation by Syria is so uplifting that I just want to savour it.

Freedom is on the march, and it's never too late to join.

Feb. 24 - More on the tent city here:

The tent city rose up near the immense crater created by the blast that killed Mr. Hariri and 16 others, peopled by protesters who refused to go home after a demonstration Monday described as the largest anti-Syrian protest ever held.

Divided into small groups according to affiliation -- the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in one area, the followers of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in another -- the camp has been growing daily since Monday.

Inspired by December's Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia a year earlier, the protesters have begun to call their action the "Cedar Revolt" in a tribute to the tree that adorns the Lebanese flag.

Posted by Debbye at 07:41 PM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2005

Mass protests in Beirut

Feb. 21 - The Beirut judge heading up the inquiry into Hariri's murder, Rachid Mezher, said yesterday that the killers "had been recruited from Islamist groups linked to Syria and operating against the US-led coalition in Iraq" and believed to have travelled to Lebanon through Syria from Iraq. Mezher further stated that he finds credible the claim by Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria that they were responsible for Harir's assassination.

Abu Adas, 23, a Palestinian Lebanese believed to have fled the country, attended two Beirut mosques known to be recruiting grounds for the Ansar al-Islam group, linked to the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Investigators suspect that the mosques have ties to Sheikh Abderrazak, a Damascus cleric who has helped fighters travel through Syria to Iraq. The Beirut attack bore similarities to suicide bombings carried out in Iraq by al-Zarqawi, who has increasingly strong ties to al-Qaeda.

"We know that Adas had Saudi Arabian nationality and used his passport to travel to Iraq and Syria," said Judge Mezher in his only interview with a British newspaper.

Outrage over Hariri's death and suspicions that the Syrian government ordered his death has electrified Lebanese who chafe under Syrian occupation. There had been previous demonstrations including those held during the 2002 La Francophonie conference in Beirut.

Thousands of people staged an Anti-Syria protest in Beirut today calling for immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops.

Monday's crowd was mainly comprised of Christians and members of the Druse community, and police reportedly set up checkpoints leading into the city from the predominantly Druse Chouf region and along the city's main northern entrances, where many Christians were coming from.

The protesters included men and women of all ages. Many were wearing red and white scarves, a symbol of the movement calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

There was a grim reminder too that Syria remains in charge:
A significant security presence was also on the streets, with about 300 officers armed with M-16 rifles and AK-47 assault rifles.
I can't help but feel that they are counting on us - the USA, the U.N., Canada, those nations who are willing - for solidarity and support.

Sometimes the insistent desire to be free whispers and sometimes it shouts, but it is never silent.

Posted by Debbye at 07:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2005


Feb. 17 - U.S. Sec. of State Rice has said that the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, has been recalled for an "interminate" period of time (Tension mounts between U.S., Syria) and said that the U.S. has an "increasing list of problems" with Syria.

The ball is in Syria's court, but the response from Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha that Syria has cooperated with the U.S. and done everything asked of it is extremely non-substantive.

As always, it's the face down cards that are the most interesting.

14:03: Russia has just finalized a deal to sell short-range anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. They have been identified as Igla shoulder-held missiles called Strelets. A defence ministry spokesman says fears that the missiles could be used against US, British or Israeli aicraft were unwarranted because "the launching device is fixed either on tracked or wheeled gear and is not portable." (We're into tech stuff about which I know little, but if it's not portable, why the wheels? And why are wheels on a shoulder-held launcher?) [To clarify, I realize that wheels or tracks would be for the recoil but on a shoulder-launcher? Must.Google.]

The article ends on an ironic note:

Mr Putin is to meet President George W Bush in the Slovak capital Bratislava next week. They are expected to sign a deal aimed at curbing the spread of shoulder-held missile-launchers.

Posted by Debbye at 07:13 AM | Comments (4)

February 16, 2005

The Restoration of Lebanese Sovereignty

Feb. 16 - The nice thing about chess is that all the active pieces are on the board and thus visible. In life, alas, we have to actively seek out not only partially forgotten pieces from the recent past but infer a great deal from diplomatic moves that speak symbolically rather than overtly.

In The Curtain Rises, Wretchard gives a very shrewd analysis of the withdrawal of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, the effectiveness of the elections in Iraq as a unifying force and recalls the rumour from last year about special forces readying to take action in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.

In some respects it no longer matters whether Syria is actually guilty - the opposition forces in Lebanon have been emboldened and no fact-finding panel or U.N. inquiry will be sufficient to derail the renewed push for ending the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

The passage of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act a year and a half ago was regarded by many as a U.S. shot fired over Syria's bow. It seems incredible that Syria would orchestrate this assassination at this time, given the success of Sect. Rice's diplomatic missions to Europe and the upcoming visit of the President. One talking head on CNN speculated that France and the USA would lead a joint military mission to Lebanon. I don't know how accurate that assessment might be, but it would be another example of forming "coalitions of the willing" on case by case bases and as Lebanon is a francophonie nation, Canada may well join such a coalition.

There is a lot odd about all this. If indeed Syria did order the killing, it was either an act of incredible arrogance or one of desperation. If the latter, it may have been in part a reaction to the success of the Iraq elections -- Syria must recognize that the Ba-athist strategy of relying on al-Zarqawi to disrupt those elections backfired in a big way and they have irretrievably lost Iraq as an ally. If the former, Syria may have signaled their response to UNSC resolutions calling for an end to the occupation.

The claim of responsibility by Victory and Jihad seems little credited. Maybe the recent kidnapping of Toy Soldier Cody demonstrated the dangers of relying on "known terrorist" web sites for news and information, and the confession by Victory and Jihad that they killed former PM Harisi as payback for him being too close to Saudia Arabia could just be blatant misinformation circulated by the Syrians. After all, Saudia Arabia is Bin Laden's special hobby and it seems odd that an hitherto unknown group would insert itself in what is seen as al Qaeda's especial concern.

There are other forces in play here as well. The announcement of what amounts to a mututal defense pact between Syria and Iran (I'm tempted to label it SIP) merely formalizes what has been implicit for awhile now, and it can either be seen as surrounding Iraq or Iraq can be seen as a physical wedge between Syria and Iraq.

There are other countries that come into play here, however. Turkey, for one. There were suspicions that Syrian forces played a role in the Istanbul bomings of Nov., 2003, and those were not allayed even after Syria turned over 22 suspects.

And what about suspected involvement of Syria in the thwarted terrorist attack in Jordan in April, 2004?

[N.B. MuNu went down in media post so I'm playing catchup before I head for work. This post is not much on analysis but I'm just looking at the cards and trying to figure out if we're holding a low pair or can fill out a straight.]

19:15: Daniel Drezner has a round-up on Syria and one of the commenters speculates that Iran was behind the assassination.

Posted by Debbye at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Terror attacks in Lebanon, Phillipines

Feb. 14 - This story is still developing: Beirut Car Bomb Kills Former PM, 9 Others. Former PM Hariri's stance against Syrian occupation of Lebanon was well-known, which would tend to make Syria the number one suspect, but a group calling itself Victory and Jihad has claimed the dubious credit by reading a statement on al Jazeera. (They seem to believe Hariri was too pro-Saudi.)

In the Phillipines, Abu Sayaaf has responded to a military offensive against them and claimed responsibility for what they termed a Valentine's Day's "gift" to Pres. Arroyo - 3 bombs have killed seven and wounded over 100.

Feb. 16 - 13:30: Wretchard connects the dots beautifully.

Posted by Debbye at 10:36 AM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2004

Arafat's Legacy

Nov. 13 - There seems to be a lot of activity (and optimism) about renewed efforts to establish a democratic Palestinian state that would co-exist peacefully beside Israel. U.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell is busily setting up meetings. (I suspect that, whatever the veracity of the rumours about his impending resignation, Powell will stay around to see this one through.) [Update: I'm wrong on that last one; see below.]

The U.S. mainstream media has underscored that "Arafat died without realizing his dream of a Palestinian state," but unless the Arab media has also laid grounds for hope that peaceful co-existence can be realized, I'm not as optimistic as President Bush and PM Tony Blair seem to be (report of their meeting here.) (But I also believe in the motto "Never Quit.")

It's interesting that former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has been named as PLO chairman following Arafat's demise. The power struggle between Arafat and Abbas when he was Prime Minister (was it only last year?) underscored how much power was concentrated in Arafat's hands, so it will perhaps be an indicator of how justified the optimism is when we see to what extent he and Qureia (who has been running the Palestinian Authority during Arafat's incapacitation) can prove themselves capable of co-operating with one another or if, as is feared, a power struggle will consume this opportunity for peace.

The Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade (newly renamed the Arafat Martyr Brigade) will also be interesting to watch; to whom will they be loyal? Or will they prove capable of growing beyond their personality-cult origins and be loyal to the notion of a Palestinian state? Hamas and Hezbollah are unlikely to be placated by the prospects of peaceful co-existence and a democratic Palestinian state, but their sponsors Syria and Iran will have to make some hard choices as to whether they want to appear to be obstructionists to a peaceful settlement. I'd guess there will be a split decision: Syria will at least say all the right things, and Iran will denounce any peace accord. (What they actually do may prove to be something else entirely.)

Next question: where's the money? Even CNN finally picked up on this one:

Meanwhile, officials in the Palestinian Authority are searching for millions of dollars believed hidden away by the Palestinian leader. Last week, as Arafat lay in his death bed, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad held a teleconference with donors spelling out massive budget problems. He said the authority had only $19 million to meet payroll expenses of $225 million by the end of this year alone.
Millions of dollars are an estimate on the low side. The EU had suspended payments until an audit was performed then relented in order to pay security personnel. (The audit was a partial one as there were many holes in the accounts.)

The assumption has been that Arafat's widow, Suha, knew where the money was, and (unspecified sources alert) she will reportedly get a hefty settlement from the Palestinian Authority:

The 41-year-old wife of Arafat had been demanding half his billions in hidden assets and threatening to withhold details about where to find them from the new Palestinian leadership, according to newspapers in Italy and Israel.

After intense negotiations, she agreed to a deal with Arafat's successor as PLO chief, Mahmoud Abbas, when he visited Arafat's hospital.

According to one account in Corriere de la Serra, Suha will receive $22 million a year from the Palestinian Authority budget.

Another account, cited by the newspapers Maariv and La Repubblica, Suha will receive:

* A one-time payment of $20 million.

* A stipend of $35,000 a month for life.

* More than $10 million that was discovered last year by French authorities investigating money laundering.

French sources said yesterday that earlier this week, Suha turned down a $2 million offer. That settlement would have allowed doctors to complete medical tests to determine what illness proved fatal to the 75-year-old Palestinian leader.

Paul posted some choice Images of the Day which may be work safe but are definitely not snark safe.

9:50: Damian isn't optimistic either.

Nov. 15 - 10:30: Colin Powell has submitted his resignation.

Posted by Debbye at 10:59 AM | Comments (3)

November 11, 2004

The legacy of Arafat

Nov. 11 - The news is all about Yassar Arafat and the departure of the helicopter carrying his remains, but I find this more indicative of Arafat's legacy: Troops find captive chained to wall in Iraq.

11:15: Australian PM Howard's candour is refreshing: "History will judge [Araftat] very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barack, which involved the Israelis agreeing to 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted." (link via Daimnation.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2004

Peter Worthington in Afghanistan

Oct. 12 - Today's Worthington column is on The rise of Afghan women. Very inspiring read and reinforces what feminists once knew but have seemingly forgotten: we have the right to select the paths for our own lives and that includes the right to wear or not wear the burka.

Saturday's entry in David Frum's diary has been updated to include a picture of Peter Worthington, who reported on the elections from Kabul.

For comparison, read this report that the Saudis won't let women vote, fearing that reforms are going, you know, too fast.

Posted by Debbye at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2004

US obtained Sampson's release?

July 5 - Canadian Sampson believes he was freed as part of Saudi-U.S. terror deal:

OTTAWA (CP) - The tale of Bill Sampson, a Canadian jailed fort (sic) 31 months and accused of terrorism and murder in Saudi Arabia, has taken another bizarre twist with a claim that he finally won his freedom last year in a prisoner exchange brokered by the United States.

In return for the release of Sampson and other westerners held in Riyadh, the Americans agreed to send five Saudi terror suspects they had captured back to their homeland, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Canadian government had no immediate comment, other than to say it was looking into the matter.

Sampson, in a telephone interview from Penrith, Britain, where he now makes his home, said he's convinced the story is correct.

"It confirms information that I have found from different sources myself over the last nine months," he said.


"It's my information that the Saudis themselves broached the idea of an exchange," said Sampson.

"We were used from the very, very outset as hostages, and this had been deliberate from the start, to use us as a means of leverage against western governments."

The Times, quoting anonymous U.S. and British officials, said the prisoner exchange that finally freed Sampson was engineered by Robert Jordan, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The deal was controversial in Washington, where some officials thought the U.S. was taking too big a risk by releasing potentially dangerous terrorist suspects from Guantanamo, said the newspaper.

But the Americans reportedly went ahead because they wanted to help British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a loyal ally in the war then shaping up in Iraq.

Blair's government had been trying to win the release of six Britons held along with Sampson, who is a dual Canadian-British citizen. Also held was Belgian Raf Schveyns.

All were arrested following a series of bombings in Riyadh that westerners claimed were the work of al-Qaida terrorists and the Saudis claimed were part of a turf war among western bootleggers involved in the illicit alcohol trade.

All eight westerners were finally set free in August 2003, three months after the five Guantanamo prisoners were sent home to Saudi Arabia.

Sampson said the Belgian documents, obtained and shown to him by Schveyns following their release, indicate that diplomats in Riyadh were worried about the three-month time lag.

Very, very intriguing.

05:12: CNN is carrying the story. The Saudis say the report is "pure fantasy" and US National Security Spokesman Sean McCormack said there was "no recollection here of any linkage between these two actions."

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.-D) is very worried about the release of the Gitmo prisoners and thinks there was undue influence by the Saudis, but his comments had nothing to do with the upcoming presidential campaign because CNN doesn't connect the two.

[Read on to see what kind of "influence" was being exerted, and I apologize to Canadians and the British for the indifferent CNN coverage]

The Daily Telegraph (UK) takes an entirely different slant:

United States officials yesterday accused Saudi Arabia of demanding - and receiving - the release of Saudi terrorist suspects from Guantanamo Bay as the secret price for last year's diplomatic deal to release six Britons accused of a deadly bombing campaign.

The allegations, levelled by senior American officials in the New York Times, cast new light on what was already one of the murkiest episodes in Saudi-British relations.

The six Britons and one British-born Canadian returned home last August after a bizarre two-year ordeal that saw them accused of plotting a string of bombings that ended in the death of a fellow Briton in late 2000.

Though western residents and diplomats insisted that the bombings were the work of Islamic militants, Saudi authorities claimed that the bombs were the result of a feud between foreign bootleggers, illegally selling alcohol within the expatriate community.

The seven confessed to a variety of "crimes", but later retracted their confessions. They have since launched a High Court legal action naming high-ranking Saudi leaders, saying they were tortured into false confessions as Saudi authorities tried to cover up the existence of al-Qa'eda terrorists in the kingdom.

Two men, Sandy Mitchell and a Canadian, William Sampson, were sentenced to public beheading, four were sentenced to 12-year jail terms and the seventh was detained for 10 months but not charged. They were all granted clemency last summer and were released three weeks later after signing a letter apologising to King Fahd and thanking his subjects for their hospitality. (Emphasis added.)

When they arrived in Britain, credit was given to British Government pressure and to the Prince of Wales, who made a private plea for clemency to the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah.


One American source described as knowledgeable about the negotiations told the New York Times: "This presented itself as a way for the United States to help its friends, both the Brits and the Saudis. It's what diplomacy is all about."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London declined to confirm or deny US involvement in brokering the three-way deal, saying: "We worked very hard to secure the release of the men, and were relieved when they were released."

That's more like it.

Posted by Debbye at 02:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2004

Paul Johnson, Jr., RIP (multiple updates)

June 18 - Al Qaeda militants kill American hostage. I knew Mr. Johnson was doomed when he was kidnapped, but that doesn't lessen my outrage and the sorrow I feel for him and his family.

CNN is also carrying a report from al Arabiya that the al Qaeda leader was killed:

Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, the leader of al Qaeda's cell in Saudi Arabia, was killed, Saudi security sources told CNN.

He was killed while disposing of Johnson's body, the Arabic-language television network Al-Arabiya reported.

MSNBC is reporting that al-Muqrin had been sentenced to 8 years in prison for conspiracy to assassinate Egyptian president Mubarek but was released early for good behaviour (which apparently was evidenced by memorizing several passages in the Koran.)

CNN was pontificating about how safe Saudi Arabia used to be, and my mind flashed back to William Sampson.

Remember him? He is a Canadian who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. He and some British nationals were arrested by Saudi authorities in 2001 - before Sept. 11 - and convicted by a Saudi court of killing a British banker in 2000 which the Saudis claimed was part of a black market liquor ring.

Mr. Sampson was condemned to be beheaded after his "confession" was shown at his trial (he said he had been tortured.) No other evidence was presented to the court.

His and the British citizens were finally released by the Saudis after Prince Charles intervened personally.

The Saudi Arabia which was considered safe for foreigners was not safe: that safety was an illusion which the Saudi kingdom perpetuated by denying that terrorists were operating within Saudi Arabia and they substantiated these claims by accusing Westerners (and Israelis) of being behind the car bombs and shooting deaths of other Westerners.

This isn't a rant against the Saudis (or the Canadian government for their inaction in the Sampson case.) This isn't even a rant, because I'm too depressed at the news of Williams' death and the manner of his death to go into a rant.

This is rather me looking askance at us and wondering just how freaking stupid we really are.

Al Qaeda hates everyone who doesn't fit their narrow definition of "good" Muslims. They hate Shi'ites. They hate Hindus. They hate Buddhists. They hate Jews. They hate Christians. They hate agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, Taoists, animists and everyone I failed to think of when I made this list.

On reviewing that list, I am struck again at how many billions of people they hate, yet we wail because we are on it? Hell, I'd be ashamed to left off it!

They hate most of the human race. Yes, it's hard to believe because most of us are too busy and productive to waste our time actively pursuing our hatreds, but there you are. We don't understand them because we aren't insane.

We have an enemy. It's name is al Qaeda. It has condemned all of us to death. And how do we respond? By holding partisan-driven commissions to find some way of blaming our government for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. By asking why do they hate us, which rather ignores that anyone who hates "us" so much that they personally inflict horrific deaths upon Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, and Paul Johnson are psychopaths.

A church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed in 1963 and four little girls were killed. The country didn't ask "Why do they hate Negroes" but joined together to condemn the hatred that killed those children and to renew efforts in the Civil Rights Movement.

Did people ask why Clifford Olson hated children?

Did people ask why Marc Lepine hated women after he went on a rampage at an Engineering School or did they confront the hatred and condemn it?

Of course there was countless speculation as to their deranged reasons, but no one credible concluded that the Klan, Olson and Lepine had good reasons to hate their victims and urged black Americans, women and children to mend their wicked, wicked ways.

Canadians didn't conclude that those women and children deserved to die for the sins of other women and children.

Moral equivalence is not moral. It's not even rational.

I presume the video is available somewhere, but I haven't looked for it and, when it inevitably comes to my attention, I'm not sure what I'll do. Some lessons need be learnt only once, and having viewed the Nicholas Berg video I think I got the message:

They are evil.

11:40: Saudi militants show beheaded body of victim from the Telegraph (UK)

The militants - calling themselves "al-Qa'eda in the Arabian peninsula" and the "al-Fallujah squadron" - released gruesome video images and photographs of the killing.

Still photographs showed a severed head, placed on the back of a body wearing an orange jumpsuit, the face turned towards the camera. A dagger rested on the corpse, its point apparently buried in Mr Johnson's forehead.

The Australian press has some additional information about the shootout that killed al Muqrin.

Kevin at Wizbang links to the Drudge photos of Mr. Johnson and has written a very informative post about the events of today as well as background on Al-Moqrin.

Eric at Classical Values has an excellent post on this atrocity and links to other examples of Muslim on Muslim violence including an account of the "cleansing" underway in Sudan (a genocide that Old Media has shamefully neglected, maybe because the U.N. is talking a lot handling it?) and an eloquent statement that is better than all the floundering I've been doing since I first came across the Drudge photos and debated if I should link to them.

Some of the commenters on the Nick Berg video shocked and dismayed me because they reflected how little people understand the universal threat posed by the psychotics in al Qaeda.

No, I don't mean those who urged us to reflect on our sins, the appeasers, or even those who believe we can build high walls and sit this one out; I mean the people who urged a total nuking of the Mideast and used what I call hate speech.

People are outraged by the vicious murders of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and Paul Johnson. They should be. But we need to remember the vast number of Muslims that have been killed by al Qaeda and associated terrorists and remember that we share a common enemy with most people who live in the Mideast (and I include Israel in this.)

The enemy has been pretty efficient with their "divide and conquer" strategy. Muslims deplore terrorism yet feel defensive, and we must continue to reach out and affirm that we - the people of the world, i.e., the real international community - face the same enemy.

Another note: before we sneer at Muslims in Mideast countries (outside of Israel) for their ready acceptance that Mossad is behind all the terrorist attacks, we need to clean our own house. Look at our own media and note how they have distorted information: they've lied in claiming that Bush declared Iraq was an imminent threat, that Bush declared an end to the Iraq conflict, and now they write headlines that carefully imply that he claimed a connection between Saddam and Sept. 11.

Despite clearly documented evidence to the contrary, there are many people in the USA who believe the lies and conspiracy theories rather than the truth and all I can figure is that they believe the lies because they want to. So tell me again how much more sophisticated we are than people in the Mideast who watch and believe al Jazeera?

I repeat: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Wiccans, Jews, agnostics, atheists, fundamentalist Christians, Catholics and too many others for me to name share a common enemy.

I have only one motive in linking to these pictures: I want us to transcend the outrage when one of our own countrymen is so murdered and begin to relate more personally when we read of beheadings in Kashmir, the Phillippines or Solomon Islands. It is my sincere hope that the next time any of you read the word "beheaded" it will immediately convey horror, disgust and revulsion whoever the victim and remind you of the nature of the threat to all people.

Lastly, I believe that building a democratic Iraq that respects human rights will alter those dynamics that once lionized al Qaeda but increasingly make it clear that it is al Qaeda - not us - that is the enemy of Islam and peace-loving people everywhere.

Those of you who want revenge on the Saudi government might pause and consider the effect of having an Arab nation run by consensual government on its very borders. (The Saudi Royal family is certainly aware of the threat that would pose to them.)

Mr. Johnson is past pain and sorrow now, and I apologize for any part I might be playing in causing more grief to his family. I do not wish to exploit his death.

June 19 - 05:26: Donald Sensing asks does anyone doubt we must win this war, lays out the options and reaffirms the objective:

The conundrum of our task is that our long-term objectives are exactly those which Islamofascists say will ruin true Muslim society. Every success we gain, in Iraq or elsewhere when the time comes, will be fought tooth and nail by our enemies. But early this year, the high-ranking al Qaeda operative in Iraq, Abu Zarqawi, wrote to his superiors that democracy is "suffocation" for recruiting Iraqis to fight against Americans.

What this means is that the status quo ante bellum cannot be allowed to be reestablished. It was, after all, the womb of the war. The present status quo cannot be maintained either, for it is merely significantly, not decisively, better than before. We must remain focused on the long-term goals and vary our short-term tactics and strategies as we need to in order to obtain them. (Emphasis added.)

He may be preaching to the choir, but I've noticed that the choir needs preaching just as much as the congregation (or at least I know that I need to hear it.)

08:00: Via Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, an Islamic website disputes that Muqrin is dead. I wasn't being prescient or anything as I reflected on the experiences of Bill Sampson, but it is an unfortunate fact that the Saudi government has been known to fabricate cases.

10:35: Tonecluster links to an Amir Taheri column on the practice of beheading that, sadly, is once again relevant and offers an interesting way to respond to this latest murder.

Posted by Debbye at 06:54 PM | Comments (7)

June 15, 2004

Westerners in Saudi Arabia

June 15 - Interesting and relevant interviews in the Telegraph (UK) about Westerners who remain in Saudi Arabia despite advice from their governments that they should leave ('We know something will happen again - and soon'.

Posted by Debbye at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2004

Iraq sovereignty a fait accompli II

June 8 - I'm torn between being thrilled for the Iraqi people and wanting to say "duh" (Unanimous U.N. Approval of Iraq Plan.)

There are a few wrinkles according to some of the quotes from member nations of the UNSC in the article, yet none of those wrinkles seem to have been supported by modifications to the resolution and can be dismissed as empty rhetoric.

Despite the victory, four members of the G-8 summit -- France, Germany, Russia and Canada -- have said they won't send troops.
Canada has no troops she can commit, and given the Russian deployment in Chechnya I doubt it would be advisable to bring Russian troops in. As for France, well, there's that accordian on a deer hunt meme ...

I saw a clip on MSNBC with Pres. Bush and PM Martin in which the President mentioned soft wood lumber and Canada's contribution to the war on terror. Martin reiterated Canadian support of the US war on terror.

The President also said that Canada is strongly cooperating on finding ways to cooperate, which I read to mean that Canada continues to prefer cooperating quietly and without public awareness. The Liberal Party has put themselves in an increasingly awkward situation. Lord help them if there should be a terrorist attack here before the elections. The mood has changed, the Tories have pulled ahead in the polls, and Paul Martin may be the only Canadian who remains oblivious to that fact.

Hubris. Martin and the Liberal Party can look it up.

The original draft is here (heh, with "spelling appearing to follow British usage." Sometimes Fox coverage is somewhat embarrassing.)

Posted by Debbye at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2004

The Berg Phenomenon

May 16 - The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, spoke out on something that, I suspect, is in many hearts and minds: Arab world should be more outraged about the murder of Nick Berg. During an interview on Meet the Press,

"There's no excuse for silence on this kind of murder," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I would like to have seen a much higher level of outrage throughout the world, but especially in the Arab world, to this murder," he said.

"What we saw with this horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible murder should be deplored throughout the Arab world."

As noted earlier this week, there were condemnations from three nations - Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates - but that mostly highlights the silence from other nations as well as clerics, imams, intellectuals, and newspapers.

Many bloggers have been overwhelmed by what one blogger termed a tsunami - the huge traffic we've encountered as people search for the Nick Berg video. (If you're here looking for the link, I've posted it here.) Sites have been knocked off line; many bloggers suspected they were having denial of service attacks, and others thought there was something totally whacky with site meters and others (ahem) lost service because they had exceeded their quota for the month.

As Ghost of a Flea noted here, there have been a lot of inter-blogger discussions about this, and most of us have sought to understand why so many people want to see this video. Commenters here and at other sites indicate that the people actively looking for the video are people who normally would never contemplate viewing such a thing, but they felt driven to do so almost as a grim duty.

Or mabe I'm projecting too much; that grim necessity certainly drove me to watch it despite my wish to avoid it. It was as though I knew that I needed this lesson - even though I thought I was already implacable in my support of this war.

There are other aspects, as well. When I linked to Wizbang (I'm leaving the url out for reasons that will become apparent) I knew the link would show up on their trackbacks, but I never anticipated the huge amount of traffic that the mere trackback would engender, nor that people would stay and read other posts.

So perhaps it isn't just viewing the video that has driven people, it is a need to understand why they viewed the video.

I constantly see references to "the face of the enemy" (which is highly, and probably intentionally, ironic) and expressions of rage. One thing that makes me proud is that bloggers have been incredibly restrained in our handling of this video: we've been very careful not to incite or spread hate and to restrain our own emotions because we are trying to be responsible.

But I think we bloggers and readers have an advantage: we regularly read Iraqi (not to mention Iranian, Egyptian, Italian, British, etc.) bloggers and we know first hand that terrorists do not speak or act for them but in fact speak and act against them.

That's my way of saying don't waste your time calling for a total nuking of Iraq here. You came here and to other blogs because you wanted truth and on some level, you recognize that Big Media isn't delivering. Read the Iraqi and Soldier blogs on the list to the right of the screen, and learn how much more there is going on than CNN or the NY Times want you to know.

Remember: they withheld information about the torture and murders during Saddam's reign in order, they claim, to maintain their presence in Iraq. What have they done to restore your trust? Shown the same pictures over and over of prisoner abuse, yet shown restraint in their coverage of Nicholas Berg?

Does that mean they trust the Arab street more than the American street?

The biggest media betrayal is this: U.S. forces have fought back attacks launched from Syria and Iran this moth, and they have done so with encouragement and cooperation from Iraqis. You don't have to be a genius to recognize how important that partnership has been, so why has Big Media fretted about being "bogged down" when it was so clear that this the partnership was being formed? Why, when Big Media has constantly urged we not go to Iraq but to continue policies of containment have they bewailed containment policies that have, in fact, borne fruit?

I have to go to work and try to behave normally. I have to try and act as though there isn't a gaping wound in my heart and that this past week hasn't altered my life and world view.

If that seems overly strong, read it as an admission that, despite everything I have written, I really failed to understand what the word "evil" conveys in its entirety. I thought I knew, but I didn't.

Now to some old analysis because I haven't the restraint in me yet to note today's "other" news.

There has also been muted criticism on silence in the USA. As noted in the May 14 Washington Times, American's beheading 'old news' for media elite but the Times also notes that for many Americans, Beheading returns focus to terror war:

"Those who are wringing their hands and shouting so loudly for 'heads to roll' over [the abuse] seem to have conveniently overlooked the fact that someone's head has rolled — that of another innocent American brutally murdered by terrorists," said Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat. "Why is it that there's more indignation over a photo of a prisoner with underwear on his head than over the video of a young American with no head at all?"

It is hard not to believe that the liberal media have played down the Berg story because they don't want to do anything that might inadvertantly help Pres. Bush. Undoubtably the plethora of photos as those in the prisoner abuse investigations may make that story seem more inviting - or easier - but I'm reminded of Def. Sec. Rumsfeld's question as to how many vases there really were in Baghdad, or was the media just showing the same one repeatedly. (As we learned, Rumsfeld was right on that score.)

Although many of us have focused on how this video is affecting Americans, many experts think that it was primarily a recruiting tool for the terrorists promoting the image of Zarqawi as a strong leader who, I might add, is not afraid to get blood on his hands in the literal sense.

The Spectator article Hoping for the Worst by Toby Harnden from which Instapundit quoted concludes with what should the single most daming facet of the partisanship that plagues Americans in this incredibly long election cycle:

Whatever we thought about the war before it was launched, it is imperative that the forces of Arab nationalism and Islamism that now threaten to destroy Iraq are defeated. If America fails in Iraq it will be all of us in the West, not just Bush, who will suffer. But those who would be most in peril, of course, would be the Iraqis, who deserve better than to have their country treated as an electoral playground by the American Left or Right. To wish otherwise is as sick as the grins on the faces of the Abu Ghraib torturers. (Emphasis mine.)
May 17 - 18:11:Oops. Spectator link added belatedly. Also the link to the Instapundit post about this phenomenon.

Posted by Debbye at 05:55 PM | Comments (6)

May 15, 2004

Time for a Palestinian state is nigh

May 15 - Powell tells Palestinian leader to 'seize the opportunity' of Gaza withdrawal:

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Saturday urged Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to "seize the opportunity" of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a first step toward statehood next year.

Powell also said time is running out on President George W. Bush's pledge to create a Palestinian state in 2005. "I don't think anyone can predict" whether that timetable will be met, Powell said after a 40-minute meeting with Qureia.

Posted by Debbye at 11:12 PM | Comments (3)

May 06, 2004

Corruption in the PA

May 6 - Palestinians can watchdog

PARLIAMENT FIRED the head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority yesterday after a probe showed he allegedly was involved in corruption and mismanagement. Amin Haddad was the first high-ranking official fired by parliament for corruption.

Posted by Debbye at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

Allies and "allies"

May 4 - I woke up because some moron was mowing their lawn at, oh wait, it was around 12:40 p.m. I really can't complain (much.)

While waiting for the noise to subside I read today's essay at USS Clueless which looks at the extent to which the policy of the USA to make conditions on which nations we label "friend" has been implemented.

There are areas of concern in US foreign policy, and (as always, it seems,) Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and that country's influence over the State Department has a huge arrow over it that says "Urgent" yet there has been no visible action or policy change.

After reading Den Beste's essay, I remembered a article in the Daily Telegraph (UK) I had noted early this morning about a plot allegedly by Ansar al-Islam to attack a Nato summit that had been found out by Turkish police (Turks foil plot to bomb Nato summit)

Turkish police said yesterday they had foiled a bomb attack planned by a group linked to al-Qa'eda against western leaders meeting in Istanbul next month.

Nine people appeared in court after police arrested at least 16 suspected members of a terrorist cell in Bursa, north-western Turkey, thought to be a part of the al-Qa'eda network.

Turkey is one of the countries I'm not entirely sure about (as opposed to Syria, which I'm totally certain are double-dealing with us.)

Turkey is unique. It literally, as well as figuratively, is in both Europe and Asia. It is a member of Nato and wants to join the EU.

But this is where latent irritation can play a factor. I believe being deprived of a northern front in Iraq caused problems; although Cencom took a "we can handle it" apporach, it did affect our entry in Baghdad.

[Now there's a weed whacker going. Sheesh.]

I used the phrase "latent irritant" rather than "latent grudge" because the decision not to allow us to transport troops and equipment into northern Iraq was done by a vote in the Turkish legislature - it was not a question of caprice but national sovereignty expressed by a duly elected body.

I may not like the decision, but approve the process.

I also can't fault the Turks for being more enthusiastic about tracking down terrorists in their midst after they were attacked, as efforts in the US were, to say the least, less than stellar before Sept. 11.

Anyone have any insight or links on Turkey?

Posted by Debbye at 03:07 PM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2004

British soldiers investigated for abuse of Iraqi prisoners (Updated)

May 2 - Six British soldiers are being questioned in connection with accusations of abusing prisoners in southern Iraq (Six British soldiers held over Iraqi torture photos.)

This investigation comes from pictures published in the Daily Mirror which details the alleged abuse.

The authenticity of the photos has yet to be established (the Mirror says they are satisfied) and what matters is to investigate and uncover the truth.

That is the difference between us and them. We do come face to face with evil in our own ranks (and I would count mistreating anyone in captivity as evil) but we also confront it rather than issue denials or excuses.

Those calling for outside investigations have obviously been following the quagmire of the Sept. 11 commissions and know nothing about the military. The military will be far harsher than any civilian court because they expect soldiers to follow a code of honour - a concept that was once sacred in civilian life too but has faltered in large part due to notions of moral equivalence.

The military doesn't do moral equivalence.

Just curious: are there any Arab journalists willing to issue a challenge to their governments to come clean and hold investigations on torture and prisoner abuse? Saudi Arabia (for Bill Sampson?) Syria (for Maher Arar?) How about Iran (for Zahra Kazemi?)

Update: Commenter Sandy P. gave a link to the webpage of a journalist who does make the comparison (two, actually, he notes the apology from an official as well) here - scroll down - there are two posts, including one that refers to this post by Omar at Iraq The Model.

Posted by Debbye at 02:38 PM | Comments (2)

Senior diplomats in Britain II

May 2 - Remember the Apr. 27 story about senior diplomats in Britain chastizing Blair for the invasion of Iraq and his support for Israel? Seems the diplomats failed to mention one tiny little detail: to disclose their own Arab links.

The letter failed to disclose, however, that several of the key signatories, including Oliver Miles, the former British ambassador to Libya who instigated the letter, are paid by pro-Arab organisations.

Some of the others hold positions in companies seeking lucrative Middle East contracts, while others have unpaid positions with pro-Arab organisations.

The disclosure last night prompted allegations - denied by the diplomats - that they were merely promoting the interests of their clients. Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, said: "If an MP had made statements like these without declaring an interest in the subject they would have been before the standards and privileges committee we would have had their guts for garters.

Guts for garters. I have got to remember that one. (On second thought, complete with a visual, maybe not.)

Posted by Debbye at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

Al Qaeda suspected in attack in Syria

Apr. 28 - A gun fight in the diplomatic district of Damascas, Syria, (very near the Canadian and Iranian embassies) is being blamed on al Qaeda, according to this report at the Daily Telegraph (UK) (Al-Qa'eda gunmen attack Syrian capital.)

An unoccupied car was bombed which brought police, a gun fight ensued, and an empty UN building was burned.

2 attackers were killed and the 2 captured were critically injured. Weapons and explosives were seized in a house said to be used by the group.

This is unbelievable. (I really mean that.) There doesn't seem to have been any real target, and there are a large number of conflicting reports as to how many explosions there were.

Why would al Qaeda, or any terrorist group, be in the vicinity of a number of embassies as well as the British ambassador's residence and go after an abandoned building?

According to CNN,

The Interior Ministry source blamed the incident on the atmosphere created by instability and confusion in security and politics in the region.

"The Syrian Republic ... is condemning this terrorist attack," the source said, contending it was meant to affect the stability and security of the country.

According to the Telegraph,
Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustafa, appeared to blame al-Qa'eda for the attack last night.

"We have been doing our best against al-Qa'eda," he said. "We share the same enemy [as America]. We aid the US in its fight against al-Qa'eda and terrorism."

Apr. 29 - 12:11: A bit of follow-up here, including speculation that the abandoned building was targeted by a car bomb by mistake and the intended target was the nearby home of the British ambassador.

Posted by Debbye at 10:43 PM | Comments (2)

April 27, 2004

Senior diplomats in Britain

Apr. 27 - Sheesh, and I thought our State Dept. was a total screw-up! Dismay over Blair stance on Mid-East:

Tony Blair's approach to Iraq and the Middle East was savaged last night by 52 senior diplomats, who questioned his support for America's "doomed" policy in the region.

Their unprecedented onslaught came as the Government confirmed it was discussing sending more troops to Iraq to fill the gap left by Spain's withdrawal.

The former ambassadors, high commissioners and governors called on Mr Blair to stop supporting President George W Bush's policies unless he could persuade the US to rethink its approach.
Now I do understand how diplomats feel. They are supposed to go to dinner parties and have pleasant conversations, not be confronted by people who say "You just like to fight and kill." It must be really hard to contend with that kind of thing when your job is to be likeable.

However, adults are generally people who understand that "being liked" isn't really all that it's cracked up to be.

The letter is here. It isn't very long, and the proposals in the letter may surprise you.

Naturally I dashed over to see if Expat Yank had commented on this letter (he had) and got a brief history lesson and some insight into Who's Responsible for the basket case we call the Mid-East because

Underlying those moves was an attitude -- as a group, such "professionals" had come to take the appallingly patronizing view that Arabs/Muslims were somehow "beguiling," "romantic," "unique" and "exceptional" in their cultures and outlooks. Worst of all, they believed that Arab/Muslim culture was incapable of "adaptation", "change" and "modernity".
Read the post; it isn't very long, and Robert makes a pretty compelling case that the decisions their predecessors made and the ones they still urge are the heart of the problem, not the solution.

Posted by Debbye at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

April 24, 2004

Saudi Arabia

Apr. 25 - In Saudi Arabia, 5 suspected terrorists killed in raid after Wednesday's suicide bombing and over at the Iraq page at The Command Post is this report on some assistance and aid we got from the Saudis during the Iraq War.

President Bush told us back at the beginning of the war that we would be assisted by other countries both publicly and privately. It wasn't hard to figure that if Saudi Arabia was assisting it would definitely be on the Private list.

I'm not sure how much credit the Saudis deserve (note unnamed sources alert) but I think maybe it is somehow both more and less than they get.

Apr. 25 13:04 The AP story is being carried in Canada, too.

Posted by Debbye at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2004

Saudi police targeted

Apr. 22 - The police in Saudi Arabia were also targeted today by a homicide bomber Saudi suicide bomb toll revised killing four and injuring 150.

The bomber attempted to drive an explosive-packed car into the Traffic Department building, which houses police offices, at around 2 p.m. local time, the Saudi Interior Ministry said.

He was stopped by officers about 30 meters from site and outside the old General Security building, where the bomber set off the explosion, the ministry said.

The dead include a civil servant, two security officers and an 11-year-old Syrian girl, Interior Ministry officials announced. Of the 148 injured, 45 remained hospitalized Wednesday night and three of those were in critical condition, the ministry said.

Television pictures from the scene showed the entire front of the building had been shattered. Burned-out and damaged cars littered the area.

A senior Interior Ministry official said that authorities, tipped off that six explosions had been planned, had found and defused five of the bombs.

Yesterday, police were tipped off and were able to defuse 2 truck bombs outside Riyadh.

Sherwin at Tonecluster has some thoughts as to why bin Laden is targeting Saudi Arabia which are worth considering (and yes, I think it likely that al Qaeda was behind the attacks in Saudia Arabia and possibly those today in Basra)

Consider the possibility that what he wants is to bring US forces back into the Kingdom to protect the royal Saudi heretics and to demonstrate to the rest of the Arab world his power and their weakness. He would split the US forces into defending two areas where his operatives have the advantage, and with Saudi Arabia he could damage the economies of the West.
There's been a lot of speculation as to why most of the Sept. 11 hi-jackers were Saudis, none of which were entirely satisfying, but we remember from the bin Laden Dinner Tape that he was extremely interested in what the people back home in Saudi Arabia thought of him and if they talked about him.

Posted by Debbye at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2004

Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, France

Apr. 19 - There were persistent rumours throughout last winter that a spring offensive would be launched against Syria, possibly in Lebanon. Many bloggers, including me, backed off when we suddenly realized that the rumours were probably true.

One of the older rumours asserted that WMD were hidden in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. My oldest complains that we Americans communicate as much by what we don't say as by what we do say; for example, I interpreted the president's joke about searching his office for WMD as saying Yes, we are still looking for them. I also interpret the fact that the administration has not said that there were no WMD in Iraq as asserting that intelligence still believes that they were there and the rumours and spin around WMD are a smokescreen to confuse the enemy.

Saddam's WMD weren't central to my support of the Iraq War; removing Saddam and Iraq's geographical position were. Nevertheless, finding them is a priority. The fact that Jordan hasn't released specifics about the chemicals that were to be used in the thwarted attack is suggestive but inconclusive and highly frustrating. Is the lack of specificity to hide intelligence or to produce rumours? Take your pick.

Despite the certainty stated by King Abdullah of Jordan that Assad was not involved in the thwarted terrorist attack, the firefights on the Syrian border with Iraq are extremely suggestive: either Assad isn't doing anything to stop them or he is passing information to both the Jordanians and the US.

I think it more likely he is trying to do both, but my view is skewed by the fact that I don't trust him.

Apr. 22 11:30 Further speculation that this could be connected to Saddam's missing WMD.

Wretchard concludes

Indeed, it is virtually certain that Al-Qaim, Ramadi and Fallujah and the road network from Baghdad constitute a single "front" centered on Syria, whose principal axis is the Euphrates itself. Operations in Fallujah cannot be understood without putting it in the context of the wider area.
Read the report on the front at al-Ramadi by Oliver North: Back in Iraq if you haven't already done so not only for a military analysis of what is happening there but also to restate what is a major strategy in Iraq: encouraging the people there to participate in their own nation building.

That practice is contrary to the politics of victimology. For all the modern psychobabble about "empowerment," our touchy-feely philosophers back away from actually allowing people true power over their lives. It's all very well to claim you feel my pain, but insulting when you're causing it.

The US media, with notable exceptions, continues bewail that the U.N. isn't going to take charge. The American people who follow the news, meanwhile, are watching the stymied independent U.N. investigation as well as the Senate investigation into the U.N. Oil for Food program and more questions about the viability of the UN are being raised.

[Aside: I noted that Glenn Reynolds has referred to it as UNScam.]

In the classic definition of conservative, those trying to preserve institutions and social attitudes despite their lack of relevance but strictly for preservation's sake are the conservatives. The U.N. is an excellent case in point, and the argument that it should be preserved "because we don't have anything better" is a classic conservative argument; a classic liberal response would be "let's build a better institution."

Do we need new definitions? Maybe liberal-conservative and conservative-liberals might fit the reality if not the emotional.

Sometimes I think the real war is between the Departments of State and Defense. Michael Ledeen has a brilliant essay in the Opinion Journal The Iranian Hand that notes revelations by the Italian intelligence agency

That the war being waged by Shiite militants throughout Iraq is not just a domestic "insurgency" has been documented by the Italian Military Intelligence Service (Sismi). In a report prepared before the current wave of violence, Sismi predicted "a simultaneous attack by Saddam loyalists" all over the country, along with a series of Shiite revolts.
The Italians knew that these actions were not just part of an Iraqi civil war, nor a response to recent actions taken by the Coalition Provisional Authority against the forces of Sadr. According to Italian intelligence, the actions were used as a pretext by local leaders of the factions tied to an Iran-based ayatollah, Kazem al-Haeri, who was "guided in his political and strategic choices by ultraconservative Iranian ayatollahs in order to unleash a long planned general revolt." The strategic goal of this revolt, says Sismi, was "the establishment of an Islamic government of Khomeinist inspiration." The Italian intelligence agency noted that "the presence of Iranian agents of influence and military instructors has been reported for some time." Our own government will not say as much publicly, but Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, have recently spoken of "unhelpful actions" by Iran (and Syria).


The editor of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah recently wrote a front-page editorial saying that Hezbollah and Hamas were working with Sadr, "backed by the ruling religious fundamentalists in Tehran and the nationalist Baathists in Damascus." No classified information was required for that claim, since Sadr himself has publicly proclaimed that his militia is the fighting arm of both Hezbollah and Hamas. Nonetheless, the State Department still doesn't believe--or won't admit publicly--that there's a connection between Sadr's uprising and Iran's mullahs. Just last week, State's deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, told reporters that "We've seen reports of Iranian involvement, collusion, provocation, coordination, etc., etc. But I think there's a dearth of hard facts to back these things up."

One wonders what Foggy Bottom's analysts make of Sadr's recent visit to Iran, when he met with Hashemi Rafsanjani (the No. 2 power in the regime), Murtadha Radha'i (head of intelligence for the Revolutionary Guards) and Brig. Gen. Qassim Suleimani (the al-Quds Army commander in charge of Iraqi affairs). And what might they say about the fact that much of Sadr's funding comes straight from Ayatollah al-Haeri, one of the closest allies of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

Ledeen is being rhetorical. We know how Foggy Bottom thinks: maintain the illusion of friendship and cooperation whatever the cost, including lives.
Above all, they [the American people] want to hear our leaders state clearly and repeatedly--as Ronald Reagan did with the "Evil Empire"--that regime change in Iran is the goal of American policy. Thus far, they have heard conflicting statements and mealy-mouthed half truths of the sort presented by Mr. Ereli, along with astonishing proclamations, such as the one by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in which he averred that Iran is "a democracy." (One wonders whether he will liken Muqtada al-Sadr to Patrick Henry.)
Fortunately, we don't have to rely on the State Department for news out of Iran. Feminists in particular might take note of this story from The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran which recounts the rescue of a woman who was taken into custody for "non-Islamic comformity."

The details of the evidence which led to the issuing of an arrest warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr in the murder of Abdul Majeed al-Khoei poses one glaring question: to what extent, if any, was Iran implicated in that murder? Al-Sadr has openly proclaimed his solidarity with Hezbollah and Hamas - based to the east and to the west of Iraq - and I think it more likely that his solidarity was a statement of fact rather than an attempt to form a coalition.

Mr. Armitage (and the State Department) might also read the open letter to Congress of March 11 before he pronounces Iran to be a democracy. As for Sen. Kerry's blunderous call to drop sanctions against Iran, he will probably try to flip-flop-flip on that too but certainly the pro-democracy forces in Iran won't be fooled.

I suspect that cleaning up State will be a post-election endeavour given Bush's victory, but the cost of allowing them to continue to set their own policies may turn out to be high indeed.

I include France in this because of a that French passports are missing: 10,000 in February (6,300 were stolen on Feb. 3 and 3,000 disappeared on Feb. 10.) The story also notes that

The Feb. 3 incident, the FBI said, also included the theft of 5,000 blank French driver's licenses, 10,000 blank car ownership certificates, 25 titres de voyages (Geneva Convention travel documents) and 1,000 international driver's licenses without any identification numbers.
There are reasons other than terrorist-related to steal passports, of course, and the number of French passports missing is minor compared to Canada's 25,000 annual rate.

Relationship to Iran? Possibly none, or possibly another dot to the French-built nuclear facility.

Aside: Stealth posting is a pain. I don't have the time necessary to paintakingly link everything from past events much less draw definitive conclusions from current events.

But I doubt I really need to connect things for most readers and do it more to clarify my own thoughts.

Disclaimer over. And I am so far behind in my (ahem) real work.

Posted by Debbye at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2004

Bill Graham's peace plan

Apr. 18 - According to this over at the Shotgun, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham's peace plan is to cut Israel in half.

On the bright side, it could give Paul material for tomorrow. Screeching Bill Graham is one of his favourites.

Posted by Debbye at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

Thwarted attack in Jordan

Apr. 18 - There is growing evidence that the thwarted terror attack in Jordan was to have been a chemical attack according to a couple of links in this entry at The Command Post.

From the BBC link:

Earlier this week King Abdullah said a massive attack had been thwarted by a series of arrests, but named no target.

Now unnamed officials say the suspects have confessed to plotting to detonate a chemical bomb on the Amman HQ of the Intelligence Services.

The plot was reportedly hatched by al-Qaeda suspect Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi.


An official involved in the inquiry in Jordan told AFP news agency: "We found primary materials to make a chemical bomb which, if it had exploded, would have made nearly 20,000 deaths ... in an area of one square kilometre.

"The target of this bomb was the headquarters of the Intelligence Services," situated on a hill in the western suburb of Amman, he added.

The official said another operation planned by the network was to use "deadly gas against the US embassy and the prime minister's office in Amman ... and other public buildings in Jordan".

According to this link, King Abdullah of Jordan told the SF Chronicle
Jordan's King Abdullah revealed on Saturday that vehicles reportedly containing chemical weapons and poison gas that were part of a deadly al-Qaida bomb plot came from Syria, the country named by U.S. weapons inspector David Kay last year as a likely repository for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
There have long been suspicions that WMD were shipped out of Iraq before the US invasion and sent to Syria and / or Lebanon:
In his testimony before Congress last year, weapons inspector Kay said U.S. satellite surveillance showed substantial vehicular traffic going from Iraq to Syria just prior to the U.S. attack on March 19, 2003.

While Kay said investigators couldn't be sure the cargo contained weapons of mass destruction, one of his top advisers described the evidence as "unquestionable."

"People below the Saddam-Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse," said James Clapper in comments reported by the New York Times on Oct. 29. Clapper heads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

The chemicals are not named, so any actual connection to Saddam's WMD are purely speculative. The terrorist camp (name? darned rotten memory) bombed by the US military in the early days of the war specialized in chemical training for al Qaeda operatives.

By the way, the article about the interview with King Abdullah in the San Francisco Chronicle (aka SFGate) is interesting reading. The bias is evident, but it does show the delicate postion of both Jordan and King Abdullah.

Posted by Debbye at 11:45 PM | Comments (1)

New Hamas leader named secretly

Apr. 18 - I first thought Bob at Canadian Comment was joking: New Hamas Leader Named, Sort Of:

Hamas has secretly appointed a new leader for its rejectionist / terrorist group, but it turns out they aren't telling anyone who that person is though, jeez, I wonder why? With its last two leaders killed by the IAF within the last month, I guess Hamas actually wants to keep this guy in place for more than three weeks. Full story here.
Joke or no, I can't help laughing.

I had spoken too soon the other day when I referred to the lack of terrorist attacks in Israel since Yassin was killed, because an attempted incursion was stopped and a real human shield, an Israeli soldier, was killed.

Israel's answer was swift and uncompromising. Good bye Rantisi.

What is this morality that says its okay to kill nameless victims, but not the known persons who ordered those deaths?

Dana sees this as the PLO and Hamas getting the war they wanted.

Apr. 19 Tim Blair reports that the new leader of Hamas is Dr Mahmoud Zahar. (Drink alert in effect for the last line of the quote.)

Posted by Debbye at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2004

Thwarted terror attacks

Apr. 17 - Terror attacks have been thwarted in Saudi Arabia and (oldish news) Jordan.

In Saudi Arabia, the police found and seized a white GMC Suburban that they have been looking for since February. It was filled with explosives. It is not known if there were any arrests when the vehicle was seized.

In Jordan, three trucks were intercepted:

Jordanian security last week intercepted three trucks, believed to be traveling from the northern border with Syria, that were packed with explosives intended for government buildings, the U.S. Embassy and a number of hotels.

Authorities arrested a number of people over a period of nearly 10 days. Jordanian security agencies had been on high alert following the arrest of two alleged terrorists on April 1.

In a letter to Gen. Saad Khair, the head of Jordan's intelligence department, King Abdullah said the scheme was unprecedented in terms of the quantity of explosives, the means of the attack and the targets. (Emphasis added)

One of the suspected targets was the US Embassy in Amman.

Posted by Debbye at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

Bush and Blair meeting

Apr. 17 - No one should be surprised that British PM Blair is in accordance with the president's support of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and portions of the West Bank; what would have been a surprise would have been if the president had not discussed this with the prime minister before the announcement was made. That's just common sense, but few expect that in the news media any more.

To the story: Bush, Blair endorse Israel's land claims:

"Look, what have people been asking for years?" he added. "They've been asking for the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories."
Both leaders sensibly refused to comment on some comments of Israeli PM Sharon's until they saw the context.

Sharon reportedly said that the plan would bring an end to the dreams of Palestinians.

As the avowed aim of a great many Palestinian groups is the annhilation of Israel, I can't help wondering if that's the dream Sharon was referring to, but I too haven't seen the context of the comments.

In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinians are reported to have marched demanding the release of prisoners being held in Israel:

In Gaza City, parents carried pictures of their imprisoned sons and daughters. Actors dressed as Israeli soldiers beat shackled and blindfolded Palestinian "prisoners," using the back of a truck draped with barbed wire as their stage.

Leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips in future prisoner swaps with Israel - a tactic successfully used by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

There have been no successfuly terrorist attacks in Israel since Yassin was killed.

09:04 - CNN has a summation of the Israeli disengagement plan.

Posted by Debbye at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2004

War on Terror vs. Victimhood (Updated)

Mar. 31 - The Mar. 29 (Monday) arrest in Ottawa of 24-year old Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a software developer who works on contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, makes for a very interesting supposition:

Mohammad Momin Khawaja, 24, is charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act with participating in the activity of a terrorist group and facilitating a terrorist activity.

According to an RCMP news release some of the activity may have taken place in London, England.

An insert on the CBC page details the charges:
That Mr. Khawaja did:

1) On or between November 10, 2003 and March 29, 2004, at or near the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and at or near the City of London, England, did knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, an activity of a terrorist group, for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity, as defined in section 83.01(1) of the Criminal Code, thus committing an indictable offence, contrary to section 83.18 of the Criminal Code.

2) On or between November 10, 2003 and March 29, 2004, at or near the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and at or near the City of London, England, did knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity, as defined in section 83.01 (1) of the Criminal Code, thus committing an indictable offence, contrary to section 83.19 of the Criminal Code.

Mr. Khawaja appeared in court today at 1:30 p.m. in Ottawa at which time he was remanded in custody until Friday, April 2, 2004 at 1:30 p.m. A publication ban on the proceedings was granted by the court.

The speculation is inevitable: were the near-simultaneous raids in Canada and England conducted as a result of coordinated and cooperative investigations?

Robert at Expat Yank continues coverage of the Tuesday arrests of 8 British citizens in southeast England, raids on 24 locations, and the seizure of half a ton of ammonium nitrate here noting that the response of the Muslim Council of Britain was first initiated following the train bombings in Madrid.

A portion of the MCB letter, which was redrafted after the arrests, urges British Muslims to remember that they too must do what they can to stop terror attacks:

The letter asks for the "utmost vigilance" to help "safeguard" the UK.

Sermons will be delivered on Friday saying terrorism has no place in Islam, while booklets being printed will remind Muslims of their obligation to help safeguard Britain's security.

"A terrorist attack will not discriminate between Muslims and Christians", Mr Bunglawala said.

"As British citizens, we have a right to help the safeguarding of this country by co-operating with police."

However he also urged caution because a number of "high-profile arrests in the past of Muslims" had led to no charges or convictions.

The laudable stand taken by the MCB is somewhat diminished though by the BBC report that says that the letter was drawn up as part of the council's long-term plan to combat "Islamophobia". I liked it better when I thought it was drawn up to combat terrorism (although the BBC may be putting their own spin on it.)

Or not: an MCB campaigner said the press coverage of the arrests was unfair:

Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain picked out one headline which described the police operation as: "Islamic bomb attack foiled".

"First of all we don't know whether it was a bomb attack," he told BBC Breakfast.

"And secondly, to describe it as Islamic is offensive to ordinary Muslims."

Robert notes on the first
But, he's right, technically, one supposes. After all, the chemical hadn't been turned into an explosive as of their arrests.

Actually, that's profound: Is an unexploded explosive actually an explosive?

and on the second
However, it is an unfortunate and undeniable fact of life that all Islamist terrorists are indeed Muslims. They blow up themselves and/or others in the name of Islam. If that is a problem for most Muslims, then one would think most Muslims would want to begin to deal with it.
It might seem that we are still are square one: as Dr. Daniel Pipes noted some time ago, the solution to Muslim radicals is Muslim moderates. Yet public statements by Inayat Bunglawala notwithstanding, there have been quieter (and less publicized) actions by Muslim citizens in places like Cleveland, and the recent elections in Malaysia resulted in a complete rejection of fundamentalist Islamists.

Yet the media by and large remains focused on one theme: Muslims are victims - not of radical Islamists in Muslim countries (which they are) but of Western nations who take action to stop terror attacks by arresting suspected terrorists before they strike.

A BBC website report about arrests made under Britain's Terrorism Act of 2000 is headlined Whatever became of Britain's 500 'terrorist suspects which does eventually refute accusations of racial profiling:

Of the 529 arrested, 77 people have been charged under the Terrorism Act. Only seven have been convicted. Baghdad Meziane and Brahim Benmerzouga were found guilty in April this year of raising funds for terrorism and were each jailed for 11 years. Last year two men were jailed for belonging to a banned network, the International Sikh Youth Federation.

In June this year, three men were convicted under the act of belonging to another banned group, the Red Hand Commandos, linked to the Irish UVF.

Note that the Red Hand Commandos is a banned group, not a terrorist group.

And then this:

Critics say the sweeping powers granted by the law, which lower the normal standards of reasonable suspicion, have been used to target Muslims in particular.

Community groups describe this as "racial profiling", for example considering somebody suspicious because of their style of dress.

But the law has been applied more widely. The trial of three men charged under the act with possessing guns and bomb-making devices to further the aims of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters, is due to start soon.

Yet to some, the fact that so many have been arrested then released without charge is evidence of a "fishing expedition" by the police.

I don't know British law so I don't know exactly what "arrested then released without charge" means, but can someone be arrested without charges being laid under British law? Is this the equivalent of "taken into custody for questioning" which, under Canadian and US laws, is not the same as being arrested?

If indeed the "fishing expedition" is to conduct an interrogation, then it isn't that different from the steps taken in any criminal investigation. I tend to doubt that the British police and anti-terror divisions have sufficient personnel to question everyone in Britain because of the apparel and that other evidence is necessary before someone is picked up.

But the MCB letter is also somewhat after the fact given this:

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the raids followed the infiltration of alleged extremist Islamist groups.

He said sources had told him the alleged targets of any bombing were not military or government-related but members of the public.

Infiltration likely means that British Muslims infiltrated and were instrumental in gathering the evidence that led to the arrests and ammonium nitrate seizure.

Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui has lost family and friends in terror attacks. He therefore posed as a terrorist sympathizer and then wrote a book, Inside al Qaeda, which states uncategorically that Britain is the biggest safe haven for hard-core fundamentalists. He also denounces the foolish romanticising of terrorists and the failure to comprehend that they primarily murder Muslims.

And last September, Mohammed Nasim, chairman of the moderate Central Mosque in Birmingham, accused the British authorities of letting British Muslims down by not taking stronger action against radical Islamists in Britain.

Early reports on the arrests of the Lackawana Seven (more here) said that some members of the Lackawanna Muslim community were concerned about the odd behaviour of some of the men so contacted the FBI. That tip led to the discovery of an al Qaeda cell.

There are several reasons to believe the early assertion (not the least being televised interviews with members of the Muslim community in Lackawanna immediately after the arrests) and of course the fact that the defendents pled guilty and thus the US government did not need to call witnesses during trial proceedings but I still find the failure of the media to credit American Muslims with the willingness to confront terrorists within their midst disheartening.

The CBC coverage of the Khawaji arrest has thus far been a repeat of their coverage of the Khadr family - interviews with family members who might not necessarily be objective and insist this has been a dreadful mistake and the police are storm troopers.

They are proving their enlightened state by sympathizing with the victim, and it is that assumption on their part - that anyone arrested for terrorist related activities must be a victim - which most clearly indicates their bias.

The BBC couldn't run the the same show on their side of the Atlantic because half a ton of unexploded explosives is a little hard to explain away, so they are forced to content themselves with portraying all British Muslims as victims who will suffer because 8 Muslims have been arrested.

It aggravates me because the CBC and BBC, in their desire to prove that they are enlightened beyond all other mortals, overlook the primary targets of Islamist terrorists: other Muslims.

We know that they don't mind killing other Muslims. Think of how many Muslims have died in the terror attacks in Istanbul, Riyadh, Mombasa, Casablanca, and Baghdad? Jakarta? Pakistan? Kashmir? Bombay?

After all, what does a word like apostate imply? Something a little stronger than "we'll have to agree to disagree."

We know that the ultimate aim of the Islamists is to purge the world of infidels and that includes Muslims who do not accept the narrow, constricted view of Islam made manifest by the Taliban.

We know this because they have told us this repeatedly through their videotapes, indeed through the very press agencies that would have us believe that Muslims are victimized by Western societies that allow them to practise religion freely and without state interference.

No thinking person should doubt that the vast majority of Muslims support the goals of the war on terror yet the media have done everything in their power to divide those of us who would fight.

We must strive to change this.

22:40: Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew says moderates must speak against acts out or Western countries will think they are the only ones fighting terrorism.

21:51: Canadian Mohammad Khawaja's father, Mahboob Khawaja, has been detained in Saudi Arabia according to his son, Qasim Khawaja. The Saudi government has not confirmed the detention.

Apr. 1 00:15: Silence the preachers of hate

Britain's most prominent Muslim leader last night demanded a crackdown on "rogue" Islamic preachers, blaming them for brainwashing young men with sermons promoting holy war against the West.

Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was backed by the families of some of the eight men arrested in Tuesday's anti-terrorism raids in south-east England.

Read the whole thing.

21:18: Rantburg has a good compilation and solid speculation as to the possible targets of the British cell.

Posted by Debbye at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2004

Syria seeks Australia's help

Mar. 29 - Via Instapundit, Syria seeks Australian help to woo US:

SYRIA has appealed to Australia to use its close ties with Washington to help the Arab nation shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven and repair its relations with the US.

Secret talks between the two nations have been under way for months but have become more urgent as rogue nations reconsider their role in allowing terrorists to thrive, in light of the US determination to take pre-emptive military action.

Nothing says "change your ways" like having the US army as a neighbour.

Posted by Debbye at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2004

Arafat Next?

Mar. 28 - This Sunday Telegraph points to indicators that Yassar Arafat is harbouring known terrorists in his compound, may be next, and cites the US refusal to condemn the removal of Yassin as tacit permission: Israel to turn its sights on the terrorists surrounding Yasser Arafat. Read the whole thing.

The article also notes that Arafat has appealed to the United Nation to protect him.

Posted by Debbye at 10:55 AM | Comments (3)

March 27, 2004

War on terror update - Israel, Spain and Canada

Mar. 27 - Hamas planed and attempted to execute an Attack from sea:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Armed Palestinians in wetsuits and flippers emerged from the Mediterranean and fired toward a beachfront Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip, the army said yesterday. Two attackers were killed, and a third was wounded and fled. The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack on the Tel Katifa settlement in Gaza. Hamas has threatened to carry out attacks on Israelis to avenge the assassination of its founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

There was an incident in Bethlehem yesterday:

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian in a brief clash with about a dozen youths hurling stones near the Rachel's tomb holy site, according to hospital officials and witnesses.
And there was another attempt which was thwarted when the bomb exploded prematurely:
In the nearby [to Nablus] Balata refugee camp, a Palestinian militant was killed when a car he was driving exploded. Palestinian security officials said explosives in the car apparently blew up prematurely. The blast killed Ahmed al-Abed of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Interesting news about the Mar. 11 bombing in Spain:
MADRID, Spain -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian linked to al-Qaida and suspected of heading a terrorist network in Iraq, is now believed to have been the brains behind the deadly Madrid railway attacks, a French investigator said yesterday. Investigator Jean-Charles Brisard said Spanish officials told him some suspects held in the March 11 attacks were in contact with al-Zarqawi as recently as a month or two before the bombings, which killed 190 people and wounded more than 1,800.

"They believe today he was the mastermind," Brisard, who is probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, said in a phone interview from Geneva.

The Spanish interior ministry declined to comment. "The investigation is at a critical stage," a ministry official said.

Brisard's comments came as the probe spread to Germany, a key staging ground for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

German police raided an apartment in Darmstadt, where a Moroccan suspect arrested on Wednesday in the Madrid train bombings stayed briefly last year. The 28-year-old man is suspected of membership in a foreign terrorist organization, a prosecutor said.

German officials said they had no evidence the Madrid attacks were planned or prepared in Germany.

A total of 19 people have been placed in custody in Spain.

Successes by the Canadian military in Afghanistan could result in terrorist attacks in Canada:

MONTREAL -- Raids by Canadian troops in Afghanistan could lead to retaliatory attacks at home, a top federal official said yesterday. "If our very brave soldiers are successful in having a major incursion against al-Qaida, we'll be back on a list (of targets)," Robert Wright, national security adviser to Prime Minister Paul Martin, told those attending a security conference.


He told a Senate committee last month Canada has received warnings about terror threats to planes. He refused to give details.

Wright noted Canada fell off al-Qaida's list of targets when the federal government decided not to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

But a suicide attack that killed Canadian Forces Cpl. Jamie Murphy in Kabul two months ago drove home the reality that Canadians aren't safe from terrorism. The attack followed a raid by Canadian troops in which suspected terrorists and alleged drug lords were captured.

Wright noted Canada has spent $8 billion on security since Sept. 11, 2001.

Posted by Debbye at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2004

Hamas, Gaza and Elections

Mar. 26 - Interesting direction at the NY Times: two items that point at new elections in Gaza as the logical outcome to the withdrawal of Israeli troops although the second slips in an attempt to link elections to a halt on the construction of the wall.

The first suggests that Hamas would welcome elections (Sharon's Gaza Strategy: Good for Hamas, or Israel?):

Hamas sees a unilateral Israeli withdrawal as a political opportunity. In the weeks before he was killed in an Israeli missile strike on Monday, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, was in talks with other Palestinian factions over how to govern Gaza if the Israelis depart, according to officials of Hamas and Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction.

That is a landmark change for Hamas. A fundamentalist group that officially seeks Israel's destruction and rejects any negotiated end to the conflict, Hamas always refused a role within the governing Palestinian Authority, regarding it as a creature of the Oslo peace framework. Since Mr. Sharon is planning to leave Gaza without an agreement, Hamas now feels free to step in, its leaders said.

How much of a role the group wants to play in running Gaza in the near term is unclear. Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, one of its leaders in Gaza, said, "We are going to contest municipal elections."


Dr. Zahar said Hamas would not contest the Palestinian presidency, which is held by Mr. Arafat, until Israel withdrew from the West Bank as well.

Dr. Zahar, who referred to Fatah as "the left wing," bridled when it was suggested that Hamas was a radical group. "Radical?" he said. "We are not radical. Your concept of radical means extremist."

He added: "The radical system describes people who lived in the Middle Ages, who prevented science and propped up the church at the expense of the poor people. This does not apply in our life."

The second is a NYT op-ed by Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research:
If the withdrawal — whether by Israeli design or as an unintended consequence — led to the emergence of a Palestinian faction or entity in the Gaza Strip separate from the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people would lose the unified voice they need on the world stage. Such a schism is possible given the weakened state of the Palestinian Authority. Harmed by Israeli retaliatory measures during the last three years and plagued by corruption, inefficiency and internal divisions, the authority has been speedily losing legitimacy at home and abroad. As we are already seeing, this has led to the rise of nationalist warlords and Islamist organizations, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, seeking to fill the vacuum left behind.

If the Israeli military also limits its withdrawal to Gaza and excludes the West Bank, as Mr. Sharon has indicated it might, that could further threaten the territorial integrity of the two geographically disconnected areas. This would only heighten divisions among Palestinians and encourage a greater role by the militant groups.

What can be done to prevent this? It is essential that the Bush administration propose ways to ease the potential negative consequences of the Israeli move. One of the most effective would be to hold Palestinian elections before the Israeli withdrawal, perhaps as early as September. The American-backed Middle East peace plan known as the road map already calls for such parliamentary elections. Linking the withdrawal to the road map — and the international support that comes with it — would only strengthen Israel's hand and serve the larger purpose of the peace process.

More important, holding elections would renew the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, providing it with the political will to project leadership at a time when its existence is at stake. With legitimacy comes the ability to lead and take risks. The authority's crackdown on Islamist militants in March 1996, for example, would not have happened had the authority's leadership not gained legitimacy two months earlier in the first Palestinian elections.

In addition, elections would provide Hamas and the nationalist warlords with the opportunity to translate their popularity into parliamentary seats. The integration of these forces into the political system would make it possible for the new government to enforce existing laws against vigilante violence and to collect illegal arms. Finally, elections could provide Palestinians with the means to find their way back to democracy and good governance. No single person, no matter how authoritarian, would again be able to concentrate so much power in his hands.

But he then ties this in with a call for Israel to cease construction of the wall:
Israel must also play a role. Elections would require Israelis to respect the Palestinian cease-fire by observing one of their own and by halting their incursions into Palestinian areas. During the election period they would also, among other things, need to declare a moratorium on the construction of their separation wall and end their occupation of Palestinian cities. If Israel is sincere in encouraging Palestinian democracy and seeking a credible peace partner, it should welcome elections as a way to get both.
So the construction of the wall and pull-out of Israeli forces from Gaza have provided impetus to holding new elections, so Israel should cease construction and not pull out as a sign of good faith. It always comes back that, doesn't it. Israel, who has negotiated in good faith, is expected to expose her citizens to danger as a sign of good faith, and the Palestinians, who have not negotiated in good faith, would harnass world opinion to pressure her to do so while offering no good faith in return. That anyone has the effrontery to make that demand on Israel is beyond audacious.

And of course the responsibility will be that of the US president. Why not the Arab League? or the EU? or some other sucker even-handed country? Canada, for one. Let PM Paul Martin put action to his numerous statements about Canada playing a leading world role.

There are two things to be noted. One is the automatic assumption that the PA is riddled with corruption. Was it only a year ago that such charges were met with hot denial and denounced as fabrications and attempts to destroy Arafat's credibility?

The other is the acceptance that elections should be held. That provision of the Road Map was also denounced as was any presumption that Arafat was not the democratically elected leader of the PA or that he lacked relevance.

If the wall has achieved anything, it has forced supporters of the Palestinians to scramble to find new positions. Now the PA, which wasn't corrupt before, needs to clean up its act ,and elections, which were deemed unnecessary only a short while before, must be held in order to present a credible front to the world and to provide Israel with an honest partner in peace.

Stephen den Beste disagrees with Wretchard that Israel wants to meet Hamas on the battlefield:

Israel doesn't want to meet Hamas on the battlefield. Israel wants Hamas to meet Islamic Jihad and Fatah on the battlefield.
I can't help wondering if the sudden interest in holding elections is also an attempt to stave off the civil war that everyone denies is erupting. Whether the Palestinians are "ready" for statehood is no longer relevant: they will have it regardless. I, as does anyone, hope fervently that the Palestinians can rally behind a leadership that offers hope instead of a death wish, but there comes a point when we must recognize that people are going to do what they are going to do and that further remonstrations and admonitions will fall on deaf ears.

Stephen also takes exception with many of the points in an Amir Taheri analysis of why Sharon had Yassin eliminated. I tend to think that Teheri is being unduly optimistic that the Arab world will actually intervene and act as peacekeepers, but these are times in which many unlikely things seem to be happening.

Taheri also cites that many of Hamas' funds have dried up, including the financial support once supplied by Saddam, and that Iran has lowered its payments to the families of suicide bombers. Coincidence? hardly.

Finally, what isn't in these articles is what I find most interesting: none of them call upon the UN to aid or assist in elections or even administer the area once Israel has withdrawn.

Posted by Debbye at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2004

Insurrection in Syria

Mar. 25 - Eventually the NY Times catches up with events: Gains by Kin in Iraq Inflame Kurds' Anger at Syria:

Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syria's 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new if temporary constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. In their wake is a toll of blackened government buildings, schools, grain silos and vehicles across a remote swath of the north.

"What happened did not come out of a void," says Bishar Ahmed, a 30-year-old Kurd whose cramped stationery shop sits right next to a cluster of blackened buildings in Malikiya. "The pressure has been building for nearly 50 years. They consider us foreigners; we have no rights as citizens."
The usual accusations that outside agitators funded by the US follows, and then this:
For their part, Kurdish residents claim the government responded to what they call peaceful protests with violence as an excuse to say Syria remains too unstable to introduce the kind of democratic reforms that are helping their brethren in Iraq.

"We want democracy like the others," said Hoshiar Abdelrahman, another young shopkeeper in Malikiya, 60 miles east of Qamishliye.

The question of minorities remains a highly sensitive, largely unspoken topic in Syria, particularly because one small group, the Alawites, dominates the government. "Unity" has been their rallying cry. Already edgy about the possibility Iraq will split on sectarian lines, Syrian officials see the Kurdish riots as another step in an attempt to partition all Arab states. (Emphasis added)

A fairly balanced article.

Posted by Debbye at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

Blair visits Khadaffi

Mar. 25 - British PM Blair made a historic visit to Libya to meet with Gadhafi in historic talks. This visit and one Tuesday by US Asst. Sec. of State William Burns are the first since the early 1980s and follows Libya's decision to disclose and dismantle their WMD program.

This visit has been somewhat controversial in the UK and made more so by the Conservative Party and UK Families Flight 103 campaign group.

Expat Yank Robert has some good insights and offers a common sense view the Opposition should read and study.

Posted by Debbye at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Nexus of Terrorism

Mar. 19 - I fell asleep on the couch shortly after No. 1 Son left last night. I wonder why? The real question: am I looking too closely, or are there signs that al Qaeda and other terrorists have started a major counter-offensive? Events in Syria and Iran indicate that the forces for freedom are also on the move.

Mar. 2 - Multiple attacks on Shiite commemoration of Ashura in Iraq.

Mar. 4 - Abdul Raouf Naseeb captured in Yemen.

Mar. 4 - Abdurahaman Khadr admits family closely connected to al Qaeda

Mar. 4 - Sunni and Shiite clerics march together in Iraq to protest terrorism.

Mar. 4 - Insurrection in Iran.

Mar. 4 - Abdurahman Khadr says he was a CIA agent in Bosnia.

Mar. 5 - Palestinian civil war begins?

Mar. 8 - Interim Iraq Constitution signed

Mar. 8 - Int'l Women's Day march in Iran attacked by security forces

Mar. 9 - North Korea issues rhetoric, withdraws from meaningful talks

Mar. 9 - Abu Abbas dies

Mar. 11 - Terrorist attack in Spain.

Mar. 12 - Millions of Spaniards demonstrate against terrorism

Mar. 13 - Uprisings in Iran

Mar. 14 - Elections in Spain, appeasers voted in.

Mar. 14 - Two terrorist attacks in Ashod, Israel, kills 10

Mar. 15 - Israel retaliates

Mar. 15 - New Spanish government announces they will withdraw from Iraq.

Mar. 15 - Polish government says Fine, we'll carry on without Spain

Mar. 15 - Uprisings in Syria, Iran.

Mar. 15 - Vandals in north Toronto target homes of Jewish citizens with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Mar. 16 - Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir (aka Kahlid Ali Hajj, "The Poet") killed in Saudi Arabia

Mar. 16 - Group with possible Chechen links threaten French over head-scarf ban

Mar. 17 - Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad hit by car bomb

Mar. 17 - Renewal of violence in Kosovo.

**Mar. 17 - Spain goverment received communique dated Mar. 15 claiming to be from al Qaeda which declared a cease-fire with Spain.

Mar. 18 - Pakistan troops heavily engaged in battle in north, may have surrounded al Zawahiri.

Mar. 18 - Additional troops go into Kosovo in response to renewed violence.

Mar. 18 - British announce additional 650 (+-) British troops to be deployed to Kosovo which will be augmented by US and Italian forces.

**Mar. 18 - Second communique claming to be from al Qaeda threatens further attacks in retaliation for death of Khaled Ali Hajj (aka Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir, The Poet) in Saudia Arabia.

**Mar. 18 - Attempted assassination of Jose Murat, Governor of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mar. 19 - President and Vice-President of Taiwan shot by would-be assassins and a FARC plot to assassinate the president of Columbia has been thwarted.

Mar. 19 - First of British troops land in Kosovo; an additional 600 German troops are also to be deployed.

Mar. 19 - French restaurant in Bahrain stormed by Islamists angered by alcohol served. Cars of restaurant patrons hit with Molotov cocktails.

**Mar. 19 - Car bomb in Basra kills 3 people, angry residents catch bomber and kill him:

A man who left the vehicle shortly before the blast was caught by passers-by and stabbed to death, said police Lt.-Col. Ali Kazem. Two others spotted getting out of the vehicle were caught by members of the public and later arrested.
Three Iraqi journalists killed, nine wounded in by drive-by shooting, three US soldiers killed by mortar fire.

Mar. 19 - Plans for the Pakistan-India cricket match remain firm. (I see a major political message in this sports event.)

I left some things out, including the letter purporting to be from al Qaeda declaring a cease-fire in Spain and today's bomb threat targeting DC schools.

Do you suppose the seeming simultaneity is what Sec. of State Colin Powell meant when he used the expression a nexus of terrorism to describe the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during his UN presentation last year?

These events may be linked on purpose or they may have inspired one another, but anyone who understands that we are at war might also believe that terrorists are being flushed out into the open.

Others will doubtless say that the events are a direct result of US intervention in Iraq, but there were so many events which preceeded that war that I don't think it an adequate explanation.

**late additions to list

Posted by Debbye at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

Important stories from Thursday

Lots more on Adscam, but Andrew Coyne is doing such a terrific job I'm going to let him carry this ball.

According to the Chinese ambassador, Canada's lot lies with EU

The Chinese Ambassador in Brussels said the other day, in that big-picture Chinese way, that the creation and success of the European Union is one of those transforming human events that happens every 300 or 400 years.
The article notes that the EU has successfully avoided war. It doesn't note that one of the wars it avoided was the ongoing one in Kosovo.

More anti-Semitism in Toronto:

Police had to be called to York University on Tuesday after a dramatization of an Israeli border crossing by pro-Palestinian students led to a rival demonstration at the politically charged campus.
Is there a connection with what happened yesterday? As Margaret Wente points out, We Can't Afford to Look Away noting that the West is looking away from blatant anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

The insurrection in Syria went into it's fifth day. The death toll is reported to be at least 30. A timely reminder:

Kurds comprise almost two million of Syria's 17 million population although about 200,000 of them are not recognised as citizens of the country as a punishment for seeking to establish an autonomous homeland.
Australia and Japan were mentioned as possible targets on the Al-Quds al-Arabi webiste but both governments said they wouldn't be intimidated. The website also reassured the Spanish government that they needn't worry:
In its statement, Abu Hafs al-Masri said it was calling a truce in Spain to give the socialist government that was elected Sunday, three days after the train attacks, time to carry out its pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq.
How humiliating it must be for the Spanish to be told that the group which has claimed responsibility for killing 202 people in the attack last week is pleased with their election results.
The group appeared to boast it had the power to change governments. The socialists, who have long opposed Spain's military involvement in Iraq, were running second in Spanish opinion polls until Thursday's bombings.

"We change and destroy countries," the statement said. "We even influence the international economy, and this is God's blessing to us. We won't accept to be an object in this world, but a player, a strong player - with God's will."

The statement tells American voters that Abu Hafs al-Masri supports the re-election campaign of U.S. President George W. Bush: "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections."

The statement goes on to boast that it is anxious to have the Arab world see how dreadful the US really is. Sounds a lot like the Maoist rhetoric I heard back in the 60's.

Many thanks for the links to these stories which were available because I receive Jack's Newswatch by email daily.

Posted by Debbye at 10:45 AM | Comments (4)

Important stories from Wednesday

Mar. 19 - These are some important stories I missed Wednesday:

There was an ugly incident of anti-Semitism here: T.O. police probing anti-Semitic hate crimes in north Toronto.

Part of the rise in anti-Semitism last year is being blamed on the war in Iraq, which produced a spike in hate crimes. The ongoing tensions and violence in Israel is apparently giving licence to hate mongers.
The Canadian media, always ready to Blame America.

More news from Syria about Syria uprisings and Syrian officials blame US for the Kurdiah uprising because US flags were spotted in crowd. I'll own up to such that blame inspiration gladly and gratefully.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda yesterday accused France of direct responsibility for the 1994 genocide of at least 800,000 people in the central African country.

M Kagame claimed that the French government supplied weapons, logistical support and even senior military planners to the regime of militant ethnic Hutus responsible for the slaughter of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. (UPDATE: Mar. 24 - See this for seeming verification of the charge.)

France's growing closeness to the Chinese leadership was signalled yesterday when the two countries held joint naval exercises and the European Union said it wanted to scrap its post-Tiananmen Square arms embargo. Hmm, Chretien was visiting China when Adscam broke out.

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) - Nine suspects in the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole have been arrested, the government of Yemen said Tuesday, including eight who escaped from jail last year.

These and other stories were on my daily email from Jack's Newswatch which I can keep and use the links to refer back to important stories as they develop.

Jack changes the page daily, so bookmark it for your first stop visit to catch Canadian and international news stories.

Incidently, Jack is a veteran, and pays special attention to Canadian troops troops and to the history of the regiments in Canada. In a country that all but ignores it's military unless it makes for a good sound-bite, Jack is a lone voice of support.

You can sign up to be on his mailing list with an email to Jack Davies (contact address at the site.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2004

Insurrections in Syria and Iran

Mar. 15 - There's an uprising in Syria near the Turkish border. It started at a soccer game wherein it would seem team rivalry became political rivalry:

The violence began in Qamishli when the local Jihad soccer team, comprised of mostly Arab and Kurd players, was playing the Fituwya group from the city of Dar el-Zur, near the Syrian border with Iraq. Fituwya fans began calling out "long live Saddam Hussein." The Jihad team responded with "long live Barazani" shouts, referring to one of the Kurdish leaders in Iraq.

Clashes ensued between the two camps inside the stadium, which contained some 5,000 people at the time, and three children were trampled to death during the ruckus.

Following the stadium incident, violent demonstrations spread on Friday to other cities in Syria's Kurdish regions. During the protests, signs and slogans slamming Assad's regime as well as the ruling Ba'ath Party were displayed. A demand was also raised for an international investigation into human rights violations during the incident.

From AP (short lived link):
QAMISHLI,Syria (AP) -- Armed police stood guard Monday on main streets in this northeastern town, where most stores were closed and the atmosphere remained tense after the worst unrest in Syria in years.

At least 15 people were reported killed and more than 100 wounded in riots over the weekend that started with clashes between Kurdish and Arab soccer fans.

The violence, which gave rise to Kurdish protests in several European cities on Monday, poses a challenge to President Bashar Assad, whose government is already facing calls to improve human rights and threatened U.S. sanctions for alleged support for terrorism.

The riots also raised concerns that the long-ignored minority Kurds, emboldened by a bigger role for fellow Kurds in neighboring Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, might push for greater recognition.

Kurds number about 1.5 million of Syria's 18.5 million people. Most live in the underdeveloped northeast and many have been denied Syrian nationality, meaning they cannot vote, own property, go to state schools or get government jobs.


In Athens, nearly a thousand Kurds holding candles marched through central Athens to the U.S. and Syrian embassies, chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad. In Geneva, more than 20 Kurdish demonstrators occupied the Syrian mission to U.N. offices for nearly two hours Monday to protest the deaths of Kurds.

A suggestion that Iraqi Kurds may get involved as well as an audacious proposal for US air support is at FreeArabForum

Funny CNN isn't covering this. Could be they are too busy not covering the uprising in Fereydunkenar, Iran, which has resulted in the resignation of a hardliner from Parliament.

Posted by Debbye at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

Terrorist Attack in Israel

Mar. 15 - Two homicide bombers killed 10 and wounded 20 in the port city of Ashod yesterday. Al Aqsa and Hamas have claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks. [I was glad to note that CNN did not include the terrorists in the death toll.] Israel responded with missile fire from helicopters in Gaza City on buildings said to be "used by the Hamas terrorist organization for the development and manufacturing of weapons, including Qassam rockets and mortar shells."

Israeli PM Sharon called off a scheduled meeting with PA PM Queria (now spelt Qorei?] and I have to say he was correct to do so. The sentiment expressed by the Queria, that now more than ever they should meet to negotiate in an attempt to revive the Road Map, doesn't address the PA's responsibility to stop terrorist attacks and either the PA won't, in which case they are bargaining in bad faith or they can't, in which case they don't have the necessary authority and control over the "militants" so what is to be gained by bargaining with them except to confer undeserved legitimacy?

I should also note that the PA condemned the terrorist attack and called for a ceasefire - again.

Posted by Debbye at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2004

Insurrection in Iran

Mar. 13 - Both Damian Penny and Roger Simon are covering the story of an uprising in North Iran.

Nothing on this in the mainstream media yet.

Posted by Debbye at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004

Syria Accountability Act

Mar. 11 - Pursuant to the passage of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, President Bush is required to decide on which two additional sanctions listed in the act will be chosen.

According to this story from CNN, U.S. to hit Syria with sanctions, economic rather than diplomatic sanctions will be imposed and that it's unlikely that components for aviation or communications equipment related to telephones or the internet will be banned.

This reports on a human rights demonstration organized by the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria in which at least 30 people were arrested for conducting a sit-in before the Parliament Building in Damascus.

It was held on the 41st anniversary of the day the Ba'athists seized power. They declared Syria to be in a state of emergency and the laws they passed to deal with that emergency still are in place.

About 20 minutes into the protest, the main organiser, Aktham Naisse, was detained along with several others.

A Paris-based spokesman for the protest's organisers told Arabic television station al-Jazeera that the campaign for reform was a purely domestic issue for Syria.

"We categorically refuse any foreign pressure, particularly the US pressure [for action against Syria] which we condemn," Ghayyath Naisse said.

"At the same time, we do not believe that the call for reform, which was initiated three years ago, should be disregarded."

Posted by Debbye at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Civil War on West Bank

Mar. 10 - Aw, terrorists groups are trying to establish their turfs without more violence: Hamas seeks a deal although Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin didn't come right out and say that Hamas wants to stake out their claim too.

First the expert analysts and now even the press figured out that without Israeli targets troops to keep order a civil war is brewing.

Posted by Debbye at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

Abu Abbas

Mar. 10 - Didn't take long for the accusation that we killed poor little Abu Abbas (although I had a bet riding that it would be made sooner.) Choice quote:

"It's poetic justice," said Ra'anan Gissin, a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "He started as a terrorist in Iraq, he was brought to justice in an Iraqi prison under U.S. control, and he'll be buried in Iraq."
Actually, the place he'll be buried hasn't been made public as of yet, but the sentiment is quote-worthy. We'll probably turn his body over to the PA because it's the right thing to do so there's only a small window for indulging in fantasies.

I'm having very unworthy thoughts of a commander (under protest) ordering those dispatched to turn the body over to the PA not to fly over the Mediterranean.

Link lifted enthusiastically from Paul.

Posted by Debbye at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

March 09, 2004


Mar. 9 - Kathy has 3 links to the events of International Women's Day in Iran as well as an analysis of how women's rights there have been eroded here. There's a nice summation of Christianne Amanpour in the first one, and given that CNN already kept the truth about Iraq to themselves under the Saddam regime, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt in their failure to report much of what's happening in Iran.

Posted by Debbye at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Palestinian Civil War

Mar. 5 - While the world's attention is focused on Haiti, the situation is rapidly deteriorating in places like Nablus as Jay notes in Is anarchy civil war?. (Excellent piece with many links.)

Steven Den Beste states in an uncharacteristically brief post

The violent phase of the Palestinian Civil War has begun. I didn't expect it quite this soon.

Posted by Debbye at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)


Mar. 5 - Libya Discloses Stockpiling Mustard Gas and revealed the location of a production plant as well as declaring thousands of tons of precursors that could be used to make sarin nerve gas and two storage facilities.

Over 3,300 bombs designed to carry chemical payloads have been destroyed this week in Libya is part of dismantling its chemical weaponry.

Posted by Debbye at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

PA Reforms

Mar. 2 - Arafat has reportedly agreed to a plan to reform the means by which security officers are paid according to AP. This has been done to get more international aid for the bankrupt Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Arafat agreed to the financial reform step at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. "President Arafat approved paying all the security men through the banks," Qureia said after the meeting.

The 2004 Palestinian budget, approved in January, projected a 50 percent deficit of $800 million, underlining the critical role of foreign aid. The Palestinian economy has been decimated by more than three years of Mideast violence.

Palestinians blame Israel for punitive travel restrictions, but Israelis cite the need for security measures after thousands of attacks, including more than 100 suicide bombings.

Punative travel restrictions? Oh, the humanity! A series of murderous attacks, thankfully some aborted, has resulted in travel restrictions! Next thing you know, even children will be under suspicion.

And the report includes this:

In Gaza City, meanwhile, Arafat's position of authority took another blow early Tuesday when gunmen shot and killed Khalil al-Zaben, a close associate of Arafat for four decades. The killing was seen as part of escalating Palestinian power struggles in Gaza, and some feared chaos and civil war there.

Posted by Debbye at 04:54 PM | Comments (1)

February 24, 2004

Kerry and Iranian Elections

Feb. 24 - Michael Ledeen on the The Great Iranian Election Fiasco:

The regime clearly intends to clamp down even harder in the immediate future. Hints of this were seen in the run-up to the election, when Internet sites and foreign broadcasts were jammed, the few remaining opposition newspapers shut down, and thousands of security forces poured into the major cities. One wonders whether any Western government is prepared to speak the truth about Iran, or whether they are so determined to arrive at make-believe deals - for terrorists that are never delivered, for promises to stop the nuclear program, that are broken within minutes of their announcement, or for help fighting terrorism while the regime does everything in its power to support the terrorists - that they will play along and pretend, as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has put it, that "Iran is a democracy."

For those interested in exposing hypocrisy, it is hard to find a better example than all those noble souls who denounced Operation Iraqi Freedom as a callous operation to gain control over Iraqi oil, but who remain silent as country after country, from Europe to Japan, appeases the Iranian tyrants precisely in order to win oil concessions.

Meanwhile, the only Western leader who consistently speaks the truth about Iran is President George W. Bush, and the phony intellectuals of the West continue to call him a fool and a fascist. Meanwhile, his most likely Democrat opponent, Senator John Kerry, sends an e-mail to Tehran Times, Iran's official English-language newspaper, promising that relations between the United States and Iran would improve enormously if Kerry were to be elected next November.

That last bit, the overtures by Sen. Kerry to the mullahs, is hardly in the spirit of the real JFK, John F. Kennedy.

Many people, both domestically and internationally, put themselves out on a limb when they denounced action in Iraq and called for policies of negotiation and containment for Iran and North Korea. The Democrat primary season is already full of those who would rather talk with those who openly call for our destruction than take a strong, firm stance (backed up by the proven willingness to use force) and those candidates ignore the biggest problem with their position: that the suggested containment is for countries that have developed sophisticated work-arounds for trade sanctions, and the suggested negotiations are with countries that have consistently violated treaties.

A fascinating aspect of the nuclear arms trade uncovered since Libya chose to disarm voluntarily is the far-flung international network set up to disseminate nuclear weapons technology and the success with which these programs operated under the noses of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I would like to see the remaining Democrat hopefuls address these issues and explain how trusting our defense and lives to their appeasement policies is safeguarding the future.

Posted by Debbye at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2004

Iran's Election Aftermath

Feb. 22 - From the IHT, Eight Iranians are dead in two incidents between protesters and police in the aftermath of Friday's elections.

Four people, including one police officer, died in Firouzabad in the Fars province in southern Iran. After a crowd marching to the governor's office to demand a recount was fired upon and one person wounded, the crowd grew and three civilians and a policeman were killed.

An additional four were killed in Izeh in the Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran when police and demonstrators clashed in a protest over election results.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: From reports from the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran and Iran va Jahan: there were additional protests at election fraud in Dehdasht where between two and nine people are reportedly killed, and this link says that the outgoing MP in Izeh was beaten by the bodyguards of a judicial official after pointing out the cheatings, went into a coma and died (that adds considerably more context to the clashes there than the first link.)

A conscript soldier was reportedly killed in clashes in Firoozabad, Fars (it's not certain which side he was on and if his death was the one said to be of a police officer in the IHT article) but the article doesn't mention further deaths. The people have set fire to the banks in Estefan in response to financial fraud.

The reports state that the security forces are composed of those who support the hardliners as well as Afghanis and Iraqi refugees here and here.

(Links via Kthy at On the Third Hand.)

Pedram has written a wonderful movie version of the situation in Iran "Hollywood style" to respond to those who wonder why the Iranians don't just Get up & get rid of their tyrants. It's incredibly funny and sad and truthful.

Posted by Debbye at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2004

Malaysian connection to Dr. Khan

Feb. 21 - A report prepared by IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei for presentation to a board of directors meeting next month is to reveal that Libya made plutonium, according to diplomats (no names are given in the report.)

Libya's success in enriching uranium means that its weapons program was much more advanced than the IAEA had originally believed.

The man who was suspected of being the negotiator and representative for Abdul Oadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear technology on the black market to countries as Libya and Iran, is Malaysian resident Buhary Syed Abu Tahir and he admitted Friday that he was the middleman in many transactions on behalf of Khan in his black market network.

According to a statemen issued by Malaysian police, in 1995

"[Khan] had asked B.S.A. Tahir to send two containers of used centrifuge units from Pakistan to Iran," the statement by Malaysian police said.

"B.S.A. Tahir organized the transshipment of the two containers from Dubai to Iran using a merchant ship owned by a company in Iran."

Posted by Debbye at 02:13 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Elections in Iran

Feb. 20 - Some quick hits about today's elections: Telegraph (UK) reporter David Blair compares attitudes toward the USA in Iran including something I didn't know:

Some of those who scaled the embassy walls in 1979 are now among the reformist politicians who have been disqualified from contesting today's parliamentary election.
Memories of the Embassy takeover doubtless plague Americans as well as our leaders, but from what I've read around the blogosphere, Americans are increasingly impressed by those waging the struggle for freedom over there and that's the best cure for past grudges.

Americans never met a freedom fighter they didn't take to heart. We're weird that way, if not always accurate in our assessment. But in Iran, actions - or in this case, inaction - are speaking louder than words as they could face prosecution for failing to vote.

But Eye on Iran notes that streets are empty and that there have been reports of police finding truckloads of fake Iranian ID booklets which may indicate an attempt to artificially inflate the number of votes.

Keep checking Iran Filter today for news about the elections, and keep some good thoughts for those in Iran who are facing one of their biggest challenges in recent years.

Just another quick point: we often forget that Iranian bloggers are working underground, and that if caught, they are jailed. How much we take our freedoms for granted here . . .

UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that polling hours have been extended because, according to the Persian government, too many people want to vote (or is that too few?)

UPDATE: David Frum issues a call to Pres. Bush to formulate policy and strategy for Iran.

Posted by Debbye at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2004

Elections in Iran

Feb. 19 - Tomorrow are the Iranian national elections. The banning of thousands of candidates, including some sitting parliamentarians, has led to calls for a boycott of the elections, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi has announced she will not vote, the Council of Guardians has made threats against boycotters, and the Ayatollah Khameini has told Iranians to vote.

The office of the main reform party, the Islamic Iran Partipation Front, was closed and sealed and two newspapers which supports the reformers were also shut down today by authorities in Iran. hoder writes from Iran:

If we really needed one thing to stop the more traditional supporters of the reform from voting, that'd be it, the closure of two major papers.
He also expresses fear that shutting down the one paper, Yaas-e No, which was the only publication permitted to be published by the main reformist party, is a prelude to shutting down the party.

The outcome of the vote is pre-determined, but the question is how many will defy the Ayatollah and boycott the elections?

Michael Ledeen at the National Review has an interesting piece up, and some of the rumours parallel those we heard last summer during the student demonstrations - that the police wouldn't break up the demonstations - with stories that soldiers from the regular army joined demonstrators in Marivan in west Iran 5 days ago.

Not all legislators have been as weak-willed as President Khatami:

The other great lesson is that many Iranians, when pushed to the wall by the tyrants, do indeed have the courage to fight back. In an unprecedented step, more than 100 reformers issued a letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which they used language more traditionally reserved for greater and lesser satans in Washington and Jerusalem. They surely know that punishment will be severe, but they did it anyway. One fine day such shows of courage will inspire the Iranian people to defend them en masse, fill the public spaces of the major cities with demonstrators, and demand an end to the regime.
Some of the letter's contents are here, and Bob expresses his admiration for those who signed the letter and hopes they will be remembered for generations to come.

After a rundown of some of the candidates, Ledeen includes a chilling piece of information:

The chief of staff of the armed forces has cancelled all leaves for all military personnel starting Tuesday for one week. All soldiers have been commanded to cast their ballots in the elections on Friday, as have all members of the revolutionary guards and all air force personnel.
The fact that they have been ordered to vote is one thing, but the real threat is that all leaves are cancelled so the military is effectively in a state of alert.

There is an inherent problem with sending in the army to quell civil demonstration: the soldiers have families and communities, and they are unwilling to fire on a crowd of civilians who may include people they know. Furthermore, many soldiers are sympathetic to the aims of the demonstrators and know that many reforms passed by Parliament were rejected by the Council of Guardians.

The earthquake in Bam angered a great many Iranians who understood fully that the death toll was so high because the government was not using the wealth of the nation to upgrade the homes much less the lives of its citizens, and there is deep suspicion that the explosion that killed so many yesterday was due to the aging brake system on trains that were poorly maintained.

The elections will be covered by bloggers according to Hosseim Derakhshan (you can read his call to blog here) and they will have a site in English here for what he is calling the 9/11 for the Persian blogosphere.

I find it wryly amusing that CNN has discovered that there are Iranian bloggers and their numbers include women. Too bad CNN doesn't read Instapundit or they'd know that was hardly news.

Posted by Debbye at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

Nuclear Black Market

Feb. 19 - According to US officials, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found Uranium enrichment centrifuge parts found in Iran that were much more sophisticated that those declared.

Also, the Roots of Pakistan Atomic Scandel Traced to Europe according to the NY Times.

The records show that industry scientists and Western intelligence agencies have known for decades that nuclear technology was pouring out of Europe despite national export control efforts to contain it.

Many of the names that have turned up among lists of suppliers and middlemen who fed equipment, materials and knowledge to nuclear programs in Pakistan and other aspiring nuclear nations are well-known players in Europe's uranium enrichment industry, a critical part of many nuclear weapons programs. Some have been convicted of illegal exports before.

The proliferation has its roots in Europe's own postwar eagerness for nuclear independence from the United States and its lax security over potentially lethal technology. It was abetted, critics say, by competition within Europe for lucrative contracts to bolster state-supported nuclear industries. Even as their own intelligence services warned that Pakistan could not be trusted, some European governments continued to help Pakistan's nuclear program.


The problem began with the 1970 Treaty of Almelo, under which Britain, Germany and the Netherlands agreed to develop centrifuges to enrich uranium jointly, ensuring their nuclear power industry a fuel source independent of the United States. Urenco, or the Uranium Enrichment Company, was established the next year with its primary enrichment plant at Almelo, the Netherlands.

Security at Urenco was by most accounts slipshod. The consortium relied on a network of research centers and subcontractors to build its centrifuges, and top-secret blueprints were passed out to companies bidding on tenders, giving engineers across Europe an opportunity to appropriate designs.

Dr. Khan, who worked for a Urenco Dutch subcontractor, Physics Dynamic Research Laboratory, was given access to the most advanced designs, even though he came from Pakistan, which was already known to harbor nuclear ambitions. A 1980 report by the Dutch government on his activities said he visited the Almelo factory in May 1972 and by late 1974 had an office there.

The Dutch government report found that in 1976, two Dutch firms exported to Pakistan 6,200 unfinished rotor tubes made of superstrong maraging steel. The tubes are the heart of Urenco's advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges.

In 1983, a Dutch court convicted Dr. Khan in absentia on charges of stealing the designs, though the conviction was later overturned on a technicality. Nonetheless, in the late 1980's, Belgian ministers led delegations of scientists and businessmen to Pakistan, despite warnings from their own experts that they were meeting with people involved in the military application of nuclear technology

"Every well-informed person knows the inherent danger of an intense collaboration with a country such as Pakistan," wrote Rene Constant, director of Belgium's National Institute of Radioactive Elements in February 1987, chastising Philippe Maystadt, then the country's minister of economic affairs, after one such visit.

That same year, despite American warnings to Germany that such a sale was imminent, a German firm exported to Pakistan a plant for the recovery of tritium, a volatile gas used to increase the power of nuclear bombs. The company simply called the plant something else to obtain an export license.

"The export control office didn't even inspect the goods," said Reinhard Huebner, the German prosecutor who handled the subsequent trial of the company's chief, Rudolf Ortmayers, and Peter Finke, a German physicist who went to Pakistan to train engineers there to operate the equipment. Both men were sentenced to jail for violating export control laws.

But there were clues that the technology had spread even further: a German intelligence investigation determined that Iraq and possibly Iran and North Korea had obtained uranium-melting expertise stolen from Urenco in 1984, Mr. Hibbs reported in Nucleonics Week several years later.

In 1989, two engineers, Bruno Stemmler and Karl Heinz Schaab, who had worked for Germany's MAN New Technology, another Urenco subcontractor, sold plans for advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges to Iraq. They went to Baghdad to help solve problems in making the equipment work.

In 1991, after the first Iraq war, international inspectors were stunned to discover the extent of Saddam Hussein's hidden program. Mr. Schaab was later convicted of treason but only served a little more than a year in jail. Mr. Stemmler died before he could be tried.

David Albright, a former weapons inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he helped retrieve a full set of the blueprints from Iraq after the major combat operations ended last year. United States inspectors have not found evidence that Mr. Hussein had restarted his nuclear program, but Mr. Albright said there were still drawings unaccounted for.

As always, read the whole thing.

Since I'm looking at nuclear proliferation, I'm also including a Washington Post article Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China:

The bomb designs and other papers turned over by Libya have yielded dramatic evidence of China's long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s, they said. The Chinese designs were later resold to Libya by a Pakistani-led trading network that is now the focus of an expanding international probe, added the officials and experts, who are based in the United States and Europe.

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.

China's assistance to Pakistan is believed to have ended in the early 1980's.

The atomic weapon exploded by Pakistan in 1998, however, is of a different design than that in the blueprints found in Libya.

Finally, the middleman who delivered the material to Libya is still unknown and is said to have covered his tracks quite well.

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

Stirrings of Democracy

Feb. 19 - Thomas L. Friedman makes some interesting observations about Look Who's Talking and what they're talking about.

... What the critics miss, though, is that the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein has also triggered the first real "conversation" about political reform in the Arab world in a long, long time. It's still mostly in private, but more is now erupting in public. For this conversation to be translated into broad political change requires a decent political outcome in Iraq. But even without that, something is stirring.
It's too easy for me to go all happy at cautiously good news, so I'm trying to restrain myself here but I am pleased that one of my war aims seems to be proving out.

I saw changing regimes in Iraq as the best, possibly last hope for upsetting stability in the Mid-East. I know that offends a lot of people, but considering that the status quo consists of keeping millions of people living in tyranny, arguing to preserve that status quo and thus that stability overlooks the fact that the only stable place in this life is in the grave.

The regime change in Iraq and the revelations about Saddam's rule have been sobering for many people and not only in the Middle-East. As the humiliation factor began to be discussed, others recognized the opportunity factor because, if Iraq represents anything, why not the prospect for changing our own country factor?

To put it another way, why despair when you can have hope?

I believe, as I said yesterday that the most important inspiration comes from the students in Iran, and that is as it should be. There is a similarity of experience, repression, lack of seeing a better future unless things change, and, above all, there is the all-important leadership by example that causes people to think If they can do it, why can't we?

So Iraq will be the proof that a Mid-East country can have a successful government run by consensus, and Iran will be the proof that struggle is possible.

As every tyrant knows, nothing is more dangerous than ideas. People who have ideas tend to discuss them with other people, and suddenly a lot of people are discussing and sharing those ideas and then they gain confidence that as rational, thinking beings, they don't need to be ruled by anyone except themselves.

Maybe the closest analogy I can come to is the collapse of the Soviet Union, and how events separated by time but closely related by ideas sent not a shock wave but long, continuous tremors throughout Eastern Europe. Hungary and Czechslovakia rebelled in different ways, and each country dealt with the invading Soviet army differently. People had never given up, they were thinking, learning and planning new strategies. So the Poles tried a different approach, and the Soviet Union, already over-extended and weary after the stiff resistance they faced in Afghanistan, couldn't stop them.

The victory of Solidarity is when I date the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union, and yet three important events preceeded it and several more followed. But that's how I view history, as a series of changes in methods of production and distribution which combined with ideas and producing remarkable and often unexpected events.

But things never happen in a straight line. Right now, the elections in Iran are being derailed by the Council of Guardians yet a woman is running for Parliament! Things many never considered possible are happening every day, and it thrills me.

Liberating Iraq set the ground for change, but it is up to the people there and in other Mid-East countries to determine how those changes will be formed and implemented. I doubt one size will fit all, but the possibilities are fascinating.

Posted by Debbye at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

Assassination attempt in Jenin

Feb. 18 - Palestinian minister survives shooting:

MASKED gunmen opened fire on a Palestinian minister and a top economic official in a Jenin restaurant today, the latest in a series attacks on Palestinian officials in the increasingly lawless West Bank.

Both men escaped without injury, but two bystanders were lightly injured, including a Palestinian policemen.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group loosely linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Loosely linked to Arafat? Please, I recognize the need to be fair and balanced, but this is ridiculous. If it walks like a duck . . .

Posted by Debbye at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2004

Journalists in Gaza under attack

Feb. 17 - From the CBC, which has redeemed itself somewhat by putting pressure on the Canadian government in the Zahra Kazemi case and breaking the story on the mushrooming cost increases for the Gun Registry, is this story of journalists in Gaza under attack yet standing up for freedom of the press: Palestinian journalists stage sit-in after string of attacks.

There have been a number of attacks on media offices and an assault on a journalist, and evidently security forces haven't been eager to investigate or bring the perpetrators to justice. Journalists had been covering the state of lawlessness that exists in some parts of Gaza and the West Bank:

About 200 protesters entered the empty building and stayed for several hours. They declared they wouldn't write stories about the justice and interior ministries. Included in their boycott was the Palestinian security forces for failing to stop the crimes.

On Saturday, the car of Al-Havat Al-Jadida's Gaza City bureau chief was set on fire.

Much of what I read or hear on CBC is extremely hurtful but I do respect them for championing press freedoms around the world.

Thanks to John H. for the link!

Posted by Debbye at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

PA reforms

Feb. 15 - Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia fears the US may be abandoning the road map so has complied with one of the provisions: he announced he's going to change the way the security forces are paid. In the past, the pay as a whole was given to commanders. Now the pay will be deposited direcly into the officer's individual bank accounts.

The Globe and Mail describes the move as meeting one of Washington's "key demands in the area of financial reform."

There are simply no words to describe PM Qureia's remarkable announcement or the extent to which it emphasizes how seriously the Palestinian Authority regards the road map. The method by which security forces are paid is one of the most important aspects of the peace plan because we wouldn't want any of them to despair and do something rash, like blow up a bus in Israel.

The real story is further down the page:

A group of U.S. envoys is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next week to discuss an alternative Israeli plan involving the unilateral withdrawal of troops from some Palestinian areas.

Mr. Qureia said there are signs the United States may come out in support of the plan.

"What I heard is that they may accept Sharon's plan. And this 'may' is irritating and worrying," Mr. Qureia told reporters Saturday.

Palestinians fear the new plan would leave them with far less land than the stalled "road map" peace plan that the United States has championed for months.

Are we still "championing" it? I suspect it will take a lot more than a bookkeeping change to revive it, but maybe that's just me.

They say that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that is visible from space. No matter how many documentaries I've viewed, I've never lost my fascination for it. It's not such much for the structure, which is quite impressive, but for the harsh vision and iron will that led to its triumphant completion. The Chinese saw a threat and came up with what they saw as the only possible solution to ensure their survival.

We do learn from history.

Posted by Debbye at 01:44 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

Mark Steyn

Feb. 3 - He who should have a column running in at least one Canadian paper whacks the BBC, Greg Dyke and multilateralism in The alternative to war was simple: defeat.

There was no sharper way to draw a distinction between the new geopolitical landscape and the September 10 world than by removing a man who symbolised the weakness and irresolution of "multilateralism". He was left in power back in 1991 in order, as Colin Powell airily conceded in his memoirs, to keep the UN coalition intact. Lesson number one: don't form coalitions with people who don't share your war aims.

If the Gulf war was a cautionary tale in the defects of unbounded multilateralism, the Iraq war is a lesson in the defects of even the most circumscribed coalition. The Americans settled on WMD as the preferred casus belli because it was the one Blair could go along with: as one of his Cabinet ministers told me, they were advised that a simple policy of regime change - the Clinton/Bush line - would have been illegal. So they plumped for WMD. American and British intelligence were convinced Saddam had 'em, as were the French and Germans. Saddam thought he had 'em. So did his generals. It's believed that they were ordered to be used against the Americans as they galloped up to Baghdad from Kuwait. But when Saddam got there, the cupboard was bare. Strange, but apparently true. Anyone who's really fearless in his search for the truth can read David Kay's conclusions: it's a much more interesting story than "Blair lied!"

So Saddam didn't have WMD. Conversely, Colonel Gaddafi did. And hands up anyone who knew he did until he announced he was chucking it in. The only way you can be absolutely certain your intelligence about a dictator's weapons is accurate is when you look out the window and see a big mushroom cloud over Birmingham...

The Left is remarkably nonchalant about these new terrors. When nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, the Left was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute, and the handful of us who survived would be walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now anyone with a few thousand bucks and an unlisted number in Islamabad in his Rolodex can get a nuke, and the Left couldn't care less.

The supposition that Saddam thought he had weapons (advanced by David Warren in his essay about the Intelligence Failure) is gaining credibility because it fits the facts once we drop what we thought we knew and look at what we now know
Saddam put himself personally in charge of all the weapons programmes, and trusting no one except the people running them for him, allowed them to pocket huge amounts of oil money for projects that never bore any fruit. Copious hypothetical plans were drawn up, and again and again the Kay teams found the paper equivalent of a "smoking gun", only to be unable to pair it with real-life evidence. That was because Saddam's weapons programmes -- except for some progress in illicit missile-making -- existed only on paper.

The result was, every senior person in Saddam's regime sincerely believed that, while he did not himself have access to "WMD", almost everyone else had.

That might explain why chemical protection suits and injection kits were found in abandoned warehouses near the front but no trace of weapons: they were guarding against other Iraqi units deploying WMD.

I've no doubt that the results of the inquiry will be highly politicized and despite the long list of recommendations that will undoubtably come out of it, they won't be able to circumvent the fact that human intelligence is subject to human frailty, and it's still a guessing game.

Posted by Debbye at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

Syria Accountability Act

A key indication of how seriously the legislature is viewing the relations we have with Syria resides in the Syria Accountability Act (HR-1828) (some news background here from Oct. 8 and here from Nov. 6.) It was first recommended for approval by the House International Relations Committee last October.

To repeat: this bill arose in the House International Relations Committee, i.e., from our legislative branch, rather than the executive. In fact, the executive branch asked that it be held up in committee in order to continue to try and find a resolution though diplomatic means.

From an Oct. 8 US Dept. of State release:

The House bill has 281 co-sponsors while the Senate version has 76 co-sponsors. The level of co-sponsorship is generally indicative of a piece of legislation's support in Congress and chances of final passage.
The bill provides the president with a list of measures from which he can select two for implementation, so it allows the executive some flexibility so that diplomatic efforts can continue, but is a clear signal to Syria that Congress, and thus the direct electorate, have grown weary of Syria's games and are re-asserting that Syria is a terrorist state and should be subject for sanctions until the issues listed in the bill are resolved.

Posted by Debbye at 03:32 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2004

Kay says WMD hidden in Syria

Jan. 25 - Instapundit points to this in the Telegraph (UK) which deserves its own heading: Kay said Saddam's WMD hidden in Syria - not a large stockpile, he said, but "a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme."

Syria's response was designed to deflect rather than answer:

A Syrian official last night said: "These allegations have been raised many times in the past by Israeli officials, which proves that they are false."
I guess that conclusion really depends on which of the two countries one thinks is more trustworthy.

I was initally miffed that Israel only hit one terrorist camp last October, and backed off when I considered that (speculation alert!) often one mission is given a lot of coverage to divert attention from another, unnoticed mission, and even though Debka isn't the most reliable source in the world, some of their seemingly wilder dot-connectings have proven true.

The war blogs certainly haven't fallen all over themselves with rapture on any inroads with Syria as we have with Libya, and that is significant.

UPDATE: Wretchard at Belmont Club looks at a possible deployment of special ops forces in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. RTWT.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon's post The Road (Map) to Damascus makes some excellent points. Read the comments as well.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the Washington Times story about the Janes Intelligence Digest report from Jan 22.

Posted by Debbye at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2004

Conference on Middle East relations with the USA

Jan. 21 - Ralph Peters writes about an American who attended a conference in Qatar on the Middle East relations with the USA:

He didn't pander. He made America's case and made it well. Beginning with a sometimes-rueful look at the progress his administration had failed to make and noting that the wars that plague the world are begun by men his own age or older, but paid for in blood by the young, he refused to direct one syllable of blame at the Bush administration. Accepted as a citizen of the world, he spoke as a convinced American.

Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience.

He could have made an easy score. Instead, he did the right thing. Clinton has become the perfect statesman.

Pulling no punches, he made it clear that Yasser Arafat was responsible for the failure to secure a Palestinian state. He refused to trash Israel. While admitting - calculatedly - that the United States remains imperfect, he used rational self-criticism as a starting point to tell his Middle Eastern listeners they needed to look more critically at themselves.

With art and ardor, he scolded the crowd that blaming others for their own failings was useless and destructive - warning that even when others truly are at fault for our misfortunes, wallowing in blame only paralyzes us. Actions, not accusations, change the world.

I still intend to vote for GWB in the '04 election, mostly because I think he is the one to lead America but also because the Anger Genie uncorked by Dean's candidacy will need time to subside before the Democrats can focus on issues, but it is heartening to see that the Democrats have the potential to retain some credibility beyond 2004. And that's good for America.

Posted by Debbye at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2004

Israeli planes attack Lebanese Hezbollah targets

Jan. 20 - Israeli planes attack south Lebanon: TV report:

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli planes attacked Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon on Tuesday, Israeli military officials said, a day after the guerrilla group killed an Israeli soldier.

The Israeli strike hit Hezbollah bases in the Bekaa Valley, the area of south Lebanon closest to the Syrian border, the officials said on condition of anonymity. There were no immediate reports of casualties. At least four explosions were heard in the strikes, Israel's Channel Two television reported.

Hezbollah guerrillas on Monday fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli bulldozer clearing explosives, killing an Israeli soldier and seriously wounding another. The group said the vehicle entered Lebanese territory.

There's nothing on the CNN and Fox is carrying exactly the same dispatch as CN News.

Posted by Debbye at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2004

Hamas promotes female Islamakazis

Jan. 16 - Hamas has taken a Bold!New! step in permitting women to be Islamakazis (Bomber mom buried as hero.)

"It is not enough to call her a hero. Calling her hero does not give the whole truth. This woman abandoned her husband and children to win paradise," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said in the eulogy.
But just what did she accomplish? Jay Currie has a good analysis of the intent behind the Hamas decision to hit a checkpoint that was open with the express purpose of allowing Palestinians to go to their jobs, collect paycheques, and put bread on the table (Feckless in Gaza) and makes the case that this was less heroism and more calculation to inflict more misery on the Palestinians.

Posted by Debbye at 02:33 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2004

Euro-terror news

Jan. 14 - Instapundit has a partial round-up of "Euro-terror news" and some links to terror activity in Thailand which seems to be of an Islamist nature.

Little Green Footballs links to a piece in The Observer Terror cells regroup - and now their target is Europe which has a summary of some key arrests in Europe, the emergence of groups in Eastern Europe, and provides a useful table:

The targets, the death toll and the suspects

Istanbul November 2003, 62 dead
Target: British consulate and bank, synagogues
Suspect: Local Islamic group thought to be linked to al-Qaeda or Abu Musab Zarqawi

Baghdad August-October 2003, 50 dead
Target: Al-Rasheed hotel, UN and Red Cross headquarters.
Suspect: European suicide bombers believed to have been recruited by Mullah Fouad in Syria.

Casablanca May 2003, 41 dead
Target: Jewish community centre and Spanish social club
Suspect: Local Islamic group. The authorities want to interview a Moroccan cleric, Mohammed al-Garbuzi, who is believed to be in Britain.

Riyadh May 2003, 34 dead
Target: Luxury compounds in Saudi capital
Suspect: Swiss arrest an eight-strong 'logistics cell'.

Mombasa November 2002, 16 dead
Target: Israeli tourists at Paradise hotel
Suspect: Kenyan Islamic cell. Some funds allegedly provided by a Somali-born militant living in London, arrested in Milan and 'a part of Zarqawi's cell'.

Little Green Footballs also has information about the Cleveland arrest of Imam Fawaz Mohammed Damrah.

Posted by Debbye at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

PA money problems

Jan. 14 - Palestinians borrowing to meet payroll:

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Hit by waning support from donor nations, the Palestinian Authority said yesterday it has been forced to borrow from banks to pay its 125,000 employees and may be unable to meet its February payroll. With unemployment rampant outside the public payroll, Palestinians could be facing unprecedented economic collapse after three years of conflict with Israel.
One of the donor nations that stopped contributing is Iraq.

Maybe this would be a good time for Arafat to dip into the special account he and his chief economic adviser control:

There have been charges of corruption and mismanagement in the Palestinian Authority. In a special annual issue of Forbes Magazine, Arafat was reported to control $US300 million ($A451.33 million), making him among one of the richest in its category of "Kings, Queens and Despots".

Nashashibi said the revenues were diverted from the budget to a special account controlled by Arafat and his chief economic adviser.

"We estimated that amount to be around US$900 million over a period of five years," the IMF official said.

He said that the Palestinian Authority was involved in 69 commercial activities, both at home and abroad, worth an estimated $US700 million ($A1.05 billion) in today's market prices, "which probably in '99 were US$900 million".

Posted by Debbye at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2004

Syria entry for Russian arms into Iraq

Jan 1 - A Dec. 30 article in the LA Times on how Banned Arms Flowed Into Iraq Through Syrian Firm is full of surprises, and most gratifyingly, specifics.

These are representative of how adept the Saddam regime was at circumventing UN sanctions:

- Russia's Millenium Company Ltd. signed an $8.8-million contract in September 2002 to supply mostly American-made communications and surveillance gear to Iraq's intelligence service. The company's general manager in Moscow later wrote to suggest "the preparation of a sham contract" to deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, documents show.

- Slovenia's STO Ravne company, then a state-owned entity, shipped 20 large battle tank barrels identified as "steel tubes" to SES in February 2002. The next month, Slovenia's Defense Ministry blocked the company from exporting 50 more tank barrels to Syria. Overall, STO Ravne's secret contract called for delivering 175 tank barrels to Iraq.

Naturally, I headed straight to see what Roger L. Simon would have to say about this latest evidence of corruption in the Oil-for-Food program.

I don't mean offense when I say that Simon's response was predictable (he's been a steady champion of the need to investigate that program) but the source of the story is interesting:

One of my favorite new website/blogs THE AMERICAN THINKER has an interesting article on the LA Times scoop regarding Syria's funneling arms to Saddam.Evidently this expose originated with a reporter for the German news magazine Stern. The reporter, for reasons we can only guess at, turned his information over to the LAT who then spent three months corroborating it.
Intriguing much? The American Thinker clears up some how this investigative report came to be placed in the hands of the LA Times.

Further surprises are in the comments, and the (unfortunately unverifiable) reports from people who have experience working with the UN.

One of the commenters supplied a link to an Opinion Journal Sept. 2002 piece about the program by Claudia Rosett. She puts things into perspective with her first sentence:

Who is Saddam Hussein's biggest business partner?

The United Nations. The same U.N. whose secretary-general, Kofi Annan, stands as one of the chief ditherers over removing Saddam. Here are the ingredients of a conflict of interest.

(LA Times link via Instapundit, American Thinker link via Roger L. Simon.)

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail here reports on the Canadian connection.

Posted by Debbye at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2003

Saudi terror alert for Brits

Dec. 29 - More on the report out of Australia on terror plots against BA planes sitting on the tarmac in Riyahd in the Washington Times Britons told to avoid Saudi travel

The British government yesterday warned citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia amid disputed reports that two small airplanes loaded with explosives were prevented from crashing into a British Airways jet. (Emphasis added.)
The official Saudi Press Agency released a statement yesterday claiming the assertions were untrue. British Airways cited security concerns for their no comment.

(I'm not posting the sections that deal with the sitution with France over the cancellation of the flights into LAX last weekend. They are well covered elsewhere.)


The State Department issued a warning similar to Britain's about Saudi Arabia on Dec. 17, just days before the Homeland Security Department put the nation on Code Orange, or high alert of a terrorist attack.

Free flights out of Saudi Arabia were offered to nonessential personnel and their dependents at the U.S. Embassy and consulates, and American citizens were advised to leave the country.

"Following terrorist attacks in Riyadh in May and November, we continue to believe terrorists are planning further attacks in Saudi Arabia and that these could be in the final stages of preparation," the British advisory read. "We advise British nationals against all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia."

Not a bad idea, considering this AP report Car Explodes in Street in Saudi Capital:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- An unmarked police car exploded in the Saudi capital Monday, but there were no casualties, police said.

Nobody was in the car when it exploded in Riyadh's eastern Al-Salaam district, and it was not known what caused the blast.

There are some conflicting accounts from witnesses who wished to remain unnamed, and this:
The blast destroyed the car and shattered windows in nearby buildings, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite channel reported.

Security forces cordoned off the scene, and armored vehicles drove through the neighborhood. Police searched cars parked nearby and asked pedestrians in the area to present identification.

Islamic extremists have detonated four car bombs in Riyadh this year, killing 52 people, including the assailants, and wounding more than 100 others. The attacks on May 12 and Nov. 8 targeted housing compounds for foreigners.

I've seen this reporter's name, Adnan Malik, on a few AP reports, and he does a professional job. He gives us the facts; when the sources are questionable, he makes that clear without being snide or sarcastic, and when they are contradictory, as in this case, he reports both and leaves it up to the reader to take the appropriate grain of salt.

Posted by Debbye at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2003

Terrorist attack in Israel

Dec. 26 - This happened yesterday: Blast Near Tel Aviv; Airstrike in Gaza. Good ol' Fox:

JERUSALEM - A Palestinian homicide bombing at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv killed four people Thursday just minutes after an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car in Gaza, killing a senior Islamic Jihad commander and four others.
None of this "activist" or "alleged" senior commander crap to obscure the fact that there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem and that Israel is fighting in a war against terrorism.

The Toronto Sun gets a partial for printing the AP story: they identify the killer as a "suicide bomber" but don't use the dreaded "alleged."

We watched the movie "Young Guns" yesterday, and when the Regulators are reading inaccurate newspaper accounts of their identities and proclaim "The papers never get anything right" we fell over laughing. It was a good reminder that the press has always been viewed with suspicion for precisely the same reasons as they are being held to account today.

Give us the facts, we'll make the determinations. Don't editorialize, don't depart from the 5 W's (who, what, where, why and when) and don't patronize us. When you base an entire report on unnamed sources, don't expect us to blindly accept it. Yeah, and don't patronize us.

UPDATE: The Washington Times article Palestinian bomber slays 4 at Israeli bus stop says the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility and has a great deal more information about the bombing and the PFLP.

Posted by Debbye at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2003

Libya's WMD partners

Dec. 24 - I'm a little late posting this link, but wanted to note it: Libya's fatal blow to axis of evil:

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the decision to renounce all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Friday night, but while at first it was thought this only had implications for Libya it is now clear that his decision has scuppered a secret partnership between Libya, Iran and North Korea formed with the intention of developing an independent nuclear weapon.

New documents revealed yesterday show that the three were working on the nuclear weapons programme at a top-secret underground site near the Kufra Oasis of the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as some Iranian and Libyan nuclear scientists.

North Korea and Iran, originally dubbed by Bush as the axis of evil along with Iraq, avoided detection by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inspectors by each member farming out vital sections of its projects to its fellow members.

Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its program, is badly hit, having counted on fitting into place key parts of its WMD project made in Libya. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.

If the claims in the report are true, this alliance raises a number of unsettling questions.

There are a couple of loose threads from past news reports. For example, a North Korean ship with 15 hidden Scud missiles aboard was intercepted by the Spanish Navy. Yemen claimed ownership of those Scuds, the ship was released, and the media dropped coverage, but I have to think that it raised several red flags in intelligence circles despite Yemen's promise not to purchase any more weapons from North Korea.

There is also this report on the $10 million Saddam paid to North Korea for missiles which were never delivered.

The biggest loose thread remains the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and although the debate has focused on whether they ever existed, the possibility remains that they were shipped out of Iraq (or, less frightening, are well-hidden and still there.)

The fact that Iraq was not included in this conspiracy could mean a lot or nothing, including the possibility that they were part of it but Khaddafi purposefully ommitted them (and that in turn could have been because British and US officials didn't want him to.)

Although it is exhilarating to live in interesting times, it is also frustrating because too many questions won't be answered for several years.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: ESR has a post on a report that Al Qaeda was targeting Gaddafi (aka Khaddafi) as another strong incentive for him to try to better relations with the US and UK.

Posted by Debbye at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2003

Al Aqsa scene of attack on Egyptian foreign minister

Dec. 22 - Al Aqsa, Islam's third holiest site, was a scene of pandemonium when demonstrators attacked Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher as he tried to pray there.

He was in Israel to try to restart peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, and CNN reports the attack occurred shortly after Maher met with Israeli PM Ariel Sharon.

The report said that the demonstrators were members of the Liberation Party and that Saeb Erakat said that the PA condemned the attack.

Posted by Debbye at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2003

More on terrorist attack in Turkey

Dec. 1 - Syria turns over 22 bombing suspects to Turkish authorities yesterday. They had fled to Syria shortly after the four recent attacks in Istanbul.

A paramilitary police statement said the 22 people included Hilmi Tugluoglu, whom it said was linked to Azat Ekinci, a key suspect in the blasts.

News reports have named Ekinci as a key accomplice in the synagogue bombings, saying he used fake identities and cash to buy the pickup trucks containing the bombs.

The statement didn't elaborate about Tugluoglu's alleged involvement. It said Tugluoglu's wife was also brought to Turkey.

Syrians. Neither their allies nor their enemies know which side of the street they'll work in any given situation.

Posted by Debbye at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2003


Nov. 23 - Toronto Sun columnist Bob MacDonald notes that the terrorist attacks in Iraq and Turkey have angered Muslims and are forcing the issue of terrorism for many moderate Muslims.

Although it's tempting to claim Muslims don't mind so long as Jews, Israelis and Westerners are killed, that is a bit simplistic. Let's face it: once somethings ends up in your backyard, it is no longer possible to pretend it has nothing to do with you. Over there becomes right here and a new dynamic emerges. Citizens of Muslim countries don't differ from citizens of any country in that regard.

Look at how long it took we Americans to finally, officially recognize that terrorism threatens everyone, including our own inherently isolationist country. When Turkey decided that coalition forces could not use Turkish soil to launch a northern front in Iraq, the US government shrugged and adapted. (Some of us seethed, but followed the Pentagon's lead.)

Yet that decision did not spare Turkey from terrorist attacks, and they have more to worry about now than nationalist aspirations of the Kurds in Turkey. Have other Axis of Weasel countries taken proper note?

As for how Turkey might respond, Jack has a fascinating post: The Infidel Turk which argues that al Qaeda may have awoken yet another sleeping giant.

Jack (and David Warren) make some very valid points, and factor in both geography and the Turkish army. The Turkish army considers itself to be the guardian of modern Turkey and is the most powerful army in the Mid-East.

In a Washington Times commentary, Claude Salhani, senior editor with UPI, gives a brief run down on how Turkey has dealt with terrorism in the past, and says the al Qaeda attacks in Turkey guarantee that the gloves will come off.

According to an AP dispatch, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Israeli PM Sharon by phone and the two have pledged cooperation in fighting terrorism:

Erdogan spoke on Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone, agreeing to cooperate in the fight on terrorism. The chief of Israel's Mossad secret service agency reportedly traveled to Turkey this week following the attacks in an apparent expansion of coordination between the allies.

Turkey and Israel have built up strong military and trade ties. Now Turkey is seeking Israel's expertise from more than 100 suicide bombings since September 2000 and knowledge on how to track Islamic militants.

Neither Syria nor Iran have been hit by al Qaeda, and implications are easy to draw yet hard to prove. I don't know if actual war could erupt, but Turkey is reviewing its list of terror cells, and a demonstration yesterday indicates the Turkish people are not going to allow terrorists to intimidate them or deter them from maintaining a secular government.

Another complication for the EU is that Syria is wining and dining officials in EU countries in an effort to side-step the Syrian Accountability Act recently enacted by the US legislature:

Syrian President Bashar Assad is receiving an increasing number of European Union delegations while Farouk Sharaa, his foreign minister, is giving elaborate dinners for European ambassadors accredited to Damascus, according to diplomatic reports.

In December Mr. Assad will travel on an official visit to Belgium, where he will address the European Parliament. At the beginning of next year, he plans visits to Greece and Austria.
If the connection between Syria and the attacks in Turkey can be established, the EU will (again) be stuck in the middle.

Turkey is a member of NATO, and its application to join the EU has been consistently blocked by France and Germany. I'd be pleased to grant them membership in what Chirac calls the Anglosphere and what I'll call the Coalition of the Undeterred (until some better wag than I comes up with a better name.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Yassir Arafat's murderous beginnings

Sept. 16 - Robert Fulford's column in the National Post, Yasir Arafat and the politics of denial, spells out some harsh home truths about Arafat's murderous beginnings and how we were determined to make that "sacred monster" look respectable and peace-seeking:

Yasir Arafat ended his speech to the UN General Assembly on Nov. 13, 1974 with the words, "I come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

It was an obnoxious child's insolent threat. Arafat was saying that the adults (the West, the UN, etc.) were responsible for his actions, however murderous they might turn out to be. He himself could go either way.

Certainly he was innocent. All Palestinians were victims of imperialist aggression, which meant they couldn't be called terrorists and were not responsible for what they did. He also said his people would create a catastrophe if they were not appeased.

Like a devious child, he appealed to the uneasy guilt of his listeners, who knew he was working a scam but nevertheless ended up taking him seriously.


No one will ever deny that he's been a force in the history of the Middle East for 35 years, but the Rubins' book convinced me that he also holds a significant place in the history of thought. The way we think and talk about Arafat demonstrates the nature of the political philosophy we live by (as opposed to the philosophy we study in books). The treatment of this sacred monster demonstrates our chronic inability to see the meaning of even the most obvious contemporary events.

Our smug belief that we can buy off our enemies, our perverse desire to flatter those who say they hate us, our need to persuade ourselves that killers are really moderates in disguise, our willingness to accept any absurdity so long as it helps us avoid facing reality -- all these tendencies play themselves out in our attitudes to Arafat. Above all, we refuse to believe threats we don't want to hear, such as Arafat's consistent threat to destroy Israel. Even in Israel itself, it's hard to see him clearly. As recently as 1997, I discovered in Jerusalem a widespread belief that a politician who remained suspicious of Arafat was probably bigoted and belligerent. By then Israel was an Arafat sponsor, having helped set up the Palestinian Authority to make him a "peace partner." (The half-demolished building in which he sits this morning is a former Israeli Defence Force headquarters.)

Perhaps the future will look on our treatment of Arafat as we now regard those who believed successfully that they could make deals with Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler -- or those who insisted that Mao was a good-hearted agrarian reformer. Perhaps our descendants will understand the comedy in our pious invocation of that dangerous phantom we call "world opinion."

With luck, they will be wiser.

Good read, and definitely not the kind of message you're likely to see on CBC anytime soon.

(Via Paul who also has a good post on a recent book by a Canadian Muslim who believes that reform can come from Muslims in the West but has had to take extraordinary security precautions up here.

Posted by Debbye at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2003

Gun battle in Riyadh

Aug. 13 --

A gun battle erupted in Riyadh yesterday during an operation to hunt down Islamist militants.

Four members of an elite security force and a suspected terrorist were killed and several people were wounded during an operation in the southern Al-Suwaidi district of the Saudi capital.


The shootings came amid continuing tension in Saudi Arabia. Raids by security forces are reported every few days. According to official figures, 12 militants have been killed and more than 200 arrested since suicide bombings at three residential compounds in Riyadh on May 12.


On Sunday, police arrested about 10 suspected Islamist militants after another shoot-out in Riyadh. Police found hand grenades. A security source said the men were fugitives but it was not clear if they were linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda group.

The release last week of six Britons convicted of bomb attacks has prompted strong anti-British feeling and the government said the 10 suspected terrorists arrested on Monday were believed to have been plotting an attack on British interests in the kingdom. (Emphasis added)

I've read variations on that last paragraph several times over the past few days. It's hard to tell if the people there are angry because they too have relatives and friends who have been held and tortured unjustly or if they believed the confessions of the 6 to the bombing death of a British banker were true.

I wonder if Canadian Foreign Affairs Min. Bill Graham would like to explain why the Saudis are not angry at Canada after the pivotal role his department played in getting Bill Sampson released. (/sarcasm)

Actually, he what he really needs to explain is this:

Canadian William Sampson, who spent 31 months in a Saudi Arabian prison, repeatedly told Canadian officials that he was being tortured, according to documents obtained by the CBC. Reports that Sampson, who was released on Friday, had been tortured were treated only as allegations by the Canadian government, which said it had received assurances from the Saudi government that international law governing the treatment of prisoners was being observed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said as recently as last Friday that the conditions of Sampson's imprisonment were not known, but that the issue was a concern.

But documents obtained by CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate highlight three occasions on which Sampson told visiting Canadian officials that he had been abused by his captors.

"William said he had been physically abused during the past 10 months," read one report filed by Canadian diplomat Jean Gobeil who met with Sampson on Oct. 16, 2001.

Posted by Debbye at 06:38 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2003

Bill Sampson released!

Aug. 8 - According to this from Daimnation, Bill Sampson and five British citizens who were also accused of carrying out bombings have been released and may be in England already. Sampson and UK citizen Alexander Mitchell had been found guilty and sentenced to death.

Let me think: Regime change in Iraq, Riyadh bombings, Sept 11 report, hostile attitudes toward the Saudis, continuous Canadian, UK and US diplomatic efforts to free Sampson and the others ... nah, no connection. (UPDATE: I can't believe I failed to include fall of Saddam regime.)

According to this, they've landed safely in England.

One nightmare over.

UPDATE: Steven den Beste has some thoughts on the arrest and release of Bill Sampson over at USS Clueless Denying failure. Also, be sure to follow his link here for the transcript of a 1998 speech by Ralph Peters which is an incisive assessment of "failure factors" in countries that have consistently failed to become competitive.

Posted by Debbye at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)